Friday, July 27, 2007

Left image: Popular Charlie, Summer 2007
Right image: Silas (proto version), Winter 1999

Also, first extant drawing of Popular Charlie, then called the Orange Bishop, Spring 2002.

That post about sitting on the breakwater at Montrose harbor got me thinking about how much the lake appeared in the work at that time. It was over at the lake almost constantly, either riding along the path to get to and from somewhere (usually Abby's bar or apartment, or school) or just sitting there listening to music and moping. I took some pictures of old work from that time and it only represents a tiny fraction of the drawings in which the lake is a character; these drawings are from roughly the summer of 1998 to the fall of 2000. (It's odd how little the imagery has changed in nearly 10 years: still working the halberd and glaives and Bohemian ear spoons in the drawings and the shape of Popular Charlie's head comes directly from the silhouette of the character in the Thirst drawing. I find this both comforting and appalling...)

Turkey Run State Park, west-central Indiana.

Lovely place--lots of water-carved limestone canyons and gullies, ferns, birds and the like--but entirely too accessible to the public. I made the mistake of going on a Friday afternoon. Kept getting stuck behind large groups of people, some of whom were carrying cases of Bud Light in their backpacks. (I'll give them credit, however: they stomped the empties flat and but them right back into the backpack.) (I don't have a problem with drinking in nature--I mean, come on it's me--but don't trash the joint.) Also, just a lot of people who celebrate the (humble) grandeur of Nature (in western Indiana) by shouting, hooting and trying to smash tree limbs, rocks and pineys. Not sure I get that. But--if I walked quickly ahead or lingered behind to let them pillage their way into the distance--I got a few quiet green moments to myself.

Took the back roads to and from the Turkey Run. That was a pleasure. Whipping along at 65 mph on long, straight rolling roads through corn- and soyfields, always with that yellow smell of high summer coming in the windows. These kind of trips aren't the same without T, you know? Back in the early 90s, we canvassed most of Southern Indiana when I still lived in Indianapolis. Take the top off the jeep, load T in (if she wasn't already in--she liked to sleep in the jeep just in case) and go for six, seven, eight hours down weird little hilly roads to visit this or another state park. Made a few quick forays into Kentucky back then but didn't trust the jeep and my lack of cellphone, cash and credit cards didn't let me go much further. Even after I moved to Chicago, we'd still managed a few trips like that when I'd come home for the summer. But now? Eh. Good but kind of empty.

Working Title: Temper.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oh, Indianapolis.

This used to be our neighborhood Dairy Queen. 71rst and Graham Road. As a kid, I went there a few times a month with my mom, usually in the summer. She's get a little softee cone and I'd get a hot dog, fries and a Cherry Mr. Misty. The best part: I'd stack up the fries on top of the hot dog. But the real treat was the Mr. Misty. A Mr. Mister was a mixture vaguely fruit-flavored syrup--though I doubt you could find actual fruit that had a similar taste--and pulverized ice. Stunningly sweet and cold, much more so than your average Coke with ice. Each flavor was appropriately color-coded in the saturated, almost chemical hues that all kids instantly recognize by the age of five: red (cherry), green (lime), orange (well, orange), yellow (lemon) and purple (grape.) One summer they even introduced the Pink Lemonade Mister Misty. I remember ordering it repeatedly, less for the taste and more for the novelty of the new flavor. (And color! Pink was a tricky, unguessable flavor. In my kidsoul I always figured pink for bubblegum flavor, but it could also be strawberry or just no-flavored sweetness, like cake frosting that was gritty with sugar. Pink flavor was always a surprise.) I kept going to this particular DQ through high school--for the chicken sandwiches with extra mayo and so I could flirt with the girl who ran the drive through window--and right up until I moved to California and spent that lousy black year in San Clemente. Even after I'd moved to Chicago, I would swing by this DQ for my yearly Mr. Misty when in Indy visiting mom and Matt. (The Mr. Misty became gender neutral at some point in the renamed a Freezie Slush or Arctic Gushie or the Hyperborean Sweetbomb or some other less patriarchal name...but it still tasted the same.)

Now it is a Tae Kwon Do studio run by Master Young P. Choi. I wonder what it looks like inside. I wonder if they still keep the Mr. Mister--now Master Misty perhaps--machine churning away in the back. I think my favorite flavor might be the Divine Wind flavor (aka Crushing Kick to the Throat flavor.)

This photo is of one of the now-closed businesses that were just a block or so away from the DQ. The Carriage Cleaners sign is burned into my memory; that horse and buggy logo is so very late 1960s, the budding faux Americana that started to creep out as we neared the Bicentennial. I used to get my hair cut right next door at BJ & Company. This whole area was once kind of lively and bustling. Standard Grocery, Osco, Godfather's and Noble Roman's Pizzas, Village Pantry, Rax, Taco Bell, Sunoco, Steak and Shake, and a small industrial park where my dad has his company office. It was as about as close as you could get to a neighborhood for an small area that was rife with chain businesses and almost explicitly forebade pedestrian traffic. In the late 80s, all of the business started to rot and fall. Sometimes the spaces were filled by other business, sometimes they just sat vacant. It's kind of a rundown, dumpy area now. A lot of cracked, empty parking lots hedged by weeds.

