Posts Tagged ‘memorial’

No More Tattoos

February 20, 2017


I mean.

I don’t know that I can say no more tattoos, tattoos I think will continue to happen, but.

No more tattoos there.

Specifically on my collar-bone.

Whoooee getting my touch up today was not intolerable, but I had some dread going back in, which is fairly unusual for me in getting work done.

Especially with something so small, but the location and the thinness of the skin over the collar-bone, really was, well not excruciating, but challenging for sure.

I have an idea for a tattoo I’d like to get next year but aside from that I have no other tattoo plans in sight.

In fact.

I was thinking that the one I get next year may be it for a good while.

Then again.

A lady can change her mind.

It’s just that I am not feeling the need for more ink.


I’ll probably get to Paris in May and go to Abraxas and want a tattoo.

I do like me a tattoo as a souvenir of my travels.

I have two from Paris and one I got in New York.

The rest of my work has been gotten here in San Francisco.

I have had one primary artist.

Barnaby Williams.

He is currently at Tiger’s Blood in Alameda.

I first went to Barnaby when he was the owner of Mom’s in the Haight.

I had made an appointment to get a dragon tattoo from Barnaby.

I walked into the shop into a huge bear hug from the man and big mournful eyes.

“Hey,” he said quietly, “how ya doin’?”

I teared up.

“I’m ok, but um, I don’t want to do the dragon tattoo anymore,” I said, eyes blurred and starting to sniffle, “I want to get a memorial instead.”

He nodded.

Sat down and drew out the tattoo for me.

Two white French Tulips.

(Shadrach’s favorite flowers)

And the last line of the elegy that Dylan Thomas wrote for his father.

Until I die/He will not leave my side.

It was written in beautiful calligraphic script.

The flowers he outlined and used white ink on, white does not traditionally stick very well, but it seems to have weathered the test of time.

I have had the tattoo for 9.5 years and it still looks bright and fresh.

It was the biggest piece I had gotten up until that point.

The other two were small, a cover up on my left shoulder of my name in flames, a cover up that Barnaby later covered  up with a dragon, classic little known tattoo–the cover up of the cover up.

In the end, so far.

Barnaby has done two dragons on me, both left arm and right arm, and a beautiful pink Jackalope surrounded by French Marguerite daisies, my favorite flowers.

I have had work done as well.

By Ross K. Jones out of Idle Hand on Haight Street.

Although when I got tattooed by Ross he was out of a warehouse space in the SOMA before warehouse spaces in the SOMA were at a premium.

Ross tattooed my first set of stars.

Seven stars for seven years of sobriety.

To this day I can say that Ross has one of the gentlest approaches and best bedside manner of any tattoo artist I have had.

I have one tattoo from a guest Chinese tattoo artist at Abraxas in Paris when I was there last year at Christmas, his name was Bin and we “talked” via Google translator.

He did the Reve (pop a circumflex over the “e” in reve and you get “dream” in French) piece on my chest plate.

Despite the area being a thinner place of skin, he was fast, smooth, efficient, gentle, it was quite a bit less painful than I thought it was going to be.

Barnaby has done one star as well–he did number 10, which was a bit bigger than my other ones and I had him do an homage to Van Gough’s Starry Night painting, but I asked him to use yellow and pink in the tattoo (thereby balancing the pink of the other stars that I had and complementing the sky blue ones I have as well).

Danny Boy Smith, at Let it Bleed on Polk Street, has done two of my stars.

Number 11, which I had him do as a black star to homage David Bowie’s passing last year and also my 11th year in recovery.


This current new star, star number 12.

Which is a soft pastel blue with black outline.

I like my tattoos.

They tell me a story.

They are beautiful art pieces.

I am connected to each in memorable ways and each has meaning to me.

They needn’t tell anyone’s story but my own.

I often forget I have them and will be startled occasionally when someone references them.

In Paris it was challenging, albeit not so much the last time I was there since it was winter, when I have shown off a lot of tattoos.

There are plenty of shops and plenty of people with tattoos in Paris, it’s become quite a bit more acceptable, but I have gotten some stares, tell you what.

Especially at the swimming pool or just walking the streets or going through the Metro stations.

I forget about them too, living in San Francisco.

It seems like everyone has one.

But some, well, some are better than others and I can tell the jail tats from the gang tats from the home-made gun tats and the sleeves of suddenly wealthy dot-com kids who made it big in the 90s to the hipster tattoos and throw back retro vintage Sailor Jerry tattoo art that is so popular today with the Millennials.

I was getting tattooed and pierced long before it was popular.

I don’t care about the time line on it, it’s just an observation.

I am grateful though, that I have had such great artists in my tattoo history.

I am proud of my ink.

Sometimes it is a mask to hide behind.

Sometimes it is a shield.

You cannot hurt me I have done the hurting already.

