Last trip home to Chicago, I visited one of my childhood neighborhoods. This particular area was special to me because we spent more years there than any other place we’d lived. Four or five, I think. Plus, I ran with a pack of memorable kids. Together we caused premature aging in every adult who’d witnessed us jumping rooftops, smoking cigarettes at the ripe old ages of nine and ten, and carting off dead animals–hamsters, birds, a feline or two, whatever lifeless creature we came across–to our makeshift pet cemetery, which happened to be some unknowing person’s plush back yard.
The other unforgettable aspect about this time was our apartment. We lived in a three flat, on the third floor, beneath the attic. The running rumor was, a man had hanged himself in the attic, and on full moons he could be seen in the circular window, dangling from his noose. I’m not sure what the moon had to do with it. Better lighting?
Anyhow, even as a child, the idea of ghosts didn’t frighten me. I always seemed to handle the matter quite simply, you died and stuck around or went somewhere else. So the attic became my clubhouse, my peaceful refuge from the chaotic world. I’d bounce on the old queen size mattress in front of the window, climb the wood beams, and play with a family of cats who resided in the attic. I even named them. The three I recall were, Sweetsauce, Gray, and Midnight.
Later the attic would inspire a short story titled: Girl in the Attic, a somber tale about a young girl with an extrasensory gift and a body succumbing to leukemia. In 2008 the story was published in Doorways Magazine, issue 6.
Before my last visit, I hadn’t seen the apartment for at least two decades. As an artist, per se, it was interesting to see what the illustrator created, based on what I extracted from my mind’s eye, stored from reality. Did that make sense?
Another notable crossover from the attic to the page… a cat reimagined on Abigail’s shirt.
To all of us devoted to our cubicles, studios, offices, or glued to a computer, maybe this post can serve as a reminder to get out once in a while and soak up the goings-on around us. Feed the brain and the subconscious in hopes we might better enrich our art forms.