Brad Lash

Brad Lash Chicago Flag tattoo

At the same lunch where I had such a long chat with Molly and Zoelle Fishman, I also talked to their cousin Brad Lash about his Chicago Flag tattoo and I learned how to remember what all the points on the stars represent.

CFT: Brad! Tell about your tattoo.

Brad: My tattoo is a little more basic flag. It’s got the stripes on the side instead of the top. And it’s always an idea that I was playing with when I was a kid in the suburbs. For college I didn’t go too terribly far away, I was just over the border at Purdue. Nobody in West Lafayette, Indiana knew where Libertyville was, so I always said I was from Chicago. I didn’t really realize that that entailed until I actually moved into the city. I’ve been in the city for seven or eight years now, various places around the North and Northwest side. The idea of wanting a Chicago Flag tattoo was something that had been percolating for a long time, but I felt like I really needed to actually live in the city for a while to earn it.

And so I eventually did and I feel like even though I’m a suburban kid, coming down to the city was always something special. The city always represented this whole realm of possibilities for me, especially being from a family that didn’t travel much. When we went somewhere, we went downtown. That was our tourism. It’s always been a place to go to do something cool, because nothing cool happens in the suburbs. We used to joke around in high school and call our town “Liberty Thrill”. And we called Vernon Hills “Vernon Hill” because there was only one hill and it was the man-made sled hill. So there really wasn’t a whole lot going on. Let’s face it, we’re in the flattest part of the country but we’ve got suburbs named “Hills” and “Heights” all over the place. And “Mount”, Mount Prospect, thousands of miles from the nearest thing that could be considered a mountain. Anyway, I digress.

Not only did I feel like I earned the tattoo by living in the city, but also by visiting a lot of other cities in the United States and Canada—which, once again, as a kid who never really got the opportunity to travel much, I went on a lot of road trips in college and since and I’ve been to a pretty large chunk of the country and I’ve never been to a city that I liked more than Chicago. And maybe it’s homer bias, but New York’s too big and busy and LA is too dirty and Seattle’s too wet and Portland’s too weird. And I like all those places, but none of them are home and none of them is Chicago.

Which leads to, it’s really not much of a tattoo but I’d like at some point to get the rest of the arm finished and I’m still undecided, do I get other Chicago symbolism, or do I go with other places that I’ve visited and enjoy and do sort of a travel collage where home is still at the base.

Zoelle: That’s an interesting idea, but you’d always have to add onto that, because you’re never going to stop traveling.

Brad: I know, I know. And I’ve already got some ideas and I think it’d only be for really special places, like Ireland or Hawaii.

CFT: Was there any event or set of checklist items that made you feel like you’d earned a Chicago tattoo, or just sort of time and settling in and “yes, this is home”.

Brad: I think just time and settling in. Involvement in the community a little bit, and working for a non-profit organization that focusses on making Chicago a better place. And being involved in the music scene. And running this Chicago Hot Dog Tour has made me feel like I’ve come to own living here. Maybe what made me decide was when it became very apparent to me that it would be damned near impossible to actually go and live somewhere else permanently. That’s something I’ve always thought about, I’ve always wanted to live somewhere warmer or more mountainous or close to the ocean or just generally more geographically interesting, but this is a world-class city that’s got everything you could possibly want in a city and it’s small enough and manageable enough and my family’s here and my friends. And I’ve got a band and a hockey team and a fundraiser event. There’s a lot of ties I’d have to cut to leave. Whether I’ve set those roots in Chicago, or whether Chicago has wrapped its roots around me, I guess is open to interpretation. But I’m here and this is home.

CFT: In all your travels or here in town, do people know what your tattoo is?

Brad: Most of the time people do. I feel since I got it, the Chicago Flag symbolism has become a lot more ubiquitous part of the local culture. The first place I lived in city limits was right on Harlem Avenue in Edison Park, literally on the city border with Niles. Across the street was Niles. So it was barely Chicago. The house we were renting had a flag pole out in front of it so we strung up a Chicago Flag and then a Pirate flag underneath it, because, you know, four bachelors living together in a big, crappy house. It was perfect. But we’d have people be like, “Why do you have the flag of Iran up there?” “What flag is that?” What do you mean what flag is that? Have you driven by City Hall or the DMV or the Cultural Center or anything? C’mon. It was either having to explain to people what the flag was, or having to justify flying it by understanding what it meant. You know, people that did recognize it as the Chicago Flag are like, “Oh, well, do you know what all the stuff means?” By the time I got to rattling off what each of the points of the stars mean people’d be like, “OK, OK, I get it. I didn’t know that, you’re cool, you’re local, you’re legit.”

CFT: I can’t remember all the points.

Brad: I can never remember all of them. I know them generally by themes of which go with which star.

Zoelle: I didn’t know the points had meanings.

CFT: They do, but they’re things like “agriculture”, “industriousness”, “honesty”.

Zoelle: Six Sigma!

Brad: The Fort Dearborn star is all the foundational qualities that the city was built on, like agriculture and transportation and stuff. The Fire one is…

Zoelle: Sure…

Brad: I only know most of this because I have that set of art prints on my kitchen wall. The Fire points are all about the qualities of perseverance that allowed Chicago to rebuild and thrive. The Columbia Exposition one is all of the flags that Chicago has existed under, so it’s like Virginia Territory, the Indiana Territory, Illinois Territory, even before that it was claimed by France at one point, and then the sixth point is when Illinois became a State, which I think was 1818. And then the fourth one, the 1933 Century of Progress , is all the mottos, like “The Convention City” and “I Will” and the Park District motto “Urbs in Horto*”. The one I keep meaning to look up is salubrity, because I have no idea what that means.

Zoelle: Salubrity?

CFT: I think that’s celery salt.

Zoelle: That’s what they put on the hot dogs.

Brad: That’s what they use to turn the relish neon-green, instead of just pickle-green.

CFT: And, where did you get your tattoo done?

Brad: My kitchen table.


Brad: I’m close friends with a tattoo artist who works at Private Ink in Libertyville, now. He was between shops at the time. He showed up and brought all his gear one day and did mine and did a friend who got the constellation of her Zodiac symbol on her wrist. Just hanging out in my kitchen.

Zoelle: [Holding her smart phone.] Salubrious: favorable to or promoting health. So there you go.

CFT: We’re a healthy-promoting city.

Brad: Good to know. We’re the healthy fourth fattest city in the country or whatever it is.

Brad Lash

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This page contains a single entry by Fuzzy published on February 19, 2013 1:57 PM.

Molly and Zoelle Fishman was the previous entry in this blog.

Tim Chidester is the next entry in this blog.

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