Yesterday, the teen animal and I went down to the tattoo parlor and got inked up. Two bodies. One design. It was a bone cold afternoon and I was on the verge of despondency over the Seahawk’s loss to the Falcons. An outing with Emmett was the perfect thing–perhaps even the only thing–that could pull me out of my downward, post-game spiral.
The idea to get tattoos together was Emmett’s. He threw it at me one night while we were having dinner in Chinatown. It came out of nowhere. I responded with an immediate yes and a high five. Such overtures from my nineteen-year-old son are rare indeed. I wasn’t missing that train for anything. As we discussed design ideas over Bok Choy and bean curd, I wondered if I was possibly floating in some alternate universe.
We decided on a design and an artist. Although we’ve both worked with other tattoo artists in the past, we were game for going with someone new for this particular venture. At the suggestion of a friend, we ended up at Slave to the Needle with an artist named Rok. Rok was as skilled as he was affable. Of course, he was covered in ink himself. One of his more notable tattoos was Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” face from “The Shining.” Rok was so very much our guy. Our design was from a drawing by a New York artist named Ken Brown. Years ago, I used to have a t-shirt with that same image–the guy shoving a fork in a toaster– on it.
I went first, only because Rok had it set up that way. It didn’t hurt. This is my third tattoo and, contrary to conventional assumption, none of them have ever hurt. (I received my first one mere weeks after going through childbirth. Perhaps that put the “pain” of tattoos in a relative perspective that would forever endure in my mind and body.) Each of our tattoos took a little over two hours to complete. Mine is on my right arm. Emmett’s is on his right calf. It was fun hang. The shop was busy. Artists and their clients yakked over the buzz of the tattoo guns. Led Zeppelin and Guns & Roses pounded through the room. There was incredible art hanging everywhere–some of it exotic and beautiful, some of it macabre. There was even a black chandelier sparkling above our heads. I loved all of it, every single second.
I have a tattoo of a Buddha on my left arm. At one point, Emmett asked me if I was concerned about the emotional contrast between that tattoo and the new one I was getting. He suggested that I would have a bit of an angel/devil theme going on with my body art. That doesn’t bother me. In my mind, a tattoo is a bookmark in our personal histories. It reflects who we were at points along the way and/or signifies major events in our life narrative. A guy shoving a fork into a toaster is just as representative of me as the tranquility of the dreamy Buddha. At 50 years old, I’m very clear as to who I am. I do what I want to do and don’t particularly care about impressing anyone. I’m not nihilistic. I’m simply free. Besides, the minute I start taking myself too seriously, the trip gets pretty boring. Emmett has his own reasons for this particular design but they’re not entirely dissimilar from mine. I wish I’d had that sensibility when I was his age. Oh the precious years we burn trying to get other people’s approval.
I am still in a bit of shock that my beautiful teen animal saw fit to get a tattoo with his dear old mom. We’ve had an interesting and, at times, tumultuous ride together these past years. But we seem to be winding around and finding our way back to something. I’m sensing a shift in the force. As for our tattoos, they’re a little gnarly at present–they’re red and inflamed from the trauma of the process. After all, a tattoo is, in the most technical sense, a wound. They will ultimately settle and be just fine. I have no doubt. It seems all wounds heal eventually.
Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s your story? Please tell us in the comments.