Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If We Can Dream It...

I am a slave to symmetry.

So, the initial thought was to get the Horizons tattoo on the back of my arm, just above the elbow. I see a lot of bros with ink there; in Boston, it tends to be the Red Sox B emblazoned on pale Irish skin. For like five minutes, I was absolutely positive that I wanted it there, for this reason: I wanted it visible. Like, I wanted to be able to walk into Disney World and have people be all, Whoa, you have a Horizons tattoo, which means you are cool and also steeped in Disney lore. You, sir, are truly magical.

Three problems: 1. I have a lot of dreams like this one, and they are so tiny; 2. My eventual goal is to develop half-sleeves on my upper arms, and this would disrupt the flow; and 3. I can’t decide if the single-tat thing there is cool or crazy ridiculous.

Okay, so that’s out. Shawn and I talked it over and the new absolutely no-takesies-backsies decision was to put it on my upper right shoulder, where the first sleeve is going at some point. I even had an idea of how to incorporate it, with the sparrows flying out of the night and surrounding … you know what, shut up! It’s my skin, harrumph!

So I showed up at Chameleon and Kelly emerged in black jeans and a black shirt with suspenders hanging down, and I was at once under the thrall of his awesome. “I’ll pretend this isn’t Disney,” he said, rolling his eyes. Kelly isn’t a fan of Disney, which is why I think he makes it hurt just a little more when I’m under his needles. “Where do you want it?”

“Well, I was thinking the shoulder,” I began, suddenly unsure. Kelly caught my eye.

“You mean make it symmetrical with your Stand guys?”

My eyes went wide. “Yes. That is exactly what I want.” Kelly smiled and nodded. Then I said, “I don’t want black outlines.”

He rolled his eyes again. “I guarantee all my tattoos, but if you don’t want black lines, I can’t guarantee that.”

“I know, but this is a very specific icon and black lines would interrupt the concept of it.”

He raised his hands. “It’s just that people have been doing black outlines for hundreds of years for a reason, but if this is what you want, that’s fine.”

Oh my God, passive-aggressive tattoo smackdown!

Steve was there for the first time, functioning as my photographer. I had jumped the gun on my last one, where Mark was supposed to document my anchor, and because I got in an hour early, I have no process pictures. I have bitterly regretted that decision on cold nights when the wind rustles through the barren trees and far off, somewhere, dogs howl in baleful ululations. So, basically, I wasn’t about to make that mistake twice. Plus, Steve seemed intrigued. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes. I will not lie. It totally hurts. A lot.” I paused. “I may cry.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, I think I cried once, during the Barenaked Ladies one. Yipes.”

The counter-girl informed us that Kelly was ready for us, and I headed up those stairs. Not to make this more grandiose than it is, but you know, walking up those stairs to Kelly’s studio? I always know I’m heading into something eternal. Something that will be with me for the rest of my life. That’s always a little mind-blowing.

I got my shirt off at once and again lamented the fact that Kelly’s shirt was staying on. He prepped me, and for a moment, I wondered why it felt like he was rubbing me with sandpaper back there.

“The whole Wookiee thing you have going on back here’s gonna come back in two weeks,” he said, and it hit me: Oh, he’s shaving me. Hooray? “You going to do something about that?”

“I don’t know. I like the hair.”

“I’m not all that hairy,” Kelly said, “but I keep the tattoo areas shaved, if I want them showing.” Which leads me to the major question: do I care more about the body hair and the self-identification that comes from that, or about the tattoos and the new personality I’m forging with every new bit of ink? Questions, questions.

He put me in the tattoo chair and told me to lean forward. Complying, he asked me – offhandedly – if I was ready. It’s so strange that I’ve heard that eleven times now, in lessening degrees of intensity. “You ready?” he asks, and I am, and then the high whine that somehow comforts, and the smell of disinfectant, and the pain, and the feel of his arm against my back. It should be rote for me now, especially since my last one was two months ago, but it never is. Even when it’s small, even when it’s silly, it’s always monumental.

“All right,” he sighed, as if reluctant to know, “what’s Horizons all about?”

I'm glad you asked, Kelly, because I’m not sure I’ve ever explained this sufficiently. Horizons existed between 1983 and 1999. It was an Omnimover attraction at Epcot, when it was still EPCOT and had the word Center after it. I promise that “Omnimover” is the only Disney in-word I’m going to use. You got in it and it took you on a journey through the history of the future. You saw Jules Verne and early visions of what the future was going to look like. Then you traveled through to new visions of the future, one that followed the lives of a family in outer space, at the bottom of the ocean, or in the middle of a desert reclamation facility. Horizons was enormous and immersive, and you got to choose your own ending.

The theme song for the ride, the one that gets to me the most, goes: “If we can dream it / then we can do it / yes we can!” For me, it’s important to believe stuff like that, because I am currently working on a dream, and I want desperately for it to come true. More prosaically, maybe, I went to Disney World in 1980 and then again in 2006. Horizons was built and torn down while I was away, and, like being aware of Born in the USA when it was ruling the world, or catching the height of Stephen King hysteria, or reading comics when the Daredevil “Born Again” storyline was hitting, Horizons just passed me by.

Everything I love has a history that stretches before me – or at least before my awareness – and will likely live on long after me. It’s that sense of history and of future that makes me love things with such fervor. Putting the Horizons logo on my body is a way of … oh, hell, it’s like time travel. It’s going back to a place I never saw and bringing back just a piece of it.

And also: heck, my friend Joe introduced me to Horizons via a ride-through during one of our trips down there, and it’s good to have ink that reminds you that the best friendships are forever.

Finishing up, Kelly covered my ink with a bandage and sent me on my way. Outside the door, Steve said, “Okay, you’ve convinced me.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Of what?”

“I want one. Like, now. Can I get it small?”

I grinned. “You can get anything you want.”

Because it’s true: if you can dream it, you can do it. Yes, you can.