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Sorry Dad, at least it’s not while I’m still living under your roof

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Sorry Dad, at least it’s not while I’m still living under your roof

12 Monkeys Tattoo artist Salt Rock works on coloring in an addition to Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell's tattoo Wednesday afternoon.

PATRICIA ALVARADO/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 9, 2009 4:26 a.m.
It took me 26 years to figure out what I wanted to additionally add to my body permanently.

Well, it was more like 8 years since I couldn’t have done it until I was 18, but the thought of getting a tattoo was always something that seemed like it could have been a possibility at some point – but just not anytime soon.

While all of my friends were rushing off to get tribal bands or Chinese characters, I sat back – at times in the tattoo studio – and watched them endure the pain of the needle and the agitation of the recovery for something that they ultimately ended up trying to hide anyway.

But back in November, after giving serious thought to the design that I would like to have placed on my left arm as a personal reminder to the polarizing forces in the world, I finally walked into 12 Monkeys Tattoos in Tracy and made an appointment with “Salt Rock” to get it over with.

I had nothing to show him. I had no shiny or colorful picture like the ones that people bring to Kat Von D or Corey Miller. All I had was the design that had been floating around in my head for the better part of a year.

And he nailed it perfectly.

A blue nautical star centered in the middle of my arm with flames rising up on one side and a wave crashing down on the other. It was even better than what I had expected.

Less than 10 minutes later, I was sitting in a chair and feeling the black outline needle tear through my skin for the first time – a feeling that still makes me cringe as I write this more than three months later.

In all the process lasted less than an hour, and amounted only to constant discomfort instead of excruciating pain, and I walked out of there with a newfound respect for the man who took my jumbled image and turned them into a piece of body art that I’ll cherish until I take my last breath.

But people warned me. Tattoos are addicting.

It’s not like there’s something in the ink that makes you crave it like crack, but once you’ve gone through the rigmarole of having it done the first time, getting another or expanding on the first doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

My head started swimming. I knew I had to go back to get the color touched up on the existing tattoo, and I found myself staring at my arm in the mirror wondering what would accent the current design well enough to love for all eternity.

And then I settled on it. A rustic banner or scroll displaying the word “Faith.”

While I’m not one to preach my religious beliefs openly like some, I believe that everybody needs to have faith in something or else their life really doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bird or a rock. But faith is essential. And now it’s permanent.

After calling Tuesday to make the appointment with Salt, I had fellow Bulletin employee and seasoned tattoo vet Patricia Alvarado (who has her column about getting a tattoo at 12 Monkeys framed on the wall) join me on the drive out to get what would be my first official add-on.

If the first hit was free (which it wasn’t), then this is the one that I was actively seeking out. This meant that I had found something that I actually liked enough to have it become a part of me.

And again, I didn’t have anything to give Salt Rock to show him what I was thinking of adding after touching up the existing color now that it had healed.

So he has me sit down, roll up my shirt sleeve, and with a Bic pen starts drawing on my arm beneath the existing tattoo. It felt strange, and since I couldn’t see what he was doing, it was mildly awkward.

“Go see if that’s what you were thinking in that mirror over there,” he said, motioning to the end of the studio.

It was pure perfection. Dead on.

I held by giddiness in check as he poured out the ink for the outline, and prepared myself for the pain that would come with having that needle tear through my skin (the outline, which uses only one needle, typically hurts worse than the multiple needles used for shading.)

And while I spent the majority of the time cringing, closing my eyes, and practicing breathing techniques that would have made my Yoga instructor friend jealous, I once again made it through unscathed. And once again, Salt had found the perfect way to represent what I had wanted to display to the world as my own personal message.

He used a little bit of yellow with the brown to make the scroll look even more weathered – complimenting the tatters around the top and bottom. He used red in the letters to make them stand out against my pale skin. And with the fresh color to the existing tattoo, the entire thing was like a visual explosion every time I proudly rolled up my sleeve to show it off.

I’ve already started to think about what I want to get to tie in to the existing theme – maybe the Clan Campbell crest, or another Scottish tribute. I’ve also contemplated intermingled koi fish, and a new age yin-yang.

We’ll have to wait and see what ends up there.

But I can guarantee that it’ll be something. And there’s no doubt in my mind who I’ll be turning to in order to make it perfect.

Sorry Dad. At least it’s not while I’m still living under your roof.
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