Monday, July 24, 2017

India



When I first started writing about my travels, I always pictured it getting easier to pen down my ideas about these different places across the globe. As I go along, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. No amount of adjective riddled word splatter on paper can ever replace or mimic the experience or excitement or fear of stepping onto the tarmac of a new place for the first time. The world is full of never-ending surprise. India has been one of the hardest and most rewarding yet.

Travel is, rest assured, an addiction of mammoth and confusing proportion. Enough to justify the morbid hangover of a 43-hour travel day and a harsh come down at the end. Enough so to justify hardly ever sleeping in your own bed or cooking in your own kitchen or enjoying the comforts of your own bathroom (this can be a big one, depending on where you are). Even now, sitting at the beginning of this headache of a transit day, I find myself browsing flight prices to Cairo and Barcelona and Seattle, and on and on.

 Visiting with new friends in Goa.

India is an exuberant contradiction of emotions, sounds, smells, flavors, and identity. It’s shockingly beautiful, pungently effervescent, scary as all hell (mostly due to the truly terrifying power lines, massive holes in the sidewalks, and gasp inducing driving habits) peaceful, and delicious. I have never in my life shoved so much food into my stupid American face. I’ve eaten very little meat since I’ve been here. As I’ve heard so many times before, the cliché stands true and proud, the dishes here stand strongly on their own without meat. As far as flavor goes, I have hardly noticed its absence.

New York still holds my heart strongly in its grasp. It’s the best and most diverse food city I’ve ever been to. I don’t expect these thoughts to change, but India has without a doubt become my number one food destination in the world. I knew it would be good, but I had no concept of just how much surprise and delight its secrets and flavors would deliver.  It is no surprise that after 89 years of British rule, the most coveted cuisine in the UK comes straight from Indian roots. 

I would eat until I was full, continue until my food was gone, and then I would go eat somewhere else. Every dish stands in sharp contradiction. It can seem all the same to a fresh, uneducated palate. Yet it is all very different, every time, without fail. Every bite brings a daze, you kind of float away, worries and cares all gone, your right hand stuffed deep in the slightly too hot mound of rice, you take the tea spicier and spicier every morning, the initially off-putting smells become a comfort, a way of life. I wonder how entrenched I am in it, if people will tell me that I smell strange and unfamiliar when I arrive home. I can’t decipher anymore, my olfactory is either crushed or, finally, truly alive. I know which way I’m leaning.

New Delhi is an absolute madhouse. I arrive late at night and take a pre-arranged taxi to my hotel. Taxi scams from foreign airports are plentiful across the world. I book ahead whenever I can. The city seems to go on forever and ever. Sleeping families line the streets at every twist and turn. It’s sweltering. The heat is a shock as I first step out of the airport. I’m only here for one night. Right away, I’m just fine with that plan. It’s astonishing that a city like this functions on any kind of successful level. I’m typically not claustrophobic, but the sheer quantity of people becomes quickly overwhelming. I’ve heard before that Delhi is a culture shock even for the most seasoned travelers. That is no joke. I’m off to the beach.

Goa is a relief from the madness of one of the most populace and over crowded cities on the planet. I stay a few nights at the Panjim Inn in Panjim in Central Goa. It’s a sprawling old 19th century home. Beautiful colonial charm dons the bedrooms and common areas. The included breakfast is a wonderful surprise of fresh fruit, dals, fresh eggs to order, juices, teas, coffee, and just about anything else you could ask for.

I head North to the small beach town of Mandrem and find a wonderful bungalow resort called Jamboree Creek. I end up staying a bit longer than I had intended. This tranquil spot is the total opposite of everything I’ve seen so far. Simple wooden bungalows line a pretty garden and swimming pool. Monsoon season is hitting and I’m the last person at the resort for the season. The hospitality here is open and loving. The resort sits a few minutes walk from the beach and is surrounded by beautiful jungle roads and a small and wonderful community. It’s just what I needed. It feels incredible to stand on a beach all alone in a country of over 1.3 billion people.

