Don't Drink And Ink
I am familiar with body ink.
I got my first tattoo when I was nineteen with my older brother. It was a positive and memorable experience that I fully enjoyed and will continue to love until I die.
This is not that story.
I guess you can say my second tattoo embodies much of who I am and the shit that happens to me. Its meaning actually developed more AFTER I got the damn thing rather than before I was inked up.
Back when I was in college, I was working a shift at the bar with my coworker and friend, Squeaky. Squeaky is this tiny Vietnamese girl with big, teased, dirty blonde hair, fake black lashes, and the feistiest little firecracker I knew, but man oh man was she loads of fun.
One random Thursday, work was extremely slow and just a few of our regular customers hung around. At one point, I think there were more workers than customers. The cook was in the kitchen, tossing up some yellow fried rice in a giant flaming wok with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a cup of Heineken in his free hand. My other coworker, Johnny, was leaning against the back counter checking his phone and aimlessly scrolling. As per usual, Squeaky and I were drinking. There was nothing better to do, so why not? The Hennessy was flowing and the beers were frosty and bubbly. In the midst of our boredom (and inebriation) Squeaky suggested we go out after our shift and find something to do.
Squeaky: We should go do something fun after work!
Me: We could go to a club or another bar.
Squeaky: Dude I wanna chill though, I'm tired.
Me: True. I have a final to study for too.
Me: DUDE. Let's get tattoos.
Squeaky: What? You're not serious. I don't believe you.
Me: No, I'll do it. By the end of tonight I promise you I'll have one.
She was so skeptical and I felt almost insulted that she would doubt me. I gave her my word! I know giving someone your word isn't worth a lick nowadays, but my word is as solid as diamonds. The fuck, Squeaky?
I was pretty hammered by the time I finished my shift. Squeaky, her boyfriend, his friend, and I piled into Squeaky's tiny coupé. Squeaky drove, I took the front passenger seat, Squeaky's boyfriend sat behind me, and his friend took the seat behind the driver. Squeaky's boyfriend was really shit-housed and asked me to roll down the window. I assumed it was because he felt car sick and thought a little bit of the fresh, cold air would do him some good. All of a sudden, I just saw a flash of green and the sound of shattering glass next to my head. Good job, shit head. I looked at Squeaky and she chided her boyfriend. I asked that he not litter.
We drive up near Broadway and I, fully expecting to see a shop, realized that we'd pulled into a neighborhood. Well, it wasn't so much a neighborhood as it was a dark, ghetto looking row of shacks with dirt yards that looked like God's blind spot.
Me: Dude, what the fuck, Squeaky? I thought he we were going to a shop.
Squeaky: No, I told you, he works from his garage.
Oh. Shit. I must have forgotten that vital piece of information amidst my hazy memory. Soon after, a shadowy figure in an oversized heather gray hoodie, black beanie, and jeans that looked like he bought it from the husky section at Sears walked up to the passenger side. I rolled down the window.
Cholo: Ey, so like, which one of you is gonna get the tattoo?
Me: Uh, that'd be me.
Cholo: Aiiiiight, aiiiiiiight. Come to the garage and we'll get you all set up.
We got out of the car and walked up his cracked cement driveway towards a dilapidated wooden gate nearly hanging off its hinges with paint chipping off the wood slats. He opened the gate and as I followed him in, a large black dog approached me. I love dogs, so my initial reaction is to say hello and pet it.
Me: Awww, what a cute dog. Come here do---
Dog: GRRRAAAAAA RAH RAHRAHRAHHAHRRHA!
Cholo: SHHHHHH! Ey, stoppit! Quiet!
Immediately, I recoiled my hand back because this animal snapped at my fingers. Right. I forgot. I'm in the boonies in the middle of the night. Common sense and logic weren't working in my favor for me at this moment. It was dark as shit, muddy, and wet out so I carefully watched my step as I walked towards the edge of the wall. I use my hand to feel the rough ridges of the brick wall until I reached the light of the open door. The first thing I saw was another Hispanic fellow in an LA baseball cap smoking a cigarette with multiple tattooing stations haphazardly set up. Each station reminded me of a dentist's table with blue paper cloth and silver tools laid out under bendy metal table lamps. The "tattoo artist" (and I use the term VERY loosely) came back. I got a better look at him and as he removed his hoodie, I saw that he didn't have very many tattoos, which should have been an obvious sign that he shouldn't be trusted to use a piston with needles on other people.
