When J-Ro Went To Portland….Part 5

Southeast Grind, my second home in PDX!

Southeast Grind, my second home in PDX!

My first Portland Sunday was a proper day of rest (The Lord himself would have been delighted with me). I was completely cream crackered, having been on the go since I arrived and not really paying any attention to the spectre of jet lag that was hovering around me. It eventually walloped me upside the head and rendered me incapable of any sort of forward motion or day-planning, so I just threw on some threads, loaded up my backpack like Dora the Explorer, and headed over to Southeast Grind, my unofficial Base of Operations for things to do in Portland (click here to read about why I loved this place so much).

I pretty much decided I was going to plant my tired old self there for the day, but first I had to grab something to eat, and being as wrecked and fuzzy-brained as I was, I chose to fall up the road and go to Jack In The Box, an American fast food franchise outlet. It wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made. I hated it. I’d been pretty fussy and paranoid about food since I’d arrived in the States (it’s a long-standing issue that I won’t bore you with in THIS article anyway), and I think I’d had a pre-existing notion about how the chicken teriyaki rice & veg bowl I’d ordered would taste…and it didn’t deliver. I was bitterly disappointed, pretty much all of the things I’d eaten that looked familiar to me all tasted just that little bit different to how I’d expected them to taste, so in my mind I couldn’t ingest them. I chewed grumpily on the twisty fries I’d also ordered instead. At least they tasted like I thought they would. I also tried to make a dent in what was certainly the largest liquid-carrying vessel for one person I’ve ever seen. It went waaay beyond ‘Go Large’…they called it The Quencher. I could barely hold it in one hand without being terrified I’d drop it. I’m surprised it didn’t come with armbands and a fucking lifeguard.

Fairly accurate representation of self.

It’s safe to say that Jack In The Box isn’t exactly gourmet fusion cuisine for foodies. Thus, I was Jack’s complete lack of surprise when I found that I’d basically left the whole thing and, despite the best efforts of my kidneys and bladder, the remaining two-thirds of the bucket o’ fizz I’d stupidly said ‘yes’ to. I noticed that there was a guy outside the main doors who looked a bit out of it, and was rooting through the fast food joint’s bins outside. I looked at my tray and instantly felt like a complete asshole for contemplating chucking out so much food. So ninja-style, I gathered the bowl of chicken and rice and The Quencher and sidled out the door without the staff seeing me, and I gave them to the guy with a brief disclaimer of “the food is fine, I was just full” in case he thought I was trying to pass off something that had gone bad. As it turned out, he barely registered me and just muttered something unintelligible as he took the food off me in a complete daze and shuffled away. I didn’t really mind; I was just glad SOMEONE was enjoying the food and it wasn’t wasted. Pay it forward and all that.

But it got me thinking as I left Jack In The Box and strolled the short distance to Southeast Grind. I was about to put down roots for a few hours in a lovely place with some nice tea and maybe a treat of some kind, tap-tapping away on my new laptop in a foreign country I’d been able to travel to for a holiday, feeling happy as a clam; so I took stock and felt so incredibly grateful to have the life that I have, that I’m able to find contentment in the everyday things I do (when my mental health is being managed properly obviously).

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A mini shanty-town set up at the junction of two streets next to a main road. The white object directly under the tree on the left-hand side is an umbrella for shelter & shade.

The problem of homelessness is a massive one in Portland, from what I’ve seen first-hand and from what some locals have told me. Maybe it’s because the population is roughly ten times that of Limerick, but it’s very visible and in a very unfamiliar way to me. I took a couple of pictures (see above and below) of the setups I saw dotted throughout the city centre and the suburbs that you would never see out on the streets of Limerick.

This is a slip road coming off a freeway where cars roar past at full speed. I'm standing across the road from the zebra crossing to take a pic of this particular camp, because it actually takes up a big portion of the footpath.

This is a slip road coming off a freeway where cars roar past at full speed. I’m standing across the road from the zebra crossing to take a pic of this particular camp, because it actually takes up a big portion of the footpath.

