Archive for March 10th, 2008

What I know about tattoos I learned from D___. His entire right leg was tattooed, and most of his left leg. Both shoulders, all around his neck, most of both arms. His tattoos were serpents and Japanese letters and blues and purples, some red, beautiful tattoos, and I would examine them, lifting his leg while he lay on his back.

I wanted to get tattoos, but the desire hit me late, after I knew my body was mine to adorn for my pleasure. I wanted Our Lady of Guadalupe on my bicep, like Catholic sailors, except my bicep wasn’t big enough to hold her holy glory, plus I worried that her golden rays would droop as I got old.

But when I wanted tattoos I was firm, late 30s, after I’d had Dee and Em and knew that I could do things like birth babies on the bathroom floor or crouching like a tiger in my bedroom.

Why then, no tattoos? Mid-life crisis-y, that’s what I told myself. How desperate, how too-little-too-late. If I got tattoos, I’d want to be like D___, 1/3 of my body covered (by now probably the images creep up around his ears and chin like ivy crawling up a tree).

I’d want to paint myself in excess, or like piercings, be one of those people who start with a second hole in each ear, then add a small gauge. Then my lip and the spot above my eyebrow. My nose, and believe me, I considered my nose but later worried that I might get ancient and be dotted with holes that would affect my breathing, or worse, sag like big drops.

I remember Carmen Chavez’s cat pulled her earring straight through her ear and her lobe hung like a cloven hoof, all floppy like fringe, and that image stayed with me forever so that the piercings went the way of the tattoos. Out of mind.

I did get one second piercing on my right ear, although the last time I wore a stud in it was when I was 19, I think, and had teeny-tiny diamonds that Corky gave me and that I almost immediately lost, or one anyway.

I wish I had been the kind of young adult that thought nothing of changing my body, nothing of the risks of dirty needles — Cousin R___ got Hepatitis for life on account of his tattoos. I wish I could have colored away, I wish I’d even gone for the parts of my body where the skin sits on bone, showed my tolerance for pain and gotten Saint Lucy’s eyeballs, one on the top of each hand.

Someone once told me my art would make good tattoos, but I might have gone for more traditional images, a skull and bones on my other bicep, no dainty stuff, just the fare of soldiers and men my father’s age, a ribbon floating across my back shoulder, I Love You Jim!, except it might have had some other man’s name on it, an earlier love, for I would have been younger and bolder when I got it.

I’ve always been most in awe of the teardrops falling from the outside corner of a person’s eye, one drop for each year in prison, or is it for every five years, I wonder.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – TATTOOS

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I thought about getting a tattoo. In my 40’s. I changed my mind at the last minute. It was going to be a lynx. Yeah, the puffy jowls that look like Kiev’s. When you brush her hair back, her face is thin and pointy like Chaco’s. But naturally, it’s wider at the edges than it is at the top. All fur. The girl is all ebony fur and bushy tail.

The tattoos, I don’t remember why I changed my mind. Pain. Or the idea that I might have to live with something just a little bit too long. An image, any image, I might get sick of it over time. I could not find inspiration for this practice. I think it’s because I am tired. I went to the History of Tattoos link, the Tattoo You link, too. The most surprising was the one from The Shining, a tattoo of Jack Nicholson peeking through the door he has just chopped to shreds with an ax, spouting, “Here-rr-ee—rrr—ee’ssss, Johnny!”

Then there was the tattoo of the Holy Mother, all across the broad of a woman’s back. That was impressive. No, I didn’t get the lynx. But I still feel close to her mysteries. The full body tattoo is a signature of classic Japanese tattooing. I didn’t know that before. Women as well as men go under the needle. I’ve always thought that women were able to bear more pain. There is childbirth. I’ve never gone through it. And I never will. But the stories I have heard. Big babies, 13 pounds pushing torque through a small contorted opening.

I’m lost in words. In thoughts. I’m tired. The day was full. But not of tattoos. I can’t land on a pinprick to the skin. My mind wanders out to the crow on the branch of an oak. The pre-spring sunset from a lonely distance. The Fed Ex man stepping up to the door at 3pm. The way my back aches at a certain time of the day, way down in the lower back. Hormones. Maybe the position of the Blue Moon.

Pants crawls into a box tattooed with black ink. A Sony Vaio, a turquoise green screen, a game of Mahjong. I was never good at games. I bought a box of tattoo Band-Aids once. I think I still have a couple of them tucked away in a plastic cylinder I carry in my sling pack, along with a short tube of Neosporin. The black panther swirled in curves across the porous plastic – Band-Aid, yeah, I’d stick her on my paper cuts to ease the drone of a corporate day. I tried those little tricks of the trade, to lighten it up for a serious team of data entry processors.

For some, laughter works. Others, well, they don’t want to buy all the guff. Serious is the way they prefer their jobs, their relationships. I got to the part in Main Street where Carol finds out what the townspeople from Gopher Prairie really think about her. They are serious people who would rather talk about milking the cows or the sloshy mud on Main Street, rather than the last time they laughed or had fun. Midwestern blood.

I remember the Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers, the Tattoo You cover. I wasn’t a big Stones fan. The Beatles were more my style. Keith Richards was in a Saturday Night Live sketch last weekend. He was advertising leather bags, was it Louis Vuitton? But the news anchor could not figure out which was the bag. Poor joke, I know. That’s what I’ve stooped to on a late Monday evening, tired, with an aching back. This is what comes out of a tired mind.

I don’t have a tattoo. And I probably never will. I think it takes a certain kind of “guts” that I probably don’t have. I do appreciate a good sketch. What I noticed when I checked out the Tattoo You site, is that some tattoo artists are better than others. More detail and color. Just like real life.

I colored another mandala last weekend, the second in the March series. It relaxed me. Liz has taken to drawing her own, surprising me with the accuracy, proportion, and line detail she is able to draw freeform. I could not draw a straight line if my life depended on it. Thank goodness it never has. Even with a ruler, I am straight-line challenged. I’m more of a curve person.

The last mandala was an early labyrinth. The one before that, a Celtic knot. Even the Celts were big fans of the tattoo. All those strings tied up in dyed knots. The journey is like that. A craftless series of heartfelt decisions. I like to think I have choices. That life is a series of daily decisions: what to say, what not to say, how much to reveal, what to cut, how honest should I be. I have not revealed much in this Writing Practice. Some days that’s what happens. The bear eats you.

Too many words floating serifs to the wind. I like to think of sheets to the wind as my grandmother’s laundry, cool blue summer on a sweaty aqua breeze. But truthfully, I don’t remember my grandmother ever hanging out the laundry. It was Mom, rows and rows in the backyard in Pennsylvania, strung line to line through humid afternoons. The damp end of the day. When fireflies lit up the hill at Hershey. And I in my Mod Squad straight hair, faded bib overalls, sans tattoo, rolled one more time down the lawn with the capital H.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, March 10th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – TATTOOS

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