These last few months, I've done my fair share of complaining and fretting, both verbally and via the Internet, regarding my current living/job/financial woes and concerns. And even though I shouldn't feel obligated to explain myself to anyone, I'm going to preface the remainder of this post with the following:
My friend Krystal and I have made a habit out of attending the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention the last few years. We've always had a phenomenal time hanging out with friends who were working the convention and meeting amazing new people and artists. This year, unfortunately, the convention fell just prior to Valentine's Day which is a super busy time at Krystal's job. We were bummed knowing that our annual tradition wouldn't be feasible this time around. But, luckily, fate intervened. What could possibly be better than the convention in Philly? How about another convention in Philly, held during a much warmer season, taking place aboard a goddamn battleship?!
|Photo "borrowed" from the USS Olympia's Wikipedia page|
That's right, the USS Olympia, the world's oldest floating steel warship, the sole surviving naval ship of the Spanish-American war, just so happens to be docked at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philly. And she was playing hostess for a tattoo convention from June 1-3 of this year. For a nautical nerd and a tattoo junkie such as myself, it was the perfect combination...the stuff dreams are made of. I marked the dates on my calendar and started counting down; the months could not pass by fast enough.
With all the worrying that started overtaking my mind on a daily basis, I started to wonder if I should just cancel my plans. As someone who always errs on the side of caution, I went against everything my brain was telling me. I ultimately decided that this was something I needed to do. Not just because it was a rare opportunity but, also, because I needed it for the sake of my mental health. I needed an escape and a distraction from the thoughts that were consuming me. I needed to see my friend and I needed to have fun. And I decided I needed to use some of the money I had set aside all year for the purpose it was intended for. I know there's a good chance I'm going to have to kiss my dreams of a DSLR camera goodbye, despite having saved $1000+ for it since August, and I wasn't going to let my tattoo fund meet the same fate. My "tattoo money" would provide me with enough cash for admission, food, and a small tattoo. I had been planning on this trip since the beginning of February and I wasn't going to deprive myself of it because circumstances beyond my control had presented themselves.
With that being said, my weekend was awesome, guys! The bad aspects -- getting stuck in horrendous traffic, getting caught walking in a downpour, fainting on Pat's front steps (sorry for scaring you, Krystal!) -- were very much outweighed by the good. After TomTom sent me on a ridiculous traffic-filled, roundabout route, I finally reached Philly. Krystal and I began our adventures and, let me tell you, it left us with some pretty great stories and memories.
As Krystal and I walked from her home in South Philly to the Olympia on Friday night, the skies opened up and all hell broke loose. There was nowhere to take cover from the rain and wait for a cab. Our umbrellas weren't on hand so we had no choice but to grin and bear it and laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. We were soaked completely through before we arrived at the ship. When I finally saw my reflection, the first thing that came to mind was when we gave my fluffy little furball of a cat, Reesie, her first bath. It was not a good look; my bangs were glued to my forehead. The two of us attempted to wring as much rainwater as possible out of our clothing before boarding the ship but it was no use. Within minutes of being on board, someone from the museum staff ran over in a panic thinking something on the ship was leaking. As we moved along, Krystal spotted an industrial fan which we promptly stood in front of in the hopes that we would dry out, at least a little. Her ingenious plan worked and, although were were still damp, we were no longer dripping from every inch. We were still worried about getting too close to the artwork and portfolios the various artists had on display, though! We wandered around the 2 floors of the ship where the artists were set up and, on the second floor, met some amazing guys.
Joe and Vlad from Citizen Ink were sitting at their booth and invited us over to take a closer look, despite our sad appearance. We explained what had happened and they kindly offered us a stack of paper towels to continue our efforts to become dry, presentable looking people. We checked out Joe and Twace's portfolios and the available flash for acetate tattoos and fell in love. We spent a good portion of our evening talking to these lovely Brooklynites (whose shop turns out to be only 2 blocks away from my aunt's apartment...and in a spot I've walked by hundreds of times since I was a kid) and made the decision to get tattooed by them the following day. We paid our deposits, said our goodbyes and left, still damp but giddy.
We went back to Krystal's, changed into some dry attire, and headed to a Mexican restaurant for a night of karaoke in celebration of Krystal's friend's birthday. I'm not one for singing at karaoke and, normally, I find myself wanting to cover my ears at other people's performances. But this was a treat. From an older guy singing LMFAO, among other age-inappropriate tracks, to a Fred Perry clad gentleman (I use the term loosely) singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," to a cover of the Smiths, it was an interesting bunch of performances. The entertainment and the drink specials made for a delightful evening.
|Fred Perry guy doing his rendition of R. Kelly|
The next day started a little too early for our boozy selves. We braced ourselves with breakfast from Wawa and wandered through the Vietnam Memorial and over to the Olympia. Once aboard, we needed to make our final decisions. What were we getting tattooed and, just as important, where?
I finally, after much hemming and hawing, settled on a piece of Steve Delgatto flash from 1976; a bald eagle with a banner and small flower underneath. It was one of the acetate tattoo offerings from Citizen Ink that Twace would be doing. Krystal eventually settled on a piece of Sailor Jerry flash (one of my favorites pieces) from Joe Khay.
|Joe working his magic on Krystal.|
One of the cool things about this convention (aside from being on a BATTLESHIP, have I mentioned that yet?!) was that they were doing assembly line acetate tattoos. There were countless pieces of flash to choose from. One artist would outline the tattoo and another would color, much like they did years ago aboard ships like the Olympia herself. I didn't go the assembly line route and, instead, had my entire tattoo done by Twace Martinez.
|Twace in action (photo from Citizen Ink's facebook page)|
|The stencil and the real deal (photo from Citizen Ink's facebook page)|
Unlike modern tattooing, where a stencil is printed onto paper and transferred onto the skin, acetate transfers are a bit more involved. The design is scratched directly into the acetate with a heavy needle. The artist then fills the grooves with powdered charcoal. This charcoal is transferred to the skin, which is usually covered with a bit of vaseline to give it something to adhere to. Because the acetate is not as pliable as paper (think of overhead transparencies from grade school) getting the transfer to sit properly can be a chore, since not all portions of the human body are perfectly flat. I chose to have my piece on my upper thigh and it took a few tries and relocation before we had success. The outline itself is pretty fragile, as it's just powder sitting on top of the skin, and it was a bit of a difficult tattoo; Twace did an awesome job and we were both excited with the result. I was his first and only acetate transfer tattoo of the convention!
|This promptly came off the table after my tattoo was completed.|
Krystal had work that night so I spent a few hours roaming around South Street and the surrounding blocks. I was met with vintage store after vintage store, thrift shops and all sorts of little places I loved and can't wait to visit again. I took in the architecture and art that part of the city had to offer as well. Philly is one of my favorite places; artwork is around every corner. Murals and mosiacs are everywhere.
|South Philadelphia: We Have The Gold!! Neighborhood of Champions.|
After the hustle and bustle of the previous night and day, we decided to take things easy that evening. Which turned out to be a good thing since I had my mystery fainting episode on Pat's steps just moments after we arrived. We had fun chit-chatting and watching Bob's Burgers and then were regaled with stories from Pat's roommates Ed and Erich. We didn't leave until 5am. The birds were chirping as we arrived back at Krystal's house.
The following morning she had to work, so I wandered around Philly in search of food before I left the city. I took a nice scenic drive through PA and into NJ where I spent the evening hanging out with Shelley and Corey, two of my favorite friends from college, and their adorable beagle Jackson.
|Look at that cute little mug!|
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. It was a nice little break from stress and something I'll reflect on fondly for some time to come.