Monday, January 28, 2008

Sorry, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle

Okay, so some of you may know I was getting a tattoo this weekend. You may further have been informed that I was getting a Super Mario tattoo ... and not just that, but the Super Mario of Super Mario 3. Some people are under the impression that this makes me a furry. Oh, you pretty things. What this actually makes me is a giant nerd.

However! I actually have a big Mario history, and like many of my important connections with pop culture iconography, a lot of it has to do with my Dad. See, back in 1986, when I would head over to my secret friend Chris's house (she was my secret friend because we lived down the street from each other and hung out all the time and one time tried to figure out all the words to "Bark at the Moon" for like a whole afternoon; but I had to pretend not to know her in school, because I had that kind of childhood), we would spend hours and hours playing Super Mario Brothers. She was better at it than me, which was actually okay. Weirdly enough, video games have never really been a competition thing for me, unless you count Tetris. I just like playing them.

Well, when Super Mario Brothers 2 was coming out, no one had it. It was like the Cabbage Patch Kids. It was a huge thing, and I held no real illusions that I was going to get it for Christmas. And then I did. My Dad totally rallied and found me a copy and it was the best Christmas until Mom's big Stephen King explosion of 1990.

Let's just take a moment and glory in Kelly the Wonder Tattooist. Sigh

Mario's popped up a lot during the years: Super Mario 3 was big for me because the dude could suddenly fly, and when I found out that I could actually hide behind the scenery using the white blocks, I was in heaven. Dad (again) got me Super Mario World for Christmas one year, along with a Super Nintendo, and I spent a whole week playing that thing, morning to night. When I met Shawn, we had a Nintendo Room where we would play Zelda and Mario games, and the first time I listened to Warren Zevon's eponymous breakthrough album was playing Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. One of the few times I hung out with my cousin Allison when she was in college, we went to one of her friends' houses and played Super Mario 64 until dawn. Recently with the Wii, I've spent hours inside both Super Paper Mario and, currently, Super Mario Galaxy. It's been a long history, one I feels justifies a tattoo. Although now I'm starting to worry that all my ink is in some way a paean to my Dad. I wonder what Freud would say.

Anyway, enough words. This here's a picture post in the guise of something deep and meaningful, and now that we've got that out of the way, here you go:

Mark is shaved. This has to be someone's fetish.

Were you aware that my friend Mark, too, was getting a tattoo. This is my gift slash curse: I meet people who have never gotten tattoos, and then they get their first one in my presence ... and then it's all over but the tears. Mark got his first tattoo in September, and we made a pact that we would get our next tattoos together. This is kind of how the pact went:

Mark: "I want some sort of Super Mario tattoo next."

Me: "I was thinking about doing that, too."

Mark: "We should get them together!"



Mark's concept was the Super Mario Mystery Box, with the one-up mushroom coming out of it. He consistently eschewed my suggestions of getting the later, more stylized mushroom, as well as having the mushroom be off-center, as if it's on the move. "It's not that your ideas are stupid," he seemed to say, "it's that you're stupid." And then the cackling.

Mark's idea was actually high-concept: see, on his left leg is the tattoo he got for his birthday: Blinky, one of the evil ghosts from Pac-Man. Here on his right leg, his 1Up mushroom. In video game terms: Death and Life. Dig on that.

Mark was totally okay with his inking for awhile, going so far as to say, "You know, it hurts, but not that much." I had to hold in a grin. I get to that point in my inking about a quarter of the way in. Usually I say it right before the actual searing pain begins.

It happened to Mark:

So I comforted him, as well as I could:

Soon enough, the outline was done and the coloring-in could begin. By this time, Mark had grown quiet and had stopped singing along with Kelly's playlist. I tried to reassure him that it looked "really cool."

Kelly paused. "Is cool the word we're going for?"

"Well, super nerdy. But awesome nerdy."

Mark turned to me. "Megaclutch?"

"Totally megaclutch!"

A bit of filling-in and shading later and Mark was just about done. This is when my nerves started cycling up. During Mark's inking, Kelly had explained something that a psychologist friend of his had expounded upon: "See, you remember the pain. But it's a fact, not a feeling. This is why we keep doing ridiculous things like getting tattoos and giving birth. We remember that there's pain, but not the quality of it, so it's easy to go back into doing it again, convincing ourselves that the outcome is all the greater for it."

I don't know; I kind of think it is:

After a brief pause while Kelly broke down and set up

it was my turn. While Kelly readied me, I tried to keep my mind on the fact that he's the hottest tattooist in the Greater Boston area, and not on the impending pain. It sort of worked.

There's just something about seeing Kelly cross-legged like that, bent over my leg. It's stuff like this that gets me. Stuff like this and like karaoke and, um, musical improv. Other ways in which the most attractive guys are even more attractive. Wow.

Before too long, the outline was on. Unlike with Mark, who seemed to start off on a low-grade and then ramp up to big-time ouchies, I started off with the angry searing of dragon bees. Hooray!

Regarding all the picture taking, Kelly said, "You know, I don't allow photo access like this in general. If you guys were anyone else, I'd'a kicked you out awhile ago. But you've paid my rent more than once, so you get to stay." Kelly rocks in the way that a cantankerous older brother you simultaneously worship and fear and kind of want to have sex with rocks.

I don't think like other people, do I?

Also unlike Mark, I had moments of utter euphoria. The pain escalated and ebbed, but there were points (heh) where things actually seemed to touch pleasure centers. Some of it was definitely adrenaline, but I think a bit of it was genuine euphoria. It didn't happen a lot, but it burst through me a couple of times like biting into the center of a Rollo and finding it's even sweeter than you thought it would be. Years later, minutes later, my ink was done:

There's a reason why we pay his rent occasionally. When taken together, my ink tells a story of me, and Kelly, besides all of my prurient interest in him, is the best possible translator.