Dear plainskinâ„¢ stranger,
I’m glad you have the courage to talk to people you don’t know in just about any locale or circumstance, and I’m glad you appreciate the artwork that adorns my skin, but please, please oh please, don’t waste my time telling me about the “bad ass” tattoo that you are going to get or that your cousin or your cousin’s step-mother’s boyfriend’s parole officer has. I couldn’t give less than a rat’s ass.
Don’t get me wrong, I talk about potential tattoos and the tattoos of individuals’ relatives all the time, but those are people that I know. Much as back in article number two, while you are not touching me, I also don’t need to know your genealogy.
You would honestly be surprised at how often this actually happens. It even can be predicted by some telltale gestures and facial expressions as the person is moving towards me screwing up their courage to regale me with fantasies of giant tribal pieces “not like that other crap you see,” and un-ironic armbands of barbed wire. In fact, I would dare to say that the conversation almost always starts with: “Those are some pretty [insert modifier here] tattoos. Are you an artist?” Then they launch into the usual drivel.
I can only think of one instance where this conversation was ever fruitful: a plainskinâ„¢ stranger was telling me about what her boyfriend was going to get while I was waiting for a drink at some bar, and, before I could entirely glaze over, she got to the point and asked me where I got a couple of my pieces because she really liked the strong colors. That one was borderline.
Just remember, by attempting to keep my attention with your story that I don’t care about, you leave the door wide open for ridicule and mocking. Generally I’m a nice guy and will put up with a bit of that crap, but, every so often, I have one of my days where I’ll move straight into mocking mode. Because you engaged me in a conversation I would rather not be having, it is your fault that I’m making fun of your and/or your family. I realize that this truth will do nothing to quell the immediate anger you will feel towards me, but didn’t your mother tell you to not talk to strangers as a kid? There, lesson learned.
There is one and only one exception to this rule: if you are bringing me food and/or alcohol, I’ll listen to your stupid story. That’s right, my time can be bought. I do, however, reserve the right to waive this exception because while I may be a whore, I am not a cheap whore. For reference, I tend to enjoy pints of English and Irish ale and good Irish whiskeys.
Think before you speak, I may indeed bite.
I’ve got to be honest, this one came after a lengthy conversation with squeezle over some tasty breakfast tacos, but it really should have been the second in this series rather than the sixth. I’ll claim the fail on that one.
If you are here because of this article then I’m glad you visited. This is the fifth “article” in this series and you could probably stand to read the other four. You are probably what I refer to as my “target market” when it comes to little thing like being in contact with the modified (especially in Dallas).
First, and foremost, kudos to Teresa Dennis for getting out there and kicking off a new shoppe in town. Now that I’ve said that, I’m really wondering why she went with her own concept instead of franchising a Hart & Huntington shop here in Dallas. What, Dallas is just too cool for H&H to put out a shingle? I really doubt that. I expect Ms. Dennis to make a metric craptonne of money from her endeavor with almost zero repeat business. Why, you ask? The answer is simple. Hers is the land of ankle tattoos and tramp stamps. More kanji will make it’s way out of Subkulture Klothing and Ink than is in the Japanese Constitution. Part of me wants to grab my camera and just wait to be a paid contributor to Hanzi Smatter after what I expect to come out of this Uptown “experiement.”
This leads me to the fifth, and horribly late, lesson in our series: trend kills art.
I used to be a huge fan of the works of Don Ed Hardy. Hardy took a degree in printmaking and a relationship with Sailor Jerry Collins and managed to pull together an iconic catalog of style and form that helped to define “old school” tatoo art.
Then 2004 rolled around and the douche that killed the Von Dutch name decided to destroy yet another American icon. Yes, that would be Christian Audigier. It’s not coincidence that squeezle and I dressed as douchebags for Halloween in 2009 by decking ourselves out head-to-toe in budget Ed Hardy/Christian Audigier clothing.
