I tell Kevin I lived in Logan Square ‘92 to ‘93. He says he can beat me: he was there a decade earlier. No matter how far back you go, how old-school you take yourself to be, someone will turn up who’s even originaler and authenticker than you. I bet whatever lungfish crawled out of the sea and decided to take a walk had some more ancient monster calling it a poseur.
In Logan Square in 1992 there were no ersatz bistros or repurposed boutiques. There were a half dozen all-you-can-eat Polish buffets, a bunch of taquerias, and shitty old Johnnie’s Snack Shop. If you wanted to put on airs, you went to Abril. There, you’d get your tacos served at a table with a tablecloth.
There was no bar where you could order an overpriced Manhattan inside the Logan Theatre. But you could pay $2 to see some shit Hollywood flick that had been out for a couple months. One of three or four creepy older men in mustard-colored sportcoats tore your tickets and also made change for the concession girl if you handed her a $20. They asked you to take off your baseball cap so it wouldn’t be mistaken for gang colors.
We lived right on the boulevard. The rent was cheap and it was quiet but I’m not nostalgic for that time. I never long to go back. I wonder whether that guy thirty years ago could conceive of his future self living six-seven miles south in the very same city. I can’t recall what that guy thought about.
One of the privileges of staying in a place a long time is tracking the changes. It would be odd if Logan Square stayed just the way it was. The current residents would laugh at the notion of Abril as upscale or chic or whatever they’re looking for in an eatery. In that same storefront right now is a wood-fired pizza joint and an expensive wine bar. If I went in and asked about Abril, I doubt the owners of those establishments will have heard of it. Maybe there’s no reason they should have. Their job is to sell you a good evening, not to be amateur archaeologists.
I have two paintings hanging at the expensive wine bar. I go there from time to time but feel little connection to either that establishment or the neighborhood it sits in. There are certain kinds of time-travel that yield diminishing returns. Not that I’m trying to relive old times when I arrive at Milwaukee and Kedzie.
It’s possible for new memories to supplant old ones in relation to familiar places, but for me, Logan Square will forever be stuck in the early 90s. I saw a shitty new movie at the Logan Theatre a few weeks back and all I could think about was those old men in their mustard-colored jackets. Where are they now? Most will be dead and gone.
When people talk about how it used to be it’s often really about how they used to be. Usually, they see whatever time or place they’re talking about as better than the present. I’m lucky in that I still haven’t gotten to the point of looking back fondly.
I’m glad the neighborhoods I used to live in aren’t preserved in amber. I’m not there anymore and they must become something different and when I visit I hope not to recognize them.
[Compound Yellow (where my collage show was) is having a fundraiser. You can bid on a few of my pieces and a bunch of other work. They’re good people and deserve the chance to keep going. Help out if you can.]