Tattoo Artist: Ey, so like, what do you want to get tattooed?
Me: Can you do an ampersand?
Tattoo Artist: What the fuck is an ampersand?
Me: It's the 'and' symbol.
Tattoo Artist: What the fuck is an 'and' symbol??
Oh Christ. I politely asked this illiterate and incompetent human being to print out a picture.
Tattoo Artist: So can you like, print out a picture for me? I can trace it 'cause like, I don't how to use my computer.
The only shred of patience I had left for this skid mark upon humanity existed because a good friend of mine gave me her word that he was a good artist. I respected that. I knew many senseless and unintelligent people who were brilliant artists. He led me across his backyard into his house where I turned on his computer. I was going to open a word document but he didn't have Microsoft Word installed on his computer. HOW HAD THIS MAN FUNCTIONED IN MODERN SOCIETY WITHOUT EVER NEEDING MICROSOFT WORD?! I eventually pulled up a picture of an ampersand (on Opera, not even Internet Explorer) and re-sized it so he could trace it off the screen. I was very adamant that he use a traced copy for my tattoo. We headed back to the garage and I let him press the traced image onto the back of my ear. I checked the mirror, and twisted and turned to see the purple transfer behind my ear. It was a little low, so wipe, wipe, and the stencil moved up. I got the okay from Squeaky and I was set to go. I lied down and fully expected to get started.
But of course, nothing goes according to my original plans. Ever.
I heard a familiar bubbling noise and when I looked up, I saw Tattoo Artist take a fat bong rip from a long, translucent, green tube. His eyes squinted and he barely got his words out as he offered the glass bong towards my direction.
Tattoo Artist: You want some?
Me: No, I think I'm good on that offer.
Tattoo Artist: You sure? It's good stuff.
Me: No thanks. So uh, are you going to be able to tattoo after that?
Tattoo Artist: Yeah man, it gives me a steadier hand, you know what I mean?
At this point, I'm sure any level headed and collected person would have said "nope" and run the fuck out, but I am not that person. I'm sticking to my word. In all honesty, he had a gentle hand and my tattoo came out clean.
I was immediately in love with it. He did a great job despite my doubts and I was ecstatic that it came out the way it did. He asked me about the other tattoo on my arm--the wishbone. He noticed that some of the lines were a little uneven because I never went back for the touch up so naturally, I was thrilled when he offered to touch it up for free. He got to work while we chatted some more and the worst possible thing happened.
He accidentally tattooed a mark outside the bottom right bend of the wishbone outline. What. The. Actual. FUCK. I had a fleeting moment of panic, but because Squeaky was a friend of mine, I chose to address the issue tactfully and with grace.
Me: You made a mistake right there. It's outside the line.
Tattoo Artist: Nah, that'll wash off later.
In my naive hopes, I actually believed him and lied telling myself that it would wash off like any stupid drunk girl in self-denial would. A few days later, I stopped lying to myself and let him know that he fucked up pretty royally. But I am not one to be a bitch because yes, I am fully aware that it was my decision. A very poor decision, at that. I let it happen. I should have just stopped because it was all too good to be true. It's my own fault and it's my responsibility. There was more to the conversation but I think this little tidbit captured the the spirit of this idiot.
But as you all know, I'm not one to dwell. Looking back, I think this is pretty fucking hilarious because if you don't laugh at it, it's just down right sad. So in a sense, this "tattoo artist" gave me exactly what I wanted in a tattoo. A story. That's why I got the ampersand--because my life is all one big "haha fuck you" story and I guess my life will always continue to harbor the unexpected. It's never just, "Oh, I think I'll get a tattoo." There will always be some "and" or unexpected plot twist that always seems to follow. This is getting a little mushy so I'll end it with this.
The moral of this story: Twenty five bucks, 5 Hennessy and Cokes, and a shoddy cholo tattoo artist will get its worth exactly. A shoddy twenty five dollar tattoo that was done by a cholo while you were drunk.