Yesterday Morning I finished reading “The Borrowers”. I was saddened that the adventures of the Clock Family ended where it did. Yet I was heartened by the fact that there are still 4 more books in the series for me to continue the adventure with these little people. Today I made my way out the back door, up the drainage gutter, across the small wooden bridge and up the brick path towards the pool. Skirting the pool on the stone paver’s I finally arrived at the patio and nestled into my favorite chair. With coffee in one hand and book in the other I sat down and breathed in the cool, fresh morning air. Taking a sip of my coffee I set the cup on the table. As the sounds of the birds, small mammals and insects that live in the thicket that surround my patio sang their sweet music into my ears I opened my book; “The Wind In The Willows” By Kenneth Graham. I read the wonderful introduction by Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne which included a copy of a letter by President Theodore Roosevelt praising the book. I then turned to Chapter One to begin a grand adventure with Mole, River Rat, Badger and of course that grand adventure and irresponsible flighty Mr. Toad. Ah what adventures await me over the next two weeks as I sip my morning brew and flip the pages. With wonderful pen and ink and watercolor illustrations by Alice In Wonderland illustrator Arthur Rackham I am sure to have a grand time with the grand denizens of the river. This book, more so than any other I have ever read, so fully encompasses the spirit and the life of the Gypsy. Kenneth Graham may have not been Romani but the Banker turned story teller had the heart and soul of one. As Water Rat so adeptly put it, “It’s my world and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing.”
The GYPSY tattoos The Enigma during Culture Shock in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2008.
I sat in the chair in front of the enormous desk holding the contract in my hands. Across from me, hands folded in front of him, sat the man in the suit and the tie with the Windsor knot that had handed me the contract.
I had just read article 15, which stated to wit; any and all work that I did over the next 15 years belonged to the greeting card company that was wanting to hire me as an artist. I looked at the man and thought how ridiculous his blue and red striped tie looked against the dark green of his suit. His eye glasses reflected the light, he looked like a Christmas tree with a sparkling tree topper.
The date was January 5th 1976 and I had just graduated midterm from my high school. I was taking college art classes and was not really sure what direction I wanted to go in life. The one thing I was sure of and the one thing I had always been sure of ever since I was a young child was that I would be an artist. Nothing else in the world interested me more than art. To spend my life creating art was my idea of a life well spent.
I laid the contract on the man’s desk and set back in my chair. He studied me and I studied him. “Well, what do you think?” he asked. What I thought was, “How did you get my portfolio?” I suspected that I knew how he had got my portfolio. My well-meaning mother, whose dream it was for me go to work for this well-known and well-respected greeting card company had probably sent it to them. That is what I wanted to ask the living Christmas decoration sitting across from me but what I said was, “Let me get this straight, any and all work I do over the next 15 years belongs exclusively to your company. So does that mean that if I paint a mural and hang it over my fireplace that you can come into my home and take that painting?”
He stammered, “Well technically…” I cut him off, “This is a simple yes or no question yes you can, no you can’t.” The human Christmas tree shook off some loose needles, cleared its throat and said, “Well theoretically…” I cut him off with a wave of my hand as I stood up, “Well theoretically”, I said turning towards the door, “I’m going to have to think about it.” Mr. Xmas jumped to his feet. “We are really interested in signing you; the contract will be here when you are ready to sign.” He pointed at his desk indicating the stack of neatly typed papers that lay upon it.
Over the years I have thought about that contract laying on his desk and I have wondered to myself; I wonder how dusty that contract is? Because I knew when I stepped out that door and it closed behind me that I would never be back.
I was 19 years old at the time and as I rode down in the glass enshrouded elevator all I could think to myself was if I had signed that contract I would be an old man of 34 years old by the time it expired. Now there are some people that would say I was crazy for not signing on with the greeting card company, I mean after all with the progressive salary raises that the contract offered by the time it expired in 1989 I would be pulling down $50,000 a year, not to mention accumulated bonus’, benefits and a fat pension package. At that time that was a chunk of cash, even in this day and age it is nothing to sneeze at, yet to me it wasn’t enough to sign my soul away. There is never enough money for that.
