Daniel Evans speaks an absolutely unique blend of English, melding modern slang with academically rich prose, citing rap lyrics as quickly as Ovid.
Sitting on a picnic bench outside the graveled truck docks of the ReBuilding Exchange, one of at least three “jobs” he plies at the moment, Evans is wearing a purple peaked turban over a head of flowing, silvery hair. He’s in a thrifted Disney t-shirt, aviator sunglasses and “avocado-green” pants, a pair he designed for his startup Domestic Workwear, a sustainable work clothing manufacturer. For a life as storied as his; moonlighting on a Mennonite farm, studying at the prestigious Leiden University in the Netherlands, working in numerous Health Foods stores in Indiana, living in Cincinnati, Kokomo and Virginia before Chicago—he seems impossibly young. He’s well over six feet tall with a disarming charm, perhaps a result of his eccentric speech.
Now, Evans’ main squeeze is FRTCRT, a bike-drawn, four-wheeled cart with branches jutting from it. Hanging from the branches are crocheted baskets, his girlfriend’s handiwork, full of locally sourced fruits. Inside the cart are cassette tapes full of locally sourced music. The side of the cart says, “Pomona Annuit Coeptis” his motto in Latin, “The Goddess of Fruit has favored our undertakings.”
A Classics major, he explains to me the legend of Pomona, a wood nymph, “She didn’t want anybody to fuck with her, she didn’t have any dudes around.” Eventually falling, accidentally, for Vertumnus (God of changing seasons) who disguised himself in, “Ancillary-type orchard roles; shoveler, picker,” before finally dressing up as a hag and confronting her. “It was this kind of meta case of a story in story,” Vertumnus tells a tale of a man driven to suicide after being scorned by the great love of his life, “But he also made a practical lease of it, ‘We both love tending to this fruit, so pick me.’”
On weekends, you’ll find Evans at any number of venues across town. FRTCRT emerged organically from his own love of music. A constant show-goer, and theme-night party participant, he began approaching bands after gigs, asking for live recordings of sets. He now maintains numerous connections with Chicago indie labels such as Teen River, Stripped and Chewed and Catholic Tapes but considers FRTCRT his own stake in the industry, his money-in-the-door before he formally starts his own label. Why not leave the masses to suffer—bereft or fresh fruit and good tunes? In his own words, “I love being a conduit.”
Sensual experience is FRTCRT’s main appeal. Zines for eyes, tapes for ears, fruits for taste, touch and smell. “When the senses get conflated, it’s really fun,” he says, taking a bite out of a Klug Farms Honey Crisp Apple. Selling from the cart in Chicago’s outlying neighborhoods, he’ll often create pairings—fruit with zines with music for a dollar less.
“The cassette tape is the decoder ring at the bottom of a cereal box.”
Occasionally a band will request a coupling—that Nectarines be paired with their unique ilk of Psychedelic Rock. Evans provides the epithets, “You let the fuckin’ tangy nectarines wash across the jangly-ass psychedelic guitars.” Still, most of his profit relies on deliveries to his handful of subscribers.
Deliveries are made on Saturdays by him but also a small, crack team of bikers from Wheel Deliver. “Do we need a bunch of petroleum in our fruits and vegetables?” he asks, citing the 1970s gas price bubble, “As soon as fruit reaches this city, we put it on a bike.” His only overhead is the deliverymen, gas into the city and bands’ music, on the rare occasions they charge for it.
“A typical grocery store has stupid overhead; spammy fliers, middle managers, gas bills, rent …” a text buzzes his phone and he goes quiet mid-sentence, “It’s from Stripped and Chewed,” he says, reading it aloud, “Yo. Just curious if you know what kind of peppers these are. They’re dope.” He sets the phone down slowly, bursting into his infectious cackle.
Evans lives on the second floor of a tenement house in Logan Square, keeping the cart locked to the iron fence in the front yard, though he’s not the only resident; below the porch staircase he keeps three chickens, legal property in Chicago, occasionally letting them out to scavenge the yard. Evans is no stranger to bizarre Municipal Codes—it’s illegal to sell fruit downtown, one of his most potentially lucrative markets. Although it is legal for “fruit-sellers” to barter as a form of compensation.
While he’s bartered in the past, his steadfast devotion is to the dollar, “If you want to see a change in how things are done, you have to make people vote for something with their dollar bill.”
FRTCRT is for those who might cast their vote for local agriculture, but would rather stay in bed on Saturday morning than go to a farmer’s market. This is why Evans’ five-year plan for FRTCRT is to build a steady stream of “berries-in-bed” loyalists.
Eventually, Evans would like to own a farm, a venture he’s already saving for, “A pretty house on a pretty street. Box seats at Medieval Times. You know, the usual.” There’s no hard figure on how many subscribers he wants, only that he wishes to wrangle it where there’s neither too many nor too few. With no website and no tumblr, FRTCRT relies primarily on word of mouth, as well as a roguish Twitter account (@FRTCRT) for signups.
He seeks ubiquity, a call-to-arms behind his proposed slogan, “Get that fruit put on drop!” But for right now, what Daniel is most anticipating is “a quick tree shakin’ mission” to northern Indiana, picking paw paws, a rare banana-like fruit.