Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yoga Elvis

Today I dismantled 3 T-shirts of conflicting patterns and reassembled them into one new shirt, which reminded me of someone I hadn't seen in awhile, Yoga Elvis. Last I saw him, Yoga Elvis sported a Mulhawk, a combination hairstyle mixing Mohawk and Mullet. Punk in the front, party in the back, no business anywhere. His 6 foot tall, lanky frame is covered head to foot in a patchwork of unfinished tattoos as he never stays any one place long enough to complete them.  Now reformed, he has given up doing the Junkie Stoop in favor of Trikanasanas in sweaty studios with damp carpets.

When I first saw him he was teaching and referred to by many as the Yoga Nazi. I myself witnessed him trying to prevent a woman from leaving mid-class to go the ladies room. Soon after I stared tattooing him. He was the only person I ever worked on who would routinely manage to fall asleep while been drawn on with a needle. This, I suppose, was a result of him staying up all night at parties, going directly to teach early morning class, then bicycling out to Brooklyn and lying on a rickity table with a rolled up shirt under his head as a pillow. The shop had jerry-rigged wiring with plugs fed through holes in the walls, but no matter. So long as I could get a current running and the toilet wasn't flooding, he would come to see me.

The first tattoo I did on him was of a rooster. I used an old picture book as reference, one I had growing up and managed to save, a Ukrainian Folk Tale called "the Ear of Corn." It was a story about a hardworking cockerel named Golden Throat, and two lazy mice named Twist and Turn. Golden Throat wakes up early and finds an ear of corn. He then spends the rest of the story threshing, going to the mill, and baking, while the mice play catch, leap-frog, sing songs and dance. It is a morality tale, ending with, "Such loafers and do-nothings should not be treated to cakes!" The first time I spoke to  him after I did the tattoos, I repressed a powerful urge to ask, "How is your cock healing? Does it still itch? Are the scabs all gone?" These are things which, naturally, one refrains from speaking aloud to all but the closest of friends, and we had only just met.

As I drew intricate patterns on his skin he would tell me stories of the night before. He was always getting into predicaments. For example, he would drink several beers at a party and then, at the slightest encouragement, remove his jeans, which would promptly and mysteriously go missing. 

What ever happened to Yoga Elvis? Could he have put on khakis and a button-down shirt and transformed into an office drone collecting rubber bands into a large ball? Or did he catch a gnarly wave all the way to the edge where he was eaten by dragons? I still have the tracing I took of his lower back where he wanted a Byzantine tree, but perhaps by now that area is partially filled with something else entirely. Somebody buy the man a ticket to New York. Because, as we know, such loafers and do-nothings should not be treated to cakes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Ass Wars

No one knows how it started, just that one day it did, and now we all have
to live with the consequences.

Let me explain:

Near Port Authority on a certain strip of 8th Avenue, 
around the corner from a methadone clinic, 
wedged in between a flea pit hotel 
and an Ethiopian man selling bootleg CD mixes, 
stands a flame-like structure which attracts the moths in New York City, 
the rock moths who play in bands, 
and rents to them it's airless rooms. 
This is the place where dreams are made, 
myths take root, and legends are built. 
This place is called the Music Building.

In the dimly lit, smokey hallways, 
electric muffled sounds seep out from the walls 
to vibrate your solar plexus with bass frequencies, 
while you wait for the ancient, heavily repainted elevator. 
There is a section of wall covered in ads, postcards, and taped corners 
left over from old papers only partially ripped down.

One advertised for a band seeking new members. 
It read, "Drummer and bassist wanted." 
Late at night while no one was looking, 
an enterprising stoner with a pen 
made a slight, but significant alteration. 
Thanks to a couple of strategically placed X's, 
the sign was transformed. 
It read, "Bummer and assist wanted."

Of course, this meant war.

From that day, all signs seemed to be posted as a challenge 
to discover the amount of secret, hidden arrangements 
of the 3 letters A-S-S in sequence. 
The ads were defaced so quickly, 
it was as if you could see one guy taping a sign 
up on the wall and behind him formed a long line 
of giggling dudes holding pens.

The last sign I saw originally read: 
"Let's keep this place vermin free!!!! 
Please, please, please, please, please, 
if you eat food in the room,  
you must dispose of trash before you leave. 
This is not a hotel, there is no maid."

After the pen boys had their turn, it said:
"Let's keep this ass vermin free!
Ass, ass, ass, ass, ass, ass,
if you eat ass in the room, 
you must dispose of ass before you leave.
this is not a hotel, there is no maid."

