In Chicago I lived on the 5th floor of a building called “The Envoy” on the Northside of town called “Edgewater”. It was a hardy brick building that dripped with a deep history beyond a century. Before me laid over a hundred years of people living in this room. It was a tiny box apartment with heavily textured walls, and often when I’d graze my hands across the sea of fluctuations of texture, I wondered how many people had done the same before me.
My window overlooked the north side of town, which carried the view of an adjacent rooftop, that at night would blow massive puffs of steam into the cold air, like a blues singer arching their neck upwards to blow their cigarette smoke while singing. Beyond the roof top, laid a mass of buildings checkerboarding their lighted windows across the way. I’d lay in bed and watch the various characters criss crossing through rooms.. some were cooking, some were fighting, and some were falling asleep alone to the lullaby of their television at 2am.
I worked furiously in this apartment, often forgetting the idea of sleep while my hands were so desperate to create something. I had previously spent 8 months in Las Vegas, and while fruitful for business, my brain shut down from the loneliness. When I had arrived in Chicago, my mind was on fire, and like a floodgate breaking, I spent most of my time painting. I was still being reclusive, but I never felt alone, and in fact… it was the first time in a VERY long time, that I felt alive.
I’ll tell you why.
The word “home”, while not foreign to me, has struggled to dance with my voice wherever I’ve lived. I’ve spent the last 38 years trying to figure out where I belonged, and for the past 15 years I have moved to find out where that was. In each place, I found such a new version of an American culture that was completely alien to me. In each place I sought to settle myself, but found I was trying to push my circle self into a square shaped city, and that in the end I would run off to the next adventure to see if I’d fit. Mind you, I wasn’t running away from anything, I was running TO something, and every time I’d feel a shift coming along I’d grab my backpack and carry on.. because as artists, as writers, as travelers, as souls searching for something… anything
.. we are never lost at sea…
we are just happy where the current takes us.
Chicago had become the first place where I felt like I belonged. Suddenly my circle self fit into a circle city, and I settled quietly as the winter came. The cold blazed through the town, and there were minor complications with my water and heating system, but with that aside, I found that the friendships I had, made me completely blind to the harsh weather that came over me.
During the Winter I spent my days working in the studio, and in the evening I’d walk out of The Envoy and down Bryn Mawr slipping on the ice patches to Clark and work at a warmly lit restaurant called “Summerdale” till close. Generally I’d walk back the same way, or grab the train at Berwyn and ride with one of my Mickey paintings down to the 24 hour diner off of Belmont and paint till the wee hours of the morning while it snowed outside. I’d eventually go home, and fall asleep to the sounds of CTA train whizzing by, and wake to the sounds of the cathedral bells telling me what time it was by the number of icy chimes that rang.
As Spring came, I realized that I wanted to move away from Chicago back to Georgia where my search for home started. I figured it was the perfect way to close the TENxTENxTEN series. I found it difficult to leave my apartment, and on my last day I hysterically cried in my taxicab on the way to O’Hare International Airport to my new destination.
It was the first time in my life that I have ever cried about leaving somewhere.
Because it was the first time in my life that I felt like I was leaving home.
This piece is called “Objects in Chicago are Closer than they Appear”. In this painting Mickey is surrounded by the districts, train lines, museums, and icons of Chicago. Inside Mickey’s face is a representation of streets, beaches, and parks of the city. It resides in the “Sketchwave” series, as “Metropolitan Daydreamer” is technically the piece that resides in the “Metropolitan Series” representing Chicago.
It is with this piece, that I tell you, that I love you Chicago, and this is painting is my love letter to you. You are the first place in my life to call home, you are the first place to give me such radiant joy, and you are the first place where I can feel love. I love you in your temperamental temperature ways, and I love you when you throw your cold winter shoulder away from me, because I know you’ll turn around eventually and give me your warm spring and summer embrace… and when I ride home on your trains with my paint stained hands and tired eyes, know that I am tired because I want to be awake more than I want to sleep when I’m around you.