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My First Tattoo

bout the day I turned 18, I went to a local tattoo shop on Long Island. The guy was some old geezer, a real hack. My friend got a decent little scorpion, so I went ahead and got what was supposed to be a wolf howling at the moon on my right upper arm. I don't really recall that it hurt all that much, but it was pretty small. He had hands like hams. He was so heavy-handed, he actually ripped my skin, and I still have a small bit of scar tissue on my arm. It turned out so bad, my friends used to play a game in bars--they would grab strangers walking by and ask them to guess what my tattoo was supposed to be. No one could get it right. It looked more like a seal balancing a Coke bottle (a cloud) on its nose. I was totally embarrassed, because I had been talking about tattoos since I was about 13. I had read Spider Webb's "Pushing Ink" and over the years, I had become really fascinated with Japanese tattoos. Years later, when I was about 23 or so (about 1985?), I saw an ad in the Village Voice for Spider Webbs studio in Manhattan. I called and made an appointment. I met with him, and told him I wanted a Japanese koi (a traditional fish tattoo). In Japanese mythology, the koi is said to represent strength, determination, and other desirable attributes which escape me at the moment. He said he'd find a good design for me. I came back a few weeks later with one of my friends to begin the tattoo. We got there ahout noon, and had to wake him up. We sat around, drank coffee, and met his girlfriend, who had a trippy 3D tattoo of a wizard on her back. (He gave us glasses to check it out). One wall of the apartment was covered with weird photos, news clippings, and pictures of tattoos. He had allegedly gotten my design from a Japanese colleague. When he placed the transfer on my skin, it was huge. He said the first outline would hurt (the longest line along the whole spine of the fish). It did, especially near my armpit. I was not aware of any real problem, but all of a sudden, I began to see spots, and then my vision began to go completely. I guess I was going to faint. It may have had something to do with the fact that we had partied until about 3:00 the previous night, and the first thing we did with Spider was smoke a hash and tobacco joint and drink a beer. I was pretty hung over, and hadn't eaten anything. Anyway, he was really cool about it, and told me it happens a lot, from the rush of anticipation when the process begins. After a minute, I was fine, and he continued. He did the black outline that day. It took two more visits over the next couple of weeks to complete the color. He screwed up at the very beginning and used too thick a needle on one part, but the total effect is very cool. Its a huge koi in orange, red, and yellow, floating in a blue sea with waves a chrysanthemums. I think it cost $500, which was a shitload of money at the time. It turned out to be so big, he later told me he would've charged double if he knew how long it would take. My parents had told me that they'd kick me out of the house if I got a tattoo, but they didn't. It scabbed up pretty bad, and I kept it hidden until it was healed so they wouldn't freak out too much. I'm now a (theoretically) respectable attorney. I love to see the reactions from people when the subject comes up, and I tell them about my tattoo or occasionally show it off, if I've had enough to drink. I like to tell people that I'm the world's most heavily tattood lawyer. They inevitably ask how many I have, and I tell them, "Oh, one." (Don't feel bad, no one else thinks it's funny it either, especially my wife). Overall, I love my tattoo and I'm proud of it. It's a relic from a different age. It certainly beats a seal balancing a Coke bottle. Some people believe that a positive tattoo can protect you from evil. Mine certainly protects me from having to make small talk with geeks if I'm out where I can show it. It's really strange that some people are so prejudiced against people with tatoos. And if the subject of racial prejudice ever comes up, I tell people that, yeah, I'm part black. I'm also part yellow, red, orange, green and blue. If (when) I get my next tattoo, my dream is to get another koi from Ed Hardy. The pictures I've seen of his work are incredible (is he even working anymore?). Spider asked me to come back to photograph the tattoo. I feel bad that I never did come back. He spent a lot of time in Woodstock, NY, and I never got around to it. Maybe I'll track Spider down, get it touched up, and take a photo, if he still cares. Later.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 06 Dec. 1999
in Tattoos

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Artist: Spider+Webb
Studio: Spider+Webb
Location: NYC

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