I have but one tattoo. It is subtle and unobtrusive. At a first pass it may be overlooked entirely. It is a small red triangle located right above my left pectoral muscle. I received this tattoos alongside my two best friends. They too received the very same small and unobtrusive red triangle above their respective left pectoral muscles.
The date was September 19th, 2014. It was a Friday.
In the afternoon, Ryan, Joey, and myself took a walk to our local Trader Joe’s to get dinner supplies. We settled on one bag of frozen orange chick, one bag of frozen chicken pot stickers, one bag of frozen pork pot stickers, and three six-packs of Trader Joe’s own, “Simpler Times” beer. Simpler Times - in case you're unaware - is sold as 12oz cans filled with fairly flavorful lager with a 6.2 abv. percentage all at the cost of $3.50 per six-pack, and although they are only sold at room temperature, for the price and alcohol content alone Simpler Times cannot be beat.
We returned to the apartment we had been renting in the Design District of West Hollywood and prepared the dinner while rapidly cooling the beers in the freezer because we were all quite parched and in these dire situations who honestly has the time to use the refrigerator?
In time the orange chicken was a sticky golden brown, the pot stickers were crisp and sizzling, and the beers were ice cold and frosty. With our plates in hand we relocated upstairs to my bedroom patio where I had set up a small picnic table for the evening. There we gorged our food and guzzled our beers over great conversation and grandiose laughter. We finished our first six pack during dinner and then as we moved on to the second we passed around a freshly rolled joint.
We reminisced about our collective time spent in Los Angeles so far, recalling accomplishments, goals and unfulfilled promises. We recalled a fantastical idea we had to get dropped off at the sands of Manhattan beach one Friday afternoon and then spend the next 48 hours traversing the coast on foot all the way up to the shores of Malibu – our self proclaimed Social experiment. We remembered a road trip to drive north to San Francisco and then after a few days exploration continue onward to Napa Valley; a road trip that we had been planning for and failing to act upon for what felt like two years and counting.
We also recalled a pact we made to get matching tattoos to commemorate the completion of a short film the three of us created and were all particularly proud of. The film was titled Meridian. Meridian detailed three men immersing themselves into nature and ultimately becoming one with their individual elements in poetic ambiguity.
Taking a moment to contemplate we decided to amend the previous pact.
We came to a general consensus that if any one of us were to ever leave Los Angeles and stop chasing the dream we would make good on our tattoo promise. Only this time it would serve to symbolize a chapter in our lives and if and when this pact were to ever come to fruition there would be no bickering and no backing down.
More beers were consumed. Another joint was passed.
...There was no sense in waiting until a prolonged and unidentified end as an excuse to make good on a promise, if we were at all serious about these plans we would need to start acting on them. All of our talk up until this point had been cheap and trivial. No more procrastination, if we wanted tattoos than we should fucking get tattoos.
And what better time than the present? We agreed we would do it and we would to it tonight.
We planned to walk along the sunset strip and get our first tattoos, but meanwhile we had another six-pack to finish and a discussion about proper tattoo design and premise placement.
Considering the three of us created Meridian, and the fact that Meridian detailed, among other things, a man climbing a mountain; add to that the fact that the universal symbol for a mountain is a simple triangle, and Sub-text aside, a small and unobtrusive triangle would be the perfect way to get our feet wet in the world of body ink. It seemed only logical.
The questions of what, when, and why were determined. Now the only thing left to discuss was where.
I was adamant about getting the triangle in the small webbing between the left forefinger and the thumb, itself is already in the shape of a triangle. Unfortunately the guys weren’t too keen on the idea of a hand tattoo, I guess that’s a fair concern. Next we considered the vertex of the elbow and then we moved up to the upper-inner-arm between the bicep and the tricep, and then we moved laterally across the chest. Something about the area right below the collar-bone and right above the heart intrigued us so that's where we decided it would go.
Then we continued drinking the final six-pack and passing around another freshly rolled joint.
10:00 Pm. We decide it was do or die, win or cry, so we put our shoes on and shuffled our feet toward the door and outside onto the streets. The train was now in motion. The night air was brisk but comfortable enough to walk with a mind full of wonder.
The strip was about two miles away so we had a bit of a trek ahead of us. Now the weight of our decision revealed itself in the form of a lump in our collective throat. Conversation was sparse but we continued moving forward. We had plenty of time to recollect and think and over think and ponder our options and possibly get cold feet. I started to reconsider this decision but I kept it internalized. On the surface I was calm and stoic but on the inside I was panicking like a little child.
Our feet kept moving forward. We had to press on. We had a goal in mind, we had to stop living a life full of what if and should’ve done. We had to act. We couldn’t back down now.
Twenty-five minutes later we arrived on the strip.
We walked into the first shop we saw. I don’t even remember the name of this place; I don’t think either of us could. We just saw the word Tattoo strewn in bright neon letters and like gnats to a light we were subconsciously lured in.
As an Acapella group we glided over to the counter top, and following each other’s speech in turn, we told the girl behind the counter exactly what we wanted in great detail. As a matter of fact she informed us that there was a shop minimum of $100. We retreated and conversed for a minute. We deduced this particular tattoo may not be worth such a steep price, so we left in search of a new shop.
On foot I began thinking that perhaps that was a sign that this venture wasn't necessary and the tattoo should just be forgotten about like the million other dumb and fleeting ideas we constantly regurgitate. I am always battling myself internally and I need to learn that it's a big a fucking waste of time.
We made a promise to see this through to the end. We would succeed. Until the fuckin' wheels come off.
Stumbling down Sunset we searched for another shop. Joey declared, “We need to get off Sunset.” This kid did have a point. We were on a major strip of expensive boutiques and tourist traps. Every tattoo shop around here was bound to be grossly overpriced just based on location alone. However, Sunset was the only street that guaranteed us a litter of tattoo parlors on every other block, not to mention the fact that we were such a long way past drunk that referring to Yelp or any other kind of directory for assistance would've proven to be entirely impossible. No, we would just have to accept the excessive cost as being worth the convenience and continue onward in search of someplace reasonable, er, somewhat reasonable.
Soon another neon sign beckoned our arrival. Once again the name of this place eluded me. I remember us walking past a group of bikers and guys in wife beaters sitting out-front of the shop smoking cigarettes and I remember the three of us looking like we just stepped out of American Eagle, and I remember walking into a small shop where three men covered head to toe in black tattoos greeted us.
We approached the counter and gave the same song and dance as before. This time around the artist, who introduced himself as Sam, told us the shop had a minimum of $70. I mean, sheesh, its $30 less than the last shop but still not exactly fair, from my layman’s perspective at least. All I am saying is this tattoo would literally constitute three straight lines and would be no larger than the size of a quarter.
We retreated to our corner and yet again deliberated. We considered the fact that we were already here and the fact that the deal was immediately 30% cheaper. With fiery determination in our eyes we chanted our unofficial slogan of the night and in brotherly unison we declared, "Fuck it," while simultaneously popping off our shirts so Sam could apply our respective tattoo stencils.
Ryan was the first one in the chair. He was visibly on edge, his right leg twitched with anxiety. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth as he prepared for the needle to enter his skin. Upon contact his demeanor didn’t change much except his grimace softened when he realized the needle didn’t hurt nearly as bad as he imagined it would. Literally, thirty-seconds later he was done and then it was my turn to take the chair.
Since childhood, getting a tattoo had always been a goal of mine and up until this point I had always shied away in fear, but now it was time to jump, time to dance. I was so far past the point of no return. The safety bar was down and locked. As Sam prepped the needle I took a few deep breaths to slow my breathing and effectively calm my nerves. The singular trajectory comforted me, though, and I liked knowing what was about to happen next. In that moment I was more excited than anything else.
Upon puncturing my flesh the needle sent a sharp and constant vibration through my body. I could feel my teeth rattling. It wasn’t a painful vibration, mind you, it was just a bit of a shock. I must admit I enjoyed the sensation. The thirty-seconds it took to apply the tattoo wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more of the shock surging through my body. Something had begun here, something had changed. I knew in this moment that I had opened a door for myself. This would most certainly not be my last tattoo.
Joey was next in the chair. He sat through the very short bout of pain which he deduced to actually be more painful than he had anticipated. Its funny the different ways in which people deal with pain; some just cope with it while others find comfort in it.
After Joey’s session in the hot seat Sam pointed us in the direction of the shop’s full length mirror.
There the three of us stood and flexed our muscles while admiring our new ink.
These tattoos signified the bonds between us and the time we’ve shared together since the day we all met. These tattoos were a simple representation of solidarity and kinship. With these tattoos we became eternal brothers and no matter where would all individually go, or how far we would separate, or who would eventually become in life we will always be able to reach our hands to our chests and trace the small red lines forever etched into our skin. Taking the good with the bad we will never be alone in this life and every conflict we individually face we will be able to face with the strength of three men. We must embrace the struggle in order to persevere because it is within the pain where true pleasure is derived.
We rejoiced in our decision to live in he moment and push against the grain. Much like Our bodies our lives were now forever altered. We would never forget this night.