Omg. I have been experiencing the most excruciating allergic reaction to getting tattooed! And it’s been going on for two months, I couldn’t figure out what was happening at first and then finally put it together a week or so ago. The quickie rundown is massive breakouts and dry patches on my face, hives everywhere (and I do mean everywhere), constant itching followed by dryness and a general feeling of non-well-being.
I have been unbelievably uncomfortable and feeling unattractive for quite a while. So for those of you in NYC that I usually spend time with, this is the reason you haven’t seen me lately and I’m not taking anyone up on invites unless they’re really important. I’m just laying low, taking benadryl, smearing myself with healing lotions, and waiting for it to pass. I’m so self-conscious at the moment that I can’t relax into face-to-face conversations. But it is getting better and since the tattoo is finished for the time being I know it has to end at some point.
Also, I want to mention that I am very appreciative of the comments I receive on the blogs, it feels like a visit from friends, and I often think, “Oh, yay, Julie!” or whomever when I read them. And then I get lost in the day and don’t contact directly, which is I guess part of the life that we all lead on the interweb. There’s only so much time to type at the monitor. But I am very grateful for the contact and read everything written to me thoroughly, and if you are feeling unloved you’re always welcome to email me and ask, “Wtf, Mary? Why haven’t you written??”
So, down to it…
When Lila left her body I had a lightbulb moment (apologies for the Oprah reference) that feels worthy of sharing. It was such a peaceful passing that I was able to remain present in the moment and observe what was happening. Last time I lost a pet it was my dog Panda getting hit by a car, and that was such a screaming vortex of blood, guilt, sorrow and panic that I didn’t have any space to process the actual process of death, if you know what I mean.
When the vet euthanizes your animal he or she first injects them with an anesthetic. In Lila’s case she was already kind of out of it, although awake and aware. She screamed at him angrily when the needle went in, but then drifted pretty quickly into being completely stoned, and then further into unconsciousness. After the drugs have a chance to take effect, the vet then gives a second shot which is the killer (literally), and the effect is almost immediate.
So the interesting part of this situation is how different the two states are, even though the cat remained in exactly the same sleeping pose. One minute she was there and sleeping, the next we were petting an absolutely empty shell and as saddened as we were to never be able to touch her again after that day, it seemed pointless to stay in the room petting her lifeless body for too long.
Which leads me to the lightbulbing: At that moment I understood in a deeper way than before that we are not our bodies and are simply using them as vehicles. Which is not that new an idea, but I felt it throughout my being rather than only as an idea in my brain. It is so easy! Our souls are noodling around in various vehicles, some slick and fancy, some utilitarian and puttery, but all just vehicles, and all vehicles that we will step out of once they stop working.
A few nights later I visited some bartending friends (wearing 3 layers of makeup to mask the current delightful skin condition), and they were so busy and I am so antisocial at the moment that I had ample time to sit and and observe the crowd without conversating. As I watched everyone interact I thought about the choices that each one of us had made–clothing, hairstyle, job, friends, and yes, body and brain. It was so clear to me that we are just playing our roles of the moment and that we get so wound up in the parts that we’re playing that we don’t know how to step out and be amused by ourselves and our lives. We can’t see our true selves in any sort of objective fashion because we’re peering out from inside our bodies. And these bodies and lives are heavy trucks to drive at times.
So my question is, if this body/life is temporary, why am I taking it so fucking seriously all the time? Why am I not enjoying my (generally) healthy, attractive, intelligent state instead of stressing about my waist size or whether some dumb fuck at work doesn’t understand my needs or desires? Why am I wasting one second feeling angry or stressed about bullshit when it’s just a game that will end at some point? And the primary question is, why not just entertain myself with this game and try to make it as comfortable for myself and others while we’re on the playing field together?
Obviously easier said than done. I still have to earn a living and suffer the occasional fool and not eat a pound of pasta per day. But it feels freeing to me, and I’d like to hang onto the feeling that I am a visitor and a co-conspirator with those around me. Try it next time you’re in a crowd, I think you’ll be surprised at how easily you can step out of yourself when observing others.
So on this show is one character who’s supposed to be really rock and roll. She’s bisexual (because you know, all rock chicks are) and she has one pretty little tattoo of a butterfly on her arm. All rock chicks on TV have one small but visible tattoo.
