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Friday, October 24, 2008

Tattoo You


The thought of placing an indelible mark on my body has, in years past, scared the crap out of me. Tattoos have always had a sexy, weirdly freeing appeal to me and I've toyed with the idea many times before but it was always just too can't-take-it-back. Too no-do-overs.

So, I don't know if it's the California left wing art vibe within which I'm (blissfully) ensconced or if that last quake caused a crack in the foundation of my commitment phobia but... i did it. I got inked.

The decision to finally do it came to me relatively easily as I responsibly reviewed the pros and cons...over beers at a sports bar with my friend Ashley from Georgia. Ashley has "been there, done that"...thrice...so she seemed like the perfect person to talk it over with. "I think I wanna do it...I should just do it, right?" I half ask. "If you been wantin' one for a long time," she says in her contagious southern drawl that always makes me start talking with a twang too, "you should just go for it, girl. I'll even go with ya...'cuz it's gonna hurrrrrt."

Come again? hurt? Hold on one Georgia Bulldoggone second. If there is one thing I'm more committed to than my commitment phobia, it's my avoidance of pain. Not to mention, I feel completely mislead. I have seen several episodes of Miami ink and not one customer has ever indicated there might be pain involved. No one says "ouch" or "hey, that hurts" or looks anything but completely zen. hurt? no fair.

"Really?" I say. "Ummm, they do use a needle," Ashley quips, "and if you're gonna go gettin' it on the back of your neck...on those bones in your spine...it's gonna hurt like hell! But, you'll be fine," she assures. "I just wouldn't advise drinking before-hand though, because it thins your blood." blood???

Three Amstel Lights later, I decided to move forward with the inking. The pro prevailed in a valiant battle against the cons. The pro...is the same thing that caused me to try alligator bites at the DC waterfront, snails at a French Bistro in NYC, and sky diving in New Jersey. It's exactly why I got my belly button pierced in the 90's. It's the reason I got Scuba Certified in a frigid, murky quarry in Virginia, went repelling in the rain in Great Falls Park, tried White Water Rafting on class 4 rapids in West Virginia, and let myself be coaxed into eating raw fish wrapped in rice for the first time. More than having a tattoo, I wanted the experience of getting one...pain, blood and all.

In preparation, Ash and I spent an exhausting day combing LA for the perfect tattoo parlor. Okay, we drove to 3 places...but they were at least a mile apart each and we were starving so it SEEMED like a long day (here, I could insert the story about how we finally stopped at Wendie's in West Hollywood for burgers and ended up parked in front of a large woman's gnarly, hairy, naked backside...but I prefer never to speak of it again).

First stop...Velvet Grip. We're greeted by a tat-laden artist named Dave who gives us his undivided attention and doesn't wince when I tell him I just want 3 simple, five-point, one-color stars symbolizing my brother and 2 sisters (akin to asking Chagall to paint-by-number). We instantly like Dave and the price is right.

Predictably, we also check out Kat VonD's infamous High Voltage Tattoo (home of the reality show LA Ink) where we push our way past droves of picture-snapping tourists and no sooner get in the door when a lovely and not at all pretentious (yes, that was sarcasm) woman states with all the warmth of an eskimo, "$250 minimum ladies." k. bye now.

Shamrock Club on Sunset, our third and final stop, could easily have been mistaken for a Hell's Angels hideout. Our skinny jeans weren't welcome there and besides, the place seemed...icky, so we made our exodus faster than we could say Hep C.

Two weeks later, I was back at Velvet Grip...in Dave's chair... awaiting my self-imposed torture with only Ashley's upbeat personality and the hope that the 1/2 a beer I had just drunk at the pub next door would act as a numbing agent, to keep me from running. To my surprise, needle hit skin and it really wasn't that bad. In fact...I kinda liked it.

I adore my tattoo and I'm so glad I got it. It is meaningful to me in so many ways, not the least of which is the outward expression of my rebellious side. But, more importantly, I have the memory of the experience. Now, for my next adventure. Tomato Fights in Spain anyone??