Look; anyone with a molecule of common sense knows that there are homeless people in every city, and Limerick is most certainly no exception. I’m not blind to it in my hometown by any means, and this isn’t a preachy bleeding-heart post telling people what to do or anything like that. It’s just me observing the different forms that homelessness takes wherever you go depending on population and city size. I’ve never seen anything like those mini tent townships; as fantastic as Portland was, that was definitely something that has stayed with me. That and the incredibly wide demographic of people affected; young, old, disabled, war veterans, addicts, men, women…nobody seemed immune. Which is a scary-ass thought. There but for the grace of circumstance go I.

When J-Ro Went To Portland…Part 4 (In which Bigfoot escapes me)

My first Portlandian Saturday rolled around, and I had the biggest of plans. My original POA had been to head to Skamania County (what a rapid name) and take in the delights and wonders of The Bigfoot Bash n’ Bounty. That’s right; I was heading in search of Bigfoot – or at least a bunch of cheesy imitations and gimmicky tourist souvenirs. It shouldn’t be too hard to get there, I thought. After all, this was America.

Oh, how wrong I was. I spent HOURS Google mapping, Amtrak-ing, Greyhound Bus-ing every which way i could think of online the night before, desperately trying to work out a public transport route to get there and back. Skamania County was in Washington, Oregon’s neighbouring state, but it might as well have been in the Australian Outback. There was no way in the laws of physics I was going to make it. So after much deliberation, I had to abandon ship. In an ironic twist, the Bigfoot festival was proving to be just as inaccessible as the creature that inspired it. Bastard.

When I awoke on the Saturday morning at 6.30am (THANKS JETLAG) I decided that today was the day I would head to the RV & Motorhome show in the Portland Expo Center. As trips go, this would prove to be the easiest peasiest journey ever, compared to the epic journey of the backroads and side-roads that the Bigfoot Festival would have conjured up. A friend had suggested Craigslist for ride-sharing, but I vetoed the crap out of it because NO FUCKING WAY ARE YOU KIDDING ME THEY STILL HAVEN’T FOUND THE SERIAL KILLER WHO’S NAMED AFTER IT SO I THINK I’LL PASS OKAYTHANXBYE

By this stage I was getting used to the MAX (the Portland version of the LUAS), and hopped on it & headed to the Portland Expo Center, where my eyes were treated to some of the maddest-looking yokes that ever graced a road. I was extremely disappointed to find out that for all of their hidden sections and expanding compartments, not one single RV turned out to be an actual Transformer. I wish someone had told me at the beginning, though. I’d spent a full fifteen minutes chatting up this rather hunky red, blue & chrome motorhome in the hope that it was Optimus Prime having some chill time. Alas, it was not meant to be. However, the guy sitting behind the wheel in said motorhome now thinks he has a sleazy Irish girlfriend; so, there’s that, I suppose…

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I was sort of hoping for a more rustic affair, packed with a load of motorhome enthusiasts named Dale and / or Earl strolling around in all their Sunday camping finery, smugly showing off their pride n’ joy while their wives Martha or Darlene tut-tutted and left them to it. Nope. It was a giant venue full of the newest and shiniest that the RV world has to offer the discerning retired whoever who has $60k and upwards to chuck around. It was still very cool to check out though. As quaint as it sounds, there’s no way on this green earth any one of these monstrous vehicles could ever negotiate Irish country roads, they were wider than two high-rise car park spaces. These yokes were definitely made for the wide open American road. Looking inside them, I realised they were nicer than some houses I’ve been in. Them Yanks take their driving & camping holidays seriously.

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There were still some camper vans that hearkened back to a bygone age with the classic VW hippy vans getting a nod from an American company who had bought the license from Volkswagen and so went ahead and made some really cool small VW-inspired vans, complete with retro interior. I TOTALLY wanted one.

Tell me you wouldn't want to cruise the open road in something like THIS...

Tell me you wouldn’t want to cruise the open road in something like THIS…

The high point of the day was when I got chatting to an Argentinian RV salesman who, when I told him I was Irish, said to me “Ah the Irish are cool, I’ve got a few friends from there – we hate the Brits as much as you guys do.” I leaned in and whispered “Falklands?” and he nodded, smiling. “Got it in one!” We parted ways, laughing heartily and muttering obscenities about Thatcher.

