Saturday, April 8, 2006

My Flirtation With Obscure Punctuation

Tracey calls me up about a week and a half ago, excited beyond frothing. This was before the whole GarettVerse kerfluffle, so I was confused as to what it could possibly be about.

“So, I was in line last night at the store,” she said, “and I saw this girl with a … a, um, star on the back of her neck. And it looked really sexy, and she was really sexy, and I kind of wondered … I mean, I know it’s silly and girly, but do you think that would make a good tattoo on me?”

And, partially because I thought it would and partially because I like getting my friends to spend money on themselves and partially because I knew she would want me to accompany her to the tattoo studio, I said, “Um, yeah.”

A pause. “Wait, so you don’t think it’s silly to get a star just because a hot girl had one?”

“Not at all! I think it’s a great idea!”

This is, of course, when I started thinking, Hmm. I wonder what random, non-sequitur tattoo I could possibly get. Before my thought was finished, Tracey said, “Hey, you need to get one, too! It’ll be a whole tattoo event!”

And because I, too, fall under the spell of my friends’ whims, I said, “Wow, that sounds even cooler!”

Flash-forward a couple of days, lying in bed with Shawn. I told him about this whole thing, and how I was considering getting a new tattoo myself, even though it’s only been two months since the last one.

“Well, what do you want?” he asked, and I kind of shrugged. Both of my prevailing ideas – the werewolf and the Spider-Man – are both intensely complicated and will not only cost more than I have right now, but are also more than I want right now. My last three tats have been increasingly representative; I was more about the iconic right now.

“I’m kind of leaning toward a movie one,” I said, “because I have the bear one, the music one, the book one, the comic one, and the TV one. Basically, movies are what I have left, but there’s nothing really iconic about, you know, Taxi Driver or Shawshank Redemption.” We discussed Rocky Horror briefly, and though I did think about it a bit, the only real icon of Rocky is the lips, and … well, no.

“Well, I want one,” Shawn said. I sat up.

“Wait, you want to finally get your squid thing?”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’ll be fun.”

My eyes widened. “It’ll be a tattoo event!!!

I called Tracey Thursday. “You still excited?”

“You have no idea! I’m getting a star! Have you thought any more about what you want?”

I sighed. “Yeah. Maybe something about writing? I don’t know. A pen, maybe?” We bandied these ideas back and forth awhile, until I came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t getting one. Tracey sounded sad, but resigned.

“But you’re still coming to see me get mine?”

“Of course.”

And that was that.

Until yesterday, at Jason’s.

“So,” he said, “what’re you doing tomorrow?”

“Oh, Tracey and Shawn and I are going to Chameleon. They’re getting tattoos.”

“You’re not?”

“Well, I don’t really know anything I want. I want an icon, or something, but” – and I swear I said this without forethought or consideration – “the only thing I can really think of is the interrobang.”

“The what now?”

“The interrobang. It’s like a question mark and an exclamation point sort of jammed together. Interro-bang.”


“I’ll show you on Wikipedia!”

I gave the idea some time to mull over in my head. It made some sense, actually. It’s writing-related. It’s me related – what could symbolize me better than an exclamation point and a question mark? Plus, it’s unique enough so that most people won’t know it, and stylish enough to that it had the potential to actually look cool.

I woke up this morning and posted my interrobang picture. Tracey called me almost at once. “Yes! Get it! Oh my God, it’s perfect! Where do you want it?”

“Um, the side of my leg, maybe?”

A pause. “Isn’t that a bit girly?”

“No, it looks fine!”

She arrived around eleven. Shawn was delayed in getting his pants on (because he’s Shawn), but after showing Tracey and Jay some sketches of his squid thing, we were heading out the door. I lamented to Tracey that I see my tattoist more often than my dentist. A brief jaunt for snacks and gas, and then off to Harvard Square!

Chameleon hadn’t opened when we got there, so we decided to hang out outside like suburban losers. We’re that guy. Shawn said, “So you’re getting an interrobang?”

He didn’t seem mad or puzzled, just somewhat amused. I nodded and touched the side of my leg. He looked at me. “Isn’t that kind of girly?”

“Shut up, it’s awesome.”

What? This is my flash, what?

Chameleon opened and we approached the front desk. I love the front desk girl, whose name I don’t know but who always treats me with professionalism and kindness, even though she’s a little sarcastic and snarky. She’s the perfect balance.

“You guys are first up today. What’s happening?”

I smiled at her. “We all want Kelly.” I glanced over at him, setting up in his little tattoo cubicle. But not as much as I do, I thought.

“All right, show me your designs and IDs, we’ll get you set up!”

After a bit of a wait (and I was heartened and mystified that the first song we heard playing over Chameleon's loudspeakers was "Screenwriter's Blues," by Soul Coughing, which has kind of a special connection with me), Tracey got evaluated and then went in. The tattooing had begun.

Our psychobilly tattooist

At first Tracey was quite nervous, standing stock-still as Kelly placed the design on her neck. "Straight up and down?" he asked, and she flipped out.

"No!" she screamed, taking a step forward. Then she turned, as if it were all normal, and said, "No, just a little bit askew."

Kelly looked at her. "Um, okay." Later on, Tracey and I decided he was thinking, Jesus, another white chick with another star tattoo on another neck. Can my day get any BETTER?!

