Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jeff's Tattoo Rules: #6-#10

Returning to the topics of pain, and learning from my errors:

I thought it would be “cute” to wait a week after the tiger until Thanksgiving for the big reveal and show everyone at once.  I kept my shirt sleeves rolled down whenever people were around. (This, in all honestly should have tipped off anyone who knows me that something was going on.)

I made the mistake of plopping down next to my Mother during a Duke Basketball game the night the secret art was applied. Sitting in this location is a mistake in general, remembering that she carries those “tough old broad from the Bronx” genes.  However, for me, it was excruciating.

Any time anyone scored, didn’t score, almost scored, was stopped from scoring…or some other score related thing happened, which for basketball is about once every three nanoseconds, she’d jump up and down on the couch and slap my newly, but clandestinely, tigered shoulder.

I’m still not sure how I survived the night, and don’t remember anything past halftime.  This leads to…

Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #6:
Don’t keep new ink a secret!

I did manage to keep it hidden, all the way to Thanksgiving dinner.  My Mom told me to show her Aunt the "Crimson Thunder" tattoo, and she asked the obvious question.  "Did it hurt?"  I answered, "Not much, and quickly rolled up the other sleeve while proclaiming with total basketball game induced truth  "This one hurt a lot!"  stunning both her, and my parents quite nicely.

Now I had a forever picture on each shoulder.  A bright, beautiful, intricately detailed, fully rendered jungle cat…

And a strawberry.

Luckily, (if that is the proper word) as previously mentioned, I was a Eighties metal head.  Of particular note, I was a fan of the undisputed Queen of that genre,  Lita Ford.

And still am to a fairly large degree, her new album ROCKED! (Both musically and metaphorically...some emotionally charged stuff in there.)
Nice comeback!

And Happy Birthday, Lita! Um, two weeks from today.  Guess I should have posted these a little earlier to hit my tattoo's birthday or a little later to hit hers.  
Oh well, yet another not quite correctly timed post in my quiver.

I took inspiration from her tattoo, back when she only had one publicly visible tattoo.

Although which parts of Ms. Ford’s anatomy should be counted in “publicly visible” territory is up for debate, which is one reason why we love her.

Anywho, I decided I wanted an Asian dragon coiled around the heart, in the same way that Lita had one coiling around a guitar.

Back to Tattoo 46 I went, where the owner pulled out an entire binder dedicated to “tattoos used to cover up other tattoos.”  Many people clearly are not following Rules #1, #2, #3 and #8.

Normally, the storm cloud my dragon is in (complete with thematically accurate lightning bolts) would be filled in and covering the name of someone I apparently was not going to love forever after all. Instead, the unfilled cloud serves as a frame for the symbol of the hero I shall become when this appropriately colored dragon grants me super powers.

Do NOT step on my dreams, people.

My shoulders were balanced, I didn’t have any other ideas, and I kinda figured I was finished with the ink scene.  Then, a year and a half after my third visit, I made a fourth trip to Tattoo 46. 

The reason basically came down to…I was having a boring spring. 

Sadly, that’s pretty close to the truth. I had noticed that in my pre-tattooed terror that the business world would shun me once inked, I had gotten the tiger very high on my shoulder.  This led me to think about some kind of band underneath it, kind of as a highlight and to even it out a little more with the now larger dragon. (I believe this is how fully sleeved people start out.)

The band ended up getting a woman at work to notice me, because when I said, “I got another tattoo,” she was unaware I had previous ones that made this one “another.”  We dated a bit, and of course in my complete geekyness and lack of experience I had no troubles keeping up with a woman who was impressed by self-mutilation. (That was EXTREME sarcasm, for those of you not clicking the link.)

Back to pre-tattoo number four:  I may have accidentally offended the owner stating that he put the tiger too high. I was pointing out that it was completely my fault and decision, but he had already handed me off to a (fortunately also excellent) other artist.

I went looking for a band made of hieroglyphics or some other Egyptian symbology, based on another lifelong interest that I felt was in no danger of fading.  There was nothing even close to that on any of the reams and reams of flash art available.  I thought I was close to going with an eagle under the tiger, but was probably much closer to going home.

I didn’t want to go home because, “Hey, I’m here!”  That’s not as impulsive as it sounds…it’s more like, “Hey, it takes me a hell of a lot more concentration and focus to work up the nerve to come in here than it does to pick something out to be on my skin forever once I make it in the door.”

Fortunately, I turned the page and saw it…a band of fire.  I’ve always liked fire, more than tigers, more than Egypt. Heck, I’ve got Up the Lake pyromaniac genes from both sides of my family and from environmental influences as well. Plus fire colors were perfectly compatible with tiger colors!

The fire was designed to go all the way around the arm.  The artist took me aside before starting and said, “You know, no one ever sees the back, and it hurts like hell.  We could go three quarters and no one would know the difference.”

That sounded like a splendidly logical decision to me.  Meanwhile, in the opposing viewpoint corner, a big jock-y looking guy came in with a teeny bopper on each arm, pointed to one of them (the arms, not the teeny boppers) and stated deeply and gruffly:
“I want barbed wire!  All the way around!”