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So ended my day trip to the world of RV madness. I was exhausted by mid-afternoon, having been walloped upside the head by a jet-lag shaped baseball bat, which was how I ended up getting my bearings all mixed up and going waaay too far on the MAX line that was supposed to take me home. I wasn’t too stressed about it, I didn’t have anywhere in particular to be and sometimes it’s nice to get lost in a place, sometimes weird and strange things happen. Which is precisely what did happen.

I eventually worked out at which stop I had to get off, so I waited for the next train to arrive. This being Portland, it was like five minutes, bless ’em. No sooner had I gotten on the Orange line back the way I came, when, at the next stop, who should get on but Colton McBride, he of the gentle Goth persuasion I wrote about in my previous post (click here). Given the randomness of me ending up where I did and how big a city Portland is, I was genuinely surprised at the coincidence. He looked the exact same, apart from being makeup-free. He also seemed a bit more ‘with it’, and didn’t recognise me at all, even when he sat across from me and asked if this was the Orange line. I decided to leave him be. As ‘with it’ as he was, he still clutched his Victorian china doll reverently, fixing her hair and her dress, making sure she was neat and tidy, chatting with a woman who asked him where he’d gotten the doll (nothing surprises me here, it’s Portland) and telling her he’d found her in a thrift store for $3. Fair play to him.

Well if that don't put the 'dink' in 'co-inky-dink'...

Well if that don’t put the ‘dink’ in ‘co-inky-dink’…

I didn’t push to remind him that we’d met, I just answered his questions about which train it was, and he smiled and went back to making sure his doll was looking presentable. I took a sneaky pic to prove that I’d met him again so that when I wrote about our second encounter I’d have proof that life can be very odd sometimes, and my wondering about the welfare of Colton had somehow prompted the Universe to put him in my pathway once more so I’d see he was doing okay. The fact that he had no makeup on told me that at the very least he’d had an opportunity somewhere to clean himself up, so maybe he wasn’t as badly off as I had initially thought. But who’s to know? At least I got to see him one more time. Cheers Colton!

(tune in next time, when I laze around Southeast Grind thinking about stuff, then I visit the largest bookstore IN THE WORLD)

When J-Ro Went To Portland…Part 2 (A Sad Southeast Grind Story)

Thursday Night:

Having gotten in around 10.30pm and found where I was staying (the cutest place in the world, the whole upper area of that part of the house was all mine, I set down my bags, had the chats with Stacey and Carlos (aka Starlos) my gracious & very cool AirBnb hosts, and headed for a bar a few blocks down from the house that served food. I was feckin’ STARVIN’ at that stage. Met some very cool folk who were of the tattooed & loud music-loving variety like myself so I wasn’t on my own for long. People are super-friendly here. Also, when you give your usual Irish-style greeting of “How’s it going?”, be advised they WILL answer you and be genuinely surprised at your enquiring as to their mood. Some laugh at the registers in shops, I tell you.

I got straight onto Portland time spending an hour or so at the bar, until I got back around midnight, and fell into a heap on the lovely bed, more comatose than asleep, but it served the purpose. Friday was going to be a strange one.

A Southeast Grind Story

About six minute’s walk from where I’m staying, I found a 24-hour coffee place called Southeast Grind. I walked in off the sidewalk (nobody knows what I’m talking about when I say ‘path’), and straight into pretty much what I had imagined Portland to be in my mind in a single screenshot. It was the kind of place my teenage nineties self could only ever hope for or fantasise about. The closest I’d had back then was Java’s, and as grungy and laid-back as it was, this place makes it look like a capitalist wet dream. This is where all the people come to chill and graze intermittently on healthy snacks and home-made smoothies, and organic everything. Click on the pic below to see their website. Here’s what I wrote about the place while I was there that Friday morning:

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The minute I walk up to the counter I feel like I’ve discovered Mecca. To have a 24-hour coffee place a stone’s throw from my temporary home is damn near perfect for me. It’s full of couches and armchairs with strange people burrowing away on laptops or writing in journals; one guy in zebra-print leggings and hipster glasses is sketching something on a pad in a chair by the window. Swear t’God. All seem happy in their own company, but there doesn’t seem to be that air of ‘leave me the fuck alone’ like you would get in another big city coffee place like Dublin or London. I’ve already witnessed like 3 hugs betweeb friends coming and going since I’ve sat down in the last fifteen minutes. I bet if I looked closely at what people were working on, it’d be a book, or a screenplay, or a blog post…or college work. Wouldn’t want to stereotype too much…

Told the girl behind the counter I’d just flown in from Ireland last night. She was all excited and told me she’d ‘always wanted to visit the UK’. Hmmm. I said ‘Oh lovely. Well Ireland is pretty cool too!’ I’ll let her off this once…

There’s a corkboard by the counter with just one or two pictures stuck on, along with a beautifully handwritten poem placed in the centre of the board. I look closer, and see both pics contain the same person; a happy, floaty-looking willowy blonde girl. There are two bumper sticker-type posts side-by-side flanking the pictures, and I realise that they are for organisations that work to prevent suicide, self-harm and offer support for mental health issues. The poem is dedicated to ‘Alex’, and it dawns on me that the happy-looking blonde willowy girl is, or was, in fact, Alex. I got the impression from the content of the poem and the loving tribute message written and stuck alongside the poem that she used to work here, and was very dearly missed. I don’t know if it’s the jet lag or the enormity of embarking on solo travel saddled with a weirdly-wired brain that’s hit me, but I want to burst into tears with the sadness of it all.

Maybe it’s the wide-open honesty and genuine loss all contained on this simple chalkboard that gets me. Coming from a town that has a massive issue with suicide and mental health issues being improperly addressed by those in high places, it’s almost a relief to see something as visible as this highlighting both the complexity and simplicity of deciding to take one’s life, and the consequences left behind. Being someone who has stood on both sides, and given a lot of brain cells to considering her ‘options’ in the darkest loneliest times of my life, to see it laid out bare in front of me was a jolt of reality. It’s an approach we need badly back home. Those on the ground level of the systems and all the support groups work tirelessly to bring out the monster from under the bed, but it’s not enough. We need to vocalise and visualise suicide, to stop it being a silent word people mutter under their breath when talking about someone who took their own life. The act itself is louder than a thousand drums to those who are immediately affected, so we need to dilute the noise and let people talk about it. 

Having seen the corkboard within one minute of arriving into Southeast Grind for the first time, I found myself missing this girl called Alex, and I had never met her. I never would. Therein lies the vacuum of pain that suicide creates in its aftermath. If she had still been alive, I would probably be writing about the chats I had with the cool friendly blonde girl behind the counter who was loved by everyone there. Instead, all I can do is mention her in this small blog post that not a whole lot of people will read; so even though she’s gone, having succumbed to an illness that I (and countless others around the world) know only too well, I can still help a little in letting my part of the world know that somewhere in Portland Oregon, there was a girl called Alex who used to work in a fantastic coffee house, and everyone loved her. Rest in Peace Alex. Those of us still down in the bunker trying to get out will keep fighting the good fight.

Apologies for the heavy nature of the post, but sometimes you have to face the bad and the good. Tune in next time for the much lighter second half of the day, in which I get over my innate Irish habit of hesitating to approach weird & wonderful people…

J-Ro Goes Solo…In Edinburgh! (part 3)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face. (click on pic for my Instagram)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face.
(click on pic for my Instagram)

I began my last day in Edinburgh by waking up to a juicy, squishy, throbbing mass of inky corned beef that used to be my arm. The first 24 hours are always a bit messy; after I cleaned it, I was pure delighted with myself, checking out my new upgraded HD colour arm in the mirror every ten minutes. Apologies to Mags & Bryan for leaking my tattoo-goo on your duvet. I wrapped my arm in 3 meters of cling film in an attempt to keep it airtight before I went to sleep. Once it was all taped up, I couldn’t help thinking it resembled a plastic-sealed tattoed ham; a vacuum-packed part of a once-badass pig. Oh yes. I was in my sexual prime. Form a queue lads…

