T A T T O O S
kind of a guy like
the guy on the left.
Then it happened.
I got Stewed, Screwed, and Tattooed ! ! !
People frequently ask me if I regret my tattoos. I sure do. I got my first tattoo when I was too damned young to get tattooed. I was only fifty years old, and had only been seriously thinking about getting one for over twenty-five years. Went to a tattoo shop the first time (Lyle Tuttle's, next to the bus station in San Francisco) in about 1974 or 1975. Didn't have the nerve to get one then, though.|
But like most young people, I am just too impetuous and one day, Friday, August 27, 1999, I finally just did it. I had only been carrying the design I thought I wanted around with me for about six months, and had only discussed it with about five different artists in three different cities. But I guess on that fateful, regrettable day, Tim was finally getting really tired of my stupid questions, so that day he said, “SO, When Are We Going to DO THIS ? ? ?” So I said, “how much?” He said, “A Hundred Bucks.” So I said “How about Right Now?”
So we went back and he prepped me for a band around my left ankle. I thought it was really BIG but still nice and discrete (read "out of sight!") for a fifty year old kid like me. I gave him a Hundred Bucks and said he could have it whether I went through with it or not, even if I freaked and ran out before he started. Then I started regretting what I was doing and thinking, "what is my wife gonna say," and then I worried, "my momma is gonna kill me!" And Tim said, “Are You READY ? ? ?” I said “YEP ! ! !” and he started. Not too bad. At first. Then I started to regret it. It hurt quite a bit. And I could not BELIEVE I was letting him do that to me! But the sonofabitch had my money already and he had already blemished my perfect body, so I guessed I would just have to really REGRET having to live with the damned thing around my leg for the rest of my damned life and I might as well let him finish it, since it really didn’t hurt that much.
When he was finally finished (after about an hour), I really regretted it a lot because my symmetry was totally destroyed, so I went in a week later to get a band around my other ankle. I really needed my symmetry restored. But Tim was on vacation for a week. I regretted that because I was really needing to get my body fixed, right then. I was obsessed because I was going to have to live with being asymmetrical for another whole week!
So I went back the next Friday, two weeks after my first regrettable tattoo. Tim got the stencil ready (a cool piece of flash from the wall I had admired for months) and put it on and got started. I regretted it very soon after he started. It hurt quite a bit. And I could not believe I was letting him do this to me again! But when he was finished, I was Very Happy. I had a tiger chasing his tail around my right ankle. Sort of a metaphor for my life, I guess! But No Regrets.
So I started planning my next piece. I wanted Picasso’s Don Quixote on my back, one of my twenty-something year tattoo fantasies. I took a copy to Tim to discuss size and such issues with him. I wanted a Full Back. Tim thought I was kidding. I guess he thought no way would this old fart do anything that big for his third tattoo. So I went to the other artists I had plagued for months about my first tat. Nobody seemed to take me seriously, and I think they were pissed that I had allowed some other artist to do my first two tattoos. So I went back to Tim. He said he could draw something for me that would be much better that what I had! I told him, “Man, this is f**king Picasso! You cannot improve on Picasso!” So I was pissed and I left.
But I kept carrying my Don Quixote around with me (along with a stack of tattoo magazines). My God really has a cool sense of humor. I went to Albuquerque, NM, with a friend a few months later. He was driving down a main street when he saw a tattoo shop. The sign said they did cosmetic and other tattooing. He said, “I know what we can do tonight, let’s get a tattoo!” He was kidding, I think. He already had one large piece on his right bicep but he did not know I had my two little ankle bands. Nobody thought I was a Tattoo kind of a Guy. So I said, “Hey, Yep, that might be fun!” and then I started laughing. He wanted to know what I thought was so damned funny. I told him I would show him when we got to the hotel. We went to the room; I pulled off my boots and socks; dug out my Picasso and the magazines; rolled up my pants; and showed him my ankles and my Picasso drawing. I told him I would get Don Quixote tattooed on my back that night if he was up for the adventure. And I knew just the shop: Route 66!