As I walked out of the large center that held the offices that I would never be returning to the chill wind sent a shiver up my spine. I stood and let the sunshine try to warm my face as I wondered; is it the wind that makes me cold or is it the thought of what I just turned down that leaves me chilled. There was one thing I knew for sure I wasn’t in a big hurry to return home. My mother’s dream for me had always been for me to go to work for that particular card company but it wasn’t my dream. No I would have to return home and tell my mother that her hopes, plans and aspirations for me were not the hopes, plans and aspirations I had for myself.
As I drove down Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri I looked to my right and my left for some distraction, for something that would allow me to kill some time so that I could delay the inevitable scene that would occur when I told my mother what I had decided. That is when I saw it, the tattoo parlor, I turned the corner and pulled into the parking lot behind the building.
I had never been inside a tattoo parlor, the thought of going into a tattoo parlor had never even crossed my mind let alone the thought of getting a tattoo. On this day my only thought was; let’s go in and check this out and see if it’s just like it is on TV and in the movies. Besides I was looking for a way to kill time and this was as good a way as any.
As I walked into the building the smell of alcohol, soap and cigarette smoke assailed my nostrils. The walls were filled with a mirade of cartoonish looking designs on large cardboard sheets; I would later learn that these were called “Flash”. The only sound inside the building was the music playing from an old radio up on a shelf and ithe nsisted buzzing of the tattoo gun.
In this time and place the terms “parlor” and “gun” were appropriate; that would not be the case in the future when those terms would become archaic and be replaced with studio and machine. But the tattooist who sat behind the counter in this “parlor” tattooing the arm of a man with his “gun” was not only appropriate but descriptive of the atmosphere of this place and the individual whose imposing presence ruled this domain.
I swallowed hard, cleared my throat and then in a voice meeker than I had intended said, “Excuse me sir, do you mind if I watch you work?” Without looking up from the bicep that he was tattooing a peacock onto the tattooist barked out, “Yeah, but don’t talk to me.”
I will not bore you with the details of my long time standing there watching this man tattoo. To go into detail about what he tattooed that day who he tattoo that day and where those tattoos were placed on the numerous bodies that walked in and out of his shop would do nothing but put you to sleep and cause you to stop reading this narrative. What is important to note was that 14 hours after I had first asked Gene if I could watch him and he locked those doors to his parlor for the day I was still there.
“So”, he asked as he locked the door, “when are you going to start learning how to tattoo?” I laughed, “What makes you think I want to learn how to tattoo?” Gene eyed me up and down and shook his head. “Boy let me tell you something I have been tattooing for twenty eight years, I am third generation, my daddy tattooed before me and his daddy before him. Nobody, and I mean nobody stands for 14 hours straight with their mouth closed watching me work that doesn’t want to learn.”
I was a 19 year old kid who thought he had all the answers, who believed that no one knew what was going on in this whole wide world any better than he did. I looked at Gene smirked and said, “I’ll have to think about it.”
“Yeah right”, he said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
The drive home between Kansas City and St Joe that morning seem to take longer than usual. My mind was working overtime weighing, balancing, determining, and desperately trying to see into my murky, crowded and unknown future.
Around 4 a.m. I walked in the door of the apartment that I shared with my mother and sister. My mother sat on the couch waiting for me a stack of magazines and newspapers next to her. She jumped up as I entered the apartment and almost, no doubt in her excitement, screamed, “Where have you been? Where have you been? What did they say? When do you start work for them?”
I took off my coat and dropped it over the back of the chair by my mom’s priced piano. I turned around and faced her; you could not miss the look of excited anticipation on her face. I cleared my throat and said, “I’m not going to work for them.” The look of excitement left my mother’s face and was instantly replaced by a look of confusion. “What do you mean you’re not going to work for them? If you don’t go to work for the greeting card company what on earth are you going to do?” Mustering up as much of my manly nineteen-year-old fortitude as I possibly could I looked my mother dead in the eye and said, “I’m going to be a tattoo artist.” She promptly screamed and fainted.
