“I’d like to see more people taking care of themselves and the planet.”
Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me. Perhaps being born on May 13th is a contributor to my choice of fortunate digits, or maybe because I got my first driver’s license on Friday the 13th (and am happy to say my DMV record is stellar), are both good reasons for my affinity towards this ominous numerical value.
But I learn something new tonight. 13 is a special number in the tattoo world. Don’t know why, it just is. So when, on day 113, I stumble upon a tattoo parlor in suite 113, I take notice.
How did I get here?
I am never without my 365 kit, it goes with me everywhere, and tonight is no exception as my family and I commute to the wedding reception of a best friend’s son. I’m behind the wheel and, with an hour gained via my eighty-mile-an-hour freeway cockiness, we find ourselves at the reception venue with an hour to spare. With thumbs twiddling, my lovely better-half (got to love her), encourages me, “We have an hour to spare, lets find your 365.”
Here we are again, car-constricted family outing, and looking for a 365 friend. Man! I’m going to owe my familia BIG TIME when this thing concludes on September 9, 2012.
I find myself a little lost, not sure where to go, as we cruise down Beach Boulevard. This is not (in the adapted lyrics of Frank Sinatra), my part of town.
Feeling a little road weary from a foggy-sky commute, it’s hard for me to scan the area. Honestly, I’m really quite out-of-my-element, when, as we pass an obscure tiny strip mall, my wife does a passenger seat sit up, “Stop there!”
She points, directing my 45-mile an hour glance to a tattoo parlor, which is somewhat hidden in the shadows. I don’t really see it, but I’m in. I’ve been married for 18 years and am happy to share a key for a happy married life. Get your note pad and pencil. Here it is…“When the misses speaks, listen, she is usually right.”
Tonight my Lovely is right on. I’m dubbing her, “The 365 divining rod.”
We park and find ourselves settled in front of Players Club Tattoo Parlor. Now, the tattoo experience is one that I have never partaken of, but at first sight, there is something magnetic about this 365 prospect. I kill the engine and turning to my family, “Guys I’ll be right back, want to check the place out before I grab my gear… probably best for you to wait here.” (I’m telling you, I’m going to owe these ladies).
The place is buzzing (no tattoo gun pun intended), and I hang in the reception for a second before I am met by one of the partners of the establishment. I quickly tell him about the project, and that I am on day 113. He patiently listens and responds, “Follow me.”
We head towards the front door… I guess I’m getting tossed out…
How wrong I am! We round the front door and he points to the number of his suite… 113.
He nods at me, “Let’s do it.”
Coincidence or fate? Who knows. But bottom line, we are both thinking that suite 113 on day 113 is telling us something.
My new friend, JJ, is right in the middle of creating arm art on one of his customers (a very detailed fish), but even in the middle of work, he still invites me to chat with them as they go on. It’s around 6pm and they have been at it since 4:30pm, so I just promise to settle in beside them in allowing them to continue as I conduct my interview.
The place is very chill, but the music, pole-dancing mannequin, and wall art are way over the head of my nine-year-old, so to the car I go to break the news of another car wait and to grab my camera bag.
I’ve said it a bunch; I owe them. But on the other hand, they too are growing with me in 365. I guess we are the new Three Musketeers of outreach, “All for All, and All for All.” I’ll get back to you with the theme music later. (Yeh, Radstone, we believe you.)
With family patiently waiting, once again in auto bliss, I get my first lesson about the tattoo community; “Tattoos are more than art, they are statements to the character of the wearer.” I do not publish the name of JJ’s customer, yet the few comments he shares with me regarding his tattoo are impactful.
“Why a fish?” I ask him.
“It has a lot of meaning in the Asian culture and I have chosen it because its virtues are important to me,” he responds.
Those virtues: Good fortune, strength in adversity, ambition, aspiration, and determination.
I don’t know this man, but by the tone of his delivery of his explanation, I know his reason behind his choice of tattoo art is for a good purpose. New customer friend, I appreciate the education.
