The man seated next to me in the diner unwrapped the blue saran around the territory extending from five inches below his right elbow to an equal distance above. I had curiously asked if he had been injured or had an operation. And he laughingly replied that it was not in the way I might be thinking.
Hmmm… As my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ pappy often wondered about me in a more exasperated way: “When did you start thinking?”
At that, John, who would inform me that he was a member of the Warlock motorcycle club, proudly displayed his latest tattoo.
It was, to put in aesthetic artistic terminology: Yabba-yabba-doooo!
I don’t know any women who look like that — but I want to.
In better light the busty femme fatale seemed a tad more bellicose — like some of my exes. Which is why I never slept with my eyes closed. And later, under a dusky evening neon sign, the luscious black-spider woman seemed to be angrily bursting though a tangle of spider webs, seeking her ex-lover.
Hmm. I wonder if a lawyer would do?
Whatever the tattoo was, she cost him a lot of money — between $1500 and $2,500. And a lot of pain. But then that’s what relationships are all about, aren’t they?
When I looked up at him I realized that he also had all sorts of configurations of “Picassos” and “Michelangelos” tattooed all over. Everywhere. Like he’d been run over and backed-up by an 18-wheeler full of Halloween stencils. In fact he laughed at my wide-eyed amazement and proudly boasted that he had quite a distinct one on his private member – down there — also.
Now that was painful, he said, as I crossed my legs in simpatico. And as he was about to unbuckle and display it to me I put my hands up in amused protest and suggested I had seen more than enough, already.
Yet, I couldn’t help but recall that old joke in Jamaica where the tourist is soaking in the hot tub next to a native with a tattoo — down there — that expanded to: “Hello, my name is Donovan. Welcome to Jamaica. Hope you enjoy your stay…….” While the tourist’s winkie – or mine for that matter — could barely hold his initials.
I am not sure I understand tattoos. I mean, my mother used to take us to the circus to see the tattooed man and the fat lady. Now we see them (both) everywhere we turn.
No doubt tattoos are, once more, a fashion fad like pierced metal nose rings. And the pirates on and off Wall Street.
And the fact is they have been around forever. Twenty years ago a five-thousand-year- old tattooed man made headlines when his frozen body was discovered in the Alps with 57 tattoos. Thousands of year-old mummies and artwork demonstrate tattoos for their art and magical attributes in all empires and societies. Cortez and his Spanish conquistadors, arrived on the coast of Mexico in 1519. They were horrified to discover that the natives not only worshipped devils in the form of statues and idols, but had somehow managed to imprint indelible images of these idols on their skin.
Property, like slaves and wives (Hmmm… really?), were tattooed in various cultures. And during the time of the Old Testament, much of the pagan world was practicing the art of tattooing as a means of deity worship. A passage in Leviticus reads: Ye shall not make any cuttings on your flesh for the dead nor print any marks upon you. But some biblical scholars suggest that Moses favored tattoos, introducing them as a way to commemorate the deliverance of Jews from Egypt—such as is being celebrated now during Passover.
So this artwork has been ongoing on this side of the pond not only by the American Indian, but officially since the first permanent tattoo shop in New York City was branding military servicemen from both sides of the pre-unCivil War.
And this is what is fascinating. There is a sense of permanence about them. Less likely to be fleeting. Or easily superfluous. I’m thinking that husbands and wives should get tattooed, so there marriage vows can’t be so easily discarded as wedding rings. No doubt make them hesitate a bit longer before they jumped in and bailed out.
The children also should be tattooed with a little family crest or some sort of tribal markings, so that when they become teenagers we won’t be able to disown them and lose them so easily.
Meanwhile, criminals should be scrawled with the word “turn” on their left facial cheekbone so others can remind them to “turn the other cheek.” Or, ‘turn over’ because they’ve been a pain in the ass far too long.
And then there are politicians who betray their public trust.
Hmmm…..Be still my machete.
I wonder how we should decorate those bloody bastards?
How’s bout with a lurid red or neon blue bull’s eye target in the center of their foreheads?
You know, I like that. I’m not quite sure why. It could be like the Hindu dots (tilaka) sported for religious meditation and spiritual enlightenment. And, as is sometimes joked in India, the woman receives her dot from an angry husband, jabbing a pointed finger to her forehead while shouting: “If I’ve told you once I’ve told you twice……!!!”
Hmmm… That’s exactly what those bright targets circled on those betraying, smug politicians could represent. And we all would be deputized to walk up to these charlatans and poke our angry index fingers, punctuating and jabbing their foreheads for the rest of their sanctimonious lives.
You know, this could get really uplifting. We could think of different tattoos for all sorts of immoral and illegal activities. And the greatest joy is that the tattoos are forever. Not like a life sentence (of five years) handed down by some cryptic law in a pusillanimous court.
Look, I know our bodies are supposed to be cathedrals. But, like me with all my operations and mishaps, these tattoos could, like computers, make GPS roadmaps of our lives. And there’s no hiding. And you can’t remove those body paintings without making yourselves miserable, as well as others miserable trying to look at you. They’re like a social disease.
John was telling me he has about $60,000 invested on his body and he is destined, soon to get his legs scrawled like mosaic tile with netherworld creatures for at least another $20,000.
“It is art,” he kept repeating.
And although I may have wanted to posture: that art, like morality, has to draw the line, somewhere. But I didn’t. I figured my aesthetic humor may have been a tad lost on Big John.
Look, I have to admit I like tattoos. Of course I am not brave enough to decorate myself with anything more than one ring on each hand. And, naturally, as an effete snob I wish that more folks would spend less time painting their bodies instead of sculpting their minds.
Most of the time.
I do have to confess that one time overseas a woman had large W’s tattooed very high up on the inside of each thigh. So when she parted her long divines it spelled: WOW.
Which was pretty much what I was thinking at the time.
However, today I am not thinking WOW as much as I am asking: Why?
Why aren’t we using something that has been around for thousands of years to more practical – or at least, punitive – use.
At the diner, John said simply that it was art. Not a protest. Not anything more than what it was. And, he liked it. And when his wife didn’t, he changed wives. But maybe, I posed, the wife just didn’t like the same piece of art hanging in her bed night after night. I wondered why he didn’t get a henna – one of those tattoos that last a few months and then fades away. That way he could be like a rotating billboard.
He sniffed and dismissed me like I was a piece of abstract art at a county redneck picnic.
“Those tattoo artists are genius, man. Wait til you see my legs.”
Hmmm…. Now I can guarantee you that won’t be a sight to make me go WOW.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.