Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Classic Tattoos Expierenc

As I waited in the front of Anthem Tattoo Parlor, flipping through magazines, the sound of buzzing tattoo machines resonated from the back. My adrenaline was rushing, my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding.

In about two hours, my body would be changed for the rest of my life, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I trusted someone that I’d only met one time before, to do a tattoo in a place I couldn’t see – the lower left side of my back. If he made a mistake, I wouldn’t be able to see him do it.

Lucky for me, Mike Mehaffey – my tattoo artist – had been tattooing on and off since he was 17 and professionally for the past four years. He’s now 31 and one of the three owners of Anthem, which opened a year and a half ago. The other two owners and tattoo artists are Dave Kotinsley and Rob Barnes, who have been tattooing for about 10 years each.

“They were a huge part in my tattoo career,” Mehaffey said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

I had come to Anthem a week earlier and made an appointment with Mehaffey for June 6. Although I came in with a design that I liked, there were a few things that I wanted to change to make it my own. Plus, Mehaffey said he would make it look more like a tattoo than a drawing. I left a $50 deposit – to ensure that I was serious about getting it – and put aside another $50 in my wallet for when the tattoo was finished.

Mehaffey said they get “burned” all the time by people who aren’t serious. The deposit is to make sure that nobody is wasting anyone’s time.

“We’re off the beaten path,” he said. “People who come in here are usually serious about getting a tattoo.”

When my appointment finally came, my friend Amanda Kelecy came along for support and to document the experience. Shortly after we got there, I turned to Kelecy and told her half jokingly that if I passed out while getting tattooed to make sure Mehaffey kept tattooing. I laughed, but I was serious. I never pass out and if I did for some reason, I didn’t want to wake up with my tattoo unfinished.

Mehaffey said that with customers who seem nervous he usually sets up everything – the ink, ink caps, alcohol, a soap mixture and the machine. He also puts barrier film on everything so it stays sanitized. – and then puts on a pair of joke glasses that make his eyes look big.

“I like to joke around to make people feel more comfortable,” he said. “I’ll usually grab the wrong arm with the glasses on, and then they’ll laugh and not be so nervous anymore.”

As I sat in Anthem, I became a bit uneasy. It wasn’t that I was going to run out the door. I had wanted this tattoo, and it meant more to me than a rebellious mark on my body. It was more that I was excited to get it and was tired of waiting for what felt like an hour but in reality was only five minutes.

After sitting for a few minutes, I looked up at Mehaffey, and he nodded for me to come over and get started.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the artist takes the design you want and turns it into a stencil – surgical dye on carbon paper – that can be transferred onto your skin. That way they have something to follow with the needle. It can be put on your skin more than once if you don’t like the spot where it was placed, which is good for me, because I had Mehaffey move it three times.


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