My grandmother took it a little better then my mother did. When I phoned her to give her the news and I told her what I had decided. There was a slight pause on the other end of the line, I heard her exhale and then she asked, “Will it make you happy?” I said, “Yes ma’am it will.” My grandmother said, “Well then that is all that matters.”
In my 40 year career I have had many milestones, many accomplishments and many let downs. I have always chosen to not dwell up on the downside of my career but rather on the upside and what I have been able to give back to a profession that has given so much to me.
I have three associates degrees; forestry / wildlife management, technical illustration / mechanical drafting and psychiatric technician.
I have had the first tattoo studios in St Joseph Missouri, Abilene Texas, Midland Texas, San Angelo Texas, Baxter Springs, Kansas, Iola Kansas and Independence, Kansas. I also had the first legally registered tattoo studio in the state of Oklahoma and from 1995 – 2010 I was the officially recognized tattoo authority for the Osage Nation.
I was the first person in the state of Kansas to actually go to school to learn how to pierce and learn how to do microdermal implantation, what is commonly referred to as cosmetic tattooing.
At one time it was believed that you couldn’t tattoo over scars. In 1977 I was allowed the opportunity to practice scar cover up on a gentleman that had been burnt over three quarters of his body. I spent a year working on his arm and taking notes. I developed a procedure that worked for covering up his heavy scar tissue with tattoos and I wrote a paper on it in 1978. Tattoo artists that cover up scar tissue today may not know where the technique came from that they have learned to do but that’s okay. Because it gives me satisfaction to know how many people have been helped because of work I did in 1977 and 1978. Recently I heard of a tattoo artist in Ohio who is donating their time to cover the scars of victims of severe trauma. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to hear of other people in my profession giving back with something that I helped develop.
I promoted, organized and sponsored the very first ever tattoo convention in Kansas which ran from 1993 – 1997.
I have been a senior zookeeper, a soldier, a photographer, a truck driver, a bar owner and a school bus driver. I have driven ice cream vans, been an art teacher, actor and common laborer.
Together with my wife I founded Artist Alley and American Ghost Riders (a paranormal research group). I am an artist, an author, an illustrator, and a psychic.
I ran for the Kansas State House of Representatives in 2006 and I am the creator and executive director of Topcon Geek Expo.
I have donated of my time, my energies, my talents and my self to numerous civic and charitable causes. I was the Chairman of the Baxter Springs Joint Historic and Beautification Committee. I have sat on the board of Directors of the Baxter Springs Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Kansas Tourism Region and 4 State Tattoo Association. I was an Explorer Scout Adviser and a Children’s Art Teacher. And through all these things I have done and been I continued my Body Art career practicing my love of Tattooing and Piercing.
In 2008 I became one of only 27 people worldwide that had taken and passed the Alliance of Professional Tattooist Tattoo Mastery test.
In 2009 I was appointment to the Kansas Board of Cosmetology, by Governor Mark Brown, as the representative for the body art industry in the state of Kansas.
I have one of the first websites ever on the Internet dedicated to tattooing and piercing I have owned the www.ubtat2d.com domain since 1994. I am a resident expert on body art on www.allexperts.com and I have written numerous articles about tattooing and piercing as well as doing the lecture circuit disgussing body art safety and ethics.
From 1988 through 2010 I owned several different state of the art mobile facilities and worked the show and event circuit during the summer months. Arizona to Kansas to Oklahoma to Missouri to Ohio I traveled, I tattooed, I pierced. South Dakota to Arkansas to New Hampshire to Iowa to Texas I did the miles and I did the art. Pennsylvania to South Carolina to Nebraska to Wyoming to New Mexico I left no road untraveled and no client unmarked.
I have given countless television and radio interviews as well as appearing and starring in movies and television documentaries about tattooing, piercing and the paranormal. I even share top billing in a movie with Peter Fonda, Jim Dandy, Greg Alman, Willie Davidson, Slaughter and Paul Revere.
I have won numerous awards and accolades for the tattoo art I create both nationally and internationally.
