' ' Cinema Romantico: Field Of Dreams = State Of Dreams

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Field Of Dreams = State Of Dreams

"Until I heard the voice I'd never done a crazy thing in my whole life." - Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) Field of Dreams"

He says this in the voiceover that opens the film and it is significant. Ray was born in Brooklyn and went to school in Berkeley. He "marched" and "smoked grass." But he didn't do anything crazy until he heard the voice and he didn't hear the voice until he and his wife Annie (Amy Madigan) had moved to....Iowa.

Once when I informed a co-worker at my Chicago office that I was returning to my home state of Iowa for Christmas he said to me, earnestly: "What are you gonna do there? Party in a cornfield?" It still shocks me - the number of people I have encountered in Chicago, and in Phoenix too, who honestly assume Iowa is one gigantic cornfield, stretching from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River, nothing in between. You tire of having to explain that, no, Iowa has cities. Actual cities! When I go home for Christmas I drink in a real, live bar! In fact, when I'm home I often drink in one of Esquire's Top 100 bars in America! Yes! It's actually in Des Moines! We've got better coffee than anywhere in Chicago and we've got a better concert venue than anywhere in Chicago and, most especially, we've got Alma Burke and all the rest of you don't so suck it. (By the way, Donna Reed bequeathed the Oscar she earned for playing Alma Burke to....that's right....her hometown of Denison, Iowa which makes me so proud and happy I just headbutted the wall.)

My always getting defensive at the mention of Iowa's cornfields then is why I couldn't help but note how nostalgic I felt at the news of the sale of the Dyersville, Iowa farm where "Field of Dreams" was filmed.

"Field of Dreams", based on the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella, is, of course, the one where Kevin Costner is the aforementioned Iowa farmer who hears the voice in his cornfield recite "If you build it, he will come" and, in time, determines that "he" might just be Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), a famed member of the Black Sox - the 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball team accused of throwing the World Series. Of course, other reasons for this mysterious plight will arise, including a trip to find a reclusive author (J.D. Salinger in the book, the fictional Terrence Mann in the film) and an ex baseball player named Moonlight Graham who never got his chance to bat in the major leagues.

Oh, there are plenty of people who take this premise to task, like Boston sportswriter Charles Pierce (a man who had he been present at the Passover would have bitched that the bread was unleavened), and I could waste time taking on such worthless criticisms except that the esteemed Roger Ebert already did so in his original review when he wrote "'Field Of Dreams' will not appeal to grinches and grouches and realists." No. No, it won't.

"We walk in the world of safe people and at night we walk into our houses and burn." - Dar Williams, "Iowa"

I have always loved that lyric. Iowans walk in the world of safe (for the most part) people and we're nice and civil and polite and we chat about the weather and road construction or maybe something else, though it's precisely that - something else, not something about ourselves, and then at night we walk into our houses and burn. We burn for our dreams, whatever they may be. "Field of Dreams" is about someone who walks out of his house and burns. He dreams. And he knows having the dream is always more important than how you are perceived for having it.

Not that he acts all crazy. See, only a guy from Iowa could pull this off because only a guy from Iowa would so matter-of-factly go about building a baseball field with cornstalks for an outfield wall because only a guy from Iowa could hear voices and still be reasonable. Stoically passionate, one might say. A guy from New York hears voices and says: "If I build what, who comes? You tell me who comes or I ain't doing s---." A guy from L.A. doesn't even hear the voices when they speak because he's too self absorbed in that conference call while he's stuck in traffic on the Harbor Freeway.

Why do you think the Black Sox wanted to come play in Iowa? Because only the Iowans would leave them to themselves. You threw the World Series, you didn't throw the World Series, whatever. Who are we to judge? How about some lemonade? Shoeless Joe Jackson is swinging a bat in my backyard? Should I set up a turnstile and charge admission? Nah. That's not what they want. That's not polite. They just want to play a little ball in peace. We respect it. We respect other people's wishes. We respect other people's privacy.

"Field of Dreams" is a perfect poem to the Hawkeye State. So it's set primarily on and around a cornfield? So what? It's not like they could shoehorn a baseball diamond into Court Avenue. It's not like they could drop it down on top of Gray's Lake. Nope, it had to be out there, out there in the corn, and it had to be in Iowa. It had to be in Iowa because this story involves a giant dream and believe me when I say only a guy from Iowa would ever dare to dream so big.


Wretched Genius said...

The Val Air Ballroom has been getting a bunch of noise complaints lately*, so it may soon become less of a great venue if it's forced to tone things down.

Every time I try to explain that Iowa has more than just cornfields, I always end up making it sound even more boring than it would be if I just left the perception as being a giant cornfield.

Me: "There is more than just corn here."

Person: "Like what?"

Me: "We also grow soybeans. And have a lot of hog lots**. And a thriving insurance industry."

Person: "Uh huh."

Me: "And we have the Bridges of Madison county, as featured in the bestselling novel of the same name, and the subsequent hit movie based on that novel, which features Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep."

Person: "Sounds interesting. What is so special about these bridges?"

Me: "Nothing, actually. They're just bridges."

Person: "Oh."

Me: "Also we produce a lot of methamphetamines***."

Person: "I'm listening..."

*: Val Air was built in 1939. The people who are making the complaints knew way ahead of time that they were moving next to a concert venue, yet they still complain about the noise. This may be Iowa, and we are generally nice people, but we have our fair share of stupid yuppie pricks.

**: Seriously, how can you write a love letter to your home state and forget to mention the bacon and bbq ribs? Or, for that matter, the cornfed Iowa beef?

***: This also got the <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372346/>movie</a> treatment.

Wretched Genius said...

Seriously, Blogger.com, why won't you let me edit comments? It would be really helpful right about now.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

You tire of having to explain that, no, Iowa has cities. Actual cities!

I'm not from Iowa but I will back you up on this. Ny sister has lived in West Des Moines for many years now (her husband teaches at Drake).

And though I am a fan of Charles Pierce's, your observation that "had he been present at the Passover would have bitched that the bread was unleavened" hits the bullseye.

Nick Prigge said...

It never ceases to amaze me that for how amazing the Val Air is - seriously, there is NOWHERE in Chicago like it - the city keeps trying to run it into the ground. That's part of the city's problem. They need to be more cognizant of what makes it cool. Also, I've never seen "Iowa" but I notice it stars James Serpento whose "Yoofoo Club" is one of the most excruciating moviegoing experiences I've ever endured.

I was also a little hard on Charles Pierce. (Well, not too hard.) He's probably right when he says Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the nba. But still, when he took down "Field of Dreams" I had to take him down.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

I just thought of an anecdote about Iowa that I often tell when I want to convince people what a swell place it is (Wretched Genius sort of jogged my memory when he mentioned bacon, ribs and beef).

At any restaurant I've ever eaten in my neck of the woods (Georgia), I can't order a hamburger medium rare. They refuse to cook it that way become some poor kid once died from eating a burger prepared in that fashion at a Jack-in-the-Box in California. I even offered to sign a waiver that I wouldn't sue if I died from an undercooked burger, but the restaurants hold firm.

So my sister and her husband take me to a diner in Des Moines, and I ask the waitress how close they can cook my cheeseburger to medium rare without it coming out like shoe leather.

The waitress asks me: "Why don't you just order it medium rare?"

Me: "I can do this? Without an argument?"

Well, as it turns out I could. And it was one of the best damn burgers I've ever eaten.

My Other Brother Daryl said...

Plus Iowa consistently sends a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat to the Senate, election after election. Ours may be a very obese, white bread state, but by god we believe in being fair to all sides.