Permanent Marker

Mood: head above water | Drinking: fountain soda

poppy

My first tattoo came on the heels of a breakup.

I didn’t do anything as reckless as inking a broken heart over my left boob. Just a tiny rose, thorns attached, hidden inside my left ankle. It was barely worth the 15 minutes of needle time, it was so small.

But I felt a bit rebellious, a smidge dangerous, a dash mysterious, and I wore it proudly, shunning socks in the chilly Midwest springtime — the better to show it off.

I was all of 23 and teetering on the brink of an identity explosion. I was a late bloomer when it came to so many things — my first kiss at age 19, my first drink at 22. But once I got started, I really made up for lost time.

I had spent so much time during my college years making good grades instead of discovering myself. By the time I hit age 23, I was ripe for discovery. The layers peeled off so quickly, one after the other, until I reached the bare and brazen core and got a good look at the girl I was, and the woman I wanted to be.

Somehow, that whole process involved some permanent ink.

I can’t say that my parents were too happy with the little pink rose, but it was nearly unnoticeable. Of course, the winged angel that showed up between my shoulder blades, and the spike-and-wire heart that appeared on my right ankle shortly thereafter were a bit more disconcerting.

Thirteen years later, I think my identity has been pretty well established, although I feel the need for constant improvement upon the woman I am. A tad more patience would be good, for one thing.

I wear the story of my becoming on all my appendages, now. A catalog of words and art that is as much a part of me as the heart that pounds beneath my skin.

The original rose is gone now, consumed by a black ink dragon, appropriately named “Rose”. The angel on my back remains, though as you can see, she’s no longer alone. I’ve kept the spiked heart, too, and scattered more black lines on my arms — a symbol for healing inside my left elbow, a bird on my shoulder, belladonna on my right arm, and my latin motto on my wrist. Boy and I shared a symbol on the eve of our wedding, stained into our lower back and now, for me, joined by two of Hilary Knight’s Beauty & the Beast birds.

I don’t know if the catalog will grow much bigger. These things are hard to predict.

I’ve heard some say that people get inked only to improve their self-esteem. I can’t, of course, speak for anyone but myself, and for myself I say these marks are not an improvement, not even a decoration. They are not there to make a statement.

My tattoos exist only for me. They are my map, my compass. A memoir. I’ll never forget where I have been, nor yet where I want to go. I bear the memory in my skin.

Tattoos are not for everyone, and they are a choice that should be made with care. Get that Tasmanian Devil smeared on your left butt cheek today and you may find yourself wishing for a laser tomorrow.

But for me, tattoos tell a story. And I’ve always loved a good story…

-Lo, who hopes it will be an epic tale of love and adventure.

P.S. Personal experience with the following tattoo artists allows me to give them the highest recommendations:

Jesse Tuesday  *  Laura Satana  * Rocio Arteaga  *  Marx Barry

Ink

bellatatt
Mood: Ready, Steady
Drinking: Ethos Water

Ink

Forever doesn’t last as long as it used to.
Now we have lawyers and lasers
to dispense with such annoyances
as longevity
and love.

But this ink is permanent.
This stain is eternal.

I bear on my body
all the color of my hope
and the evidence of my fear.

I will write you on my arms
and remember.
I will keep you within my skin
until together
we wither
and fade away.

-Lo, with bigger plans for belladonna.

Deadly Nightshade

bella
Mood: Satisfied
Drinking: Water

I’m letting the ink sink in.

Fresh from the gun, my newest tattoo is all crisp lines and delicate shades, standing out in bold relief until it heals and peels.

My 13th tattoo is an art noveau interpretation (drawn by the lovely Sarah and fine-tuned by the talented Rocio) of the Atropa belladonna plant, also known as deadly nightshade. It’s one of the most toxic plants in the western hemisphere. Children have been poisoned by eating as few as three of the shiny purple berries.

If you’re a Burton fan, you’ll recognize it as the plant that Sally uses in The Nightmare Before Christmas to poison Doctor Finklestein and make her escape.

