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I walked into Body Marks Tattoo and Piercing on El Cajon Boulevard, a few blocks from the 805 and right next to a strip club. At night, hookers are walking the streets. A perfect setting for ink. This is how they did it back in the day, when only sailors and prisoners got tats.

My eyes spot the Von Dutch flying eyeball. How many people have that and don’t even know the history behind it? I ask the tattoo artist, Nes, if there are copyright laws prohibiting him from inking something that is trademarked. “No,” he says, “but we can’t display them or advertise that we do, or we’d get into trouble.”

I see some amazing works of art, many of which I think would look horrible on your skin, no matter how impressive the picture is.

I look through the poster rack at a variety of symbols, animals, and nude women. I assume that animals are more popular with women, and nudes more popular with guys, although singer Amy Winehouse and writer Diablo Cody (Juno) both have old-style pinup girls tattooed on their arms.

I see a woman with a butterfly tattoo on her back looking at piercings in the display case. And a guy behind me is talking about getting another tattoo on his already-covered body. He says to two other customers, “I have my kids’ names. And Norwegian ruins on my back. My wife doesn’t mind ’em, as long as I don’t get naked redheaded chicks.”

A guy sitting there says, “So, your wife wouldn’t mind brunettes, just not redheads?”

The guy behind me laughs and says, “She’s a little Italian gal. You don’t want to piss them off. She knows I have a thing for redheads. But she’s cool about the tattoos. Even if I want one on my head.”

I hear a woman say that all the buzzing from the tattoos being applied reminds her of airplanes during World War II. She doesn’t look old enough to recognize the sounds of any war but the current one. The buzzing reminds me more of killer bees finally landing in our county, but instead of stingers and venom piercing the skin, it’s tattoo ink.

I find out from talking to the artists that it’s not really ink. “Most tattoo inks aren’t technically inks,” says Nes. “They’re composed of pigments that are suspended in a carrier solution. Contrary to popular belief, pigments usually are not vegetable dyes. Today’s pigments primarily are metal salts. Some pigments are plastics. There are probably some vegetable dyes. The pigment provides the color of the tattoo. The purpose of the carrier is to disinfect the pigment suspension, keep it evenly mixed, and provide for ease of application.”

I watch as he works on someone. He dips his needle into different inks, much the way a painter mixes colors. This is done to make some things lighter, others darker. You can get any color you can want, other than metallic colors, or glitter — which probably only affects the few women that want a unicorn picture from their childhood.

Nes says, “I can even do tattoos that are only visible under black light.”

When I interviewed Judas Priest singer Rob Halford years ago, it was the first time I had seen tattoos on someone’s head.

A guy walks in, a friend of Nes’s. The entire left side of his head says “The Price is Right” with the dollar symbol. I ask why he’d do that and he says, “Nes is the one that does all my tattoos. I wanted The Price is Right, because of Bob Barker leaving, and it’s sort of my motto, my way of life.”

“You’d surely get on the show if you showed up,” I say. But he disagrees. “They’d never let me on the show looking like this.” He holds up his arms, with sleeves of tattoos. He’s probably right. Disneyland kicked out that postal worker who has his body covered in Disney tattoos (this after he refused to put his shirt on).

In one of the books on the counter, I see that some people use their bodies’ features to create part of the tattoo. There’s a guy whose nipples are the eyes for a face on his chest. The face is surrounded by skulls.

A sign on the wall says “Notice — No ID, No Tattoo.” Aside from the obvious over-18 law, I wonder what the reason might be. Nes says, “The health department likes to be able to keep track of everything. If something breaks out, it’s all documented.”

I glance around the shop and see a huge picture of a guy with the tattoo “UN Armed” on his knuckles. It reminds me of being backstage at an Ozzy show, seeing his name tattooed on his fingers.

There are skateboards on the wall, and I’m told that once in a while, someone has a sticker on their board that they want tattooed.

As we talk, Nes pauses. He asks me to sign a form, seeming reluctant. I remember when a morning radio show I once worked for had us skydive live on the air. The form for that said: “If you die, your family can’t sue us.” It freaked me out.

This form had all the things you’d expect regarding lawsuits, hepatitis, heart conditions, epilepsy, and bleeding disorders. The part about “use of photograph of the tattoo” makes sense. Some might be reluctant. A few years ago I read a story about Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace being sued. He has a tattoo on his right arm that was being displayed in Nike ads. The artist didn’t look at this as free advertisement for his work. He was just miffed he was paid less than $500 and that he didn’t benefit from the exposure.

The form also states that you can’t have any physical or mental impairments. But is someone who’s mentally impaired even aware that they are? Does agreeing to have my body tattooed, in my late 30s, with a woman’s initials, put me in that category? I signed it.

