Dressing farm animals in women’s clothing ain’t nearly as fun as going to the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention with a warning sign out front: “No weapons. No alcohol. No colors.”

At first I thought my friend couldn’t go in.

The big stark incongruous black and white sign at the front door read:

“No weapons — No alcohol — No colors”

I looked at the 440 pound half-Hawaiian, half-African guy with me and said: “No colors? Well, I guess you can’t go in.”

“That’s for motorcycle gangs, you round-eyed twit.”


I still wasn’t going in.


The lines – five of them each at least 100 feet deep or more — backed up to places I ain’t backing up to even in a Sherman tank.  Not with the looks of that crowd.

This was at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention, one of the world’s biggest with some 600 artisans and exhibition booths.

In attendance were thousands of bizarre people, some who prompted you to regularly pat down your pockets. You know, check to see if your wallet and jewelry checked out early.

There is absolutely no doubt that many of these folks were fresh from their water boarding tortures in Guantanamo. They arrived in unusual sizes, shapes and states of mind.

To say the obvious: They were all self-effacing works in progress.

It was evolution gone amuck. Flamingoes and ostriches and parrots and roosters had nothing on them. Orange heads, fully shaved heads, purple Mohawk heads and heads that paid no mind because it just didn’t matter.

And tattoos were all over their faces and scalps and places I didn’t need to think about.

Made me want to snap on some rubber gloves. Get a stiff shot of penicillin. And reconsider the multiple possibilities of farm animals in women’s clothes.

In addition, they had all sorts of spurs and chains on their boots which must have made it difficult  — no matter how high-tech the bathroom johns were – to configure yourself.

And what is it with these gizmos that stretch the earlobes until you look as electric-shocked as a couple of my exes right after I cut off their alimony checks. (Ahh… Now there’re a couple of dates worth getting tattooed.)

Of course, metal piercings were land-mined over lips, noses and ears – not to mention other areas of faces that must have been awarded Purple Hearts. Took forever to get it all thru the metal detectors at the security gates.

One security guard, examining my pocket knife, asked if I intended to go up to the exhibition floor. I took another look at the endless numbers of very strange people still streaming through and replied: “Not without a weapon, I don’t.”

It’s not merely that you feel your space ship may have dropped you off at the wrong alligator nest. Or even a Lady Gaga concert. It’s that you get to thinking everything must be the result of a Big Bang accident – just like the accident most of the parents of these drunken Easter Bunnies must have had the night of banging them out.

Their Moms are no doubt left wondering: For this I sacrificed my virginity??

I don’t mean to disparage everybody at the tattoo show, especially that woman with her long-leggy divines tattooed like black fish net stockings. Oh-my-my-my. Down boy. Down! It wasn’t just me. She got a 100 gun salute – at least.

I don’t know what it is about tattoos these days. I know they’ve been a hit with the hoi polloi for a quite a few thousand years. Moses was said to have the face of a pharaoh on one of his arms.

And actually, I have to admit, I kind of like them. Particularly that one I might have mentioned about a year ago on that woman in Germany. She had a large ‘W’ on the inside of each thigh. At certain moments, when she spelled it out for you, it read: ‘WOW!’

Sometimes one word can be quite a mouthful.

It’s not tattoos that puzzle me. It is some of the people with them. They seem to be missing something – that is, besides teeth. It’s as if those who can, do. And those who can’t, get tattoos.

Really, I am not here to judge, but some appear to be seeking fulfillment with a contemporary gallery across their arms, legs, breasts and chests. And in a few years this body wallpaper is going to leave them confusingly scratching their tattooed heads, trying to recall like a sailor in rehab: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

And what can I say to some women who get a butterfly on their breasts in their 20s that inevitably turns into a condor when they’re 60.

Look, I know you shouldn’t judge a person by the shape of his genital tattoos. But to be quite frank, there aren’t many I want to take home to meet the folks. I am sure most of them are fine upstanding law-abiding citizens who wouldn’t borrow the family silverware even if my chortling, heavily-armed father was willing to give them a five yard head start.

But I find it painful, at times, to gaze upon some of their body piercings and colorful skin sketchings — especially in the light of day or under the bright lights of the convention center. So I certainly don’t want to bump into them when they’ve overdosed on Viagra.

I am definitely no conformist. Perhaps if tattoos were not in the height of middle class fashion I might consider getting one on a lower appendage. Make me smile whenever I am holding it.

But unfortunately, this is a corporate world – that means straight, dull and boring, with about as much humor as a rabid pit bull on a hangover.

So I have to wonder how do these folks with all that facial hardware and tapestry find jobs. I mean, the guys in human resources would have to be Helen Keller to even pretend not to notice future ‘Halloween’ sequels in the making.

No wonder unemployment is so darn high.

One woman with chartreuse for hair and some unique facial and body murals over pallid skin, spoke in a language somewhat familiar to me and my 440-pound multilingual friend.

We deciphered that what she said was: She did tattoos because they were a way to express herself.


With the help of sign language, body language and my friend, I asked if she’s ever tried English. “That’s also a good way to express yourself,” I said. “And physics. And poetry. And mathematics. And music. And…”

She tilted her smiling face. And then turned to show me her back left shoulder blade. In a psychedelic green scrawl from the 60s it said, simply: love.


It wasn’t a “WOW!” but it was still love. And that’ll do.

And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…

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