August 2013 Archives

Charles Ezaki

Charles Ezaki Chicago flag tattoo

Charles Ezaki Superdawg tattoo

Charles Ezaki came to us through the email address up there in the right-hand corner of every page on the site (plug!). We figured out that we’re in pretty much the same neighborhood and that meeting up at Hopleaf for a noon-time beer would be a great way to start off the day.

CFT: Who are you, Charles?

Charles: I’m Charles. Born and raised in Chicago. On the northwest side. Grew up over on Addison & Pulaski. Haven’t really lived anywhere else but Chicago. Moved up here [to Andersonville] about a year ago, was in Rogers Park for a year, when I first moved out of my parents’ house, you know 30-some odd years. Finally moved up to Rogers Park in a small apartment there, but found a great deal up here—guy I know owns a building. An old guy—he’s lived there his whole life. He’s 75 now, so yeah. I went to school here, went to Lakeview High School, went to Columbia College for 2 years and ran out of money. Been working the same job pretty much since ever since, like, ‘98—been working over at Central Camera. My dad started working there back in ‘85, and that’s kind of how I got the job there.

CFT: So you’re rooted in Chicago.

Charles: Yeah. He was born here in Chicago, too. My grandparents were born out in California, but were moved here—got moved to the relocation camps in WWII, so they go out of the camps, came here, and been here ever since.

CFT: So every single thing about your life, at least in that summary, is so Chicago-rooted and so place-rooted in a way that is really unusual these days, I think. Like, down to the fact that your current landlord, himself, lives in the same place he’s lived for 75 years. Have you thought about that, and is that a comforting rooting, or are you like “Ah, I gotta get out of this place someday.”

Charles: I don’t know. I think about if I moved somewhere else, what it would be like. If I moved far off to another state, I don’t know.

CFT: I’m not trying to rock your world.

Charles: I’ve thought about that, you know? I’ve always thought, if I moved somewhere else, I’m gonna have a Chicago flag lying right there all the time. First time when I first moved to the place in Rogers park, you know I have a Chicago flag, a nice cotton one. A 5 foot huge one. And that’s the first thing I hung up in the apartment. Same thing in the new place—it’s the first thing I hung up. I wanted to establish it before I hung anything else up.

CFT: I’m fascinated by this—until I lived in Chicago I don’t think I’d spent more than 4 years in one place ever*, like back to when I was a kid. So I’m very much a transplant. This is sort of like a place I found. And you aren’t the first person I’ve talked to like this. My wife grew up in the same town, in the same house for 18 years before she moved up here. So it’s just interesting to me, what that feels like. So what was the impulse to get the tattoos?

Charles: Chicago. I just love Chicago, you know. It’s the first one I got. I got this I think 10 years ago, 12 years ago? It was at Chicago Tattoo and Piercing, at their old location before they moved to where they are now. So that’s been a while. I think Mike Dalton did this. He’s not there anymore, he recently opened another shop with a bunch of other guys from Chicago Tattoo and Piercing, so a lot of them went on their own. I dont know the story of that. I got these done same place by, I think Josh Howard did the Superdawg ones. Superdawg, I’ve been up there so many times. I grew up on Chicago hot dogs. Grew up on Jimmy’s Red Hots, which is over on Grand and Pulaski. My dad grew up going there, so he took me up there. I took my girlfriend there. She likes the place, but I think she likes Gene and Jude’s better. It’s fun. I just love Chicago. I was thinking I might get another one, somewhere smaller, some more Chicago tattoos, something like the Magikist Lips. The neon sign that used to be on the highway?

CFT: I don’t think I know that.

Charles: There used to be one off the Kennedy up at Montrose. I think they tore those down in 2004? There used to be one on the Dan Ryan around 95th.

CFT: What is it?

Charles: It was a carpet cleaning company and I think they haven’t been in Chicago for a long time, since long after they were still standing—they were landmarks. The ones up on Montrose, I just grew up down the street from them. I remember seeing those almost every day.

CFT: Yeah, the things that aren’t even there anymore that define a connection to a place. Then it sort of becomes a secret code of the people who do recognize it, since I wouldn’t. “Oh hey!” Then you know that they have been around awhile.

Charles: Yeah. There’s always on Facebook “forgotten Chicago” or “grew up in NW Chi” and they talk about the Magikist Lips now and then. Every time, coming home, I knew when my mom was home, so yeah. They were fun. I remember the old Budweiser sign on the Kennedy, that used to be all neon, too.

