That Tat

Shit happens. Sometimes it's good shit. I like to remember it with a tattoo. Now it's time to tat and tell.

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Nobody talks about their tattoos.

When I turned 18 I got a tattoo of a “Jesus fish” (Ichthys) because, well, I was 18 and loved Jesus. Then I spent a summer or two working on the lake teaching old rich dudes how to drive 60 foot houseboats and huge, hairy, German dudes how not to sink their tiny fiberglass dingies. I had my mom help me draw up a giant Hibiscus for my right arm even though they do not grow anywhere near the lake. I felt like my life was “in bloom” so I added a few more tropical flowers later on. Also tropical flowers might have been pretty trendy at the time.

A couple years later, I graduated from Bible-school and took a trip to China, which for some odd reason, I’ve never posted about. So I had a couple of Mandarin characters tatted up. They spell JESUS, or PALM TREE, I’ve been told both, but I was OK with that because, well, Jesus or tropical things, apparently.

Some stupid shit happened and I figured I would become my own personal tattoo artist, but with a twist! I wanted to try a few different methods (I’m seriously not exaggerating about this, I swear). First, I attempted the classic prison tat: a homemade machine, hand-crafted from an old mechanical pencil, a guitar string, and a cassette tape motor. I used an eraser to hold the string onto the motor. This was the real deal. I even used some old India ink I had. The whole thing completely vanished after about a week. Next, I moved on to Tebori, the Japanese style of hand-tattooing, which can take an apprentice years to master. That was a dead swallow that looks pretty much like it sounds. Finally, I went for a cheap tattoo machine. I attempted a cross with clouds and a banner. It mostly worked, but also mostly disappeared. They could be covered up, but I’d rather re-purpose them for something a little less embarrassing.

With that out of the way, I decided to have a burgeoning tattoo-artist friend do my next batch of work. I had her do the kids names beside some Sailor Jerry style roses—there’s definitely a floral theme going on here, I’m aware. Then, randomly and without warning, some pinup version of my ex appeared with hooves for feet (they were supposed to be heels) and giant purple wings and a guitar and—I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea after all.

When the divorce papers came I got LOST LOVE with a dagger through a heart on my left wrist. And then a commemorative skull, complete with cherries, and a bottle of booze, to indicate the total number of fucks I would be giving for the foreseeable future. Also, I always wanted a skull. Just for shits, the Jesus fish got an “X” where its eyes would be when I finally “de-converted” from Christianity. That was definitely a low point in life and tattoos.

Over time, I started to feel a little better about being a human being and thought a Griffin (AKA a Phoenix) was in order. That’s one of my favorites, even if it is a little cliché. Then I added another rose beside the others, and I will add one more, then stop forever with the fucking flowers already.

So what’s next? I have a few ideas. In my mind’s eye there is a set of rings and a motorcycle and maybe a spider web and little stars. I’ve always wanted a chest piece of “Hold on loosely,” like the .38 Special song. I’ve also considered cleaning up expanding the swallow/clouds/cross tattoo into a memorial for those that I have loved but have passed away. If I get the money I guess.

Most of my tattoos in some way represent milestones, good and bad. Some are, honestly, terrible. Others are alright. But they exist, just like those moments in my life. What story do your tattoos tell?