I really meant to write a story about my motorcycle jacket, 
and all the fabulous rides I had while wearing it, 
but those stories have completely gone from my head.
Sorry to have gotten you here on false pretenses.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bat Mitzvah Mermaid

I really should have known better.

Let me explain:

Once I was hired to body paint 13 year olds at a Bat Mitzvah party. A car came to pick me up and drove me out to someplace in New Jersey. I set up my paints on a little table and waited. One by one the girls came by, and I painted decorative flower or paisley arrangements on arms, shoulders and ankles. Some wanted matching bracelets with their friends.

Then some boys came by. "Don't you have something not so girly?" one of them asked. "Well, what would you like?" I replied, hoping for something not too complicated. "I want a mermaid," the boy said. What could be more natural, I thought, a 13 year old boy wants a big gnarly sailor tattoo of a mermaid. I complied and the boy went away happy.

In my innocence, I neglected to clothe the top portion of the mermaid in a fashionable clam-shell bikini top, and painted her as nature intended. Within minutes, I was surrounded by boisterous 13 year old boys, all wanting similarly clad adornments from my paintbrush. "I want a mermaid like he had, only I want mine with LEGS," one said. "So, in other words, you want a naked lady? Am I going to get into trouble for this?" I asked. "Oh no, not at all," they replied.

And so I painted away, trying to keep the hordes of excited boys at bay. Later that evening one of the parents stopped by. "Do you think you could possibly make the tattoos a little less graphic?" he politely whispered in my ear.

Uh oh.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Youth is to the Young as are Trust Funds to the Rich

I can't help but notice how people of independent means are lacking ambition and motivation. Not compelled to work for a living, they wander aimlessly, drifting from thing to thing. 

Let me explain:

In Christopher Isherwood's diaries, he tells how he lived on an "allowance" from his uncle, traipsing around Europe; when they arrive in Portugal they have a cook and maid. Right away I am extremely jealous. I have been an Isherwood fan for years, nevertheless this does not seem fair. He gets to complain in his journals how he's depressed because he's not writing... and there he is WRITING! ok, it's in his diary, not on his novel, but still, he's writing, and later will use this very diary as material for other works to come. If only I could somehow complain in paint that I am not painting. 

Not that I'm comparing Isherwood to ambitionless trustafarians. Clearly he had sufficient ambition to get out his typewriter to churn out papers enough and get published at last. I oughtn't hold his allowance and maids against him; it was a different time. Not that I'm bitter about it. 

I think it's time to sell something from the back of my closet. The leather jacket I used to wear on the back of a motorcycle, many moons ago. I had some nice trips in that coat. That was back in the day when I used the ostrich method on my debts, passionately believing  they would mysteriously go away as long as I ignored them.  

So, IF somehow I suddenly HAD a trust fund, would I suddenly also lose motivation to do my own work? Motivation to have a day-job, yes, without a doubt. I'd leave that in the blink of an eye. In fact, I'm just waiting for just such an eye to blink. BLINK ALREADY! I'd like to be tested on this. Very much. If anyone's listening.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How To Get Rid of What You Don't Want

There are many things I've said and done that I've forgotten about. Even though my apartment is not large, there are many things I have that I've likewise forgotten about.

Let me explain:

I was rummaging in the back of a closet the other day, looking for a particular hat. I did not find the hat. Instead, I found an entire set of matching luggage, given to me by a relative long ago and promptly stuffed out of sight. Heavy, cumbersome, and covered in an unfortunate pattern, I would never, ever use these bags. Why, then, had I kept them in my limited storage space?

I pulled the luggage out and laid them all on the floor. I unbuckled, unzipped, and opened every compartment. I found 8 pennies, a safety pin, two bobby pins, one dried up lipstick (jungle red) and a letter with mysterious handwriting on the envelope.

Inside was a sheet of paper with handwriting scrawled on both sides, an artifact from the pre-digital era. From what I could make out, someone whose name I didn't recognize was in hiding from authorities, and asking for assistance in obtaining travel permits.

I go to the kitchen for a large knife, and cut the luggage up into small pieces. I wrap the pieces in some canvas, tie the ends securely, take them outside, and throw the bundle onto a passing truck. I watch as it gets further and further away, until eventually it becomes a speck on the horizon. I blink my eyes and it's gone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How I Met the King of the Jungle in NYC

I never realized that fictional characters live and walk among the rest of us. I never expected to meet one. And I never thought I would touch one and make him bleed.

Let me explain...