Tracey, before the freakout.

He sat Tracey down, and I paid close attention to her, as her breathing had gotten more rapid (which meant a pronounced heaving of the breasts, actually.) I was afraid more freaking out would happen once Kelly touched the needles to her, but a curious thing happened there: she calmed down. Later, she explained that the switch-over from pain to pleasure had taken mere seconds. It was kind of cool to watch her go from Ow, it's gonna hurt, OW IT'S GONNA HURT to, Oh. Well, isn't that cool?

Tracey, you're a star!

She was over in, swear to God, fifteen minutes. I thought about my Springsteen tattoo and my Star Trek tattoo, and cursed her silently. Grumblegrumble, I have to sit in the chair for like an hour and Tracey gets hers licked on by kittens grumble grumble... But I digress. Time for Shawn!

The best part of the whole day is when Kelly called Shawn in. I stood up, camera at the ready, and Shawn spun and said, "Um, I think I only want Tracey here for this. Okay, bye." And the door closed. I just sat down, looking at Kelly's door, thinking, Um, guess I should have brought a book? I guess?

Kelly stabs Shawn. Repeatedly.

He told me later that he didn't want me being there to either freak him out, as I am apparently prone to exuberence. Allegedly. This would have, he explained, unnerved him. It was fine. I headed over to Newbury Comics and bought myself a magazine I didn't really want to busy myself, and by the time I came back, Shawn was apparently ready for me.

Shawn in progress.

I stepped into the room and watched him awhile. Kelly allowed me to maneuver around the room with the camera, provided I didn't get in his way. I think it would probably be presumptuous to say that Kelly likes me, but I think he recognizes that I am not only a regular who brings him my business, but I also bring in other people. This means that Bill has to get his Greek symbol soon, and Jason should get his phi, and everyone should get inked forever and ever, because it's AWESOME YOU GUYS SERIOUSLY!

I am having an awesome time.

When Shawn was finished, he pulled me aside. "I didn't mean to send you out of the room like that. I kind of didn't want you to see if I started crying. You're fine."

I was going to kiss him but didn't. Which is always the most annoying part of life, you know? Anyway, his tattoo - which is something he can explain far better than I can, as it has something to do with a Macadonian vase - came out looking exactly like his sketches, and we were all quite impressed by it.


After cleaning up, Kelly stepped up to the counter and called me over. "Okay, so you want the interrobang." (It kind of stunned me that more people knew about the interrobang - which I only heard about four years ago from Eggwards at TBRU - than I had anticipated.) "Where do you want it?"

I pointed to the side of my leg and said, "Well, I was thinking about here. A little further up from my ankle?"

Kelly looked at me. "Well, it's fine if you get it there. It's your decision. But I just need to warn you. It might look a little bit ... girly."

I looked at Tracey. I looked at Shawn. Tracey said, "We win!"

I sighed. "So where do you think it'll look best?"

Kelly indicated a spot lower down my leg, where it tapers down just above my foot. "The way your leg is shaped, it's sort of like a triangle. And the shape of the tattoo tapers like that, too. I think it'd look cool there." I agreed and we were about to go in when he said, "So, that bear claw. Did you want it shaded like that, or is that shading a mistake?"

"I mean, if you're going for girly..."

I rolled my eyes. "A mistake. It was my first one, and she was a scratcher."

"I'll fill it in for you," Kelly said. "No charge."

I goggled at him. "Really?"

"Yeah, you bring me business, plus you're a regular. Regulars get preferential treatment."

"So awesome!"

We entered Kelly's cubicle and he told me to lie down on his vinyl chair on my belly. I clambered up and muttered, "Shut up, Tracey."


He put my leg up on a stand which was certainly not meant for the bony fronts of lower legs. For awhile, it wasn't so bad. We talked about the increasing dorkiness of my tattoos.

"I don't think you can get any dorkier than an interrobang," Tracey said.

"Oh, I don't know. My next one could be commemorating stamp collecting."

Kelly said, "Philately forever!" A pause. "I just really wanted to use that word in a sentence."

"I could tell people I'm really into FDR, and I want to be just like him."

"You know," Kelly said, "I know people who could hobble you. Or, if you'd prefer, I know some folks who could inject you with polio. It'd mean calling in favors that I never thought I'd need of course..."

I love Kelly.

Sleeping in the needles.

Sadly, after awhile, it became apparent that while the tattoo itself was hurting like a mother ... it was the stand that was cutting into my leg. For the first time since Kelly became my tattooist, I asked him to stop for a second so I could move it. I feared for a second that he'd call me out for being a total wuss, but all he did was put some paper towels down to cushion me and went back to work.

Fixing my claw. Rire.

Thankfully, this time, my time was relatively short, as well. I'm going to say that with the interobang and the bear claw - which Tracey said he not only filled in, but re-outlined and neatened - it took me all of twenty-five minutes. This is a good thing, because the next one's going to take about three sessions. Fucking werewolves.

After I turned around and surveyed my tattoo (in a maneuver that later had Jay calling me a "fancy dancer"; awesome), Kelly stuck out his hand and thanked me. That was a first. I handed him his tip and we were out, out, on the way toward Texas Roadhouse: in pain, scarred for life, and happy as hell with how we spent our morning. I know I say it all the time, but boy howdy, sometimes I just love my life.