Even Andy Warhol couldn’t mass produce that much cultural pap to be slurped up the the “undesirable elite” to be worn at exclusive clubs and events that would probably rather not have me in attendance. Hell, Andy is probably touching himself lewdly in the grave at the mere thought of having his work reach the ontological and improbable (near impossible) pinnacle that Hardy, err, Audigier has done: killing an American artform.
Sure, I’m more than willing to recognize that I have a severe degree of bitterness in this regard. For years and years I’ve wanted nothing more than a gigantic “Aloha” monkey tattooed on my torso (if you don’t know what it is, look it up). Squeezle has pretty much forbidden me from getting this, but it has been our little back and forth for the last decade. Now, sadly, it’s a cliche. I still want the little guy, but getting it now would be akin to getting the McDonalds arches put on me and declared subversive art. For that I am pissed. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Mark Ryden and Simone Legno (tokidoki for those not in the know) works become as prevalent, but I can, at the very least, still enjoy these gentlemen as pre-co-opted artists.
Above all, I want you, gentle reader, to know that this drivel is my personal opinion. Blogs are like assholes, everyone knows someone who has a stinky one. Sure, my bidet is on the fritz these days, but I still keep ordering the red curry and hoping for the best.
I honestly hope Ms. Dennis makes a good go at her “Subkulture” effort. I don’t imagine I’ll know any of the artists or clients of the joint, and I expect it to do as well as any of the trendy “boutiques” in Uptown, but I hope she learns a lot out of the exercise. Normally I’d throw in a nasty remark here about the potential for a Kat Von D guest spot at Subkulture, but I think that’s just a little too soon for Dallas’ fragile psyche.
Just a parting thought, though, what’s the over/under for the “buy the shirt, get the same tattoo for 75% off” sale at Subkulture?
I think often about getting out of the Information Technology business. As I sit here typing this out today, my left hand is, once again, trussed up like a Victorian strumpet thanks to mysterious wrist pain.
Too many video games? Too much masturbation? No, I think this actually came from working; and by work I mean typing out hundreds of lines of code.
I think I’d much rather do something more creative. I’ve expressed a wee tiny bit of creative talent that, with proper nurturing and education, could develop into something “real.” I get all jazzed up and try doing my little illustration projects that take tons of effort with minimal result and then I get the proverbial “smack in the face” by looking at other people’s creative work. Work that looks beautiful and effortless and comes with that incredible natural talent that, seemingly, cannot be taught.
Joby Cummings is just the latest artist to make me feel this way. I first was drawn to Joby’s work in tattooing (he’s out at Freak Chic in Los Angeles for those in the area), but then found his design and illustration work.
Holy crap he makes me ill. Take the image I stole from him for this post (available as both a printand a kickass shirt on his website). Have you figured it out yet? Those filigreed ribbons don’t just make a skull, they also spell out the classic seven deadly sins. How sick is that? You know you have to have one of those.
Joby’s even got a hotshot solo show at EM & Costarting up this week. I’d love to go to the opening reception on Thursday night, but my Learjet is in the shop. Plus, I think the Pope may swing by my place on Thursday to get his ass kicked at Wii.
I’ll just take my crayons and go cry in the corner.
Sure, I realize that tattooing is a major part of gang culture these days and that identity through ink has semiological implications in the underworld cultures of many nations, but situations like what is mentioned in the article are inexcusable. I realize that most plainskinsâ„¢ aren’t morons and that most are very understanding and deal with things outside of their comfort zone quite well, but discrimination like this boils my blood.
Here’s a simple guideline, and, by simple, I mean that it’s one simple step: look at the content of the damn tattoo before you throw a person out. Gang and hate tattoos are pretty easy to identify. For the most part, they tend to duplicate a common set of characters, symbols or themes. On top of that, the majority of gang tattoos I’ve seen over the past decade or so tend to be black and grey work. A lot of gang tattoos also don’t tend to be professionally done. From the picture in the article I can’t see much of the guy’s tattoos, but that throat-piece alone tells me he’s had some serious professional work done.
