The Mark

A reporter gets branded for cash (again)

And I'm sure as shit not giving one of these spelling bee champs another shot at immortality.

The sole interaction amongst convention attendees, it seems, consists of people showing each other their tattoos. This extroverted/prideful ritual has always confused me, an introverted/ shame-filled sort, mostly because of the hypocrisy of it. Because the fact of the matter is that -- all talk of art aside -- nobody with tattoos really gives a damn about anyone else's tattoos. They are not impressed. Yes, they/we will look at yours politely and nod and say something generic, but they/we are inevitably steering the looking toward their/ our tattoo.

Whitt at work. Yes, it hurts.
Julie Bifano
Whitt at work. Yes, it hurts.

A convention, of course, is the perfect place for this sort of self-adoration, because the only act more aggrandizing than showing one's tattoo is actually getting it done where others can watch.

Mine is not going to be much in the way of spectator sports. I consider paying the Tyler twins to do me, but when they show up they're so tiny and so young and look so thoroughly capable in their youth of misspelling even a tattoo with no words -- their banner calls them "Twinz" -- that I chicken out and look elsewhere until I meet Whitt the Wizard, who has piercings that hurt to look at and a wife with piercings that hurt to look at, and though they run a shop called Tye Dye Tattoos, the name of which runs contrary to certain personal anti-hippie aesthetics, they are friendly and competent-seeming and getting a little on in years and I trust them.

It's not much that I want, anyhow. Just a thick circle with a solid dot in the middle on the driver's side of my lower spine next to a thick square with a solid dot in the middle on the passenger side. It's almost embarrassing asking this guy, clearly so skilled in applying flaming skulls and barbwired roses, to give me plain old geometric shapes, but I am not a flaming skull and barbwired roses kind of guy, and Whitt gets paid either way.

It's a hobo symbol, one of a brief dictionary of such that transients used to mark in chalk on fence posts or outhouse doors to warn or inform hobos yet to come. Mine means, according to the book I took it from, An ill-tempered man lives here.

"Aw, but you seem like such a nice young man," says the Wizard's wife.

Whitt punches it in between back spasms, and there it is forever.

Forever: That's another thing the tattooed share. A tenuous grasp of the concept of permanence, accompanied by a woeful incognizance of the affiliated idea of consequence. The act of getting tattooed ignores these ideas, or mocks them outright, or simply says to hell with them altogether.

You'd think people with typos and panthers and the names of old girlfriends gouged into their flesh would know better than to come back for more, to take another chance at inscribing some drawing/picture/words/symbol/ logo, which today seems clever/ hip/obscure/meaningful/pretty, upon flesh that inevitably will grow sallow/ saggy, in ink that must eventually turn fuzzy/indecipherable, upon one's irredeemable body, forever and ever, amen.

But you could see them all over the room, the lessons unlearned. The Radisson was full of people showing good work, sure, but showing plenty of bad work, too, and getting more.

And what the hell. It's just a tattoo. If you choose to care too much about it, you are bound to whatever bad taste inspired it, marked with whatever ill-trained craftsmanship executed it.

It is better, methinks, to not care at all, for within that delusion lies something happily mistakable for freedom.

And who knows, speaking of delusion. Maybe some chick'll dig it.

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