bricked.

As mid-life crises go, getting a tattoo is way less expensive than a sports car. And when you’re working with a print-journalism salary, that’s kind of an important thing to consider.

But once that decision is made, you’re faced with another: What’s the tattoo going to be?

I’ve known for several years that I wanted to get one, and I realized late last year that I didn’t care to follow the original plan, which was to get one in observance of my 50th birthday.

Nope. Not waiting. But then — what’s it going to be? Ohio related? Yes. Something football? Nah, that’s too easy. A design featuring the state’s borders? I’d never come up with one as cool as Bethany’s. Something related to OU? That’s closer, but still — a green paw print didn’t seem distinctive enough, and I wanted something to emphasize Athens rather than the university.

And then I came to the things that have always served as my favorite icon of the town that still feels like my spiritual home, the thing that we’ve given to friends as wedding presents and that we’ve used as decoration around our apartments and houses. They’re pretty much ubiquitous in town and, since I left town, they’ve even spawned a merchandise line.

athens street

If you’ve lived in Athens, these will look familiar. They pave the main streets Uptown, and you don’t have to look hard around the rest of town to find them (like, say, in the lightly traveled alley across the street from my apartment on West State at Shafer — which is definitely NOT the source of Athens Block bricks I’ve relied on for several years. Ahem).

With that in mind, I set out to find a Pittsburgh artist who, based on a pretty vague description from me, could draw a convincing, detailed brick on my arm. And as it turned out, I didn’t have to look far — Erin at Kyklops was recommended to me by a couple different people, and because I knew her a little bit already, the decision was easy.

And now that it’s done? The decision seems even smarter now than it did before. With just one brief meeting with our brick — and the previously mentioned vague set of instructions from me — Erin came up with exactly what I had in mind:

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Answers: No, it didn’t hurt, until Erin finished up with some detail stuff right at the end; beyond that, the physical part of getting a tattoo is just kind of annoying, an irritation. No, I was never concerned about getting one, not from the standpoint of any kind of risk (seeing the attention paid to cleanliness at Kyklops actually reminded me of being in a doctor’s office, with much more interesting stuff on the walls), and not from the standpoint that OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE THAT ON YOUR BODY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE — which is why I was certain about the design, the shop and the artist. And yes, I’m probably going to get more.

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A final word about Erin: She’s really good, and she’s fun to hang out with for a couple hours while she pokes at your skin. I will go back to her; if you’re in or around Pittsburgh and you’re looking for an artist, you should go see her too.

In the last few months I went from having a vague notion that this would be something I’d do in a couple years to realizing that it was kind of dumb for me to wait this long. This is the kind of outward expression of who I am that I’ve always done — this version is just a little more permanent. It feels right to have this on my arm. And it will feel just as right to get a couple more.

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