Maintaining a Monster: Chicago’s Edge

The motorcycle is a strange machine; the human is even stranger. For all of the comfort and riches we try to accumulate, it is most often that which is battered and worn that attracts me. During my trip to Chicago I found little to photograph and less to pull me in. Perhaps it is because Chicago, like Toronto, it a clean, rich city and there is little to engage with beyond sprawling skyscrapers, fashion boutiques and restaurants that serve the finest of everything. One area that I did like was the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighbourhood. While it has become gentrified over the past two decades, there remains the illusion of an edge and just enough creative genius to keep the monster going.

The most beautiful motorcycle I saw during my time there was this custom Bobber-style machine. Blacked out, Yamaha engine, Route 20 plates, custom- flames leather seat and a brass shifter made the bike into one mean machine that oozed authentic cool.

As a contrast my own Ducati Monster 696 arrived back from the shop from its 12,000km maintenance (just hit 10,000kms, but it has been three years). The final bill was around $1100 to get fluids changed, belt changed, filter changed, chain tightened, new rear brake pad, and have the engine tuned up. Fortunately, this is a once every three year kind of thing, and the bike does run MUCH better, so it was worth the big bill. I am still waiting for my oil fill cap from Ducati Performance after about two months – it has been one problem after another, which is so strange given that the rest of the shipment was fine. I will probably have to switch to another supplier for any further purchases, which is too bad.

America continues to fascinate me. Since watching Ken Burns’ Civil War, I feel like I have come to understand it more, but that it has much more to offer me if I could only afford to spend some serious time outside the big cities. Milwaukee appeared to have a lot of historical real estate being restored, and Chicago certainly has beautiful architecture that only the rich could ever hope to afford. Dumpsters were filled with rotting timber and old window frames as America tries to rebuild despite economic turmoil. I hope they succeed.

Back to Bucktown…there were a lot of cool shops like Chrome Industries, and even more tattoos. It seems like an entire generation has tattooed themselves and sought out an outsider’s stance. Maybe that is the current creative’s fashion statement, because from what I saw in Bucktown they slowly seem to be taking over from the barber shop to the coffee shop [loved the Intelligentsia Coffee at The Map Room – though I ordered way too much], and that certainly cannot be a bad thing. I know I bought a pair of shoes and a t-shirt from Chrome and had a wonderful shopping experience.

So where am I at the end of all this? Not really sure. After nine months of heavy lifting, I am still in a bit of a daze. My first priority has been to get some sleep, and my second has been to lose weight. The daily grind wears you out and makes it harder to maintain the body, but if I am willing to pay $1100 to maintain the Monster and $750 to keep my dogs healthy, then I should be willing to spend the time to make sure I am still in one piece by the end of the summer.

The new website and logo seems to be the most exciting front at the moment. While I did not capture any iconic photographs from Chicago [although I have not developed my SWC’s shots of Wrigley Field and the Lake Shore yet], perhaps what I gained from the trip was an idea of where to take my design: into a more edgy, creative, industrial path.


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