May 31, 2007

While I Was Out

tattoo_back.jpg
The Sun rises over the Moon. What's not to like.

One of the useful things about going away is that when you come back everything seems new. I'd been taking things for granted in Seattle over the endless winter. Even the strangest environment after awhile can come to seem almost normal. Yes, even

Seattle, a city which -- really -- is populated by taking the Northwest by its southeast corner, raising it up at about 45 degrees and shaking it. Everything loose simply rolls into Seattle, including, I confess, me.

Still, it does help to be able to review your environment with fresh eyes for a day or so.

Case in point, current body modification levels of my fellow citizens.

I was quite aware that for Seattle females and shemales above the age of consent the floral or symmetrical tattoo applied at the base of the spine just above the buttocks had gone from a fashion elective to mandatory. I was also aware that panicked women above the age
when they should know better were running out to get them lest they be utterly ignored. But "while I was out" it seems that the "butt-crack tats" had strangely metastasized.

With the coming of hot weather and the evaporation of the layers of fetid fleece that encase most Seattlites, it has become normal to see women and others wandering about the vegetable section of the local Whole Foods with whole murals celebrating their strange gods, stranger boy/girl friends and, yes, even "Mom" stained into vast expanses of their skin. In addition, the tat at the crack chakra seems to have been joined by a number of odd symbols inked into the neck at the base of the skull. I suppose that at some point the ink below will connect to the ink above an all will be revealed. At the same time, these personal narratives that many seem committed to displaying to their fellow Seattlites seem, in their proliferation, to be designed to elicit not shock but shrugs; strange scent trails made visible so that one group of badgers can tell their members from all other badgers.

I recall reading Ray Bradbury's 1951 story cycle, "The Illustrated Man," some years after it was published. The stories are derived from animated tattoos drawn on a vagrant's body by "a woman from the future." It seemed then like a marvelous and exotic conceit for a series of tales. I didn't then imagine, nor I think did Bradbury, that within 60 years we'd be surrounded by fellow Americans who just couldn't stop themselves by telling everyone their own tales with symbols on their skin. I wouldn't mind really if the tales these colored symbols told were exotic, but with their endless proliferation they've become as banal as an Andy Warhol silkscreen, but without the insight.

Still, there's no limit to how this trend can be extended. Once everyone gets over the "artistes" of skin ("Brett", "Zack," "Yolanda!") and their vast three ring binders for mix and match mutilations, one can move on to having mere words tattooed on the forehead. In this way, one can know at a glance whether or not the person you are being confronted with is one from whom you will have to take orders.

When this happens a word that will be seen on the foreheads of huge numbers of Seattlites will doubtless be "Artisan."

This is because, while I was out, the local habit of applying the word "Artisan" to every conceivable object in order to milk a few extra bucks out of the price has gone completely round the bend. I realize that this is now a nationwide marketing blight, but it seems to be especially pernicious and as widespread in Seattle as herpes. The word crops up everywhere, with a special fondness for the shelves of Whole Foods. I fully expect to be browsing the herbal potions and remedies portion of that store soon and come across "Organic Recycled Handmade Artisan Maxi-pads. (Which will inevitably be "Fair-traded" from Guatemalan Craftspeople). From that point it will only be a matter of time before Brett, Zack or Yolanda from SuperGenius Tattoo will be inscribing "Artisan Cheesemaker," "Artisan Plumber," "Artisan Accountant," or "Artisan Global Village Idiot" into foreheads all across the town.

Will we really have to take orders from these people? Probably not, but we will have to pay them an extra 20% for whatever service they might be able to render. The "Artisan" Markup. It's the tribal American way.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 31, 2007 7:58 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

As usual, the wisdom of crowds summarizes the butt tattoo craze in just two words: tramp stamp.

Posted by: Mike Anderson at June 1, 2007 5:39 AM

Oh, come now, surely you see the progression:
bumper stickers -> logoed t-shirts -> yard signs that never seem to come down -> ubiquitous tattoos. The next incarnation is probably going to something like automatic local cell phone podcasts (shudder) or some such.
OK, I'll shut up now.

Posted by: ed in texas at June 2, 2007 4:54 AM

Mike Anderson,

And if the tattoo caused nerve damage leading to muscle spasms in that area would that be a Tramp Stamp Cramp?

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at June 2, 2007 5:27 PM

I heard from a tattoo artist one time that those particular beauties -- the tattoos -- are called asshats.

Kind of appropriate, if you axe me.

M

Posted by: Mark Alger at June 4, 2007 5:33 AM

Hey, not a bad canv-ass. Got some strechies there, but that's okay.

He-he-he-he!

Posted by: Robohobo at June 6, 2007 8:56 AM