I’m trying not to get too preachy, but I’m pretty pissed off. I think BME has set the situation up nicely and has provided people with the right contact information to have their opinion heard well. I just hope the restaurant in question reevaluates their policy and pulls their heads out of their asses.
Sorry about that last part, I feel a tad better now.
It’s been well over a week since I last provided some advice to plainskinsâ„¢ from a modified perspective, and I really thought I’d give it a break for a bit to let it all soak in. After all, it’s the holiday season and there is only so much harsh reality a person can absorb: especially with so much dogma in the air.
Breakfast with the family over Thanksgiving weekend in a crowded restaurant with tightly packed tables made me change my mind.
I live in Dallas, Texas. There are a certain amount of stares that I have gotten used to over the years: especially in certain parts of town. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas is actually more tolerant of the modified than many other places I’ve been in the world, but there is still a fair share of ogling. The phenomenon in question today, however, is the state of the modified’s hearing.
I am the first to admit that I don’t hear the best. Years and years in front of concert speakers with no ear protection coupled with my selective ADD has made me rather oblivious. Other people I know have had their ears so modified that it is a wonder that their pinna can direct enough sound into their auditory canals. Like a wise doctor once told me, “Those piercings are nothing more than obstructions awaiting infection and rejection.” (no shits, this was actually told to me by a real M.D.).
However, the patented plainskinâ„¢ gawk, especially in a restaurant or bar, has a 60% chance of the plainskinsâ„¢ erupting into a discussion with their party. More often than not, the discussion tends towards the “I’d never get a tattoo,” or “How do you think she got her ears stretched so big,” or (my favorite) “he’ll never get a real job looking like that.” Opinions are like assholes, most need to be cleaned up before public presentation. To that regard, I don’t fault these people for what they think: it’s beyond the realm of their experience, and, tacitly “scary” by human nature.
What I can’t stand is that most of these conversations happen right bloody next to me. The big kicker is that while these people talk at normal or above typical volume levels, they still think that their furtive glances are what is going to give them away.
Unlike other situations with plainskinsâ„¢, however, I think a proactive approach is appropriate in this case. I suggest coming up with some generic card that says “Body Modification Ambassador,” or something similar, and a link to BME on it. I would then suggest politely stating that you couldn’t help but overhear their discussion and would be happy to answer any and all questions: however candid they might be.
I see two potential outcomes from such a confrontation: gratitude or indignation. In either case, the parties involved will learn something. If all goes well, they’ll learn that many of the modified are rather pleasant and more than willing to talk about just about anything. If it goes poorly, perhaps they’ll learn to keep the damn volume down. After all, I just want to eat my sammich in peace.
I’m hoping my first little discussion helped you, my casual plainskinâ„¢ reader. For you, the modified reader, I hope these little missives provide a little bit of gentle agreeable head-nodding and perhaps evenÂ a few whispered “you tell ‘em, brother’s.”
Like I said, these tiny bits of cultural gold aren’t in any particular order.Â Like most revelations, these just come to me when I’m attempting to do other productive activities: activities I must immediately stop so I can share my wealth of opinionatedÂ dogma with you.
OK, now for the hard knowledge. My dearest plainskinsâ„¢, whatever you do, do not touch the modified without prior permission.Â Sure, this sounds silly, but you wouldn’t even believe how often this happens. I’ve seen it happen with not just tattoos (generally the majority), but also scarification and even piercings.
I know that humans are generally trained to be visual animals from the time of early childhood, but, at the same time, most people tend to also have a firm sense of personal space. It seems that adding a modification to the mix throws the standard social norms right out the window.
From my personal experience, “touchers” generally begin by asking you about your mod and then, in the middle of explanation, reach out and initiate the touch. I know I often invoke the “oooh, shiny” feeling in people, but let’s get serious here. Our ancestors didn’t spend thousands and thousands of years figuring out that bright colors were a huge warning sign for dangerous animals, plants, polyester pantsuits, etcetera to just be tricked by a bit of subdermal pigments and/or inorganic materials or keloided skin. When you think about it that way, “touchers” are devolved.
