Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thou Mayest

Tracey was waiting for us when we arrived. I stated at once, “I need a shirt.”

She looked up, quite possibly thinking: Oh, this is one of those birthdays where Kevin’s difficult. Yey me? Shawn explained, “His Daredevil shirt that he was wearing got wet and he went to his office to get another one, but all he had there was a white T-shirt, and Kev’s not all that into the James Dean look today, or something.” This mostly fictional dialogue has been approved by Kevin M. Quigley.

I said, “I’ll just duck into New England Comics and grab something. I’ll be right out.”

Tracey cautiously bit her lip and nodded. Why all the fear, Tracey?

Oh. Ten minutes later, as casually as possible, Tracey appeared inside. “Hey!” Tracey’s mock joviality is endearing and hilarious. “Did you need any help?”

“I want that Who T-shirt, but the lady said that all the T-shirts were self-serve, but I can’t find a Who T-shirt down in the bins!”

Ever so momentarily, Tracey’s eyes widened. I did not survive my mother to go through this. Then she said, “Well, maybe let’s find another shirt you might like.”


Moments later, Tracey discovered a retro Dungeons & Dragons shirt, which, in all honesty, was going to work a lot better for my birthday than The Who. I might not be a gamer, but I play one on the internet.

Thus shirted, we headed over to Chameleon. All at once, Shawn looked startled. “Hey, what tattoo are you getting?”

“Nothing,” I said gaily, “la la la!” We headed into the shop and found Kelly the Wonder Tattooist, looking beefy and resplendent as always. I handed him my paperback of It and told him what to do.

Shawn’s eyes went dark. “What tattoo are you getting?”

Tracey, ever the mediator, said, “It’s the title of the book It, but it’s really okay! It has a lot of meaning to Kevin, and…”

“I hope you’re prepared to sleep alone for the rest of our lives together,” Shawn said. “I mean, I just want you aware that that’s going to happen.”

“You know,” I shot back, “I put this on my blog. You should have been aware of this.”

Tracey looked from Shawn to me, then back to Shawn. Backing away slowly with a cyberfoot isn’t easy, but Tracey managed to do it: step, scrape. Step, scrape.

Things could have gotten dark, but right then, Shawn told me the precise reason why it was that word, those letters that I couldn’t get. I won’t go into it, but it relates to a childhood trauma that’s still haunting him. Now, you know me. Childhood trauma is my bread and butter. I get that, I understand the horror of it. So when Kelly came out with the photocopy, I said at once, “Hey, Kelly, last-minute change of plans.”

He looked at me, crumpled up the paper, and tossed it behind him. “Okay, what’s the change?”

“I’m going to do a different word. Timshel.”

Kelly looked at me for a second, then burst into a full-on grin. “You Steinbeck nerd.”

I looked from Shawn to Tracey, all of us with identical shocked expressions. Tracey sidled up next to me and whispered, “Okay, maybe this is meant to be.”

Kelly called me into his office to look at fonts. I shot a glance back at Shawn, who was looking a little weirded out in the chair. I smiled and shot him a thumbs-up, just to let him know that everything was cool. I think he got it, because he smiled back.

“Okay,” Kelly said, “What font would you like?”

Because I’m a font geek, too, I knew. “Papyrus.” [2012 note: I didn't KNOW, okay!?]

Tracey grabbed at my shoulder. “Ooo, Papyrus is a good one!” I looked at her and she looked at me. Why we don’t have more shame, I’m not sure.

The font thus picked, Kelly called me up and things started. I doffed my shirt, handed it and my glasses to Tracey, and settled in.

You know how it’s painful to get tattoos? Like, it’s good, right? You always reach that moment of clarity where you’re either so deep in the pain that you stop feeling it, or you’ve risen to a euphoric place above the pain? But still, let’s not gild the lily here, folks: it’s pain for art. And you know what makes that pain worse? Getting it done on a neck that’s been recently waxed.


Tracey reached out and tentatively touched my knee. “You okay?”


“Awww,” she said, then clumped closer on her cyberfoot to take pictures. Maybe I need to start whining less.

Kelly distracted me by explaining why he knew timshel off the top of his head. “It’s a tattoo I want myself, actually. Except I wanted it in the original Hebrew, but there’s like no translation of it. I even called the Hebrew National Council, but no luck.”

I decided to add my own bent to the story. “I asked my grandfather. Because he’s Jewish.”

“Ah,” Kelly said, clearly uninterested. We talked more about Steinbeck; how he’s Kelly’s favorite American author and how I should read Sweet Tuesday if I liked Cannery Row, and how he’s given his girlfriend until Christmas to read Orwell’s 1984 before he breaks it off with her. Well, Kelly talked. I mostly grunted. Talking’s hard when you’re bent forward with needles in your neck, and I was afraid of causing the ink-jet to jitter with too many plosive consonant clusters.

Tattoos always take forever and are done entirely too quickly. I had no idea he’d even started filling in when he told me to get up, I was done. Tracey snapped a picture and Shawn popped his head in.

“So explain this one again,” he said.

Kelly took it: “It’s from East of Eden. The character Lee – best character in the book – explains that there’s this word in the Bible, timshel. An early translation had it meaning thou shalt, which was a command. Another had it meaning thou wilst, which is prophetic. But then they came to the real meaning. Thou mayest. It gives man the option of free will.”

To have a good life. To have great friends. To have a wonderful day set aside for just me. To change my mind at the last minute to keep my sweetie’s goblins away. To be a good guy, as good as I can, and still have a shitload of fun.

