Lately I'm reading Sin and the Second City, a book about prostitution and its enemies in Chicago around the turn of the last century. What's interesting is that the most sympathetic characters–indeed, the most contemporary ones–are Minna and Ada Everleigh, owners of the most notorious brothel of the era. What's to like about these sisters: They know their own minds, they're not hypocrites, they have a fixed idea of what quality is in their business and, unlike the legal beagles and religious reformers who dog them, they have a sense of humor.
In response to a government inquiry into how her conscience allowed her to be a madam, Minna laughed. "I am writing," she said, "what I will call The Biography of A Lost Soul."
As for those dead, failed reformers, I'm reminded of them as I sit in a hospital in Ohio accompanying my dad as he takes some medical tests. I'm on the computer in his room, playing games with the silly minds of the hospital's IT programmers, who let me read news, but don't let me read sports, let me read endless "opinion columns" about pigs and lipstick but not a "lifestyle" essay by a friend whose wife is dying of Alzheimer's.
I realize I'm playing the Internet hide-and-seek game corporate employees andexecutives play all day long with IT programs designed to limit Internet access in the name of "productivity."
What a universal humiliation. How silly this will all look someday.