So… my day job got a little busy… about a year ago… and so it’s been awhile since I’ve posted any new interviews and photos here. But a couple of news stories on DNAinfo and Chicagoist about a Chicago flag print that Nick Colella at Great Lakes Tattoo is selling have renewed some interest in the site. If nothing else, the Twitter account has a bunch of new followers. I’d hate to disappoint new readers, so I’m going back through some email submissions to them posted, and might even try and schedule an in-person interview (which was always my main focus for the site).
In any case, welcome! There are 66 interviews posted on the site already, so there’s plenty to read and look at enjoy. And if you have a Chicago tattoo and a story you think we should feature here, drop me a line—it’ll probably only take ame a year or so to get back to you.
The posts are only a day apart, but I actually saw Joe working the counter at Honey Butter Fried Chicken months after I interviewed Nicki and John. Our interview was very short because hungry folks were lining up behind me to order their lunch.
Joe: I’m not a chef, and I’ve been a line cook at a bunch of places. My inspiration for this tattoo is basically: I’m a big guy, I like to stay hungry, and I love Chicago. I’ve been around and I grew up with restaurants, it’s been part of my life my whole life, and just working in restaurants just really made me appreciate the back and front of the house.
CFT: Oh, so that’s the back and the front. Making it and eating it?
Joe: Yeah, awesome.
I saw John’s unique Chicago flag tattoo across the patio at Honey Butter Fried Chicken and when I went over to talk to him, it turned out that his dinner companion Nicki also had a Chicago flag tattoo on her side. She wasn’t wearing clothes that let her show it off that day, but she was nice enough to send me a photo. Nicki’s tattoo was done by Marty BCardy from ILL State Ink. John designed his own tattoo, and Amanda from Top Notch Tattoo in Elgin inked it for him.
CFT: What are your Chicago tattoo stories? Are you both natives?
John: Well, I am, she’s kind of a long-term transplant.
Nicki: Yeah, yeah.
John: I grew up in the burbs, and have lived here for a few years and friends live here, family lives around here and, it’s kind of one of those things where you love it to death, with a lot of pride.
Nicki: This is my ten-year Chicago anniversary so I got that as a gift to myself. I love the seasons here, so I wanted something with the stars, and the seasons, and the skyline, so they managed to put it all together.
John: So I started sketching random crap for a tattoo for Nicki, and I ended up designing this one, and you know, I’m going to actually keep this one for myself.
Nicki: He stole my idea.
Steve sent in a photo of his arm right after the line work was done and was kind enough to update us when the color was finished with both updated photos and why he wanted a Chicago flag tattoo.
Steve: I got the tattoo as a tribute to growing up around Chicago, and then teaching for Chicago Public Schools. I’m in the National Guard and my unit is located at the Jones Armory at 52nd and Cottage Grove. I wanted to always be able to take a bit of home with me no matter where I went, and as such put in architectural elements that I love. The buildings represented are all unique and represent something about the City to me, the flag is there, as is the municipal device and the lights from the 1893 World’s Fair. On my other arm I have Sue from the Field Museum which is just another way to bring memories of home with me on my wanderings.
I saw the back of Kaylee’s leg at a bus stop near my work and she was kind enough to talk to a stranger with an odd question.
CFT: So that’s the logo for Reggie’s Rock Club and it gets you a discount on drinks there and you were saying before I started recording that maybe you were drunk when you got it.
Kaylee: Maybe. Yeah, we have a bunch of different logos and, one of our logos is the Reggie’s R in place of the Chicago stars.
CFT: When you picked it out, did you think, “Yes! Chicago!” or was it just like, “Free, nearly free booze”?
Kaylee: Free booze.
CFT: Are you a Chicago native?
Kaylee: No, I’m from Milwaukee, but I’ve been here for I think 8 years. Also, we all have it, like a big Reggie’s family, we all have them.
CFT: Okay. Awesome.
Kaylee: A couple other people have the flag too, but not exactly like mine. Other people have just like black flag, like a Chicago flag that’s black, with Reggie’s R’s in it, or other people have just the star and their R.
CFT: Okay. I’ll have to stop by and interview everybody.
Kaylee: Yeah. Good to meet you!
CFT: Good to meet you! Thanks so much for not being afraid of a stranger stopping you at a bus stop.
Kaylee: It’s because I’m from the Midwest.
Alaina sent her tattoo in via the CFT email and I asked her the core question of the site: what is it about Chicago that made her want to get this tattoo?
