Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"I can't wait to regret this decision."

"When are we getting our tattoos?" Scott asks whenever we find ourselves hipster-watching.

"I don't knoooooooow!" I screech. "Are we really?"

We almost get inked on our cross country road trip in February, but we don't really know what we want to get and that's perhaps the worst time to get a tattoo (aside from when drunk and/or brainwashed by an abusive lover or cult). Luckily, we are never tempted into spontaneous tattooing for all the parlors we pass from the East Coast to California are too intimidating to enter and we run away giggling like peeping toms ducking below whorehouse windows.

Then one day Scott meets a tattoo artist. His name is Tim and he's opening up a new shop the next town over. Orange hair, freckled skin covered in colored images, twenty years experience and a delightful personality, Tim is like a beacon, a lighthouse with a swooping green light and an ocean front tattoo parlor. If this is really going to happen, Tim is our man.

Scott would like a tattoo to replace his wedding band. His falls off too easily and he stopped wearing it months ago. We've never really been the jewelry wearing types. I wear my engagement ring for its history and shiny blue stone, but besides that and the occasional bracelet, I don't wear much bling or metal at all.

Finger tattoos, Tim explains over the phone, are never really a good idea. Due to the texture of the skin, they tend to fade and distort quickly.

I'd like a small feather tattoo on my wrist, I tell Scott. A reminder to let things go, stay light and not be so heavy hearted all the time. Scott likes my idea. We decide to get matching feathers to replace our wedding bands. We'll be like blood brothers only ink brothers and not brothers but husband and wife. "I can't wait to regret this decision." Scott says smiling. He researches owls and learns of a couple traits he thinks are much like us. Owls, he explains, are not very attached to their homes (unless they have owl babies). They focus solely on whatever goal and task is at hand, letting go of all other distractions. We too prefer vagabondage (for we are still without babies), and we are, it seems, in constant flight toward our own small fury targets of happiness.

"Don't tell anyone in our families that we're getting tattoos!" I beg Scott. "I don't want them trying to convince us not to get them."

Three weeks later, on a warm evening in July, we sit in the new studio of gray walls, flat screen televisions and dentist like tools and pay Tim to puncture permanent pigment into our pale skin. The shop space, once a dance studio, has a wall made entirely of mirrors, allowing the day's fading light to bounce. Behind the building is the bike path and next door is Sophia's, a pirogi shop. So it's not exactly inside a lighthouse, but the river is close enough. To entertain and distract us, Tim plays episodes of the comedy show, Portlandia. When Scott becomes weary of the electric needle etching the underside of his arm, Tim takes off his gloves and retrieves him a warm can of iced tea. After two Portlandia episodes, Scott's feather is complete, raised and black, hallowed by pinked skin. It's my turn. Tim replaces the needles, gloves and ink. I sit and point to where I'd like the stencil placed. It is pressed and pulled. Then the buzz of the vibrating needle begins to hum. It feels like stinging bees and staples somehow, but I conceal my discomfort. Tim is so alert, however that he stops to checks in with me when I look for Scott's hand to hold. "Do you want a break?" I'm fine, I tell him, knowing this small tattoo will not take him very long.

Later that night, while eating vegetable burritos and watching Battlestar Galactica, we take turns saying, "This" (pointing to our wrist) "is permanent!"

"Everything is permanent." Scott says. "And that's what I love about this."

Friday, July 20, 2012

For the Betterment

As I have aged, my treasured logic has repeatedly excused itself, drifting off to mindless monotony, while recklessness grabs the reins and gallops me through meadows of drunken debauchery, banana split boats, cigarette cravings and bottomless cups of strong coffee. I cannot be here with this sober body. I must submerge into an altered state. There, I will be better than I am. I will be funny and lax. I will be coveted company with more interesting things to say and the courage to say them. A bottle of merlot. A box of pinot gris. A shiny pint of cold ale that wets my pink palm, eases my body with warmth and hinders me as I walk crookedly toward dimly lit bathrooms in barroom basements. The dick jokes ensue: vulgarity and the hilarity of vulgarity. Crude crass and the excuse of drink as we yell over electric record players, competitively cacophonous crowds or lusty local bands. I crave cigarettes. I imagine licking little pieces of paper, spreading the dry leaves, rolling them into scrolls, striking matches, cupping butts and sucking smoke. I'd be like James Dean. Pass the whiskey and I'll sing like Tom Waits. Get me drunk and I'll strum like Johnny Cash. How sexy it is to have a callous regard for one's devout liver, blood, skin, stomach and lungs. We'll sleep when we're dead, we say grabbing at the cuffs of our baristas for large coffees with splashes of cow cream and paper packets of saccharin. Coffee for breakfast. Beef burgers on chemically engineered buns for lunch. Deep fried fish and bourbon for supper. Sleep when we're dead because we'll be dead by nightfall anyway. Besides, I could die today, we say. Hit by a bus, brain aneurysm, dropped A-bomb. Duffel bagged eyes, hours of carousing and the stink of excreting bacon and eggs. What stink. What miserable belligerent stink. It's like the end of Thelma and Louise. We never see the car crash into the canyon. Instead, we are left with a freeze frame of freedom in flight. No crashing metal, no burning engines, no bloody guts splattering the orange dusty rocks below. We are not devastated by their double suicide, but inspired by their courage. We don't imagine retired rock stars in hospital beds, rehabilitation centers or weekly support groups. Instead we look to magazine photographs of pyrotechnics, lines of cocaine, and gaggles of groupies. Let's drink until dawn! We cheer, though by 3AM, we're on the kitchen floor stiff with indigestion and impending diarrhea. Ignorance is sweet bountiful bliss, however is it still sweet when we're sweating out last night's french fry oil or belching up mayonnaise, margaritas and mozzarella sticks? Is it still sweet when I go from sober to drunk to hung over all during the course of one house party? 

Over the years, I have ordered different prescriptions for pleasure, but the problem is always the same. Eventually I piss out the pills and am left nauseous, unfulfilled and sadder than before. Temporary bandages that fall off in the pool, clog the drain and disgust all guests.     

That's not to say, I can't enjoy the works of drunken musicians, coke head writers and cigarette smoking actors, but that I don't have to mimic their methods. I don't really want to be like Waits, Cash or Dean anyway. I'd much prefer to be like Geena Davis in A League of Their Own. Top of my game, smart, and strong. So, for the betterment of my body, I have abandoned my position within the norm of popular American culture. In December, I quit coffee. In February, I quit the consumption of animal products. In June, I quit all excessive alcohol. I feel whole for the first time in years. Like my body has just relearned independence. Every day, I have clarity, unyielding health, and strength. My only aversion is how others respond. Some are curious, some supportive, some make jokes, and many are completely clueless. What do you eat, grass? Looks like they don't have leaves or tofu on the menu. You're not getting a drink? I'm learning to not be so shy and sensitive about my lifestyle. I quit the popular poisons of my past and there should be pride in that. There will be pride in that. 

Scott tells me that he loves how impressionable I am. I had always thought that it was a bad thing. "No," he assures me, "it's a great thing. You are effected by something and you actually change because of it." 

"Where does this trait come from?"

"Why does it have to be from somewhere?" 

"I don't know, because I want to know why I am this way. Why I care so much."  

Why others appear to care so little, which is an unreasonable assumption to make. I've just changed and others have not changed with me. I can't blame anyone for that. All I can really do is take care of myself, which I am. 

No, I'm not pregnant.