No surprise: the liquor store, 21rst Amendment, is still open.

Drove by the house I grew up in: what a dump. It's shabby now, all the trees overgrown and shaggy, weeds and unkempt shrubs lick the brick wall. The owners haven't painted the house since we moved out. It's still that odd bluey-slate color my dad slapped on back in the mid 80s. And there are vestigial remains of the fence we put up back in 1976. I'm not feeling particularly nostalgic about the home but it is a shame to see my childhood stead turn into a festering heckhole.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I frequently came to this part of the lakefront--near Montrose Harbor--when I lived in Chicago. I did so a lot in from 1997-2000; not quite daily but several times a week. Then--from 2000 on--I started getting full-time adult-type jobs and came less frequently but was still sure to hit the spot at least a half-dozen times a year. It was less polished back then...not rundown or dumpy but the breakwater was still composed of big, tilting limestone blocks that were slowly tumbling into the water. Now the breakwater is neat, brilliant white concrete terraces with a perfect 20 ft. wide lip providing access to the Lake Michigan; there are even wide ramps for wheelchair access. It looks great from a distance--very clean and slightly fantastic, the kind of thing you might see gleaming away in the background of a Parrish painting. But up close, it's hard edged and sterile. It can't complain too much about what Daley has done to the lakefront. But I do miss the uncomposed sprawl of the limestone boulders.

I dumped a lot of negative emotion into this part of the lake. I'd just sit and stare at the water and eat my own liver. I'd be miserable, really. This detail from old drawing (2000) is a clumsily literal illustration of what I was doing metaphorically at the lake. A great deal of it was related to V (both the first time and, sadly and stupidly, the second time.) But there, too, was quite a bit of just general mid-20s artistic angst: why am I not a better artist? what am I going to do for money when I graduate? etc. (This hasn't changed all that much, actually; I just don't get quite as mired in the angst, that's all.) (Beer helps.)

Often, I'd have the walkman with me (yes, walkman) and immerse myself in the music. That summer of 1997, was heavily into Wynton Marsalis's Citi Movement (Griot New York). It seems very corny in retrospect but--as it provides the "soundtrack" to New York--it fit nice with my move from Indianapolis to Chicago. There is something in the rhythm and pattern of the music--aside from the obvious taxi-horn blatts from the trumpet and trombone--that locks into the visuals of a big city, and I sucked that album dry for about two years, getting every ounce of inspiration I could out of it. So. I gave "Modern Vistas (As Far As The Eye Can See)" a good listen. It's a stiff piece, overly long--nearly 17 minutes--and, of course, it's stuffed full of the self-consciously didactic jazz historical references that Wynton can't resist...but there are some very beautiful and natural moments as well, particular the last five minutes as the song winds down to silence. It was a delight to shepherd back to neutrality a piece of music that was once so charged. I also whipped through some other music I recall being important at the time, namely stuff from Squeeze's East Side Story and Singles 45's And Under. Eh. Good but kind of fluffy after Modern Vistas...but talk about perfectly crafted pop tunes. They're highly faceted bits of pop perfection. Not a single flaw.

After the music, I rode the Dutch Monster over to Montrose Beach and locked her up. I took a stroll through migratory bird sanctuary the city has established there. A remarkable bit of planning, I think, and a good example of Daley getting something right. The sanctuary is about 5 acres of combined meadow/grassland and thick copses of juvenile trees with paths and trails laced throughout. It's absolutely alive with bird activity, mainly of the ordinary variety--robin, starlings, sparrows. But I was dive-bombed by two different male red-winged blackbirds--apparently defending their nests?--which was pure joy considering how many I've drawn over the past five years. I guess I consider them my totem animal. At least, I would if I believed in any of that horseshit.

Chicago was good this visit. Amazing, actually. I was able to connect with a few people I haven't seen in a while. Friends that I don't speak to frequently but still are incredibly important. Not just catch up-connect but connect-connect, you know? I came away feeling good, clean-limbed and inspired, and HUMAN, an experience I don't seem to get very often in NYC. It was the first time I've returned to the city in without that aforementioned angst and the city wasn't negatively charged for me for once. It could see with clarity what a great place it is. Not that I could move back...

Monday, July 16, 2007

This is the Dutch Monster. Due to FK's generosity, she's my ride while I'm in Chicago. She weighs about 80 lbs. (or about 36 kg because it's a Dutch bike) and has polite but vestigial brakes. But I've grown to love her. I feel so civilized riding the Dutch Monster.

