Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ink High

Every time I get tattoo work done, I come home feeling jazzed! Giddy-like! I don't know what it is, but I feel elated and talkative. Maybe it's having been through a battle of sorts; a mind-over-pain battle though many people with a lot of tattoos say that they enjoy that feeling, the carving and the scraping. I'm one of those people. There are parts of the body that are definitely more sensitive and painful and when those areas are being worked on it's a white-knuckle moment, but usually when I get into a zone, my skin numbs itself and I can withstand hours under the needle. When I hear the buzz of the gun, I soak it in. The high-pitched rattle gets my motor going, and I enjoy the entire process. By the time the session is done, I'm ecstatic; I can hardly contain myself.

I just came home from the Pomona Tattoo Expo, the show I've been going to for years. I got the last of my back done by my man Tim McEvoy and I'm high as a natural kite right now. It's finished! My back is finished. Here's the main thing I had done today, the apple. I can't take how much I love it. The artists complain that this expo has gone down hill in terms of the overall quality of artists and the crowd, but I still love it. Here's the thing, you can saunter up and down the many aisles and see the most intimidating characters from every culture, but when you smile at them or talk to them they soften and smile back. They gladly engage in conversation. They are always nice to the kids, with mine or anyone's. And it's the only time you can stare unabashedly at a guy with a full-face tattoo.

Here's my girl Jinxi. She gets all of her work done at the same shop I do, but with a different artist. I met her about five years ago. And I'm not lying when I say she's the nicest person I've ever met in my entire life. She exudes generosity and warmth. She's a mother of three, volunteers, is obsessed with cupcakes and dotes on anyone who will come within touching distance. Oh and she also has an octopus tattooed on her throat, various things tatt'ed on her head and full arm and leg sleeves. I think she's really beautiful and mainly because she glows from the inside. I love Jinxi!Jinxi got a cupcake tattooed on her hand today. It may be her fourth. This one's the best though.I had to add this goofy picture of us too only because it caught the guy in the back who has almost his entire body done by Jinxi's artist. They are portraits of his family, many of his wife, many of his kids, that guy Jesus in the middle there and he just had his own hands tattooed on his belly as a symbol that he gladly holds his family up when he needs to. It also looks to me like a pose of sheer devotion and surrender. He's another one as nice as can be and he practically chokes up when talking about his wife and kids.You know what I've learned after so many hours of being at tattoo shows and at the shop, is that these artists gossip and complain and share and shoot the shit like any other person at a job. I mean, obviously, but it's pretty funny to witness a bunch of big tough-guy tattoo artists sitting together philosophizing about relationships. Some are just looking for a good girl, a nice healthy relationship. One bitter guy who's been hurt advises them to sleep around. They'll then talk about what works with women and what doesn't. The gentlest advice came from a guy with some sort of scribble-scrabble tat on his head and a small diamond under his right eye. He whipped out his phone to share pictures of his newborn son, his third. OH, it's the best kind of eavesdropping. Here are some other conversations heard and had today.

*An artist from the next booth asked to see my butterfly and asked me what I was getting done today. Almost his entire face was tatt'ed. He had tribal lighting bolt designs down his cheeks and around his nose; he had like a word moustache that read "SOUTH SIDE" above his lip. I told him what I was getting done after showing him my back. Then he said, "I'm such a pussy about getting tattoos now." We laughed, but he was serious.

*A guy with cheek-bone piercings and a spider web on his neck came into our booth while I was getting worked on and started talking to the artist named Big Gus next to us. The pierced guy was complaining that these other artists were trying to take his shop down; they were talking shit on him and his shop behind his back. Big Gus said, "It's a compliment, dog. If your shop wasn't shit, they wouldn't be trying to take you down, bro." The pierced guy said, "I'm going to sit down with these guys and just fucking tell them that it hurts my feelings that they're talking about me like that." I looked over. His finger was curled over his lip. I wanted to hug the guy.

*Big Gus' "old lady" gave birth to their first baby daughter four months ago. My artist Tim told Big Gus that his daughter Sailor is now five years old. (Sailor!) Big Gus said, "It just makes you more homesick and shit, right, dog? I mean, fuck, I miss that little girl all day long." Then Tim talked about how Sailor is at an age where she can call him at shop and he loves that, but when he hangs up the phone, he just wants to go home and see her. Big lugs!

*A couple came over to our booth to talk to another artist Chris. The guy was huge and was wearing a Phoenix Suns basketball jersey and straight-billed cap. He had a collection of mish-moshed tattoos, all faded and old. They looked home-done. His lady had a worn and pretty face, dense-black hair curled softly and pulled back at the sides. She was big and a bit beat-up looking. She carried a beer. The artist Chris said, "Hey girl, the last time I saw you, you were wasted!" She said, "Oh man, I was? I'm always wasted." Chris said, "You were all 'I love you guys'. You were at the I Love You Stage of being wasted!" They laughed. She said, "Oh man, I'm sorry!" Then she turned her attention quickly to the t-shirts hanging in the booth. "Babe! We should get that fucking t-shirt for Chai (their son). Wouldn't he shit himself over that t-shirt?" They got the t-shirt, cradling it as they staggered off.

*On the stage at the front of the expo they were announcing a contest to judge the best female butt at the show. I said to the guys in the booth, "Will they have a contest for best guy butt next?" They shook their head no then Chris said, "Yea, why don't they? I'd go up there and pull down my pants, put one hand in the air and dance it out." I said, "Hmm, maybe that's why they don't let men up there."

*Many passerbyers looked at the apple and speculated on what it meant. "You're from New York!" No. "Are you a teacher?" No. "Oh snap, are you Eve? The apple is for temptation, right?" No. I told them that it was because I was vegan and because fruits and vegetables are the best! And they yelled, "Right On!"

When the apple was done, I hugged Tim and said, "Wow, Tim, I love it so much. I think you should start dreaming up an all fruit and vegetable sleeve for me." His eyes lit up and said, "I'm so down for that." Then he and his wife Roxanne started to plan it out. I didn't have the heart to tell them I was just kidding. Though it's not that bad of any idea.

Here's Tim, Roxanne and me. The giddiness was starting to kick in, if you can't see it all over my face.


Hil The Thrill said...

So inspiring to lil' ol' tattoo apprentice, me! You and Jinxi look like sisters, your features are so similar! Thanks for writing, as usual. I'm starting to eat some vegan meals, inspired by your success. xoxo, hil

greenish gold said...

I was really struck by how alike you and Jinxi looked too. Give her a tan and a wig and you guys could be twins.

Beautiful apple!!!

Mandi said...

Gorgeous gorgeous!

I agree, the needle work really is a buzz -- there must by some sort of endorphins running through your body afterwards. But it is the itching while it heals that drives me insane!

In any case, it's always worth it.

madness rivera said...

Hi Hil, thanks so much. And man, so good for you for getting some vegan meals in. You're awesome.

Thanks Greenish G! And thanks to both of you for the Jinxi comparisions. She's really lovely.

Thank Mandi. Doh, the itching is coming soon. Yea, not too fond of that either, but you're right, it's all worth it.

kristen said...

i love your whole back piece, quite envious actually. and it has me thinking back piece...something under the sea.

madness rivera said...

This may not be popular advise Kristen, but I say go for it and go big. Every time I do a smaller more "conservative" tattoo I wish I would have planned an entire piece so it flowed and was cohesive. Under the Sea sounds awesome!

Kristin C. said...

I love your tattoo can never stop the process because I love seeing the results so much...I guess a good excuse to keep going!

Marigoldie said...

I'm loving that apple. A perfect symbol of good choices, despite the downfall of man and all that jazz! Good stories too.