The enduring image of Walt Whitman is as a bearded old sage living out his years in his Camden home. And yet, he was still a relatively unknown writer into his 40s, living with his mother in Brooklyn and wandering Manhattan’s streets at night. During this time, he went underground (literally) to Pfaff’s, a below street-level saloon catering to artists and writers at Broadway and Bleecker. For four years (1858-62), he was a regular there, along with Adah Isaacs Menken, Thomas Nast, Ada Clare and Fitz Hugh “Hasheesh Eater” Ludlow, all of whom pushed the Downtown borders as the punks would do more than a century later. Once the Civil War started, Whitman left NYC and became the poet we know today. But his transformation took place in Manhattan. On the anniversary of Whitman’s death (March 26), we offer this reflection.