Thou mayest.

More later.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Big Disney Adventure, Part Two: Are We There Yeti?

Monday morning, you sure look fine. The night before, Brad had looked at me with pleading eyes and begged that we be allowed to sleep in. How I somehow became known as the Fun Nazi is beyond me.

At the leisurely hour of nine, we climbed out of bed, sitting as much as possible before it was time to head out. I finished Barry Ween and Brad started me on PvP, which I’d never really read before. Here’s the weird thing: I didn’t feel hyped or particularly rushed to get there. Normally on mornings before amusement parks, my whole deal is getting there as early as possible and not dawdling and having fun fun fun! This morning, I was pretty much on board with relaxing. I wonder if that means I’m growing as a person. Jeez, I hope not.

After a brief jaunt to the car-repair place so Kay could swap out her rental for her awesome hybrid, we sped toward the two parks we hadn’t had time for yesterday. First stop: Animal Kingdom!

Now, here’s the deal. Animal Kingdom was the park I probably had the least interest in. At least for this trip, I wasn’t all that into the safari, and I’ve never really been much of an animal-watcher. (Plus, I had to wonder if, instead of being divided by “Worlds,” like the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, it would be divided by “Phylums.” When it wasn’t, I was sort of disappointed.) A big part of me also wondered if the park hadn’t sprung whole from The Lion King; where all the other parks seemed to coalesce around a whole Disney theme, this one seemed very much based on one movie and one aesthetic.

That being said, I had a pretty amazing time inside the Animal Kingdom. At the gate, Kay and Brad spotted the Pin Trading Station before I did and rushed right over with me. (I had sort of high hopes for finding the Robin Hood pin here, using the same logic as I had with the UK area of EPCOT: well, Robin Hood’s an animal, right? In fact, the narration specifically mentions the fact that this is the “animal kingdom” version of the legend. So sure! Why not!?) The cool thing about this, started here and reiterated throughout the day, is that Kay and Brad seemed just as interested in helping me find the pin as I was in finding it myself. I’m not sure if it’s that they were sparked on by my charming obsessive nature, or that – despite the fact that this wasn’t their deal – they both understood the nature of collecting, or, and probably most obviously, they’re both just awesome people. In any event, scouring the pin trading stations became an essential backbone to our day at Disneyworld, giving the experience structure and an added level of fun. It was the best day!

The best thing about Animal Kingdom was, of course, the Expedition Everest ride. Almost everyone I talked to about Disney had advice on all other aspects of the park, but because Everest was brand-new, it was a complete unknown. I was going into it blind and I was a little nervous about it. Me and roller coasters, I tell you.

What’s cool about Everest is what’s cool about a lot of Disney: the ride is completely immersive. The line-wait (which actually didn’t take all that long) takes you through the “base camp” station and the Yeti Museum, packed full of Yeti “artifacts” to enhance the realism of the whole ride. The basic truth here holds with the basic truth of all of Disney: if you believe, you’re going to have a lot more fun.

Brad ducked out as Kay and I clambered aboard a train car (me chickening out at the last moment and moving away from the front seat. I like coasters, don’t get me wrong, but the ride has to prove itself to me before I’m willing to brave the front.) One of the best Disney innovations – something that all parks should be equipped with – is small baskets located in every ride car for glasses and hats. How perfect is that idea? We took off from the station and started climbing.

Now, here’s where I usually lose my cool. The coaster experience itself is often super fun for me, but that first climb fucks my shit up. Disney had some fun with that part, having us ride up in the open air for part of it, then ducking into a pagoda-shaped tunnel for awhile before breaking back out into the open.

“Wow,” Kay marveled. “Look out to the right. You can see the whole park!”

“No.” I stopped just short of squeezing my eyes closed, and simply stared ahead.

“Oh, wow, it’s so pretty! You should really…”

“Yeah, no.”

As she cracked up, we crested the rise and proceeded to plummet. We rose again, and in front of us, the tracks had been torn up, and simply ended. Beyond that, all we could see was sky. Oh noes! The Yeti had been here!

Then we sped backward, screeching to a halt, and saw a silhouette-animation of the Yeti tearing more track up. It was actually kind of scary, if you let yourself be scared. Then more plummeting and the train went out of control!

Yes, kids, I loved Expedition Everest so much that I devoted an entire page to talking about it. After the ride, we all headed toward the Kali River Rapids and got super drenched (I had the foresight to take my shirt off and let my pasty-white flab out for all to see); at one point, I nearly lost my glasses and caught them just as they were about to fall over the edge of the boat. Then, right back to Everest! Oo-de-lally!

One last bit about Animal Kingdom: inside, there’s this dinosaur-themed mini-park, which looks very much like a carnival that just swung into town. There are mini-roller coasters and Whack-a-Moles and stuff like that. And this one ride, this Dino-Whirl thing, had no right being as fun as it was. After I got off, I was dizzy but gleeful. And on the search for cotton candy.

The Animal Kingdom thoroughly awesomed out, we headed out to Disney Studios, a park I was very keen on exploring. The Disney “thing” for me – whatever it is – started with the movies. The very first movie I remember seeing, when I was four and going to the theater with my Dad a lot, was The Fox and the Hound. That parlayed into a huge love of movies in general, and going to Disney Studios was going to underline all of that.

