I saw this guy’s mug shot in the news a few months back. He looked familiar to me. I couldn’t imagine that I could have met a guy with all those tatts and not recalled him. I figured that perhaps I knew him long ago, and tried to picture him sans artwork. Even then, I couldn’t place him. I gave up on trying to figure it out and resumed my humdrum life of working for a living and writing blog posts for the amusement of my seventeen loyal followers.
A few days ago, my wife and I were trying to clean some junk out of the basement. After fifteen minutes though, we were hopelessly frozen in our pursuits, as we had each become stuck looking at
crap artifacts from our past. Throwing stuff away is tough when there’s even a glimmer of emotional attachment. I pulled out a spiral bound notebook of one of my grown children from what might have been 5th or 6th grade. I didn’t bother flipping it open to see the scribbled notes, but stared instead at the mural of doodles on the cover.
In a flash, it hit me. The tattooed mugshot was not of anyone I knew, but his artwork bore a striking similarity to the notebook covers of middle-schoolers everywhere. Old timers like me may also find a certain resemblance to the walls adjacent to payphones in college dorms of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
As I just admitted, I’m no spring chicken. Back in the halcyon days of my youth, tattoos were for guys in the Navy and Hell’s Angels. I suppose prison inmates had them too, but I lead a sheltered life back then, which limited my exposure to only the tattoos of sailors and bikers.
Obviously times have changed. The future has arrived, and it’s not entirely pretty. We have wristwatch phones and cars that park themselves. We also have morbidly obese exhibitionists twerking on YouTube and scores of people who flaunt their God-given right to cover themselves with as many tattoos as they desire.
Back in my college days, I had an acquaintance who was going to get a tattoo of a lightning bolt on his hip. At the time, he was a freshman who played attack on the lacrosse team, and the image had a degree of legitimacy. Of course, now he’s likely a pudgy investment banker in his mid-fifties, and the bolt may be over-shadowed by a nearby hip replacement scar. Before going for the ink, he tried to get many of his teammates to join him. I recalled considering it for a few seconds. At that time in my life, I was lucky to be able to scrape together enough loose change for a six pack, so paying for a tattoo was out of the question. Still, I considered what image I’d choose. I politely declined, but the thought of the Zig Zag Man on my arm did stick in my head.
A few years later, I put my fine arts degree to use tending bar. One of my fellow mixologists was a Jewish kid from Cherry Hill, NJ. I was under the impression that tattoos were against his religion, but he was crazy about inking himself up. He had a bunch of body art and was constantly looking ahead to the next one. Like the lacrosse player, he was always trying to convince people to join him. Newly married to a woman who abhorred tattoos, I didn’t consider it for more than a fraction of a second. I did think about what image I’d pick though, and briefly recalled the one I’d considered in college. I shuddered at how horrible my former choice was, and said a silent prayer of thanks that I had avoided going through with it.
The cycle has repeated itself every so often throughout my life, where I think of what tattoo I would get and where I would put it, but each time, I recall the images I’d considered the previous times and realize how awful and obsolete they’d look on my body in the present day.
I have tons of friends and colleagues now who have tattoos. For the most part, their choices of tattoos strike me as somehow appropriate for each of them . I don’t shake my head and wonder what they were thinking when they chose what they chose. In my defense, I don’t have any friends with tattoos of Mickey Mouse, Captain Kirk or bedazzled shlongs on their faces.
Like most people, I tend to be far more critical of my own decisions than those of others. Lord knows I’ve done my share of things which I realized were mistakes. The prospect of living with my bad decisions is a fact of life, I don’t need illustrations.