My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

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Archive for the 'Tattoos' Category

Tattoo #77

May 17th, 2014 | Category: Creative Flash,Life,Opinions,Tattoos
Tattoo by Colt, Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

Tattoo by Colt, Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, this tattoo, number seventy-seven, is from an Aimee Mann song, Little Bombs, which is off of one of my top ten favorite records, The Forgotten Arm.

As I’ve mentioned around the blog, I died once, in some violently bright trauma room, but it didn’t stick. It was spectacularly dramatic though, my heart quit its post, a team of doctors and nurses beating the Hell out of me, trying to wake me up before all the beating in the world wouldn’t matter. My girlfriend, Sara, crying. Sara telling me not to go. It was like a movie. Had it stuck, it would have been quite something, a big, theatrical death, but it didn’t, and here we are, almost a decade later. I don’t think most death is all big and flashy, it’s slow and subtle and certain.

One of my favorite writers, K.J. Bishop, has this total badass character, Gwynn. Gwynn lives by his own set of morals, he kills for cash, he kills for justice, sometimes he just kills because it’s his whim and it feels like proper etiquette to do so. He drinks hard, enjoys all manner of narcotics. He dresses impeccably, plays the piano for eccentric old ladies at swanky parties. He has fallen in love, HARD. Though Gwynn could die pretty much every day, in some grand fashion, some way that he would personally find spectacular, he doesn’t. His hold on life in the midst of combat borders on preternatural. He takes kill-or-be-killed to a form of high-art. He is death in the theater of killing. Unfortunately, even though your profession is snatching life from others, and you do it well enough to see your gorgeous, flowing black hair go gray, you’re going to have to retire. It comes time to hang up your weapons and just be. In a later short-short story, She Mirrors, we see Gwynn as an old man. His recreational narcotics are replaced by medicines for his creaky joints, aches and pains that are the cost one pays for pushing a body past its limits over the course of a career that isn’t usually lengthy. His doctor has vehemently warned him against alcohol and cigarettes. His great love is now just a memory. He’s not dying as a mercenary in some great war, he’s not dying by sword or gun. He’s dying the slow death inflicted by time. He doesn’t go quietly, at the story’s end he’s off toward one more adventure, an adventure that might not go the way he wants, that might be the last his body allows, but to Gwynn, it’s the possibilities that are exhilarating.

She Mirrors is such an honest story, it resonates with me, and scares me, scares me because it’s so true. Our stories aren’t guaranteed to end how we want, or even with a quick bang. Time is what kills us, usually slowly, softly, over minutes, hours, years. The story shows how we’re all fighting against a force that we can rail at, furiously, and still, we will not win. She Mirrors brings to mind my favorite line from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I know the words by memory, “…Christ was not crucified: He was worn away by a minute clicking of little wheels.”  We’re all worn away by those clicking little wheels, the clock makes us all equals, we all get too little from time. Our clocks stop and we end. Gwynn, Christ, me, nobody gets out of it, time quitting our company.

Life just kind of empties out, less a deluge than a drought, those words resonate too, those words have been important to me ever since the first time I heard Aimee sing them. I got the words permanently etched into my leg because the idea that time is slowly, but inexorably, wearing me away drives me. It could have happened way back in that trauma room, it could happen tomorrow, but probably, it’ll happen years from now, tediously and maddeningly. Still, one way or another, or another, it will happen, which is why I have bouncers carry me up two flights of stairs at the goth club, or fly to Boston during a blizzard, my antiquated breathing machine powered by an equally unsophisticated battery, with the woman I love just to see Aimee Mann play. It’s why when Sara asked, “So, would you ever go swimming?” I said, without a blink, “Yeah!” I’m terrified of being in anything larger than a bathtub, but she only got, “Yeah!” The reality that that slow drought will come is why I once told a woman I love her more than air, why I asked if she’d wake up with me tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It didn’t go how I wanted, but I did risk it. I’ll risk simple failure, I’ll risk my life, anything, because at the end of my drought, when time has shoved me toward death’s enfolding kiss, I don’t want to feel like I let time wear me away without fighting with everything in me to experience everything I want. I can’t not fight.

