Saturday, January 5, 2008


I'm sitting in the tattooist chair in a close to the road, modest shop in Liberty, NY. The man behind the needle is a 64 year old Vietnam vet. with a bunch of silver earrings and a bushy mustache. He kinda looks like a biker, but we're talking deer hunting and Orange county bars from back in the day. "Dino's in Middletown." he says, measuring the black ink into tiny, paper cups. "I used to go to Dino's all the time when I got out." He was "in" from '64 to '70- bad years to be in the U.S. Army. He did 13 months in 'Nam. "That's a buck I got over by White Sulfer Springs." He says, changing the subject and points to a photo of a big 10 pointer on the wall. We've already sized the work and he's just about to shave my wrist when somehow we get talking about life and art.
The first tattoo I'm getting on my lower left wrist is the name STEVEPARRINO. The second tattoo is the name JACKIEBRYER, on my right wrist. In the middle of my back I'm having a small keyhole done. The names are backwards and run together, so when I pull prints the names can be readable. As the machine starts up, my tattooist fills me in on his life. "I came back from Vietnam with a guy who had nine pounds of heroin strapped to his legs, and did it all himself. He got fucked up in the war...mentally and came home a stone cold lying junkie. Then one day he decided to clean up." The needle hurts more than I remember, but after the first couple of lines, it's OK. He continues. "So he meets this girl in rehab and they have a couple of kids and everything's going good, when he decides to move to Florida. I told him not to. I told him how much dope there was in Florida, but he said he was going anyway." When one wrist is done, I lay a piece of rice paper on the arm and lift a bloodprint. Nice.
We shift to the right wrist and i tell him about Jackie Bryer and how she once called me from a tattoo shop on the west coast to inform me she was about to get 666 tattoooed on her labia. I luckily talked her out of it. She also told me that the Santera downstairs had a contact out on her with a local hitman. I always seemed to believe her. When I would eventually catch her in these lies she would say "Never trust a junkie." And smile. I also tell him how she died on the bathroom floor at 39. That's the truth. He nods. "So they get to Florida and a deal goes bad and two people get killed and they escape, but his girl friend gets shot. When the cops caught up with them he took the blame, but they weren't buying it. They knew she pulled the trigger. He also sewed her up with fishing line. He knew how to do that kinda stuff from the Army. They're both on death row now." I tell him how Steve Parrino died on his bike last New Year's eve and that both he and Jackie were members of my church who have passed. He likes the idea of the prints and the memorial.
When we're done with the wrists I take off my shirt and he does the keyhole on my back. The print I'm giving to Shewho for Xmas, along with a coyote pelt from Ray Key. But don't tell her. It's a surprise. As he finishes up we talk some more deer hunting and by the time I take out my check book we're hitting it off pretty good. He bandages my wrists and back, and I drive back to Glen Wild with three good prints and a new friend made. Sad to say, he and I both know I'll be back.


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