Colin was the first person who was “street teamed” for the site. My fearless friend Noah was out-and-about, saw Colin’s tattoo and approached him to tell him that he should talk to me to be interviewed for the site. Colin had actually used this site to research designing his own tattoo and so was happy to contact me. We met up at the Hüettenbar in Lincoln Square and ended up talking for over an hour, which I have condensed down to this still-sizable interview:
CFT: So, what’s your story?
Colin: I’m from Akron, Ohio from the great Midwestern Rust Belt. I’m from the rubber capital of the world where Goodyear still makes its headquarters, but none of its tires. And I grew up in one of those suburban subdivisions. My dad was born and raised in Akron, mom’s a Canadian immigrant, but she grew up in Cleveland and we were always just—there. He told her, when they got married that, “I hope you like Akron ‘cause I’m never leaving.” He was born and raised there. His parents had a grocery store there. His name means something in Akron. He had a business that he started there and, like, that he actually just sold.
He was never going to leave Akron and none of us were, but I don’t know where I got it—movies I guess?—but I always had an urban ideal. I just always wanted to live in a big city, wanted nothing to do with the country. Although it was bountiful around me, abundant around me, I should say. We first visited Chicago when some close friends moved from Akron to here when I was a kid. We started visiting them pretty regularly and I just fell in love so hard and I’ve been fortunate enough to do a fair amount of traveling in my life. I haven’t relocated like you, but I got to travel to Europe a bunch of times and around the US a little bit—not quite as much as I’d like—and every time I go somewhere and have a great new experience I appreciate it for what it is, but it always just solidifies my opinion that Chicago is the finest city on the planet.
It’s got everything I feel like New York has to offer with none of the pretense of attitude. All of the stereotype of Midwestern warmth and humility is real. And that syndrome that a lot of Midwesterners fall prey to of feeling the need to move out west to a better life in California, I never got the bug. I feel like I know better—if Hollywood doesn’t call, don’t go.
I just feel like Chicago’s the place. It’s got everything a big city can offer and all the richness of the Midwest, so I’ve always known that I wanted a tattoo on my forearm that was some kind of bold statement about me and I wanted it to be very visible. I thought about maybe hiding it above my elbow, on my bicep and my wife reminded me that that part of me will melt more than my forearm when I’m older. She was playing the long game.
It’s been six or seven years I’ve been wanting a tattoo on my forearm, but couldn’t commit to a symbol that was sufficiently meaningful and I finally decided that the thing that would never change about me is the places I’ve lived and the places that have formed me as a person. So, I decided Chicago’s probably chief among those, my hometown, of course, and, then a little bit of time I spent abroad. I studied abroad for only nine months in Bordeaux, France, but during that time I became profoundly—I don’t know if it’s fair to say I was clinically depressed—but, very, very unhappy and very, very patriotic during that time. It was actually fall of 2008, during the presidential election and France also happens to be a really annoying place to live—very nice place to visit. So, that place has a really great city symbol as well, looks a little bit like the biohazard or fallout shelter symbol. So, I think those three places have played, like, the biggest role in forming who I am as a person. Those are the three places whose symbols I’d like to get tattooed on me, but I did Chicago first.
CFT: And it’s your first tattoo?
Colin: It is my first, yeah.
CFT: That’s a bold move—a lot of people start with a little one.
Colin: Fish between my toes?
CFT: Or something. My first one was on my ankle. And for Akron—are you going to get the Goodyear tire? Is that where the giant tire is or is that up in Detroit?
Colin: I think that’s in Detroit. We don’t have a giant tire. No, you know, Akron’s got a decent city seal. I like it because the seal looks a bit like a shield. It’s red, white and blue—very American—and, then the word, like, Akron is in a bold, all caps sans serif—it looks a lot like future.
CFT: Do people know what your flag tattoo is?
Colin: The only reaction from outside of town was mother. She was not thrilled with the idea, but once I was committed to it, now she doesn’t care. It’s a lost cause. I’ve already ruined her perfect creation. No, outside of town I’m not sure people will know because I’m not sure the Chicago flag is exactly iconic. In fact, one guy I work with actually—who has lived in the greater Chicago Metropolitan Area for many moons, is, like, raising a family there, he’s got teenaged kids, he’s been here a long time—and he didn’t know what it was and somebody had to tell him and he was like, “Oh! Huh, that’s our flag?”
I have had a lot of people say, “What are you, a Chicago cop?”, sort of, sarcastically. Which is, I guess, appropriate because my reaction is always like, “Do I look like I could be a cop?”
CFT: You have to tell me now.
Colin: Like, maybe a narc for the vice squad? I don’t know. No? In which case, that would screw me up, right?
Colin: Yeah, don’t tell me anything. I don’t know. It’s kind of a goofy question. I hope that people are only asking me as a joke, but I don’t really understand it.
CFT: Where did you get it done?
Colin: Great Lakes Tattoo and it was done by one of the owners—Nick Colella
One thing that goes into the story of the tattoo is that my long time musical collaborator, best friend and best man at my wedding is a lifelong Chicagoan. He’s lived here all the 32 years of his life, his father is a city commissioner. He is as purebred as they come and last October he got married and this year his wife who’s from Florida and kind of ambivalent about Chicago, didn’t like her job, couldn’t find a good job in the same field in the city and found a job in Minneapolis and they decided to move, which is unthinkable for him because he’s Chicago pureblood through and through and it was very, very painful for me. It’s been awful. It was one of the things that broke apart our band and he and I decided we would get Chicago flag tattoos together at the same time on the same spot. That would have been a natural thing to include in our relationship.
CFT: Oh, good, so he did?
Colin: And he did. They don’t match—he got the skyline and it’s dripping. His original idea was he’s got this cool print which is the skyline in a paint roller. He got the dripping part and he left the paint roller out and he’s still deciding whether to add that addition. So we got Chicago flag tattoos together—February 7th of 2014—at Great Lakes Tattoo. I had Nick. He had another guy whose name I don’t quite remember. Mine took way longer. I was awful about it, Nick made fun of me, said, “Yeah, most people quit complaining about the pain a few minutes in, but this guy’s non-stop”.