CFT: Yeah, I remember that one.

Charles: They took that one down and replaced it with the LED light.

CFT: Your hot dogs are a lot more visible. What’s the percentage of “Superdawg!” vs “Is that a hotdog?”

Charles: It’s kinda like half and half. People who know it are like “Superdawg, that is awesome!” And “What are those, hotdogs?” “Yeah, it’s Superdawg.” “Oh, that’s the place up on Milwaukee.” I’m like “Yeah, the place on Milwaukee.” “Why’d you get em?” “cause they’re awesome, why not?” There’s other people who have them, and they’ve got a whole site & gallery dedicated to them.

CFT: Do you quiz people, on if they know their names?

Charles: Not really. You’ve got Maurie and Flaurie.

CFT: Right. I was going to show off.

Charles: It’s all good. And I got a gift certificate from them. They were like “Here’s a gift certificate for free Superdawgs!” I’m there almost like once a month—it’s once a week sometimes depending on how things are going.

CFT: Same question for the flag—it’s not as visible, but when people do see it, do they know what it is?

Charles: I think some people do, some people outside Chicago—“Oh, Illinois!” “No, it’s Chicago.” Most people try to show it off, but it was the first one I got so I tried to hide it from my parents so I got it up here. I was thinking also getting something more prominent like the municipal device. Someday. Get more money for tattoos!

CFT: It’s the balance of saving room vs saving…

Charles: Figuring out how to arrange stuff. I want more Chicago related stuff on here. And I’ve got my other Nintendo stuff I want to get. I play an original NES and all that. Still works. it’s been finicky but yeah.

CFT: Illinois. That’s a sort of a new one, of like, people getting the zone, but not…

Charles: People forget there’s the rest of Illinois and there’s Chicago and it’s a whole different thing. Like, in all the elections, Chicago’s all votes Democrat then the rest of the state is all Republican. Chicago’s got such a strong vote, it carries the whole state. That’s another fun thing with Chicago politics. Blagojevich was my congressman, and before him it was Rostenkowski. And I think my old Alderman was Kotlarz and he went to jail also. It’s tradition in Chicago politics, going to jail.

CFT: You’d hardly call yourself a Chicago politician if you haven’t been to jail a couple times.

Charles: And Rostenkowski went to jail over the dumbest thing, he was like giving away postage stamps. I wonder what Kotlarz went to jail for, I think he was skimming money off of the tollway at one point?

CFT: Oof. Crazypants.

* This is a lie—I lived in Indiana for 11 years before I moved to Chicago. But other than that, 3-5 years any one place.

Charles Ezaki

Seana Higgins

Seana Higgins Tattoo

For a variety of reasons, I like to do in-person interviews for this site. But Seana Higgins contacted me by email and when I found out that she was currently living in Ohio, I figured I didn’t need to stick to my own rules enough to drive over there for a 15-minute interview. Instead, Seana wrote me this great essay about her tattoo and what it means to her.

Seana: I got this tattoo as an homage to my hometown (Chicago), as well as for the purpose of remembering where I come from as I traverse the country for various career opportunities—the most recent being graduate school in Athens, Ohio.

I wanted my version of the Chicago flag to be a little different; unique, perhaps, rather than having just the flag as it is (although I’ve seen plenty of those types of tattoos, and they are totally badass). I chose an outline of the city to represent a map, then added a star as a sort of (you are here) where my neighborhood is and the beginning of the 4 stars of the flag (continued over onto my other foot).

I was born and raised in Chicago on the southwest side of the city. First, in a neighborhood called Wrightwood (81st and California) and then slightly farther south to Mt. Greenwood (108th and Kedzie). I moved away for college in central Illinois and, later, to Baton Rouge, LA for a year of school. I’m a ceramic artist, so I’ve been to Montana and Tennessee for shorter stints, as well as other cities for conferences, workshops, residency opportunities, and the like.

No matter where I go, however, Chicago is always home. Both of my parents were born and raised within the city limits; my mom spent her career as a teacher working for Chicago Public Schools, and my dad was a Chicago police officer. In other words, this city is in my veins, and it’s so very bittersweet to be leaving it (for now).

