So, I got my tattoos! On October 14 I headed excitedly down to Russ 'Lurk' Morland's Electric Umbrella and got myself inked up good 'n' proper! "Did it hurt?" people have asked, but in truth it was fine. A little sting now and again, but by and large it honestly was a breeze. In fact, I've come out of the experience feeling strangely empowered, and now cannot believe it took me so long to get this done. Perhaps it's simply a case of the time being right?
Having not once before considered getting a tattoo, I am still unsure where, at the age of 53, the strong desire to get some tattoos came from. I think it might lie with the fact I feel pretty good about myself right now, and am being guided by an unseen hand to express myself in previously unconsidered ways. What I can identify, however, is exactly when this all started.
After spending Canada Day with friends at a community event in Vancouver's Crab Park, Susan and I were heading home on the Coastal Renaissance ferry. It was a gorgeous day, offering spectacular views of Mt. Baker and the Vancouver skyline as we slid out of Horseshoe Bay. As we gazed at the views we pontificated on how lucky we are to live where we do, to have such scenery and natural wonders available to us at every turn, and it just felt pretty wonderful to be alive, to be together, and to be living the life we live. As we headed out to sea and the breeze picked up, I moved to as near to the bow as I could get, while Susan moved inside to read. I stood looking around at the mountains, as happy as I can ever remember being. I was soon lost in thought, with all manner of ideas, memories and images tumbling around my brain.
Back in Crab Park, our friend Bobbi Sue had a few government issued maple leaf tattoos, so I pinched one and pasted it onto the side of my right leg. I'm not entirely certain why I put it there in particular, but it may be because I love lacrosse, a sport in which some of the participants traditionally get tattoos on their calves. On the ferry I noticed the tattoo again, and thought it was cool. I'm a proud Canadian citizen of three years standing now, inexplicably feeling a stronger emotional bond with Canada than I ever had with the UK. It's odd, but that's how I feel, and I cannot articulate why to either Canadians or Brits.
As I mulled over nothing in particular, the thought of getting a real tattoo amusingly drifted into my mind, but it was not the maple leaf I was intent on. When we were pulling into Nanaimo, the decision categorically made that I wanted tattoos, I told Susan, genuinely unsure how she would react, but nonetheless determined to follow this through. It was not a whim, but a decision I already viewed as made with serious intent. To my utter delight, Susan thought it was a great idea, immediately stating that the tattoos would be "something that meant a lot to (you), right...like that maple leaf on (your) leg?" God, yes, she was absolutely right! I had to get a maple leaf as well, and to boot exactly where the temporary one was located!
So, no, the leaf was not my initial thought; the word 'today' simply would not leave my mind. With three bouts of cancer and a whole other raft of health issues the last fifteen or so years, coupled with the fact that I met the love of my life late on, means that I am determined to wring every drop out of every day. However mundane a day may be, Susan and I are resolved to getting as much fun and joy out of it as we can. Having met so deep into our lives, and been through so much since, we recognize life as precious and very short, so we'll do all we can to make it count before our respective times are up. It's very much a "carpe diem" attitude and philosophy we try to live by. Hence, 'today,' and that's the word I decided I wanted tattooed on my arm!
There it is above! I just LOVE it! With the exclamation mark it's an emphatic statement of intent, a single word dictum by which I intend to see out my days. You can do nothing about the past and little about tomorrow, but today you can run with.
I chose the font and Russ skilfully executed it after the creation of a stencil to lay across my right inner forearm. People that have seen it thus far totally understand what it's all about, without any need for an explanation from me. "Yes!" they say. "Right on!"
Since I was a teenager The Clash has always been a huge band in my life. For musical, cultural and political reasons, Joe Strummer - who was taken from us at the tragically young age of 50 - has been a massively influential presence in my thinking. In truth, the older I get the more he means to me. I've recently picked up his three brilliant albums with the Mescaleros on CD for the first time, immersing myself in everything they are. On the album "Rock Art and the X-Ray Style" (please listen to it; it's incredible) the song "X-Ray Style" bears (and closes with) the lyric, I wanna live, and I wanna dance awhile. After deciding I must get tattoos I found myself unable to stop thinking about that line, seeing how it so perfectly encapsulates how I wish to approach however long I may have left. 'Dance' is, of course, both a metaphor and literal, but along with 'Today!' I needed to bear this legend on my body. So, it was decided: my three tattoos would be the maple leaf, 'Today!' and that beautiful Strummer lyric.
Joe Strummer unfailingly typed out his lyrics, so it went without question that a typewriter font is exactly how his work should appear on my left arm. (Why the left? It's the same side as my heart.) As a massive Strummer fan himself (and of great music generally, such as The Mountain Goats and Bright Eyes), Russ took great care in creating this seemingly simple tattoo for me, redoing the stencil twice before applying it, so it looked exactly right. I am delighted with the result.
That's that, then. A new me, adorned with and resplendent in ink! There will be people out there who will scoff, thinking I've lost my marbles or am doing all I can to desperately cling onto my youth. Bollocks to them, I say, as at my age it's plain my youth is long, long gone! I kinda know that, right? This is simply a period of reinvention, a time in my life where I am bursting with unexpected energy and ideas. I have no idea what might be next for me (and us) on my (and our) life adventure but, for better or worse, whatever it is I'll follow it to its logical conclusion. More tattoos? Who knows. Bungee jumping or a freefall parachute jump? Yeah, maybe! Slippers and a pipe? No fucking way! It might be that there is nothing whatsoever of note awaiting me, but that's just fine too, but it's a certainty that even then I'll still be living and dancing awhile.