And then the real magic of my trip began. A 14-hour train journey (in addition to a 4 hour delay) takes me to the South Indian state of Kerala on the Malabar Coast. I will spend a week at the garden, homestay, and cooking school; The Pimenta Kerala.

 Fabric Maker

I’m weary, exhausted even. I have some kind of base expectation, it’s impossible not to. And then I pull up to the entrance of the garden home stay, and all is well in life. I will spend the next week here diving into the cuisine of India. The food that I love so much.

 Beet Root Soup

The estates proprietor, Jacob, has poured every ounce of his passion into this magnificent property and program. This is not a multi-day cooking class. It is a fully immersive Keralan culinary adventure; it’s a dive head first into understanding the cuisine of the region, it is, without doubt, the exact experience I was searching for. This week isn’t solely about preparing and eating food, but really understanding it in an intimate way. Jacob is highly in touch with his community and where his food comes from. He makes you understand the process of food and how it gets from creation all the way to your plate and fingers. I see the gardens, the markets, and the food preparation factories. I begin to understand the importance of knowing and respecting the ingredients to a level of great care and grace. I surprise myself with progress and compassion for what I am doing. Failure does not exist on these grounds, only advancement and enlightenment.

Thali

Part of me says that Jacob would be right at home in New York City contending for James Beard Awards and Michelin Stars. The rest of me knows that he’s just too good to ever care about such silly accolades. The reward is in the process. The Pimenta Kerala understands that to an enlightened and beautiful level. The week is, without a doubt, one of the most rewarding of my life.


India ends up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The culture is maddeningly complicated and beautiful, almost as if the entire country were worthy of being declared a museum. I’m freshly charmed around every corner. I’m lost in deep thought; I question my motives and my life deeply. As with everywhere, I walk away with more questions than answers. It’s a perpetual cycle that I’m perfectly fine with. The reward of visiting a place like this will stay with me until my dying days. I can only hope that some of you reading this will get on a plane to somewhere and do the same.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil


    As I could say for many places, Brazil is a massive, confusing, and complicated place. And as is so common, I feel like I almost know less about it now than before I had visited. Seeing a tiny slice of the country felt like a reward for the sacrifice of rarely ever sleeping in my own bed or working in my own town. And as with so many places that I visit, it holds true that the most surprising and rewarding part of the trip comes with meeting the beautiful and kind people that seem to exist nearly everywhere I visit.

    Brazil has a rough reputation. Rio especially has deeply rooted gang related sociopolitical issues that are crippling to the very foundation of its already fragile society. The drug wars in Brazil’s second most populated city have become so intense and the financial issues so bad that during the 2016 Olympics, the police and fire fighters held up signs at the airport stating; “Welcome to Hell, Police and Firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio De Janeiro will not be safe.” This picket was not a group of concerned citizens, but the very people that are in place to protect the general population. I can hardly imagine the profound level of discomfort that such a stark statement would have on an arriving traveler. Without a doubt, this is the exact opposite effect of the perceived intentions of the tradition of the Olympic games.

    The immense wealth divide provides little to no opportunity to the millions that are born and raised into the often dark and hopeless lifestyle of Rio’s less fortunate. It affects me deep down inside as we ride in our nice air-con Mercedes past sprawling Favelas. The structures are equally beautiful, horrible, and architecturally unbelievable. They pay homage to both the peoples intense drive towards the concept of a better life, and the debilitating and far-reaching corruption of its political leadership. On the coastal side of the road, right across the highway, exotic mansions surrounded by security gates sit atop beautiful cliff faces and overlook the South Atlantic Ocean. The contrast is drastic. Crippling poverty and immense wealth stand off like two ill-tempered boxers in a never-ending stare down. The scenery is striking and telling without even knowing the cities specific internal conflicts. It speaks for itself. It looks like the two sides of war, the proverbial house of cards that awaits its imminent tumble.

