Stick and poke

I got my first tattoo when I was 20, living in Kelowna, B.C. I was playing in a band at the time called The Tups (check your Shakespeare), and hanging out with a bunch of greasy punks in a scene that celebrated debauchery and squalor. Bands like HippieCritz, Taberfucks and the Effigy exemplified the attitude of the day: drink, fight, fuck, who cares. Showers? Forget it.

One night, after drinking Pilsner and Alberta Premium rye whisky in the sun, I had a party at my pad on Pandosy, just south of Highway 97. A bunch of punks showed up with more shitty beer in tow and we got into it hard. A girl I was sweet on at the time — at least as sweet as you could get in that fast-living, oblivion-or-bust scene — was there. She was an art student at Okanagan University College (now UBC-Okanagan), and she had a couple home-made, prison-style tattoos. A star on her hand, a weird symbol on her arm. Sitting in a corner, sipping on whisky, I got asking her about them.

“How’d you do them?”

“Easy,” she said. “Its just pointillism. Sewing needle and India ink is all you need.”
Soon enough, I was rummaging around for a clean needle and she was digging through her bag for a bottle of ink. In due course, we found both. I decided I wanted my band’s logo inked permanently into my epidermis, so she sketched it onto my left forearm from a sticker I had kicking around. To sanitize the needle, we held it over the flame from a Bic for a few seconds, then we dove right in.

As shitty punk rock blasted from the CD player in the corner, my friend meticulously and repeatedly stabbed my forearm along the line she’d traced. Every minute or so, she wiped droplets of ink and blood from the area. An hour or so later, the tattoo and our bottle were finished.

Now, I’ve had a few tattoos since, and all done in licensed tattoo parlors by professionals. Sadly, the Tups fell apart years ago, and I haven’t seen a lot of my old friends from the Kelowna scene in quite some time. While I would not advocate that anyone go out and tattoo themselves — or their friends! — I still have a place in my heart, and on my arm, for that tattoo, and the memories it invokes. Some of the best times of my life were spent with my friends in that band and in that scene. As shitty as my late night, booze fueled stick-and-poke tattoo is, I wouldn’t do things any differently if I had the chance. I do, however, thank Namtar that I didn’t get hepatitis!