Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sittings 17-18 (AKA: WE'RE DONE!)

[as usual, the NSFW picture is at the end, so scroll carefully]

Date: October 12, 2012
Time: 2 hours
Breaks: 1 (10 minutes)
Location: Kings Ave Massapequa

Date: October 18, 2012
Time: 2 hours
Breaks: 1 (10 minutes)
Location: Kings Ave Massapequa
Total Tattooing Time: 55.5 hours


Praise be to our Lord in Heaven, Sammy Davis Jr. - this fucker is done.  Or, at the very least, it's done... for now.


Foolishly, I stubbed out half a cigarette at the train station and shoved it back into the pack once the cab pulled up.  After I closed the door behind me, the cabby growled through a haze of smoke, "Tattoo shop, right?"

Yeah, guess you don't mind if I relight my cigarette?

"Go right ahead," he coughed.  "How's the tattoo business going for ya?  All them damned TV shows, you must see some weird shit.  I bet you see more ass than a... uh... uh..."

Given the short length of the cab ride I figured it wasn't worth correcting him that I was a "collector" and not an artist.  The adage, however, was worth assistance.

More ass than a toilet seat, yeah, sure.  Thanks.  Keep the change.


I had bumped into Kings Ave artist Justin Weatherholtz at the Quicksand show a month beforehand (click here to catch me handling a weak stage-diver at 9:53 - bald head, black tank-top) so I was quite happy to hear Rube announce, "I wanna hear Slip" as we were getting set up.  After all, it was weird enough that a man had been shaving my ass for 10 months while listening to Sade - a little 90s post-hardcore was more than welcome.

Don't adjust your machine, I laughed after a few songs.  It's in Drop-D tuning, just like this record.

"What?" he asked, stopping the coil to hear me over the din of the shop.

Start the machine again and listen to the record, I replied.  Sure, there were overtones, but his machine was humming along in the key of D.  Ya hear that?  And I then sang him the note.

"You're the one with the trained ear," he chuckled.


It's been a long journey.

Ruined sheets, blood, scabbing, itching, flaking, exhaustion, immune system collapse, 10 months out of the gym, massive quantities of Aquaphor and alcohol - not to mention a monstrous dent in my MasterCard bill.

But there have been positive angles as well: a beautiful piece, a lot of laughs and the personal conviction that I have changed my body for the better (and also the knowledge that I've retained my ability to "pass" simply by wearing a dress-shirt cuffed at the elbows and opened a few buttons).  Oh, and I should repeat: I have a seriously amazing (and huge) piece of artwork on my body for the rest of my life.

So, I guess that marks the end of this blog...

But as Justin, Rube and Jason Tyler-Grace all asked me at the final sitting: "When are you doing your ribs, man?"

Answer: Once I get a job and pay off my mortgage.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sitting 16

[NSFW pic at the end of post - so if you're at work stop scrolling!]

Date: August 10, 2012
Time: 3 hours
Breaks: 1 (10 minutes)
Location: Kings Ave Massapequa
Total Tattooing Time: 51.5 hours

I swear the cab drivers are profiling all clients of King's Ave.  Another guy and myself got into the backset of a yellow taxi at the train station and the driver said to the other fare, "Where are you going?  I know where the other guy is headed..."

Indeed, I didn't even tell him my destination, he just pulled up in front of the tattoo shop a few minutes later.

I don't have a lot of color-commentary or story-telling to do on this sitting.  Partially because it was a month ago (this one took a long time to heal; more on that later) and I've forgotten the nitty gritty and partially because there isn't much to report.  How often can a man type, "It hurt, I was uncomfortable, we bullshitted about music?"


So... This session was all about fire - both the burning of the needle and the flames which wrap around the dragon's mid-section.  As I've mentioned before (in regards to my half-sleeves), I don't heal reds very well and this piece - as you can see - has a lot of red in it.  Unfortunately, this session was the first time when the reds didn't heal very well; in fact, that's why I've delayed blogging about this sitting for so long: I was waiting for the scabbing to finally settle in.  Fortunately, it was only in the lower-right portion of the flames (which you can probably see by enlarging the image above) and if we blast over it again, I'm sure we'll easily be able to even out any discrepancies/fallout of the color.

For no particular reason, Rube had switched over to a rotary machine for this sitting - which I always find to be more tolerable than a coil.  I'm sure there's a minute level of mechanical engineering that attribute to less pain with a rotary, but I remain convinced that it's primarily psychosomatic and perhaps even a demonstration of psychoacoustics at work.  Simply: the coil is loud and whiny, so the brain perceives it as being an implement of pain; the rotary is quiet and whirs almost serenly, so the brain perceives it as being... well... less painful.