    Travel very quickly becomes an internal journey of self-speculation and evaluation. A series of different shades of gray is about as clear as the idea of “responsible travel” ever gets. During my time here, I will play a small part in employing a driver, a hotel worker, a restaurateur, a security guard, it goes on and on. My tourism will help feed someone’s child and someone’s mother. I will share my financial advantage with the people of Brazil. I will walk away with a better and more nurtured world-view, a greater understanding of the inner workings and psychological complications of human interaction. I will, as with everywhere I go, get both a little bit harder and a little bit softer. And at the same time, I will put money into the hands of a government that cares little for the well being of its citizens. I could choose not to go. I could stay at home. Finding and accepting a balance is the only viable option that I can see. I have already upset people with the places that I’ve gone. And I’m totally fine with that.


    What can I say about Brazil? The gentlemen that I had the pleasure of working with were, without a doubt, the hardest working individuals that I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a gig with. These men did things that would cause union strikes and job walk off’s in the States. And they did it happily, efficiently and with invasive smiles on their faces. The necessity to get the job done with sub par gear and not quite enough of it is the only option. The show must go on. There were no complaints, no whining, and no refusal. Just hard hard work. The humble that floats through the air in the room is contagious. The language barrier is hard, but the loving and caring attitude makes the issue negligible.

    And, as you do in South America, they took us out for steak. Lot’s and lots and lots of steak. This place makes “Brazilian Steakhouses” in the States look like a joke. There is no red/green card to turn off the meat flow. It’s like an IV of smoky charred wonder. The beer flows and the laughs get so intense that I’m surprised we aren’t asked to leave until I realize that every other table is laughing with the same vigorous intensity. Passion overflows in this country. I’ve never seen such strong love for life, for food, for brotherhood. We were welcomed in immediately and without question. We laughed so hard that I begged for breath. Too much. Make it stop. When you can laugh to the point of considering a hospital visit with a group of people that don’t even share your common language, you start to understand what the meaning of life is. It reminds me of why I do what I do.


Where are all of these drug wars? I see charm around every corner. I’m having the time of my life here! This city is truly awe inspiring in its beauty. I have never in my life seen a prettier city. The contrast of the mountains and the water is overwhelming. The scenery is numbing. It’s too much. The 360-degree overlook from Christ The Redeemer owns the single best view of my life. It’s surreal; exquisite. Why does such a beautiful place with so much potential and brotherly love have such drastic social problems? Is there truly any other option for humanity? Or are we meant to trudge on through dark voids of our own creation? Is greed so inherent in our nature that starting over would simply end us back right here with the same exact problems? Is it even possible to truly measure if things are getting better or worse? Why hadn’t I been to Rio before? Will I be back? Will I ever see my new friends again? Do I even want to go back? Or is the memory so strong and unspoiled that it’s better off staying a memory?



Sunday, August 28, 2016

North Korea

The landscape is pristine as we fly closer and closer to Pyongyang. Rice paddies dot the mountainous terrain. The sun is offensively bright as we step onto the tarmac, a sharp contrast from the mega pollution of Beijing. As my feet touch soil (ok, it’s concrete) in North Korea for the first time, I’ve never been so curious or intrigued by a country.  The Hermit Kingdom. Here we go.

There are only four people from our tour on the plane. Unfortunately American passport holders are sanctioned from the overnight train journey, so we’re picked up by our local North Korean tour guides and taken to our hotel…

I should probably back up. I try to keep my words fairly un-political, but with a place like North Korea, that is entirely unavoidable. Some people were upset with me for going, and others would have been upset if they had known in the first place. Some worried about my safety and others thought I would spend the next 20 years in some horrific hellhole much worse than the Bangkok Hilton. There is no doubt that North Korea has massive and unavoidable problems on every single level imaginable. The United States Department of State defines the country as a highly regimented, repressive Communist state. They follow by strongly recommending against all travel to the country with warnings of possible lengthy detentions and little in the way of ambassadorship.  I do not debate at all that the people of both North and South Korea have been severely damaged by the schism of the two countries. It is an absolute certainty that the people of North Korea are highly oppressed, lied to, and burdened with an unimaginable way of life. It’s true that they are kept intentionally ignorant of the happenings of the greater world. It is true that they work hard and long for little. But what isn’t true at all is your expectation. People sometimes ask me what place surprised me the most. I used to answer Sri Lanka or Southern Colorado.  I don’t know if my new answer will ever change from North Korea. This was, without a doubt, one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life.

It’s tempting to stop right here and just encourage you to go. The right words don’t exist. They aren’t coming easy. I’m frustrating myself beyond reason trying to come up with something tangible and meaningful to tell you about the most ridiculous place on the planet. It’s the poster child of absolute absurdity. It turned me right upside down and shook me out. Is that the cheap way out? Can I just not write well enough to put it on paper?

The goal of this whole thing is to encourage you to travel too. So maybe stopping here is good enough for now. I’ll write more for my memoirs.  So let’s just say that I played on both the first and second pool table ever invented, AND I saw the first piece of metal ever invented. I drank a beer at a shooting range and rode one of the better roller coasters that i've been on. I bowled the best game of my life and I met some incredible people. 


And maybe the single most important aspect of the whole trip. I got to spend time with one of the best friends I could ever imagine. I got to pull him out of his comfort zone and open some doors for him. I planted the travel bug in his head and potentially ruined his life. That’s success enough for me.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Colombia


            With the innumerable life changes that I have coming up in the next few weeks, it’s been difficult to put my mind at ease and enjoy this trip for what is should be. My anticipation for what the future holds has left me more anxious than relaxed. This time, I haven’t really been able to turn it off. The ol’ brain that never shuts up. I feel like I’m stuck in a sort of purgatory right now, an in-between world of my past and future self. I haven’t left my old life yet, nor have I arrived at my new place or my new job. But then again, traveling alone always penetrates the experience with a mix of great beauty and harrowing solitude. All of these epic sights and experiences and no one else’s schedule or needs but your own. Beautiful freedom but no one to share the experience with. Do I recommend traveling alone? Absolutely.  You will find strength and ability that you had no idea were inside of you. Use the time to nurture it. At your greatest moments you will feel utter weakness. But your later reflections will fill you with confidence. Would I want to do it every time? Of course not. There is no experience like seeing the world with someone you care for. The best soul medicine you could ever give yourself.
            Colombia tends to get a bad rap, and rightfully so from its past transgressions and turmoil. But things have changed here. Believe it or not, Colombia is now one of the safest places to travel to in South America. IF you stay in the right places (as with any country.) Cocaine, FARC, drug lords, kidnappings, murder, bribery, rebellion, and corruption? Sure, all still here. But it’s also a vibrant, beautiful, welcoming and proud country. And honestly, out of the 12 Latin American countries I’ve visited, I’ve never felt safer or more welcome.
            The mountains are staggering, it’s easy to get around, and the food surprises at every turn. A truly prideful culture exists here, and it is much deserved. The altitude is kicking my ass, but that’s because I live below sea level and I’m a wimp that spends too much time sitting at a desk. I’ve had the best coffee of my life and I’ve finally grown some faith in South American beers. Bogota Beer Company, good job my friends. Maybe the best brewery I’ve found outside of the United States. (Remember that I haven’t been to Europe before you jump my case).  Colombia is also incredibly affordable for people on a budget.
            I didn’t say I wasn’t having fun or taking away from the experience. Colombia was very high up on my list for a long time. And it has surpassed all of my expectations. My regret? No one to learn how to Salsa Dance with. Just remember to learn a little Spanish before you show up.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Central America

Central America:
Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador.



Another bus. My thoughts are betraying me. My positivity, my “go get em, see the world” attitude, all turning and pointing the spear back at me. I just want my bed. I’m throwing my passport in the trash as soon as I land back in the states. No more travel for me. I’ll stick to a trip to New York City once a year. Maybe I’ll try to learn to love Florida. My knees are screaming in agony, my feet are swollen from miles walked and hours of constriction and immobility, and the small child next to me keeps ramming his head into my arm. Over and over and over. And oh boy is it hot. Humid humid hot. October doesn’t mean a thing when you’re on the Caribbean’s latitude. This is my life now. The bus.

