Wednesday, January 2, 2019

‘People come into focus’ — New Yorker sophistication crafted at Chicago landmark



   

     Tom Bachtell could work at home.
     “I could,” he agrees. “But I’d hate it. I’d feel so alone.”
 
    So despite his boss being 800 miles away in New York City, to do his job Bachtell leaves his home in Lincoln Square and travels to the South Loop, to his studio on the 14th floor of the Monadnock Building. 
   “I love going into the 7-11,” he said. “I love seeing all the crazy people there. It’s sort of a latter-day-form vaudeville.”
     Bachtell has a singular profession. He is an artist for The New Yorker. For 30 years, he has drawn the elegant caricatures that grace the magazine.
   I met him through his late spouse, Andrew Patner, immediately inviting myself to his studio. After about five years of pestering, he agreed. We talked about his growing up in Ohio, coming here, becoming a couple with Patner, the Sun-Times music critic and beloved WFMT host who died in 2015.
     “I thought about the world we came from in Cleveland, what we made of it, and then coming to Chicago and gradually becoming a part of the world here,” Bachtell said, as soft classical music burbled in the background. “And how fortuitous it was I met Andrew, and  how we were doing similar things. Andrew integrated me into Chicago and taught me how to love Chicago. When I met Andrew, I fell in love with him like that.”      He snapped his fingers.
     “He was an engaged person, constantly trying to engage with the world. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
     I pointed out that outsiders have a way of coming to Chicago and finding fascination.


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2 comments:

  1. I used to like to draw portraits when I was a small child. But I am much too literal minded to succeed in the field. My aunt was on to something when she asked why I had to put all her chins in the picture. Flannery O'Connor has the same gift as Tom Bachtell of emphasizing a great deal past reality the salient features of the characters appearing in her short stories. Wish she were still with us and hope that Mr. Bachtell continues to enliven the New Yorker for many years to come.

    john

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  2. A studio in the Monadnock Building? O, lucky man! I worked there in for several years in the early Nineties...the most beautiful office building I've ever worked in. The office was beautiful, too, and all that architectural splendor made the tedium and monotony of a lousy job more tolerable.

    Those load-bearing walls are six feet thick at street level, and even thicker in the basement and sub-basement. Ask the man who knows, I had to help clean out my employer's storage space after the Great Chicago Flood. The Blue Line ran right under our feet. We not only heard the trains, we felt them.

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