when i was 39 i came up with an idea for a tattoo to get on my 40th birthday. i had spent some time in north carolina, staying with my friend jamie in durham, and had visited my hero charles kuralt’s grave. that’s what got it started. my thirties had been rough (i almost didn’t make it out of them), and i wanted to set an intention of exploration in my forties. i’ve never had a deep desire to travel internationally – i’d rather go to detroit or kansas city than paris or tokyo. i’ve also always admired those outline maps on the sides of RVs. so i decided i’d get a tattoo of an outline map of the US, and i’d fill in the states I visited in my forties.

i really like regional food and chatting with locals, so my rule is that i count a state if i eat there and not in a restaurant (or on a train).

today i turned 45, and my life has been changed by this tattoo. i’m excited about the next 5 years. here’s a memory from each of the states i’ve filled in:

oregon – nerding out on state capitals with denise, zari & molly

washington – robyn got to choose the color (green) because it was my first post-tattoo state

california – does wine count as food?

maine – banana cream pie ice cream

maryland – debating zari & justin’s first date

massachusetts – sitting on the carter family’s porch

north carolina – is there bacon in beer now?

georgia – henry hates waffle house

south carolina – over the georgia border for a grilled pimento cheese sandwich

florida – key lime pie in the keys

oklahoma – my grandpa and his wife in their pajamas at 4pm

utah – reunited with the hansens

idaho – mini road trip with zari & justin

wyoming – elk antlers in jackson

nevada – oatmeal in a casino

arizona – scattering my grandma’s ashes with my cousin’s family

illinois – the miniature rooms at the art institute of chicago

montana – billy goats in glacier national park

tennessee – the memphis dichotomy of graceland and the lorraine motel

arkansas – little rock central high school

texas – a jam shop with jordan

louisiana – an afternoon on the st. charles streetcar

alabama – the harper lee museum

mississippi – my uncle letting me borrow his little convertible and then following me around in corinth to give me driving directions

new york – jim peterson!

pennsylvania – meeting my friend donna and her family in person for the first time

delaware – a lovely afternoon in dover

new jersey – just stopping to eat

virginia – mosquito attack on chincoteague island

kansas – the toilet in lucas

missouri – ted drewes ice cream

nebraska – camden benches in downtown lincoln

iowa – the university of iowa

alaska – humpback whales

hawaii – getting the perfect christmas card shot of my parents


colorado, connecticut, indiana, kentucky, michigan, minnesota, new hampshire, new mexico, north dakota, ohio, rhode island, south dakota, vermont, west virginia, wisconsin – i’m coming for you.


2 responses to “45

  1. Claire Beamer

    I’m very impressed.

    No Michigan yet, your ancestral home…. My best friend from high school lives there, we have a kissing cousin I met on line doing genealogy (hes a school counselor), we have a cousin that’s an attorney. Get a petoskey stone in traverse city where grandma and grandpa honeymooned.

    Happy birthday!

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