So on into town I went, having been dropped off on one end of Princes St, before realising it was the wrong end. If there’s one thing I LOVE to do, it’s running or power-walking down a street that’s – and I’m not prone to exaggeration as you well know – twenty-five miles long, while a gale-force wind bitch-slaps me in the face and I try and avoid people who all seem to want to shoulder me at full force into my supremely tender freshly-inked upper arm. It was quite the sight that met the staff of Waterstone’s fifteen minutes later. I looked like the ‘before’ picture for a Goth heart attack prevention campaign. I know. There’s too much sexiness in this post…

The queue was fairly substantial by the time I got there, with all sorts of folk waiting to meet the fantastic Amanda Palmer and get her book The Art Of Asking signed. If you haven’t heard of the book, I’d highly recommend giving it a go. It’s a wonderful work; part memoir, part guide on how to get over ourselves and reach out to ask for help when we need it. That and she’s also just a very cool interesting person with many great stories to tell from her days earning money as a living statue on the streets of New York. Check out her Ted Talk in the link below, it’s well worth a watch.

While we waited in line, I got chatting to the two girls behind me. Danielle and Cass were from Ottawa, Canada, and had been travelling around Ireland and the UK for the last few weeks. We had great craic, chatting about Dublin and their Edinburgh experience so far. They were SERIOUS Amanda fans, even knowing her PA (Whitney, who told me my outfit was ‘super-cute’ – legend) on a personal level. The Waterstone’s had a café directly above us in an open-plan area up a set of stairs, so we kept ourselves comfortably refreshed with giant coffees & teas all round. I tell you what; if you’re going to be stuck queueing anywhere, a bookstore like that certainly isn’t the worst. I had a ball before I even got up to get my book signed.

Me armed with my copy...

Me armed with my copy…

When the time came, Amanda Palmer came down the steps looking relaxed and happy and glowy as hell with her baby bump proudly on display. You’d never know that she’d done a massive show the night before, and she was delighted with everyone who showed up. Next thing she took up her ukulele, and before she started to play, she said “If all you guys want to huddle up and stand closer to hear this, I know everybody will keep their place in the queue and not jump, right?” With that, she played one of her lovely tunes, and it was like listening to a friend serenade you. Stopping, laughing, having little jokes with the crowd or bemused Waterstones customers who had no idea what was going on, and one really cute moment where a mother walked past her with a baby in her arms and she slightly melted and we all laughed, because Amanda being the open soul that she is, blogs and updates FB talking about impending parenthood and how excited she is, and what a great father her husband Neil (Gaiman for those who don’t know!) will be to the new arrival. Here’s a clip I took of her playing:

Believe it or not, EVERYONE went back to their original places in the queue! I guess that’s more a testament to the nature of her fans, everyone is pure sound. Imagine that happening in Limerick?? Doesn’t bear thinking about. THE HORROR…

One of the best things to happen was as we got closer to the signing desk, I sent Neil Gaiman a tweet with a pic of Amanda singing, only to find he had replied to me a minute later. Delighted, I was. Announcing it to a giant queue full of artsy nerdy bookworm-types who have quotes from his books tattooed on their bodies wasn’t my wisest move if I wanted to not have the arm thumped off me in disbelief as they said “Fuck off. SHUT UP. No way!” To which I only made the situation worse by responding “Oh God yeah, sure I’ve spoken to him a few times. He’s such a legend.” Well, in for a penny….

Ah, you know...regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Ah, you know…regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Finally, I got to get my book signed and meet the woman of the moment. She’s so frickin’ nice! She didn’t even look bored or freaked out when I gabbled at her nervously as she signed ‘To @JayRow’ on the inside cover. She pulled me in for a hug / picture like she hadn’t been spending all day doing the exact same thing to everyone, we all really felt like we’d had proper time with her, which, given the size of the queue, was no mean feat.

