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Monday, February 14, 2011

3 Bad Tattoos

Las Vegas is home to a great many things, and has any number of “claims to fame”, but amongst those you may not know is that it is the bad tattoo capital of the world. For all our glitz, glamour and gentrification, you can’t close your eyes and throw a rock here without hitting someone with a tattoo so horrible that it instantly qualifies them for a psychiatric evaluation. Honestly, I’ve seen more aesthetically appealing bruises than some of these permanently inked disasters. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold these abominations against the artists - after all, they’re all just doing what they’re told, and for what it’s worth, they’re excellent executions of really bad ideas. But what continues to baffle me is how the tattoos here are actually more ill-considered than the clothing I see, and the clothing here is already bad. It’s like douche meets slacker chic, and everyone got dressed trying to emulate someone they saw in a TV show about Vegas. And for each fashion horror I see, there’s a permanently inked disaster not far behind. With spring just around the corner, and ever more skin to be on display, a bit of advice as you consider how to irreparably decorate yourself, three bad tattoos:

1. A Tribe Called Messed. Let’s be honest, you don’t have a tribe. You don’t even have three friends who know your middle name and have met your parents. You wouldn’t be Indian if you were riding a buffalo with a tomahawk and a head full of eagle feathers. And yet, you think that getting some massive tribal tattoo is going to somehow increase your warrior cred. C’mon now, painting racing stripes on a car doesn’t make it fast, slapping a steep price tag on something doesn’t make it valuable, and your wannabe tribal doesn’t make you a tough guy - anymore than that Tapout t-shirt or skull ring does. There are at least ten other guys with that same tattoo and eight of them can kick your ass. And don’t give me that line about how “original” your native ink is - just because you have a few more/less lines in a few different directions doesn’t make you the trailblazing “original” you think you are. There’s more originality in an Ed Hardy shirt than in another tribal tattoo. You’re a fake tan and some hair gel away from the Jersey Shore, and would probably get even odds against a group of eight-year-old yellow-belts. Listen, if you’re actually a bad ass, the last thing you’ll have to do is advertise it. Save the tribals for the tribe and try thinking of something original.

2. What’s In A Name? Writing names on things permanently is the sort of behavior normally reserved for urban juvenile delinquents, rural lovestruck teenagers and adolescent girls. And while I can certainly appreciate the risk-laden bliss of painting the name of my true love on a highway underpass or tagging a subway car with some elaborate version of my own cool “street name”, I don’t understand the predominance of names in tattoos. Anyone who is important enough and permanent enough in your life to even warrant that kind of treatment is going to be around long enough that a reminder should hardly be necessary, and anyone who isn’t definitely shouldn’t have their name on you forever. And anyone that insists you get their name put on you is the kind of crazy that won’t even make it to your next birthday. And if you think you need your own name scrawled on you indelibly, you’re probably also prone to referring to yourself in the third person (if you don’t see any problem with that, please put the blog down and slowly back away). A name is a beautiful thing - on paper, on a t-shirt, or even on a wall, but you’d be better off with life-long amnesia than using your body as a life-sized post-it note to remind you who’s important.

3. Not Bad, Just Drawn That Way. For a brief moment (i.e., about a month and a half in early 1994) it was actually cool to have a cartoon character tattooed on your body. It was a blithely carefree response to the “serious” tattoos that had dominated the skin art landscape of the 70’s and 80’s, and there just weren’t too many of them running around. Back then, in a room full of skulls and crosses, it was the guy crazy enough to have a Mighty Mouse on his chest that you might need to worry about. Now, it just makes you the idiot who couldn’t think of anything interesting to get and picked out something from the wall while you were drunk. Seriously, in case you’re wondering what the opposite of “interesting, soulful, creative person” is, it’s “person with the cartoon tattoo.” It would be more creative to tattoo the word “TATTOO” on yourself than to get some comic-strip character permanently fixed to your body. And don’t give me any nonsense about nicknames, that just means your friends have the same creativity impairment that you do - and, do you have any idea how many guys go by “Taz”? Unless you’re actually the creator of the character you’re planning on getting tattooed, leave the cartoons for Saturday morning.

* * *

In the end, our bodies tell our stories with more honesty, sincerity and accuracy then we could ever hope to do with our mouths: from our grey hairs and wrinkles telling of years passed by, to the scars and bumps that recall our mishaps and missteps. Our eyes carry the weight of all they’ve seen and our hands are a log of all the work we’ve done. Every inch of us is every part of us, and the greater our stories, the more beautiful we become. While we do choose most of this story, in one way or another, we never know exactly what will become of our choices, save for the smallest bit. That part, we choose directly, etching images forever on that otherwise distant canvas to punctuate our slow writ sagas with guideposts of who we are and who we were. But despite their minor part, they can tell you plenty about the story they populate. After all, the funny pages don’t tell great stories, and Great Expectations wasn’t illustrated with cartoon characters.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome, as expected! Loved the ending; way to make something fun more poignant. And I'm with you 100% on the idea of inking someone's name on you. If anyone ever tattooed my name on them, I'd slap their freshly inked tat & laugh at them.-----Savage Lettuce

Anonymous said...

You forgot the chinese characters that usually don't mean what you think they mean.

Brian said...

Butterfly tattoos are cool if you're an early 20th-century French prisoner in Guiana but not if you're the 500,000th college girl to get it "stamped" above your buttocks.

Eric said...

Tattoos are incomprehensible anyway. I can't keep the same opinion about any given food item for the length of time it takes me to order and eat. I can't conceive that there's anything I'll have so permanent an opinion of that I'll want it permanently displayed on my skin. Maybe "Drink Coke" if there's enough money in it.

Bill Friday said...

Glenn,

As any Clipper's fan will tell you, Keith Closs had the best ink in the history of history!

Kristina said...

Well there goes my idea for a tribal tattoo....

Name or even a symbol that represents a person, is the quickest way to ensure that you WILL break up! I agree with names, if they are your parents or your children only. I have run into a lot of guys with their last name, not only tattooed on themselves, but in REALLY LARGE LETTERS. Haven't quite figured out what that is about. My own theory is that it's like a tribal tattoo. "this is MY tribe" and they are really proud of their family name.

I have a superman tattoo. Yes I do. And also, don't get them when you're drunk. Then you do stupid things like ask the guy to redraw lady justice with a book instead of sword. That would be lady justice. True story! But hey! It's unique right? Lady of justice and liberty? Right? umm no.....

Anonymous said...

A buddy of mine who is tattooed from head to toe has a wonderful one on the inside of his lip that reads "FEED ME." It takes a certain kind of person to get a tattoo and a certain kind of person to get a tattoo like that. I have tattoos and am always on the lookout for the next way to alter my appearance, but never doing it with reckless abandon like some people. I was really hoping that you were going to get into tramp stamps on men. To be honest I wouldn't even know where to begin with that one.

-KEVIN

Jen and Tonic said...

I DESPISE when people have tattoos of other people's names on them. It's the quickest way to kill a relationship!

Did you hear about that guy (I think in California) who got a tattoo on his penis in exchange for a free mini cooper? I mean, really....a MINI COOPER!?

Bill Friday said...

Jen,

Maybe the guy's name was COOPER, and that was his girlfriend's name for his penis.

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