He couldn’t believe it! Nobody who knew me then ever thought I am that kind of a guy that would get a tattoo. But away we went and found the shop and met up with Fernando Munoz. He loved the Don Quixote idea and I was pumped, ready to get it done right then. But he had to make a stencil (actually in four pieces) and said he would have it ready the next day. So my buddy got a wonderful Marilyn Monroe on his shoulder from Fernando that night and we went back to the hotel very happy. No regrets. We laughed our asses off that night.
Next morning I was at the shop when it opened, waiting for Fernando. He had the stencil ready. It took forever to get it all on my back, lining up the four pieces correctly. When we were both satisfied with the placement, he got started. After about an hour I started really regretting it. Especially down my spine and over the kidneys. As the fourth hour of the session approached, I was REALLY regretting the whole tattoo. But the outlining was soon finished. It took about four and a half hours, and I realized I had regretted almost every minute of it. But it was finished and I did not regret it at all anymore. You know how the tattoo process works: the pain stops as soon as the needle stops violating your skin.
So my tattoo buddy and I laughed all the way home about our unplanned tattoo trip. In fact we still laugh about it almost every time we get together now. We both really Do Not Regret Our Tattoos!
But I soon started to regret that my tattoo was not finished. I regretted that tattoo so much that about three weeks later I went back for another four or so more hours of work. This was solid work, filling in the outline, no shading, just alot of pure, solid, heavy, dark, BLACK. I regretted almost every minute of it. It hurt. Since Albuquerque is about 350 miles from my home, I regretted having to drive back there again about six weeks later to get it finished. I regretted another four hours of hard tattooing. I regretted another four hours of pain. But when it was finished and I had Don Quixote on my back, I didn’t regret it at all any more. I loved it.
But in a week or so I started to regret it. It was on my back and I couldn’t see it except when I looked in a mirror. And since I almost always wear a shirt, I regretted that everyone else couldn’t see it. Except my wife. I knew she could see it a lot. But she NEVER said ANYTHING about it. I wondered if she regretted it, but I didn’t ask. I wondered about a lot of things about my wife in those days, but I never asked anything.
I continued to regret my back piece a lot, every day. I regretted it so much that I wanted another tattoo that I could see. I wanted an eagle on my chest (another of my long-time tattoo fantasies). I wanted something I could see so I wouldn’t regret having something I couldn’t see after spending all of that pain and money. And so I started looking for the perfect eagle. I wanted it BIG. So I started the tattoo shop interview/tour again. Of course the artists regretted all of my questions and annoyingly repetitious visits. But I finally decided I wanted Mike Peluso at Big Buddha Tattoos to do it and we settled on a design. A BIG eagle, shoulder to shoulder, from my clavicles to the bottom of my sternum. Then I decided I wanted to sample Mike’s work before I trusted him to cover my entire chest, so I got him to do a small piece on my upper right arm. I regretted it some while he was doing it, but it wasn’t too bad. In fact I really liked it when it was done.
I didn’t regret any of my tattoos at that time, but I think my wife did. Less than two months after Mike put that piece on my arm, I told my wife I was leaving her. She said she was sure that "On the Inside you must be the same nice guy I married," BUT "You sure are Different On the Outside." YEP, I knew it all the time! SHE did regret my tattoos (and probably my beard too, but that is another story for another page). But I didn’t. I was fifty-one years old; I had been married twenty-three years; and I ran away from home. No regrets!
So a week later Mike started on my eagle. I didn’t regret it at first. But when he got over to the sternum, I regretted the hell out of it! After about three hours of outlining and shading one wing, my regret level was going through the damned roof! But when he was finished, I didn’t regret it at all. Then we had two more sessions working on shading the wings, which were somewhat regrettable. But the last session with the eagle was all down the center of my chest. I have never regretted anything so much in my life as I did having my sternum tattooed. But when it was finally finished, I was very proud to have a very beautiful, very proud eagle on my chest. No regrets!
In fact I did have one regret. Remember, I had that piece Mike put on my right arm for me to check him out. In my excitement over getting my eagle, I had not realized that I was not symmetrical again. So Mike had to put one on my left arm to restore my symmetry again. So it was done and once more I had no regrets. I had six tattoos done within the first year of getting my body colored. I was happy! I had no regrets for about ten months.