Now that I’ve moved to another state, some people have noticed and asked me about it. Usually the feedback is good, and it gives me a chance to sing the praises of my favorite city that remains the dearest to my heart. Not everyone has such a strong connection to a place, and I feel fortunate and proud to be able to brag and lovingly describe Chicago as my home.

It was very sweet that, when I got the tattoo, as a sort of present to myself for (finally) getting into grad school, I posted an image to Facebook. In the comment section, my mom posted (somewhat jokingly) “Way to go Sean. Now your feet will always know the way home.” That brought me to tears, as it does now. I’m happy to think of the cherished place and, more importantly, the people waiting for me whenever I have a chance to return.

Seana Higgins

Tim Schoen

Tim Schoen's Chicago flag tattoo

Tim was just trying to enjoy a beer and the New Yorker at Hopleaf when I came over to talk to him about his tattoo. And then he recognized me from when we had both worked on a Lavender Cabaret burlesque show at the late Lakeshore Theater—he up in the tech booth and I on stage. Look, I started this site partly to talk to strangers, but can I help it if I knowhalf of everyone in Chicago? Tim is now the production manager at Mayne Stage and I’m doing whatever this is. Also, I swear he has all four stars, I just got distracted by talking about old times and forgot to ask Tim to push his sleeve all the way up. If you know what I mean.

CFT: What’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?

Tim: It was my ten-year Chicago anniversary present to myself. And actually I was also a guinea pig. A really, really dear friend of mine was just starting to tattoo. I was her second human—herself and then she did me. You can probably see some imperfections in it, and the line work isn’t all perfect, but that’s kind of what I enjoy about it.

CFT: There’s something there about life being a work in progress. So you’re not a Chicago native. Suburbs or from far away?

Tim: Cleveland. Transplant when I was eighteen. And then I’ve been here since.

CFT: Was ten years a marker of Chicago is now your home, or just a marker?

Tim: It was just kind of a marker. Ten years is a long time, well for me.

CFT: Well sure, at twenty-eight, ten years is a third of your life. And how long ago was that?

Tim: I’m thirty-two now. Four years ago, give or take.

CFT: And you’re pretty ensconced in Chicago.

Tim: Yeah. It’s really let me do what I do, if that makes sense. I work in production and I’m a lighting designer and in Cleveland I wouldn’t have been able to do that to the extent that I’ve been able to here. I owe a lot to the city and a lot to the people here.

CFT: When people see it, do they know what it is?

Tim: When they see the star, they know. Chicago people know. Outside of Chicago, they don’t really know. And I’m also really heavily into vexillology and really, really like flags. So that’s another part that ties in.

CFT: I think that’s the first time I’ve heard someone say “vexillology” aloud. That’s impressive. What are some of your favorite flags?

Tim: I really enjoy the Chicago flag. Maryland also has a really cool flag. I also like Cleveland’s—well, Cleveland’s is so-so. Ohio’s is really cool, because it’s the only pennant-shaped one. But I really took a liking to the Chicago one.

Tim Schoen


Michael's tattoo

I ran into Michael at a Chicago Kickball game, which sorta-kinda explains the panda face. He plays on James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party, a team I played for approximately six thousand years ago. We were a little rushed, as the game was about to begin, and my audio recorder cut out near the end of our already short interview as Michael was talking about how the tattoo marked a certain point in his life.

CFT: What’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?

Michael: Well, I wanted a tattoo for a long time. I couldn’t decide, forever, from like when I was sixteen. After moving to Chicago and living here for a few years, Chicago really kind of took a place in my heart, so I thought it’d be a good thing to do. Or at least that’s the idea that came. “I should get a skyline tattoo.” Originally I had envisioned just the flag and then a silhouette of the skyline. So smaller. But when I went to the shop after talking to the artist, I showed up and he had this big piece. It was a lot bigger than I wanted. But I saw it and I was like, “that looks really awesome, so let’s just go with it.” It was two sessions and I got it five years ago.

CFT: Who did you go to?

Michael: This guy Jake Kearney, who was working at Metamorph in Wicker Park and at Tatu Tattoo. I don’t know if it’s the same owner, but he did one session there and one session at Tatu Tattoo.

CFT: So you’re not from Chicago…

Michael: Well, I grew up in the suburbs. Twenty miles west of the city.