The easiest solution would be to just eradicate “touchers.” I know this seems a little harsh, but we are an overpopulated planet anyway. In cases where that is not possible, I nominate the following solution:
If the “toucher” is female and over the age of 18 (wildly important), grab yourself a handful of boob.
If the “toucher” is male and also over the age of 18, grab his junk.
Both are drastic measures, and, in both cases, some serious judgement needs to be undertaken before the “grab” move is initiated. This move is intended to cause discomfort; not to act as a come-on.
If the “grab” cannot be used, a nice follow-up to an unwanted touch might be: “If you’d pardon me, I was on my way toÂ picking upÂ the salve for my aggressive chronic herpes.”
This will, guaranteed, get a reaction.
As a relatively heavily tattooed individual, there are a few things that I have grown accustomed to when faced with the inquisitive and/or the repulsed. To that end, I wanted to write a series of postings to perhaps help plainskinsâ„¢ better understand the modified. While the series is numbered, there really is no rhyme or reason to their order.
First and foremost among the questions I get as a tattooed individual is the ubiquitous: “How much did that cost?” I refer to that doozy asÂ ”the question,” and can see it coming almost a mile away.Â For some reason I always getÂ mildly pissed off about “the question”; almost as pissed off as the concept of people value-shopping tattoo artists (it happens way more than you can imagine and that is a discussion for another time). “The question” is offensive. I liken it to asking: “How much did it cost to smooth the lump out in your baby’s head?” or “How much didÂ those new tits cost?”
Here is an easy guide for plainskinsâ„¢ to help them gauge how much a tattoo costs if it’s killing them that much.
- Approach the tattooed individual with a pleasant demeanor. Whatever you do, do not approach with “that face.”
- Before anything, compliment the work. The modified like to have their ego stroked. Additionally, close to 40% have probably had a little bit of regret about getting the piece done. They’d never admit to that, but it’s true.
- Ask how long it took. The tattooed generally have two approaches to the time they spend under the needle: fear and conquest, and it’s very easy to tell the two apart. Fear is signified by the generic, “It took X hours and I thought I was going to die.” response. Conquest is often signified by, “The artist only went X hours in the first sitting, but I was ready for more.”Â Unless you really want to be dragged in, acknowledge the response and move on to the next step.
- Ask who did the work. This is the most telling part of being able to tell how much a tattoo might cost. More than likely, you’ll already have this information since most people who are proud of their work will offer that forth the second you express any interest in them. If they mention the artist’s name in a manner that implies that you should know them and you are unfamiliar with the name, assume the rate is around $200Â per hour. If you do recognize the name from television, movies, video games, porn, etc., automatically assume that the rate is around $600 per hour. If the person being questioned just sort of mumbles it out, generally assume around $100 per hour.
- Take your newly discovered information and multiply the two pieces together: rate x length of time. I would automatically subtract 10% from the length of time because most people are whiny and tend to embellish how long they had to get jabbed at.
And that should do it! If you must know how much a person’s tattoo cost them, that’s the way you can ask it without directly asking it. It should also be assumed that the artist was tipped a fair amount (not tipping your artist can lead to dry socket and other disgusting things).
OK, now for the big kicker: my above guide is totally moot. Artists rates are variable all over the board. Rates change if the artist is working on a friend of theirs, a friend of the shop’s, the artist is having a good day, the artist is having a bad day, the recipient is a nice person, or if the recipient is a douchebag. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not an exact science. If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, do your homework. Look at different artists, ask intelligent questionsÂ and figure out who is right for you: don’t go on cost alone. Remember, unless you are willing to shell out some serious cash and experience some serious pain from laser removal, or get really liberal with that veggie peeler, that tattoo will be there for the remainder of your natural life (and then some).
I hope that helped.