Chicago as a field site

Water_liliesOk, so I made it to Chicago.  I had hoped to take the train from Las Vegas, the Southwest Chief–and what could be better than taking the train through the desert–but a derailment intervened and I was forced to take the plane.

Good thing, too.  For I was just settling into my seat, when a woman beside me said,

I trust him just the tiniest bit more after this weekend…but I am not going to let myself get hurt.

Normally, I would contrive to persuade her to tell me all about it, but I am going to spend this week doing ethnographic interviews in Chicago persuading people tell me all about it and I thought I would keep my own councel for a change.

The flight was otherwise uneventful, except that they were showing The Pink Panther.  Some good moments which I credit to one half of the film writing team, Len Blum, a fellow I happen to know slightly.  But the rest of the film actually so dishonors the original concept that Inspector Clouseau actually becomes Lieutenant Frank Dreben (sp?) of the Naked Gun series by about the 20 minutes mark.  Now, that, in my opinion, is a crime against civilization as we know it. 

Happily, I had along a copy of the new book by Alan Furst, The Foreign Correspondent, which I recommend heartily.  What a writer!  He builds narrative as well as John le Carre, but he is more nuanced, more anthropological in his development of person and place.  He is free of ideologically self indulgent that so often took le Carre captive.  Finally, Furst understands the French with a depth of knowledge and affection, a useful corrective against our current impatience and, sometimes, loathing. 

I am now (or was at this writing) in a a chop house in Chicago called The Chop House, Sinatra and Billie Holiday as the "music over."  (Why is it always voice over and never music over?  It’s because music insinuates and voice does not, I think.)  It’s all dark wood and deep booths with lots of words on the wall: "New York Strip, Pinot Blanc, Maine Lobster…"  Some of the Chop houses of our time are instruments of the restoration of a steak and whisky masculinity.  Not The Chop House.  I mean, they are playing Billie Holiday, who in her extraordinary way captured another feminity in which women always let themselves get hurt.  Or perhaps that femininity and the steak and whisky masculinity go together.  Nah, couldn’t be.