Erin Pallesen

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Erin Pallesen's Chicago flag tattoo

I’ve known Erin Pallesen for quite a while—we were contestants together on the second season of Chicago’s live comedy talent competition Impress These Apes back in 2007 and I’m big fan of his absurd sketch comedy duo, Kerpatty. So when Erica said, “I heard Erin has a Chicago flag tattoo” I immediately tracked him down for a lunch downtown to catch up and then interview him about the tattoo. Which is, spoiler alert, the tiniest Chicago flag tattoo I’ve seen yet.

CFT: So tell me about your Chicago flag tattoo.

Erin: Well, I’m moved to Chicago in 2003. So I’ve been here for ten years. And I’ve always loved the city. Especially coming from a rural town in Tennessee, jumping straight into a city atmosphere. There’s a lot to see, a lot to do. And I just knew there was something about Chicago, something great. And I just fell in love with it.

I had a couple hardships, of course, like everyone does when they move to a city. Like, losing a job, finding a job, money issues, just trying to survive while doing your passion. And I’ve always felt Chicago’s taken care of me, in this weird motherly way. I feel safe here, which I know sounds real weird, but I just feel like this place really takes care of me. The minute that I feel like, “great, I’ve got to give up and move somewhere cheaper, where I’ll piece together some sort of happiness”, Chicago just picks me up, like, “nope, this is it, this is where you need to be.”

As far as tattoos go, I never really a huge tattoo and I was on the fence about a tattoo in the first place. And then it just struck me, Chicago means so much to me and I want that with me, no matter where I go. I wanted something tiny, almost symbolic rather than the actual flag. So I just chose something small for my wrist.

CFT: That’s an interesting place, you were saying you can cover it with a watch but it’s also incredibly visible when you want it to be. It’s one of the most visible spots on the body, other than a face tattoo.

Erin: Exactly, face or neck. [Laughs] I like it. If I do become a teacher, it’s really easy to cover with a watch or long sleeves, so that’s not an issue. But if I want it out, it’s out. If not, then it’s not. And also, I can see it whenever I want. That’s another thing, if I was going to get a tattoo, I would want to be able to see it without going to a bathroom or seeing it over my shoulder and through three mirrors.

CFT: So that’s your only tattoo.

Erin: That’s it.

CFT: How long have you had it now?

Erin: Three years. So it’s still kind of new.

CFT: So you got it when you had been here seven years. As a transplant, was seven years a milestone, or did it just feel right?

Erin: Yeah, it just kind of felt right. For some reason tattoos were a big topic in my circle of friends at the time. And it was going back and forth in my head, do I want something, and if so is there something I care that much about that I would want it on me forever. And I woke up one day I was like, I think I got it. And I took out a blue and a red Sharpie and just drew it real quick and I was like, yeah, I kind of like that. That day I went to the tattoo parlor and got it. I didn’t mess around. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it before I talk myself out of it.

CFT: Where did you go?

Erin: Actually, like the first place I could find. Probably not a great idea, but it’s a small tattoo anyway. I went up to Chicago Tattoo on Belmont.

CFT: Do you remember the name of your tattooer?

Erin: Nope. Sure don’t. It was an older guy who laughed when he saw the size of the tattoo. Because, I mean, this much ink is barely anything.

CFT: That take like twenty minutes?

Erin: Yep. Twenty minutes. And it didn’t meet the minimum, so he was like, “I have to charge you just the minimum.” Forty-five bucks later I got a tattoo.

And I went to a wedding the day that I got it. I should have waited until after the wedding, maybe. It was a casual affair and I didn’t have a suit coat on. I had my sleeves rolled up and I had this huge bandage on my wrist. So during this happy occasion I looked like maybe I went through some rough times. That was pretty funny.

CFT: When people see it, do they know what it is?

Erin: Yes. Immediately. Around here. My step-mom didn’t really know what it was, so I showed her the flag. She was like, “well that’s not it.” I was like, “no… it is kinda. It’s what I wanted.” I don’t know why, I just like the simplicity of the dots and the lines, better than stars and bars.

Erin Pallesen

About CFT

We love all sorts of Chicago-related tattoos and love interviewing the people who have them. If you've got one or know someone who does, please let us know at to arrange an interview.

If you just want to send in a photo, we always love to know:

  • What is about Chicago that made you want to get your tattoo?
  • Where did you get it done?
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  • If possible, we'd love to see a photo of you and not just your tattoo. Check out some of the interviews on the site to see what we mean.

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