There’s A Lil’ Devil In Him
I am a stubborn and rule oriented person. There’s no story here; I just thought I’d share a little about myself. I like order and quiet. I would be a very fair juror. Also, I’ve found a new appreciation recently for Eskimo Pies. Those fuckers are delicious. Dark chocolate coating, though. Milk chocolate is for pussies. Wow, reading this back, I’ve senselessly used profane words. I’m sure my mom is going to be real happy about that. I love you, mom. Another interesting note; today is flag day, which is the anniversary of my parents’ first date. I guess that’s not really about me, but it’s interesting. It’s not? Get to the rant? Fine, you impatient children.
People doing good things for other people. That’s something we all strive toward, isn’t it? Well, it ought to be. Outside of the law of the land, outside of the code of morality laid by whatever faith you’ve chosen, outside of how your fiance makes you behave around your friends. Doing right by people solely for the purpose of the doing. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
I was only in Denver once. Most of that time was spent with my buddy Sean in the airport waiting for our flight. And by ‘most of that time,’ I mean ‘sixteen hours.’ The day before we did end up spending time in Colorado, which was excellent and a time I’ll never forget. Jim, Sean and I went to visit Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum. I’d recommend if you’re in the neighborhood. This really has nothing to do with the doing right thing I was talking about, but there’s a tattoo shop in Denver that is doing right by people. A place called That Scary Place Tattoo.
Aside from having an awesome name, the joint features a cat named Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein. Lil’ Devil is doing right by people by donating (that’s not charging) his time to those with gang tattoos. He covers them up on his own time as a way to contribute to society. It is a way for him to give back to the community and help those who have had gang relationships rehabilitate.
Before I applaud Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein for his work, let’s talk about gang tattoos for a minute. Tattoo has been a very important element in the culture of street gangs and biker gangs. Common sense shares a bit of the significance. Large tattoos often translate seniority, and visible tattoos tell onlookers something specific that the wearer wishes to share. The teardrop tattoo has become super common. They come filled or hollow. Hollow representing a dead family or gang member; the filled means the wearer has taken a life. Since prison culture forbids crying, these are a way for the inmates to share the pain associated with crying. Most gangs have a specific image that represents them. For example, the City Knights often wear a knight chess piece. The Sin City Boys will wear this gangster hatted smoking rabbit thing with a bow tie. Most gangs will also incorporate gothic lettering of the letters of their gang. The world of gang mods is terribly fascinating. Dig www.gangink.com for images and interesting stories.
So there’s that. Getting back to Denver. Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein is doing some interesting things. As owner and artist at That Scary Place Tattoo, he’s helping those who want a fresh start. The article I read shared the story of a cat out on probation for gang related crimes. Realizing that having a family and a life outside of the gang is what would get his life back on track, the former gang member went to Klein’s shop. There, Klein turned a bulldog prison tattoo into a beautiful work of art. For free. The former gang member swelled with pride, and remarked that he is happy to not have to cover his arms when he takes his children to the park.
What is Klein’s motivation? A friend of his was marked for death by a gang, and the guy had to move from Cali to Colorado. The gang looked for him in a wonderfully Batman detective type way. Instead of describing the fleeing former gang member, they spread the word of his modifications, which Klein says is more identifying than a photo. Klein covered his friend’s tattoo as a way for his friend to escape the heat of the gang, and for his friend to begin to start a new, gang free life. Since this experience, Klein has worked with local police to find those who wish to abandon the gang lifestyle, and has covered countless gang mods. He remarks that he is most proud of covering a large, swastika themed back piece into a serene koi pond.
Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein is a person in our culture who is doing great things. He is a man who understands the vast psychology of tattoo modification and the significance it carries. We mod to be beautiful, don’t we. The most of us, at least I hope so, modify because we choose to decorate our bodies with beautiful artwork that exemplifies our interests, beliefs, likes, and loves. Sometimes, I myself forget that there are those who use modification as a very different tool. They use it to share with onlookers their kinship to things like hate, segregation, and violence. A stigma on our culture perpetuates through these types of tattoo collectors. It is one that makes those who don’t fully understand or enjoy our culture believe that we are those with the interests of hate and violence. This is a stigma that we need to continue to help change by our positive involvement in community and education. Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein is a person who is taking this involvement into a very positive proaction. By acknowledging the importance that these gang mods have to people, and understanding that his changing these mods to a something that has a more positive influence on those around them, Klein is facilitating a peacefulness, a celebration of beauty, and an endorsement of the willingness to change a life. How simple it is to be reminded of a life of a scoundrel, and equally simple is to change that reminder into one of a life of a dad, a lover, a son, daughter, or productive member of society. Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein is doing very important things in our culture, and should be recognized for his positive contributions to society.
I often rant about how we modify for ourselves, and how our mods are for our own beautification. I often say that if those strangers around you don’t understand the purposefulness of your modifications, then their ignorance is preventing them from something beautiful. In that, I often forget to recognize that things like gang mods exist. These are sharing purposefully with strangers ideas of hate and intolerance. The man or woman reformed yet still with these reminders have such a roadblock to overcome in their feeling confidant, productive, and valuable. A part of me will honestly think, “Fuck them; they’re criminals and they deserve to be reminded.” Another part of me is a cheerleader of the repentance and absolution of anyone who recognizes his sins and wish to reform. To them, I celebrate their willingness to become something they have not been before, and in that, they are beautiful. Here’s to Chris “Lil’ Devil” Klein for his positive contributions to our wonderful and beautiful culture. Stay beautiful, kids.
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