Man, was I right on. Everything about Disney Studios – from the movie-lot-looking Main Street to the shops and the restaurants – everything was like being backstage at the movies. More Disney immersion, and I was all for it. Plus, plus: my favorite ride of all of Disneyworld was here. Brad had done the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror once, and for him, once was enough. For me, over the course of the next two days, I would do the ride three times, more than any other. For me, it was the absolute most terrifying ride of the park, but also pretty damn fun, too. I’ve loved The Twilight Zone my entire life, and being inside the Tower of Terror “hotel” was like being inside an episode. How fucking awesome is that? Here’s me, freaking out:

Notice the kid in the back, bored beyond belief at the absolute, bone-rending terror going on. That douchebag is the enemy of fun. Also, notice me clutching Kay. I was just protecting her, is the thing. It wasn’t because I was scared. Nope.

After some brief ride problems, we leapt onto the Aersosmith Rock N Rollercoaster. 1: I had no idea it went upside down. 2. Or started off that fast. 3. Or that “Just Push Play” is actually a pretty awesome song, if you think about it.

We didn’t spend much longer at Disney Studios; only long enough to see a “movie” sequence being played out by a ditzy woman called Babs and a chubby dude being the “director.” Right before we headed out, my hankering for cotton candy was sated, which spelled for a delightfully sugary boat ride to EPCOT.

As soon as we docked, we sped to Norway. There was lunch to be had! (As we sat:

Me: “Hey, Brad?”

Brad: “What?”

I knocked on the table. “Norwegian wood.”

And then we cracked up as Kay looked on.)

Yes, that does say "Princess Storybook Dining." Wow.

What we didn’t know is that it was a “character” meal. What we further didn’t know is that it was a Princess character meal. This made things kind of interesting. See, when Snow White showed up, I apparently, um, couldn’t conceal my excitement. I’m not sure if this is a gay thing or a kid-like thing or a combo of the two, but actually seeing the characters there, in real life … I mean, the Norwegian lunch was already made of awesome. This kind of stratosphered things.

As is evident in these, um, lunatic photos:

The day wound down from there. As night edged closer, we began to pick out seats for viewing IllumiNations. After Brad and Kay had settled, I dashed back to France and picked up a selection of snacks from the patisserie, running back to where we were sitting and proffering my procurements. We leaned against the wall near the waterfront and watched the IllumiNations spectacular explode overhead, brilliant and colorful and simply amazing. Thoroughly worn out, we headed back to the car, tired and stuffed but happy. We would be sleeping well tonight.

One more day in Disney. One more entry in this series. Soon, I would be heading home. But not before one last hurrah!

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Big Disney Adventure, Part One: Not In Nottingham

Here’s the deal about me and Disney: the last time I was there was 1979. I went with my Mom and her sister Marybeth, along with my two uncles, Chris and Freddy … both of whom were just old enough to make a big show out of hating the Happiest Place on Earth. And the fact is that I was four, and far more interested in my Weebles Treehouse Playset than going on rides. This was around the time I was more interested in tomatoes than chocolate, so obviously I was a disturbed toddler.

But it’s been twenty-eight years since then. Disney has gone through a Renaissance or two and so have I. And as Brad and I climbed onto the Monorail and sped toward the Magic Kingdom, I could barely contain my jittery glee. It seems implausible that I could be this choked with nervous anticipation, but there it was.

“Hey,” my friend Brad said. “If you look through those trees, you can see the spires of Cinderella’s Castle.”

I pressed my palms to the window and stared out. And there it was, coming into view. Cinderella’s Castle, smack-dab in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. Oh my God, I thought. Peter Pan was right. I can fly. I can fly!

Then my brain short-circuited for awhile. Maybe that was for the best.

* * *

In the weeks leading up to Disney, I’d made my plans based around a few facts, the main being that Brad would not go on rollercoasters, or rides that went especially high. This worked out just fine, because I had three days there, and rollercoasters could wait until day two, when Kay would join us and go on anything. I had also steeled myself against the probability of long, dull lines. I knew that it was unlikely that I’d ride everything I wanted to ride, and the lists I’d made would have to be held over for my next trip.

So imagine my surprise when we stepped through the gates of the Magic Kingdom and found the park almost entirely

“Empty? Where is everyone?”

Brad shrugged. “Well, it’s Mother’s Day. And Sunday. And, um, nine AM. People are probably at church and stuff. Or still sleeping.”

“Brad, all the lines say there’s a five-minute wait! Is that weird?”

“Actually, yeah. Usually these lines are like a half-hour or more.”

“Oh my God! I’m going to get to do everything!”

It certainly seemed that way. And the cool thing was, the no-rollercoaster thing wasn’t exactly a limit: sure, the less intense rides had a high nostalgia/cheese factor … but that’s why I was at Disneyworld! I was there for the cheese!

So we spent the first part of our day doing the two rides Brad particularly digs: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. The cool thing about pirates – besides its excessive silliness – is the newer addition of the Captain Jack stuff. A couple of times, I thought the animatronic Johnny Depp was actually an actor who was going to jump out at us and say hi. I had no idea it could look that realistic. And I loved The Haunted Mansion. To give you an idea of the cheese factor, at one point the spooky ghost announcer says, “They’re having a … swinging wake!” It’s like crazy Marc Summers got his creepy on and brought his pauses all the way down to Florida. (Also, there was this exchange: “Hey Brad! Did you know! That Barenaked Ladies did that ‘Grim Grinning Ghosts’ thing in the Haunted Mansion?” “Ooooh!” It’s real easy to be weary of me.)