After awhile I started regretting that I had not been tattooed for several months. I had found the perfect design that would make a great front piece. It would cover the whole front, neck to waist. But I already had the eagle covering the top third of that area. Shit, I really regretted that eagle! It screwed up my canvass for the piece I really wanted on my front. But Mike and I worked with it to cut the design down to fit the available space and it would be wonderful. So we went to work on it. I regretted it for hours, eight sessions in fact. I really regretted it when Mike was working on my ribs. I wanted to cry a few times, I regretted it so much. But it was awesome when it was finished.
I was so happy then with my tattoos that I wanted more. So Mike put an arm band around my left arm. It really did not hurt much. But after it was finished, I looked at it and thought, “Damn! I really regret that. My symmetry is screwed again.” That sucked so much that less than a week later I had to have one on my right arm. Then I had no more regrets (again).
Soon I started regretting all of my tattoos, though. I now had nine tattoos. That is just too damned many tattoos on one guy. I had never really wanted more than one when I started this, but I am a certified addict in every sense of the word and I seemed always to be in need of another ink fix and now I had all of these tattoos and I regretted them. I especially regretted that I had two on my front: a very realistic eagle on my chest and a big fantasy piece on my stomach and a lot of blank, virgin skin in the middle, from one side to the other. I really regretted those two tattoos. There was not but one solution: fill up all of that regrettable blank space! So I got the idea to have a flock of pegasuses (pegasi?) flying across my chest to tie the eagle with the fantasy piece below, with shading to fill in all of the blank spaces. The whole job took six sessions. I regretted it almost from the start, since a lot of this job was on extremely sensitive areas: my ribs and around my nipples. Some of it was really, painfully, regrettable. But when it was finally finished, I was one happy tattoo aficionado! I had just one back piece and one front piece on my torso.
By Saturday, two days later, I was regretting all of my tattoos again. Looking in the mirror, I realized that I still hated having so many tattoos. I had one covering the entire front of my torso and two on each arm. I regretted having five tattoos to look at every time I looked at my shirtless body. Only one thing to do about that. So Mike had to turn those five tattoos into one. It took one session to fill in the area from my right arm band around the other arm piece to connect to the eagle. I really regretted that when he was finished, since it of course ruined my symmetry again. But a week later, the other arm was completed in the same manner, symmetry was once again restored, and all of my regrets were obliterated! And I didn’t have so damned many tattoos! Now I have only four, whereas two months ago I had nine. Reducing the number of tattoos really did reduce my regrets about having to live with all of my tattoos for the rest of my life!
It had been a week now. I really did regret my tattoos again. There was a very big blank area above Don Quixote. That needed to be fixed. I had always liked Japanese Kanji tattoos. Very mysterious. Nobody in the USA can read it. It would be cool having an inscription on my body that people would have to ask about or else just keep wondering about what it says. Except for the vast hoardes who just do not give a shit.
So what could I put there? Well, us alcoholics have this thing about carrying the AA message to those who still suffer. What could be more perfect than the essential message of Alcoholics Anonymous? The Serenity Prayer! So I had the words Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom tattooed across the top of my back it kanji (Japanese script). Anybody who asks me what it says gets a little dose of the AA message, whether they want it or not.
But as soon as it was done, I regretted it. It did not really connect with any of the rest of my tattoos. It looked like three (or six) more damned tattoos ! ! ! Well shit, that is easy to fix. More of Mike's cool swirls and shading going over my shoulders connected the front with Reinhold Neibuhr's Serenity Prayer on my back and all of my regrets were over once more. True SERENITY overcame me. Life is good again.
Then in a few days I regretted that there were holes in my front tattoo. My arm pits were NUDE. Well, except for some hair. That really sucked. I NEEDED those holes filled. But what to put there? I had lots of ideas and talked them over with Mike. He didn't want to do it. He said the arm pit was really, REALLY, very PAINFUL. But I did not give a shit. Having holes in my tattoo was really painful. We were going to fill them in. And they would be SYMMETRICAL. So Mike went to work drawing up concepts from my ideas. We settled on a very nice pair of Haida thunderbirds. The appointment was set to do it.
So I regretted and fretted about my arm pit tattoos for another week, waiting for the appointment. And I started to regret the idea of the thunderbirds. And started thinking about bear paws. I love bears. I wanted bear paws hugging me. That was the perfect design, one I knew I would not regret. But I sure regretted telling Mike I had changed my mind again. Nobody in his right mind wants to piss off his Tattooist!