I’ve been in the Brooklyn shop for a few months and learning to ink freebies on volunteers. One Saturday I come in dressed to paint the walls and clean up. Unexpectedly, a middle-aged Puerto Rican man is sitting in the work station playing the bongos with fierce concentration, as if he were standing in front of the Pearly Gates and his admission to Heaven depended on his performance. With a jerk of the head the shop owner beckons into the back room and hands me a scribbled note. It says: “Sometimes in this business, you have to deal with weird people. This is your first paying customer. Don’t worry about anything and just do the best you can.”

I take a deep breathe and go out to meet him. Bongo Man says he is Tarzan and lives in the jungle in a tree. He keeps slapping the shop owner on the back and shaking his hand, calling him, “my fren, my fren, my FREN,” and then laughing manically. He does the Tarzan yell, “ahhhh aaaah-a aaah-a aaaaaaahhh aah-a aaah-a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!” He does it more than once.

Tarzan wants a tattoo that looks like the slashes Bruce Lee gets fighting with the razor sharp claw man in “Enter the Dragon.” Three slashes on his chest, black outline & filled in red, with a little black shading at the edges. He has a beer which I make him throw away, but while I am setting up I see him fish it out of the garbage.

As I work I ask him to move and sit in different positions, to accomodate the tattoo machine. He says “yes mami, anything for you” and says how much he respects women and how much he loves his wife. As soon as my boss leaves the room, Tarzan says I have a nice booty. Then he tells me a story about how he fought a shark while he was fishing in Puerto Rico, how he prayed to god to save him, and that’s why he’s alive today.

When I’m done he bends down on one knee and kisses my latex-gloved hand, which is covered in blood and ink.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How to Look Into the Future

Ever go to see a play in a big theater, but could only afford the seats way up in the balcony with a partially obstructed view? You can’t see the whole stage because a pillar or something is blocking the way, but you fill in the bits you miss with your imagination. It’s like that. That’s what looking into the future is like.

Some people think about where they want to go in life, and plan out written goals. This type of person likes to make lists, on paper which gets folded up and hidden at the back of their socks drawer. Other people like to be spontaneous, taking each moment as it comes, one day at a time. Still others never think about this at all and wake up one day to find themselves in some situation or other and not sure how they got there. I am the first type of person; I like to make lists and think about the future. If you were to look in the back of my socks drawer right this very minute, you would find lists there. Lists about the future. You make a list and it becomes a map to a place that doesn't exist yet.

Let me explain:

I have a Masters degree in painting, suitable for wrapping yesterday's fish. I decide it is high time to arrange for a meeting of art and commerce in my life, so I make a list. I come to the realization that people are less likely to spend money on art for their walls, and more likely to buy art for their skin. Being the last person in the western hemisphere to use a paper Yellow Pages, I call all the tattoo shops, and happen to find the only one in New York City looking for an apprentice.

The tattooist is a grown-up street punk. Big eyes peer out from behind a full body suit of tattoos and multiple facial piercings. She is quiet and reserved. She teaches me to set up and sterilize the equipment, and I watch her work. For my part of the exchange I clean up and run errands for no pay.

I practice on fruits and vegetables. My first attempt is a heart and scrolled banner that says “mom” on a large dakon radish. I give it to my mother, who keeps it until furry, green mold devours my efforts.

After 3 months she closes her shop and I find another apprenticeship deep in the heart of Brooklyn. Somewhere, in the back of a sock drawer on a folded up piece of paper, a new road appears on a map.

to be continued...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What Dinosaurs Do in Winter

Big companies are dinosaurs. Gigantic brontosauri with tiny heads towering at the end of mile long necks, so far above the feet it can't see where they are stepping. Over-large and small-brained, they trundle and trample, never suspecting the imminent arrival of the mother of all meteors, followed by a long, cold darkness. The business world is a giant restaurant where bigger fish eat smaller fish in a chain ending only with bracken. The bracken is us. We are the bracken. Bracken that gets folded in like pancake ingredients and thrown on a hot griddle sizzling with burning fat.

Let me explain:

It is a cold day in January, the frozen vomit surrounding Penn Station sparkling gaily in the sunshine. The speedy guy with the home-made spectacles zips past me muttering to himself, a tiny bit faster than usual. He always wears the exact same outfit: camouflage pants and special self-engineered glasses, featuring miniature dental magnifiers attached to the sides of his wire frames, sticking out like tiny rear-view mirrors in fan-like arrangements.

