September 24, 2006 A Tattoo in Billings

In this place No Smoking signs seem to be suggestions.

 I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the HP Lovecraft motel. The Strange Door, the Incredibly Colonial Lobby with its massive brass eagle, the No Smoking Suggestions, the “Antiques” and the strangely elongated Hallways. I am illustrating this entry with those instead of tasteful  shots  of my tattoo experience. Some things you need to just go and see for yourself–like getting a tattoo. (Click on the photos for a closer view, especially the lobby, carved animals on the floor next to the desk are awesome.)

That being said, My Expectation of Wonder outlook paid off today with an I-knew it-would-be-like -this event. I finally got my own tattoo. I had to mark this time in Billings as a life changer and what is more permanent than a tattoo?

You can't see all the glorious detail of brass and AMERICA in this shot but the eagle is pretty special.

I found my tattooist while driving around Billings. I made a mental note of three different such businesses I spotted-two were related to each other and the third was just scary. I telephoned the one that had gryphon statues in the flower beds out front. The whole thing just spoke to me; the shop was in a funky little house across from the high school and down the block from a cyber cafe. I talked to Chris, the owner, and was really surprised to find it should only take an hour or so and cost me about $50.

The Mysterious Door Which Is Never Opened at the top of the stairs.

Terry was being moved from the ICU to his new room when my appointment was supposed to begin. I stayed with him until we got him to the new room and settled in, then dashed the several blocks over to Bodyworks. I had drawn the feather from my silver feather bracelet and intended to take the design I was thinking of. Serendipity, I forgot it and let Chris design it for me. I laughed when I read the release–the part about I’m an artist and if you don’t get exactly what you were thinking it is because I’m an artist and you aren’t….I have the same thing in my release.

The hallways are really lonnnnngggg, and dotted with antiques that are chained in place.

The place had wooden floors, live plants and framed tattoo art up on the walls all around the room. Red washed walls and a vaguely Oriental theme finished off the place with the addition of the trainee kid eating a pizza on a tatt table in a side room. Some god-awful hard rock rap crap was playing which luckily for my twitchiness segued to Doors and other serious oldies. Chris was rightfully proud of the job he had done making the curtains and covering the chair–which looks like a dental recliner covered in dragons under clear plastic. He got the fabric at one of the two 24 hour Wal-Marts in town.

An Antique which is chained to the floor, as is the sewing machine down the hall. All painted white. Reminds of that old joke. If Michaelangelo had been straight the ceiling of the Sistine chapel would have been painted Navajo white with a roller.

He said they are building a third Wal-Mart, which is just plain scary. Billings is the last stop before you fall off the edge of the world and east of here is nothing but plains, wheat and wind for a very long way. People drive from Wyoming and the Dakotas to Billings to shop–at Wal-Mart. Amazing. They have a good sized mall opened until 9 on Saturdays–probably to accommodate those who drive from Wyoming and want to shop after 6.

 There are lots of big box stores; Borders, Ross, Linens and Things, Pier1, Best Buy, etc, etc. I get the feeling it’s like an old school “Let’s drive to town its Saturday night” thing gone twenty-first century. Families load up kids and dogs and drive 200 miles to go shopping for groceries, filling the pickup with hot dogs, toilet paper and whatever gets you through the month.

I digress. Chris sat down and drew a beautiful little white feather with a black tip and around the top is wrapped a little cord just like the one on my bracelet. The feather is slanted down like it was just dropped and landed gently on my leg to the right and three inches above the ankle on my right leg. It’s beautiful, feminine and delicate. Below it in really pretty script is the saying; Hope is a thing with feathers.

I had written the words out and Chris copied them, luckily he asked where they came from and I quoted the Emily Dickinson poem at which point he went back and crossed the “F”, he had it down as “Hope is a thing with leathers.” Hilarious, leathers are what bikers call our protective gear, chaps, jackets, vests etc., all usually made of tough leather. In this case that worked, Hope was wearing leathers!

 The tattoo itself felt like it does someone pries a splinter out of your finger, not terribly painful but enough to make you flinch. I am glad I did it and I love it.

Why a feather? Because I have a sterling silver bracelet that I almost always wear. I wear it when I ride my bike and have since Terry got it for me on our California ride two years ago. I laughed when I chose it in Amador City, California. I told Terry as long as I had my feather I could fly–ala Dumbo. The Brits have a saying that when you are broke you don’t have a feather to fly with. The Emily Dickinson quote I chose seemed apropos for the times I am living in, I do have boundless hope.

Another surreal footnote to this whole thing has been the experience of staying at the HP Lovecraft Inn, in reality the Cherry Tree Inn, but HP Lovecraft fits it so much better. Add to that getting a tattoo in company with my son in Billings, Montana. Corey has the 82nd airborne combat patch on his shoulder now, it looks very cool and marks a life changing experience for him as well.

Hope is always with me

Turns out our tattoo host (is that tattoast?) is a writer as well. He asked if as an artist I had writer friends. We were both delighted to talk to each other because being visual and writing is inseparable for us both. He doesn’t have a lot of outlets for his stuff in Billings and I know sometimes it is easier to share your writer’s soul with complete strangers than intimate friends. Corey and I said to email us some stuff. I wonder if he is any good? I really hope so–probably rough as hell but hopefully lots of potential.
And  now  that I have written this down I feel sleepy enough to go back to bed and stop worrying about what I cannot change and get a grip on what I can.

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