Each morning, before my partner drives our 2000 Subaru Forester to work at a bakery across town, I play a record while making us coffee. Usually jazz, often Sun Ra. I worry that we are noisy tenants at our new apartment in Logan Square–a historic Chicago neighborhood we chose for its boulevards, jibaritos, Logan Theater and favorite coffee shop, 4LW. Once she leaves, I’m alone with our cats and my fears of being noisy. It makes me imagine the Miles Davis Quintet performing over my neighbors as they sleep.
Chicago shines in autumn, but Chicagoans know well that autumn becomes winter–a time when strangers exclaim “Chicago!” in passing as if to remind ourselves where we are. But everything you hear Chicagoans decry – the constant construction, rickety “L” train, bitter malört – are the things that endear me to the city. Every winter I declare, “This’ll be my last!” Yet, I’ve stayed. A mystery.
Wrapped in a tartan scarf, I bring laundry to the basement, where I recently found a math equation scrawled on an old door. It was once someone’s solution, but now it is a mystery to me. I call things like this nonces, and they inspire much of my artwork. But, honestly, lately trousers have consumed most of my attention.
For decades the “perfect trouser” has eluded me, but during a recent visit to Alcala’s Western Wear I found something among their 50-year-old stacks of Wranglers that, if not perfect, are at least my trouser du jour. While the Wrangler 13MWZ is commonly worn by Chicago artists, musicians, chefs, couriers and the occasional cowboy, it’s the Wrancher’s subtle 70’s silhouette, 12” rise, and knife-sharp pleats that I’m returning for today. They harmonize my wardrobe of Adidas and vintage crewnecks without sacrificing sensibility.
I could talk about trousers forever. I suppose talking about them is really another way of talking about the city. Whether working in my studio, sifting through flea markets, riding bumpy trains, or faring Chicago winters, these slacks complement the ways I find myself living and working in the city. Today, I’ll search for the bottle green pair I left behind on my last Alcala’s trip, visit the bafflingly fast tailor working quickly and quietly in the back, and remember why I love cities so much. Everyone is everywhere all of the time. Everything involves someone else.
In the city, everywhere you look you find reason, even if that reason eludes you. Whatever doesn’t make sense to you makes sense to someone else. You sense the presence of familiarity even when you are unfamiliar, like equations in a laundry room or a stranger’s taste in trousers.