In to Chicago late Thursday night. Sat in a middle seat--even though I know I assigned myself a window seat--between a freckly accounting guy and a pretty Chinese woman. Took the Orange Line into the Loop, decanted myself (?) at Washington and Wells, and walked west towards the West Loop, to Leah and FK's. I was suprised--but not that surprised, I guess--but how desolate the West Loop was at that early hour--9:45. I was feeling a bit peckish and wanted to stop at a bodega and get a sandwich or something. But this is Chicago and bodegas are unheard of. Luckily, I was treated to homemade couscouse and grilled scallops wrapped in bacon. Couldn't believe my luck but didn't question it. I get the best treatment here.

Friday, FK and I hopped on the bikes and rode down through the Loop to Burnham Harbor. I was invited for an afternoon sail, an opportunity for the crew to calibrate the instruments and run through a few maneuvers: slicking down the mizzenmast, running up the know, stuff like that. It was remarkable: coolish day, very sunny but with huge galleon could, breezy as hell. Lovely. I pulled on some rope, flipped a few locks, cranked some ratched handles. I didn't have an idea about what I was doing. Perfect.

Friday night: dinner with Lisa and Julie, drinks with just Lisa at the Ten Cat. We walked to the TC from Lincoln along Irving Park, a street I used to walk T along almost every day. Some big changes in the architecture but some relics still remained--Cafe 28, the Orange Garden, etc. Ten Cat, as always, was good. Same bartender with the fountain of curly hair, some furniture, same Golden Tee game, only updated for 2007/

This was the first time I've come back to Chicago and felt like I wasn't going to be mugged by my old, hard feelings for the place. It's been a delight. Relaxing.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Slept late today and struggled to get out of bed. Just couldn't seem to get myself awake. Rode over to the studio and worked for a few hours. Been drawing out a new work for the past few days. Taking my time, trying to lock a majority of the drawing down before I get started. Trying to eat handfuls of Neo Rauch for inspiration. I love that guy.

Also in the studio yesterday--surprise--and took the wandering route home last night...rode along Greenpoint Ave. deep into Woodside QNS. I am always shocked by the little idyllic pockets I find when on bike, a few blocks of tree-lined housed, the odd community garden. I would love to have the money to buy a place in one of these neighborhoods. Set up the studio in the house and get back to a slightly less fractured lifestyle. Get a dog, take some pleasure in walking around the neighborhood.

Went to a deaf party last night: a going away thing for Jak and CK. It was on the 7th floor of a walk up in the heart of non-tourist Chinatown just south of the Manhattan Bridge. Brutal climb but lovely apartment.

Oh, man.

Some Kenyan food--Jak and CK--are headed to Africa, and some time with their dog, Rocky, and a stint on the roof. The trains were delightful on the way home and I was in my apartment in record time.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ah, T. I think it was almost this day two years ago that I had to have the fatty put down.

"Tuesday, I flew back from NY to Indianapolis to put her down. I had a vet come to my mom's house Wednesday at 1 p.m.. He put a doggie tourniquet around her front right leg and gave her a huge shot, a "controlled overdose" of pink-colored anesthetic--it resembled that crappy hand soap you find in institutional bathrooms, but slightly less opaque. Then the vet slipped the tourniquet off and T was gone in about ten seconds. She was caught in mid-choplick with her tongue sticking out just ever so slightly."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

GOT ON THE ROOF MUTHAFUCKA! Landlord was up there too and he was mighty pissed because another tenant on the 7th floor--a guy who has "legal" access to the roof via a private door to the fire escape--hosted a party with all kinds of gay men and children and drinking and let everyone on the roof. Landlord saw the movement on the roof from his building and Greenpoint and came over to rage against it all. Luckily, he was decent enough to allow the party to proceed but was obviously super pissed about the whole thing. Best part? We got access to the roof yet didn't get blamed for anything. The onus falls on Design Guy.

The only draw back was the non-stop cackling campiness of the gay men on the roof. They were of that particular brand of middle-aged, mojito- and cosmo-drunk, campy gay guys who kept up the "hilarious" cackling banter through the whole show, each trying to out campify the other. Everything was campy and super and ready to be mocked. I just don't get that whole thing. I get the gay part--have at it, my man--but the cackling super mockiness? I don't understand. Why does that have to be part of the whole endeavor? Just let things happen. Jesus.

I did a quick sweep of the roof and got the left-behind cups up that were forgotten in the campiness of the event. Anything to lessen the impact of being on the roof.

Oh, lovely roof...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Like I said, up to the roof tonight. This might be the last time I go up for awhile. Brought up the camping chair and killed an Anchor Steam. It's clear they intend TO PADLOCK THE FIRE DOORS FROM THE OUTSIDE. I am hoping this will be only for the 4th but it may be for longer. I'll be taking photographs--I can still get on the roof regardless--and reporting the building to 311. Fuckers try fucking with me, will you...

Lovely day. Breezy, mid 70s, lots of high quick clouds and just as much sun. Spend the day in the studio, of course. But took a leisurely ride over to the studio trying to soak in the perfection. Up to the roof. It might be the last time for a while...