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Friday, July 6, 2012

Jack and the giant glass beanstalk: the Times is visited upon Chicago

Posted by on 07.06.12 at 04:18 PM

The view from theWit hotel
  • James Emery
  • The view from theWit hotel
I was worried that the current weather, which is so discouraging of human contact, had started to cure me of the desire to ever have sex again, but then this New York Times piece about the Chicago singles scene came along and totally finished the job. It's by Stephanie Rosenbloom, a "veteran solo traveler" who "arrived on a chilly spring evening" to find that, despite the fact that it was raining and windy, the porters at her hotel (the Wit) were still engaged in their paid employment. In fact the staff was all-around pretty friendly, which must be on account of their midwesternness, a quality that, Rosenbloom finds, is productive not only of all this fucking geniality but also go-go dancers. She relates this anecdote, which took place well past midnight:

On a different evening at Roof, this time well past midnight, two go-go dancers twirled like woozy tops, flanking a D.J. who was blasting Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” It was more lively than the night I arrived, which suits the space: it’s too sprawling for tête-à-têtes. Still, I later wondered aloud to a man I met why a lounge with fire pits, a 12-foot-wide HDTV monitor, and million-dollar views felt it also needed to throw in a couple of dancers in panties.

“Are you visiting from New York?” he asked.

I nodded.

“It’s the Midwest,” he said. “Welcome.”

So, OK. I must live in the wrong part of the midwest, which, confusingly, is the part of the midwest that's Chicago, where somebody suggests to Rosenbloom that go-go dancers are a staple at your standard DJ party. Well, we are hospitable, and we need to keep warm somehow. There seems to be some sort of cultural lacuna thing going on here, though, and it's not clear if its source is the author or the random gaggles of douchebags she happens across at bars like Roof. (Where, I'm embarrassed to tell you, I've been, but it's a long story and I'm not proud.) Anyway, she is thrilled to find the chirping of birds "piped in" to her hotel room. She stays in a room that contains an "intimacy kit" in the minibar, which sounds . . . cold. In Filter, the coffee shop that is not wholly different than other coffee shops, the author observes, "single people can be alone together, in the best of ways." With coffee.

Rosenbloom also applies the special kind of breathy prose that I'm beginning to believe is the Times's style for writing about the midwest. Consider the first sentence: "It’s hard to decide, while sipping a citrine cocktail called Sex on the Roof, what to gawk at first: the go-go dancers in crimson panties or the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Willis Tower, soaring like a giant glass beanstalk just beyond the windows."

Or this, as Rosenbloom takes an architectural boat tour:

I craned my neck upward. “Density,” said our guide, pointing up at the skyline shimmering in the dying sun, “creates vitality.”

I shivered. This time, it wasn’t because I was chilly. It was because the Windy City blew me away.

Other things: You can order a taxi here by text message. "In this town, some people are so affable you don’t know if they’re flirting or simply being polite," which, if that's actually true, makes it really hard to get a goddamn date. Also this guy held the door for her and when she said thank you he told her it was a pleasure.

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