But he liked the idea! I took him some designs I had found, but he had a better one, and I loved it. But I was regretting the process of having my pits tattooed. I had not been this afraid of getting tattooed since my first little ankle band! This was really gonna HURT ! ! ! Mike said so. We would do them in two sessions, so maybe I wouldn't die from the pain.
But you know what? It did hurt quite a bit, but not as much as alot of other areas. And when the first one was done, I was emphatic that we were going to do the other one right then. And when Mike was finished with them, I had absolutely no regrets about anything. I was happy all over from my neck to my waist. And I have wondered ever since why all of those wimps have their torsos and arms covered and have holes in their armpits!
I had been regretting not being able to go for a swim for the last two years, since I have had fresh tattoos most of the time for the last two summers. So that summer I was going to go swimming alot before I begin regretting my tattoos again. I needed to be able to show them off!
But I have nothing but blank, pale skin from my waist down to my ankles (Well, that is not exactly true, but I think you know what I mean). All of that blank skin was beginning to ITCH! It had been three months since I got inked. With my long white legs separating my big torso and back tattoos from those poor distant lonely little ankle bands, it would take a long time to fix all of that. I really regretted that. So on July 9, 2002, I cut my swim vacation short and Mike started hurting my legs about three times a month.
Tattooing feet is CRAZY. Both the expreience and the process. The top is no big deal. But the lower sides and Oh My God the heels HURT. Seriously. And at least on mine, the ink refused to stay put. The heels and much of the lower edges took three touch-ups. The last session was Saturday, October 4. But there will have to be one more assault on them, since the problem areas are still not up to Mike's (and my) high standards!
Anyhow, I only wanted one when I started getting myself covered in all of this regrettable tattooing, and sure enough, after more than four years of having a fresh tattoo somewhere on me, I again only have ONE TATTOO, from my neck down to my toes. And I may be OK for a while.
I went with Mike and some friends and his hard-core clients to the 5th Annual Texas Tattoo Round Up in Dallas on November 7-9, 2003. I went a couple of years ago and had a great time looking. This time I entered a few contests. And I WON Best Color Large and Best Overall Male. Talk about a KICK ! ! !
Then I went to the Star Of Texas Tattoo Art Revival in Austin January 9-11, 2004, and entered several contests. I came out with second place Overall Male. I was robbed. And I know why. My lower arms were nekkid. And I REALLY REGRETTED THAT.
So, I have the courage to change the things I can. On Sunday, March 14, Mike did all of the outline to complete my left sleeve with eight grizzly bears, water, trees, grass, mountains and sky.
I guess you know what that did, doncha? Screwed my symmetry again, Big Time! I had to put up with that for TWO WEEKS, until the right sleeve got outlined on Sunday, March 28, with a similar scene of wolves.
Finished the whole job on May 19, in nine and a half weeks, I think it was about 14 sessions of around two hours each.
I really regret that I waited so long to get sleeved. Should have done that a LONG TIME AGO.
But now, after four years, hundreds of hours, and thousands of bucks getting tattooed, what I still regret the most is my back piece. I really hate that. That is my favorite tattoo and it is on my back, and I will NEVER be able to see it without looking in a mirror. I really regret that tattoo being where I cannot see it. But I know for a fact that having Don Quixote on my back, where I can’t even see my favorite work of art, is truly something that
In addition to the Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom and Don Quixote on my back, I also have some kanji down below my right shoulder, the character you see on the background of this page, the kanji script for "enigma," which in Japanese is pronounced "nazo." I like that word, enigma, which means "that which (or one who) is puzzling, ambiguous, inexplicable, or perplexing; a riddle." That is me. That is the universe. That is human relationships. That is politics. That is God as I understand Him. Very good word. One of my favorite tattoos. It explains that I am an enigma. Perhaps that is a non-sequitur. Very good! In fact, my back sums me up better than any words I could ever come up with to explains me.