But the plant’s poisonous nature is not really the reason I’m going to wear it on my arm forever.

“Belladonna” is Italian for “beautiful woman”. Drop the first three letters and you have my name — which means “the woman” in Italian.

I got the first part of this tattoo — a single belladonna flower and leaf — when I visited Italy for the first time in 2005. Boy and I got (non-matching) tattoos in a little shop near the Vatican. The tattoo artist’s name was Materazzi Maurizio. He had papered the walls of his small shop with posters of homoerotic Roman centurions, and he spoke only two or three words of English, which was about as many as I spoke in Italian.

We managed to get our tattoos without mishap, and the belladonna flower on my right arm has been a favorite ever since.

But in recent months it’s started to look lonely to me, and I thought that letting more belladonna twine up my arm would be a great way to celebrate my birthday.

To me, the belladonna tattoo signifies a time of coming into my own, of settling into my skin and embracing the woman that I’ve become, thorns and all. I like the duality of the beautiful woman/deadly nightshade nature of the word. There does always seem to be a bit of poison in the beauty.

Bella donna. She’s who I’m learning to be.

-Lo, who isn’t afraid of the needle.

Elasticine = Pretty Young Thing

gargoyleMood: OCD-ish
Drinking: Water

I’m always excited to bring you a new cinepoem. And I probably always say that this one is my favorite. But it’s true every time. They’re all shiny and special in their own little ways.

OK, but this time? This time I’m extra-super-cali-fragi-listically excited. Her name is Elasticine, and you’ll see right away that she’s different than all the others.

Back in 2005 when Boy and I were wandering all over Italy, we spent a sunny morning in Venice creating a cinepoem of still photos. The finished product was called Epic, and we loved her.


Elasticine uses the same idea, creating a cinepoem out of photographs instead of moving pictures, but adds a few new twists. Boy shot all the photos last November during one rainy day in Paris. We rode the Metro all over town for this cinepoem, and it really did take all day. And we got rained on. A lot. And it was cold. But I remember saying to Boy whilst shivering on a train platform, “When we’re done with this, it will be so pretty that nobody will know how miserable we were while we were shooting it!”

Besides, if you’re doing a shoot in Paris, there has to be an umbrella involved at some point, or you’re not doing it right.

The other extra-special thing about Elasticine is the guest-voice of one Mister Robert Kostrzeski. That sexy French voice you’ll hear throughout the poem belongs to him, and we had a lot of fun recording it in Michael’s bedroom closet a few weeks ago.

Oh, and another thing — this cinepoem features the tattoo I got in Paris from the lovely Laura Satana. We actually shot all the photos the day after I got the tattoo, so that really is me peeling the plastic wrap from my still shiny and sticky new ink and washing it off for the first time. Fun!

You’ll probably also notice that Elasticine is a very non-linear kind of girl who’s really enamored with a certain French phrase. She talks a lot about seasonal mud pies and haunted shopping carts. And if you ask me what the hell it all means I’ll just say, “Well, what does it mean to you?”

So go to The Cinepoems page to try to figure her out, and pretend like you’re in Paris for a day. She’s all yours now.

For you PC lovers, we’ve got a Windows version in the works. But if you can’t wait another second, you can view Elasticine in the videos section of MySpace or at YouTube.

-Lo, who tried to take that gargoyle home, but found he has a nasty temper

Back to Insanity

Mood: Running on vapors
Drinking: The usual poison

Returning to the real world is proving to be more difficult than I thought. It’s my 2nd Monday back in the swing since returning from the lands across the sea, and I still feel fuzzy about the brainpan.

Can’t blame it on jet lag anymore. Not reliably, anyway. But I may be able to blame it on my weekend of geek theater ecstasy, since I saw both Neil Gaiman’s MirrorMask (gorgeous) and Joss Whedon’s Serenity (orgasmic). So I’m lost somewhere between the streets of flying fishes and River’s ballet of Reaver death. And if you understand none of that, I guess you’re not a true geek. Which is good or bad, depending on your point of view.