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I skipped out of Waterstones (metaphorically – nobody needs to see that) pure delighted with myself. For the rest of the day, I packed and got my shit together, planning on how I would handle the sudden anticlimax of coming home and not getting selfies with world-famous authors for a change. I didn’t feel like getting off the rollercoaster just yet, and wondered what the Universe had in store for me next that I could see myself saying ‘YES’ to.

Later on that evening, I found out…and it was going to be a real ‘drag’.

Tune in next time to find out what J-Ro did next!

J-Ro Goes Solo….in Edinburgh! (Part 2)

Seriously, like. People see this view on the way to WORK.

Seriously, like. People see this view on the way to WORK.

After all the craic of Saturday, where I went to the Edinburgh Dungeon and made a new pal, I was all set to rock out the door on Sunday to hop on an open-top bus and go Full Tourist around the city. I was pure excited, having visions of dressing up like a victim in an anti-mugging campaign; neon fanny-pack, Edinburgh Castle novelty baseball cap, my passport in a stupid-looking yoke around my neck, and my phone in a clip belt. Alas, this unnerving vision of sexuality was never to come to fruition – for two reasons.

The first being that when it comes to weather, the ‘Burgh can be a temperamental finicky bastard, so grey skies and wetness in the air were all around. The second reason being that I was completely wrecked. I seem to have a very short shelf-life for the outside world, and it gets shorter depending on how I am in myself. When I’m out, I enjoy every minute, and do my best to soak up the experience of whatever has lured me from the comfort of a couch-fort and a computer screen. But after a while I reach a very definite point where my brain turns on a dime, and the urge to run screaming back indoors is almost a physical one.

It’s a strange sensation to explain to those who don’t suffer with mental health issues. Christ, it’s difficult to explain to myself at the best of times. It’s not a panic attack as such; rather it can feel like the energy level bars on a video game screen depleting into the red and you’ve limited time to get back to base to recharge, or it’s Game Over. It comes out of nowhere, but it makes its presence known. It has no real logic, but your physical brain tries to attach it to something tangible to try and make sense of it. Which, cruelly enough, adds to the weight on your shoulders. I’m aware enough now (thank the Gods) to read the signs and know when to tap out of a situation and retreat to base camp where possible. Jaysus, I’m very high maintenance. It’s all a bit of a cunt really. But, I digress.

I also ate food while I was away. Sometimes as much as three times a day.

I also ate food while I was away. Sometimes as much as three times a day.

So after being sensible and staying in on Sunday and, as my sister says, ‘having a serious chat’ with myself, I woke up on Monday seriously excited to be getting tattooed for the day. There’s nothing more handy at keeping you in the present and worry-free than sitting for almost seven hours while someone etches ink of many assorted colours deep into your skin with needles. It’s not for everybody, I’ll give you that, but God I fucking love it.

Click this pic to go to Semper's FB page!

Click this pic to go to Semper’s FB page!

I was greeted at the door of a gorgeous Georgian building just off Princes St by one of the coolest guys I’ve ever seen. David Corden, one of the most talented tattoo artists on the planet, is working out of his home studio while he gets ready to open his shop, Semper Tattoos & Piercing, in the next couple of months. Big smile, all style, he grabbed me in a massive bear hug and introduced me to Michelle Maddison, the unbelievably talented woman who was going to be using me as a human colouring book for the day. She normally didn’t work Mondays, she told me later as she worked away using pretty much every gorgeous colour on the spectrum on my upper arm, but my subject matter was what sold it. “It was Jem And The Holograms, how could I not?” she laughed.

Chopper and Bronson. Best. Dog. Names. Ever.

Chopper and Bronson. Best. Dog. Names. Ever.

We were kept company outside the sterile studio area by Dave and Kelly’s French Bulldogs Chopper and Bronson. A pair of four-legged, big-eared happy-out goofy legends who loved hanging with humans who gave them loves and attention. I loved them! We had Netflix on in the background while Michelle worked, and she gave me Dealer’s Choice, so just for something to focus on when the pain got a bit iffy, I stuck on some Alan Partridge. Not my smartest move. Can’t be laughing while someone is doing some precision-level permanent needlework on your skin. Thankfully, Michelle is steadier than a neurosurgeon, and I’d seen all the episodes before, so it was less of a guffaw and more of a knowing chuckle to myself.

