Thursday, July 21, 2022

I was raised to refer to anyone much older than myself as Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms. Any old man or woman was the equivalent of a grandparent. They may have been someone else's grandmother or grandfather, but I owed them the same courtesy. It was never hammered into me; I followed my parents' example. I had a sense of a world divided between people who lived their lives as members of a specific community and those who, distancing themselves from any one tribe, served a larger one. Individualism as such was disdained. When we moved into the neighborhood I grew up in we were viewed as blockbusters: Jews buying from a Jewish realtor who were going to fix up and sell, or otherwise change the neighborhood. But the neighborhood didn't change. My sister became friends of our neighbor's daughters—our neighbors whose arrival had been the cause of white flight 25 years before—and my bother made friends of his own. They'd grown up in public school; for them it was nothing new.  But the neighborhood changed me. I remember being in rooms with mothers who were bemused to see a polite 7 year old white boy who was now friends with their son. And the woman was a Mrs and I owed her the obeisance due an elder. I bowed my head. The fathers were more incredulous. But I'm left to say that the first community I ever knew, as a community, who accepted me, even tangentially as an outsider, was black and working class. 

What this means is that when I was living with Graeber in Chicago, running looking for work and losing patience, the only person I talked to for pleasure, to relax, to calm my nerves, to blow off steam was the super, who'd moved north in the Great Migration. His parents had named him for FDR. He'd been a long-haul truck driver and a lot of other things. I remember sitting on the stoop with him watching a driver back an 18 wheeler around a tight corner and into the loading dock of a supermarket across the street, He describing how hard that was to do, and get it right the first time. And the driver made it look easy. One of my many regrets is not taking him up on his invitation to go to social clubs on the South Side on a Friday night. "You'll be safe. You'll be with me!" I trusted him but I didn't trust his judgement and I should have.  I copped out. But he invited me to a family barbecue. We were sitting in his basement apartment, and I remember the Ebony and Jet magazine on his coffee table. I said I thought I'd be out of place. He said "You're out of place now aren't you!" I went with my girlfriend, the former shop steward for the UAW, who was now in grad school at IU. And learned the secret to great ribs. 

Roosevelt read Graeber like a book. He'd witnessed things, and knew what they implied. David didn't like him either. 

David took me to Harold's Fried Chicken and Valois. But David didn't write Slim's Table. He studied with Bourdieu, but he didn't write Body and Soul, and he's not Alice Goffman. This is the shit David didn't want to deal with. And this is where it gets messy. David's parents were working class, but David never worked a real job for a day in his life. His politics was an idea not an experience. Mitchell Duneier and  Loïc Wacquant have both gone Hollywood in a sense, but that's part of the same ambiguity. Wacquant  and Duneier are feuding, and I don't have to pick a side. But there's a sense that what got Goffman into trouble was her loyalty, and that, as evidence of friendship trumps proclamations of it.

And this again is why The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, are more important, more intellectually serious than David's Dungeons and Dragons.

I played Dungeons and Dragons once in my life, in 1978, sitting on the floor with a teenage grad student in computer science, dialed into the mainframe at U. Penn, reading the printouts from a large format printer. 

I should have a tag for The Politics of Fantasy, but Futurism and Data Culture, and Utopia and Intentional Communities cover it. David was a geek from my generation. He was still analog.

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