Well, this year I got to visit Tourist Street a little early. Last Saturday, I traveled an hour and a half to Off the Map Tattoo. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know this because I could not stop talking about it. I pretty much live-tweeted from waiting room to plastic wrap. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Off the Map is actually right on Tourist Street (ok, it’s really Cottage Street). But this particular Tourist Street was the hippy-dippiest one I have ever seen. Allow me to elaborate.
The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car is that the bike racks and street signs were all wearing sweaters. I’m not kidding. Here’s a picture.
|That just happened.|
Then, I noticed that every single store was completely bananas. Do you remember my hipster SEO experiment, where I joked about getting my accordion serviced at the local independent musical instrument repair collective? Um, that place exists. And they have a giant plywood Pee-wee Herman in the window.
|Yup, my brain broke when I saw that.|
The atmosphere at the tattoo shop was quirky, but it’s a tattoo shop, so that’s not very remarkable. My husband and son were off at Chuck E. Cheese while I was getting my tattoo, and I had some time to kill before they returned to collect me. I decided to explore a little. Then I ducked into White Square Books to warm up. This place was crazy. All the shelves were actually repurposed armoires and China cabinets. They had a random mix of new and used books, and never more than one copy. The selection was also pretty odd.
|Here's all you need to know about typography:|
Comic Sans is for hacks.
I slowly became aware that this tiny store was packed to the gills with people (and one dog, who nobody seemed to mind). Then I noticed that it smelled like food. I turned a corner and encountered a man who was cooking in two electric woks. Potatoes in one, red bell peppers in the other. Apparently, he was an author who was there to promote his book. Also? The food he was cooking had absolutely nothing to do with the book. But he did offer to email the recipes to anyone who asked for them.
Venturing deeper into the store, I came across a dresser (of course) with a bunch of wine on it. Because why not. Nobody was tending bar or anything. I lingered for a minute to make sure this was really happening. It was. So I poured myself a plastic cup of a lovely 2006 Chianti and read the back of a Richard Dawkins book. I almost bought it, because I felt like I owed them for the wine, but it was thirty bucks, so fuck that noise.
|Sorry it's blurry; I was being covert.|
My family arrived soon after, so we headed to Amy’s Place for dinner, which came highly recommended by both the staff and patrons of Off the Map. My first clue that Amy’s Place was on the right street was when I saw this sign on the door:
|Is it a joke? Is it for real? Don't know, don't care.|
When our server arrived, I asked if they had Coke or Pepsi, and she said they had generic soda. Generic soda. From a fountain. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I had a chicken parmesan sandwich, and it was amazing. My son had chicken fingers and fries, and they actually gave him a reasonable portion. I’ve never seen a restaurant do that before! I guess his food was good, because he finished every last bite. This was extra-impressive on his part because he was really distracted by my tattoo. He asked to see it about 12 times.
|I have wanted this tattoo for 19 years.|
In conclusion, if you want a really rad tattoo, go see Joe King at Off the Map. And if you want to visit Portland, Oregon, but you live on the East Coast and don’t like flying, you should visit Easthampton, Massachusetts.
Update: As I'm writing this, my husband just handed me a hand-written thank you note from Off the Map with a free sticker tucked inside. How classy is that??