11:04 p.m. - August 13, 2005
I say that because many of the people who meet me and have, for whatever reason, seen me without a shirt on, are amazed that I have a tattoo.
Yeah, a lot of people have tattoos now. This is 2005. Tattoos are not newsworthy. In fact, tattoos are about as rebellious as staying up an hour past ones bedtime.
Mine, I think, shocks people because it’s not a typical small and demure tattoo. Hidden, yes, for the most part, but it ain’t small. It’s on my right arm, near the shoulder. It’s all black and the size of my fist. It’s a trident, the symbol of Poseidon. And also…the symbol of the band Prong.
Katie, my 3 ½ year old, once asked why I had magic marker on my arm. The other day she wanted to see the shadow of my arm. Ah, if she only knew.
Ok, there’s a backstory here. Grab a couple of beers. In fact, make ‘em Foster’s Oil Cans (I am…) – and I’ll spin it.
Let’s go back to 1985, second semester of my freshman year at college. Some of my fraternity brothers got earrings that year. (In their left ear only, because you knew what it implied if you had one in the right ear, right?) I wasn’t particularly rebellious. Sure, I liked non-mainstream music, but otherwise I was rather much of a nerd-burger. Moose came back from college during Christmas with a stripe in his hair (and because of that we almost got into an altercation at our local video came haunt – but that’s another tale that’s actually too mundane to tell), but I was fairly much of a straight arrow. That is, until I decided to get my left ear pierced. And it wasn’t a small stud either – it was pretty much a big ol’ gold stud right in the earlobe.
I went to college in my hometown and I went home one night in April to do laundry. (I didn’t live at home, but boy did I take advantage of amenities when I could! I had the glories of fraternity living (beer) with homecooked meals when I wanted them!) Mom saw my ear, and told me to wait until my Dad got home. Uh – oh. Dad took one look at me and said if I wanted to live at home that summer – that earring would have to go – otherwise he’d rip the damn thing out himself and still kick me out.
By May – I had no earring. So my rebellion was co-opted, if you could even call it a rebellion.
Flash forward to 1990. I had graduated from college and started working an office job as a job engineer at the local behemoth printing company. It was a tough, stressful job that they gave to people right out of college – and many of us sank before we swam. It was a fairly conservative place to work, and already I was tabbed a bit of an oddball there because of my tastes in music (still on the alternative side, but also with a dose of pop music from the 60’s and 70’s to mix it up a bit), and my choice of dress. (I always had to wear a tie, but I decided to wear suspenders instead of a belt. I have no idea why I thought that was a good look – forgive me for my youthful indiscretion). Moose and I were rooming together and one day we went to the mall up in Lafayette. On a whim, I decided to get my ear re-pierced.
By then, ear piercing was already just blasé – but no one at this company in my position dared to have an ear pierced, especially someone who quoted Camper Van Beethoven lyrics on occasion. So I was the outsider, the rebel, the oddball, and I milked it. Moose and I had discussed getting tattoos then – but we never made the journey to Indianapolis to get them. Moose and I were the town alternative rebels - until the company and I parted ways.
It was easy to be the outsider in a small town. Non-conformity could be fun and I had my share of fun, mainly because I didn’t care what anyone thought of me, I was just being me. I had a few earrings I rotated – a small zircon stud, an ankh, a piece sign. I scoffed at the music played at the Holiday Inn Lounge. (That was, believe it or not, one of the hot spots in town, where center-parting mouth breathers with baby moustaches picked up vapid chicks with state fair hair by doing the electric slide flawlessly, but I’m not judging them. Nope, not me.) But soon I moved to Indianapolis when I found another job.
Indianapolis isn’t exactly on the cutting edge. In fact, it’s pretty much Crawfordsville just blown up 100 times its size, with richer people in certain areas. However, there was a certain underground subculture hanging out in a place called Broad Ripple, and by God that’s where I landed.
All through 1992, I was in that area five to six days a week. There were some nice clubs that featured original music, and some of the underground and alternative bands landed there for some shows. I drank a lot of cheap beer and met some interesting characters at some of these bars. So I rather much morphed into them.
