This summer I noticed Joe’s tattoo while we were both running on the lakefront path and managed to catch up to him at a water fountain and tell him about the site. He emailed me a few days later and we met up for an interview at a Caribou Coffee (that’s now a Peets—I’m behind on interviews!). CFT’s Erica Reid was along for the interview and we tag-teamed on questions.
Fuzzy: So Joe, you’ve lived in Chicago your whole life. Your farthest move was 8 miles.
Joe: Yeah I grew up right by Oak Park, just inside the city limits. Same house that’s still there.
Fuzzy: So tell me about your tattoo.
Joe: I started running about 5 years ago now, and after I did my first marathon I knew I wanted to keep running. So I actually have on my other leg a band, and the back of the band, it’s roman numerals for 26.2. And then I wanted to get something that kind of represented Chicago and I had this idea pop in my head like, oh I can kind of do it on my calf because I run a lot , and it has a double meaning for me in the end. So that’s why I got the tattoo there. And I wanted Chicago just because I grew up here and this is home. I didn’t want to just do the straight flag somewhere else on my body, so I decided to do something a little bit different. And now I’m noticing the Chicago flag band around a limb or something a lot more. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention, or started paying more afterwards.
Fuzzy: Well I definitely think once you have one, there is that. There’s even a name for it. [It’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or “frequency illusion”.] It’s the something effect of when you clued in to something that you suddenly notice it’s everywhere. How long have you had it?
Joe: Oh gosh, I think I got it two-and-a-half years ago, three years ago? Somewhere around then. Once I finally figured out what I wanted and called my guy that does my tattoos and he’s like oh yeah I can take you in a couple days.
Fuzzy: Awesome. So you had a guy? I notice that you have a fair number of tattoos.
Joe: Yeah I think I’m at 12 now or something. I started off going to Uptown and I got a few at Tattoo Factory over there. And it kind of just felt like a “here’s your tattoo / here’s your money”, you just really exchange for services. And then my friend introduced me to this other guy and he’s hopped around for a few different places, but he’s done the majority of the rest of them. So I’ve been kind of going back to him for everything.
Fuzzy: Is he a secret?
Joe: Oh no, his name is Pony Lawson. They’re starting up a new tattoo shop called Mayday! Tattoo Co. It’s somewhere in Lincoln Park. My friend got a tattoo covered up on his leg, and I saw the work he did, and I was like holy, that’s really good. Like you don’t even know there’s another tattoo there, so I’ve been going to him for everything else. So he did that one.
Erica: I love that, having somebody you work with that knows you knows what you like.
Joe: I told him I’ll visit when I come home, squeeze it in. It almost feels like I’d be betraying him if I went somewhere else. Fuzzy: Where your tattoo is on your legs, people see it and you’re out running a lot. You get any high-fives? Any “You’ve got an awesome tattoo”?
Joe: I get it all the time. Randomly, people will stop and be like wow I love your tattoo. Or people will say, just walking past each other, “yeah Chicago!” And I’m like, “yeah Chicago!” It’s happened quite a few times at festivals. Lollapalooza this past year, seriously I would get stopped left and right. We’d stop people too if they had a Chicago flag tattoo. It was kind of just a bonding thing. It’s pretty cool. But basically that’s exactly what happens on the trails. Someone will just run up to you and they’ll like, give a thumbs-up or something.
Fuzzy: Awesome. And now you’re moving. It’s the tiniest part of the move I’m sure, but did you think, how can I move now that I have this tattoo? I’m sure the thought was more, how can I move I’ve lived here all my life?
Joe: So that’s what’s really cool about the tattoo. And I actually have, the Chicago skyline down down my rib cage. And the question I get the question a lot “well what would happen if they build another building?” And I’m like well, it’s the same thing with if wehad got the Olympics, there were talks of adding a fifth Star on the flag. It’s a moment in time for me, so something that I’ll always remember. I mean this is the skyline as of 2012. It’s just like a freeze frame and I’ll always remember it like that. So I get to take a piece of the city with me everywhere I go. And not just a piece, it’s like a moment of time in this city I guess. I don’t really know how to describe it.
Fuzzy: Now that is an awesome answer because of course I asked a false question. Your tattoos don’t bind you to anything.
Joe: That’s also kind of why I like getting tattoos because I’m not a super artistic or drawing kind of person. It’s really a great way for me to express things. I think that a lot of people can do that through painting, drawing, or writing. That’s kind of how I do it, by getting stuff on me permanently.
Erica: I feel the same way too. It gives me more confidence and I’m like “this is me”. I feel more myself when I get something new because it obviously means enough to you that you want it to become a part of you. That’s pretty powerful.
Joe: That’s exactly it.
Fuzzy: Any awesome miss-guesses on the flag?
Joe: Oh god, yeah. I think someone once asked if it was Texas or something. The skyline is always “is that New York?” No, it’s not New York. Or because it’s just a line, people often think it’s an EKG, like a heartbeat or something like that.
Erica: I bet it’s kind of cool though knowing that you’re moving somewhere else but you’re taking that part of Chicago with you.
Joe: It really is. And I mean, this is going to sound kind of strange, but if somebody notices it, then it’s like they can see that Chicago really matters, and is a huge deal to me. And San Francisco is just kind of a new chapter to experience.