A few months ago, I got a curious email from Tel Aviv. A professor there wanted to come to Chicago to meet me. Seems she’d been tasked with writing a chapter on migrant writing for Cambridge University’s forthcoming history of Chicago literature and had chosen my work to be part of it. I asked her whether she knew my extended family, as that is my only slight connection to Israel, but she assured me she did not. I had gotten on her radar some other way.
I met Sonia and her companion, Daniel, at Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park. To be more precise, I met them a couple storefronts down. I recognized them instantly–hippieish, attractive couple about my age looking about a bit distractedly. We went inside and had a wide-ranging and completely enjoyable talk. Turns out this pair are inveterate travelers, splitting time between Israel, India, and other points on the globe.
It’s a strange feeling for me to be observed; that’s usually my job. But I could feel Sonia taking my measure. It wasn’t unpleasant, only unfamiliar. After all, she’d traveled many miles to observe me in my natural habitat. I hope it was worth the trip. They asked for sightseeing recommendations and I did my best, though I’m hardly a tour guide. They promised to see me a few days later at my library talk.
There wasn’t a single homeless person in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library. There were very few people of any kind. But Cait was there, and so were Sonia and Daniel. An interesting guy named Terry too. He made a comment about moments in my book being like water flowing, which has stayed with me. The talk went as well as it could have and a majority of the tiny crowd bought books. Sonia had me sign one for her uncle on the West Coast, while Daniel asked me to sign one for a friend in India, his next stop.
I’m curious what Sonia will write but will have to wait until 2021, when the book comes out. I hope she and Daniel had a good time in town. It was an unexpected pleasure to have met them.
—The portrait above has nothing to do with Sonia and Daniel. It is my third painting of Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, founders of the Little Review. It is a replacement for a picture that sold at the Dial. Also, I now have a page on an elegant newish site called Neutral Spaces with links to some of my writing.
—Here’s a sketch of Joe Swanberg interviewing Marc Maron after a screening of Maron’s funny new movie, Sword of Trust, at the Music Box Theatre.
—RIP Leon Kossoff. He was a super important painter to me and many of my friends in art school. I cut out a magazine reproduction of Here Comes the Diesel and tacked it up in at least three apartments over about a decade. Only Auerbach and Hockney are left now from that great generation of British painters.