So there was that article about tattoos on giz (http://gizmodo.com/22-tantalizing… ) and it got me to wondering what kind of ink everyone out there might have.

I know that for me, tattoos are a very personal thing. All of mine were custom drawn up to my specs, and none of them are generic "pick and stick" off the wall types of ink. Each one of mine has some kind of special meaning, from the trite (yes, I have a grateful dead bear on my arm) to the extremely important (I have a small heart made of stitches on my leg, commemorating open heart surgery my son had when he was 5 - his biggest dislike about it was the scar, so I got something on me permanently as well. Was also my first piece).

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Regrets? Not really. I'm sorry that the grateful dead bear is still sitting all by its lonesome on my left shoulder - it's centered and almost looks like a temporary tattoo (plus a couple spots of color didn't take, and I never got around to having it touched up). At some point I'll fix it, after I finish the other arm which is a work in progress.

The experience of getting a tattoo for me is a very spiritual, almost zen one. If I'm getting ink done, I block off my entire day with nothing else planned. I wake up when I wake up, have a good breakfast and just relax in the morning - take the dog for a nice long walk, and focus on the work I'm going to get done, and its meaning to me - after all, this is the last chance to have "second thoughts". Light but filling lunch - usually something heavy in carbs so I won't get hungry (if the piece in question is going to take a few hours)...and then head into the studio.

Now unlike some, I don't find tattoos to be painful. I generally don't even register discomfort while I'm under the gun. While I've gotten all of mine in fleshy places, I barely even notice the feel of the needle once it gets going. I actually was in such an introspective frame of mind that I slept through the first 45 minutes of one of my pieces. The buzz of the gun, usually some quiet music rolling in the background...it's a great time to just think about the things that have been rattling around in your mind. It's amazing how much life you can sort out when you're going to be stuck in a chair for a few hours with no ability to move around.

So without further rambling, here's what I have - with many more to come.

The Heart

As mentioned above, this was my first tattoo, to commemorate my son's successful open heart surgery. He was born with a very rare condition that we were lucky to have found - most recorded instances of it were only discovered in autopsy. Basically one of his major arteries (the circumflex) was on the wrong side of his heart, which was causing it to enlarge. We caught it when he was an infant, and when he was 5 the doctor said it was time to get it repaired. No symptoms or anything of that kind, but something that would have killed him if left unchecked. We were lucky: Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC has a doctor who specializes in transplantations of this kind (for those who are curious, his name is Dr. Quagabeur - an amazing, if quirky man, who started his career being called a murderer because he ONLY took high risk cases. 6 hours later, the man emerged from surgery, shook my hand (driest hands EVER) and said "he's fine - I found the vessel where it was, and put it where it needed to be" - that was the extent of our time with Dr. Q...but we are obviously forever in his debt (I highly recommend googling him btw, he's kinda crazy). 1 month later, my son was up and about and upset about his scar, so I went and got this small piece done - hopefully you can see it through my fur coat ;)

Me, and the Grateful Dead

Next up was the one that is as close to a mistake as I get. I was a HUGE grateful dead fan back in the day, and even now their music makes up a majority of my collection. Bootlegs galore and all the rest of that. The Dead were, for me, a way to bond with my brother - 15 years my senior - who I never did ANYTHING with because of the age difference. Now as adults we don't really talk a whole lot either, but I remember going to shows with him every summer from the time I was 12 right up until Jerry Garcia passed away. We've gone to a couple of Further shows together as adults, and while we still don't particularly get along, the music itself is something that we can bond over - we share bootlegs and talk about particularly great sets, and both will often recount the story of the dude who wanted to trade me a pot brownie for my tie dye hat (I was 13 at the time). I'm planning on adding some background and eventually an underwater scene underneath so it won't look quite as "fake"...and also getting the spots of purple that faded filled in.

An actor acts!

Next one is one that is really special to me for multiple reasons. I am a theater geek - I was always performing in shows growing up, was a theater major all through college and the like. Never made it beyond off-off broadway, but the theater is still truly a love of mine. There is nothing that will bring together a group of total strangers like working ridiculously long hours to pull a show together. I made friends doing shows like that in high school and they remain to this day some of my closest friends (I won't even mention the fringe benefits of being one of very few "straight" men in a college theater department). I do regret getting it done where I did - on the beach during spring break in Florida. Poor decision that I chalk up to copious amounts of alcohol (which you also shouldn't drink prior to getting ink btw). This one is going to get cleaned up along with my next tattoo (which I'll describe below). It's going to get a once over in black and grey and have some shading and musical notes wrapped around them. I love the piece, I just hate both the colors and execution of it.