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Comments

LennyBruceHoliday March 19, 2008 @ 2:42 p.m.

The tattoo industry is about ready to be set on its collective ear. But you wouldn't have known it by reading this story.

As the author wrote this article he did so with his head up his you know what. His article touches upon things like old tattoos that start to fade, and the human conditions that a tattoed person might experience, and the "cover ups" that pad the wallets of tattoo parlors. Human conditions like regret and a sorry form of reflection that many people feel many years later after the tattoo is put on their body.

There is a new ink that will be released any day now that is going to radically change the way we look at tattoos. The tattoo artists, shop owners, dermatologists and those who sport tattoos will all be strongly affected by this new ink. It was dumb of the author of this article not to mention this soon to be unleashed ink. This new tattoo ink is called Freedom-2.

I'm 66 years old. I've always sorta wanted a tattoo but was never really sure. I read where 1 out of 5 people who get a tattoo later get it removed. That's a whole lot of regret going on. That is why I never got a tattoo. Cause I might regret it. I figured that I could be that one person out of the five. People should know that the tattoo removal industry is a big one. A huge one. Almost as big as the viagra pill industry and I'm not joking because I researched the subject online.

But now that they have the Freedom-2 ink I've decided to go ahead and get a tattoo. Just as long as my local west San Diego tattoo parlor has it in stock. The Freedom-2 ink sounds just like what the doctor ordered. The wifey might get a tattoo now, too.

CONTINUED BELOW

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LennyBruceHoliday March 19, 2008 @ 2:46 p.m.

And if my local parlor gives me any harsh lip because I want to use Freedom-2 ink, I'll ask him point blank if he's being paid off by the dermatologist industry. It's a lot less work (meaning less sessions) to remove a tattoo made with Freedom-2 ink and that means less money in the pockets of the dermatologists. As the article mentioned, some tattoos tend to fade. Fading will no longer be an issue with Freedom-2. All it'll take is just one session to erase it - compared to 4 or 5 sessions with regular ink - and then that person can have a new one put on.

A tattoo parlor owner will diss Freedom-2 ink by whipping out the, "a tattoo is meant to stay on a persons body forever and therefore Freedom-2 sucks so I refuse to stock it on the shelf because I'm true to my art" card. Bunk.

He's not telling you the truth because parlor owners make a great deal of money from doing cover ups. If you use Freedom-2 ink, cover ups will be a thing of the past. Suffice to say that both the dermatologists and the tatto parlor owners do not think highly of Freedom-2 ink because they stand to lose money from it. Harvard University, on the other hand, studied Freedom-2 and have nothing but good things to say about it. I posted the link to the Harvard University study at the bottom of this post.

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LennyBruceHoliday March 19, 2008 @ 2:50 p.m.

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE - END OF POST:

Whoever my wife and I chooses to put tattoos on our body, that San Diego parlor better offer Freedom-2 ink or I'm gonna take my business elsewhere. If you're having a tough time finding a tattoo parlor in San Diego that offers Freedom-2 ink to the customer, tell the parlor that you'll only use Freedom-2 ink and if they don't stock it you'll go to a tattoo parlor that does. That's what I'm gonna do.

It's all about supply and demand. The bigger the demand the sooner they'll wake up and start using Freedom-2 ink. Finally, someone should introduce the author of this article to the Internet. If he had done his research he could not have helped but run into the many Google page citations relating to Freedom-2 tattoo ink. Also, all of what I've written is old news. Freedom-2 was introduced to the media back around 2005 or 2006.

Peace.

informative article on freedom-2 ink from harvard university: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/10.19/13-tattoo.html

straight from the horses mouth: http://www.freedom2ink.com/

three more related freedom-2 articles: 1) http://www.squidoo.com/freedom2tattooink 2) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/24/MNGLLN35S21.DTL 3) http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2007-07-19-tatoo-combustible-ink_N.htm

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Josh Board March 20, 2008 @ 2:33 a.m.

Those were all interesting points. But, my story wasn't doing a big investigational piece into all the various inks available. I was well aware of tattoos you can get that only last 6 months, and a few other things, that weren't in the article. Also, I tend to disagree with you about tattoo shops not stocking the stuff. I remember when lasik surgeries became all the rage, and my eye doctor was talking patients out of them (now, that made me think, he was just worried that people would no longer be going to him for contact lenses or glasses). But, the tattooing industry is SOOOO huge now, I doubt an ink like this will change anything. There are so many foolish people that want to get inked, and at such an early age...even if they have an ink that's easy to remove, the shops won't be hurting for business.

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