So here I am, observing a tattoo in progress. No time better than now to ask question one.
“What words of wisdom do you have for my readers?” We bounce a few ideas and settle on one very strong statement.
With a confident smile, JJ gives us this, in Latin: “Sic Vis Pacem Para Pellum.”
If you know Latin, great! If not, keep reading, I’ll give you its translation later.
I’m careful to not distract JJ too much from the tattoo he is applying as he talks. His customer is very cool, and even though I can see him striving to stay focused on staying still (and, I’m guessing, keeping his mind off the needle), the last thing I want to do is be the one responsible for a mistake—because, after all, there is no erasing in tattooing, and I assume a serious butt-kicking to the distractor who causes one.
Question one down, on to number two:
“Where would you like to see the world, yourself, or any combination of the two in the next five, ten, twenty, or beyond years?”
Remember, JJ is concentrating deeply on the tattoo he is applying. “I just want to make it past 2012.”
That’s right. There are a bunch of predictions floating out there. Here is a link I found that lists what many are prophesying.
JJ shares one more, “I’d like to see more people taking care of themselves and the planet.”
We all agree big time on that one.
I’m thinking we’re done with the interview and ask my last beat, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
“I’m good, but you may want to ask some of the other guys.”
Catches me completely off guard. This studio rocks! Tattoo world, I’m loving your community. And even though not all want to be photographed, all contribute.
From Capone (he has chosen not to be photographed):
“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
There is no photo for you, but this is my take away of the guy, “He is a mountain of humility, life experience, and brainpower.”
Standing next to him is Niz. He looks at Capone, “Come correct or don’t come at all!” he says.
Not being sure what his statement refers to, I ask him to elaborate.
He is talking about professionalism,
“It ain’t about looking pretty, it’s about sitting pretty. People don’t realize what we do. We are not like what is shown on TV. We are professional, working every day, and we know a lot of things.”
Being an artist myself, I can relate to what Niz is saying. It is simply this, “Yah, we are artistic, but we are also businessmen, fathers, and husbands doing our best to make a living. In his poetic sentence, “It ain’t about looking pretty, it’s about sitting pretty,” Niz is referring to responsibility and respect of the community. I like this dude.
Last on deck is Dominic, JJ’s business partner.
He comes out of the blocks with, “Do what you love?”
“We’ve talked about that a lot in 365,” I mention to him. And though this statement has been a constant through-line in 365, it’s never old to hear. Yet, I challenge him to think a little more about the statement.
Dominic hits a home run in expanding on the premise.
“Don’t settle, never get too content, and always shoot for the stars,” he calmly expresses.
Let me expand. In this simple improvised phrase, Dominic has shaken all of us. What he is saying is this. The evolution of a person is never-ending. He has given us permission to reach high, to not only push ourselves but also to never stop looking, even when we are content. I’ve seen it time and time again, friends, neighbors, and family saying, “I’m bored, I don’t know what to do now. Or suffering from the chronic, “I’m tired bug.” Wealthy or not, I’ve seen it, and Dominic, with his in-the-moment premise, has given us a soulful means to act upon.
“Don’t settle, never get too content, and always shoot for the stars.” Killer stuff!
Dominic’s wish for the future? In the perfect form of the spirit of Players Club, “I hope everybody is successful in meeting the goals they want to meet.”
I’ve been schooled again… for almost ninety-minutes I have communed with men of wisdom. At one point I laughingly shared, “This is not a tattoo parlor, it’s a ministry, proclaiming the Gospel of Community.”
All smiled, paused for a flash, and resumed their work.
But kidding aside, A Hispanic friend of mine told me once of a cultural philosophy, “The truth is in between the humor.”
Men and customers of Players Club, “Thank for allowing me in, lack of tats and all.”
Oh! The translation to JJ’s Latin:
“If you want peace, prepare for war”
For information go to www.playersclubtattoo.com