(I was thinking about this early this week after my dentist had to give me three shots of novocaine before working on a tooth - work which I could still feel, mind you.  Perhaps if dentist's drills didn't sound like something from Josef Mengele's lab, I wouldn't sweat through my clothes every time I have a cavity...)

Rube also filled in the horns with a beautiful combo of brown/yellow which matches the horns of the dragon-koi on my right arm.  Once we fill in the dragon's hair (which we've discussed doing in a purple/lavender), it's gonna be an amazing contrast.

We're definitely in the home stretch here; the light at the end of the tunnel is growing larger and brighter.  We have to finish the dragon's head/face and bang out the last of the cherry blossoms on my right shoulder.  From that point, it'll just be small details and accent-work.

One more session... maybe two?  While it would be a shame to shutter this blog in the next month or so... it begs the question: are you every really done?


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sittings 12-15

[WARNING: pics below are NSFW because... ya know... butts]
[photo taken after sitting 13]

Date: June 19, 2012
Time: 2 hours
Location: Kings Ave NYC

Date: June 26, 2012
Time: 2 hours
Location: Kings Ave NYC

Date: July 2, 2012
Time: 2.5 hours
Location: Kings Ave Massapequa

Date: July 17, 2012
Time: 4 Hours
Location: Kings Ave NYC



Well, it appears that I've been a very naughty blogger, letting four sessions slide by without penning a single word.  Mea culpa.  The truth is, I try to let a week pass by before taking any photos so that the swelling/bruising can go down, the scabbing/flaking can subside and colors can settle in.  But, as you can see with the dates listed above, Rubendall was running full-bore (and sliding me into two cancellations), so I didn't have much time to heal in between sittings or find the time to write up the experiences.

Sitting 12 represented the beginning of the reds in the belly-scales of the dragon.  Like most people, I don't heal red ink very well.  That's not to say that I "drop" the color, but it takes noticeably longer to heal, extending my "one-week of Aquaphor" rule to about 10-14 days.  When you factor in the amount of red-work that we did on my ass and waistline - and the fact that my day to day life typically requires pants and a belt - the healing was less that quick or comfortable.

(My girlfriend noted just two days after sitting 15, however, that my body soaks up yellow ink like nobody's business.  The dorsal "fins" of the dragon - pictured at the end of this post - healed up as if Adamantium was a part of my skeletal composition).

We made some great progress over sittings 12-14 and sitting 15 was epic, finishing up all of the maple leaves, adding depth to the pearl on my right butt cheek with some very subtle lavender hues, and finishing up the bulk of the dragon's body... which leaves the flames, the dragon's head and a right shoulder's worth of cherry blossoms.

"Not to get too previous," as an Englishman I know is fond of saying... we might be done* in another two sittings.

*is it ever really "done?"


(Obviously, a month is a long time to try to get any recall of funny situations that occurred during the process, but I seem to have scribbled down a few notes.)

During sitting 12, I was laying on the table while Rube was grinding away and I heard the door buzzer chime, announcing that someone had walked into the shop.  Grez was across the room, eating his lunch right by the door, so he was the first to ask the young Hispanic man who just walked in, "Can I help you?"

I glanced at the floor for a minute and when I looked back in Grez's direction, I could see that the visitor had undone his pants and Grez was solemnly frowning and shaking his head.  There's no fucking way that guy just whipped out his dick while Grez is eating, I thought... foolishly.

"OH, GOD!" Grez screamed after the guy walked out.  "He asked me if we do cover-ups, so I asked to see what it was he wanted covered up...  It looked like someone had thrown a handful of hot asphalt on that guy's junk!"

Sorry, man... nobody here can help you.

What blew my mind is that the guy was in a short sleeved shirt and had no visible ink.  I can only speculate why he went straight for the cock-tattoo as his inaugural ink.

This, of course, led to a conversation about a "Sack-O-Lantern" tattoo... which, gentle reader, I will leave up to your imagination.


Sitting 14 involved a trip to Massapequa via the Long Island Railroad.  I've never had a problem catching a cab from the station to the shop, but today was a different story.  I was told that it would be a 45 minute wait, so I set out for the shop on foot.  The walk there was fine... but let me say that one should never attempt to take a 20 minute walk BACK to the station with a freshly tattooed ass in 90 degree weather.