The tattoo reminds me that my life is emptying out, and I can’t just sit back and watch it go.


Tattoo #76

January 30th, 2014 | Category: Life,Opinions,Tattoos,Thoughts on Music
Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dogs's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City…

Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dogs’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, the way that this tattoo wraps around my leg, it’s basically impossible to photograph, properly anyway.

It reads…

One day I know…

One day I’ll be…

Looking back on me…

It’s from a Priscilla Ahn song, One Day I Will Do, which is off of her really excellent second record, When You Grow Up. The entire record is worth buying, but I’ve gotten really fond of One Day I Will Do.

To me, it’s a song about a life that’s in a drift, and then regretting that drift. You know you could do better, could be better, but you’re not. You’re just not. You know that at the end of everything, you’re either going to to see your life as a giant waste, or as something that was good and beautiful. Knowing that one day you’ll look back across the expanse of your life and might find it lacking, could easily find it lacking, is a sobering thought, a thought that could lead you toward someplace that feels… right.

I feel like this song, I’m scared of that look back on myself. I’m scared I’ll see ruin and waste. These words are kind of a prayer etched into my flesh, a prayer to remember to be better, because at the end of me, I don’t want to look back and see the waste I’m living now stretched until my last then.

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Tattoo #75

November 22nd, 2013 | Category: Life,Tattoos
Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, this tattoo, number seventy-five, isn’t a song lyric, or a book quote, or a film quote, or even a quote anybody would ever recognize. Still, it’s a quote that suits me, I think. It was crafted to suit me.

I have a similar quote that Ira Glass crafted for me. He was talking about me, talking about our This American Life episode. He was telling someone about how I have all these experiences during which I could die, leaving my house is kind of a dice roll, but given all that, he said I’m just “so fucking normal.” I thought that was about right, I’m normal in that I’m pretty much as fucked as anybody else. Now, what he said is permanently etched into my leg.

Well, recently I was tweeting Aimee Mann about something I wrote and I ended with, “Yes, I’m weird.” I’m weird in a lot of ways, but I’m definitely especially weird about my writing. Everything that’s typed here is first completely “written” in my head. I hear the words, I know how they’re going to fit together, then I do the final physical act of typing. I know, that sounds a little weird.

I often like writing first-person present, some people don’t dig that, but I write it anyway. That’s what I was telling Aimee, that’s what ended with, “Yes, I’m weird.” That’s what garnered the reply that’s now permanently etched into my stomach…

“…just weird enough…”

I liked that, I’ll happily wear that label until time wears it away.


Tattoo #74

November 21st, 2013 | Category: Life,Opinions,Tattoos,Thoughts on Music
Tattoo by my man, Colt, Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

Tattoo by my man, Colt, Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, this tattoo, my seventy-fourth, is from one of my favorite Elliott Smith songs, Talking to Mary, which is off of the posthumously released two-disc set, New Moon.

Mary is the kind of woman that you’re lucky to ever meet. She knows you better than anybody ever has, or ever will; She can hear what you’re thinking like you were saying it right out loud. You love her so much, you’re scared, always, somewhere in your head, of the day she might go away.

I know this woman, that feeling. Nothing feels so bad, and so purely good, both at the same time.

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Tattoo #73

November 07th, 2013 | Category: Life,Opinions,Tattoos,Thoughts on Music
Tattoo #73, by Jessica, Deja Vu Tattoo, Baton Rouge

Tattoo #73, by Jessica, Deja Vu Tattoo, Baton Rouge

So, I wrote about this tattoo as part of larger narrative, but I also want to write about the tattoo itself.

This tattoo is from the song, I Can’t Get My Head Around It, which is off of Aimee Mann’s, The Forgotten Arm, a record that isn’t just a collection of songs that share a theme, rather, it tells the story of a washed-up junkie ex-boxer, his girlfriend, and their totally fucked up relationship. To me, the songs definitely stand alone, but you don’t get the full emotional impact of the record until you listen from beginning to end, at least once. It’s a really beautiful, really sad story of a relationship in which love just isn’t enough to make everything okay. I was smack in the middle of that sort of relationship right around when The Forgotten Arm came out, and while I absolutely love the record, certain songs, I still skip them sometimes.

