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Corben's Corner: A Journey In Ink

By Corben Bone, 06/22/17, 10:45AM EDT


Tattoos aren’t for everyone. Just like chocolate, coffee, or cold weather, not everyone is going to understand a personal affinity. The diversity in our inspiration, individuality, and essence of self-expression has the ability to awaken our creativity -- visually, vocally, and even emotionally.  

I love tattoos, and while it took me 23 years to discover how much, it was definitely love at first sight.

I always knew I wanted a tattoo, but was nervous about disappointing my parents (I have a lot of tattoos now, and that feeling still engulfs me before every one.)

I got my first tattoo while playing in Chicago. It says “Can I Live” on my right inner bicep. I loved Jay-Z growing up, and one of my favorite songs at the time was “Can I Live” from the Reasonable Doubt album.

The song is about living life the best way you know how. Not listening to any external negativity and trusting in yourself.

However, when I put “Free of Fear” on my left inner bicep, “Can I Live” became the beginning of a question that spread across my wing span: “Can I Live Free of Fear?”

The joining of these two tattoos became the theme of my bodywork.

Could I live my life fearlessly? Free of concern about my past, and curious about my future?

I traveled around after Chicago and collected tattoos in each new city I lived. What they say is very true - tattoos are addicting. But these tattoos became reminders for me that our time here demands audacious endeavors.

I first met Jeremiah Griswold, co-owner of White Whale Tattoo with his wife Becki Griswold, around the beginning of last year. It had been a while since my last tattoo and I was looking to get back under the needle, as they say. Researching something like this has always been interesting to me. Unless you get a direct recommendation, fate is your guidance.

You read some stuff on the Internet. You look at photos. You read reviews. You make a decision, if it’s the wrong one, you go somewhere else, but not without a permanent reminder.

Anyway, I was determined to make the right decision and without any doubt White Whale Tattoo was just that.  

White Whale has become a place where I find solace in expressing myself creatively. It’s expanded my love for literature, but most importantly it has solidified an open mindedness I’ve been searching for my whole life.

When fate brings good people in your life, the best thing you can do is accept them.

At the time I began searching for tattoo shops around Cincinnati, I was reading Pep Guardiola’s book, Pep Confidential, an in-depth examination of Pep’s life as he was transitioning out of Barcelona and into Bayern Munich. If you read my New Year’s resolution you know this is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it to all soccer fans, even non-soccer fans.

A section in the book remarks a favorite poem of Pep’s entitled Ithaka, which in short is about life’s journey. The saying, “the journey is the destination” comes to mind. One stanza in particular provides the words, “May the journey be long.” Ironically, this phrase would be my first tattoo with Jeremiah.

Our first meeting would be a remarkable beginning in itself.

The unique experience that came with my first meeting with Jeremiah sparked an incredible friendship. Not long after my first tattoo we decided to get together again for some food.

We chatted about our upbringings, past experiences, and the hastening upswing throughout Cincinnati.

As dinner concluded, he suggested we head to Rhinegeist to meet up with some other friends.

After a couple of games of ping pong we headed up the stairs to the roof where I met Annie, my wife, for the first time. She had just started tattooing at White Whale and was beginning to get to know Jeremiah, also.

I don’t think he expected it, but that night he gave me the love of my life.

Annie and I got married about eight months after that first introduction, and we are expecting our first child in September.

Those particular moments changed my life, and it’s crazy when I think back to my initial search for a tattoo shop. If I didn’t land on White Whale would my life be different? Would I have found Annie? Or discovered a new friend and mentor in Jeremiah?

I am sure there are plenty of creeds regarding fate and destiny and I won’t give you mine, but I am genuinely grateful for the path I’ve found.

Jeremiah and Becki at White Whale are a big part of my family and have become special supporters of FCC. I think I can count the number of games they have missed in two seasons on one hand.

A signed FCC jersey hangs in their shop.

They have tattooed almost eight guys on the team now; Harrison, Aodhan, and Mitch to name a few. Here is some insight into a few pieces.

Aodhan recently got a king chess piece on his forearm by Annie. Growing up he played chess with his dad, and really enjoys the thought process behind the game. Moreover, he finds symbolism in the piece. The king might be the most important piece on the board, but still needs the others to succeed. He finds this comparison in his own life, trusting that with the help of his friends and family he can accomplish much more than a he could as a solitary figure.

If you look at Harrison Delbridge’s right arm you’ll find a couple of tattoos by Jeremiah. The first is a short phrase across his upper forearm. “Faber est suae quisque fortunae,” meaning each man is the maker of his own fortune. Harrison finds significance in this phrase, reminding him that nothing in this life is given to you and that your actions dictate your destination.


He also has the Roman numeral “IV” above the first initials of his family members on his right wrist. If you paid any attention to my last article you’ll know that four is Harrison’s positional number as a center back. The initials of his family members give him motivational reminders, and finally, he is the fourth in his family. The number four is obviously an integral part of his life.

Tattoos have become a major part of my existence. My love for their beauty and meaning has helped me consistently live by principles I am proud of while also allowing me to express myself creatively.

There may be other ways to achieve that direction. As I mentioned before, while humans are inherently self-expressive and creative, not everyone will choose tattoos. But I’ll continue to add ink to my body.

I might be covered with no unmarked skin at the end of my days, but I’ll know my journey was long, and it was whole-heartedly mine.

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