I’m 26 years old. The longest relationship I’ve been in lasted six months. The longest I’ve held a job was 13 months. In addition to that, I run 25+ miles per week. YOU might think I’m running away from something. YOU might think I have commitment issues.
MY response to that: “I have tattoos.”
Fuck diamonds, tattoos are forever.
The word “unique” has lost it’s meaning due to overuse, but the circumstances in which I got my first tattoo truly created a unique experience. I was working at the Los Angeles Times in 2008 when I proposed a story to an editor about why I was getting my first tattoo on the reality TV show “LA Ink.” This is the resulting story:
The thing about that tattoo is that it really didn’t hurt. I was distracted from the pain by the cameras in my face. Plus, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain, since I am diabetic and have dealt with needles multiple times a day for the past 14 years. I did the math, and have punctured myself with a needle at least 33,000 times in that time span. That tattoo took about an hour and a half to complete, and it is my most prized possession. It was my only tattoo.
My buddy Trevor on the other hand has several tattoos. In fact, he has a full sleeve on his left arm. The funny thing is that I got my first tattoo before he got any, and in the time since then he has surpassed me more than tenfold. Tattoos are more addicting than a meth habit.
Nearly every time I see Trevor, which is often, seeing as how we are business partners, he greets me with a, “When are you gonna get some more ink on your skin?” or a “Would you get some more ink on ya already?” Finally, after years of his relentless badgering I finally did my own relenting last Tuesday and decided to get my foot tattooed. Peer pressure is a bitch.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday Trevor’s tattoo artist, Michael Blackstone, drives into Hollywood and knocks out tattoos on any of our friends who want work done. He usually sets up shop in Trevor’s house and tattoos as if we were on a conveyor belt assembly line.
Every Tuesday Trevor tells me to get in on it, but I don’t, because of how calculated I am about making big commitments. Hence why my longest relationship has been six months. That’s usually how long it takes me to realize if someone is or isn’t worth any more of my time. It took me about five years to decide on my first tattoo, because in case you didn’t know, that shit is permanent. Human flesh doesn’t come with an eraser and we don’t operate like an Etch-A-Sketch.
This past Tuesday was different, however, because I had spent the past few months contemplating my next piece. I decided a while back to get tattoos representing my close family members like my Mom, Sister, Uncles, and Grandparents. Those family members are the people I’ve always been able to count on, and it’s somewhat reassuring to have daily reminders of them. So, I wanted something that represents them individually, just like how my quill feather pen represents me. Every time I’m critical of something I’ve written, I will happen to peep that tattoo by pure happenstance and it reminds me that I am actually a good writer.
Trevor has something similar going on in his sleeve for his family members. For example, he has three fish that represent him and his two brothers. He also has a big Samurai warrior that is backed up by other warriors, which represents his family members always having his back.
The first family member that I wanted to honor on my body is my Grandfather. It was easy to think of something that represented him. He is more proud of his service to his country than anything else about himself. He was a machine gunner in the Korean War, and even though he is over 81 years old he still wears his dog tags proudly, which is why I set out to get those tattooed on me. The fact that he spent a couple years of his life manning a machine gun is also due in large part to his bad hearing. A small price to pay, he would say in service to his country.
A few weeks prior I had my sister photograph his dog tags so that Blackstone could have a frame of reference. A big concern of mine was placement of the tattoo. I don’t want any tattoos in a highly visible area, because I still have it in my head that this whole Hollywood dream could be just that, and I may have to go back to the real world where tattoos are not always smiled upon in the 9-5 work force. Deep down, however, I realize that writing is the only thing I know how to do well. I give major credit to Trevor and his sleeve on that front, because he has the balls to go all in.
Upon discussion with Trevor and Blackstone I settled on the area of my right foot with the chain leading up my leg. That is an area that is easily coverable, in addition to being somewhat intimate, since the tattoo is for me and not just an aesthetic attraction for others. Plus, I have nicely defined calves and feet from running.
First, Trevor laid on the tattoo table and spent the ensuing three to four hours in agonizing pain. Blackstone has been working on a large piece on Trevor for some time. It’s really extensive and detailed, and Trevor keeps adding on to it every chance he gets. About three weeks prior, Blackstone moved on to Trevor’s back shoulder. This most recent time he moved on to Trevor’s chest. Both areas were virgin skin, much like my feet. (I’d like to take the time to point out that I avoided the obvious opportunity to make a joke about virginity in a sexual way. I think I deserve some credit there.)
On the agenda for Trevor was a bird over his left chest, in addition to some lightning bolts in the existing tattoo. Trevor is relatively comprised of just bones and a Saran Wrap-like outer layer that he calls skin, so an area like the chest was bound to hurt, which the following picture proves. The most devastating part for Trevor was the lightning bolts when Blackstone switched to a 5 needle. The smaller the number, the more painful the experience.
While Trevor winced in agony, I popped open a large can of Asahi beer and a bottle of painkillers in anticipation of the expected pain I was about to endure. My belief is that there is nowhere bonier on the body than on the top of the foot. (I’d also like to take this time to point out the obvious boner joke I passed on right there.)
In between sips of beer I grabbed a razor and got to work on my right leg. I didn’t know how high up the leg we were going to go, so I started shaving about mid-way up my calf. Like I said previously, I am 26 years old. And with that statement comes the fact that I have 26 years worth of hair attached to my epidermis. Another preface includes the information that I was not in my own house and was handed one of those cheap Bic razors. I’m sure by now that you get the picture. If you don’t here’s an actual picture.
I bled profusely for quite a while. I’m not going to lie, however, because the smoothness of my leg was actually quite pleasant. Ladies, I understand you a little bit better now. Now that I think about it, maybe this blog should’ve been “#27 – Shave My Legs.”
Trevor eventually finished and it became my turn at 11:30pm. But first, dinner. Blackstone and Trevor were hungry. I was fueled up on straight adrenaline, so I could’ve waited. However, I didn’t want Blackstone to pass out with a needle in his hand while he was engraving my foot. Call me crazy, but I think it’s important that my tattoo artist doesn’t pass out.
The pizza place said it would be 45 minutes so Blackstone said, “Lets get crackin.” By this time I was faded and ready to go, so I grabbed my headphones, ignored his hunger and plopped on the table.
Blackstone grabbed his Sharpie’s and went to work freehand drawing on my foot. It was quite the opposite of my first tattoo when Corey Miller pressed an original drawing on my arm and traced the outline from there.
The following video, which Trevor shot and edited, showcases the hilarity that ensued amongst friends, including appearances by Brandon Holley and Andrew Pour. Please remember that we were all drunk or on some mind altering substance.
The tattoo process hurt pretty bad. It’s the second most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. The most painful thing was when potassium was pumped from an IV into my vein and slipped out of the vein and into my flesh. Potassium inserted into the vein burns, but potassium inserted into pure flesh basically makes you feel like you’re on fire. A 3 needle while being tattooed is right behind that on my list of discomfort. Mind you, Trevor provided that wincing face in the previous picture as a result of a 5 needle.
I am really happy with the tattoo. I was only nervous during two parts of the process. First when he asked for the proper spelling of the words on the tags. He wrote it out in Sharpie to the right of the intended imprint area, but it began to rub off through the wiping down of the foot. So, right before he tattooed the letters he asked me to re-spell everything and then give it a glance over. He mistook the last “A” in “Sandoval” for an “O,” which I promptly corrected after my heart skipped two whole beats. The only other time I was nervous was when he asked if I wanted black and white, or color. I told him black and white, but he offered up the suggestion of a hybrid silvering effect, which would make it pop. I told him I trusted him, and I’m glad I did because the finished piece looks simply amazing.
Prior to this endeavor I didn’t tell my Grandfather of my intentions, because I wanted it to be a surprise. He doesn’t have any tattoos of his own, but he was very supportive of my first tattoo, and since this second one has to do with him I’m sure he won’t hate on it either. This tattoo will serve as a permanent reminder of my Grandfather when he eventually passes. Every time I look at it I will remember the look on his face when he told me his war stories.
Like I said prior, fuck diamonds, tattoos are forever. Plus, if you want a tattoo removed, the scar left behind is far less brutal than the one created by a female.
If you want to get tattooed by Blackstone, you can reach him via Twitter.