Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tattoo Machine (copy)

Not just for drunken sailors anymore, tattoos are appearing on more skin then birthmarks. What is the fascination with decorating ones’ skin? If you ran away from the doctor ready to inoculate you as a child, why sit still for multiple pricks as an adult? I get the argument that it makes one unique, but if everyone is doing it who is unique?

I picked up Jeff Johnson’s new book Tattoo Machine looking for the answer. What I got was a whole lot of fun akin to sitting around a campfire listening to horror stories.

Johnson owns a century run tattoo shop in Portland, Oregon called the Sea Tramp Tattoo Company. In his many years of customer service he has seen a variety of clientele. No two people are alike but as the sticking time approaches a couple of categories begin to emerge.

The shop has its own vocabulary for these stereotypes. The person who comes armed with pain pills is a bunny. One who loses his lunch is a chudder and an appointment that greedily downs fast food before the session is a taco valve. Customers are encouraged to eat before the needling, but isn’t the taco valve looking to chudder?!?

Among the many stories Johnson relates, one made me chuckle in agreement. In his location he has the opportunity to work on many a homesick GI. State flags are popular amongst this group as a quick display of pride. One such GI asked for the Texas state flag. Johnson explained that he did not own a book of flags and the young man should visit the library for an example. The GI shook his head and said he knew the flag by heart and began to draw it on a napkin. The following week the GI stomped into the store and yelled, “I’m Texan not Portuguese!”

In Johnson’s 18 years of artistry, he has gathered some strong opinions on fellow artist. He looks down on those who call their machine a gun. He dislikes sloppy and lazy workers who draw on their customers with a pen or toothpick dipped in ink. It is accepted if one is emulating smoke or wind; otherwise, these are “Night Hogs” in his opinion and not true artist. “Direct-to-skin drawing, at its worst, is a pressure sales tactic.”

As for the psychology of decorating ones skin, the book gives no answer, but it is packed with pure unadulterated fun. I must warn you. The author is very much in the style of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. He throws out the off-color jokes and slings the slang like no one’s business.

11 comments:

Tiffany Norris said...

So interesting! I want one, but my husband is not too crazy about the idea. As for the psychology of wanting one? Hmm...I just think they look kinda cool. :)

stacybuckeye said...

I don't really get the appeal of tatoos, but this book sounds interesting.

sage said...

Sounds like a good read and about as close to getting a tattoo as I want to get.

____Maggie said...

Tiffany - Hubby would kill me if I got one. I think they are kinda cool, but the idea really repulses him. He's okay with my belly ring though!?! ;D

Stacy - The book was great and it was nice to hang out with one of the boys again. I had forgotten or not heard a lot of the slang Johnson dished as he talked his locker room mumbo-jumbo. I can get out my notebook of synonyms for females and add twenty more! ;D

Sage - You afraid of a little needle poking you millions of times with colored ink?!?

I was talking w/ hubby about the book - he read a little while I was on my walk - and he mentioned that I already had a couple of tattoos: a pencil lead in my right thigh and clump of dirt from a nasty cat claw! ;D

Jeane said...

Hello, just stopping by to let you know I just gave you a blog award!

katrina said...

They don't hurt much. I have 3, my tiny one on my belly says Walk Away in my hand writting - for no reason other than thats what came out of my head when I was trying to doodle a star. I also have a butterfly on my back and four teeny butterflies on the inside of my wrist.
TBH the only one i'm bothered about now is the one on my wrist, its cool, the others never get seen.
Still not sure why I had it done, or the bellybutton piercing.

____Maggie said...

Aw, thanks Jeane!

Katrina - In the book Johnson relates a group came in to get a funny fat butterfly they thought was cute. The latin script underneath their brought in illustration told another story. It turned out to be a moth!

I'm a wimp when it comes to pain, but apparently all I need is a dare which resulted in my belly ring last time. :)

Rosemary said...

Fascinating! My best friend and I ran out and got matching tattoos when we were 19. I've never regretted the decision but we've both said that if we hadn't got them at such a young age, we probably wouldn't get them now. Oh, and I'm a bunny. I took some heavy duty pain killers with me. :)

____Maggie said...

Rosemary - Thanks for the story! I didn't add this but if you come into the shop slurring your words they would call you a total bunny! ;D I heard from the girls that I'm the only one who still wears my belly ring from a group of five! Makes me wonder who would take her tat off if given the chance...

Lesley said...

As someone with multiple tattoos (and wanting more) this sounds like a great book! I'm also a big fan of Anthony Bourdain so it sounds as though this guy's style will appeal to me. Thanks for the heads up!

____Maggie said...

Lesley it is a great read! The only thing I wish it contained is artwork. I realize it is expensive to do photos in a book, but even his picture on the jacket shows a man in a black t-shirt. Where are the tats!