One of the funniest comments I have ever gotten came from a cute little neighbor kid (who thinks my tats are "awesome"). He comes over about every time he sees me outside. He asked me a long time ago how I put them on. I told him I had a good friend who put them on for me. One day a year or so after that conversation I was cleaning my garage, wearing nothing but shorts and sandals. He came in and talked (A LOT) about the things eight year olds talk about. Suddenly he said, "why do you wear your tattoos all the time?" I said, "Because they won't come off!" He said, "REALLY?" I said "YEP!" He said, "OHH!"
Another odd question people ask is, "Did you get ALL of that done at one time?" I always want to reply, "Yep, sure did. Took a little over two weeks to do it, seventeen days as I recall. I napped a few times, but the tattooer just kept drilling away the whole seventeen days!"
Like I suppose most tattooed people, I have been told that I will really regret being old with wrinkled tattoos. I doubt it. I think all of the nurses working in the old folks home will be tattooed themselves and they will think I am the coolest old codger there!
One of my worries after I came to have alot of tattoos was, "what will the doctors think?" I got that question answered the first time I went to one. I was getting a complete physical. As usual with nurses, they expressed their interest and appreciation for mine and told me about theirs. The doctor said nothing until he had me bent over the exam table performing a digital prostate examination. In the midst of that examination, he observed matter-of-factly, "you certainly do have extensive tattoos!" I wanted to explode with laughter, but in light of our "connection" at the moment, I just said something like, "yes, I do . . ." I have since been to other doctors; they are mostly younger than I am and all have been genuinely interested in them. I have been under anesthetic once; I really wonder how much looking they did while I was out!
While I have never been in jail yet (other than to visit), I know quite a few folks who have spent some time in the TDCJ and other penal outfits. Another amusing comment came from a guy who had a nice collection of prison tats, which if you are a fan you know are almost all done only in black ink. This guy saw my arms (which are very colorful) and said, "why don't you get some real tattoos. All that color shit is for sissies!" I wanted to take my shirt off right there to show him my front and back covered with black & gray work only (alot more than he has, and much better!), but I just left it alone. Recently another guy who has spent a few years in the pen asked me if I got all of mine while I was in the pen. He was really surprised when I told him I had never been! Seems some people think that jail is the only place you can get a tattoo, I suppose! Even guys who have been there!!
While I was in Los Angeles for a few days, the weather was nice and I wore nothing but tank tops, shorts, and sandals. I walked the streets alot, rode buses, trains, and airplanes with alot of tats showing. I got favorable remarks from everyone who commented and engaged in quite a few extended conversations. A waitress, an airline ticket agent, and a stewardess all told me about their own tattoos and were very interested in mine and were fascinated when I told them I was in town for the tattoo convention. I got alot of comments while walking the streets, including one from a man in his seventies who observed, "Hey, if you got 'em, flaunt 'em!" I know there are a few folks who absolutely disapprove, particularly in more conservative areas of the country, but today, tattoos are everywhere and most of American, indeed Western, society accepts and often really appreciates them. As for those who do not, their attitude is THEIR PROBLEM, not mine.
A funny thing to me is that all of my life I have heard the expression, "I got Stewed, Screwed, and Tattooed." Lots of guys apparently use that as the excuse for why they got tattooed. They need to blame something else for the fact that they just wanted a damned tattoo ! ! ! That is wierd. I know it now, but I denied it for a big part of the first fifty years of my existence. I had been wanting to get tattooed for years, while I was getting stewed on whiskey on a daily basis. Not until I had been clean and sober for over a year and a half did I finally acquire the courage get tattooed! I regret only that I waited all those years before following my dreams.
A friend recently told me about a friend who had been arrested by Ashcroft's men for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. She was really upset, says it was alot of bogus, trumped up bullshit charges. "He really got Screwed and Tattooed!" she cried.
With all the sympathy I could muster, I said,
get Screwed and Tattooed on a pretty regular basis!"
Now I realize than I probably am now more tattooed than at least
of the people in the whole world.
AND THAT IS DAMNED COOL ! ! !
When Butch and Sundance were in South America, after they were
in shit up to their necks from robbing every bank
in the country, they decided to get honest jobs
as payroll guards for a gold mine.
So they were riding with the mine owner, who was an old fart
carrying the payroll money on his donkey.
The old man said something like:
"You know some people think I am Crazy.
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Last updated Saturday, January 2, 2010And if you do not have a tattoo,