Rad Tattoos from Nebraska

There are no defined rules for asking folks to volunteer for Tattoosday, but I have alluded to some personal guidelines, like the reluctance to interrupt people who are talking, or my tendency to select individuals who are stationary and generally alone. I have also said I will not follow people. Too creepy, generally speaking.

However, when something spectacular presents itself, all bets are off.

Friday morning, around 11:30 am, I was facing North on the southwest corner of 34th Street and 6th Avenue, on the outskirts of Herald Square, when I saw a heavily-tattooed woman across the street, walking with a guy, heading West. When the light changed, I had already decided to go take a closer look.

About half-way down the block, in front of Macy's, I caught up and without hesitation, tapped her on the shoulder and interupted her discussion with her companion. What inspired me to such boldness? Why this, dear readers:

Although not a completely finished back piece, it was breathtaking, especially if one admires quality ink. Click on the photo to enlarge. She also had tattoos running on both arms as well, neither of which I photographed.

I did my basic introduction and she was immediately receptive. Her name was Jill and she hailed from Nebraska.

After agreeing to participate, I asked her to offer me a piece that she felt most sentimental about. She had a hard time answering. I elaborated, "What one do you have the best memories about?" She selected the one I would least likely have chosen, but I was thankful that she was letting me add her to Tattoosday.

At the top of her right foot, at the bottom of the leg, she had the word "Rad" tattooed.

Jill explained that she and five friends had gone out together and each had a word inscribed on them permanently. The memory of the event clearly had an impact on her. When I asked "Why RAD?" She shrugged, "It's just a word I liked. One of my other friends had gnarly tattooed on her neck."

The tattoo was done in Omaha, Nebraska at Liquid Courage Tattoo and Piercing by the artist Jason Brown.

She said technically she only had 6 tattoos in all. She counted her 2 sleeves as one apiece. And I'm guessing she counted the back as one whole as well, despite the many components.

Well, I didn't want to take up too much of her time, standing in the sidewalk. In fact, while chatting with her, a couple stopped and the woman complimented her on her tattoos. With art like this, I'd imagine she gets that a ton!

I asked if I could take a shot of her back, she agreed. I thanked her and ambled off. I did notice when I uploaded the photo to the home computer later that the back piece still needs a little coloring which might be why she didn't offer it up right away as the tattoo I should photograph.

Of course, I want to dwell on the back a little longer. The script states "Traveler to the Grave".
I will take a stab at interpretation and attribute it as a reference to the lyrics of "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?", a song from Morrissey's 2004 album You Are the Quarry:

But even I, As sick as I am, I would never be you
Even I, As sick as I am, I would never be you
Even I, Sick and depraved, A traveler to the grave
I would never be you, I would never be you

I also love the image on the neck, which is traditionally known as a calavera, attributed to the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in Latin American cultures.

The heart on the left side of the back is, I am surmising, a tribute to her grandfather. The strap of Jill's top covers up the first date partially, but I am leaning toward 1927-2004 as the span at the bottom of the heart.

Thanks to Jill for so kindly sharing her art with me! If you're reading this, Jill, and feel like sending me any shots of your sleeves, feel free to e-mail me. I hope you had a wonderful trip to New York City. Thanks for brightening my day!
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Welcome to His Nightmare

I was walking up Seventh Avenue, headed back to work, and contemplating the left ankle of a young woman. She had a tattoo of the Black Flag logo (just the bars):

but she was traveling with two friends. I have a harder time approaching people in pairs or groups, for some reason, perhaps because I fear not the rejection of one person but of two or more. Imagine: I approach a person and ask them about their tattoo. Their friend shoots them a "Who is this dork?" look and the tattooed is less likely to be forthcoming about their art. I also don't like to intrude on conversations and/or stop people who are moving. It's a courtesy thing, I guess. Although, if someone is sporting an incredible tattoo, I may suspend these "rules" for a shot of an amazing piece of body art.

So there I was, walking uptown, thinking it will likely not be the day for the Black Flag ankle tattoo, when I spotted a guy leaning up under a scaffolding. He had ear buds in and was reading, but his tattoo was interesting enough that it was worth disregarding those two deterrents.

