“Tattoo Tourism: Where Ink and Travel Meet” (Lonely Planet)

Here’s a great article – about two of my favorite things – that showed up on my Facebook News Feed!

Tattoo Tourism: Where Ink and Travel Meet

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Kristi S., Office Manager, 43 Years (Albany, OR)

 

Kristi S. before...

WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN I SAY TATTOO?

Liberating

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

Last Tuesday – October 26, 2010

 

Pre-tattoo bonding over tarot cards...

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

I’ve always liked tattoos…I always wanted to get a tattoo. I wanted to do something in memory of my miscarriage…for closure, moving on, letting go and just being me…doing something for me without the approval of anyone or because someone else wanted me to do it. It was really important for me because even though other people forget my miscarriage, it was a huge thing in my life. I was not in a happy place and now I feel like I have this special reminder and I think I’ll be able to move on. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided to do this…this is something that I felt I needed to do. It’s extremely empowering because I’m sure people will judge me, but I don’t care. I know it was right because I was not nervous at all…

 

Luis making the final touches on Kristi's artwork...

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

Luis Vargas designed it. I struggled with what artwork I would choose. I’m not an artist and I don’t consider myself hugely creative. I had some ideas. Kauai is a very special place for our family…I feel a very strong spiritual connection to Kauai, so I knew I wanted something related to that. The colors, flowers, a sea turtle. I love sea turtles, but I also love owls. I emailed you about not having a clue and then when I went on Luis Vargas’ site I got even more confused. I got a little apprehensive because I kind of felt out of place. One day I was on a run and I was thinking about my artwork…it was getting closer and closer. I looked down at my shirt, one that I got in Hanalei [Kauai], and I said “Oh my gosh…that’s exactly the colors and everything that I want!” It was a turtle with fish, flowers and bright colors, and so I thought “Well, that’s it…I’m going to take the shirt [to Luis’].” At the same time, I was wondering if I was going to insult him if I brought it.

 

Voila!

I emailed him and gave him a brief background of me, my reasoning for the tattoo, and my likes. I told him that I love hibuscus flowers and turtles, but that I also loved his owls. I’ve always loved owls. He  said “No problem…I’ll work on some ideas.” I really didn’t have any contact with him until we went that day. Even though he had drawn something, he didn’t bring it out right away. He loved my [t-shirt] idea. I was so impressed with that…and, it wasn’t like a fake thing. It was like “I drew something for you, but I love this [t-shirt]…I love the colors…the turtle.” He asked me if I wanted to see what he drew. When I saw it, it was perfect…it was an owl and it had Kaber’s name. [The name] was the hardest part for me…I don’t know why I struggled with that. The font of the name was huge for me. I looked through books and Greg thought it would be good to have it in Hawaiian. Well, sometimes [the fonts] get too “gangy” and I didn’t want it to be harsh. The way Luis wrote it was kind of whimsical, kind of musical. It was perfect and I just chose to go with what he had drawn for me.

 

...and it begins.

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL EVER HAVE ANY REGRETS ABOUT GETTING YOUR TATTOO?

No. It might lose it’s shape…it might take on a whole different dimension…in 3D! 😉 No, but seriously…this has been the greatest trip for me.

 

Taking a short breather...

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL GET MORE TATTOOS AT THIS POINT?

I’m already thinking about it…isn’t that weird? Yeah, I’m sure I will…in fact, there is no doubt in my mind that I will get another one.

 

Kristi S. after...so beautiful

Carla P., Sports Nutrition Supplement Consultant, 44 Years (San Diego, CA)

When a friend of mine heard about my tattoo blog, she immediately said “You’ve got to interview my sister!” Now I understand why…this is one vibrant woman who is living a passionate life. I look forward to sipping coffee and having stimulating conversation with her again in the near future…

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WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD ‘TATTOO’?

Beautiful

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST ONE?

21 years old

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

At the time I just wanted to do something different…it was 1987, and [getting a tattoo] was more different then that it is now. I went to one of those downtown “navy/old man of the sea” tattoo parlors 😉 …[the Gaslamp district] wasn’t cool then like it is now.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

It’s a four-leaf clover…and, it’s on my bikini line.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

Because I’m a quarter Irish…my grandmother was 100% Irish, so I just always thought if I got [a tattoo] it would be a lucky four-leaf clover.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE TO PUT IT?

I didn’t want anyone to see it…and, it was kind of a sexy place. I thought [this place] was kind of “lucky”…like if you see it, then you’re lucky 😉 .

WHO WAS THE ARTIST? AND, HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THEM?

It was just an old “bail bonds” type tattoo guy in downtown San Diego. I’m sure that tattoo place is no longer there…for sure. I was driving with some friends of mine…we were kind of buzzed. We kept talking about it and then we’re like “Let’s go do it!”. I was with my best friend (she was 23) and her really good friend (she was 21)…she was a former Playboy model. She was Playmate of the Year that year.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

My second one is the “tramp stamp” on my lower back. It’s just a design my friend (the artist) did.

WHEN DID YOU GET THIS ONE?

Many years later…in 2000.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PUT IT THERE?

It was kind of becoming a popular spot, I guess…and, I kind of liked it because it was still out of sight and I wasn’t looking to show it off too much.

WHO DID IT?

A family friend…Louie Alvarez. His artist name is ‘Zodak’. He has a private artist loft studio in Spring Valley.

[You can read about Zodak in a July 2009 article in Lowrider Arte magazine.]

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR THIRD TATTOO…

The third tattoo was also done in 2000…in Cabo San Lucas. I was there with my boyfriend…he was a musician and he had a gig there. We went out one night and got matching tattoos. It was on my arm, but it’s been covered up…he probably still has his. It was a Celtic tattoo…a triangle with an embryo inside of it to symbolize a “new beginning”.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

It was on the wall and I thought it was very unique…I asked the artist in the shop what it meant and I really liked that meaning. I wish I still had it because it was really a cool design…because everyone would always ask me…”What is that?” It was really interesting…

HOW DID YOU PICK THE LOCATION OF THIS ONE?

I was getting a little more bold…and, I wanted it to show more.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

Number 4 was on my back, on my left shoulder. I don’t remember why I chose my shoulder…I just knew I wanted it on my back. It was my boyfriend’s name (“Robbie”)…he got my name done at the same time. I thought he was just the love of my life, but I covered it up.

WHO DID THIS ONE?

Another artist at the same shop as my tattoo artist, Louie. Louie wouldn’t do it. He said “No way…I’m not doing that.”

OK, SO YOUR FIFTH TATTOO…

Number 5 and 6 would be my son’s and daughter’s names. They were probably done in about 2002. And, then my seventh is my last name on my calf, which was done at the same time.


WHO DID THEM?

Louie…

YOUR EIGHTH TATTOO…

I covered a bite on my left leg…I got bitten by a recluse spider. I just couldn’t stand the red dot there. I didn’t even know what I wanted…I didn’t even care, I just wanted [Louie] to put something there. So he did a cross. That was in about 2003…

YOUR NINTH TATTOO…

Number 9 is the one on the back of my neck. I got it done a little after the cross…a couple months later. This one is the “Elements”…it symbolizes air, water and fire.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PUT IT ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK?

I just kind of thought it was blank and it would look cool if I pulled my hair up.

DID LOUIE DO THIS ONE?

No…a guy in Pacific Beach. My friend was getting her tattoo done and I was completely in a distraught state and I said “ I just want to get a tattoo”. I wanted something to focus my inner pain…tattooing is definitely something that does that. Because it’s painful…you forget about your problems for that time.

OK, SO NUMBER 10…

Number 10 would be the wings on my back…this was a cover of Robbie’s name at the end of 2004. I wanted wings for a long time because they symbolized freedom…freedom from Robbie. Louie was very happy to do this tattoo. 😉

AND, YOUR LAST TATTOO…NUMBER 11?

Number 11 was another cover…of the embryo…because Robbie had a matching tattoo and I didn’t want anything to do with him. So, [in 2007] I asked Louie to put something that he thought would flow and look pretty on my arm…flowers or whatever. It’s a full sleeve…

SO, AT THIS POINT YOU’RE CLEARLY OVER YOUR TATTOOS NOT SHOWING… 😉

Exactly! I’m like “Go with it.” I couldn’t wait to get a sleeve…

WHICH TATTOO, IF ANY, IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

Probably the wings…

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF THEM?

Maybe the name…but, I knew there was an out. I wasn’t going to remove it, I knew I would just cover it…so, in a way, I did regret it and I didn’t regret it. I actually went into it thinking if I ever have to cover it, no big deal…I would love to have something really cool back there. I wouldn’t get someone’s name again…not unless they were my blood relative.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET ANY MORE?

Yes…more flowers or vines. I kind of want to do something that says “I’ll never settle”…like in Latin. That’s my mantra…it has multiple meanings for me. Like settle down, settle for someone, settle for something I don’t like…

Karin C., Aesthetician/Salon Manager, 30 Years (San Diego, CA)

Immediately upon meeting Karin C., we were on intimate terms. I was lucky enough to find her soon after I realized that at 43, it was still within the realm of possibility for me to get my first Brazilian. Karin minimized potential “pain” and maximized potential “pleasantness” – both physical and mental. She recently moved from the salon in Coronado where I first met her, to EnVus in Pacific Beach where she pampers (and occasionally reluctantly pains) her clients and now gets the bonus of doing some bossing. During several of my horizontal chats with her, she mentioned her desire to cover up her old tattoo with a bigger and better one – and, to replace bad memories with happy ones. For months, the time wasn’t quite right. In June it was…for both of us! We drove up to Northridge together and showed up at Luis’ door for one long day. Karin is now graced with a vibrant work of Luis art on her body…and, a part of Luis forever in her heart.

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WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD ‘TATTOO’?

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Personality

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HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

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I was young…under aged!

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WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

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I was living in Germany and my girlfriend, a Chiloquin [Native American], and I wanted tattoos. We were just best buds and wanted something fun…tattoos was the way to go.

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WHERE IS IT AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT LOCATION?

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It’s on my top left shoulder…my friend’s put hers on her back in between her shoulder blades. [My shoulder] was a place that I thought looked feminine and could be covered up easily.

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HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE DESIGN?

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We picked a Chiloquin tribal symbol that meant “cherish”.

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DO YOU REMEMBER WHO DID IT?

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No. It was in Germany at the first place we found…it wasn’t anywhere special.

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TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SECOND TATTOO…

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I was in the Navy…in Bali. I was pretty intoxicated, to say the least. We had been surfing and afterwards I was drawing on a napkin. Some guy came up to me and said he’d tattoo the design on my ankle for $20. I thought he was talking a henna tattoo or something, I don’t know. Then he went to town and started tattooing. Next thing I know I wake up in the morning, put my flight boots on, and there was a tattoo on my ankle. I like the tattoo…I think it’s a cute little beachy wave, but it’s on my ankle so it’s always there. I’m a flip flop/shorts girl and it’s just feels kinda trashy. Luckily it doesn’t go all the way around, but it’s a color that I can’t really get rid of…a certain type of ink. I don’t remember what he used, but I do remember he literally lit the needle on fire, put thread around it, and went to town with ink.

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HOW ABOUT YOUR THIRD TATTOO?

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That’s the one in progress with Luis Vargas…I found him through you. I wanted to cover up my first tattoo – first, because it was old and getting faded and, second, because it very much resembled a biohazard symbol. A lot of people gave me crap about it looking like a biohazard and I always had to explain. Because I always had to explain, it kept bringing up bad memories. My best friend who I got the tattoo with passed away of cancer when she was 19 years old, so I wanted to start putting things into the past and cover it up with positive energy.

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HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE DESIGN FOR THIS ONE?

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I kind of knew what type of things I wanted beforehand. Obviously, Luis put it all together and drew it all out. He just started drawing away, no problem. I wanted something very positive. I’m a water girl, so we have the waves on there resembling the beach. We have the plumeria. We figured out my number is four, so we have four flowers – three plumeria for good fortune and the hibiscus, which is the femininity flower. All in beautiful, bright colors. I’ve always wanted the koi, but I could never find one that I liked. I was debating back and forth about having one, then Luis pulled the one down from his wall and I said “I want that one!”. It turned out to be perfect. The water is pushing the koi up because the koi swims upstream. Also, it represents more of the masculine side, so you got a little ying and yang going on with the flower (hibiscus) and the fish. Good fortune, good luck.

