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

The Final Day: A Thank You Note

At midnight tonight, I will achieve a goal more than a decade in the making. An idea that began as a joke and turned into a life’s ambition will finally be completed; finito.

10 Cities / 10 Years was so many things. Most obviously, it was a travel blog – one that provided very little in the way of actual travel advice. More so, it was my attempt to keep a running analysis of the culture both in terms of art and societal patterns. It’s also a memoir predicated on the fact that all memories are fallible. And it’s the story of some amazing people who changed my life.

Most generally, it was an experiment and an endurance test.

And in less than 24 hours it will be over.

On Tuesday, I’ll reflect on the project at large and what this has meant for me and what it will mean for me in the years to come.

But today, I want to take a moment and look back. I’m using this space to say thank you to those whose lives became intertwined with mine throughout this past decade, for better or for worse (for me, mostly the former; for them, mostly the latter). This was a solitary journey for the majority of the years, yet I didn’t do it on my own.

First of all, there are the members of my family who have been a constant presence in my life, even when we don’t talk regularly. My mother, a devout Christian who would probably be mortified if she knew most of what I’ve gone through and done, has always supported my pursuit of this foolish aim. What more can one ask for?

My siblings – Fonz, Steve, Debra and Daniel – are the people I’ve fought with most in my life, and because of them I’m stronger, wiser and funnier. And boozier. They have supported me as much as they have mocked me – and if you know my family, you know that’s a lot. We might be dysfunctional, but… nah, that’s it, we’re just dysfunctional.

I want to thank Shelly and Marianne, 2 of my oldest and closest friends, strong and amazing women I’ve known since before the project began. If I’m even remotely a decent man, it’s because of both of them.

And then there are all those friends who I’ve made over the years of this project. There have been some great guys, some friends who have been fun co-workers and roommates and who I have wonderful memories with – what I can remember. If we’ve had a drink together, know that I think of you fondly. Well, I think of the whiskey fondly, and you get the residual goodwill.

Anyone who knows me, anyone who has been truly close to me, knows that wherever I go, I habitually surround myself with intelligent, talented, witty, beautiful, entertaining women. They inspire me, they encourage me, they challenge me – and in return, sometimes I’m kind of okay to hang around with.

So here’s where I want to express my love and thanks to those impressive women I’ve met along the way (even those who are no longer in my life):

Alex – my first friend of this project and still one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Love.
Ashley – perhaps the purest heart I’ve ever known. Meeting you changed my life.
Ivy and Amy – the coolest and badassiest writers I know.
Amber and Kate – cool f-ing chicks who made me feel at home in the one part of the country I never thought I’d live.
Chandra – we went through it all together, and it wasn’t always pretty, but what we had was truly unique and transformative. That isn’t forgotten.
The Ladies of Forever 21 (yes, you read that right) – it was one of the worst jobs I ever had and one of the hardest years of my life but I had some great friends that year who made it worth it.
Jacky, Emily, Jenna, Cassie, Michelle and dammit, just so many others at Demos who made Nashville a year to vaguely remember through the haze of alcohol. I was at a low point when I arrived in the city and it was largely because of you that I kept pushing through onto city 7.
Clarice (and, of course, Tom) – you made Seattle a home for me (even though I didn’t live in your home).
Rhiannon – some days, all I need is to know there is someone who will enjoy receiving New Girl quotes for no reason at all.
All the Tillicum Gals – woah, that sounds dirty.
Brielle – what can I say? We saw JT together.
Rebecca – in some of my darkest moments, you picked me up with a hug or a shot (usually the latter).
Kristin and Brittany – hated the job, liked (and admired) you both.
Annabelle – not sure they come any kinder than you.
All you dolls at E&C (ugh, yes, even you Karisa – the worst) – work was rarely boring with you around.
Emily – we’ve driven the country together – twice – and we survived robberies, mice attacks and our upstairs neighbors. If you ever need a travel companion, just give me a call. I probably won’t be doing anything important, anyway. (You’re seriously too cool.)
Amandine – you remind me that I still have so much more to explore; you’re also the best photographer I’ve ever known and I’m constantly amused by the fact that you doubt how talented you are.
Sophie – sorry about the broken foot, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed my first summer here nearly as much without you. I look forward to trying to convince people I know you in a few years.

I hope you all appreciate how much I care about you. I also hope you all appreciate how hard it was for me to remain that sincere for so long. I almost fainted.

Did I forget you? Well, I drink a lot, so what did you expect?

I guess, in the end, 10 Cities / 10 Years is the story of a guy who is naturally sort of an asshole but is marginally less so because of the people he’s met.

So, uh, thanks.




The Final 2 Weeks

I’m so close I can taste it.

Specifically, it tastes like a glass of whiskey that sat overnight on my bedstand and, cut through with melted ice, has turned lukewarm. It just sort of sits on the tongue.

One last gulp.

Ever since I started this blog back in 2009 – on the verge of moving from San Francisco to Chicago (cities 4 and 5) – I’ve expressed my varying levels of panic due to financial concerns and the reality that, with any missteps, I could end up broke and homeless. Some years were more worrisome than others (Chicago and Seattle being the toughest, post-SF), but I never felt secure. You can’t plan for all eventualities.

In May of this year, I was finally able to breathe a little easier. That’s how long it took to pay off a debt that had accumulated in the wake of my move to Brooklyn and my subsequent months of less than steady income. It required considerably longer than normal to dig myself out of my annual debt and if I had needed to save up for another move in September I would have been in quite a predicament.

But I don’t have to save. Not for another move, at least.

You remember how your parents (or grandparents) would talk about how their parents were so stingy because they grew up in the Great Depression. They had frugality and the value of a dollar ingrained in them at a young age. Even in prosperity, they never fully shook off the habits of their youth.