Can you do justice to six countries in barely two weeks? For that matter, can you truly do justice to a single country in a lifetime? I’ve spent somewhere around 26 years in the United States and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  So I’ll stay on the bus and push forward.  I have no delusions that I will see everything that the world has to offer. But I’ll do what I can.

Let’s back up.  Panama. Since the Panama Canal opened in August of 1914, money has poured into Panama City by the boatload. (Pun very intended.) Though the Canal had a bit of a rough start (French corruption, bankruptcy, and arguably the largest monetary corruption scandal of the 19th century), today it is a true marvel of engineering and financial progress. Shantytowns and immense poverty come to mind at the utterance of anything Central America. And that is all certainly here too, but the city is also a thriving, modern, bustling metropolis.

And there’s plenty of ceviche for everyone.  Practically everywhere a ceviche shop strives for attention. Two years ago, I had never heard of the dish.  Now I seek it out whenever possible. Allow me to digress. If you have friends of Mexican descent, go out to eat with them. They don’t order from the menu. By the end, your mouth will be screaming in beautiful agony and you’ll wonder why you’ve been ordering the Number 2 burrito special with rice and beans your whole damn life. Dreams of Aguachile will keep your pillow covered in sweat.

After several hours of wandering around Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood, multiple cervezas, and five or six meals at the collective outdoor food market, I’m exhausted. Tomorrow, 14 hours on the bus to Costa Rica.

It’s the middle of the night when I arrive at the very small bus station in the middle of a pretty sketchy part of San Jose, Costa Rica. Contrary to my previous understanding of where I would embark, this station is in no way connected to the bus station that I need to be at. Straight into a taxi and on to the central bus station. And it’s closed. Straight up locked up, bars and chains and all. No bench to spend a few hours on, just very sketchy walking dead types slowly limping around the sidewalks. Luckily this must be a common occurrence as the taxi driver recommends a hotel very close by, obviously commission based and a good friend of his. Some might call this kind of thing a scam. I’m just happy to have a room for the rest of the night and a hot shower. Off to Monte Verde in the morning… on a bus!

My limited time in Monte Verde is graced with beautiful lush rolling mountains and endless Amazonian-like foliage. The trees and hills seem to go on forever. I’m meeting some friends here. I have a short list of people I enjoy traveling with, and these two are near the top. We take a walking tour of the beautifully quaint town and we dine like the kings. The wine and beer make their first appearance and well… I seem to be on a bus again.

We’re in Nicaragua and Rita seems to have something up her sleeve for tomorrow.  It takes us forever to find our hotel but the wait is well worth it. We often take for granted how well the streets are marked back home. The air conditioner is frigid against the absurdly humid October heat. Our second floor balcony overlooks the main thoroughfare and the hotels courtyard is welcoming and tranquil.  An unlikely shop serves us one of the best meals of our trip. Cervezas are plentiful and the word “island” keeps floating through the air.

In the morning we’re on a boat headed for a privately owned island. The resort has 4 or 5 rooms. And they’re all empty, except for us. A private island, all to ourselves. It’s a well-manicured beauty. Everything is local and built specifically to fit the surrounding environment. The tiny swimming pool and yoga deck overlooking the water add those little touches that you always look for and seldom find. This place is immaculate. And the bar never closes. Serious consideration of abandoning the rest of the trip and staying here arises as we float  post-yoga off into the nearly full moon.

Now things really start to blend together. Too much for the senses. Rita leaves us in Managua and Wes and I venture further into the rabbit hole. Through a series of monotonous methods of transportation for what seems like eternity, (including countless wrong turns and endless backtracking) we come to in Santa Rosa de Copan. And after a few hours and a very friendly hotel staff, we realize that this is not the town we want to be in. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

The next day we venture on to Copan Ruinas. Ancient ruins of centuries past adorn the city, both a gift and a curse. The town is beautifully designed with cobblestone streets and shops and restaurants galore. Tourism has both invented and destroyed this city. A thriving scene that is slowly losing its soul. The ruins are awe-inspiring masterpieces. No words do them justice, so I don’t try.