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TELL ME ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF GETTING YOUR LATEST (AND BIGGEST) TATTOO…

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I was starting to forget, girl. 😉  I remember being nervous…it was a very patient trial. It took a lot of patience and a lot of zoning out. Thank God for Luis and his music, because that was amazing…his music zoned me out. And, his touch is amazing…he always knew where to touch my back and it made me feel connected to him, so I wasn’t just feeling some guy scratching my back with a painful needle. What was it…like 3 hours, 2 hours?

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OH, I THINK IT WAS LONG…DEFINITELY 3 HOURS.

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And, you were rubbing my legs. I was screaming, just letting it come out. 🙂

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DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO GET ANY MORE TATTOOS?

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No. I just one more session to finish this last one…it will get done someday. All [Luis] has left to finish are the hibiscus, the plumeria and a little bit of the waves.

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HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

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I regret the one on my ankle.

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OUT OF THE THREE TATTOOS, DO YOU HAVE ONE THAT IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

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Definitely the new one. I’m older now and it brings my whole life together…how I live my life, how I look forward to my life, and how I want my life to be. It’s vibrant, beautiful colors. It’s not something I’ll ever get tired of…

Borneo & “Tattoo History” by S. Gilbert (Pt. 4)

I’ve heard of Borneo, but sadly geography is one of my weaker subjects…I had no idea where it was. Until now…

In case it ever comes up in conversation ( 🙂 ), here are a few facts about Borneo:

  • Third largest island in the world (behind Greenland & New Guinea)
  • Home to three (mmmm…magical number for Borneo?) countries – Malaysia, Brunei & Indonesia
  • Almost 16 million inhabitants (as of 2005)
  • Many unique tribes (collectively known as the Dayak) had little contact with modern society until recently and still lived a Stone Age life

Borneo Tattoo Artist

Some Borneo tattoo facts:

  • Men tattooed largely for “ornamental” reasons, beginning at no set time during boyhood
  • It took up to 4 years to tattoo a girl (because of the intricacy and level of pain), usually starting at 10 years and ending once she was a mother
  • Dogs were a popular design; a rosette or star was often tattooed on the shoulders or breasts
  • At one time, women were the only ones to design and perform the tattooing, although men were allowed to carve the pattern design blocks
  • Traditional tools consisted of two “prickers” (wooden rods with needles imbedded in the head) and an “iron striker”; the pigment was a mix of “soot, water, and sugar cane juice” (Tattoo History, p. 42); designs, techniques & instruments appear to have been imported from other Polynesian islands
  • Natives still practice traditional tribal tattooing; few women are tattooed, but it’s still popular with men

Borneo Tattoo Designs

In Tattoo History, Steve Gilbert talks in detail about the fascinating tribal life and superstitions of the Dayak. Like head hunting, for instance…more important than territory was the head of an enemy. Heads – not land – were the motivation for warfare.

“When heads were brought home there was a great celebration at the longhouse of the victors. The heads were later skinned and dried over a fire, and the skulls were hung from the longhouse rafters. The skulls were believed to be a source of spiritual energy that would bring prosperity and good luck to the tribe that had taken them. They were kept warm, protected from the rain, and treated with great respect. Only elders were allowed to touch them.” (Tattoo History, p. 39)

Head hunter skull from Borneo

Once a tribal member obtained a head, they were tattooed on their hand. If one didn’t have a hand tattoo, your prospects weren’t so good after death.

“A spirit called Maligang guarded the River [of the Dead]. If the soul could show Maligang a tattooed hand, Maligang would allow it to cross the river on a log….But if Maligang saw that the sould had no hand tattoo, he would roll and tip the log when the soul tried to cross the river, and the soul would fall into the water to be eaten by maggots.” (Tattoo History, p. 40)

Some damn good motivation to be a headhunter while living! (God help if you were a male in some of the tribes…I’ll leave penis piercing to your imagination. Or, you can read about it in detail on page 40.)

As with other aboriginal tribes still in existence today, the Dayak’s lifestyle is seriously threatened. Immigration and deforestation are destroying their ancient way of life. So sad…

To read about the history of tattooing in more detail, click on the link to the upper right to buy the book Tattoo History by Steve Gilbert.

Eric R., Hiking Tour Guide, 34 Years (Hanapepe, Kauai)

I’m at a point in my life where I absolutely treasure quality people…and I know when I meet one instantaneously. Eric R. is one of my favorites…authentic, hard-working, cool, funny, sweet (in a manly way ;)), honest, and so much more. He knows exactly who he is and has created a life where he can express it wholeheartedly with passion. I do believe I was meant to meet him…besides the Universe, I have Google to thank! I was planning my latest trip to Kauai (last May) and was determined to find a “non-haole tourist” hike to go on. I Googled to see what was out there and, after bypassing all the hokey-sounding ones, I found Eric’s site (www.hikekauaiwithme.com). I emailed him with my request (a moderate hike with no Mid-Western tourists or whining kids!)…and he responded almost immediately. Within minutes I had two half-day hikes scheduled. It was clear he knew the island inside and out, so I put myself into his very capable hands only concerning myself with packing the right hiking gear.

It only took minutes to feel like I was hiking with a buddy (so much so that I almost forgot to pay him!). Of course, I eyed his tattoos immediately and coerced him into an interview. 😉 I snapped most of the pictures on the top of Kahili Mountain, right after the rain stopped and the blustery winds blew away the white-out (I was wet and a tad chilled and the sun was now shining brightly, so it’s not my best work…life is not perfect, but it’s exciting!). I was so distracted by the consummate Kauai experience on top of the mountain (and in the lychee orchard at its base) that I completely forgot to interview him when we got back to the cars! In authentic male style, Eric emailed concise answers to all of my questions…

I am so thankful for Facebook, which has allowed me to keep a lifeline to my island through one of my newest friends. The best part…I was able to be a small part of his recent journey to the Phillipines where he became engaged to his finance! I’m so looking forward to my next hike this August…

WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN I SAY TATTOO?

Expression

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

I was 22.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

The first one was mostly because I could.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

A Los Angeles Dodgers hat on top of a globe (i.e, Dodgers are on top of the world!).

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

I discussed it with an artist and the brainchild was formed.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT?

To me, the arms are the best spot for a tattoo. I decided on my upper arm because it was most visible.

WHO DID IT?

Some dude in Portland, Oregon.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM AND HOW DID YOU KNOW HE WAS THE RIGHT ONE?

I just went into a tattoo parlor that a friend recommended and used the artist that was available.

AND HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN OF YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

It was my favorite band’s logo – the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT THIS ONE?

I liked the idea of having one on my inner wrist.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Ft. Worth, Texas. I used the first artist that became available at a shop that I found down the street from my house.

AND YOUR THIRD TATTOO…HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

My favorite number is 10 and I used it in a design to look like a ring. The same artist that did my Chili Peppers tattoo did this one.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN & LOCATION OF YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

I drew a design that was representative of my lifestyle – palm trees on an island at sunset that states “No bad days!” Again, upper arm is one of my choice spots…very visible to me and others.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Portland, Oregon. I returned to the same shop that did my first tattoo, but I used a different artist this time (one that was available).

AND YOUR FIFTH TATTOO?

I wanted something that represented the beauty of Hawaii. The hibiscus is so Hawaii and I didn’t feel like it was too “girly” by doing it in black. 🙂

YOUR SIXTH TATTOO?

My buddy and I decided to think of two words that perfectly represented what was important to us in our lives…”Love & Leisure” (on a compass). I always wanted one on my forearm and this was the time. The same shop that did the previous two in Portland did this one.

OK, NOW FOR YOUR SEVENTH…

That’s the hiker on my arm. This is a silhouette of me doing what I do best. I had the artist use a picture of me.

AND, YOUR LAST (EIGHTH) TATTOO!

The island of Kauai on my chest…pretty self explanatory, my favorite place in the world over my heart. Kauai is very dear to me…

WHICH TATTOO IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

The most meaningful is the picture of myself hiking because it’s an actual shot of me doing what I love most.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Never. I always love what I finally choose after much thought.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

If I get any more, it will most likely have to do with my fiance. She will love that! 🙂

Tahiti & “Tattoo History” by S. Gilbert (Pt. 3)

The island of Moorea

I was lucky enough to go to Tahiti on my honeymoon…what seems like eons ago. It was my first expedition outside of the U.S. (with the exception of tequila missions to Tijuana, which just doesn’t count). Being a quasi-young newlywed guy guarding his pocketbook, Lance steered clear of the touristic (and pricey) island of Bora Bora and headed to the less visited Moorea and the remote Huahini. I was so “checked out” for the first 30 years of my life that I have very few solid memories…but, it’s odd…I do remember Tahiti…vividly. I think my recycled soul knew it was close to home…