I have artwork in the Smithsonian institution as well as in museums in Kansas and elsewhere in the United States. I am even part of an exhibit about American art that is featured in a traveling Museum in Australia.
My art and the career that I chose to follow have put food on my family’s table, clothes on my children’s back and a roof over my family’s head.
I am an old school tattoo artist and proud of that fact; I make no apologies to anyone for the art I create nor the style of that art. I do not compare my work to others and I do not appreciate it when others compare their work to mine.
All artists no matter what medium they work in have their style. You cannot compare Van Gogh to Renoir, you cannot compare Michelangelo to Rodan and you can not compare Sailor Jerry to The Gypsy. All have their styles, all have their niche and all have they’re separate following. The type of art I like is not the type of art that another person may like and vice a versa.
I have been practicing my tattoo art 40 years now and truthfully I am tired. It is not that I am tired of tattooing because I’m not. It’s not that I am tired of creating art because I am NOT. What I am tired of is ignorance; ignorance that comes from rudeness and the rudeness that comes from disrespect.
For 40 years I have dealt with the truly ignorant, the truly Rude, the truly disrespectful and and with the widespread popularity of social networking the trolls have become even more ignorant, rude and disrespectful and I am just tired of it.
It is an unfortunate statement on our society that you cannot educate those who refuse to be educated. I know, I have tried to educate people but while some learn others close their eyes, they close their ears, and they close their minds. Those are barriers that you just cannot pass through and I am done trying.
That is why I have decided to pass on the torch to younger and more enthusiastic members of the body art community.
In the near future I will be retiring from body art. I will go back to where it all started; I will lay down my tattoo machine and pick up a paintbrush and my art will have come full circle. So it is with life everything comes full circle and there is no beginning and there is no end.
In my career I have apprenticed 18 people; out of those 18 people 2 proved their worth. It is to those two that I will leave my legacy my hopes and my dreams to. My final chapter will never be wrote because within all those I have taught, touched and loved in my life and in my career my story will continue.
They will take all that they have learned from me and they will expand it, they will improve upon it and pass it on to those who want ti learn and will further expand on and improve the world of Body Art just like I did with what I learned. I will live on from generation to generation and the ethics and passion I contributed to Tattooing and Piercing will live on also. Because just as I drank from the spring that formed me so too did they drink from the spring that formed them and those who come after them will drink from their spring.
So when that day comes that I do announce my retirement do not mourn for what has ended rather rejoice with me in what has begun. Because baby you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Do you know me? The truth of the matter is no you do not. Unless we have personally shared wine, food and song together I am nothing more than a faceless entity typing words on an electronic keyboard. I can be whoever I want to be or whoever I want you to believe me to be. I can tell you anything I want and if I am good enough with the story you just might have enough faith in me to trust that I am telling you the truth.It is so easy to manipulate, lead and make others believe what you want them to believe. I can be real or I can be fake. For instance I got the following message yesterday:
FROM DUCKY DON:
Gypsy my friend, I cannot take it any longer, the guilt is eating me up. As my Presidency nears it’s end I have to cleanse my soul. It has all been a lie, a terrible, terrible lie. My son Don Jr., son-in-law Jared and friend Vladimir did help me steal the election from Hillary Clinton. I knew a Russia was going to interfere in advance. I agreed to deregulate numerous companies so that my buddies could make more money at the American peoples expense. I knew that there was no good reason to try a destroy Obama Care I just couldn’t stand for Kenya Boy to have his name on something that helped people get affordable health care. And I let the Tax Reform vote happen so that I could give my banking buddies a financial boost before I left office. I am so very, very sorry. I have asked God to forgive me and I hope you can too.
Your Friend Donald
Does that mean that is real? Of course not it is no more real than this message I received the same day:
FROM JERRY JERKY
Gypsy I am so glad that I am a Giants fan. I know that they are Super Bowl bound and will win for sure. Cowboys Suck! Go Giants!
