So a few of you might know my birthday this year fell on 11-11-11. This is apparently some really auspicious number in numerology or the Mayan calendar or somesuch, and being born on it means I’m like the bastard lovechild of the Kwisatz Haderach and the goddamn Batman (I’m still waiting for my mail-order Fremen army and utility belt to arrive. Stupid UPS).
Anyways, I’d been thinking about getting a tattoo for about 10 years, but aside from my wedding, I’d not really undergone any event dramatic enough to paint my body for life over it. Folks get themselves inked for any number of reasons (‘Because I felt like it.” ‘Because I ❤ butterflies.’ ‘Because I’d smashed so much tequila and mescaline I thought I was jesus.’ ) but this was my first one, and being all virginal and whatnot, I wanted it to be ‘speshul’. So, I figure, I’ve got this Book Thing getting published next year, which will probably be the one of the coolest things I ever do (at least until the Fremen army arrives and I send them forth to commit bloody slaughter in my name) so I figure I’d immortalize The Book on my birthday this year, it being this auspicious date that allows me to look into the place no woman can look. Or something.
My lovely bride told me about an art project where people were supposed to do something creative/awesome/so cool it will make your girlfriend pregnant on 11-11-11 and send it into a Facebook page, but the page was one of those desperately sad ‘Social Media Marketing 101’ type deals that forces you to ‘Like’ the page before they even let you into the clubhouse and fuck that noise.
So, I’ma just post the pics up here, with various captions that will possibly amuse and/or astound.
The scene of the crime. This is Chapel Tattoo. They have gold leaf writing on their windows and very few prostitutes loitering out front, which makes them ten times classier than 90% of tattoo joints in Melbourne. Their ‘after tattoo care’ brochure advises you, amongst other things ‘Do not listen to self-proclaimed tattoo experts in bars or on the street for one month after you get your tattoo.’
I was sold.
This is the Dude Behind the Counter®. He told me his name, but I forgot it. I should let you know that, at this point, I was quite nervous about the whole ‘pain’ aspect of this deal. Having foolishly watched several You Tube videos of people completely losing their minds whilst being tattooed, I was under the impression this operation was going to sit on the Pain Threshold™ somewhere between ‘Squeezing Lemon Juice Into My Eye Whilst Someone Repeatedly Stomps on My Baby-Maker’ and ‘Being Strapped Into a Chair and Forced to Watch Jennifer Anniston RomComs Until My Eyes Flee Screaming From Their Bleeding Sockets’.
I was also plagued by the usual last minute fears. “You’re going to be stuck with this thing for the rest of your life.” “If you get this thing and the publishing industry collapses next year like you KNOW IT’S GOING TO, you’re going to look really silly aren’t you?” “You haven’t cried since you watched ET dying when you were 10, do you really want to risk your streak over something like this?”
You will note the small idols of various in-vogue deities next to the counter. I took their vacuum-molded presence as a bad sign. As if the owners were telling me ‘Dude, this tattoo is going to hurt so badly, you’ll rediscover your catholicism just so you can pray for mercy. And lo, sinner, thou shalt find NONE’.
This is my tattoo design. It was done by an incredibly talented Japanese calligrapher named Araki Miho from Ebisu Design. Yes, she does commissions. Having seen a wall full of her artwork, yes, her stuff is beautiful. Picture Kate Beckinsale and Liv Tyler making out naked in a swimming pool full of pristine First Edition issues of Detective Comics #27 and you’re in the ballpark.
The characters, top to bottom, are ‘Arashi’ (storm) ‘No’ (a pre-posessive) ‘Odori’ and ‘Ko’ (which together, make Dancer). So, Stormdancer. The red seal is for good luck.
For those of you wondering, yes, I made damn sure the tattoo didn’t actually say “I enjoy rough sex with sea-otters” or “Sad white boy who wishes he was Japanese”. Although before I had the tattoo done, my Japanese translator reliably informed me that, because kanji are pictograms and open to subtle interpretation, at a stretch, you could interpret this design as “Little girl who dances up a storm”.
“Hell with it,” I replied. “I’m 6’7. I can totally pull that off.”
This is Shane, my tattoo artist. Shane was a funny fellow. Not like Dylan Moran funny, mind you. More like “I bury the dismembered corpses of streetwalkers under my bungalow” funny.
