1. Words “Hope Sick” Script from Kevin Cole above both knees. H.O.P.E. Helping Other People Every(day) has been a fundamental tool out to help get myself outside of the self-obsessed nightmare of a sick life and reminds me that the surest way to self peace is to give without expectation of return. It is placed at my knees, visible at prayer.
2. Eyes --My crazy eyes on Kevin Cole’s left thigh. It was made by Stephanie Brown in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I think this counts.
3. Love—It’s all about love.
4. Family “Mojo & Werd” Left forearm, the anatomical heart complete with banners of my children’s nicknames. It was made by Emilio Saylor at our shop in Valpo and continues to remind me to serve their best interests with savage intensity. The raw and fleshy heart of a mother comes complete with stitches.
5. Weapons “Brass Knuckles” on my left underarm. A direct rip off of my brother Tony’s tattoo. Tony and I taught each other to fight, how to take an ass whooping, and how to survive by any means necessary. I used to say “Getting hit by a man sucks, better to grab a weapon.” To this day, (even as a pacifist) I believe the brass knuckles serve as a reminder to admit my own weakness in an area, learn a new weapon, and kick some ass.
6. Sleeve-- I have no cohesive sleeve (yet) just magnet-styled scrapbook loosely woven together in my story.
7. Biggest “Bang Your Head” a nine hour color portrait from Quiet Riot’s Mental Health album cover, made by Ron “570”Russo in Wilkes Barre,PA. When I was 5 or 6, I went to stay with my mom’s second husband’s new family—a Jimmy Swaggart loving fundamentalist bunch of 700 club Christians. The new wife Ruth was such an asshole, and beat my ass for listening to ”Satan’s music” (amongst other evil things like having impossible hair, or looking like my mother) on the newly debuted MTV—I couldn’t understand how this had any connection to Satan, or why beating me was better than me singing along to Borderline(Maddonna) . Later, the PMRC set out to ban the soundtracks and salvation of my miserable little forgotten life. Before I found music like Iron Maiden, Beastie Boys, Naked Raygun, I had felt completely helpless and small…. I felt wrong for being a fucked up poor kid whose mom left her in horrible places until I heard these amazing sounds that made it okay for me to own my anger, and told me I was not alone-- that there were others. It was cool to be pissed. I realized that, in fact, that bitch was a jerk, and I was a-okay and right on schedule. Bang your head, Ruth.
8. Smallest-This is the smallest little diamond you ever did see, until I buy myself a Tacori, that shit will be tiny.
9. Favorite—my son’s first permanent mark, at age 12. He chose the anarchy symbol and I realized I raised a proper little crusty punk.
10. Regretted—none. Even the ones I’ve had covered up.
11. Private “True” in Blue, (told ya’ I loved Madonna). It’s over my heart, tucked under my breast, a reminder to a Shakespeare quote from Polonius the windbag in Hamlet:
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
12. Hands My partner Kevin says my hands look like mittens, I love them. Ever since I was a child I would watch my hands and wonder what I could do with them… “Quixotic” on the Knuckles from Troy Timpel, Left hand compass by Emilio Saylor, Left hand/wrist poppy by James Schuhrke, right hand timepiece by Mario Desa, and some notes in between.
13. Lucky—Owl on my throat by Tim Pangburn in Philly. The events since the day I got this “job-blocker” have been a fortunate mix of hard work and dedication to a non-mainstream life. My life is authentically mine, and I’m having a blast. Someone wrote into the local town paper that “If someone has a neck tattoo they should just make it read I DON’T WANT A JOB.” While I was pissed about the statement, I realized he was right. I don’t want a job, I want a life. And as pissed as I was, I couldn’t afford to be for too long; I was busy giving back to my community, running a responsible business, booking flights, writing features, editing gorgeous photographs, and basically having the time of my life. Fuck yeah, job blocker.
14. Matching – Three umbrellas, crudely marked on our thumbs, our family crest and first priority. The guys at Umbrella Ink Tattoo are not only my co-workers but also my family. Simple and unified.
15. Portrait—Buddha by Emilio Saylor.
16. Unfinished --Southern Cross, began by Kevin when he was first in the skin… that shit hurt so bad, I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish it. It was my homeward bound, because someday I will return to the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. “The truth you might be running from is so small, but it’s as big as the promise, the promise of the coming day.”
17. First—it was a little yin-yang and a cross by with a handmade machine made from a vcr motor, sewing needles, and a bic pen. I was 12 years old and somehow my mother saw it. I have to tell you my mother was nearly 6 foot tall, large breasted, and a redhead. As she leaned over me I knew I was going to die. Instead she laughed and said “Haha, you’re gonna have to live with that piece of shit your entire life.” Joke’s on her though, my partner tattoos, and he covered it up real nice.
18. Last—To quote my friend and love Bunny Switchblade “I started with one, and I will end with one.”
19. Animal—A little Tara McPherson bunny tattooed by Patrick Cornolo during Joe Capobianco’s “quick and Painful” event in Chicago.
20. Religious—Fruit of knowledge by Zaq Weaver. “Naturally born bad.”
21. Traditional—early in my quest to learn more about history, the fundamentals of tattooing, I became enamored with what I thought was traditional tattoo. “One third black, one third color, one third skin” was what I was told to look for when judging a “traditional” piece. Funny what we think we’re going to learn and how it contrasts with reality. I still love clean lines, bold color, and the simplified symbol. I love the sailor, whore, and biker era of modern tattooing, I can relate with folks described neatly with these labels. But catching a glimpse at the human history of tattoo, and what magic, position, sentimentality, and rites of passage have been expressed in the skin through our entire history has made me appreciate what a new era “traditional” tattoo really is.
22. Tattoo by an Instagram Artist—Aren’t all tattooers on Instagram? Hahah.
23. Your Passion—The writer’s quill with my writer’s union number on it by Troy Timpel. “None but a blockhead ever wrote but for money” Says my writing mentor. Also, a Polaroid by Damian Barr “So you can have a real camera” he said. I love the tools of journalism; I’m passionate about portraiture. Whether written or caged within the captured moments of a photograph, I’m lucky to be a witness to some cool vignettes of life and the tools the universe decided I could use to share the witness.
24. Back—My upper middle lower back tramp stamp. I got it when I was 18, before fashion lowered the waistline of jeans. Yes, it’s crooked. Yes, it’s like touching the 90’s, yes I am an old-school tramp.
25. Memorial—Carol Anne, a seemingly 12 foot tall redhead with big tits and a bigger smile. She was bulletproof and my hero. She wrote and sang and was a ginormous person. She was untouchable but loving. In the end, she was the only one who could destroy herself, and she did. She’s free now, and I pray she’s found some peace. I love you mom.
26. Most Painful—This flower by Kevin Cole behind my knee, hands down. It hurt worse than two cesareans, a near fatal car wreck, and a thousand ass-whoopings combined. It alone has made me re-think how I feel about numbing spray. I made up new cusswords and healing from it was no picnic either.
27. Nature—I little section of my leg made by John Chance. Earth, air, fire, water.
28. Impulse Bonafide Paperplane, made by Nick Coella. I was on my given day of ego, out to Chicago to celebrate another deadline of word and image finding its print destiny. And MIA song “Paper planes“ came on the radio. I thought it funny and in 6 seconds I made a decision to get “Bonifide” on me permanently because my hustle is as enduring as a paperplane, my existence a blip, and life a funny funny exchange. As big as we think we are, we are just a speck of dust in the dust storm of divine comedy.
29. Funny—It’s all incredibly funny.
30. Creepy—It’s all incredibly creepy.