Sweat and lymph on the under-carriage lead to some impressive discomfort.


Sitting 15 was back on the Bowery in their open floor-plan, my pants down around my knees, with a few young women getting tattooed around me.  I'm not exactly the bashful type, but I wondered if they had factored in "half-naked dude" when they mentally prepared themselves for their tattoos that day.

My girlfriend arrived halfway through and subsequently posted a few photos of me on Instagram (follow me @doctorgrosz).  Later that night, I got a text from the guitarist of my punk/hardcore cover-band which read: "Where did you get tattooed today?  I think my friend Chloe was there at the same time getting work from a visiting artist from Madrid..."

I replied, "Well, if she had green hair... yup.  We were there at the same time and she had a front-row view of my ass-crack."

[the results of sitting 15]



- Horitomo of State Of Grace in California will be hosting a Fudo Myo-o drawing/design seminar at Kings Ave NYC.  There's a few spaces left and you get a free copy of his great book, Immovable (we have a copy here at the house).  Registration and event information can be found here.

- I had the opportunity to design some concert posters for the Fishbone / Paranoid Social Club concert that was a part of the recent C.B.G.B Festival here in NYC (they're 11x17, full-color on 12pt cardstock, suitable for framing).  I'm really pleased with the way they turned out and I have 10 copies up for sale with a "Buy It Now" price on eBay.  If either of these bands (or porn legend Vanessa del Rio) are up your alley, I'd really appreciate it if you bought one.

After all... this backpiece ain't cheap, lemme tell ya.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I've had a session every week for the last three weeks, so expect an update and some pictures once the scabbiness settles in a little bit.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sitting 11

Date: May 4, 2012
Time: 2.5 Hours
Breaks: 1 (five minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 38 hours

I had just rolled out of bed and I noticed an 8:45am text from Rubendall: "I have a cancellation at noon today if you want it.  Let me know."

"I left a message at the shop last night," I replied.  "I'm definitely taking it.  Seeya then."

The night before, I had left my phone at home as I traveled to a neighbor's house for a few Manhattans and a rousing game of scrabble (as much as I love Words With Friends, you occasionally gotta roll analog).  So, when I returned home to discover a voicemail from the shop manager, I promptly rang up the shop to confirm the appointment.

When I arrived at the Massapequa location, Rube said, "That was a funny message you left last night - were you out drinkin?"

"Yeah, but I didn't think I'd had that much to drink," I replied.

"Well, ya didn't sound drunk, but you definitely sounded like you were trying to hold it together," he laughed.  "We've all been there.  That's why I texted you this morning to see if you were still feeling up for it."

With a waiting list like Rube's (booked through 2013), there's no way in hell I'm ever turning down an open appointment.


It was a short session today - all blue fill on the lower back (pictured above and below the waistline of my kimono), all sitting upright in a chair.  This time around, I managed to get comfortable in the chair and I actually found it a lot easier to deal with than lying face-down on a table.  Sometimes the table is fine; other times I just can't get my neck comfortable or the pillow positioned properly or my beard winds up getting mashed into my mouth.  As I've said before, every sitting (or "laying") is different and you never know how well you're going to hold up until that needle punctures the skin.

This session was pretty smooth sailing, presumably because we weren't running over a lot of bone (fortunately, we've already knocked out most of the lumbar/sacral area with the black/grey shading).  What I really love - and what I hope is apparent in the photographs - is the way that the scales are showing through the water.  It's always fascinating to me to see the way color and grey shading interact, creating depth and dimension.

With any luck, we'll be able to finish up the remainder of the blue scales at my next sitting - which includes the claw on my right buttock and the tail on my left - at which point we'll continue on to finish the face and begin the belly-scales in red.

Until then... summer is here, kids.  If you're gonna spend any time in the sun (even just through the window of your car) don't forget to break out the 50-SPF sunblock and protect your investment.

Oh, and in case you're interested in a female perspective on the bodysuit process, my lovely lady recently had her hips/ribs done by Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo.  She blogged about her process over here.


[Ed. Note: I realize that this blog entry is almost four weeks overdue.  Admittedly, I scabbed up pretty good and couldn't get a decent photo during the first two weeks, but I promise to stay a little more on top of the process.  But, shit... life is what happens while you're trying to blog.  

Or something like that...]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sitting 10

Date: April 17, 2012
Time: 3 hours
Breaks: 1 (10 minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 35.5 hours

We've begun the face!  

While I've caught a few glimpses of it in the mirror, I'm glad to have finally gotten my girlfriend to take a few photos so I can actually see it.  I'm incredibly happy with the shades of blue that we've chosen (and that my body has accepted the pigments*), as well as some of the very subtle greens that Rubendall has added to the whiskers around the face.

The areas around my lats/armpits have gotten exceptionally scabby - as usual - but it fortunately doesn't look like I'm on the verge of dropping any ink.  Once again, a million thanks to my caring girlfriend for diligently lubing up all the hard-to-reach spots on my spine.

This session was at the Bowery location, so we were paid a visit yet again by the very talented photographer, Joe Lucas, who's been documenting a few of my sessions as well as Rube's other clients.  While he doesn't have a website just yet, he told me that all of his tattoo-centric images (along with video interviews with the artists) should be online shortly.  I'll be sure to keep you posted once that launches - I've seen a few of his prints and they're gorgeous.

As you can probably tell from the images, today was a LOT of spinal work which always pushes my sanity to the brink of collapse.  I can't lie: when it came time for a smoke break, I ran up the block to the Spring Lounge to  quickly grab some liquid anesthetic.  The problem was, my hands were shaking so badly from the adrenaline/shock that I spilled half a vodka-tonic in my lap.  Undoubtedly, everyone sitting around me must have thought that I had one brutal, Bukowskian case of the DTs.  All I can say is: thank the gods above for creating the straw.

For the second half of the sitting, we worked on the left side of my ribs and kidneys, which was a walk in the park after all that grinding on my spinal column.  Not a lot of chit-chat during this session, excluding when the shop-manager wanted to talk to me about the latest Camus book he had just finished (I'd like to rub that discussion in the face of anyone who thinks that people who get tattooed are idiots).

Sadly, I didn't take any notes right after the sitting and the last 10 days were a whirlwind that swept my mind clear of any minutiae; I promise, gentle readers, that the next post will be a little richer.

Until then... keep calm and get tattooed!

* - The peony on my right arm (which you can see below) didn't take the blue inks too well on the first pass.  Fortunately, that problem isn't presenting itself with my back.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Pictures and write-up of last week's tattoo session coming soon...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Today was another three hours at Kings Ave NYC.

Fortunately, band practice was canceled this evening, so I was able to knock down some calories and cocktails before coming home at a more-than-reasonable hour.  Unfortunately, we hit a lot of the spinal column today which is a difficult place to wash and lubricate when your girlfriend is out and about with a gym-class/cocktails date with one of her girlfriends.

And while I think I worked it out for now (and will undoubtedly ask the Lil Lady to help slather me up when she gets home), this strikes me as a decent time to answer all of these requests I've received about the "healing process."



While Rubendall has done 99% of the work on my body over the last several years, I still adhere to the basic tenants of his healing process: Light layer of ointment (preferably Aquaphor) 2-3 times a day for a week, then hypo-allergenic lotion twice a day for the week after.  No direct sunlight, no hot water, no fragrances, no abrasives.  Seems simple enough, right?  Let the shit HEAL.  Don't smother it, don't pick at it, rub it, scratch it and for fucks safe take your loofa out of the shower for a week or two.



I cannot tell a lie, I break Rube's rules.  I use Aquaphor for the first week and then only apply it to shit that is really scabby for the following week.  After the first seven days, I will use lotion maybe once a day on the other parts - but only when necessary - because my skin is fairly accepting of tattoos.  Sure, I bruise very easily, but no amount of moisturizer is going to help you out of that.

Just keep your eyes open and be attentive to this VERY EXPENSIVE INJURY on your body.




Rule #4 of Tattoo Healing: SEE RULE #1.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sittings 8 and 9

Tick-tock, tick-tock / Christ, I hate that fucking clock


Date: March 20, 2012
Time: 2 hours
Breaks: 1 (5 minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 28.5 hours

Date: March 23, 2012
Time: 4 hours
Breaks: 2 (10 minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 32.5 hours

Last week is what I will call a "triple," what with a single session on Tuesday in the Bowery and a double-session in Massapequa on Friday - barely any time to heal between sessions but, fortunately, we're covering a lot of acreage so it's not quite like we're running the machine over tender areas.

The color has begun, about which I am thrilled - the blues that Rube has chosen are utterly electric, as are my nerve-endings every time he runs the 5-mag over my spinal column.

The "Fruity Pebbles" phase has begun (in which I leave stains and multi-colored scabs all over our sheets each morning - "part of this nutritious breakfast"), about which I am ready to cash in several Bed, Bath & Beyond gift-cards for new linens.

