CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — I spent the weekend pretending I was a Harvard grad student, frowning at the Power Point in a negotiations seminar at the Kennedy School, furiously debating the parameters of new media and old business models at a pre-party party in a fourth-floor walkup on Harvard Street, waiting for what seemed like an hour to get into Middlesex for a serious boogie-down with co-eds in honor of the late Guru, getting heckled by cops and motorists who spied my contraband Sabres T-shirt in prime Brooooons country, bridge-walking along the Charles River past groups of yoots palming illicit drugs, reading The New Yorker in the Clear Conscience Cafe on Massachusetts Avenue and feeling totally brainy, dance-bowling at Kings with public-policy majors who could out-argue the ghost of Daniel Webster but can’t complete a spare to save their smartypants lives. I now consider myself an alumnus of the storied institution, by dint of a whirlwind weekend of Ivy-League culture. Moving on.
Saturday I and my friend Z (Harvard ’10) — with whom I fell in love two years ago somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean — detoured to Walden Pond on our way to a friend’s wedding at the Pierce House in Lincoln, Mass. I’ve always thought Thoreau, a Harvard man himself, was kind of a sissy. If I want to be a lit-major prick during a conversation about the lyrical heritage of America, I’ll instead invoke Whitman, who charged at life rather than retreated from it, whose writing reads like rowdy love-making rather than the dutiful maintenance of a dream journal. I wasn’t above stopping by Walden, though, especially since the wedding was only three miles away from it. We parked illegally ($5 to park in the lot? What would Thoreau the Anarchist and Tax Evader think?), descended stone steps to the pond’s banks, and were greeted with an unexpected sight (for me, anyway): sunbathers, Speedos, fussing children, Japanese tourists. I guess I figured Walden would be today what it was in 1845: an unmolested idyll. But no. Whatevs. I regarded the blooming treeline, contemplated the ripply water, took a couple blurry photos and then we high-tailed it to the wedding, which was just about the loveliest ceremony ever, complete with dappled sun and oak-tree altar and the faraway honkings of geese and a tear-jerking soundtrack featuring “Falling Slowly” from the much-too-adorable movie “Once.”
The reception was something out of “Rachel Getting Married,” minus the family discord and ineffective drug rehab. At 27 years old (which was Thoreau’s age when he moved into his Walden hut) the newlyweds have already lived together for multi-year stints in Tunis, London and the exurbs of Japan; she’s from Masterton, New Zealand, and imported her Kiwi family for the week; in July they move to Zimbabwe for a two-year post with the Foreign Service; their worldliness would make Thoreau’s head explode. They’re the type of people who seem to white-water-raft their way through life — a real Whitmanic pair — and their wedding attendees were like living artifacts from every chapter and adventure thusfar.
As coarse as I can be on the outside, I am extremely sentimental when it comes to life milestones, and weddings almost always get to me. Z and I are both weathering some heartbreak at present — our own personal Walden exiles, if you don’t mind the contrivance — and we clung to each other through the six-hour celebration. I’d thought otherwise, but bearing witness to other people’s love at this point was restorative, not injurious. There are people out there who belong to each other, and sometimes they find each other, and then get married, and it feels very, very right, and you feel lucky to be a small part of it. Speaking of small parts that add up to a bigger picture, I’ll now quote “Leaves of Grass” out of context to supplement my description of the wedding:
A festival song,
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride, a marriage-march,
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers fill’d to the brim with love,
The red-flush’d cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarming full of
friendly faces, young and old…
 Yes, I’m quoting “Walden” before bashing it. Deal with it.
 I am writing out of my ass. That’s what English majors do.