Tattoo in black: Idiot, Slow Down

The Final Tattoo: Idiot, Slow Down

On the last day of the project, I walked around Manhattan until I found a tattoo shop to get my 18th and final tattoo for 10 Cities/10 Years.

Tattoo Work

I have known for years what it would be, but I’ve been holding it close to my chest (so to speak), and now that I have it, the full picture is complete. Idiot, Slow Down (Context)

For those whose wonder what these words mean and where they come from, I wrote an explanation more than 4 years ago on this blog.

But just to give a quick summary, it comes from the final track on Radiohead’s OK Computer, “The Tourist” and its meaning can be explained by this quote (originally found on

“The Tourist” was written by Jonny, who, explains Thom, was “in a beautiful square in France on a sunny day, and watching all theses American tourists being wheeled around, frantically trying to see everything in 10 minutes.” Jonny was shocked at how these people could be in a place so beautiful and so special and not realize it because they weren’t taking the time to just stop and look around.

As I enter the next phase of my life – whatever that may be – it’s important I remember the ethos of 10 Cities, which was not about quickly accomplishing as much as possible in order to mark things off of a checklist. Instead, my life was about slow travel, marinating in a place and getting to know it from the perspective of a local.

Now that I’m unshackled from the constraints of the project, the temptation will be to see as much as possible. This is especially true now that I’m older. I was 22 when this project began, in the midst of my eternal youth. Now, at 32, I’m still relatively young, but the burden of time is more acute.

I’ve never seen Europe, or Asia, or Africa, South America, Australia or Antarctica. And believe me, I want to see them all. The trick going forward is to find a way to fit in all the travel I want to accomplish without losing sight of the reason I want to do it.

So, every morning when I look in the mirror, I will have a reminder to slow down, appreciate the space, take in my surroundings. Don’t be an idiot.

Like all of my tattoos, it’s both a marker of my past and a lesson about the future. The 17 phrase tattoos that adorn my chest make up the philosophy and truths of 10 Cities/10 Years. They are the Bible of my belief system. Essentially everything I could hope to say is already written on my chest, stolen from minds more interesting than mine.

In time, there will come a New Testament, but for now, this is the final word.

Full Chest

X in X: The Project Gets A Tattoo

With 2015 marking the final year of a project that began in 2005, it was time for me to finally get a tattoo for 10 Cities / 10 Years.

The 16 other tattoos I’ve had inked onto my body over the last 12 years have spoken to a personal philosophy, much of which has developed over the decade of this project. They have been words taken from a wide range of literary and lyrical influences, melded into my own worldview. They are the words that make up my story.

But every book needs a cover. This is mine:

X in X Tattoo 2

10 cities in 10 years is, of course, the defining narrative arc of my life. Everything before it a preamble, everything after it will be a sequel. I set out nearly 10 years ago to accomplish something unique and ambitious. I can’t say that, now nearing the end, this project looks the same as how I imagined it in the beginning.

For the last couple months, I’ve stepped back and attempted to put this decade in perspective. I’m writing about the years now, hopefully with the end result being a book, part memoir, part travelogue, part historical re-examination. But as I try to form my memories into one cohesive narrative, various themes are taking shape. Some stories that felt important when they happened are now less interesting to me, whereas seemingly inconsequential details are taking on new, weightier resonance.

I still don’t know how this story ends.

My ‘X in X’ tattoo doesn’t mark the end of my project. I have one specific tattoo in mind for August 31st to cap the whole affair (and, no, I’m not telling what it is). This tattoo simply acknowledges that I’ve completed one aspect of my project: Reaching the 10th city, New York.

The project is only finished when I’m able to look back on all 10 completed years and see the whole road behind me.

Until then, though, I have a permanent reminder of what I have been through in my life, where I have been and what I have seen. Nothing can be undone now.

X in X Context

Let It Ride

My Nashville Tattoo:


This makes my 11th tattoo since I began getting them in college, and represents my tattoo for my 6th city (I’ve gotten at least 1 in every city I’ve lived in since I started this project).

The whole collection can be seen here (sans the new one, of course).

All of my tattoos derive their meaning and influence from various areas, as does this one.  But, I’ll admit that Ryan Adams had a say in the new one: