It is mid-April, and for whatever reason, still snowing outside. even the animals are confused as they forage for food as they pause and look at the window and seem to say, “thanks for the bird seed. we have no idea what is going on with the weather.” and the world goes on with more of our man-made lunacy and comedy with, “what will humans do next?” it appears that in the world to act hip and trendy, Sak's fifth avenue will launch a tattoo studio in the window of one of its stores. while I get the idea for showmanship and publicity, are people that vain to want to watch a bunch of people walking by a window to watch folks get tattoos? I always thought the history of a tattoo was a bit mysterious and sacred and meant something.
I do like tattoos that are thought out and well executed. I tend to see some really amazing work from artists in Europe. in the states, I think many tattoos are done via instant gratification and the desire to get inked at the moment, rather than, “I only have one body, how can I create a really interesting story on my body?”
there was only one tattoo I saw that I thought the art, idea, work was so good that I asked the guy take off his shirt in a coffee shop. his arms were simply beautifully done black and white ink with the story of Dante’s Inferno. it was a bit odd, but they guy happily obliged and took off his shirt to reveal an amazing image of the various levels done on his back. to me, this was an amazing tattoo.
I don’t have any tattoo’s and I am sort of happy about it, as it was a different time when I was in college and I probably would have gotten bugs bunny or the Tasmanian devil tattoo’s on my ass. in hindsight, I can only imagine how ridiculous that would be at my age. it would look nothing like the full tattoo bodies that I saw in Japan or the tribal work done in the south pacific. they didn’t use tattoo guns, but rather created the art with a stick and some needles they hand punched into your skin. the tattoos were amazing in style, creation, and they all had meaning.
the meaning part is what appears lost in the west today. while I know the tattoo has a meaning to the person getting it – I have seen far too many really bad tattoos, tramp stamps and other ideas that might have been hip in the market for a week or two before the style changed. I wonder if you need tattoos to work in a hipster coffee shop anymore?
“excuse me, can I make some cappuccino’s and macchiato’s?”
“no. you don't’ qualify?”
“but I spent years working with coffee and tea..”
“doesn’t matter, you don’t have tattoo’s, you don’t have a hipster beard and you aren’t wearing cool clothes and you move too fast, and care too much about quality”
“huh? so it is more about image than reality?”
“I am afraid so…what cave you been living in?”
“just a research lab, working on people and plants, and ways to allow their growth and fitness to improve.”
“what is your Facebook page?”
“never had one. just a personal website that I intentionally do the opposite of what the SEO world says to do…”
“weird…that is radical”
“want me to make you a cappuccino? macchiato?”
“where did you learn to do that?”
“my friends were building a burger joint in Switzerland and needed help. I said I would be happy to help them open, but I wanted to play with the coffee/espresso machine because I always wanted to learn to make the various drinks. because I was lamenting the death of the coffee shop and what the spaces used to be versus where they are headed in the USA.”
“and you did this with no tattoo’s, beard, hours primping yourself to look like a cool urban hipster? why?"
"I guess that is how I walk out life. if I have an interest in something, I will learn about it, and then learn how to actually do it."
"you mean, it wasn't a job?"
"guess not. if you find your passions and follow them, and do them, work is longer a job."
I digress – but that is how I feel about the world of coffee and tattoo’s today. I think back to when I was a kid, our neighbor Mr. Shaul had one of the traditional anchor tattoos on his forearm from his sting in the military. as he aged, the colors faded a bit and you saw the skin getting older and that is what I think about with kids today and all the tattoo’s. how many will remain in good shape when they age? how many didn’t take the time to get tattoo’s that would be timeless and stand the test of time?’ it just seems to be a recipe for disaster and an increase in laser removal surgery. while I know you can cover up a tattoo – how many times can you actually do that?
so I guess I have mixed emotions on tattoos. one of the cooler photo moments I had was three tattoo artists working in Europe. it really was cool to watch the process and get the story from the people getting the tattoos and the reasons why they wanted the ink. I could be wrong, but I think Europe had a higher caliber tattoo artist as well. the work just seemed of higher quality than much of what I see in the USA.
I guess I must be some voyeur of sorts with tattoos. I love the art, ideas, design, the process, and I really like the look of them when well done. I just don't want any on me. aside from the time in college where too many hits to the head and too many beers with my best friend “boom boom” might have had us walk into a tattoo parlor and say, “surprise me!” there was only one time I actively tried to come up with a tattoo for myself. it was for a love in my life that happened to be a flight attendant. so I had her done in retro with an old dc-3 or timeless plane. but I never could get the art and my body parts to work where It was like me working on an animation character. the moment you knew the character was done, was when it appeared to talk to you on the page.
my retro flight attendant babe (with her hair down) never really found a spot on my body, or the art was such that it would never come out the way I imagined. while it was a really cool idea – the form and function never came together in tattoo form. one could easily make a case for nose art of an old plane, or a great pin-up girl poster – but it would not work as a tattoo.
the snow is still falling, the coffee is brewed and now I will go back to work…it is a lot of things to get to a place where one can show people and in a second they see an idea appearing very simple. “oh I get it! cool idea!”
maybe that is my problem. I need to test the ideas and make sure they work before I go out and get others involved. part of what I am seeing in the USA is ideas are like tattoo’s – people aren’t thinking very much with an idea or company and simply running into the market to get a new tattoo of sorts. meanwhile, there is a lot to be said about form and function coming together. it produces rare and amazing things – sort of like Dante’s Inferno on that guys body.
while not for me, I really appreciated the talent and thought that went into making that living art – reality. it also was one of the odder things that have happened to me in a coffee shop.
gosh, I miss that old bank building off Jackson square in new Orleans…that was simply…a unique coffee shop and place.