On my quest to acquire a tattoo in each of the 50 states, I was still missing a big chunk of the Midwest, namely, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas. I do not drive, so tackling them would mean short, but expensive flights and/or cheap bus tickets, as there is no lovely Amtrak running vertically through the middle of the country on the Western side. Because Denver is always an attractive destination, I decided to use this trip as background to seeing Skinny Lister play there. Denver, therefore, would be a detour between Nebraska and Kansas, next to which is Missouri, another Skinny Lister tour stop. Before the musical fun, however, I had to begin my trip in Fargo to acquire a North Dakota tattoo.
As much as Fargo itself has inspired a movie and a television series, I was more inspired by the North in North Dakota for my tattoo choice. Thanks to Frank Turner’s song, “The Road,” which already inspired my England tattoo, I decided on another traveling tattoo. I requested a compass, with the direction pointing North, for one of my favorite lines in the song: “to the north, to the north, never to be caught.” I initially wanted the compass to be on my knee, with a matching South Dakota tattoo on the other, but the artists were unwilling to do such a complicated design on a constantly moving and difficult to tattoo spot. So I agreed to move it to the top of the knee with a thought to do simpler flower designs on my kneecaps later.
I chose 46 and 2 Tattoo for its glowing reviews, its vicinity to the downtown area, and for Libby Tossey, my chosen artist, whose detailed work would be ideal for my chosen piece. I arrived in Fargo and settled into my hotel and then walked over to the shop. On the way there I noticed a Sons of Norway club, which I thought was interesting, especially when learning later that Libby was half Norwegian. Apparently, there is a large population of Norwegians in Fargo. Her other half was Chippewa, I believe, and she hailed from a reservation in Minnesota. I had never met anyone from an Indian reservation other than people selling jewelry in New Mexico, for example, so I was curious about her life there. She told me about her family and how some people have never been outside of the reservation and have no idea of what the outside world is like. She disliked going back there to visit them, but they refused to travel to see her.
When sizing and placing the compass, we thought ahead to my South Dakota tattoo the next day, which was going to be a matching pocket watch. We wanted to size it large enough to make the artist’s job easier in terms of the scale of the numbers around the dial, but not too big that it overwhelmed the area. Libby worked slowly, and carefully, and created a beautiful piece. During the session, we talked tattoos and I showed her my hand-poked pieces. We also talked about our dogs—she has Australian Shepherds—and food. The appointment took longer than anticipated, because she was so meticulous, so I was starving by the time we were finished.
After the appointment, I hurried over to the Toasted Frog in the downtown area, because I had seen an elk burger on their menu. I love bison and ostrich burgers, and am willing to try almost any type of meat when it is ground up and placed between buns, so I was excited to see an animal I had not yet tried. I do prefer bison, but the elk meat was nicely peppered and quite tasty. Libby also recommended the fried cheesy pickles there, which were delicious as well. As full as I was after dinner, I could not resist a stop at the Irish pub across the street. I was so glad that I went because they were having a Bingo night. I happily grabbed a dabber and some Bingo sheets and played along while drinking Guinness.
I did not win anything that night, unfortunately, but I was inspired to host my own Bingo night for my upcoming birthday. I also chatted with my bar stool neighbors and the bartender and even met some Chicagoans who were in town for work. As boring as most would find Fargo, I actually had a lot of fun there. My North Dakota tattoo came out beautifully, and I had a wonderful time getting to know Libby. Plus, I had an excellent meal and was thoroughly entertained during a night out in downtown Fargo. Although I love a good landscape and I did not get to see much of the surrounding area, it is most often the people and the activities that foster the best memories.