We decide to splurge a bit and stay at the elegant Hotel Terramaya. Handmade wooden furniture graces the hotel and matches the architecture of the building itself. The hammocks on our balcony overlook vast mountains (probably mostly volcanoes). The breakfast is top notch and the massages are nothing to scoff at either. This is Wes’s first professional massage and after my insistence, he loves it. Amazing he got this far.

After abandoning our hope of fitting Belize into the mix, we take off to Antigua, Guatemala. Yet again, tourism has done its fair share of hurting the essence of the town. But it’s a truly great place to visit. The white washed architecture and surrounding volcanoes make it one of the more picturesque places that I’ve visited. We take a hike up a volcano (not fun in sandals) and spend our time visiting the city and avoiding the other Americans.

And then we get on a bus. A bus for El Salvador to wrap up our trip. But this time, we go all out. We get the ultra luxury bus with reclining seats and meals and a movie. First class if I’ve ever seen it (ok, it was the only option available in our time frame due to our very poor attempt at planning the next phase of our trip). We made the trek out to some ruins and saw as much of San Salvador as we could, but in the end, it’s just another big city with amazing churches and endless markets.


I learned a lot on this trip. I’ve never traveled this fast before. I certainly gained some adaptability. I stepped out of my comfort zone many times and I grew a lot in the process. I learned just how little Spanish I know, but that people love it when you make the effort.  I made my flight, but I learned not to care so much if I don’t. And most importantly, I learned that sometimes the ground just isn’t there anymore. But that’s a story for another time.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Orleans 2


   When I wrote my last piece on New Orleans in 2012, I never had any intention of living here. The typical “If you had told me a year ago that I’d be living in New Orleans, I would have called you crazy.” But alas, here I am. Life has a way of taking us wherever it wants us, despite any plans or ideas we might have about our own destiny.

   I’ll be the first to admit, I’m jaded. Coming here was a decision made with feverish haste in a highly confused and emotional state of mind. Brash in nature and skewed in true intent, it wasn’t a thought out or well planned idea. Instead, it was a blind toss of the dice. A gamble, a chance, a shot in the dark. At the time, it looked like the only viable option. Do I regret it? No. I can’t. Then my time here will have been a washed up wasted experience. So instead of regret, the time is being used to develop a new perspective on life. Develop a plan and implement that plan. Parts of the plan are moving along nicely. Other parts are rocky and abstract. We’ll see if life will let me have this plan or not. When you really get down to it, it’s not really in my hands in the first place.

   But I digress; this is supposed to be about New Orleans. The point? I can’t currently separate the two. New Orleans and my life are one and the same right now. I wrote in my last piece that New Orleans is recovering well. After taking a much closer look, I’m not really sure anymore. I moved here the week of Mardi Gras, right to the Marigny, right in the middle of the mess. The introduction was striking. The waste and garbage, in line with that of Bonnaroo (if not worse). But it is, of course, expected during Mardi Gras. What throws you off is when the hedonism, the waste, and the mess doesn’t stop when Mardi Gras is over. New Orleans, right down to the core, feels broken. I often get the same feeling here that I had in Burma. Everything seems ok and feels like it works. But it always feels like a city that’s on the brink of its tipping point. Like it could all just go to shit at any time, for any reason. It’s an uneasy feeling that you can’t ever escape. The sad and often uneasy part is that we know exactly what happens here when it does all tip. And we all know that it’s going to happen again. The questions is when, not if.  It’s a city that somehow functions, but for no good reason at all.
Working in Oil and Gas has changed my perspective of the world drastically. I have learned so much about myself and even more about people and the way they are influenced by each other and by their environment. We are, without a doubt, products of our environment. Enough said.