Tuesday hit everything below the dragon's face, which rattled my kidneys something fierce.  On an ideal day, I would have milled about the apartment in my kimono while casually partaking in coffee, cigarettes, bacon and eggs before heading over to Bowery.  This day, however, called for two auditions before my sitting (and one afterwards) which, when combined with my mild hangover and scarfing down two hot dogs on an NYC street-corner just before my sitting... 

Yeah... you do the math.  I wasn't feeling awesome, but I didn't expel anything offensive.


Friday brought me back to the Massapequa location and we started with me - upright in a chair - facing the rear wall of Rube's booth.

Tick-tock, tick-tock / Christ, I hate that fucking clock

It's one thing when I'm lying face-down on the table, but when I'm straddling that chair, I'm staring right at the clock on Rube's wall.

Tick.  Tock.

It's like staring at the clock during history class in high school on the day before summer vacation.  First, the clock gets loud.  Then, it slows down.  Finally, it starts moving backwards.

Eventually, I was face-down on the table again for a few hours but, after a few hours, things started getting rough.

Rube, I think I'm hitting the wall, man.

"Don't worry, we only got another 15 minutes."

If you're a heterosexual male, this is the equivalent of a woman telling you "don't come yet, I'm almost there."

I'm now thinking about time... 

How much more can I handle?

How many drags can I take on this eCigarette?

How many songs have rolled by on the iPod?  After all, your average song is four minutes, which puts me at 3.75 songs before I can call it quits....

Frankly, I'd rather NOT know.  Let me keep fighting the good fight and hit me with the green soap when we're done.


A bunch of you readers have been asking me about healing & care (which I've addressed briefly in the past), but I promise that I'll get around to it before my next sitting.  

Thanks to all of you for following me on this journey, feel free to send money for Aquaphor and don't forget to follow me on twitter.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Quick Pic - Tha Blues

We did two sessions this week (a total of six hours) and began the color.  I'm ecstatic about how electric these blues have turned out.  Full post once the bruising goes down and I can get the lil lady to take a better pic...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sitting 7 - Background COMPLETE

Date: March 8, 2012
Tattooing Time: 4.5 hours
Breaks: 2 (25 minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 26.5 hours

Right after we finished up the lower-spine (right above the crack in all of its unforgiving, spinal-column brutality), Rube gave me a smoke break while the crew dragged out a table to replace the chair I had been A.C. Slatering.  When I came back in, I dropped trou and laid on the table awaiting what I knew was the final work on the wind-bars and waves around my ass and all of it's next-door neighbors.

Just as soon as he starts shaving my ass-crack (after all, my lineage is Scots/Lebanese/Hungarian/Russian), a Sade record rolls over on the in-house stereo.

"OH, SHIT," Rube yells as he uses his elbow to hit the volume knob in his workstation.  "Did I ever tell you about the time I saw Sade on tour?"

Which he proceeded to do, at length, as I listened patiently.

After the following three minutes of silence, he looked at me in the mirror on the wall and said, "Fuck... this is gonna go on the blog, isn't it?"

Yeah, dude... this is my lede.


I've already said time and time again in this blog that my actual (butt) cheeks don't hurt very much when hit with the machine.  This day, however, Rube really got in there right in the crack to fill in all of the waves and background.

I don't quite care if you have a butterfly or a pair of lipstick-prints or your baby-daddy's name on your cheek, but when an artist is actually getting into your CRACK to make you look cohesive when you're standing upright...?  Well, that's a different sensation all together.  While the hand-mirror proves to me that he was quite far away from my trash-chute, I could have sworn at the time that his machine was on a direct mission to eradicate the hemorrhoids that I've been suffering in my advancing age.

Not fun in the least, but I jokingly thanked him that he had decided to do all the waves splashing out of my ass-crack so we wouldn't have to go back in there for color.

"Old trick of the trade," Rube joked.

It also occurred to me that - many years ago - Rube used a footswitch for his machine.  Now, no longer.  Obviously, I had to ask why.

He explained that the slight elevation of his foot was taking a major toll on his lower back and - if he could stop the machine expertly with his hand - why wouldn't he eliminate the pedal?

Unorthodox, perhaps... Or maybe just a man who knows his tools.  After all, I've seen my father do shit with a table-saw that yields beautiful results, despite risking life, limb and an OSHA lawsuit.