Anyway, this tattoo had been on my list for a long time, these lyrics really hit me the first time I heard them, and ever since. I guess I was just waiting for the right time to do it, which ended up being my trip to Baton Rouge for an Aimee Mann show. Baton Rouge was one of those I’m either going to go, and die, or it’s going to be a fucking blast trips. I felt like shit the morning we left, I spent the previous day in the hospital getting a fresh trach, I was exhausted. Still, nothing was going to make me not go. I would have had to die to not go. It wasn’t easy to go, but I wasn’t going to miss Baton Rouge, seeing Aimee Mann, being there with someone I love.

“…kicking is hard, but the bottom’s harder…”

Kicking is hard, but sinking into cold nothingness is worse. I’ve hit bottom before, physically, emotionally, but I’ve always been able to kick my way back up. One time, I won’t be able to, but we’re not there yet.

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Random repaired tattoos

November 06th, 2013 | Category: Life,Tattoos




I got these repaired last Sunday…

Oh, and this one… I re-wrote the post.

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Baton Rouge: Arrival and a Tattoo

October 09th, 2013 | Category: Life,Opinions,Tattoos

So, the drive itself was really long, and really boring. Though, we got the most bizarre call about halfway through the ride. Randy (my ex-step dad) was all animated on the phone, I couldn’t totally hear him, my ear hadn’t cleared up yet. He just sounded really excited, and he never gets excited about anything, except for maybe when a new kind of beer gets invented. After he ended the call, we pulled into a gas station, he turned toward me and said, “Okay, we’re going to have backstage passes, and we’ll get to hang-out with the band.” He may have followed up with, “Oh, also, birds are eating your face.” I don’t know, I was already a freaking out about getting to meet Aimee for the second time. This time, with a little plastic tube in my throat. This time, everything I’d say would be in text. My first thought, at least I won’t be as likely to blurt out anything stupid. Still, I was nervous, and I had until the next evening to be more nervous. Now, many may wonder HOW Randy scored backstage… everything. Well, I wonder too, even now. He won’t say, it’s a total mystery.

Anyway, we got to the hotel, a really nice downtown Hilton; art deco, French influences, really chic, early Tuesday evening. We got upstairs, the room was nice, a little old, but really nice. I had a big cozy bed, which I promptly got aboard. We got my forty-seven devices plugged-in; two vents, MacBook Pro, iPod Touch, iPad mini, NeuroSwitch, various batteries, particle accelerator, Time Machine, freeze-ray, mini death-ray (the original is mounted on a classified roof-top), I don’t really travel light.

At this point, I was worn, I was comfortable, I didn’t want to move, at all, ever again.. So, an hour later, we went to get me a tattoo. Whenever I go out of town, I try to get a new tattoo, and I knew if I didn’t go that first night, I wouldn’t go at all. I knew I’d want to sleep in the next morning, I wouldn’t want to follow any kind of schedule the day of the concert aside from getting TO the concert.

We went.

I always just try to google and pick the highest rated place nearest to my hotel, a system that hasn’t let me down so far.

Enter Deja Vu Tattoo


If you ever need a tattoo in Baton Rouge, Deja Vu is for you…!

If you ever need a tattoo in Baton Rouge, Deja Vu is for you…!

In my experience, it’s not so easy finding artists willing to even TRY tattooing smallish lettering, and SOMETIMES people can be a little taken aback by me at first glance, my hoses and tubes and what-not. The latter being way less true than the former, tattoo/goth people are generally the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. The girl I met that night in Baton Rouge was neither scared of small lettering, or my various hoses. Jessica at Deja Vu was totally cool and impressively skilled, she did a really spectacular tattoo on my leg.

The stencil…

The stencil…

My brother, Jessica and I discuss geo-political wartime economic policy...

My brother, Jessica and I discuss geo-political wartime economic policy…

Jessica etching words into my flesh...

Jessica etching words into my flesh…

Tattoo #73

Tattoo #73

This tattoo, lyrics from Aimee Mann’s fifth studio record, The Forgotten Arm, from the song, I Can’t Get My Head Around It, is one of my favorites.

