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Think of Ink

Citizen Staff Writer
Gargulinski column

Ryn Gargulinkski

There’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a skull. Or a dragon. Or a plump orange koi.

At least when it comes to tattoos.

“The tattoos we cover up the most are names of boyfriends and girlfriends,” said Tucson tattoo artist Henry Cortez, 23. He’s been with 4 Forty 4 Tattoo for three years.

“Names are a big step. I suggest something more like imagery.”

That way you can always say it means something else.

Skulls are timeless. Dragons come in infinite varieties to suit a number of moods and tastes. Koi, well, nobody hates koi.

A zillion tattoos can be yours for the taking – or simply viewing – this weekend at the Tucson Tattoo Expo. The three-day artistic extravaganza starts at 4 p.m. Friday at Hotel Arizona, 181 W. Broadway.

It may be a good place for a couple of my exes to go. One had a bicep that screamed “Fran,” a woman he knew in something like 1692.

Another had his thigh emblazoned with big block letters that spelled out “Ryn.”

Not all cover-ups are because of names, pointed out Johnny Ray Rogers, 37, owner of two Tucson Majestik Tattoo shops and an artist for 21 years.

One of the worst he’s ever seen was on a cute young lady, a dancer, who had a tattoo of a butterfly on her ankle.

The only problem was, the butterfly’s body was a male body part.

“I still have pictures of that thing,” Rogers said with a laugh. “I turned it into a really beautiful butterfly.”

Another woman, who shall remain nameless but has short red hair and glasses, ended up with a pretty bad tat at age 16 from the Michigan State Fair.

It was supposed to be a cobra but looked more like an emaciated worm.

It’s since been transformed into a snaking red dragon.

In addition to indecent butterflies and cadaverous worms, Cortez said, fads make for bad tattoo choices.

“Black tribal, bar codes,” he said. “Fads are out there with tattoos, just like everything else.”

Tribal, to me, seems everlasting. It also seems everlasting to my co-worker, who has it all over his arm.

If the bar code actually scans, it might be kind of cool.

But I’m still deciding if I’m a fan of my Brooklyn mailman’s inky artwork. He had thick, thorny barbed wire tattooed around his neck.

“I prefer not to do anything on minors in high-visibility areas,” Rogers said of questionable tattoos. Because, yes, folks can have regrets.

Arizona law dictates anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian when getting tattooed, which also may help with wise choices.

Rogers has not heard back with any regrets on one of the most colorful tattoos he’s ever inked.

He said a dude came in wanting Yosemite Sam on his butt cheek.

It gets better.

He wanted Yosemite Sam holding his pistols and aiming at the middle of his buttocks.

It gets better still.

The text was to read: “Come out of that hole, rabbit.”

While Rogers said that tat was quite amusing, he’s stopped fixing cosmetic tattoo procedures because it’s become way too annoying.

“People will go down to Mexico to save a few bucks and come back looking like clowns,” he said. “Black marker eyebrows. There’s not a whole lot you can do to fix that.”

All of a sudden a scrawny worm sounds scrumptious.

Lizards, on the other hand, haven’t always stood the test of time.

Cortez said he’s seen plenty of tattoos that stay looking OK through the ages – and if they don’t, they are usually on body parts people aren’t flashing around at age 70, anyway.

But Rogers has seen his fair share of lizards gone bad.

“There were these little bitty lizards that girls used to do on their bikini line when they were 18 or 19,” he said.

“They come back when they are 28 or 38, maybe after they’ve had kids, and the gecko turns into Godzilla.”

Long live the emaciated worm.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who has both designed and inked tattoos, including the block letters that said “Ryn.” Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. E-mail tattoo design requests and job leads to ryndustries@hotmail.com


What: Tucson Tattoo Expo

Where: Hotel Arizona, 181 W. Broadway

When: 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: $10 per day, $28 for a weekend pass.

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