And then yesterday I was in the gym, surly as always when exercising, and near me is a little girl bossing her dorky boyfriend around the weights. I catch her looking intently at my arm, but I ignore it (being surly and all), then two minutes later I glance over and see that she’s tied her shirt up in the back, revealing an obviously new lower back tattoo of yes, butterflies. I actually like butterflies, but there is no such thing as coincidence.
It’s my theory that the lower back tattoo has become the polyester of tattoos through much overuse and abuse. I also feel that the eyebrow ring is the polyester of piercings. It just dominates the whole face and looks like the person wanted to have something they could take out easily when they go home for the holidays. And I won’t even get started on the belly button ring except to say that if you have one you’d might as well just get some fake boobs and start stripping this very second.
Anyway, I thought it was very cute and flattering that she wanted everyone in the gym to know that she’s a badass, too. I felt like an old crabby lion next to a puffed up kitten. And it got me thinking about tattoos and what they mean now, which is pretty much nothing.
When I got my first tattoo, I only knew one tattooed girl. She had huge, gorgeous red flowers over her shoulder and down her back. It’s still the most beautiful tattoo I’ve ever seen. But we hated each other and never discussed it. Now she works as a personal assistant to someone famous in LA and we email regularly, time healing wounds and all. She just sent me a great recipe for pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce.
ANYWAY, at the time I wanted a very tough guy type of tattoo and got a traditional panther on my arm chosen from the flash on the wall. It could have been worse, the guy I went with got a skull with a top hat and a cigarette (rock and roll!). And another friend of mine was a real arrogant ass to the tattoo artist and he ended up with the Zeppelin Icharus logo with six fingers on each hand. I think that’s my favorite tattoo ever.
Then there was a girl I met once during Guns n’ Roses heyday who had gotten a tattoo of Axl on her arm. She’d used a photo where he hadn’t shaved and so it looked like Axl had a pencil mustache a la John Waters. Without a doubt one of the most ill-conceived I’ve seen.
As for Axl himself, I met him at the Pyramid right before G n’ R played their first NY show at the Ritz. He was sitting at the bar next to me and when I looked at his tattoo and he looked at me we both started laughing because it looked so much like me. He said it was his ex-girlfriend. But I digress, as usual.
Then we go on tour with Motorhead and I am in Amsterdam, already addled from a couple of months of steady European beer consumption (weight gain, anyone?) and a day of Dutch hash, and Donna (Honey 1 Percenter) and I decide we need tattoos from the famous Hanky Panky studios to commemorate the tour and our very wasted state of mind. I choose an American Indian type band to go under the panther, and the lumbering oaf that works on me digs so hard that it causes major scarring. Years later someone tells me that the band represents a bird with a broken wing and it’s bad luck. Um, oops.
So now it’s 2005 and I’ve got a bunch more tattoos, each with a story. I’m fairly happy with everything since Mike Ledger was kind enough to spend 8 hours consolidating what had become an ungainly mishmash of separates. The only downside is that one tattoo I have caused a person I care about some pain, which was a definite sorrow. On the flipside it was commemorated in a song and truthfully the person did deserve a little punishment. But that’s all enquiring minds are gonna get out of me on that one.
And my point, you ask? Well, none really, I’m rambling now (now??). But I have been thinking about tattoos and how much they meant to me years ago. It did mean a lot at one point. I chose to get tattooed to declare myself as part of an outsider tribe, one of the people that took the subculture of NYC and rock and roll so seriously that they were willing to ruin all chances of a day job or a nice, straight husband.
Now the point is completely moot because everyone and their mother is tattooed, and sometimes I think it’s cooler not to have any. But then I’ll sit down with one of my close friends, like the heavily tattooed and fiercely ruling Kim Montenegro (“Monty” on my left arm both for her and my extraordinary cat Monty Lemieux) and look at all her ink and her crazy face with her nose and her lip pierced and I’ll remember who I am and why I started the mess in the first place.
It doesn’t matter so much that it’s outwardly meaningless, because we know when we look at each other that it’s an important part of who we are, and it binds us and our friends together. It’s our tribal connection, even if now we are just a tribe of bitchy old rock and roll broads. It has been and still is a wild ride and I wouldn’t change it for all the clean skin in the world. There was a cost and a reward for choosing to live a little bit outside which doesn’t exist anymore. And no puffed up kitten with a butterfly will ever get close to that.