The night started off harmlessly enough. I was in LA for a few days to cover the E3 gaming conference and a couple of portrait shoots. As I do every visit to Los Angeles, I meet up with friends at my favorite watering hole, Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood. It’s a chill bar known for its rock and roll history and epic karaoke. I first started going to Barney’s years ago, and for no explicable reason (maybe because I’m a creature of habit) it became my regular spot on the west coast.
I met up with a few friends including LA photographer Jason Flynn and his brother Joel. All I need to tell you about the Flynn brothers is that they are hilarious and they are troublemakers, which leads me to my story. We were all catching up on life and photography when I believe I jokingly said we should do something crazy that night, like get a tattoo or something. That’s all that was needed to start the snowball down the hill. Everyone at the table, except me, had tattoos and they thought this would be an incredible opportunity to get me my first ink. Now I’ll be honest, I’ve always wanted to do it, but have been too hesitant due to its… permanency. I immediately responded to the table laughing nervously and saying “very funny guys!” Well, it didn’t seem to be a joke to them (I laugh as I type this). My friend KB was already texting a friend to open up his shop at midnight, imploring that it was my frist tattoo and she didn’t want me going to anyone else. The wheels were turning and I had little control of the momentum at this point.
I tell the guys that I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea…that I wasn’t ready and I didn’t even know what I would get, because I wouldn’t get something that wasn’t meaningful to me. KB knew me well enough and said “yes you do know.” She was right. I had this portrait on my iPhone that I took of my Boxer (see below), Winston Churchill, who passed away last year. I had been eyeing the photo for a long time for a tattoo, but just didn’t have the guts to do it. Alas, I allowed them to drag me to the car and submit to where the night and adventure would take me.
We ended up meeting Grant Cobb at LA’s famous Spotlight Tattoo around midnight. I want to preface this by saying that I was 100% sober and only had a glass of water and a pizza that night, so my head was very clear. We had printed out the portrait of Winston and Grant began to sketch out an outline for a tattoo. KB said, dont worry you don’t have to do it…just talk to Grant and he will be honest. Next thing I know, I am looking down at my arm with an ink outline of my old loyal friend Winston.
A million thoughts were running through my head. What would my mom say? What would my clients think? Would I regret this later in life? Is this the right image to use? Is this tattoo placement too visible? I turned to Joel Flynn and said, “will I regret this when I grow up?” Without skipping a beat, Joel responds “you’re already an adult.” Crap! When did that happen? When did I become an adult? Here I am thinking about whether everyone would approve and forgetting that I am old enough that college was nearly a decade ago and I’m hiring assistants more than 10 years younger than me, not to mention that all of my friends are married with children. I closed my eyes and cleared my mind. I promised myself that when I turned 30 that I would eat healthier, exercise more, and be more adventurous and decisive with my life. This was a defining example of such a situation. Life is too short. I spent too much of my life worrying about every choice and every decision and this is something in my heart that I’ve wanted to do. Time to stop being so afraid of what the world would think. I reopened my eyes and said “F#@& it, let’s do this.”
I sat at the table, with my arm exposed and just waited for the first mark to go into my skin. I knew at that first slight bee sting, that there was no going back…
Grant Cobb did an amazing job. What an incredible likeness. It has been a week now and I still find myself looking down at my arm and marveling at the detail. Now, Winston can come with me on every adventure I go on until my end of days. He was an incredible partner in crime and a loyal friend and I am happy that he was my first tattoo.
I never thought I would be that guy with a big piece of ink on my arm. I was always the clean cut, “do the right thing” guy, not that doing this changes any of that in the long run. I do not regret my decision at all and have even been getting a lot of compliments from strangers. I sent a photo to my loving supportive mom and she responded with “I love it!” She was, in fact, very proud of me and happy that I followed my gut. What a great lady, huh?
Thanks to KB, Grant, Joel, and Jason for instigating and making this happen. I think I walked out of the Spotlight Tattoo doors with not just a new mark on my skin, but a valuable lesson that sometimes you just have to say “F#@& it” and just follow your gut.