When I was a child, there was an annual festival in town called Conejo Valley Days. It included a rodeo, parade and my favorite, a carnival. I loved carnivals! Rides, music, lots of colored sparkly lights (the latter was particularly appealing during my teenage druggie years). I couldn’t get enough of them. Whenever we passed a carnival in the car I would curse my parents under my breath because my pleas to stop, just for a little while, were always met with a resounding “no”. Such cruelty.
I was always taken by the carnies who operated the rides. Who were these people? Where did they come from? A lot of them were adorned with tattoos. They were mysterious and edgy. I wanted to be a tattooed carny! I wanted so much to be mysterious and edgy, traveling to strange exotic places, staying up all night operating rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl, Toboggan and my all-time favorite The Zipper. Of course this fantasy quickly faded upon the realization that I kinda liked having a roof over my head, regular hot meals and the option to bathe any time I wanted. I also came to terms with the fact that I’m pretty much “Bob the white guy”. I’m not mysterious nor am I edgy. I’m milquetoast.
However, the tattoo fantasy never diminished. I was fascinated by them. As a young adult, I noticed a lot of gay men had tattoos. I was attracted to that. There was something about a tattooed hunk that was appealing to me. I have this thing for men and masculinity.
You can have androgynous David Bowie any day. I’ll take Henry Rollins.
I was never into boys my own age. I liked men and when I say men I mean manly men. (Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?)
The young blond skinny twink who worked at Hanover Shoes in the Oaks Mall (Yes, I just described myself.) never did it for me but the beefy, stubbly-faced UPS driver with thick furry legs and strong tattooed arms caught my eye every single time. How I wished I could be like that. I loathed being a twink.
I became obsessed with getting inked. There were only two problems. One, I wasn’t the type of cool person who could pull it off. Two, I had no idea what to get. I didn’t want some off-the-shelf thing branded on my person. I wanted something that was truly unique. Something that was an absolute expression of me.
This kept me from getting a tattoo for years. By the time I was ready to actually get one, something had changed. Everyone had a tattoo! They were ubiquitous and for me that was a deal breaker. Tattoos were no longer edgy and mysterious. Having a tattoo didn’t set you apart from the rest of the world, it assimilated you into the Borg.
Resistance is futile.
I decided to forget about it…until I moved to the Arizona desert, grew a stache, turned forty, got a motorcycle and started being addressed as “Sir” or “Daddy” by young gay beard boys (so glad that shaved-body-bleach-blond-Ken-doll phase is over). I have to admit I’m kinda digging the Sir/Daddy thing. Even though I’m at the zenith of my mid-life
crisis re-evaluation, there are a few perks to getting older.
So once again, getting a tattoo became an obsession for me. I started thinking about designs. I’m a left-handed Sagittarius. Something on my left arm with a centaur would be cool. I came up with a unique idea along those lines but could not think of a way to make it happen. Still working on it — have been for a while now but I’m not in a rush because a couple of weeks ago, I was suddenly inspired for a new idea by a hummingbird.
Ray and I have noticed this summer that we have a hummingbird that appears to have chosen our place for its home. It likes to rest on a little branch high up on the olive tree in our front yard as well as another little tall branch on one of the mesquite trees in our backyard. It’s very territorial. Whenever other hummingbirds come into the yard, it buzzes around making all sorts of noises and chases them away. Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds are kinda bad-ass.
I have an appreciation for 78 RPM records. I have always been a music fan and have a small collection of 78s that I occasionally play on my old Pathe Brothers phonograph. One evening I was having a cocktail in the pool. I was thinking about tabletop phonographs and how they have the big horn that looks like a flower. Suddenly the hummingbird buzzed past and this totally random image hit me; a hummingbird drinking the music/nectar from the phonograph horn/flower. That would be a cool tattoo.
That would be a cool tattoo!
I went online and started searching for images of tattoo hummingbirds and phonographs. Then I went to work in Photoshop.
I decided to get this one on my right arm. It took four and a half hours. It really didn’t hurt much…at first. The last hour was, well, needles jabbing into an open wound repeatedly at a high rate of speed. What the fuck do you think?
I’m very happy with it. It’s mine. I made it. It’s very, very me. By the way, Lopaka is Hawaiian for Robert (my first name). Lopaka Lounge is not only the name of my website (which wasn’t always a blog), it’s the name of my studio where I create music, photography and other multimedia projects. I still plan to have my other arm tattooed with my other design. It’s in the works. I’m not in a hurry. Hell, I waited forty-something years for this one. In my opinion, the key thing about getting a tattoo is to take your time. Make the right design choice. Try to come up with something original. At one point during my tattoo, we overheard some woman come in the shop and say, “Oh my God! Tinkerbell! I want Tinkerbell!” I looked down at Zach and said, “I bet you fucking hate that.” He stopped, looked down shaking his head and said, “Yeah”.
Many people warned me about getting a tattoo. “You’re going to regret it when you get old!” These were all people who don’t have one. The only regret I have ever heard about a tattoo was the style or design not the tattoo itself.
I went to Zach at Sacred Art Tattoo in Tucson. He was awesome. I plan to have him do my next tattoo. Oh yeah, one other thing: Tip your tattoo artist. This is how they make a living.