Brad also seemed jazzed about jumping into the teacups at the Mad Tea Party. This held a special place in my heart, actually, because it is the only thing I remember from my previous trip to Disney, when I was a Weeble-loving four-year-old. Stepping onto the teacups was like stepping into my past whole: a perfect, pristine version of my past. And I was doing it with one of my best friends. How cool is that?

From there, it was easy to do everything we wanted to do. Some line-wait times said ten minutes and we were in under two. “it’s a small world,” Stitch’s Great Escape, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Tomorrowland Transit Authority … bang bang bang, one after the other. It was becoming obvious that I wasn’t going to have to wait until tomorrow to do my coasters. It wasn’t yet noon and we were nearly done with The Magic Kingdom.

Brad assured me that he had no problem sitting in the shade with some lemonade while I cavorted away on the coasters. In rapid succession, I visited Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the vaguely racist Splash Mountain. (You know, it occurs to me now that Disneyworld is a little obsessed with mountains. I wonder what that means.) I have rarely had this much fun. See, the coasters at Disney aren’t particularly horrifying; I’ve sworn off mega-coasters, and nothing in Disney even comes close to that. I know this is going to sound a little silly, but the coasters here are designed for maximum fun. Sure, they’re thrilling and sometimes your tummy drops a little, but they don’t make you question your religion when you’re on them. It’s the perfect kind of ride in the most perfect kind of place.

Our last stop in the Magic Kingdom was a jaunt into Mickey’s Philharmagic, which I wasn’t all that interested in, but by that point, Brad wasn’t the only one needing a bit of a rest. Only when I got inside did I realize it was going to be the type of 3-D show that the Shrek presentation at Universal was, only this time with Disney stuff. I started to get excited.

Can I just say, right now, that Mickey’s Philharmagic is one of the best places in Disneyworld. I’m not just talking my report up till now, I’m talking the whole park. All it is is a 3-D tour through several musical Disney Classics moments. It reminded me how much I loved The Lion King and Beauty & the Beast. And it was sensory 3-D, too, with smells and water and sounds coming from everywhere. It was perfect, just perfect.

One last note about The Magic Kingdom: my entire original goal of going to Disney World in the first place was to find a Robin Hood Hat. (To reiterate: Robin. Hood. HAT.) Every time I posited this question in any shop in any area of the Magic Kingdom, I was met with everything ranging from incredulity to outright hostility. Disney “Cast Members” are nice to the point of saccharine overload on every other subject, but this one seemed to suspiciously draw their ire.

“What?” one Cast Member asked, a look of disgust on her face. “You mean the cartoon fox? Yeah, no. You’re not gonna find that.” And then her Disney Face came back, filling in the anger lines and making things sweet again. It was horrifying to watch.

With a heavy sigh, I followed Brad back to the monorail. There was some EPCOT to be getting to, and I wasn’t going to let the surly anti-Robin Hood campaign get in the way of my fun! EPCOT AHOY!

* * *

So, wanna hear how completely dumb I am? Until about two months ago, I thought that EPCOT was entirely enclosed in that big shiny geodesic sphere. Like, the sphere was humungous and the park was all inside of it. These are times when I question the validity of those high IQ scores I got in school.

The dome contains exactly one ride, Spaceship Earth, and they are adamant about assuring you that it is a slow-moving ride. Seriously, the guide map states that you’re going to “glide gently though the Audio-Animatronics story of communication.” When you get into the ride-car, a giant red and white sign says, “This is a SLOW-MOVING RIDE.” And as you start to climb up the first gentle hill, a voice comes over the speakers and assures us, “You will be moving very slowly. You’ll start slowly and you’ll end slowly. At one point, your car will turn … quite slowly! And you’ll return very, very slowly.” Oh my God, EPCOT, we GET IT!

Except we didn’t really. Because no matter how slow you think it’s going to be? Yeah, it’s slower.

Which was fine. More cheese factor I could share with Brad. Besides, it actually was kind of interesting, if you’re into learning and stuff. After that, Brad took a breather and I leapt toward Mission: SPACE. (I couldn’t tell if SPACE was an acronym for something, or if EPCOT was just really excited about this mission and went with caps instead of italics.) I went on a lot of rides at Disney. Mission: SPACE is the only one I will not do again. It’s cool and all, but there’s a reason why there are barf bags actually inside the ride. Not even the presence of Gary Sinese could protect me from the ill effects of Mission: SPACE.

My stomach whoopsy and my head boggling, it was deemed time to take a stroll through the World – a part of the park system I had no idea existed until two months prior. Back to that IQ thing.

We made our way into Canada, and my first thought was: it’s like my friend Tracey got so excited that she exploded, and this was what happened. The Canada part of the World Showcase was … very, very Canadian. For whatever reason, perhaps by virtue of temporary insanity, Brad and I decided that it would be a keen idea to visit O Canada!, a film in Circle-Vision 360! The film told us many amazing things about 1980s Canada, like that it has Mounties and cities. And also plains and rivers. And cities. Farms, too! And parts of it are cold. Brrr, cold. Have I mentioned the cities?

“Oh my God,” I muttered to Brad.

“Okay, so it’s not just me.”

“”We can leave, right? They’ll let us just leave, right?”

“They better.”

So, kids, a word of advice: if you want to hate Canada, head on into the Circle-Vision 360 presentation of O Canada! at EPCOT. Jesus Christ.

The day was wearing on and time was running out. My last-ditch gambit for the Robin Hood hat seemed like a good one: “Hey, they’ll probably have something in the United Kingdom area, right? I mean, that’s were Robin Hood takes place, right?”

Brad studied me. “You know, that’s actually not a bad idea. Let’s try it!”

