Close to Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach, check out Boca Raton. Not for its quaint consignment shops or its hipster bars, but for something a bit more expressive.
It's a good place to go if you want to get "inked."
Recently I found a diamond in the rough: A Stroke of Genius Tattoo Shop that brings the word bohemian bourgeois to life.
Jason Ackerman, the shop's owner, is a blue-eyed, bearded, tattooed man, who reminds me of a surfer fused with a young motorcycle gang member. He is not only a renowned artist with a good reputation; he's a nice guy.
Ackerman seems intimidating until he speaks. When he does his blue eyes transform from piercing to warm and understanding. I instantly know that I trust this person to work on my body.
"I was a piercer for a relatively successful tattoo shop and realized as I got older that those positions have a shelf life," Ackerman said as his tattoo machine grazed over my right shoulder and the hipster wall paintings filled my view.
Ackerman knew being a piercer wouldn't last. "Clients are looking for younger attractive people to do their piercings," he said.
The woman Ackerman once worked under as an apprentice inadvertently pushed him to excel. "She told me that I would never be any better than a graphic artist," said Ackerman. "I decided then that I would dwarf her career. And I did."
While there are tattoo shops across the country, not all are created equal. Nor are all artists born with identical talents.
Besides being a clean, sterile and upscale environment, the artists at A Stroke of Genius are award-winning mavericks that take pride in and guarantee their work. Ackerman recently won an award at what is the equivalent of the Grammy Awards for tattoo artists.
Ackerman came to Boca over 14 years ago on what is known as the rehab scene. He was kicking drugs, leaving his native New Jersey for a rehab facility.
"I thought I'd come down and just go through the four months of treatment like a jail sentence," said Ackerman. Fourteen years later he is still in Boca Raton, his only vices are coffee and cigarettes. Oh and being a workaholic.
I happened to come across a quote from Pamela Anderson the other day, "Tattoos are like stories - they're symbolic of the important moments in your life. Sitting down, talking about where you got each tattoo and what it symbolizes is really beautiful." It was the first time I ever felt richer for reading anything she had to say.
I agree with Pamela, which explains why I only have four pieces total. Nothing starts perfectly; so neither did my first experience with tattoos.
An artist in Fort Lauderdale who was just getting his starts used my upper right shoulder as a testing ground. A simple flame resided there for years. It was trendy when I was 17 years old but a sign of a bad artist for the years it remained there.
Nine years passed before I had another tattoo that reads in Chinese: To Love, To Lose, and a Lesson Learned. The words represent a small lifetime of hoping for love, losing that love once I had it and learning from the whole process. I literally wear my heart on my sleeve.
Five years later, my boyfriend told me about A Stroke of Genius Tattoo parlor and after talking to the artists there I thought to myself: It was time that I cover up my old tattoo.
Whether you are experienced at being inked or coming for your first time, you'll thank me for directing you to Jason and his team. Remember what happens in South Florida stays in South Florida... Unless it's gets printed on you.
Follow Victor M. Feraru on Twitter: www.twitter.com/victorhuffpost