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Mark, Jason, Meghan, And Alex
Happy Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know that this blog is late, and yes I know that Thanksgiving was earlier in the week, but let’s just go with it. It’s been a busy (ish) week. Let’s blame it on the turkey and the loud family and the cranberries and the stuffing with the pineapple in it. We’ll blame it on making sure all of my Facebook friends got a message (which I’m not sure I sent out any), and making sure I get the texts all responded and sent. We’ll also blame it on the only renewable natural resource in the world: laziness. I’m pretty lazy. Oh, and video games. We can definitely blame it on Skyrim, right Jim?
Time to be thankful and all of that bullshit. I try not to have holiday-centric blogs, which is kind of a lie because I always do these kind of things, but the idea of thankfulness is a valuable one. Thanksgiving is an odd holiday to me because, since I’m an Italian Catholic, I tend to believe that holidays have no value unless they have some sort of religious connection. Like some beheaded saint or the feast day of someone whose backstory I don’t know well enough. But Thanksgiving is different. Thanksgiving is a holiday in which every American can participate. Christmas and Halloween and Easter are different because some people don’t celebrate them because of faith or lake thereof. Thanksgiving is for every American, faithful or not. That makes it unique to me. Like Independence Day. Unless you’re one of those insane domestic anarchists who hate America but don’t leave the country. We won’t get into that.
So it’s important to tell people that you are thankful for them. Yeah, I know; it’s important to express your thankfulness toward things like health and knowledge and safety and other conceptual things. But knowledge doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy when you tell it you’re thankful for it. People do.
Who do you tell, then? Family, girlfriends, friends of course. People at jobs whom you see everyday. The coffee people, the guy at McDonald’s, the Wawa girl, the crossing guard, the bus driver. Of course we are thankful for these people, and of course our lives are enriched for their being. There are also those people in your reality that help you be you and that help you find comfort in you, and those people are to be thanked.
My mod artists are these people, and I’m thankful for them. Who else would I be talking about? Keep up, kids. Chiefly, with some errant exceptions, I’ve had four mod artists for whom I am very thankful. Jason Simmons, Meghan Patrick, Alex Feliciano, and Mark Raffensperger. Without these four people, I don’t think I’d have ever come to the closeness of the comfort I’ve found in my skin. Jason and Mark, master piercers both with similar qualities. Patient, calm, precise, and technically perfect. I can’t count how many times these cats have poked holes in my skin, but each time was a joy and an easily wonderful experience. Meghan and Alex, true modern painters of skin in the realm of the great Italian masters. Again, these two are the best tattoo artists with whom I have ever sat down and had a cup of coffee, real students of the game, and practitioners of technical and creative work.
Why am I thankful for these people? Well, of course because of the work that they do. It is beautiful and precise and perfect. But also because of what is within the ink and jewelry. There’s something in there that they put so gingerly and softly, and they don’t even know that they did it. It’s that which makes the thanks to them forever hallow and never good enough.
What is it within the ink, then. Freedom. How American is that to say on this American holiday, right? The freedom to understand myself aesthetically in a way from which I have been banned most of my life. Yeah, I know this is supposed to be a thing about these mod artists who changed my life, but I’m going to talk about myself for a second. Becks likes when I do that. The body is a thing that I hate with a vehemence indescribable. It’s a broken machine that has corroded exponentially since the first time I stepped into Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia back in 1986 or so. That’s right, ’86. Probably before some of you were born. I’m old, kids. My body has been a tool for woe and misery ever since. Pain, kids. It’s strange. I watch a lot of movies, and movies tend to stock a bevy of people whose bodies are the archetype of what all of our bodies should be. Maybe I should stop watching Bruce Lee movies; that cat was gorgeous. So I see these people with working bodies, the way they were designed to be, and I think to myself that mine is different and ruined. That sounds very teenaged girl of me, but looking onto like things often becomes looking into a looking glass of self. Here’s the work looking again.
So I find modification. Modification. Even the word is special. Changing. Things that change are interesting and mystic things, aren’t they? Yeah, OK; we’re not talking about Jame Gumb here. But changing, becoming something that you aren’t. A positive change. A worm into a moth. A fetus into a person. A dark and dripping ink into a wonderful story. Modification. Quite a fantastic thing. I found it, and I modified my body into something in which I can live and be closer to comfortable. These people, these artists of modification, gave me my comfort back; they gave me my freedom to enjoy myself back; they gave me a gift of confidence; and most of all, they gave me a gift of beauty that I had never had before. It is quite difficult to feel beautiful when you’re seven years old and naked on a metal x-ray table while an old man with spiced cologne (“the kind with a ship on the bottle” name that book) runs his latex gloved fingers and sharp metal tools over your spine and the places that you’re supposed to hide from everyone else. There’s no beauty there. There, you’re just a husk of biological material in which a soul lives and fuels your decaying engine.
And then, much later in life, I meet people who celebrate the body instead of examine it. They dance with color inside of it, rather than open it up with loud machines and sharp tools designed for dissection. I was introduced to people who don’t hate their bodies, but rather laud them and share them and decorate them because they love them. What a foreign idea to me. You mean, you don’t hate your machine? You mean, you want people to look at your body, you want to share it and smile and laugh and enjoy it? I didn’t think people did that.
Mark, Jason, Meghan, and Alex showed me that it was OK to enjoy my body, and for that, I am eternally grateful and thankful. And if they read this and think that this entire thing is a hyperbole, then two things are true. One is that they are humble and honest to what they do. The other is that they are wrong; there is no hyperbole. These artists gave me my life back just by doing what they are gifted to do. There is nothing I can do to repay them for it, and hopefully they will understand the gravity of what they do for some people. Not all people, of course. Some people just want a duck holding a pistol shooting Santa riding a horse off of a diving board on their shoulder. And that’s special too. In… Other ways.
So go tell your artists that you’re thankful for what they do. They are giving you things not easily acquired. Like individuality, greater sense of self, confidence, and an invitation into a culture and society that (ought to and often does) welcomes all shapes and conditions of bodies. Even if they are rusted and damaged machines like mine. Stay beautiful, kids.
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