Alaina: I guess that question is better answered as why I love Chicago so much that I was willing to permanently scar my body with its symbol :) And it’s because it’s the greatest city in the world. I grew up in the western suburbs (Wheaton) but moved to the city 17 years ago… I like to tell people 2 more years and I will officially be able to say I’m “from” Chicago as I’ll have lived downtown longer than the burbs!
The people make it great. We’re the salt of the earth who also have class. We’re kind to strangers, intelligent because of our world renowned education options (U of C, Northwestern), we’re humble, tough (anyone who endures the winters we do has to be tough), and just downright authentic. And this city is GORGEOUS. We have a lake that, for all intents and purposes, is an ocean, our streets are clean, our skyline is breathtaking… there’s so little not to love about this city, other than the weather. But I think it’s because of the weather we have to endure that makes us awe struck by the springs, summers and the short autumns we get. It doesn’t matter how lazy a Chicagoan may be, once the weather is nice, we’ll be outside soaking up every second of it.
It’s my home and always will be… even if I move away.
CFT: So, Steph! You have a Chicago flag that’s on your wrist.
Stephanie: I do. I have the stars on my wrist in black.
CFT: What’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?
Stephanie: I got it last summer. I’ve been living in Chicago for 6 years and I just felt like, well, it sounds cheesy when I talk about it. It just felt like the city changed who I was as a person and someday I’m going to move away for comedy purposes, and I wanted to get something to commemorate it before I left. I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time, and then I just said, “You know what, I’ll just get the stars,” because a lot of people have, you know, the stripes and the stars. I just didn’t want floating stripes on my body, so yeah, just got the stars. In black because I guess I thought it would look tougher.
CFT: Okay. Did you move here for comedy or was that part of the transformation?
Stephanie: I mean, I wanted to do comedy, but that wasn’t something I discovered while I was here. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that that was a factor. I moved here for grad school, just because I’d been living in rural Wisconsin and needed to not do that anymore.
CFT: So, 6 years. I hear a lot of 10-year stories, as a marker, but it wasn’t about the time for you, it was about the transformation.
Stephanie: Yeah, that is definitely not a huge chunk of time. It was a transformation phase, I would say. I just feel like Chicago made me the man I am, and that’s why I wanted something to remember it by.
CFT: Okay, that’s awesome. Where did you get it done?
Stephanie: I can’t think of the name of the place. It’s right next to Cole’s Bar in Logan Square on Milwaukee. I live in the neighborhood, and I had wanted it for a while and I had the day off, so I just walked down there and got it done.
CFT: Is a move on the horizon, or you just see that coming someday?
Stephanie: I think last year at this time, I was planning to move. I don’t think I was planning to still live here by now. But now I’m going to be here indefinitely. It wasn’t immediately, but I was like, “I don’t know if I’ll be here for 6 more months.”
CFT: Okay. It’s a great souvenir.
CFT: So, what’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?
Rob: Ok, I guess there’s not really a big story about it. I only have three tattoos, and I’ve always said if anybody’s going to put ink on their body that it should be something important, and I think that living in Chicago has been a big staple. I think that just living in Chicago has been such a big staple in who I am as a person, so… and the reason I guess mine is a little bit different than everybody else is that I don’t want to be the same as everyone. So, yeah, I guess that’s really my story.
CFT: Are you a native? Were you born here?
Rob: Yeah, I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, and I was in the military, and I’ve traveled a lot for almost every job I’ve ever had, and I always just find myself just feeling at most home in Chicago.
CFT: Awesome! Where’d you get it done?
Rob: I got it done right off the Belmont Red Line at Chicago Tattoo. I’ve gotten all my tattoos there.
I met Jeff at the same block party as Karma. Our interview was pretty short, because Jeff was had just reached the front of a very long line for food.
CFT: So, tell me about your Chicago flag tattoo.
Jeff: I just got it because I’ve moved around a bunch. I’m originally from Rogers Park, and then I went to the suburbs, moved to Michigan for a while, came back to the suburbs, moved back down to Rogers Park. And I kind of made like a full circle, and that whole time Chicago was always like my home anyways. So, I just felt like getting it one day when I was hanging with some friends. It’s just what came to mind as something I wanted to d, because I didn’t know if I’d move again, so I wanted to remember.
CFT: So far, you haven’t moved again.
Jeff: I’ve been in Chicago since 2008 now and since I finally came back it’s been fun. If I move anywhere else, I want to be able to wear it on my sleeve all the time.
CFT: Where did you get it?
Jeff: Actually, I got it in my friend’s house.
CFT: Well, thanks so much!
Jeff: No problem, thank you.