This one had been on my list awhile, but it felt particularly appropriate that evening…

“…kicking is hard, but the bottom’s harder…”

I’ve always said, since I died but didn’t, that if I felt too exhausted, or too scared, or too both, to go do something, then I should absolutely go do it. I fail sometimes, but mostly I don’t. Mostly I go and do and have a blast. Kicking is hard, but hitting bottom, not fighting back, feels so much worse. I’ve done it, it’s awful. It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying because you’re not just lying down on purpose, you don’t hit whatever bottom you hit because it’s oh so cozy, it’s that you genuinely don’t have the energy, the will to get back up. You feel like maybe this time, you’re out of time. I kick because it’s Hell to sink.

I felt really pretty sick when we got to Baton Rouge. By the time Jessica was etching in the finishing touches on her beautiful work, I’m pretty certain I had a fever. I was freezing cold, but we weren’t anywhere cold. I basically ate dinner asleep, covered in six blankets. Everything just caught up with me; two trach changes, the ear tube, almost no sleep, the drive… I pushed until my batteries died… and I’d do it all again right now. I had an awesome night in a cool new city, I met a badass tattoo artist, I got a gorgeous tattoo. I’d rather drop dead on some adventure than in some hospital. That night I had a blast, and I didn’t die… score!

The next night, well, it would be better than anything I could imagine.


Tattoo #72

October 06th, 2013 | Category: Life,Tattoos
Tattoo by Randy (touch-up by  Colt), Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

Tattoo by Randy (touch-up by Colt), Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, this is actually my SECOND tattoo from possibly my favorite Nirvana song, Verse Chorus Verse, which is on several Special Edition collections.

I don’t usually get two tattoos from the same song, but these words, they’ve always felt very true, and very beautiful, if a little sad in certain contexts. The words could mean different things on different levels, they apply to many situations. People debate their meaning, as have I. To me, the song”s about one’s relationship with a fix, loving something (someone) that hurts you at the same time.

I know this feeling, but I’m glad to know it just the same.

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A new tattoo

September 21st, 2013 | Category: Life,Tattoos

So, tonight I get to go for a new tattoo, and I’m trying to decide what to get. I have too many ideas, and too little skin. At one time I was going to stop at sixty, but then life changed and I decided to just go until I run out of space, or quit breathing, which ever happens first.

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Tattoo #71

September 20th, 2013 | Category: Life,Opinions,Tattoos,Thoughts on Music,Thoughts on Writing
Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dog's Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

Tattoo by Kyle, Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo, Ybor City

So, tattoo #71… is a lyric from a really kind of cryptic Elliott Smith song, No Name #3, which is off his first record, Roman Candle. The font is actually Elliott’s own hand-writing, I got it from a little pdf lyrics book that comes with the Remastered version of Roman Candle from iTunes. Elliott liked writing songs on bar napkins, scraps of paper, hotel stationary, anything on hand when an idea hit him. He didn’t just write obscure barely recognizable versions of songs that would eventually get cleaned up and put on a record, he’d write an entire finished, ready to record song on a crumpled piece of junk paper. He was the essence of chaotic genius.

As a whole, No Name #3 doesn’t make a ton of sense. I don’t think, as a whole, it’s supposed to tell a story. To me, it reads like scraps of poetry that convey an overall theme. No Name #3 is about being tired, totally exhausted, spent. Worn. Worn and just wanting to rest.

My favorite section goes…

“Watched the dying day

Blushing in the sky

Everyone is uptight

So come on night”

It’s a really gorgeous piece of writing, so much emotion in just a few words. It’s the sort of writing I aspire toward. I really like the imagery; watching an end of day sky, the kind of sky that goes from deep blue to hot orange to soft pink, waiting for that blush to be enveloped by darkness, black sky filled with stars that look like watchful angels. Wanting night to come because the day was just so Goddamn fucking tedious. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, it’s honest.

I feel this a lot. The day can be so tedious, so oppressively empty, I just want the quiet of 3 a.m. At 3 a.m. life isn’t bringing me down, the quiet is soothing. I get waves of intense sadness, loneliness, but after those demons leave , and all’s silent, the things that I want start to feel possible again. Sometimes I make them possible when day comes, sometimes I can’t, but night gives me the will to try.

So come on night.

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