My Heart On My Sleeve
On Saturday, at 48 years old, I got my first tattoo, a two-inch perfect silhouette map of North Carolina on my left forearm. This began as an idle self-amusing thought on Wednesday night as I watched the amazing band Chatham County Line play in front of a state flag in the Lincoln Theater in one of many stunning moments at World of Bluegrass 2014, which just wrapped in Raleigh. As the band played “Livin’ In Raleigh Now,” its new anthem/theme song for the event, I whooped with native pride and thought to myself how amusing it might be if I met my wife at the airport a few days hence with a new banjo and a tattoo of North Carolina on my arm. I can’t afford a banjo right now, but as the days went on and the festival got better and better, the signs that the ink was a good idea only accumulated.
I grew up in Durham and attended grad school at Duke, but those are just facts. I haven’t lived in NC since 1992, but that’s just how things unfolded. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how central North Carolina is to my self and soul. I’ve had formative experiences from one end of the state to the other and in every decade of my life. And I was only ready or willing to get a tattoo of something that was central to my story – an eternal symbol of who I am. So if you care, here’s an incomplete list of the places, people and events that flashed through my mind as I listened to magnificent music, enjoyed the companionship of my bluegrass brothers and sisters and counted down the minutes until my appointment at Mad Ethel’s Tattoo: