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A tattooing primer

Author: Tony
Posted: 27 Jun 2004

It's come to my attention that, every week, we here at Team Totally Awesome are giving you information about drugs and new (or classic) recipies for shots. And yet we've missed a key part in your education. Once you're tweaked to the gills on crystal meth or so drunk you can't see off kamikazies, what exactly are you going to do with yourself? My guess is some of you are going to go out and get a tattoo. And, seeing as I'm the resident authority on tattoos, I want to make sure you do it right and don't end up with something you'll hate for the rest of your life. So sit back, light a cigarette, and ready yourself to absorb the basic information about "getting inked."

1. Decide what you want to get inked. Proceed to do nothing.
Getting tattooed on a whim can lead to regret of the highest caliber. Trust me. There's nothing you want less in life than a picture of Taz from the Looney Toons permanently drawn on your bicep. It's not manly, it's not cool, it just sucks. Even a piece of tribal flash can be lame if you're armed with the knowledge that thousands of people in the world are also sporting an exact replica of your sign of individuality.

What you need to do is come up with with a design and do more than just sleep on it. Think about it for a good long while. Even go so far as to let it slip your mind. If after a few months or even a year the idea is still popping into your head, it's probably a good one. I'm still waiting on tattoos I had the idea for years ago. It's a pretty big commitment, so don't approach it lightly.

2. Do your research.
Not all tattoo artists are the same, and neither are all tattoo shops. Little booths on the street are probably not equipped to do custom work, which means you're only going to be able to get a piece of flash, which directly contradicts rule number one. So you're going to have to do a little fieldwork. Go to a variety of parlors, meet the artists, and look at their portfolios. Even if you spot someone who's style you like right away, don't settle immediately. There's always a chance you might find someone better or someone of equal skill you connect with more. Getting along with the artist is crucial because you're making a connection on a number of levels and you don't wanna fuck that up.

Also, be sure to ask about prices. The standard when I was actually paying for tattoos was forty to fifty dollars an hour for custom work, with a minimum charge of one hour. This directly segues into step three.

3. Always make the artist tell you the price.
Under no circumstance should you ever tell the artist how much you're prepared to spend. Tattoo artists are not getting paid by the hour. They get a cut of the price with the rest going to the shop, so it's in the artist's best interests to get you to spend as much as possible so they can get a bigger payday. Therefore, it's up to you to make sure that a price is quoted to you. Sometimes you deal with the artist and sometimes you deal with the shop owner, but whoever it is, don't let them trick you. I paid one hundred and fifty dollars each for the tats on my arms, and they're worth no more than fifty bucks, tops. And they're fucked up. I didn't have anyone like me to give me the heads up when I was wet behind the ears.

Aight. So, you've got your design, you've found a shop and an artist you like, and you have a price quote and an appointment. You're in the home stretch now, so don't fuck up step four.

4. Eat before the appointment, and do not go in fucked up.
Obviously, without food, things don't go well. You might pass out. This is no walk in the park. It's serious trauma to your body, so make sure you at least have a hot dog or something. It helps, trust me.

Now, about not going in fucked up. Any artist with a head on his shoulders will not tattoo someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so showing up in that state will almost guarantee that your appointment is going to be cancelled. There are other considerations, as well. Booze and drugs thin the blood which will, stay with me now, make you bleed more. This makes the artist's job harder, and it makes you all the more woozy once you're done, which is not something you should necessarily be wanting. Being lightheaded, combined with the waves of pain (no matter what anyone tells you, it does hurt more or less depending on where you get it) is not a feeling I recommend.

And, finally, using something to kill the pain takes something away from the experience. This is something you're getting for life. It should be, in some small way, emotional or spirtual for you. Walk, or limp, away from the tattoo parlor with the memory of what you're paying for.

Got a little preachy there for a second. Back to the matter at hand. You're done, you're inked, you think you're badass. But it's not over. The final step is:

5. Always tip your artist.
It's just polite, and it might get you in good for next time.

And so ends my lecture on tattooing. If you stick with these five simple rules, you should come out of it OK. It's an adventure, but well worth the rewards. Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

When that needle comes at you, remember not to flinch.

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