I think I need to see both movies a dozen or more times to thoroughly saturate myself in the otherworlds, but I do have a living to make and so here I am, deskbound, procrastinating by babbling incoherently. Fun!

About the Italian adventure…my real world friends should prepare themselves for an avalanche of photos, coming to inboxes soon via Ofoto. For the virtual world, though, I’ll condense it to a list of highlights, since I am as yet unable to post photos here. Consider yourselves starcrossed.

When In Rome…
– Be sure to eat not only pizza and pasta, but nectarines from fresh air fruitstands like the one on Via Imperiali. Juicy and delicious.
– Rent a scooter, if you dare. We did and I found myself alternating between laughing maniacally while speeding in between moving buses and swearing incoherently (ohfuckohfuckohfuck!) while trying to maneuver my way out of a traffic circle. It was great fun!
– Marvel at the Sistine Chapel. Not just the ceiling, either. God and Adam are just part of the crowd.
– Get a tattoo near Vatican City from a man named Massimo who speaks no English. When it’s finished, smile and tell him “Bellissimo!” He will laugh at you, but you won’t care at all.
– Touch the stones of the Colosseum and wonder who was touching these same stones on the other side of 2,000 years or so.
– Make friends with the stray cats, but don’t let them follow you home.
– Imagine the Roman men dressed in Centurion outfits. You won’t be disappointed.
– Instead of throwing coins in Trevi Fountain, throw yourself in. It’s more fun. (I should have taken my own advice on this one.)
– Eat all the pizza you can stomach.

The Five Wonders of the Cinque Terre
1. Steps. So many stone steps.
2. The water is bluer than the sky.
3. Follow every path you see because you never know what kind of wonders lie at the end of it. Or not. But either way, you’re walking off all that Roman pizza!
4. The cats know many secrets.
5. Don’t miss Vernazza — it’s the best of the five towns.

Venice Must Be Seen To Be Believed
* Streets of water are even more beautiful in person than in all the books you’ve ever read.
* St. Mark’s Square is better in the early morning hours, shrouded in mist and empty of people. The pigeons are always waiting, though.
* Rent an apartment between St. Mark’s and the Rialto bridge. Never leave it without applying red, red lipstick.
* When taking a gondola ride, be sure to do so at dusk. None of your photos will turn out, but some pictures are better in your head, anyway.
* Mask shopping is a must. You should go into every shop you see, find a favorite, and visit it three days in a row. Then when you make a purchase, be sure to buy at least four.
* Internet cafes are magical.
* Don’t be fooled by the creme-stuffed canolis and their sultry red cherries. Try the apple-filled ones instead.
* Avoid the Rialto bridge at noon unless you want to be caught in a sweaty tourist sandwich.
* Get lost. Over and over and over.
* Ride the public boat for at least an hour, just to see what you can see.
* The mosquitos in the shower are actually tiny vampires. You won’t feel them bite, but they will leave a mark that lasts for a week or more.
* Leave your windows open at night so you can hear the drunk gondoliers singing Italian opera as they float down the canal outside your apartment. (The mosquitoes are already inside, anyway.)
* Gwen Stefani looks better on Italian MTV.
* Ricky Martin is SO gay. You know this without a doubt after seeing his new music video five times in a row sometime in the middle of the night.
* Decide that watching old Italian men arguing is your new favorite hobby.
* You don’t have to go to Murano to buy pockets full of glass.
* It’s ok to dream of Venice, as long as your heart is still in San Francisco.

Five Things You Should Do In London When You Only Have 25 Hours
1. Sleep.
2. Walk to Buckingham Palace.
3. “Look kids! Big Ben. Parliament.”
4. Ride the London Eye, but try to get in a pod with the German tourists. The Americans are too annoying.
5. Eat pub food. Not just fish and chips, either. Try the bangers and mash.

– Lo, who’s already planning her next overseas adventure. How about a hike to Count Dracula’s Castle, eh?

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