Today was special. It was meant to be special, as it’s a day I have had in the works for quite some time, but it’s only been planned for about three weeks. In fact, on the sixteenth of May, I finally set the ball in motion by contacting my friend, Steve Rivas and asking if he was still in Vegas doing tattoos?
The reply I received within the hour was, “Yes, I am and how are you?”
The conversation was easy between us, and soon I had myself booked to get a tattoo on Memorial Day. I’d made a sketch, and I’d given him my references as well:
I’d decided to finally get the second of what I termed “anti-depressant” tattoos. This piece celebrated many things. For one, it would be my semi-colon tattoo, and in my design, I had created the face mask and shoulder from the semi-colon. I wanted to memorialize David Bowie’s presence in my life, and how much the man and his music had shaped and freed me, so I chose the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt to easily represent him. I chose the spaceman to represent both myself and my depression. I chose the lyric “Living on the breath of a hope” from “We are the Dead” off of Diamond Dogs to remind me to keep fighting, that sometimes, all I had to do was open my eyes in the morning and take that first breath. I chose the lyric “I think my spaceship knows which way to go” from “Space Oddity” off of his 1969 David Bowie album, to represent the vow I made to myself to always keep fighting. I wanted the moon and the night sky to be a part of the piece because of how in love I am with the stars and space, and because when I look up at the stars, I don’t feel so small and insignificant. No, we all share the stars, and to me, they’re a lifeline. We are all made of stardust and when I’m far away from those I love, I look up at the sky and know they’re seeing the same stars, the same moon.
Plans made, we discuss pricing, and then the incredible wait of three weeks commences…!
I know from our conversation Steve’s very much looking forward to working on this with me, and some of the days in-between, it is all I can do to make it through, knowing that this tattoo is coming. Last night, I shoot him a text confirming we’re still on for our appointment and to tell him how excited I am about it!
He replies back with, “Yes, I actually started on it yesterday. Be done with the line drawing later tonight. Send you a pic by 7ish. It’s gonna be a good one.”
It had been a crappy week, so the sketch was well worth it!
It didn’t have the top or the lyrics, and I didn’t see the semi-colon, but I thought of a place to put it. I reminded him of the words, which lyric went where, and then I was off to the races again with the real life job.
Today, I wake up and look at my bare right arm, and I smile as I get out of bed. Today is the last day it will be bare. Tonight, a spaceman would be born there, and he’d forever reach for the stars. Tonight, my love affair with music would be celebrated. Tonight… tonight, would bring Aladdin and his lightning. Tonight would birth a reminder of LIFE!
Of course, I have to earn the right to wear that badge, or so the real life job claims when the day is rough around the edges. I manage to get through with work and get home, changed, and washed up. I grab my bag and my best bud, and we head over to the Strip, making our way to the Stratosphere. Inside, we manage to find the Ship and Anchor Tattoo and Steve’s working on shrinking down the size a bit. We touch base and he asks me if I’ve eaten yet. When I say no, he tells me that I should, since we’re going to be here awhile!
Nik and I walk around the shopping area while he finishes up, and we decide on McDonald’s at the end. We eat, and when Steve approaches us and shows me the final design, I’m more than ready to go. We finish up, and head over to the shop. I finalize everything with payment and by sevenish, I am in the chair!
This is the first of many photo texts I send my little brother, Matthew, who I’d kept in the loop about the tattoo, and my friend, Derek. All throughout the process, the man on the bed behind me getting his entire calf tattooed, his girl, and the tattoo artist working on him, the apprentice in the shop, and another artist (called Dobby!) compliment the work Steve does on my art. (He free-handed the semi-colon on the spaceman’s jetpack!) All during the process, I am wishing I could play some Bowie to commemorate the beautiful tattoo. When he gets to the color on the outside of the bolt–the red and blue–Steve looks up at me and says, “Wait a minute… the reference you have doesn’t show the top, which is why I drew it the way I did. Is there red at the top? WAIT! The spaceman and the moon are in the RED bolt, aren’t they? This part’s supposed to be all blue!”
I make a split-second decision and say, “What if we made suggestions of red here at the top, and at the top edges of the middle and bottom shadows?”
Steve ran with it. I think I was pretty good until we played with the blue shading! OUCH, I say! Lemme raise that to an OWWWWWIE! 🙂
Soon, Steve is shading the spaceman and touching up the stars… and every second that passes, I’m sitting there thinking, “How the hell does he interpret my needs in this tattoo so marvelously?” I know I told him at one point I needed to find a new word to use for his work, because amazing didn’t cover it anymore and was becoming repetitive, but ye gods, I wanted him to know how much I appreciated it, his time and him!
And then… we are here!
I’m so jazzed… so jazzed! Steve cleans off and puts a balm of some sort on my arm, and he tells me to let it dry for a few minutes, and when it’s dry, he wants to take a few pictures. The other artist who’s been working on the calf tattoo behind me, chats me and Nik up for a few minutes, and then Steve returns. When he does, the other artist goes over to the computer controlling the Pandora radio station we’re all listening to… and I hear David’s wonderful voice start to come over the speakers.
Except, the artist has not only pulled up the song… he’s pulled up on YouTube the video for “Space Oddity.”
I think I lost any attention span I had left… and I was so touched! I kept my eyes on David, somewhat paying attention to Steve and the other artist, the latter of which said, “It’s a great backdrop, man! Make a video of the tat! This song in the background–”
That’s really all I heard as I watched David sing, my heart so full, my night complete. My dream for the tattoo completely realized, the backdrop (and the perfect song!) played without me even having to ask! It was all I could do to not cry for joy.
As an aside… Momma, please don’t be mad it’s bigger than I said it would be! 🙂