Well, there you have it. I've wanted to for a long time, and promised myself i'd do it this trip out. I am so glad I did it.
I am camped in the desert west of Vegas with a bunch of other vandwellers. One of the guys mentioned he wanted to go check out tattoos, and that was all it took. We enlisted Steve to go for moral support and because he has the most awesome knife collection ever. He very graciously allowed me to borrow 2 of my favorites....a dirk and a kukri (curved gurkha knife) to use for a pattern.
We set out to visit the 3 parlors Bob knew of in pahrump. It's alot of fun going anywhere with these guys (we made a trip to Vegas on saturday to buy ammo, but that's another blog post) because it's takes a bit of choreography to get 3 humans and their 3 dogs into the rondyvan. The dogs particularly do a bit of circling and jockying for a spot, but they have established a comfortable pack relationship here in the desert, so it works out well.
The first place we stopped was Outlaw Johnny's. I was a little overwhelmed at first, looking at all the amazing artwork on the walls, because in all those impressive tattoos, I didn't see one thing that I would have wanted on my skin. I had an idea what I wanted, but had no words to describe it.
They introduced me to Sparky. He was young and serious looking. He, too, had this great artwork all over him....not one of which was like what was in my brain. I began to have second thoughts. I showed him the knives, which he touched and looked at for a long time.
Then Sparky picked up a pencil and quickly began to put onto paper a rough sketch. I knew immediately that that was my tattoo, and he was my tattoist. I made an apppointment for the next day. Bob got one for the same time with Outlaw Johnny. It was finally gonna happen.
I began to worry again later that night, this time about colors. I didn't see many of the colors on the walls at Outlaw Johnny's that were the colors I wanted. Matter of fact, the only place you could see the colors that touch my heart were in the desert, and the sunset. Early in the morning I called, and Johnny reassured me I could get the colors I wanted. But how to describe them? At the last minute, I grabbed some rocks in various shades of red and orange and gold from the wooden bowl on my dashboard.
I felt silly showing the rocks to Sparky, but he didn't hesitate. He put them on the workstand, and then took the knives from me again. As he ran his hands over them, paying particular attention to the blade of the kukri with his fingertips, all doubt left me. i knew he was seeing the knives the way i saw them, with all their spirit and positive energy. i was about to get the best tattoo i could have gotten anywhere in the world.
Practical concerns were dealt with as i watched Sparky set up the equipment and the work field. the nurse in me, with my acute attention to all things germy, was impressed. all the critical parts of the process were disposable, and i was shown the expiration dates and the integrity of the packaging. with the final drawing completed and my little pile of rocks next to his paint pots, he began.
it didn't hurt. I was surprised, because I have such sensitive skin. It was cool to watch him create this image on my arm in all of the colors of the sunset of the night before, when I had said to someone in camp, only half joking, "wherever Sparky is, I hope he's watching this sunset". He must have been. The knives showed the glint of steel and the patina of age and use, just like the real ones. It didn't take that long (or I was too absorbed to notice the passing of time) until it was over. i couldn't stop smiling, i loved it so much.
much gratitude to Sparky, Outlaw Johnny, and the crew. you made my first tattoo a memorable experience. and thanks to Bob for sharing it all with me....neither of us squeeling even a little bit :-)
did you notice i said "first tattoo"? on my way out, on the wall by the door, was a chinese character that depicts the word "drifter"....upper left arm maybe? i'll see ya again soon, Sparky....