Some Guy Shaved My Back Today! Oh, and I Got a Tattoo

After many months of delaying and designing and deliberating, I experienced three firsts today, most important of which was getting a tattoo. And I’m quite happy with it. (If you want to skip my blathering and just see the tattoo, you’ll have to wait until it heals. However, click ‘Continue reading’ to see the design.)

I went to Olde City Tattoo, only a few blocks from where we used to live in Old City near Penn’s Landing in Philly, with Alisa and went under the gun. Getting a tattoo is something I’ve wanted for quite some time, and the experience was not very different from what I expected. Alisa asked me if I saw this as some kind of rite of passage. Perhaps. I’m not sure what it represents for me, if anything, but I have a feeling of invigoration and satisfaction, and a sense of… I’m not sure… ‘acheivement’ doesn’t feel quite right. I suppose it’s just the idea of doing something a bit scary, a bit painful, and a bit unknown that appealed to me. There is also something very liberating about marking one’s self permanently, which I didn’t expect (though that could’ve been the endorphins after the session was over).

Here’s the design, which I drew. It’s influenced by the style of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, to give it a bold, simple look.

It’s on my left shoulder blade, and is a little bigger than a baseball and a little smaller than a softball; a little bigger than the palm of my hand.

The actual work was done by Martin LaCasse, who was great. My design isn’t a real stretch for a tattoo artist, for sure. It took him about an hour, including prep time. But he was very accommodating and played nice with Alisa and I, tattoo-virgins, and from the look of his flash on the walls and his book (called Take What You Can… Give Nothing Back), he’s definitely skilled. All-in-all, I whole-heartedly recommend him. If I ever get inked again, I’ll probably go back to him.

As for Olde City Tattoo, I liked it as well. It’s very punk/metal/macho, but not in an overbearing or threatening way (for me), but I’m not so sure how friendly it would feel to a woman. I’ve heard that Tikki Tattoo on South Street is better for that. They’ve got the same ass-kickin’ feel, and almost exclusively female artists

So, the million dollar question: does it hurt? Well, yes. It wouldn’t be a tattoo if it didn’t. I didn’t get drunk or high ahead of time, so I had a pretty raw experience of what it feels like. At the time, I told Alisa that it feels like being sanded with a hand sander. Martin described it (before starting), as more annoying than painful. He was right. In fact, the hardest part seemed to be fighting the instinct to pull away, rather than the pain itself.

It’s like rubbing a comb across your skin like a blade until it’s irritating (physically and mentally), then not stopping. Or, like the initial pain of the needle when blood is drawn, but continual. The pain, as it always does, tries to get the better of you by dominating your thoughts, but I found that having a someone there with you helps, so you can converse with them and the artist to take your mind off it. After a while, it’s just that dull blur that comes with repetitive pain. It’s uncomfortable and aches, but the nerves are getting too many small signals of pain, so the sensation becomes a sort of abrasive static, sharpening slightly when the needle moves to a new area. Also, Martin was very accomodating, and told me that if I needed a breather, that’d be fine. I didn’t really, but knowing that was nice. I think one of the worst parts is that when I’m nervous, I shudder/shiver a bit and I had to control that as best I could. I also didn’t have my shirt on, and it was a tad chilly at first. Like yoga, the easiest and hardest part is remembering to take easy breaths. By the end, I was completely fine and comfortable, thanks to Alisa and Martin.

Afterwards, the combination of endorphins and general post-new-experience giddiness carried Alisa and I to a cool Belgian tavern, where we had a great meal and a few beers. Even now, five hours later, it doesn’t hurt at all. At its worst, it’s like a mild sunburn, but only when rubbed or stretched. Now all I need to do is take care of it for a few weeks as it heals and I’ll have a nice, sharp tattoo that I can be proud of for the rest of my life.

Pretty neat, huh?

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