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Nes smiles. He refrains from rolling his eyes when I tell him what I want. I say, “I thought the AC/DC logo would look cool, but with my initials, and my girlfriend’s.” I beat him to the punch by adding, “I know you’ve probably done a lot of cover-up tattoos on names, right?” Nes says, “I’ve done names, and a year later, I’m doing a tattoo over that when they’re dating someone else. I say ‘I told you.’ ”

The few tattoo artists here tell me cover-ups look great. Certain things like roses work well, because there’s so much going on it obscures the original tattoo. They all agree that cover-ups of previous tattoos are among the most common thing they do.

The tattoo is going to have our initials “KB/JB” with a lightning bolt in between. I have a huge scar across my stomach, and I want the lightning bolt to start at the scar.

Nes goes in back and draws the logo, looking at one of the album covers I brought in. He draws on tracing paper, and asks me what I think, before it gets put on my skin.

He cleans the area he’ll work on and slips on latex gloves. I say, “I guess you don’t spell names wrong, if you’re showing the person it first.” He says, “No, I never have. I have heard of people that have done Chinese characters wrong, and it spells something completely different.” I mention the story of Britney Spears in 2002. She got a kanji (Chinese characters used in a Japanese form of writing) that she thought meant “mysterious.” It actually meant “strange.” No joke needed there.

A young African-American kid is standing nearby with his friend. He’s a graffiti artist that goes by “Oper.” He says, “There’s a funny clip of Tupac Shakur giving shit to someone in his posse. The guy had a Chinese character, and Tupac said, ‘You don’t even know what that means! It probably says “two egg rolls” or something.’ ”

I ask Oper if he wants to get into tattooing, and he says he does. He’s 19, and I ask how many tattoos he has. “I don’t have any yet,” he says. “I haven’t decided what I want. But Nes has tattooed my mom. She had ‘older sister’ written in Chinese symbols. I’ve drawn a few, like my cousin’s skull. It’s graffiti-style. And I did lilies for my girlfriend that he tattooed on her.”

I asked if artists like Peter Max or Banksy have work that looks nice tattooed. Neither of them know who Max is, but Oper says, “Yeah, man, Banksy is dope. He’s got great stencils.”

At this point, a liquid is smeared on my skin. It’s green soap, and every tattoo shop uses it, and smells like it. It’s used both in the prep process and to clean the area afterward. It reminds me of an aroma you’d get in the hospital.

The tattooing gets underway. Nes asks, “How is it feeling?” and I say, “Not as bad as I thought. But I’ve donated 14 gallons of blood, so needles don’t bother me.” He says, “Well, I just did a few little lines first, so we could ease into it.”

When he kicks it up a notch, I can feel a burning and pinching sensation. It’s odd to see so much stretching of the skin. I notice there’s a lot of scrubbing, too. I’ve broken my arms four times over the years, and they would do that to clean an area of the skin. In tattooing, it’s used to fill in an area with ink.

I notice the ceiling tiles all have different graphics. “That’s a good idea,” I say. “You can give people ideas for future work.” Nes laughs and says, “That’s more to take people’s mind off the pain.” I glance down and see blood, and I ask, “Do certain people bleed different than others?” He says, “Yeah. It seems red-haired guys with pale skin bleed a lot more.”

I ask about tattoos on various races, if it’s more popular in any one culture, especially with so many hip-hop artists and rappers sporting ink. “No,” says Nes. “It’s pretty much popular everywhere now. Maybe less so in Asian cultures.”

Nes doesn’t do anything racist or gang related.

Oper’s friend says, “Man, I can’t believe you’re just talking and taking notes while this guy is tattooing you.” Oper says, “Yeah. When people usually have their first tattoo, they’re clutching something or squirming a lot. But it’s good you aren’t. Nes won’t finish on someone that’s crying.”

I ask if it’s common for people to freak out over the pain. Nes says, “Sometimes. I once was doing a dolphin on this woman. She thought it hurt so much, she wouldn’t let me finish. I had just done the tail. I tried to convince her to let me at least do the outline of it, but she wouldn’t.”

One thing he doesn’t try to talk people out of is stupid tattoos.

“If people know what they want, they obviously think it’s cool. If somebody has a real elaborate picture I might [try to talk them out of it]. Not because I can’t do it, but if it’s something like a ship, with a bunch of intricate lines, they’ll eventually bleed under the skin and it’ll be mess. You won’t be able to tell what certain things are. Lines always end up connecting if they’re too close together. When you tell them it’s too detailed, they usually say that’s what they liked about it. Sometimes I’ll try to talk a woman out of having a fairy tattooed on her stomach. I tell them it’s not going to look so good after time.”

What are the most painful areas?

“Where you are getting it done, on the side and stomach, and any part that bends — like the elbow or wrist. The upper arm is probably the least painful.”

I look down again, and think he should be farther along then he is. I notice beads of sweat on his bald head and ask if I’m distracting him by talking. He says no, so I continue.

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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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