He approached me in the foyer, looking like he’d just murdered somebody’s kitten. Don’t ask me how, but this dude gave off a vibe like he would just hate the fuck out of anything small and fluffy.
He held up my design and said “Is this yours?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Who put you onto me?” he asked.
I paused for a moment, unsure whether he was asking because he wanted to ruin the dentistry of whoever suggested he work on this ridiculous design. Not wanting to see the friend who recommended old Shane-o drinking liquefied Weet-Bix through a straw, I pointed to the Dude Behind the Counter®. “He said you could do it.”
“Ah, ok,” Shane said. “It’s just I don’t usually do this kind of artwork.”
“….” I replied.
NICE ONE, SHANE-O. WAY TO INSTIL CONFIDENCE, BUDDY.
This is my pasty, cracker whitebread arm, freshly shaved and awaiting the stencil. You will notice the photo is blurred – this is because I was trembling when I took it. Not because of the anticipated pain, mind you, but because the dude about to paint my body for life had just admitted “He doesn’t usually do this kind of artwork.”
This is the stencil on my arm. The tattoo people have this magic stuff they spray on your skin, then lay the stencil over the top, peel it away, and bam, all they have to do is trace the design. I was reminded of the scene in Chasing Amy where Jason Lee flips out when someone calls him a tracer. This made me giggle a bit. At the sound of my giggling, Shane looked up at me like, if it was within his power to do so, he would travel back in time and tear my grandfather’s scrotum from his body, just to stop him siring the man who would sire me.
I shut the hell up.
It begins. Shane lays me down on his operating table, asks “You ready?” and we’re off.
The pain is odd. It’s a combination of pressure and heat, like being burned, but with less edge to it. On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being a Hard Pinch, and ten being Locked in a Tiny Room With Justin Beiber Playing Over The PA Whilst a Large Hairy Man Named ‘T-Bone’ Teaches You The Subtle Art of Prison Love), I would rate it a solid 5.
Outline halfway done. The pain warbles between 5 and 6, somewhere between Having a Tooth Drilled and The Moment You Found Out Firefly Had Been Cancelled. The wrist is the most sensitive part, but it’s really not that bad. I scoff at those YouTube vids and wonder what the fuss is about. I tweet to this effect, and am reliably informed by a friend ‘Just wait. The fill is much worse’.
Outline complete. My dad has a tattoo on his arm. Well, half a tattoo. It’s a heart with an arrow through it. He told me there was supposed to be a scroll around it, but it hurt so bad, he couldn’t finish it. Looking down at my arm, I consider texting him and calling him a stone-cold pussy, but then I remember he got his tatt done with a razor blade and the ink from a broken ball-point pen.
So yeah, I guess my dad is still pretty hard.
The fill. This does kinda hurt. Not as bad as having your ear hacked off with a straight razor while ‘Stuck in the Middle with You” plays in the background, more like an intermittent Chinese burn to the tune of Top 40 radio. But again, it’s not awful. I’m not saying it tickled – at no point during the procedure was I at risk of making happypants. On T-Bone’s Prison Sex scale, it rates a solid 6.5.
Aaaaand done. About an hour after we began, Shane-o pronounces me finished and hustles me out of his studio like he has more kittens to curb-stomp. This is actually a photo taken the following evening – I would’ve taken a photo at the end of the procedure, but my arm was wrapped in Glad Wrap and the Glad Wrap was slowly filling up with blood, which is probably a bit low-rent, even for this blog. In all honesty, the pain after the tatt was finished came close to topping the actual procedure – it felt like that time you went to the beach in your new bikini and got smashed on a 6-pack of alcopops to impress the boys and fell asleep in the sun and woke up to find your skin was the color of fire engines (don’t lie, you know you did it). When the Glad Wrap came off, my bride proclaimed the tattoo ‘sexy’ and I was all like ‘come over here and let me treat u rite, gurl’ and then was all ‘arrrrrg, jesus h christ don’t TOUCH IT’ when she breathed near it.
A couple of weeks later, it’s pretty much healed, and I must confess, for a gent who murders streetwalkers and ‘doesn’t usually do this kind of artwork’, my buddy Shane-o did an awesome job.
To prove it, I traveled back in time and took this photo of me flipping off a T-Rex, which I’m sure you’ll agree flies quite high on the Scale of Awesome.