That’s how I feel after 10 years of living to the bone. I don’t know how to not save.

Every year I’m a little chagrined when I hear co-workers – people who make roughly the same amount of money as I do – complain about being broke. Sure, some of them have expenses I don’t, like car payments and insurance, pets and cigarettes. But they don’t have the expense of relocating every year or losing a few weeks (or months) to a job search.

I wish I could offer up some tips for how to nurture a nest egg. I sincerely do, because I could make a metric shitton of cash hawking self-help guides about saving money. I don’t have any secrets, though, no hidden tricks or lessons from the ancients.

I only know 1 thing: If you want to save money, you have to have a specific reason, a purpose.

10 Cities / 10 Years has been my purpose (in so many ways) for the majority of my adult life, and to that end I have focused all of my energy and drive. I’ve sacrificed so much on that altar – the most obvious being relationships. I haven’t always enjoyed the journey. That was never the point.

It is because of single-minded dedication (a.k.a. “obsession”) that I now find myself 2 weeks out from the completion of a decade long endeavor.

I’ve been trying to process the enormity of that accomplishment, and honestly, I can’t. I suspect that when I wake up on September 1st, I’ll feel numb. It will be over, the lingering taste of whiskey still on my tongue, and, peering ahead at my unmapped future, I’ll not know what to do with myself.

Luckily, as my experiences have proven over and over again, time will eventually help me comprehend what this has all meant. Time is like that, turning heartbreak into character, pain into strength and tragedy into comedy. Time will make sense of nonsense.

And then.

I will find a new road and I will take it to its end. I will make a goal and I will attain it. Because that’s all I know how to do.

2 weeks: The bottle is almost finished.

Jameson Insta

The Final Month

Hello Again

This blog has been silent the entire month of July. Truth is, I’ve done very little writing in general this past month. There has been plenty going on personally and in the news (*ahem* Donald Trump), all worthy of discussion, but I’ve been a bit too preoccupied with living to expound on any of it.

I am slowly – glacially – working on the 10 Cities book, which is developing into a memoir/sociological discussion/cultural critique/travelogue (in that order). I have 3 rough chapters written, though by no means finished. I’ve also been working on other smaller pieces that will ideally see the light of day sooner than later.

Otherwise, though, the last few months of my life have been about experiencing New York City. I’ve been bartending and serving, visiting museums and picnicking in parks, seeing movies and live comedy, and drinking through the night. I even managed to find myself in the midst of a short romance. It has been the version of New York living that I imagined could exist when I was a high school student yearning for escape.

It has been very good.

Empty Subway

Square 1(0)

For the first time in over a decade, I will spend more than a year straight in 1 city*. In the next couple weeks – barring any unforeseen circumstances – I will sign a second year lease for my apartment. I won’t give my place of employment a 2-week notice. When I wake up September 1st, I’ll be in Brooklyn (presumably).

I still don’t have an answer for “what’s next?” I’m sticking around Brooklyn for a little longer, that much I know. But beyond that? Maybe France? England? Cuba? All of the above, hopefully. And so so so much more.


The Future

There are, in fact, countless possibilities for my future. I don’t know which one I want most. Not all of them are ideal.

There is a version of my future in which I never publish anything and I grow old serving wine and whiskey to dying men. Bars nationwide are filled with such clichés. There’s nothing special about me that would preclude me from such a fate. It’s just a question of whether or not I have the energy to keep striving.

There is only 1 month left of 10 Cities / 10 Years, a project that was, among other things, always about the unknowable future. That future is now mostly past.

What remains in my final month of a decade long endeavor? Well, I can think of no more fitting way to end this travelogue than with a road trip. I’m currently planning yet another cross-country road trip for the last week of the month. It’ll mark the third such journey in 2 years. I’m quite excited.

After that, I don’t know. Everything is formless and empty.

Those are the perfect conditions for creating something new. Just ask God.



*Technically I lived in Costa Mesa for 15 months, but I was always going to leave so there was no illusion of longevity.

The Spilt Milk Blues

This coming of age story lacks for maturity
and protagonists

We are you and not I
We are I and bottom shelf whiskey, kissing slovenly like young lovers
Sickly romantic, I’m depressing my fellow drunks

In my solitude
If there is safety in numbers, you must be secure as Fort Knox
Almost got away with it, too
If not for your voracious appetite for crumbs
and telling stories

I’m not without sympathy, but you’re a pity and I’ve a pittance for your crocodile tears

It’s a sorry state of affairs when apologizes are the Ladies Night special
and I have to cut you off

Familiarity breeds contempt and you’re saying nothing new

Nor I
What’s done is done, but I’m living in exhaustion
Exhuming an argument that has no life but keeps breathing in my head
I’m not going to fix my mistakes now,
If you want to forget about me, well, you already did

In the wake of our godly act, the builders have rebuilt, the waters have receded, the animals have returned
Like a pretty face
Time forgets
Somebody loves me, even it if isn’t me
So our arc can come full circle

Now the facts are a matter of broken record
and each time I tell your story, I get a little better at it.

The Stones Cry Out

It’s the cavernous rumbling in my stomach that tells me you’re coming home
To our silence
Words bubbling to the surface, then bursting upon our walls like toxicant gas
These days, I’m only happy when I’m medicated, and even then, only just so
Don’t come to me wanting to press my hand
While your hair smells like him and your lips are still frozen around his name
If I’m gone then I’m gone away, and my ghost will have no home to haunt
I realize how I am better than this tumult, better than you
Better than love
So I’m walking away and taking nothing with me

but the tumor that’s been gnawing away inside my gut with the sound of
your trembling hand on the doorknob,
your lasting impression in the bed
and the exhaustion in your eyes
After a temulent night spent forgetting me, I forget myself