I went into my room with my artist, and Mr. Tough Guy “All the Way Around” went with his and his spectators. Needles began to hum.

As my artist was working on the bits of my fire that extended to the fleshy underside of my arm, I found myself happy that he presented his splendidly logical decision while I calmly grasped and bent the support strut on the bottom of the bridge chair I was sitting on.

I found myself far happier when, amidst a large amount of teeny bopper generated derisive giggles, a voice sounding very much like a terrified little girl screamed in from the next room:

Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #7:
Ink is forever, pain is temporary…but it’s still pain, bucko.

I REALLY thought I was done at that point. 

The return to Tattoo 46 three years later was all my sister’s fault.

She had been talking about getting a Batman tattoo of some kind on her shoulder blade for a while.  “Batman” was her sports nickname all through high school and college, due to showing up for various practices and try outs in shirts, shorts and sneakers with his image on it, since she’s related to me.

(OK, technically I guess that means the starting point for this was really my fault after all.)

However, based on the “well, I’m here” attitude that led to the fire band, I adopted:

Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #8:
If you’re going to a tattoo place for any reason, have some idea of what you would get.

The world has enough images of beloved cartoon characters taking a whiz.  It doesn’t need any more permanent scarification versions due to someone making an impulse purchase based on spur of the moment laughter.

With Rule #8 in mind, I worked on my idea.  From my first tattoo (honestly, more like from my first moments of consciousness) I was thinking about superheroes.  My mantra upon getting a tattoo at twenty-five was, “You can’t be a geek forever.”  Now that I was staring at thirty and was still a regular reader of comic books, it changed to, “You can be a geek forever!”

I started thinking about a band for the right arm, made up of the symbols of the Big Seven members of the Justice League. I even went in to price it out, and I think the owner could sense I thought it was a bad idea, and was pushing me away from it.

Reasons against it were pretty obvious:
A) It was bigger and busier than I wanted.
B) The Crimson Thundercloud had sufficient lightning to make the Flash symbol redundant.
C) Wonder Woman is for girls. (Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww)
D) Martian Manhunter’s logo isn’t defined by his costume and changes every week and a half.
E) I’m a big enough fan of Aquaman to have him on my sneakers, but not etched on my person forever.

I massaged the idea a little more, and came up with larger, more bicepturally located icons of three heroes I did then, had before, and still am the biggest fan of.  I knew, despite either comic books, or movies jacking stupidly around with them, my feelings about their core concepts wouldn’t change.  

By this point, my sister had her own nervous pricing meeting with the tattoo shop owner, and got cold feet. This was partially due to him sensing her fear, I believe, and telling her the Batman image she selected would have to be the size of a throw rug to properly capture the detail.

I had gone too far down the design process to quit by that time, and went back solo after spending about an hour and a half with a caliper and a copy machine to get the Batman, Superman and Green Lantern logos in correct alignment and proportion to each other.  The breakthrough design moment had come one morning reading a comic book (duh!) while exercising.  I realized no matter what my personal preferences were; in any superhero grouping Superman must be centered and largest.  

My later cardiac surprise confirmed picking icons of hope, willpower and perseverance was completely correct.

I met yet another artist, one who was also a comic fan, making him the right man for the job.  This was especially true after hearing the owner admit to reversing the colors on a Superman symbol once and the guy who did my fire confuse Green Lantern with Green Goblin.

A while later my sister finally did work up the nerve to want to get the Batman symbol on her shoulder blade.  She ended up following Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #3, wait until you’re twenty-five before getting a tattoo.  This was great because now, where our kids are concerned, Rule #3 isn’t just good advice, it’s a long standing family tradition.

As promised, I met her at Tattoo 46.  However, I made sure I was late and the same guy who did my superhero work had started inking her by the time I showed up.  The reason for this is very simple: based on her previous nervousness and my own experiences with confidence, I knew if she’d go in without me, she really wanted it.

Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #9:
Face it alone.

If you need someone else’s support to be brave enough, you aren’t ready to co-exist with that image for the rest of your life.

I’m done now. I usually use the excuse that my shoulders are full, and everywhere else is furry, leaving me stuck with getting a puppy or something if I wanted additional ones.  Really though, it comes down to not being able to visualize any other ink.  I’ve had the occasional idea that my brain toyed around with for a while, but nothing permanent, which is the key. 

Some people have suggestions for new art, and other people have reasons why I shouldn’t have gotten the ones I have now.  Therefore, let me leave you with the most important rule, even if the other nine are ignored.

Jeff’s Tattoo Rule #10:
The absolute worst reason to get a tattoo and the absolute worst reason not to get a tattoo are exactly the same –

Because of somebody else’s opinion.

Next post, a Dog Food For Chairs first!

I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Instead of controlled, carefully edited trip reports I will be posting spur of the moment, live travelogue blogging.

Feel the internet crackle with anticipation.

Click here to experience if yourself.

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