  A harsh sense of negativity about a place is not how I want to leave anyone feeling. New Orleans does have an excess of good things. Excess, in the truest sense of the word, is the very backbone of the city. The food here? Excessively good. Four months and I haven’t had a bad meal yet. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it for the rest of my life. New Orleans is one of the best food cities I have ever experienced. The fact that Michelin doesn’t rate restaurants here is confusing and almost concerning. Very few places take such a strong sense of pride in their food. There are, without a doubt, restaurants here that deserve Michelin stars. Art, music, performance, the city is overrun with amazing artists and artisans. Every corner brings a new talent. The tunes of jazz and blues charm me just as much as they did when I got here. The city has a uniquely beautiful culture.

   New Orleans is a city of harsh contrasts. I feel privileged to spend some time here. I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s a complex ecosystem that thrives on itself. It would take a lifetime just to begin to understand what goes on here. It’s like its own little country. And maybe it should be.

This city is not my home. And it never will be. The story doesn’t stop here. This is just another stop on my great adventure. This experience has given me a new, revitalized love for Chattanooga. I can try to deny it, but it’s my true home. It always has been and I guess it always will be. New Orleans is a great place to visit. But there’s no place like home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

To Tattoo

            This one, this beautiful new piece of artwork on my right ribs, this tattoo, this pain, this passion. This one is here to represent my love for the written word. This is here for the person that drove me to these words, the people in my life that know the value of the story. My passion in life is that of the story. I may spend (too much of) my time at work, climbing stairs, rigging ropes, driving around, sitting, waiting. But I’m here for the word. My passion is the story, the art, the quest.
Each tattoo is here on my flesh to remind me of something. To be a talisman of a feeling, a want, a desire. For those who have left us behind, for my love of the theatre, for my love of love itself, for my love of travel, and for my love of the art of the story. They appear on me like a mismatched and confused collage, the point perhaps lost on most. They seem random, confused, and the true meaning of absurd. But they, like my own life, require a much deeper delve into my own workings. Muddled, random, having no order, just like my life has been.
If you were to take a slice of my past and compare it with another slice of my same life, you would be confused as to how they make up the same person. Living in China working for the circus. Living in a hotel in Texas climbing wind turbines. Living in Tennessee attending college for theatre. Living in New Orleans supervising NDT ropes technicians. Working as a dishwasher at a Thai restaurant.  Walking on I-beams in concert arenas. Traveling across Morocco. Walking down a beautiful piece of property. Unemployed sleeping on couches. I could go on. But we all know the story. The story of where I am, where I’ve come from. We only don’t know where I’m going.
And when I found the person that would complete this new artwork, I was relieved. My other tattoos came quickly as ideas and just as quickly ended up on my body. But this one was different. My homage to a masterwork. It had to be right. Not only right, but perfect. Finding the right artist was difficult, challenging frustrating. I went through many people looking for a proper match. But when it happened, it clicked and the collaboration was perfect. Jennifer Edge at Mainline Ink in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What better place to take the journey than my home?

The headspace that you develop during a tattoo of this scale and in this location is meditative and even spiritual. The pain, seeming like a distant memory right before you start, becomes very real very quickly. Harnessing our inner Buddha is all but necessary. It becomes a rewarding exercise of localizing the pain, putting yourself in a state of total concentration and focus and simply existing and accepting the pain. This collaboration is just as much about you receiving the work properly as it is about the artist performing the skill properly. The design, the consultations, the preparation, nothing can prepare you for the experience of being a living canvas for an amazing artist. Nothing has been art until now. Preparation has set us up for success, but the art comes when the needle touches. And now, there is no turning back. The pain is agonizing, but every time, it is surprisingly rewarding. You aren’t only purchasing a piece of art, you’re earning it. And if you’ve done it right, it’s for you and you alone. It’s custom in the truest sense of the word. Some people say tattoos don’t hurt. Good for those people. Lucky them. Not me.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We have more to go. This art is not complete. The story will continue.