The Things I Came Here With: A Memoir

MacDonald, Chris

  • “Does it hurt?” When you’re a tattoo artist, that’s the most universal question. For Chris MacDonald, the answer is simple: hurts less than a broken heart. Those words are painted above the entrance to his shop, Under My Thumb Tattoos, as a reminder.

    Chris and his brothers were as wild as the wind, in their house among the fields of Alliston, Ontario, when their parents divorced. Shell-shocked, they were uprooted and brought to Toronto by their dad. Their mother’s mental illness worsened in the aftermath, and she disappeared. As a teenager, Chris left home and found himself immersed in the city’s underbelly, a world where drugs, skateboarding, and punk rock reigned. Between the youth shelters, suicidal thoughts, and haunted apartments, a light shined: and it was art.

    He eventually found himself following the path of his brother, Rob, and pursuing life as a tattooist. Then, at the height of a destructive summer, everything changed: he met Megan, the girl who would become his rock of ages.

    This remarkable memoir examines what tattooing means to MacDonald and traces the connection his artistic motives have to both his family and childhood. The Things I Came Here With is about how crucial our past is to understanding our future, but it’s also a love letter to his daughter about the importance of expression, life’s uncertainty, and beauty.


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  • Chris MacDonald is a tattoo artist and the owner of Under My Thumb Tattoos, a respected tattoo studio in Toronto, Ontario. He is a songwriter and a guitarist with LeBarons. Chris lives with his wife and daughter by the lake. The Things I Came Here With is his first book.

  • Published: October 2022

    ISBN: 9781770416413

    Dimensions: 5.75 x 8.75 in.

    Pages: 264


“A heartfelt memoir that addresses the importance of artistic expression and never taking life for granted. This work will have wide appeal, not just for those who love tattooing and the arts.” — Library Journal

“The way Chris tattoos is awe-inspiring — a truly beautiful expression of the craft. The work he does elegantly dances the line of art and technique, gentle and strong, just like him.” — India Amara,

“This gorgeous picaresque story of home, loss, art, love, city, music, skateboards, and ink came to me via a friend’s goodwill PDF — ‘Do you think you can check this out? Tell me what you think of my buddy’s writing?’ — and, from the first few pages, I could sense the gift of Chris MacDonald’s voice, vision, and poetry. A beautiful debut.” — Dave Bidini

“The book provides one beautifully crafted story after another … MacDonald has enough talent — both with skin and with words — that you don’t much care if there’s a cohesive thread between stories. You’re just interested in the next metaphor. The next simile.” — The Half-Assed Housewife blog

“At its core, The Things I Came Here With is a story about family; it’s a story of art, of loss, of grief, and of passion. It is raw and heartbreaking and funny at times—often within the same paragraph. And it is especially a story about love and finding your way home.” — Urban Info Girl blog

“I look at Chris as a real deal songwriter and lyricist. Am I surprised he’s now an author? Hell no, a talent like his would never go unnoticed. I’m proud to call Chris a friend, and I’m sure you’ll be as amazed by his writing as I’ve been over the years.” — Cone McCaslin, Sum 41

“It might seem unusual to be publishing a memoir in your mid-forties but when you’re an old soul with miles of experiential wisdom to impart, it works beautifully. This is a genuinely inspirational story of perseverance and resilience … I can only applaud Chris for his perseverance, and for using the talents he came here with.” — Ottawa Review of Books