I've forgotten my building ID so I flash my Metrocard at the security guard with the dyed mustache. Hurrying down the long, carpeted hallway to my pod I pass the usual bunch. There's the guy who who wears cowboy boots with a large stetson hat over a bright yellow smiley-face yarmulke. The woman with a vast, spherical head and permanent scowl across her too-low eyebrows, an ever-present bowl of candy at arms length, emminating a sound of sugar-crunching that makes my teeth tingle unpleasantly. The creepy guy who quietly comes to stand behind you, breathing softly through his nose and waiting. The fluorescent lighting and computer monitors cast a sickly glow, rendering corpse-like the rows of faces. Glazed eyes catch up on youtube in procrastinating attempts to avoid repetitious and pointless digital tasks.

Back at my desk I see the pop-up message announcing a special meeting is called. We obediently file into the conference room. The managers all have water balloons. On signal, we all start running. If you get hit, start packing your things. The ones remaining dry get to keep their jobs.

to be continued...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

How I Made Red Cha-Cha Heels and Earned $1000

New York City is a glittering, expensive place where tiny slivers of mica schist sparkle in the pavement, and rain-soaked traffic light reflections blot out nighttime stars. People with swish jobs and regular paychecks traipse around in new clothes, eating delicious food in fancy restaurants, acquiring entertainment and culture in a run-around schedule of New York minutes. Snap snap snap. "You look FABULOUS darling. Are those new? I want those flame red cha-cha heels. Mwah, mwah. Got to run. Love ya, mean it!" Some of us can only look with our noses pressed up against the window, fogging up the glass with envy and the vapors of withheld saliva. Some of us don't bother any more and simply stay at home.

Let me explain...

One time I was working down on lower Broadway, in an area that morphed over a couple of decades from industrial warehouses into artist lofts and galleries, and is now a gigantic outdoor shopping mall. We New Yorkers call it, 'Soho.' The only thing to do during lunch break is shopping. Or, if you're like me and your money goes out the same day it comes in, window shopping. This is what we call working freelance.

My friend Cocito sat with me, back to back, in a tiny, windowless closet we called our office. He wouldn't let me use my computer because he was desperately trying to purchase Madonna tickets over the Internet, and had all the office computers jockeying to get in. He was all afluster and close to hyperventilating as he jumped from station to station with his credit card clutched tightly in his hot little hand. I stood back and well out of the way; no use trifling with an individual in pursuit of the gay man's holy grail.

Later, when we were able to relax into our work day, the project manager, Miss BoBally, gave me a photograph of a barefoot girl who needed shoes created from pixels. Naked feet were too enticing for publication in certain markets and they must be covered. "La Madre de los penguinos!" I exclaimed. This was not the first time. But today, I was inspired as if from above, and proceeded to clothe the feet as I saw fit, in a pair of flame red cha-cha heels. My memory filters recall a bonus of $1,000 for this spectacular feat of digital painting. I've remembered lots of other things that never happened, however.

to be continued...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How I Had My Psychic Vibration Antenna Cleaned

I hab a code id by dose. In full bloom. While I still have a job where I can take a sick day, it occurred to me to try to answer a question I often get, "what do you do with yourself without a T.V.?"  Every day at work there are people who discuss something they saw on television the previous night. Most people get these references. Most people expect everyone to recognize the names. I am the one that does not. I am the one who has never seen American Idol or a single episode of Friends or Seinfeld.

Let me explain...

I grew up with television. I went to public grade school across the street from my apartment in New York City and came home for lunch to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle. After school there was I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, The Gong Show. After dinner and homework there were the family programs, The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny and Cher Show, All in the Family. After I went to bed there were the grown-up shows I sneaked out to watch like Laugh-In, and the cop shows my parents watched that I somehow or other happened to see, Mannix, Kojak, Hawaii 5-0. I'm sure there were others but these are the ones that stick in my memory.

It seems like a lot but I don't think it was uncommon. In school I would discuss with my friends the shows we had watched and we could gossip about the characters like they were people we knew. As a young teenager I liked Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. But then I left my parents house and struck out to see the world where there was no T.V.

When I was 18 I told my parents I was going on a camping trip with friends upstate, but instead drove across country with 2 boyfriends and a guy we found off a ride-board in his van to Oregon.  (this was pre-internet people! we found him off an actual bulletin board with bits of paper thumb-tacked to a real board on a wall, as incredible as it may seem.) We stopped in Yellowstone National Park and I lay on my back outdoors to catch the milky way in the darkest night sky I had ever seen. You don't get too many stars at night in Manhattan.

to be continued...