We wandered into the first shop, hopeful but wary. I perused the hats on the wall while Brad looked for a Cast Member to talk to. A moment later: “Hey, Kev?”

I spun, sure I’d see Brad with a hat in his hand. Instead, I saw a thin, smiling Cast Member next to him, whose nametag read Andrew. Beneath, as on all Cast Member name tags, read the place from which he’d originated. Andrew had come from


He grinned. “That’s right. Your friend tells me that you’re looking for Robin Hood stuff.”

I gaped at Andrew. Nottingham. He’s actually from Nottingham? “Yes, that’s right. I’m afraid you’re going to be out of luck. Unfortunately, all we seem to carry right now are the DVD and a single book.” He handed the book to me, but it was about the real Robin Hood, not the cartoon. Andrew felt my disappointment. “I know, it really stinks. I’m that movie’s biggest fan. D’you know, I was actually born in the Sherwood Forest area?”

“You’re serious?”

“Quite. So it actually pains me that there’s not more Robin Hood paraphernalia around. You’d think they’d hype it up, especially in the UK area.”

“You’d think!”

“Well, you’re not going to find a Robin Hood hat, but what you might try to do is locate a Robin Hood pin. There are places throughout all four parks where you can buy pins, and you’ll often see Cast Members walking around with lanyards full of pins. You might find one that way.”

A Robin Hood pin, eh? Maybe not as vitally awesome as a Robin Hood hat, but the idea wasn’t half-bad. No, not half-bad at all.

And as Brad and I popped into France for a couple of end-of-day pastries, the idea took sudden, frightening hold. Okay, I thought, one obsession didn’t work out, but here’s a new one. And this one’s actually possible. Hm. Robin Hood pin, eh? ROBIN HOOD PIN.

It had a ring to it, it did. And I still had two more days to find it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pinch Me

Okay, my life has been so suffused with rawk lately, I can’t possibly cover it in a single entry. Also, as you may have gleaned from my subtle hints, I was kind of blasted out of my mind on Friday, thanks to the joy of cupcakes and Bawls. (Later that night, there was peer pressure and hard liquor. But that’s a different story.)

So, what I’ve decided to do is tackle all the awesome my life has been recently in a jumbly, Tarantino-esque way, recollected out of order. And why am I doing it this way? Because I got a new tattoo! And this pervert took pictures!

Tracey explained awhile back that she was sort of on the jazz about a Headstones tattoo. For those not in the know: The Headstones are a “band” fronted by irascible showman and part-time actor Hugh Dillon. Oh, haven’t heard of Hugh Dillon? It’s because he’s Canadian.

“So, a Headstones tattoo, huh?” I responded.

“Yeah, I know, isn’t it awesome?

“Tracey,” I said. “Tattoos of Canadian bands are stupid.”

“And what are you getting?”

“Barenaked Ladies, of course!”

Our orignal concepts. Canadian bands. Wow.

* * *

Tracey was weirdly confident as we strode into Chameleon yesterday afternoon (getting there at noon, right when they open. Because we’re those people.) Kelly the Wonder Tattooist was there, looking all portly and rockabilly with his jet black hair shot through with a bright red streak. Have I mentioned my weird and perhaps financially unhealthy crush on my tattooist?

I showed him my BNL design (handing over another concert T-shirt. It’s been long-accepted that I’m a total dork. This was underlined by him saying, “Well, I have to say that your Star Trek communicator is the absolute nerdiest tattoo I’ve ever done.” He and Tracey cracked up a little as I seethed.) and he studied it a little. “I want it to sort of compliment the Springsteen one on my other arm,” I explained. “What do you think?”

The initial idea to leave the outer oval white was discarded almost at once. “With lines that close together, they’re going to bleed in. Besides, if we make the oval black, it’ll better match the Springsteen one.”

...which is totally true

I conceded at once, wincing only a little thinking of the extra pain all that filling in was going to cause me.

As he prepared his room, Tracey – who had been prepared to go to a different tattooist for today’s stuff – turned to me and whispered, “Kelly seems nice today. I think I will go with him.”

Now, some quick backstory: the last time Tracey and I went to Kelly together, I was getting my interobang and she was getting her back-of-the-neck star. As you might remember, as Kelly put the design on her neck and asked her if she was ready, Tracey flipped out and jerked forward, screaming, “No!!! I want the star tilted!

Since then, Tracey has complained that Kelly was “super mean” to her that day. Since she’s gone off on her tear, I’ve been wondering about it. Yes, Kelly’s a terrific artist, but am I forgiving a pissy attitude because I’ve got a boner for him? I decided I needed backup. (No, not Veronica Mars’s dog.)

I have a co-worker named Tami who took my advice and went to Kelly and raved about him. She also brought her girlfriend to him for her first tattoo, and when I asked about it, she said Kelly was very accommodating and gentle about the whole thing. On Friday, I called Tracey.

“You know, I think your whole Kelly meanness thing is in your head.”

“He’s nice to you because you fawn over him,” she said. Then, very definitively, she said, “I think he just doesn’t like girls.”

So I explained the whole Tami and her girlfriend story, underlining it all at the end by saying, “Maybe, just maybe, the problem is you.”

“Yeah, whatevs,” she responded. I thought it was a compelling argument.

So today, when she’s made her decision to go to Kelly for her tattoo after all, I looked at her askance. She sighed. “Well, if I’m going to get important ink, I should probably go with someone I know does a good job.”

I raised my eyebrows. “And?”

