Sunday, June 29, 2008

Roof tops - layer by layer, house by house, "progress" and a particular

Working with the boys (Ralph, architect / Gordon, craftsman) restoring roofs in land marked Pullman.

Peeling back the layers of asphalt shingles... 1970's green... 1950's red... 1930's black... to the original crumbling 1881 slate fastened to one inch thick wood boards with square nails. Interesting juxtaposition with the DePaul archeology team digging in a backyard a few doors down... It's so odd what's held as history. I look around here and see myriad moments all interesting to me... of course the original industrialist's plan... the collapse of the idyllic... The ethnic ebb and flow… 20's deco... markers of the depression... sears home service... pristine care / pristine neglect and the much more interesting unidentified in-between... I notice a gain and a loss as everything gets more and more considered and restored to a particular.

And on to the next...

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Only 2 hours for a landmark approved building permit! What stars had to align for that to happen?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beverly Shores

An ongoing project by the water...

It's the first time I noticed that the waves come and go at the same time.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Peter, Sarah, Then & Now

Peter is an architect who needed a place to rent between IIT and Ann Arbor. He chose the apartment (that I’m in the midst of readying) next door. Sarah came to meet me and take a walk during garden day in Pullman.

Now Peter came down the week before. We walked and talked for a couple of hours in and about the neighborhood... and about art... and how it is to be in the world. I liked Peter from the start and realized on our walk that he noticed things that mostly go unseen. Later in the week I started to scrape the walls of peeling paint in a room of Peters' new apartment. Muddled indistinguishable layers revealed themselves in a single now. I stopped to look (or maybe it stopped me to be seen).

As Sarah and I walked the neighborhood (pointing and talking) looking at the layers of; time, tatter and tending that make this place so unique - I thought she might see what I saw (uncovered) in the apartment next door. She instantly got it and concurred that what we were looking at was quite undeniable and Peter would see it too.

And he did. And now there is something quite wonderful to see in Peters new Pullman apartment (next door).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seymour, Working Together, Motobike

I took my motobike to my now new friend Seymour for a new set of tires to be installed (takes special tools that I don't own). Instead of the one hour I assumed (having changed tires on motorcycles before) it became the afternoon with the two of us (he likes you to work with him) taking half the bike apart. Seymour would explain this and that to me and take something else off to show me something more. We would put things back together and I would ask a question (what does that do? where does that go to?) and it would come apart again. I didn't plan on dismantling half the bike to change the tires. It was just something that was what we did. Eventually we got it back together, with the new tires and in a better configuration than before (some things new, some things replaced, some adjusted and some just cleaned up. Even some things left off - no longer needed). He must have been 70 years old and wore knee low shorts with suspenders and a name tag ("Seymour") written in that cursive stitch style lettering (that always reminds me of carnivals and real work at the same time). It was a remarkable afternoon. What makes this a story (besides that I just like that his name is Seymour) is that it’s so me (even a little schmaltzy at times).

I love motorcycles, I've had one in one form or another since I was 10. They are fast and awake and very much boy. They get old and worn and I sell one and buy another without the untrustworthy wear from long hard rides. Sometimes they break beyond reasonable repair and I junk them. Sometimes the get wrecked but I always survive (lucky boy). I'm usually smart with them in a for me sort of way. But I learned something yesterday with Seymour (I think that's why he likes you to work with him). He loves motorcycles in a different way than I do. He tends to them. He understands them, respects them, and appreciates them and how they work. It was always about the ride for me and where it takes you.

To back track, the last few years I have been lazy with the care taking of my motorcycle - seemed liked there was so much it needed. I got pissed at my bike at some point for not being reliable. I ride motorcycles for fun and adventure, not disappointment. It became demanding. fix fix fix. I would address the issues (Sometimes just enough to keep it running. Sometimes more than reasonable). Spending $1000's of dollars with business minded dealers to fix all that it needed because I didn't know exactly how to fix it myself (or afraid I would get in over my head if I tried, or didn't have the right tools). I would occasionally take it across country the last few years but never really trusting it (making for a not fun ride). But somehow I couldn't sell it or junk it or leave it. It was mine with a history of Mexico and Guatemala, New York, San Francisco, the entire ridge of three sets of mountains, swaying wheat fields of Canada, desert, green/wet. It has gotten me through hail, snow, mud, and allowed me a view that the world is small and big and serious and playful. It was everything and nothing. What do you do when a bike that you love shows up as untrustworthy and unsafe to ride? The view it once offered eroded to resentment. I became limited to my resignation of it.

Seymour spent the day with me sharing his knowledge and tools. Over the course of the afternoon I slowly started seeing myself and the bike differently. Suddenly it became clear. The motorcycle wasn't the thing I didn't trust - it was me. It wasn't up to the bike to be trustworthy and safe - it was up to me. A stunning (though now obvious) realization. We had all the right tools at our disposal and Seymour knew everything (including having me work on it with him).

As I left for the ride home, I noticed it appeared a little unstable at idle. I turned around and went back. I caught Seymour outside just as he was leaving. I said, “It seems a little rough”. He reached into his left hand shirt pocket (opposite his name) and pulled out a small red and clear handled screwdriver (the technical kind that you would never own for fixing things around your house) and said “it sounds almost right to me” and began to adjusted the two carburetors, explaining “little turns on each“, “clockwise“, “you have to keep them in balance“ , “You can hear it when it’s right” , “not too much”. As I was leaving, Seymour handed me the screwdriver and said “You might need this jb“, “little turns, clockwise, you can hear it when it’s right”. I said “Thank you Seymour” and put the gift in the inside left hand pocket of my leather jacket.

It runs perfectly for now. I loved riding it home (in a different and same way). It’s no longer about just me, but now also about not me, a gift from Seymour. Now I wouldn't want to be Seymour in that small storefront surrounded by broken things. I still prefer riding and the view. But it was good bumping into him, and I notice I listen differently now… “You can hear when it’s right or needs tending”.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Zocalo, Vinyl, 2 hours

Betty kindly asked me to participate in an event where artist made "Zocalo" shopping bags will be auctioned off to benefit the Teatro Vista Theatre Company. I’m not sure she realized that my current art project only allows VINYL siding (manufactured surface) to be applied to existing structure (in this case, betty's request for a thematic art object).

Although more sculptural than functional...

...I’m delighted with the result. A perfect visual metaphor.

I also offered up two hours of ITHINKWECANDOTHAT conceptual art / handy man services to go to the highest bidder (at the very least it will be conversational). I’m looking forward to the event and a little blurring of the distinction between art and life.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pullman (and the apartment next door)

The walls appeared in awful shape in the apartment next door. De-laminating plaster from the 1880's. The current tenant allowed me to be underfoot to patch and paint (the patching taking most of the time). She informed me that after living here for 5+ years she will be moving closer to a new job. I did what I could repairing the old plaster in an occupied apartment and I like the uneven result of not drywall. After her move, I'll finish with a simple ikea kitchen and replacement windows (in the back) ... enticing a new tenant to occupy.

The apartment is on the top floor of a rowhouse in Pullman (a yet to be discovered area on the south side of chicago). I had been staying on the northside for the last few months but have always kept a studio and an apartment here. Now that I'm back full time, I get to do all those small things that I haven't had the time for... searching for suitable hooks to replace the missing ones in the history laden 19th century working man closets...


...tending to the original beman skylights that give skyblue to the shower.


...finally completing the upstairs bath.