Your Friend Jerry Jones
These messages must of come from Donald Trump and Jerry Jones because they signed them right? Wrong! I was able with just a few key strokes and a little cut and paste to create two messages that for all practical purposes look legit but in reality are as bogus as they come. Just because I created the messages myself, that did not make them real. The name’s match but again that does not make them real messages.
So much misinformation travels around Social Media and the Internet it is often hard to tell what is real and fake. Sometimes we get so carried away in our convictions that we put ourselves into a potentially unwanted legal complication.
I asked two questions in a blog that was posted on another site about slander and liable and neither question was answered. Of course I didn’t need them answered because I already knew the answer. The questions were:
Did not your Attorney advise you against discussing this case outside of the court room? Did not your Attorney inform you that counter suits can be filed against you?
In a pending litigation your attorney does not want you discussing the case outside of the courtroom. The court frowns on it and whatever you discussed outside of litigation can be used against you and jeopardize the pending action. Also, if you at any point retaliated directly or in directly either verbally and through individual action a counter suit can be filed. Liable and Slander are the hardest cases to negotiate, litigate and win.
Most attorney’s shy away from them because of the two way communication that has already transpired. In order for a slander and/or liable case to have any validity at all one party has to 100% guilt free and without ever having responded in any way, shape or form.
Sometimes people will say that they have recordings of certain conversations that can be used against another person. But unless you are an agent of the Government or a Law Enforcement Agency any recording that you may have is inadmissible in a court of law. As a private individual, before you can legally record a conversation, you are required by law to inform the person that you are recording.
Case in point, when you phone a utility company to establish service they will often do a voice authorization over the phone. They inform you that the conversation will be recorded and they ask if you understand. Most corporations start out their telephone communications with this announcement: “This conversation may be recorded for training purposes.” The conversation is always recorded and that is considered due notice. So unless you have informed the other party you are recording anything you may have cannot be used in a court of law.
Too many times we are ready to jump on the band wagon and beat the drum just because something sounds right, or because we hate a person, or even like a person. Maybe our lives, at that particular time, are boring and a little drama sounds like a whole lot of fun but that whole lot of fun can cause a whole lot of hurt if there is no truth in the allegations. And the truth is we really don’t know, in this cyber world, what is truth and what is reality. We always hear talk about “Fake News” and we hate those who propagate it but news is not the only thing that can be faked. As I showed you messages can be faked too but so can so many other things.
I am a Tattoo Artist! Or am I? Maybe I just copied someone else’s tattoo’s into my profile on Facebook. I am an Artist! Or am I? Maybe I just copied someone else’s art off the Internet and claimed it was mine. Maybe the painting I posted in Tier 5 on my rewards page is in reality one that I got at a flea market. I own a Harley! Or do I? Maybe those are photos on my Facebook Profile of my deceased brother on his bike and I am claiming they are me.
Maybe I am all of you and I am none of you. I am whomever I want you to believe I am today. Tomorrow I may be someone else. I will tell you what you want to hear and I will manipulate you so that you think like I do, have the same belief’s I do, hate who I do and like who I do. I will be anything you want me to be or I will be anything you want others to think I am. I am a piece of clay with a keyboard and I take what ever shape suits my purpose at the moment. Until you meet me face to face you don’t know me and I don’t know you. You will only believe of me what I allow you to believe and I will only believe of you what you allow me to believe.
I for one will not participate nor be party to any witch hunt against any person no matter who that person may be. I have had my disagreements with people on social media but that is what they are, disagreements. You can agree or disagree with me and my opinions of others just like you can agree or disagree with their opinion of me. But the one thing that I will always do, no matter who it may be, is speak out if I think they have been treated unfairly. Everyone that has ever condemned another on social media has mostly done so based on flimsy, hearsay evidence.
There is an old expression; “I’m from Missouri Show Me.” Well I lived in Missouri for over 10 years of my life so “Show Me”! But unless you can show me something other than the type of evidence I can easily manufacture myself, as I have already proven I can do, then don’t expect me to jump on the band wagon with you. I would rather hear the sound of my pipes as I thunder down the highway than listen to the same old tired tune beat to death on the skin of broken drum head.