Sometimes it is art.

It is beauty.

The narrative of my recovery and the sheltering sky storms brewed up in my psyche.

Just another indelible way I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’m serious.

Courtesy of Mat Moreno out of Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn.

I have a heart tattoo with cherry blossoms on my left inner arm.




You Look So Pretty

February 16, 2013

She whispered in my ear as I hugged her tight.

“A hug and a squish, right now, please,” I said as I picked her up.

“I haven’t seen you in forever,” she said.

Two weeks to a five-year old can feel like forever.

The bells are ringing ten o’clock, I must pause to go look out the window and catch the Eiffel Tower and its glitter effects.

Be right back.


I smiled to myself as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirrored panes of the French doors between the kitchen and the dining room.

Here I am in Paris.

Having just attended my first memorial service.

May you rest in peace, John Wylie Hall, I was affected, so many lives touched, the love that seeped out of that room on the third floor of the American Church surely infected those in the city in ways the citizenry probably has no idea of.

Yet, it is there, this love, these words, these soft remonstrances against our hearts to open them further, despite the desire to throw ourselves headlong into the Seine.

You want to be loved?

Be loving.

His words, not mine.

John Wylie Hall at

His card read.


He stood for himself, true to himself, “to thine own self be true.”

Photographs flickering through a slide show, the Ave Maria sung by an opera singer in German, the tears sliding down my face, the profile of his son against the press of sunlight pushing through the frosted windows.

Candles flickered, roses shed their sweet smell into the crush of people who kept coming.

My heart flew out my body and bounded toward the sky.

The tears on my face were for more than just the passing of John.

I was crying for others as well.

“Get used to it, and get a good black dress,” she said to me as I cried on her shoulder, “you’re going to be around a long time kiddo, I can tell, you’re going to go to a lot of these.”

I can sense the truth of that still.

I sat in the window seat on the left hand side of the room remembering the numbness I felt the first memorial I went to.

I remember his father wearing his suit.

The father filling the shoes of the son.

I was so numb with shock I could not help that day.

I had been told to wear something colorful and joyful and that this was a celebration of his life.

I wore all black.

I wore all black today.

“You look so pretty, are you going out after you leave us?”  She asked playing with the earrings, one of two sets of “good” earrings I have.

One is an a set of antique pearls in silver I uncovered at an upscale boutique shop on Monroe Street in Madison.

I remember buying them with my ex-boyfriend.

I think I wanted him to buy them for me.

He did not.

So, I went back and got them for myself.

A few years and one very ugly break up later, having fled the city with my possessions in a trash bag in the back of my friend’s car headed up north to Hudson, Wisconsin, I bought a second pair of “nice” earrings.

What I call my ‘mourning’ earrings.

Again I found them at an antique store, this time with my best friend from Wisconsin who had taken me into Minneapolis to cheer me up.  Or distract me.  I had not expected the relationship to end in violence, fleeing the house in the middle of the night, in my nightgown, in January, with no socks on, riding in the back of a police car sent to the Sherman Plaza Shopping Centre on East Washington in Madison.

We were in the shop and I fingered them on the stand, drops in black rhinestones, I knew they were too much and I did not care.  I was not going to wait for someone to buy them for me.  I just scooped them up.

I put them on today.

One black dress.  One pair of black stockings.  One pair of black maryjanes.

Hair up and off the face.

Waterproof mascara.

I had a moment when I was tempted to put on the big silver hoop earrings, John had liked them, he joked with me about them and told me stories about wearing strands of pearls in San Francisco.

I can see that.

There is a service happening right now in Oakland for John.

They took a moment of silence today opening the Senate in Sacramento.

John was also active in politics, he was behind the defeat of the proposition to oppose gays teaching in public schools.

He quit the ad world to go into nursing.

He provided compassionate care to the community when AIDS ravaged the landscape of San Francisco.

He moved to Paris at the age of 72.

He followed his dreams.

He was loving and he was loved in return.

I pushed my back into the window seat and let the notes of Amazing Grace cascade down my throat with the pulse of tears falling from my eyes.

I felt moved.

I did not know John that well.  And yet, we spoke a similar language, and we have a shared community and when he found out I was moving to Paris he told me to do it.  I met him in San Francisco, introduced to me one afternoon in  shaft of sunlight he stood, haloed with it, a beautiful man with a twinkle in his eye standing next to Silas Payne, both shoulder to shoulder, swathed in sunlight that spotlighted them and impressed upon me that there is always something new to learn to strive for to dream on.

John left.

But his presence has not.

His ashes were interred today by the family in Pere LaChaise cemetery.

His love was interred in our hearts 33 years ago and will continue to nourish and sustain that ever broadening circle of love and friendship and fellowship that I am blessed to be a very small part of.


Do it in his name.

Do it in your name.

Do it.


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