Sunday, June 7, 2015


Mine is the last generation before the rise of the tattoo. When I went to art school in the bay area, where every major stylistic innovation was taking place several years before it appeared out in the culture at large, the tattoo was just a trickle presaging a flood. At that time the main 30 year old person's, let alone middle aged person's, question was "What 20 year old can know what image is for life?"

I guess that question has stuck with me while a sea of tattoos has grown before me.

But yesterday, my thirtyish year old tattooed co-worker Dave answered that question for me.

Dave is easy going. Lately he especially likes to conclude a bit of complaining, or acknowledgement of something difficult, with a very buddhist "It is what it is."

I guess it is.

Being easy going myself, I know that being easy going is partly a disguise for all kinds of churning madnesses. And though there's some playing with fire there, I will acknowledge that you can't really pull it off unless you're at least partly easy going in some true sense too. When I ask Dave if it's okay to write about this conversation he says "Write whatever you want." And I believe him.

Among Dave's wide assortment of tattoos is a nicely rendered portrait of a man I would easily understand him as not particularly wanting on his arm.

"I'm thinking of having him turned into a pirate." Dave said.

I told Dave the whole thing about not knowing with tattoos and making wrong choices for life, and he more or less shrugged.

"I don't mind the portrait." He said. "I don't regret any of my tattoos." He said that if he didn't like something he could just have a skilled tattoo artist make it into something else.

And I suppose that's the thing. It's just a tattoo. It's less permanent than I think. It doesn't matter.

Or how about this: This blog post may live forever. It is enough that it is true as I can make it now. If it is true for the rest of my life, or for all eternity, how lovely. If it is true only for the brief flash of its emergence in the world, let it mark that moment in time. Let it be a souvenir of that time. And if it turns out to be a crappy souvenir of a wretched time? I suspect that only the curious and thoughtful will look past my bright new tattoos, or blog posts, as it were, to examine my pale old ones. And with people like that I am content to rely upon their profound powers of understanding.

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