"Lo Sfigato" "There he is!" my friend the Italian trade emissary P. whispered as a curious figure wearing headphones walked past the open door of her office. "Lo sfigato!"* As if on cue, the tall, geeky figure circled back around and entered P."s plush office, and the two exchanged greetings. "I hate to seem inquisitive," P. said, "but what are you listening to on your walkman?" The nerd placed the headphones on P."s head and looked at her expectantly; she flinched at his proximity, then her face dropped as suddenly as a simile from the pen of Nikolai Gogol. She gave him back the headphones, and he thanked her effusively for allowing him to breathe the same air as her (for it was obvious that he was/is in love with her) and left. I gave P. an inquiring look. "Neil Diamond!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air in the European fashion. "He has millennia of Roman culture to draw on, yet he listens to Neil Diamond!" Only in Chicago could I sit in the skyscraper office of my friend, sip espresso, take in the view of a placid Lake Michigan, thumb through Italian design magazines, drift in and out of reveries of various natures and then have my daydreams interrupted like a balloon pierced by a pin by a Neil Diamond-bearing sfigato. Three things about Chicago are evident to the visitor: The public transportation is quite good; the city is drenched with art; and Chicago is probably the destination of most of those who abandon Indianapolis. P. and I ate at a number of restaurants whose exact names and locations I don"t recall due to the generalizing and vague nature of my mind - we ate Thai, Italian, Turkish, Greek, we went to a small English pub run by a guy named Colin - and we also attended a special screening of the Italian film The Last Kiss. We walked around her neighborhood, ate ice cream and laughed at the absurdity of the world. It is fun to be with P. in Chicago. I also dropped in on Nena, the Queen of Wicker Park. We walked over to Division Street and had coffee and bagels, then walked down Division and made a left turn up Milwaukee. "Look!" she said suddenly, pointing across the street. "Holy Clunkenstein!" I exclaimed. In front of Fleuvog Shoes, famous for its clunky shoes, lay a dozen or so clunk-aficionados who had fallen and lay like beached whales on a shore. A group of rescuers worked feverishly to stand them upright. On the last evening of my visit, P. and I had dinner in Grant Park, then headed to the train station. She gave me a copy of Italo Calvino"s Six Memos for the Next Millennium ("Calvino is absolutely essential," she said). I heard the boarding call for the Indianapolis train, so I went to the gate and found myself behind a militaristic fellow with a placard reading "Attack Iraq" affixed to his back with furnace tape. I hoped he would not hijack our train and attempt to drive it to Baghdad; one never knows these days. Once in my seat I relaxed and smiled at the memory of lo sfigato, probably the only man in history to place headphones bearing the music of Neil Diamond on the head of an Italian woman. * The nerd

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