As a tattoo craftsman, what was a story behind a tattoo that has stayed with you?
Well,darn it,this will have to be a sadly vague answer,because I want to protect this guy's privacy as much as possible--and also because it's been several years,and I don't remember all of the details perfectly.I do remember enough to give you an accurate (but purposely vagued up) answer,but you don't get any pretty photos of nice tattoos.
We had several 'customers' who liked to come in and discuss ideas,and see then drawn up,but dithered around about actually deciding on a final design and getting it done.This guy was one of the worst.However,we were very tolerant about it,for several very valid reasons.First,he had multiple scars that were clearly bullet wounds.Second,in spite of being in his mid/late 60s,he is what is commonly described as a bear of a man.Third,he had a strong Russian accent.Fourth,he described his arrival in the US,and subsequent gaining of US citizenship,as him 'defecting' from the USSR.And finally,we saw how he reacted to the security light we had outside our shop.
To set the scene,I have to give you a bit of background first: see,the smoking section at the tattoo shop was outdoors,naturally,and so a group of both smokers and non-smokers would often hang out there when no tattooing was going on.The group gathered at the front door of the shop,so anyone looking for the artists would see the group as they approached the shop.There was a motion activated security light to illuminate the front door,and it was set such that if we stayed relatively near the shop,it wouldn't come on; it would only come on when someone approached from the road.
I also should mention that my tattoo mentor (the shop's owner) was a Marine (2nd Recon).He was in for a few years during the early/mid 80s; according to him,the only interesting thing that happened while he was serving was Grenada,and he didn't get to go.His time was pretty much just spent doing training exercises,cussing at mud,and having his health permanently affected by the water contamination at Swamp Lejeune.That said,my mentor had more than enough training to recognize our Russian client's reaction to our security light.
Like almost every customer,our Russian friend would join the group outside.We were often out there at night.Usually,the security light wouldn't get triggered; our shop was a bit of a hangout place,but usually by nightfall everyone that was going to come hang out was already there.But when it did get triggered,and the Russian was thereu2026 WOW.'Trigger' was definitely a word that came to mind.
Now,in spite of the fact that I grew up in what could reasonably be called a war zone--
I have heard of flashbacks,but I'd never seen one happen before,in spite of having tons of military friends and family.When the security light came on like that,this Russian was instantly back in the Cold War,and he was about to take on the entire Red Army single handed.And he wasn't going to lose this time,either.
After this happened a few times,we decided to leave the security light off.
This Russian--well,I should call him this _American_,who happened to have been born in Russia--was extremely patriotic about his adopted country.The tattoo that he wanted--and dithered over,and tweaked the design of over and over again--was a hyper-patriotic arrangement of American symbols.He wanted it to be centered around one of his larger,more impressive bullet scars.(I shudder to calculate the caliber that must have been involved,and the skill of the doctor that kept him alive.) We didn't get the story behind the scar,but we got the strong impression that it was a memento of his defection.
The tattoo itself wasn't that memorable.I will never forget the man,nor the intensity of his feelings about his new homeland.