She mumbled something. I asked her to clarify. Huffily, she said, “Okay, maybe he was mean to me because I freaked out and jerked my head away right as he was about to tattoo my neck. Happy?”

“Oh, quite!”

* * *

It’s funny – “funny” is the word we’re using here – how three years makes you forget how unbelievably fucking painful getting a tattoo on your inner arm is. Holy mother of Christ!

Kev in bearable, hilarious pain!

Weird, though, how the pain ebbs and flows. He started off and it was like woodchucks with razor teeth were making their way through my flesh. Tracey was right there with the supportive shoulder-rubs and the taking of pictures, but literally there was a few minutes where I thought I’d go blind from the pain.

Everything is un! Everything is unFIN!

Then it … it doesn’t go away, but there’s a euphoria that comes in after awhile. Maybe it’s an internal coping mechanism or maybe it’s just something we do consciously to make us handle agony better. I’m not sure. I’ve done masochism in the past and it’s almost the same thing, but not quite. Here, it’s like something is being created out of pain, and it hurts but it’s awesome at the same time. Explaining it fails because I’m not sure I have the vocabulary for it. Either that, or there aren’t words for it. It’s like trying to tell me the difference between certain shades of blues and greens. It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.

I guess it's over now, cause I've never seen so much, never seen so much, never seen so much blood!

Eventually, Shawn showed up and showed massive indifference to my hurty time. He waited in the lobby, sipping soda (right next to the NO FOOD OR DRINK sign, mind you) and leafing through his Avengers comics. That’s my sweetie.

That's my sweetie!

Meanwhile, Kelly’s finishing me up, and the euphoria seems to be fading. Also fading is the weird erotic component that comes with being tattooed. It’s almost the same charge I get from Rocky or improv or massages, but again, not quite. Getting inked is entirely its own entity. The singular nature of it is why I keep going back, time and again.

* * *

Ink and ring

After I got bandaged, Kelly took a look at the Headstones sketches Shawn made for Tracey, as well as the Headstones ring she hasn’t taken off in about three years. (That fact alone was what convinced me that the Headstones idea was an okay one for her. She’s proven that she likes the band – or at least Hugh Dillon – enough to wear a ring for three years straight. So why not permanence?)

"No, I do this for everyone. I'm kind of a hooker!"

Tracey laid back in the chair, so confident and happy. “My wrist tattoo hurt the most,” she said. “No way this could hurt in any way as much as that. It’s on my hip! How hurty could that be?”

Kelly placed the outline down and hesitated. “Don’t talk or giggle,” he said to her. He looked at me. “Don’t make her talk or giggle.” Apparently, we talk and giggle a lot at the inkslingers’ shop.

It was around now that Tracey would have punched a baby to make the pain stop.

“You ready?” he asked her.

“I sure am!”

“Okay.” Then he laid into her skin and I thought she was going to die.

Tracey’s eyes closed at once and she got completely silent, as if someone were murdering kittens and if she spoke, they’d start murdering puppies, as well. She gasped a little. Then a little more. Her eyes opened and there were tears in them. I alternated between taking pictures and holding her hand. Later, she told me that there was a period of a couple of minutes when she was about to say, “You know what? Half a tattoo’s fine. I’ve gotta go.”

The fact that this could either be "big big pain" or "I'm having an orgasm" makes me happy that Tracey never got into hardcore S&M.

Then her euphoria kicked in, and she was able to smile. I shot more pictures, and before twenty minutes was up, she was done.

This is my vaguely-less-in-pain face!

We headed out of the shop, bloody and hurty and on our way to Fall River. “So,” I joked, “what’re you getting for your next one?”

Tracey laughed. “Yeah, I don’t know, and it’s not going to be for awhile yet.”


She read my tone. “Kevin, you just got one! You got one three weeks ago! You can’t possibly want another one yet!”

Oh, but as I sit here with my bubbly skin and throbbing pain, I actually do. I have an idea, and it’s a good one. And I’ve got a birthday coming up in a few months.

Now: onward!


Monday, January 29, 2007

Red and Blue


Later, I heard that with the wind chill, the Fenway area was down around negative thirty degrees. I had my scarf and gloves, and I’d turned the flaps of my hat up and in so that my ears stayed warmer. Still, negative thirty is negative thirty, and I wasn’t wearing anything under my jeans but my boxer shorts.

I waited for awhile, out there while the wind whipped past me; through me. I waited for awhile and then I went inside. I had a night to begin.

* * *

I bought my tickets to Blue October on a whim. I’d been listening to their album pretty consistently since I bought it, and I’d liked what I heard … but I’m not sure if they’re ever going to be my favorite band. Still, I liked most of the songs I knew, and I had a crush on the lead singer, one Justin Furstenfeld. These alone were reasons enough to want to see them live, but the thing of it is: I never go to concerts unless they’re either (1) Bruce Springsteen or (2) Barenaked Ladies. My whole rule has always been that if I don’t know the majority of the material being played, why would I bother going?

But I bought the tickets anyway, and after giving up my heavy stuff to the bag check ladies, I bought a T-shirt, too. Also on a whim. After my sixty-hour week and some literally horrific news on the phone the night before, I decided my evening would need some whimsy.

My big fear all week about the show was that it was going to be me, and then about five hundred fourteen-year-old girls with cutting issues. As it turned out: nearly every single guy there was a chubby dude with a goatee, and almost every single lady there was the type of chick you’d see at a BNL show. I stepped into Avalon, downing my Red Bull into a surprised grin, and there ran into a sort-of buddy of mine from my karaoke days. His name is Rob (not of the Celt variety), and on his arm was a thin EMT named Kevin who seemed pretty cool. Thus armed with concert buddies, I finished off my Red Bull, tossed the can, and headed toward the stage.