Michelle and I were BUZZIN', so we were. #SorryNotSorry

Michelle and I were BUZZIN’, so we were. #SorryNotSorry

In the end, I broke my own personal sitting record for getting tattooed. Previously having sat for three and a half hours at a time for larger pieces, this one clocked in at a whopping six and a half hours. I was very glad of the Mars Bar I’d scoffed just before we began. I was quite proud of myself, but I think I’ve found my limit now. By hour six I was sweating and drawing inspiration from Tyler Durden in Fight Club and trying to find my cave and my power animal, who was hopefully a cheeky foreign-sounding meerkat armed with a cold water spritzer to douse my arm and bring sweet relief.

By the end of the session, I was rewarded with the most colourful, awesome eye-catching tattoo on the planet. It’s a tribute to my childhood in the Eighties, and my adoration for Jem And The Holograms, which, to me, was the ultimate feminist cartoon for young girls. Who needs Girl Power when you had Synergie and could fool your fella into two-timing you just by wearing extensions and giving him a different name? (Poor Rio. Mensa was never going to have his number on speed-dial, that’s for sure.) Michelle is one of the coolest, most lovely people I’ve ever met, and her eye for colour is almost painful, it’s so beautiful. She has a blog of her own talking about her tattoos and showing her work, as well as detailing her experience of upping sticks and moving to Edinburgh to start a new life for herself, with all the perils and pleasantness and pitfalls in between. Click on my Jem tattoo pic below to head over to her fantastic blog.

Pic courtesy of Michelle Maddison Instagram - click to visit her personal blog!

Pic courtesy of Michelle Maddison Instagram – click on Jem to visit her personal blog!

In a side-development, I discovered that both Dave and Michelle were both massive fans of the artwork of my first cousin and veritable Instagram royalty Morgan, whose Instagram profile (@c0dex) is a showcase of some of the most gorgeous animation-style artwork you’re ever likely to see. Fucking hell, this Interweb is small. But mighty. Check out one of her awesome drawing pieces below:

That night I headed back to the apartment, with an arm twice its normal size but a hundred times more colourful. I’ve always hated my upper arms, they’re the features guaranteed to ruin my enjoyment of any pictures where they inadvertently show up. Why would I draw attention to them so, I hear you ask? Well precisely because I hate them. Why not paint them with something that brought me so much joy as a child and turn that hatred on its head? It’s a lovely experience to look into the mirror and instead of feeling despair at my shape, feel happiness and remember the excitement of getting up at 7am on a Saturday morning as a kid to watch a girl band kick ass and make me feel like I could do it too. It’s not for everyone, this business of getting inked, but it’s what does it for me.

I find myself going into an almost meditative state, getting in ‘The Zone’ while you and the artist reach a certain level of peace and quiet as the picture starts to take shape…which Michelle and I then smashed to smithereens by reading the holes off various exes who had done us wrong and comparing horror stories. It was fantastic.

Click on this pic to go to my Instagram!

Click on this pic to go to my Instagram!

And with that, my last night in Edinburgh was upon me. Without knowing it, my friends Bryan and Mags had given me the gift of a proper break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and I’d been able to assess some stuff and sow the seeds of ideas and plans for the future on a professional and personal level. To me, that was priceless, That, and I had the company of Arthur, the cuddliest and most affectionate cat in the United Kingdom. I’m very grateful to know the people (and animals!) that I do. They’re the cat’s pyjamas, so they are. (I’m not sorry for that)

I miss Arthur, my little furry holiday therapist.

I miss Arthur, my little furry holiday therapist.

All excited and gooey from tattoo juice, I wrapped my arm in cling-film (unpleasant and a complete head-wreck for the night) and threw myself head-first into a fitful sleep. For I had one more Edinburgh adventure ahead of me the following morning….

Tune in next time for another instalment of J-Ro adventures!

<3