This is the piece that was on his upper right arm:

Now, wouldn't you say that's fairly unusual? I just had to get to the bottom of this one. Before you continue, click the photo to see it in greater detail. It blurs a little, but you get a better idea of the full piece.

This tattoo resides on a guy named Losie, a resident of New Jersey. I introduced myself and he was very receptive, removing his ear buds and speaking very openly about his tattoo. This was his second tattoo (more on #1 later). It originated from his finding the art of Greg Simkins online at his website The tattoo was then inked by Damion Ross at New York Adorned in the East Village.

So why did he choose this artwork for himself? "It reminded me of having nightmares when I was a kid," Losie related, "The kid is me."
Greg Simkins seems like a perfect match, then, for Losie's nightmare motif. If you look at his site, you can peruse dozens of his paintings, sketches, and drawings and they all resonate with a sense of the macabre, depicting spectacular, colorful visions of an imaginary world in which rabbits are terrifying and inanimate objects come to life.

Losie definitely has a fascination along the same lines, and indicated that he would eventually like to have an entire sleeve dedicated to the horror genre.

The kid in the tattoo is having a nightmare, he is on his bed. The headboard appears as rows of teeth, things are crawling in through the window and from under the bed. Even his pillow is terrifying:

I asked him about the tattoo on his other arm, he indicated it was done at a shop in Burbank, California, where he had lived for a couple of years.

The tattoo is the logo for the band Coheed and Cambria.

Interesting, I was following a Black Flag tattoo and found a Coheed & Cambria one instead. Losie explained the bats around the logo as a reference to an ex-girlfriend. He elaborated, "Her name was Jamie, so I added five bats, because Jamie has five letters in her name."

He then directed me back to the first tattoo:

"See the purple skull coming out from under the bed?"

"That's for my ex-girlfriend Violet."

Do note, all quotes are approximate and may not be 100% accurate. I took notes but did not write down exact statements. The messages, however, are accurate.

Losie did allude to a third tattoo, on his stomach, but we didn't discuss the exact location, or what the piece consisted of.

Thanks again to Losie for his participation!
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Maggie and the Senses

This post, originally called "Twenty-two Tattoos" has been revised. I ran into a woman from Boston named Lindsay in front of Madison Square Garden on Monday, September 24, and she let me photograph three of her 22 tattoos. Alas, it was a bright, sunny day and the shots were awash with light and did not do the body art justice. I appealed to Lindsay here and she answered my call, sending me much better shots, and an extra one to boot. So, thanks again, to Lindsay. So I didn't take these specific photos, but I gave it a try. The end result is the same, I hope: an interesting post about some great tattoos.

The first piece that Lindsay proudly showed me was this one, called "Maggie":

What struck me about this was its color. You see a lot of skulls in tattoo art, but they're seldom this shade, a pink that illuminates off of the skin. This was inked by Spiro at Superchango Tattoo Studio, just north of Houston in The Woodlands, Texas. Spiro is not listed on the shop's site currently, but his home page on Inked Nation here still shows an affiliation.

One of the things I ask people with multiple artwork when I meet them on the street, since I can't very well photograph everything on them, is what piece means the most to them. In Lindsay's case, it was a chest piece that was still a work in progress, so she offered up "Maggie," as she called her. Lindsay explained that Maggie was an original piece created by Spiro based on a painting he had done for a tattoo convention. Maggie is unusual because most of Lindsay's work she designed herself.

Maggie is an anti-drug tattoo, Lindsay explained. It's not visible in the tattoo but, off to the left, there is some additional work that she had Spiro add, like pills, a syringe, and other drug-related designs. Maggie represents what a life of drugs could produce. Lindsay wears Maggie as an anchor, a reminder of what could result from unhealthy choices.

Maggie sits on Lindsay's right shoulder. Her left arm, I noticed had this extremely interesting piece:

When I asked about it, Lindsay explained that she is creating a series of tattoos dedicated to her five senses, which she feels extremely connected to. Each sense is artistically represented with a different type of wings. This blue and yellow hand, on the outer left forearm, was barely visible in my attempt to photograph it, and represents the sense of Touch. This one is credited to Dave Boseman at Superchango.

