I noticed Sebastian’s bold arm tattoo across the theater during a Neo-Futurists show in Andersonville and was able to snag him for an interview at Kopi Cafe a few days later.
CFT: So what’s your story? Are you a lifelong resident?
Sebastian: No, I’m not. I moved to Chicago. I grew up in Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis, and I moved to Chicago for college, when I was 19 years old. I was at the University of Chicago, and I really enjoyed it. And then I left, and I kind of traveled around, and then I went back to Minneapolis to go to law school. Then, I was trying to figure out where I was going go after I graduated, and where I was going to try to get a job and stuff like that. I thought about staying in Minnesota, but ultimately I decided to come back to Chicago even though I didn’t have a job lined up or anything like that, just because, you know, I had a lot of friends here still and I just really loved it and I wanted to give it some more time. I moved back in 2008, so more than 5 years ago now, and it’s been really great. I really enjoy it. I’ve been moving around a lot within the city, which is its own fun, but just this year, I bought a house. And it’s a new idea; rather than just exploring, kind of surveying the city, now I’m trying to focus, kind of put down roots in one spot, in the Albany Park neighborhood. Right around the same time is when I really decided to get a tattoo of Chicago, and I just kind of feel like I’m really tossing my lot in with Chicago. I guess I’m sticking around here.
CFT: Is that your first tattoo?
Sebastian: No, it’s my second tattoo. My other one is very little.
CFT: Oh! That is, in fact, very little.
Sebastian: It goes in the back as well, it’s a representation of a staple that’s going through my shoulder. Which is also based upon another thing that I love, which is also Chicago based—the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. Have you ever heard of it? It’s a pretty fantastic thing that exists. Down at the university every spring, the four days leading up to Mother’s Day, there’s an annual scavenger hunt, and it’s humongous, and it’s insane, and it really has grown beyond what you typically think about a scavenger hunt. It has people doing very strange and crazy things. I was involved for many years, even after I graduated, helping to make the list of items and being one of the judges. So this is related to that, for those who make the lists. It’s one of the judge tattoos. We make this list every year, and we staple it, but now we’re the ones stapling ourselves.
CFT: So other people have that same tattoo?
Sebastian: They do. So, two different Chicago loves that I have.
CFT: That’s amazing. I guess I asked if it was your first, because it is very large. That is a bold statement, that big of a tattoo. What made you want to go that big?
Sebastian: Well, I was actually inspired by a picture, and some of it’s in the Chicago Public Library in the Washington branch downtown in those hallways that lead off on the street. They’re kind of narrow and uninviting. I think the one that went past the teen center—they put a bunch of pictures on the wall, and one of the pictures was an old advertisement. It was like a Chicago Public Library, their internal flyers for I don’t know what—advertising an event maybe or just like “Chicago Library—you’re great. Go read books.” And there was one, it was of this woman and she had this big shock of red hair and her arm kind of had big muscles, and yeah, she had four stars like that. It wasn’t quite like this, it was actually on the whole arm—two on the forearm and two on the bicep, and I thought it looked super cool. I’ve gone back to try to find it, and I couldn’t. I talked to someone that worked at the library, and they didn’t know what I was talking about. I think it’s lost for the time being.
CFT: There was a series of ads that the library did that were oddly worded in that charming way when institutions try to be cool? But the pictures were very striking. I remember—like somebody DJing, but maybe what they were DJing on was like a stack of books—a turntable on a stack of books.
Sebastian: Clever, I like it.
CFT: The copy was something like “Yeah, that’s right. We know what the kids are hip to.” Or something.
Sebastian: That’s wonderful, and I am sure this was something similar to that.
CFT: I wonder if it was in that series.
Sebastian: I wouldn’t doubt it. I really love that. I like poster art in general—I think it’s kind of really fun. Particularly the sort you’d see during World War II telling people to “make sure to turn off your lights” or “loose lips” and it’s a really simplistic style. I just love that. So, that is what inspired it. I like that it’s bigger, and I really like that it crests the elbow. I think that it gives it another dimension to it, which is fun.
CFT: It’s big and bold and awesome. Where did you have it done?
Sebastian: This tattoo place in Roscoe village called Family Tattoo. It’s on Belmont, East of Western there.
CFT: You went to Law School, are you a lawyer?
Sebastian: I am.
CFT: I imagine work involves wearing long sleeves anyway.
Sebastian: Yeah, I wear a suit every day, although I have shown my coworkers, so they know about it. You see lawyers now, though—they have tattoos you can see. Women have tattoos on their feet and wear shoes without socks. It’s a brave new world.