I can't possibly begin to explain how excited I am that the "background" is done.  No more black.  No more grey.  Well, that's the theory, anyway...

But the important part is that we now start with color.  Colors that neither of us have really discussed in much detail since I proposed this project, much less when we literally began it.

I worked as a graphic designer for many years (and this economy finds me back in that line of work).  I always hated the term "pop."  Clients or art-directors would always say, "Can you make it pop more?"

Well... my backpiece is about to do just that.  And I'm fucking amped.

Talk to you kids soon...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Quickie

Once the bruising goes away, I'll get some proper pictures and write-up my last sitting... in the interim, I'll just be sitting down very, very carefully.

Here's a pic from the Kings Ave Instagram account.  Apparently, I am "infamous."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


(PS - bad filter on Marisa's camera... no way I'd let my ink get that rosy)

I'm back in the chair (AKA: on the table) on Thursday.  Sadly, I had to turn down a few open cancelations at the end of February because I was going to Puerto Rico for a well deserved vacation, but it feels good to go back to work on the back.

Heading to a tropical climate as a heavily tattooed man is never easy.  In all honesty, I feel a lot more compassion for my loving girlfriend who is both far more covered than me and - well, let's face it - a woman and, as a result, subject to a lot more scrutiny.  Regardless, you're gonna hear a lot of shit down by the pool, especially when you're both lying around in Speedos.

The winner, however, for our trip was a woman in her 80s who was shuffling about in a giant sun-hat and a bathing suit that perhaps should have covered a bit more of her thighs.  Regardless, I couldn't help but love her.

As I stood by the back-end of the pool smoking a cigarette while working on a book of Sunday NY Times crosswords, I heard a small but confident voice behind me...

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I want you to know: I think your tattoos are beautiful.  Did you do them all at once?"

I turned around to find a woman who has been collecting social security for almost as long as I've been alive, approaching the "scary" guy in a sarong down by the pool.

"Thank you very much, ma'am.  No, we've been working on my body for about a decade.  We're still not done just yet."

"Well, whoever is doing all this beautiful art is doing a great job at tying it all together.  I'm gonna go get a henna tattoo at the other pool and really freak out my friends in North Dakota once I get home."

Seriously?  I wanted to hug her.  But, that might have been creepy considering that I was wearing a very "compact" bathing suit.

She rocked.  Unlike many of my fellow hotel-guests who felt the need to speak to me for that three-day excursion...

  1. "Sick ink, Bro!"
  2. "Sweet tats!"
  3. "How long did that take?"
  4. "How much did that cost?"
All honest, but cliched questions.  I consider it my duty to help keep people informed, especially when they're not being judgmental. I'm more than happy to hear praise from a stranger when I'm displaying my pasty, half-Scottish body poolside in the Caribbean.  After all, I'm quite sure I asked a black person at one point in my pre-pubescence if I could touch their hair.

The winner for the weekend, however, was a man in a Desert Storm Vet cap and a very prominent gold tooth on his front, right bicuspid...

"Your tattoos are really nice, man.  I wish I could afford work like that, but I got kids."

"Well, I got a mortgage in Downtown Brooklyn - it's not too different."

Talk to you kids over the weekend.  We got another double on Thursday.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sitting 6 - Ribs and Pork Butt

Date: February 3, 2012
Tattooing Time: 4 hours
Breaks: 1 (25 minutes)
Total Tattooing Time: 22 hours

As I mentioned in my last post, Sitting #6 was scheduled to be a double-session, which I was dreading like nobody's business.  I had far too many lingering memories of our first session - an utterly brutal gauntlet of outlining - so the notion of another six-hour sitting was not sitting well with me.  Fortunately, two things happened: the appointment (originally scheduled for the Massapequa shop) was switched to the Bowery location and... we only did four hours.

It was a crowded day in the shop.  Admittedly, I was 15 minutes late for my appointment and when I arrived, the machines were grinding away under the talented hands of Grez, Brian Paul and Sarah Schor.  After a brief review of how I was healing up (verdict: great, just a tiny bit of "fall-out" near my armpits), I was back on my right side as he dove right in on the left side of my rib-cage.

I've been having an easy go with the ribs - they've not nearly been the horror story that I've heard about from other tattoo collectors who have the "skank-flank," as it's affectionately been called ever since rib-pieces have seemed to surpass the "tramp stamp" in popularity.  In all honesty, I think the open layout of the Bowery location combined with a steady client flow also helps make the pain far more tolerable.  The chatter, the bullshitting and ball-breaking, the constant stream of goofy wisecracks from Grez... while I'd never recommend letting out a big belly laugh when you're under the needle, a steady stream of snickering definitely keeps the endorphins flowing.