She has the additional sense of sight on her inner left forearm:

Lindsay explained that "Sight" was done at a tattoo convention in Rhode Island.

When Lindsay so kindly responded to my request for some do-over photos, she sent me this one as well:

And I took the chance to add another one of mine...that I didn't think to show you. It is the chorus to my all time favorite song. Also done by Spiro at Superchango.

Made to Heal by Our Lady Peace

The chorus is:

I'm a thief, a liar
An angel in the fire
I'm a king, a drug
The push that comes to shove
I'm a freak, a star
I'm everything you are
I'm your jesus, I'm your pride
The song "Made to Heal" appears on Our Lady Peace's album Spiritual Machines.

The photo file name is entitled "Ribs," so I will assume that is why I didn't see this tattoo. I'll see if Lindsay can clarify that for me.

Thanks to Lindsay for her cooperation on this post and her willingness to share.
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That's what she called it, her "tattool".

Yesterday I ran into Robin, a young woman walking up 8th Avenue, lugging a couple of garment bags, near Penn Station. She had a tattoo on her forearm that was extremely interesting:

Robin is in New York City working an internship as a Costume Designer on Broadway. She had attended the Art Institute of Chicago and obtained this tattoo there in the Windy City.

"I was tired of constantly looking for rulers," she mused, so she had one inked on. "It's to scale," she beamed, "My tat-tool". Definitely one of the most practical tattoos I have ever seen.

I particularly like the detailed flourishes at the ends of the ruler:

This piece was created by Allie at Tatu Tattoo in Chicago.

I initially noticed Robin's first tattoo, on the back of her neck, as she walked briskly by me. She has short hair, with a bare neck, so this small piece really pops off the skin. When I asked her about this:

she indicated that she has a twin sister with the exact same symbol on her neck. She was tentative about where, exactly this was done. Originally hailing from Eugene, Oregon, she thought it might have been done at High Priestess in her home town. She threw in a disclaimer that High Priestess might be only a piercing shop (it apparently is), so we're not sure exactly of the name of the shop where this interesting piece was tattooed.

Nonetheless, Robin was an interesting person to meet, very friendly, and the possessor of a very cool tattoo that serves as a measuring implement as well.

Thanks to Robin for her willingness to participate in Tattoosday!
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Tattoo Regret

The following excerpt comes from this past Sunday's (9/23/07) popular "On Language" column by William Safire in the New York Times Magazine.
As tattoos become more popular,” reads a headline in The International Herald Tribune over an article by Natasha Singer of The New York Times, “so does ‘tattoo regret.’ ”

On the other side of the world, in Brisbane, Australia, The Sunday Mail warned last year: “Think before you ink. That’s the message skin experts are preaching as ‘tattoo regret’ booms.” It reported that a Queensland athlete — embarrassed about a smiling devil’s face etched on his back — complained in rhyme of suffering “severe tattoo-rue.”

“The regret combining form is found in a lot of current writing,” notes Ann Rubin Wort, a former Times colleague. “Nowadays people are acting more impulsively; thus, regrets aplenty and the resulting need to nullify capricious choices.”

Regret about the permanence of skin illustration is rising. The Washington Post reported that a Harris Poll a few years ago indicated that nearly half the young women between 18 and 29 surveyed had at least one tattoo, and that 17 percent of all tattooed Americans who had tattoos regretted getting them. It seems that many of the aging former teenagers have had a skinful.

Etymology of the dermatology: Earliest use I can find of nostalgia for an unmarked epidermis is a headline above a 1989 Times column by Lawrence K. Altman, M.D.: “For Those With Tattoo Regret, Here’s Hope.” Back in that day, laser treatment was the great hope; now it seems that a new tattooing ink has been developed that, it is claimed, may make removal of tattoos by laser more practical.

This column’s interest, as Wort notes, is in the collocation combining form — the way a new phrase is made by substituting one element of a familiar phrase. (A generation ago, the lexical response to backlash was frontlash; applying that replacement technique to a phrase, a moderate critic of our present war policy suggested that the answer to the charge of “cut and run” should be a centrist approach of “cut and walk.”)

