Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Travelling Ink

“There's something really the matter with most people who wear tattoos. There's at least some terrible story. I know from experience that there's always something terribly flawed about people who are tattooed, above some little something that Johnny had done in the Navy, even though that's a bad sign...It's terrible. Psychologically it's crazy. Most people who are tattooed, it's the sign of some feeling of inferiority, they're trying to establish some macho identification for themselves.” 
― Truman CapoteConversations with Capote

The young woman serving my friend his beer mispronounced "Greeley." Perhaps it was a matter of not really reading the tiny print on the label, or the common trait to juxtapose letters to create a familiar word. Whatever, it is in the manner of the beer hall to engage in a bit of playful banter. "Where are you from?" I ask.

"Ft. Myers, Florida."

She was petite and cheerful, with engaging eyes and flawless twenty-something skin. She has adorned one shoulder with an elaborate, colorful flower tattoo. I inquire if she got her ink in Ft. Myers. Of course she did.

So did I.

The tattoos were an accident. Some years ago, my wife encouraged me to have my ear pierced. She claims it was an expression of what I secretly wanted, giving me it were. In fact, the conversation began with her saying "Do you know what would look sexy on you?" At my age, that kind of discussion opener gained my fullest attention. Nevertheless, I thought the idea outside of my comfort zone. When she bribed me with a diamond, I relented. The story of the trip to the piercing pagoda during a vacation is for another day.

My employer does not allow men to sport studs.... Wait, before this gets totally out of hand (and too far from the subject of tattoos) allow me to rephrase. Men cannot wear earrings while on duty. I find this an unconstitutional restriction on both free speech and equal protection. However, since no one asked my opinion and I love my job (really) this is not a ditch I wish to die in. So when it came time to return to work with a partially-healed hole in my earlobe I needed something to insert that was clear and unobtrusive. We entered a tattoo and piercing shop for guidance.

"Have you ever thought of getting a tattoo?" my ever helpful spouse asked. Here we go again.

We went to True Blue Tattoo in Lakewood. I got a rendering of an anthropomorph, a re-creation of thousand year old rock art in Utah. She got flowers - one for each child in our family. We waited until we got outside, and then agreed.... "OOOOUUUUCCCCHHHH!!!!"

That was it for her. Me?

Daughter Beth moved to Ft. Myers in the summer of 2005. I visited as often as I could and, on one occasion, we decided to get tattoos. We went to Needful Things and met Chris, a hyper-kinetic fireplug whose freehand palm was as unique as his endearing cackle. He spoke exclusively in the third person when affording himself effusive praise at his creations. The several hours we spent in the shop, and the hamburgers and beer at the Smokin Oyster Brewery that followed, were memorable Father/Daughter moments that lend depth to the souvenir subcutaneous ink. I've returned two times since, for enhancements. No, not that kind.

So I asked the young woman pouring the beer if she knew of Needful Things. Her fresh face brightened, a huge grin blossoming. She did not know Chris, but was familiar with one of the other artists and had gotten several piercings in that shop. Small world.

Maybe we are all terribly flawed, those who wear their art. Several generations removed from one another, this young beer jockey and I, both are blessed to have Ft. Myers ink. Such are the strange, wonderful moments the tattooed share.

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