Chicago, Illinois

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Visiting Fibber in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago was not in the underdrawing of my travel plans when I touched down on a Sunday morning in Kansas City. No sooner than I had coasted into the ominous silence of downtown Omaha, secured a cold batard accompanied by a hummus tub, and sat on the side of a planter waiting for someone to walk by I became lost in calculations on my recalled geography of the prairie states. Chicago was certainly no more than a couple of hours away. Then and there abandoning my plans to futz around Iowa for two days, I just had to fight through two full days in Nebraska.

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The drive into Chicago from the west is stifling. I was hypnotized from the eight hours that it had taken me to cross Iowa and Illinois, often envisioning myself flying through space at eighty miles per hour without a car, just me seated and flung. As the city rose and set over the interstate chute I recalled the highway scene in Solaris and saw right through the skyline every time it peeked over at me.

After a knight’s tour of Wicker Park I pulled into Fibber’s road and parked in the following morning’s street cleaning zone. My physical excision was destined to continue. Fibber was at work til late and had arranged for me to get the key from her mailbox in the front door and make myself at home in the bottom floor apartment of her building. The mail slot was a narrow, rusty affair that ground into my steering-numbed hand. I could feel the envelope amidst the junk mail and could even see my name written on it but couldn’t clip my aging fingers around it. I felt like I was fishing a golden ticket out of the sewer and was about to give up and drive to a Super 8 I knew in Remington, Indiana when the door swung open, having never been locked in the first place. I took the key, dumped my bindle on the couch and went off floating on foot.

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Partially spectral with cornfield ennui, stumbling around Six Corners was the equivalent of the beating I longed for sitting on my planter two nights into my stand in Omaha when I felt that I had not even been touched by a voice since debarking the plane. I became completely turned around like a country mouse and headed off down the wrong spoke a klick before making my way back to Wicker Park to stew in the slow city dusk.

In full night I marched back up the compact city streets with little bodega storefronts tucked in beneath the umbrage of street trees clouding orange lamps and the wide sidewalks alternately steely white shining through shadow and agitated with feet and voices in clumps blazed straight to a bustling intersection with some laundromats perhaps, light icy windows, a breeze, and a glimmering neon and verdant window across the street where Atomix glowed, just as Fibber’s note to me had made a point to landmark. Its impression of a future of the not-too-distant past showed its hand even from afar. I noted upon returning to Atlanta to research my tableau that ‘The Future of Coffee’ didn’t have a website and mused that its pantomime must have been staged in 1995 as seen from 1955. Strangely tactile though, the aqueous sheen of its atomic age styling baffled by the houseplants was exacerbated by the blue hues, fluorescent lighting, and the bizarre coolness that had gripped the city immediately after sunset.

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Rarely does coffee not seize me up. I become staccato and distracted. However, I don’t think I would blame the tired sag that came over me on the coffee either. With narcotic perfection I sat in the cold room, with my mouth and stomach warm, staring at the words on my offbrand MP3 player: Ukrainian Insurgent Army. So far on the trip the looseness, the serendipity that I count on to make meaning of my travels had eluded me behind the stifling bleakness, the staying alone in the hotel after dark when I could have seen through the fire glazed sky to the stars, and the pathetically foiled, wordless attempts to overlap with other folks. Here was a schism of temperatures and sensations whose lucidity crystallized the Ukrainian Village around me into the place I was meant to be at that time and let my movements melt into the sensations of easy purposefulness that I rarely feel.

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Dipping my fingers in coffee and rubbing them over the watercolor pencils and graphite bars in my rucksack, dragging them over intently penciled territories, a small scene emerged on the paper in front of me. A little Ukrainian Insurgent Army, for some reason dressed as hoar-bearded elves armed with some sort of hooked staffs, marched down out of a hillscape. I know that it was right because I now cannot recall the sensations or visions that engendered the markings as I could when I was drawing ‘a building’ or ‘a landscape’ in eastern Nebraska. This little puddle of pigment was precisely the absence of myself in the moment and the complete control of the environment and situation over me.


Back in the dark of Cortez I had to move my car from the street cleaning zone long after the main exodus had plugged all of the suitable opposite curb parking. Ending up blocks away and walking again through the neighborhood I felt the poultice of Atomix flaking away in the whir of the passing cars on Damen.

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At Fibber’s kitchen table a bottle of wine somehow appears in my photographs and a tall tumbler filled next to my implements served as the medium well for my second Ukrainian Insurgent Army drawing. But the time was then past and I had already sunken to parody of that fleeting recent moment. Spreading out my tools photogenically, connecting my MP3 player to Fibber’s laptop, and dipping my fingers in the wine, the weakness of the resulting new drawing showcased my inability to kindle situations for my benefit. The movements were too clear in a way that made them ineffectual, their powers misused. I had tried to shoot the gun again, to make it work on my own, but fired into the air, into an arc, doing nothing but make a heartbreaking racket and depositing its charge where it could strike no one. It didn’t matter much. I still hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone, nor they to me.

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1957 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60622

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