The place was so packed that I could only make it halfway there. That was all right. I stood by the right side of the stage and waited, jittery. I’m not sure if I can quite explain what was going on with me. It sounds hokey to say that I’ve connected with Blue October’s lyrics … but I actually have. They’re all about living with pain – pain inflicted on you, pain you’ve caused, pain you’re trying to break free from. A lot of the songs deal with owning up to your mistakes, and living with the versions of you that came before the current one. And I’ve been in that headspace for a long, long time. Some might call it morbid self-examination; I call it therapy.

They took in a wash of blue light. Justin Furstenfeld – his hair standing straight up, as if afraid of the thoughts below it – strode to center stage in a long coat and a scarf. I couldn’t tell from my distance if he was wearing his mascara or not. I hoped he was. There’s something about a brazen touch of femininity in the depths of masculinity that can sometimes be utterly charming. Or maybe I just dig the goth thing.

Want to hear something amazing? I didn’t know the first song, or the second one … and it didn’t matter. I was grooving on the audience’s love, and the words I was allowing to sink in. Furstenfeld has this way of moving on stage, interpreting the words with his body, almost like mime but in a far more theatrical way. It’s fascinating.

Then, third song in, he broke into “She’s My Ride Home,” a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I sang along with him, and suddenly everything clicked into place. I ceased being a part of the crowd; I was the crowd. And once, he turned to me, and for a moment, even if it wasn’t the truth, I believed he was singing to me:

I’ll be reaching for the stars with you, honey
Who cares, no one else believes…

There I stayed, rooted in my spot, singing along when I knew the words and cheering along when I didn’t. They did “Razorblade.” They did “Into the Ocean.” They did, of course, “Hate Me.” And near the end, Justin drew himself around the microphone stand as if it were the only thing that could keep him warm. And he spoke these words, plainly, with little inflection:

“I want to learn to walk with others as an equal
I want to treat the ones who love me with respect
I want to tell the world I'll give them all a piggyback
And try to take away my negative effect.”

Those words: my words. The ones that have accompanied me to improv every night I’ve walked from the station to the theatre. The ones that follow me to work, from work. The ones that have served to define who I am and what I am to others, and how I see myself and how I deeply with to see myself better.

I knew, going into tonight, that he wouldn’t play my song. Then he did. Those words – spoken, then sung – echoed across Avalon, searing out over the crowd like they were written on my soul.

That could have been my night. That could have been my perfect night. I watched them leave the stage one by one, and in my heart and head I wanted to thank Justin Furstenfeld for understanding who I was, and why I do the stupid things I do sometimes, and why it’s okay to screw up and why it’s even more okay to forgive myself.

This is what I took from this night. It’s sort of rare to have who you are at a precise moment in time defined so clearly. It’s cliché to call rock shows epiphanies, and in this case, maybe it would be a little much to say that’s what it was. But as I headed back out into the cold, I had the distinct feeling that something profound had happened. Something that explained, to a degree, who I was right now. How cool is that?

As I said, that could have been my night. I could have gone home and been happy.

But my night wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. And believe me when I say it only gets better from here.


Central Square at just before eleven is desolate. Cars drift by lazily, their headlights poking out meandering paths in the dark. All the shopfronts are underlit; the homeless hunch in doorways for warmth, not even asking for change. The city is closed now, sedate, and the inexorable march of sleep is coming to claim it.

But not me. I’m blasting Blue October in my ears and bounding across the street toward the late-night liquor store. Beckoning me behind glass is a new flavor of Smirnoff Ice, Arctic Blue, and I’m jazzed at the cosmic coincidences of color. Or maybe I’m just high on the night.

Down the road, down past ImprovBoston, and just seeing it sitting there on the corner makes me smile. I’m heading to a party thrown by the people who make me laugh every week, and I can barely contain my excitement.

And another thing: I can’t get this image out of my head:

Hmmm. Hmmm.

* * *

It’s going to be hard to describe the party. For awhile now, everyone’s been hammering it into my head that yes, I’m accepted among the improvisers, and no, I’m not a gigantic circus freak for being the improv geek with the year pass and the hoodie and no acting experience whatsoever. Due to this, I walk into Serpico and Flynn’s with a measure of confidence. Part of this might have to due with the residual concert jollies. Or maybe the anticipation of drinking.

So I won’t go into how awesome it was just to be among those people, and how I’m starting to get to a point where parties are something I can be at and not be in charge of, and how it’s about time that I stop worrying about who’s invited and who’s not and just for the love of Christ enjoy myself. Because enjoy myself I did. It was one of the best nights of my life.

And it’s not even that anything major happened, you know? I heard the beginnings of at least five stories, including one told by Serpico that was interrupted right before he was about to impart some sort of life lesson involving steak. I’m pretty sure this one was put on pause due to the weird, three-legged massage device that glowed and looked terrifically like the little robot guy from Hard Time on Planet Earth. Or maybe this was when Josh decided to paint Serpico’s fingernails a pretty, pretty pink.

Speaking of Josh, a very quick hotness check here: You know how yummy guys always look hotter when they’re wearing gear featured in Kevin Smith movies? Like if they’re wearing the Infinity shirt that Damon wore in Dogma? Yeah, well, apparently this is the new rule. Josh showed up in a Mooby’s uniform shirt and for about ten seconds, I forgot how to think. So yeah.