Tattoo regret is formed on the analogy of buyer’s regret, more vividly and widely expressed as buyer’s remorse. Until this collocation was formed, the idea took longer to express, as in this 1891 citation from a San Antonio paper: “They who bought winter hats . . . early in the fall are now repenting their rashness at leisure.” The same anguished repentance happened this year to early buyers of Apple’s hotly touted iPhone, who plunked down $600 only to find the item reduced to $400 a couple of months later, lowering the puissance of the status symbol.

Buyer’s remorse is a phrase probably coined in the auto industry a half-century ago. Grant Barrett, editor of the online Double-Tongued Dictionary, has a citation from The Los Angeles Times in 1946 reporting a customer’s complaint that her auto dealer “told her she had ‘buyer’s remorse’ and since she had signed the contract she had to stick to it.”

In 1957, Leon Festinger came up with a theory of “cognitive dissonance,” in which he posited the opposite of buyer’s remorse: Most of us tend to embrace the choice we make, so as to reduce the self-critical dissonance in our minds. When we buy a Ford, we read Ford ads and shy away from reading the ads of Toyota.

The regret or remorse combining form has an immediate future in politics. As the states play backward leapfrog with their primaries, we face a stretch of nine months of campaigning leading up to the national parties’ conventions next summer. As the political winds blow hot and cold, as candidates’ poll ratings rise and fall after each statewide election, primary voters and contributors will experience a kicking-oneself feeling when their candidate fades and they wish they had chosen the victor to oppose the other party’s choice.

And what will we call that sinking sensation felt by all the primary voters who failed to back the winning candidate of their party? Those afflicted with tattoo regret will have company: as we plod through the primaries, watch for voter’s remorse.

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Tattoos I Know: Janet's Tat Trick

When I moved to New York in 1997, one of the first friends I made at work was Janet Loder (now Loder-Berthelon). Even though Janet left for greener pastures almost five years ago, we still talk and occasionally get together for lunch or a social jumble of offspring (i.e. our kids play together). Last Thursday, we met at lunch and Janet let me take some hasty shots in the sunshine of her three tattoos. All pictures were snapped on the steps of the New York Public Library, between Patience and Fortitude.

The first of Janet's tattoos was inked in Buffalo, New York when she was 19 or 20, approximately 20 years ago:

This pachyderm has been touched up twice in the twenty years or so since first decorating Janet's right shoulder blade (aka the posterior scapula). It was the first tattoo I saw on Janet, back in 1997 when tattoos were not as common as they are today. Janet has always loved elephants, and has a few collected, the first of which was given to her as a child by her much-beloved Aunt Claire, for whom her daughter is named.

Janet's love of elephants (and hence her tattoo) stems from their being majestic creatures that are matriarchal and intelligent. They are social beings that even mourn for their dead.

Janet's second tattoo was inked four or five years back at her friend Michelle's bachelorette party:

This simple yin and yang symbol, inscribed on the left side of her lower back, was added in the East Village, we're guessing at Andromeda Tattoos Studios. It is a symbol, for Janet, of her striving for balance in her life.

Her third and last (but not final) tattoo was also done at Andromeda, and is on the right side of Janet's lower back:

Janet is particularly proud of this one and thinks it has the best story of her three tattoos. I would agree. She had this done in 2004 when she had been traveling a lot on business between New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She began dating a guy in L.A. and was seeing him whenever she flew into town for work. As her California work projects came to a close, their relationship reached a crossroads, and there was discussion and soul-searching over the matter of relocation. He didn't want to leave L.A. Janet was born and raised in Buffalo and is a New Yorker through and through. I can't imagine her living in L.A. And neither could she.

As one might guess, her decision was solidified when she went and had this tattoo done which, "sealed the deal not to move to L.A." Once branded, she mused, there was no way she was leaving New York.

The rest is history.

Thanks to Janet for sharing her tattoos and accompanying stories! You know a friend is true when they'll let you blog about their tattoos!
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