And then we sat me up on a chair...

"I wanna hit this spot next," Rube said to me as I felt him tap the waves on my spine and sacrum and my brain went into a mild state of panic.  Not this shit again, I thought.  Things were going so smoothly.

The chairs in the shop are quite big and very comfortable... when you sit on them the "proper" way.  But when you have to rock an A.C. Slater, it's a different story.  I had to get my right leg in between the seat-back and the seat-back adjustment lever, which then torqued my left leg nice and good.  You can almost stop focusing on the pain of a shader in your sacrum when you're concerned about dislocating your own hip on a piece of furntiture... almost.

"You're hating me right now, aren't ya?" Rube asked.  I'm not your biggest fan right now, that's for sure.

I wasn't gonna tap out after just three hours, though, so we decided to take a brief break for "lunch" and, much to some people's surprise, I suggested that we crank out another hour before my girlfriend arrived. Rube went to the back to eat some chicken and rice and I... went outside to find a bar to spend 20 minutes steadying my nerves.

Now, this is New York City... you can find bars that open their doors at 7am if you know where to look.  This was 4pm on a Friday on the Bowery and yet the first three places I dashed to all had their doors shuttered up tight.  I cursed my decision to head north instead of south; why hadn't I listened to my initial instinct?  But, just as I was about to give up my quest for liquid comfort, I spotted a Chinese restaurant...

A cocktail at a Chinese restaurant can either go very well (semi-skilled bartender who makes extremely strong drinks) or very poorly (semi-skilled bartender who makes extremely weak drinks).  Fortunately, my good man was one of the former and - even though I had to interrupt him from shelling snap peas to make my second beverage - I was able to return to the shop in a subtle but delightful haze before Rube had even finished his meal.

The last hour was spent on my left hip and ass cheek - another area that I've heard is nightmarish, but I've had surprisingly few issues with it.  Well, at least the ass-tattooing part.  The healing is certainly less than pleasurable: I've bruised up quite a bit on my hip and wearing pants (or simply sitting to type this) has become... "problematic."

But in the words of my friend Chad, "No pain... no killer fucking backpiece."

This will probably be my last sitting for the month.  The little lady and I have booked a well-deserved Puerto Rican vacation at the end of the month and I need to be fully healed up before I go anywhere near the sun or the swimming pool.

That said, I'd like to give our fellow hotel guests fair warning: we may be a heavily tattooed couple, but we're intelligent, polite people... please don't stare and definitely don't touch.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

*cricket chirps*

My apologies that it's been quiet around here lately but, hell, I haven't been getting tattooed since my last update.  That's just the way it works...

That said, I'll be back at the Bowery shop this coming Friday for another double-session -  something I swore I would never do again, if memory serves me correctly.  Can you say "six hour sitting," boys and girls?  I knew ya could.

(But, please, don't say it.  I cringe just thinking about it.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sitting 5 - All Ribs, No BBQ Sauce

Date: January 10, 2012
Tattooing Time: 2.5 hours
Total Tattooing Time: 17 hours

"You never heal well around your armpits," Rube said. "It's all that jumpin around you do."

(Ed. Note: I don't jump around. At all. Ever. I attribute it to the toxic waste that my body secrets from my armpits)

Today was my first day getting tattooed at the Bowery location of Kings Ave, which was great for a plethora of reasons: 1) It's an utterly gorgeous shop. 2) I've been staring at the artwork in Rube's "booth" in Massapequa for close to five years now, so the change of scenery was nice. 3) It's only two subway stops away from my house (and local bar) rather than a hour on the Long Island Railroad. 4) The always hilarious - and very talented - Grez holds it down on Bowery and I had missed his consistently ridiculous banter in the shop. 5) Did I mention that I didn't have to travel out to Massapequa?

It was a packed house at the shop for this sitting, despite Rube and Grez being the only tattooists working that day. A photographer had come in to shoot Rube while he worked (and hence, take a lot of photos of me lying in what I call my "Boticelli Pose"). My lovely lady, Marisa, had come by to keep me company and I even got a visit from my friends Ian and Jess (the latter whom you might know as the shop manager on NY Ink). All in all, a lot of chatter going on in the open-layout shop combined with the whir of the machines grinding away.

