I rented a car and drove to Boston again. This time it was for my mother’s birthday and to celebrate my own with my parents a little early. The plan was for them to come visit Chicago but that isn’t possible for obvious reasons. So I drove east.

Because of my cabbie days driving is a strangely automatic experience for me. I do it rarely now but it really is like riding a bike. It’s like plugging a familiar appliance back into the socket. There’s little to look at along the way since the entire trip is via tollways and interstates. It’s as if they were consciously designed to inspire ennui. Nonplace after nonplace punctuated by billboards and flashing lights. Long haul truckers must have rich fantasy lives to survive these vistas every day. I depend on music and podcasts in order not to lose it.

On arrival my parents and I fall into a familiar routine focused around meals and movie-watching. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, so we have to make our own fun. The last two visits I’ve brought new art as presents so an hour or two is spent rearranging their collection—which is 95% my work—in order to find room for the new stuff. My suggestion that some of it should be retired to the trash is never received well. So I do my best to cram pictures closer and closer together. I’m glad that they enjoy things I make. What I think of my pictures is really beside the point. Once I’m done with them, they’re not for me.

There’s a wooden shelf in the kitchen with Russian folk-art crockery that my parents have had my whole life. I’ve told them that it’s the only thing in their house that I want. On the second or third day of my visit I start a painting of the shelf. The vantage point is where I always sit for breakfast. My mother sits with me as I work. She tells me that these ceramics were given to them by artist friends of my grandmother’s on the occasion of my birth. They traveled to the Ukraine to find the pieces. So maybe it makes some extra-logical sense that I’d been drawn to them. Whatever the reason, they’ve decorated my parents home always and so will always remind me of them. She asks if I want to take one of them home but I don’t want to break up the set. 

Back in Chicago I start back on the collages. It’s strange how they’ve kind of taken over. Prior to a few months ago it would’ve never occurred to me; now I can’t wait to rip up old drawings and make something new of them. It’s probably something to do with my age. A need to look forward and backward all at once.

p.s. I turn fifty today. Wish me a happy birthday.

These are Archie and Millie. They live near Damen and Division. They’re friends of Wallace’s.