I can remember exactly what it looked like – our huts just feet from the vividly turquoise water, the trade winds that we swore were going to rip off our thatched roof, the lush green of the interior countryside and central rain forest, the crumbling ruins, the sunset cocktail cruises, the crappy food (with the exception of the local dolphin delicacy that we broke down and ate…on our last day). I can still see the people…who were stunningly beautiful with the kindest of eyes. I don’t remember seeing any tattoos, but then I wouldn’t have been too attracted to them at the time…at least not on a conscious level.

The island of Huahini

I have several worthy memories from this two weeks of my life…

  • It was here that I took the first baby step out of my “box”…the only step I would take for many, many years, but one that would never leave me. The French colonizers didn’t make the Polynesians put all their clothes on when they took over…even in 1991, it was the norm to sunbathe topless. I am proud to say that I pushed myself to observe this local custom…and I had a mild sunburn to prove it!
  • I remember a beautiful girl who was staying at our resort in Huahini. She appeared to be an aspiring model with two drooling guys following her every move with their eyes – and their cameras. They were so young and free…and having an amazing experience. Of course, my conscious self judged her…but, my unconscious self wished I was brave enough to have such an exotic and thrilling adventure. Deep down I admired her and she would inspire me to be brave many years in the future. I sometimes wonder who she has become and if that experience is one of her most treasured memories.
  • On our second night in Huahini, I walked out of the humid shower into the humid room. As I dried my hair with a towel, a flash of movement caught my eye. I hit the floor…Lance gaping at me as if I had completely lost it. I struggled to get the words out…there was a man staring at me through the crack in the drapes!!! When I made eye contact with him, he turned and ran…I scrambled to the window and saw him disappear into the trees. Apparently the locals didn’t seem to miss movie theaters or televisions…the visiting honeymooners provided plenty of free entertainment!
  • And, then there was the moment that Lance tried to kill me…where the reef met the tide. I was not happy that he paddled the kayak right up to the point that we were told to avoid…I was both fuming and panicking while he happily snorkeled more than 50 feet away and I frantically struggled to stop myself from drifting out to die. I weighed 98 pounds when we got in the kayak…when I got back to shore, I weighed 90. And, I’m sure that I will die five years earlier than I should because of that experience.

I can’t wait to go back…I definitely feel a connection to the Polynesian culture. On my next visit, I will definitely be checking out tattoos – and abiding by all of the local customs, of course. Oh, and I think I’ll blow a kiss to the Polynesian peeping tom. 🙂

In Tattoo History (see the link at right to buy this amazing book), Steve Gilbert writes about the first accounts of Polynesian tattoos. We have Captain James Cook of England – and his naturalist, Joseph Banks – to thank for this peek into the past. The first voyage to the islands began in 1768, and lasted three years. Here are some of Banks’ writings on tattoos:

“I shall now mention their method of painting their bodies or ‘tattow’ as it is called in their language.” [We still use the same word today…there was no word in any Western language for this form of art.]

“Their method of doing it I will now describe. The color they use is lamp black which they prepare from the smoke of a kind of oily nuts used by them instead of candles. This is kept in coconut shells and mixed with water occasionally for use. Their instruments for pricking this under the skin are made of bone and shell, flat, the lower part of this is cut into sharp teeth from 3 to 20 according to the purpose it is to be used for and the upper fastened to a handle. These teeth are dipped into the black liquor and then driven by quick sharp blows struck upon the handle with a stick for that purpose into the skin so deep that every stroke is followed by a small quantity of blood…”

“…all the islanders I have seen (except those of Ohiteroa) agree in having all their buttocks covered with a deep black…”

“I saw this operation performed on the fifth of July on the buttocks of a girl about 14 years of age. For some time she bore it with great resolution, but afterwards began to complain and in a little time grew so outrageous that all the threats and force her friends could use could hardly oblige her to endure it.” (Tattoo History by Steve Gilbert, Pages 36-37)

I’m so grateful for technological advancements in tattooing, so my friends didn’t have to sit on me while Luis decorated my body…