This is of course not to take away from the foxiness of all the other dudes that were there, of course … but I’ve a feeling people are kind of sick of me dwelling on the physical awesomeness of them. Especially the straight boys. So, uh, sorry straight boys. Thanks for continuing to put up with Kev prurience.

But just: Katie and a guy I didn’t really know dancing to “La Bamba”; Adam playing “Me and Bobby McGee” in Flynn’s bedroom while Jacey and a bunch of other awesome ladies sang along, and Perich slept; Marino talking to me about writing fiction; stealing cagey glances at this guy named Mike (of course) who’s in Katie’s Buffy RPG; and of course Christine Flynn insisting that I do a shot, on top of all the Arctic Blue I’d downed, and the half-beer I’d sipped on the insistence of Brian Bridges. And me, saying Why, SHORE! Because I’m all about limits.

Josh drove me home after, a ride during which I talked in depth with Bobby Smith’s girlfriend – whose name is lost in a drunken haze Claire – about my writing (a subject about which I seem to spew forth the drunker I get). And then I got home and Shawn was waiting up for me, and wanted to hear all about it, and I realized I’d had one of the most perfect nights of my life. And I further realized that I needed to commemorate my night in some way. I wanted to save my memory in a bottle and take sips of it whenever I feel down.

Due to the absence of liquid memory, I had to settle for ink. I think it was a good choice.

Good times happen. And they’ll happen again. I know this because I’ve got friends, I’ve got words, I’ve got music, and I’ve got a symbol to remind me how awesome things can be when things are awesome.


In the midst of all the being drunk, I ran the concept of the new tattoo by Shawn, certain that he’d be all freaked and crazy and “OMG your body is a temple,” or something. Shawn’s approval rate for my body art is pretty high, but when he’s against something – the Trek tattoo, the incipient BNL logo – he goes a little psycho.

But what he said was, “Wow, that looks pretty cool.”

“I’m getting it in red,” I explained vehemently.

“Wow, red! Sounds neat!”

The next day, I had trouble getting out of the house, mostly because I was sprawled on my comfy chair with my duck pajama bottoms and my Spider-Man fleece covering me, and Shawn and Jay and I were digging on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown. Outside featured none of these things. My original plan was to leave the house early, get the tattoo first thing, head out to Boston University to see the IB Groaners & Boners show, ricochet around the sun, save some whales, then make it to Lowe’s Boston Common by four. Sadly, what with all the fleece love, I only had time for one of those things. The ink had it.

I strode up the ramp toward Chameleon a tad nervously. This was the very first time I’d been to get a tattoo alone, and the first since my DD where I haven’t had a photographer. I suppose in a way I wanted to be all stealthy about it. The original plan was for Tracey and I to get Canada Band tattoos this weekend (me, Barenaked Ladies; she, the Headstones). But then Tracey caught ill and couldn’t go and I … well, I wanted some ink, dammit! I’m just a man!

Crowding Chameleon with their I’m So Hip attitudes and discussions of getting bumblebee tattoos on the sides of their neck are a gaggle of eighteen-year-olds who annoyed me before I even entered. I spied Kelly, the best inkslinger in all of the Boston Metro Area, leaning over the counter with his head hanging low. I’m guessing he was pretty annoyed with the young’ns, as well.

As I approached, he looked up, smiled slightly, and beckoned me over with a flick of his index. “What’re you looking for?” he asked, and I showed him the design. “I can do that,” he said.

“I want it in red,” I explained.

“I can do that, too.” He thought for a second. “For you, a hundred.”

“Sounds good.”

The lady at the counter looked up, questioning. Kelly laughed. “He’s my favorite geek,” Kelly said, and here I stand, all puffy with pride and … well, let’s just say pride.

“When can we do it?” I asked, meaning exactly what I said and absolutely nothing else, I swear, kthxbye.

“How about right now?” I just want to underline here that I had a, um, inkling of an idea the night before, headed to Harvard Square on a whim, and was now heading in for permanent impulse less than a half hour after leaving my Spidey fleece back at home. I plunked down my money, followed him up to his studio, and moments later, needles were being jabbed into my flesh.

Quick Kev Sensory Moment here: Every time it happens, it’s like the first. The burn. The edge of pain that melts into a weird sort of pleasure. The insistent hand on your shoulder as ink is injected into you. I don’t know how anyone getting a tattoo can see it as anything less than an erotic experience, no matter who’s doing it to you. I just happened to have Kelly, the wonder tattooist. And man was I happy about that.

At one point near the end, he stopped and asked, “Oh, so what’s this tattoo of?”

In my head, screaming, was this voice: It’s for Blue October!? And the lead singer!? LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU!? OH MY GOD ISN’T THAT AWESOME!? HAWT!!!!!! LOLLERCOASTER!

What I said was, “Oh, it’s a band I saw last night. I probably won’t like them in ten years, but it was an awesome concert and I had a great night. I just sort of want to commemorate it, you know?”

“You know,” he said, “I have band tattoos all over me.” My head: ZOMG SHOW ME WHERE!!! Him: “It’s cool if you don’t love the band later on. It’s still a cool design.” You are the coolest guy I’ve ever met EVER MET!!!!


Fifteen minutes later, I had a bandage on my ink and I was heading away. I called up Shawn immediately.

“So where did you get it?” he asked. “Because I realized when you left that that was the one question I didn’t ask.”

“Um,” I said. “On the back of my neck.”


And we’re back.