The person you see above cut his hair really short (well, OK, that’s one attribute I kept. I found the hair care much easier, and besides, you can’t stop the retreat once the soldiers see the clearing), starting wearing ratty looking jeans, bought a pair of Doc Martens (which I still have, in my closet), got the requisite biker leather jacket (from which I got the tag Fonzie from some of my closer friends from back home. Heyyyyy!). I was a rebel, well, at least I was dressing like a rebel. Well, I was dressing how I thought a rebel should dress.
Face it, I was a sheep. Baaaaah!
But I started hanging with some cool people who I saw all the time out and about. Some of them played in a band, the Birdmen of Alcatraz. The singer and guitarist (nice people, by the way – actually the whole band was really nice and genuine. We always chatted quite a bit when we saw each other just randomly when they weren’t playing) had some interesting looking tattoos. I asked where they got their tats as I had been interested in getting a tattoo for a while. They hooked me up with their artist, so I made the jaunt out in the country south of Indianapolis.
For as big and black as it is, it didn’t hurt that bad, though I did take a mouthpiece to bite on. It took about an hour (or the entire White Zombie album that was playing) because it was just an outline filled in black.
Oh, I thought I was hip, especially when I saw Prong in Bloomington later that year. I was in the pit – I flashed the leader of the band my tat and called out my favorite older song, and they went right into it. Ah, I was in blissful heaven as the song “Freezer Burn” blasted out at an excrutiating volume, pulverizing my senses. I slept like a baby that night, as soon as my ears stopped ringing.
Funny thing, when I went home after getting inked up – dressed, of course, in leather jacket, docs, ripped jeans, earring, extremely short haircut they were more upset by the haircut than anything else.
But this rebellion, or what you call it, kind of phased out. I got the chicken pox in January 1993, and at age 27, that’s not something you want to deal with, really. I soon met Liz, so she’s always known me to have a tattoo. Her first Valentine’s gift to me was an earring. But by June of that year, I stopped wearing the earring, for whatever reason. (My daughter can still see the hole in my ear – she asks if I’ve got a boo-boo there.)
The leather jacket stayed for a year or two, but it was mostly used for fun and games than anything else. The docs were comfy, so I wore them a lot. I got new jeans (mainly because I was getting fatter.) So within a couple of years, I was a normal looking guy with a short haircut – and a big friggin’ tattoo on his right arm.
Of course, by then, tattoos were all the rage. And I guess they still are among the mis-spent youth. My hometown has two tattoo parlors when 15 years ago it had none.
But still, people have always been shocked when they see my tat. I think it’s the size of it for one. My nieces who live here have tattoos, and they are the typical girl-type tattoos – small, demure, feminine. Mine rather sticks out like a sore thumb. The first time I played basketball at lunch at the College, people started calling me Iverson because of it. (Then they saw my game – that was the LAST time they made that comparison.)
Also, while people know I have somewhat unusual and eclectic tastes, I don’t really broadcast them around much at the office or at conferences. (I said MUCH, people. That means I don’t wear a sign saying that I listen to Sepultura on occasion!) I dress in shirt and tie in the winter and polo and khakis in the summer, so I keep up appearances.
The first question is “what is it?” The second question is “how long have you had it?” When I answer those, the inevitable question is “why don’t you get it removed?”
There’s a simple reason: I don’t want to.
I wouldn’t do it again – but that year, 1992, was a fun year. It was my last year of being rather irresponsible. I had no girlfriend, but lots of friends and dates. I hung out with cool people but was not beholden to them. I didn’t have much money but I always got by and had enough to eat and drink and by music and see shows. It was a fun year – one that can’t be repeated. And I can always look at my right arm and remember that year.
And though I’m quite ecstatic with the way everything has turned out since that year – I don’t want to forget it.
So, that’s the scoop of my rebellion and why mild-mannered me has a huge black ink spot on my right arm. Sorry I have no good photo of it handy – I don’t want the masses exposed to my shirtless body. You see, this year I’m setting the record for the world’s most noticeable farmers tan, and I’m afraid my pasty white chest would blind people in the photograph, though my forearms deep, rich shade of raw sienna would make a nice contrast.