We started with filling in the clouds just underneath the dragons jaw in that lovely blue-black that Rube has conjured up. It's already making the dragon "pop" beautifully. If I haven't mentioned it before, I utterly hate it when the machine runs over my spine. I feel it in my whole body. I feel like an insect that's being tacked to a board as part of some entomological display. The pain radiates from asshole to eyelids and out to my fingernails. I suppose that's to be expected when you're banging tiny needles into the home base of your central nervous system...

We then moved on to fill in the wind bars on the right side, running from armpit down to my pelvic bone. Admittedly, I was mildly terrified about this enterprise (I've been told time and time again that the ribs are one of the most painful places to be tattooed). Well, not for nothing, but it was pretty smooth sailing. Outside of when he started drilling into my pelvic bone (which happened shortly after Marisa said, "notice how I haven't asked how you're doing?") the pain was entirely localized and manageable.

We managed to log another 30 minutes on the left side, too, filling in the wind bars over my left lat, which turned the sterile sheet on the table into a crime scene photograph worthy of a Manson Family slaying.

It may not be noticeable in these photos, but I've bruised up a little bit. I attribute this to the thinness of my skin (I'm fairly lean) rather than make any comment on Rube's touch. That said, I want that black to last and stay black, so I say, "Grind it in there, man!"

We haven't scheduled the next block of sittings just yet, so this blog may lie dormant for a little bit, outside of the occasional random musing. Considering that Marisa and I are trying to get away to the Caribbean in February, this might be for the best (wait at least three weeks before putting your fresh ink in a pool or the sun, kids!).

I'd also like to thank all of you for reading the blog and commenting. Looking at the traffic, I'm kind of amazed at how many of your are following along with the transformation of my body. Admittedly, I started this blog more as a time capsule for myself but, now that I have an audience, I'll be sure to chronicle the experience as diligently as I can.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sitting 4

Date: January 2, 2012
Prep/Hand-Drawing/Stencil-Application: 0 hours
Breaks: 0
Tattooing: 2 hours
Total Tattooing Time To Date: 14.5 hours

Well, there's no real way to beat around the bush here... I arrived at Kings Ave with a hangover that must have escaped from an old Irish novel.

Originally, this sitting was supposed to be on Tuesday - giving me an extra day to recover from New Years Eve and the subsequent "brunch gauntlet" that I valiantly ran on Sunday.  Funerals happen, however, and we had to move my appointment back to Monday.

Fortunately, it was a short session today and - after stumbling into the shop and announcing my sorry state of affairs - we were able to get right to work on shading because we completed the outline at the previous sitting.  Wind-bars, clouds and waves are now complete on my upper back and we connected the right breast-plate over the shoulder and into the design of the back.

At the very least, the pain of tattooing helped me momentarily forget that my brain was swimming around in a bucket of poison and - while the nausea never really subsided - Rube and I were both amazed that I wasn't bleeding like a stuck pig.

If there's one lesson I can impart to you here, gentle readers it is this: DON'T SHOW UP HUNGOVER.


A friend and reader, Patrick Sullivan, asked me to discuss the healing process which I'd now like to touch upon...

Obviously, all of my previous work has been easy to care for; my chest and arms are easily accessible so cleaning off the lymph and applying Aquaphor was always a one-man operation.  A large portion of my back, however, is simply un-reachable which makes me very happy to have a wonderful, loving girlfriend who knows a thing or twelve about tattoo aftercare.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure how people care for their backpieces without a significant other or a very compassionate roommate (though, I suppose a rubber bowl scraper could be employed with a fair amount of success and some jockeying with a hand-mirror).

After the first sitting (and a few celebratory martinis afterwards), our bathroom became a scene from Oz. There I was: standing in the shower, whimpering with my hands against the wall as she stood behind me whispering "just relax, I'm almost done." As I watched the blood and lymph spiral down the drain, I made a (half-hearted) pledge that this would be my last tattoo and a (full-blown) promise to myself that I would never wind up in prison.

As could be expected, sleeping is really the hardest part of the healing process.  I'm an admittedly restless sleeper so rolling over in the middle of the night can/will jolt me out of a deep slumber numerous times over the course of the evening (I also despise sleeping on my stomach).  Not being able to sleep on my back, however, is a blessing as far as my girlfriend is concerned - my snoring has drastically decreased since we started the piece.


My next sitting will be at the Bowery location of Kings Ave: a gorgeous, open-layout shop that I've visited but have never been tattooed in.  Should be interesting to have my bare-ass hanging out for everyone in the shop to see...