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As You Stood There Counting Crows

Well, it seems I've got the first of the many tattoos that I've been planning for years. And it all came about as part of an elaborate mother's day gift...

For awhile now, my girlfriend and I have been considering taking our mothers on a Mexico cruise. We finally scraped together the money to do so for mother's day (though my mom backed out at the last minute, but that's a different story entirely). So, this past week, I found myself on a four-day cruise with stops in Catalina and Ensenada.

Every time I travel, I entertain the notion of getting a tattoo as a "souvenir" of sorts. On top of that, I have a bit of a compulsion to go check out every tattoo and/or piercing shop I pass. We passed one shop in Catalina that was actually more like someone's small, filthy garage. I booked it out of there pretty quickly with one of the guys calling after me, "Hey, we got room for one more!" Eugh. No thank you.

When we passed Inked For Life in Ensenada, I was expecting more of the same. However, when I walked in the shop was clean, brightly lit, and inviting – a step up from a lot of places I've seen. The girl at the counter was very friendly. English was clearly her first language, which was another point in their favor, since the idea of being tattooed by someone I can't communicate with very clearly is right out for me. She immediately pointed me toward some reference photographs. While I browsed, we talked a bit about a piece I'd been considering for my first tattoo – an apple with a snake wrapped around me. She said that they charged by the piece and quoted me a price. I still wasn't sure, however, so I said I'd think about it and might come back.

By then, of course, the idea was lodged in my brain. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, though, so I decided to go back and ask about a simpler design I've been wanting – a line of seven crows flying over my collarbone. The only employee in the shop was working on someone else, so I was directed upstairs. There were a couple of nice, if sparsely furnished rooms, and I sort of figured this was where the artists hung out when not working. I described the design I was thinking of, we discussed it a bit and agreed to go ahead and do it.

This is where things started to go a little differently than expected. Thus far, the girl I had been talking to had phrased things in a way that sounded like she would be the one tattooing me. Suddenly she was telling me, "Okay, let me call my artist." The artist turned out to be a tough-looking Mexican guy with a heavy accent, which threw me a little, but I figured, what the hell. We discussed the design a bit more, and he made a couple of suggestions that I really liked, so all was well. I mentioned a couple of times that I wanted to keep this pretty small, and he agreed. I went out on the balcony to smoke and wait while he drew out the design.

The next surprise occurred when he called me back in. What I had been picturing as about a three-by-two inch tattoo was now drawn out as a design that would run along the top of one breast, pretty much cover the top of my shoulder, and creep up almost to my neck. The largest of the seven birds was bigger than what I had anticipated the whole piece being – but once the linework was transferred to my skin, I had to admit that it looked awesome, so I agreed to go ahead with it.

I asked if we were going to go back downstairs, and he said, "No, right here." Originally he had me lay down on a completely flat bench, but the positioning was wrong thanks to my overly large boobs, so he had me sit up in a desk chair. During all of this, there was a young-ish girl just sitting there watching the proceedings. As he started putting his machine together, he had her hand him a couple things from a nearby cabinet. "Are you apprenticing with him?" I asked. She looked at me blankly and he said that she didn't speak English, so I repeated the question to him. "Oh, no," he said, "she's just someone I met today and liked, so she's hanging out with me."

He started up the machine and started on the largest crows up on my shoulder. It hurt like hell – which I had of course been expecting, but I don't think I was quite prepared for how much it would actually hurt. Anytime he paused for a couple of seconds, I would start shaking uncontrollably. Maybe that was just because I was trying to hold still while he actually worked. The muscles in my arm did twitch a couple of times, much to the artist's annoyance. By about halfway through, I had decided two things: one, that there was no way in hell I was going to be able to have it shaded in the same sitting, and two, that I definitely did not care for this artist. Two of his final comments sealed my opinion. As he was finishing up, he said something along the lines of, "Damn, girl, you move too much. You messed up my lines, and my lines are always straight." Yet the lines on the two bottom crows look very shaky, and I know I didn't move when he was doing those two. Then, after I contemplated on how it was actually going numb, so maybe I could have handled the shading after all, he effectively attempted to scare me off, displaying the triple needle he would use. I paid (the amount that I had originally been quoted, despite the fact that it was only an outline, and I would never return to finish it) and left. It wasn't until we were nearly back on the boat that I realized he had never given me any aftercare instructions, or even told me his name.

The tattoo is fairly awesome, but the more I look at it, the more the shakiness of the lines bothers me. Still, despite all of these little things, I am glad that I did it, since it finally got me past the stage of making excuses not to get a tattoo, which I had been stuck in for several years now. Now I just need to go see the folks at my wonderful local shop (Prix in Pasadena) to get it fixed up and finished up.

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 16 June 2008
in Tattoos

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Artist: +
Studio: Inked+For+Life
Location: Ensenada%2C+Baja+California

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