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"Post-mortem effects, presumably..."

When in the crowded company of neighborhood obsessives, bright-eyed neurotics, and blissed-out monomaniacs, I am ever hopeful that a few in the ranks will be writers whose personal phantoms will spin prophecies or proleptic conceits, ominous entreaties indicating that apocalyptic winds of disorder have already arrived. My neighbor Herman regularly obliges me in this regard. Below is a plaque embedded in a wall on East 26th Street which now tragically helps house a restaurant specializing in brunch. Brunch has for all too long become a shameful gustatory regularity in New York City, and a person who shipped out on a whaling ship accustomed to hardtack would not be happy to know that his domain has been invaded by fey bourgeois breakfast-lunchers. Will the true harpooners please come forward?


I pass this plaque often, regarding it as a sacred relic of HM's spiritual and material home, always rereading its lines and moving a devout index finger across its raised print. Right around Melville's August 1st birthday, some Melville fanatic applied her pen below the plaque and wrote the last utterance of Billy Budd before he is hanged in that published-yet-not-finalized short story. The exclamation is sorely missing but wishing proper punctuation of graffiti goes against the spirit of its inky enterprise.


Is it crazy to imagine that M's hand guided the fingers that added this text? Or perhaps that it is even the dead author's doing himself? By situating a graphic postscript to the tale in a space that once was his dwelling, he thereby completes the story? Any real reader would approve ghostly conjecture and the need (at times) to jettison rationalism like unnecessary cargo on a whaling ship out of New Bedford.


At least on this day, eight days from the 168th anniversary of the publication of Moby Dick, that is what I think. I am a wild zealot for numerology as well as cetology, local topography, and the wild visions of the likes of mighty master Mr. Melville. God Bless, HM!


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