In memory of Bill "the Bear"

My first big one - I had an idea to get a tattoo in memory of one of my best friends who passed away when I was in high school. He and I were as close as you get outside of school, and also were on both the wrestling and soccer teams together. Midway through our junior year, he was absent on a snowy day - we hadn't given it much thought since he lived kinda far away, but around noon I got called down to the office to take a phone call - and it turned out that he had shot himself. No note, no explanation - and we'll always wonder if it was intentional or accidental (he came from a family of gun owners, hunting was part of their life etc) - I've never asked his parents for details because, quite frankly, I didn't want to know. Not a day goes by, even now 20 years later, that he doesn't pop into my head: a big, corn fed country type boy, living in jersey. His nickname was "Bear" on the wrestling team, and as such the tattoo kinda designed itself. However, I wanted to do it justice, so in a fit of figuring things out I applied to be on the show NY Ink. Long, drawn out process involving interviews, proposals for ideas (which need to be approved by one of the artists etc) - and don't think for a SECOND that they do those pieces for free. They charge an effing fortune. My tattoo segment was filmed (though never aired), and as a result I got to spend around 8 hours looking at Megan Massacre (worse ways to spend a day for sure).

She did a FANTASTIC job on the piece and it far exceeded my expectation. The price tag was hefty, but I knew that she would do a great job on a complex piece that I NEEDED to get right. This tattoo was 18 years in the making...so the premium was well worth it (its actually black and grey - my arm was swollen after several hours of work being done)

Wanna have some sax?

Finally, my most recent addition. As a kid, in addition to theater, I was a musician, like my father was before me. I played piano, sax, clarinet, a little drums...pretty much any reed instrument. I had an alto, soprano, and tenor sax that were my babies. My father was a trumpet player, along with organ, and was an amazing jazz musician. Music was truly in my blood, and I wanted a way to express that - in addition, I was in SEVERE need of a day of introspection as I was just starting the divorce process, had moved out of my house and into my parents basement (while waiting for my apartment to finish being built)...in short, I needed a good solid couple hours to just sit and BE. As mentioned above, I love the way my mind rolls while I'm in a tattoo chair, so I took an opportunity to go get another tattoo I'd waited to get for several years - until I could actually afford to have it done right. I LOVE the result - the notes pouring out of the bell of the horn in the "musical smoke" - the guy captured exactly what I wanted to do, and I truly LOVE this piece:

So what's next for me? As mentioned above, I'm going to get some touch up done on the bear eventually...but I'd like to finish the arm with the big bear and sax on it - and I have something in mind. I talked about how my father was a musician: in February of this year, after an extended illness, he passed away - suddenly but not unexpectedly. My father was a tremendous influence in my life. He taught me to appreciate music and sports, and always encouraged me to go after my dream - even when my dream turned out to be performing instead of being a doctor. He had a lot of old fashioned views on the world but remarkably, even at 84 years old, his views were changing - my very staunch right wing father was softening and showing some liberal sensitivity. It was amazing to watch...and he was taken from me far too soon. My dad's main instrument, the one that he played for years as a jazz musician, was the trumpet...and I am fortunate enough to be in possession of the horn that he played for years as a musician, and many more as my dad, jamming along with me on my sax, playing old favorites from his collection of fake books (Sentimental Journey was a particular favorite of his).

It'll go, facing sideways, on my forearm above the masks - leaving a big hole on my bicep, but the rest of my arm nearly entirely covered. I'm going to add more of the "music note smoke" from the sax, and then add a grand piano on my bicep to finish off the arm. Then, I can start on arm #2 - still to be designed. Fairly certain there will be some disney references in there (possibly a Nemo character in the underwater scene) - but in essence I'm going to end up with a black and grey arm, and a color arm. Weird, I know - but there it is.

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So how about it y'all...any of you have ink? Any pieces with great stories, or pieces that you regret getting done? How about horror stories about a specific parlor? Bad decisions made under the influence?