“Oh my god, why would you do that to yourself?”
A reasonable question that I typically respond to with “All of my tattoos hold meaning, a reminder for strength and wisdom, a tribute to people and places, an acknowledgment that we are not permanent in this world”. Just kidding, I routinely respond with “I like them”. Surprisingly, that response consistently goes unchallenged. However, it does beg the question, which response is true?
Let’s start at the beginning. My interest initially began at 15 after the abrupt passing of my mom succeeding a short battle with pancreatic cancer. At that point I did what any stoic teen would do, I buckled down, worked hard, ended up getting my bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and am now happily reaping the fruits of my labor. That definitely could have happened, but in reality I announced my bid to run for the biggest asshat of all time. I’ll spare the details but rest assured I reigned victorious in that endeavor until my early twenties.
I was busy, between failing all my classes and ensuring I was a dick to everyone, I left myself just enough time to brainstorm ways to memorialize my mom. It came to be a memorial tattoo was the only thing that interested me. Did I want a small piece with a date or “mom” script on my ribs? Nope, I wanted my whole back blasted, black and grey, tombstones, angels, a soul floating into clouds, real vibe killing stuff. Enter Uncle Steve, my ink guru, who quite literally saved my skin. What do you do when your probably depressed teenaged nephew emails you crazy talk about tattooing his whole back some gloomy shit?
If your Uncle Steve, you offer to pay. He indulged me, recommended his shop, different styles, helped my ideas take a more realistic shape and left me with a simple piece of advice. “Make it one year, same idea, same spot, after 12mo if you still want it? Get it.” Writing this I’ve developed a new understanding of the impact those handful of emails had on me. In hindsight it was more than just tattoo advice, it was my uncle enabling the restoration of agency in my life when I felt I had no control of anything. For that kindness, I’m eternally grateful. The advice has since saved me from countless tattoos, most ideas made it weeks, a couple were killed off at 6mo and even 8mo. It ended up taking over 3 years to comply with his advice.
My first tattoo from Fip Buchanan @ Avalon 2 is the only one with any meaning attached to it. Between 12-15 hours until completion.
A purple orchid for my mom and a koi fish for my dad. My uncle ended up being right about one thing further when he cautioned about color, it fades quickly. A little less than 5 years later and I’ve already noticed a dulling of the ink.
The remainder of my ink in the order tatted. All by Bill Canales @ Full Circle Tattoo. Probably anywhere from 85-120 hours of work.
What I’ve Learned.
Tattoos are addicting, at least for me. With the exception of directly after my first one, I never went more than a few months without getting tattooed. Obviously I’m on the aggressive end of that spectrum but if your tolerant of the process this type of body modification I found to be highly addicting. Secondly, they are expensive and they aren’t getting cheaper, don’t expect to find a killer artist for under $200/hr, most are sitting around $300, at least in my neck of the woods. The only way I was able to afford my work was due to the Air Force paying my room and board, thanks Uncle Sam.
I know it’s a cliche, ribs really do hurt the most. I’d rather Bill clone himself and have the squad tattoo my belly button, my shins, my elbows, my nipples and my sternum simultaneously than have him go Vlad the Impaler on my ribs again. The last and most important thing I learned, I learned writing this post. That is, my tattoos mean more to me than I thought, they are the culmination to one of the most trying times in my life, they are the end result of over 100 hours of discomfort, soreness, scabbing and itching. They are indeed an admission of ephemerality. They are uncertainty ignored. They are new friends and countless conversations, and they are now, me.
I appreciate any questions or discussion in the comments.