Thursday, April 05, 2007

maybe a unicorn, maybe a rose, or maybe a satanic infant crawling out of my asscrack.

It is spring, and that means I am looking kinda ofay with my winter moontan, saying to myself 'Self, this shit needs more ink .'

I already have two small blackwork pieces. I eventually want a full left sleeve, all blackwork.
Anyone at this point who is thinking 'Oh my God you're going to ruin yourself' needs to know that I'm 46, OK? 'As Nature becomes less kind Art will take her place'.
Scene 1-
Little Timmy: Mommy, why are that old ladys' nasty boobs hanging out the bottom of her pantlegs?
Mommy: ShhHHH! Don't look! Have one of mommy's Elavil.
Scene 2-
Little Timmy: Mommy, what do the letters 'I S U C K CO C K' on that old ladys' neck spell?" Mommy: "It's another word for love, Timmy. A special kind of love."

...and really, wouldn't we all choose scene 2?

If I were thinking about getting my first tattoo, I'd be tuning in to the show 'Miami Ink'. You can learn a lot from watching Miami Ink; it's pretty accurate. Ignore the fake staged conflicts and the 'surprise' guest celebs. Watch the work. Watch the shop.

Yes, Ami James (is hotter than a 2$ pistol; I'd like to catch him in the shower one sultry Miami evening after everyone has left the shop and slide to my knees, taking his ) has a dog. No, he shouldn't be letting the damn dog run around in the tattoo shop. Still, as long as it doesn't actually lick the equipment it's probably OK. Ever visit a charming little restaurant that let a charming little cat wander around? Thought nothing of it, did you. Still, I have a problem with that, even though other people don't.

Obviously a tattoo artist needs to be someone who can render a recognizable likeness and who maintains a cleanly workspace. That's elementary. But if there's one thing I've noticed it's that you need to choose whose work you're going to be wearing for the rest of your life by their technique, how they handle the gun, not just the surface quality of their artwork.
God! Nobody talks about this either and yet its so important!

Don't just look at the examples on the walls...look through the artists' portfolios. YOU MUST.
The best portfolio pictures are the ones taken with as much detailed close-up as possible, right after the tattoo has been finished, where you can actually see the needle perforations in the skin. These should be beautiful and even, like the lithography on a dollar bill. It shouldn't look scribbly, or have a lot of places where the skin is torn up like the surface of a fresh abrasion (there will be a few if there's large areas of solid color. It's unavoidable-but you go back and they touch it up for free if they're reputable.) All those torn up areas will translate into places where the ink washes out and leaves a pale spot, or goes in too deep and leaves a blob that will get bigger as time goes by. Look very carefully.

Here's what you do. Pick your design. Then pick an artist. Then ask if anyone in the shop has had any work done by him, and may I see it?

Now, the shop expects this. Tattoos are meant to be seen. Tattooed people want to be looked at, and tattoo artists want their work looked at. This is not going to be a problem for anyone. In fact, you may end up viewing a lot more exposed flesh than you probably expected to see when you got up that morning. We went to a shop in Anacortes where the artists and patrons started just casually hauling out various parts right in front of the main window to show off their work, without worrying that it was next to the busy ferry was where the light was best. And for the most part that's how it is. It's art. The fact that it might happen to be decorating a region of the body seldom seen in public, or not very damned attractive to begin with comes secondly to mind. Interesting, huh?


If someone does have a problem, pulls the 'Well, if you're scared...' thing, or takes an attitude, run. Really.
If someone starts making a lot of apologies and excuses for their work, run. Period.

You never want to hear " Oh, I was so totally fucked up when I did that". We have. We left.

Likewise "I did that one before I knew what I was doing." Awwww! I wanted to hold him and pat him! With a sashweight! Poor brave soldier! You just went right ahead making permanent marks on peoples' flesh anyway didn't you? Excellent! So I can expect that very same level of professional consideration now? Great!

Now the only possible exception would be "You don't wanna see that, it's old." That might just be vanity talking, so don't despair. But DO take a look anyway. Old work is EXACTLY what you want to see! I cannot stress that highly enough! You WANT to see how their work ages! Their skill at rendering may well have improved over time, but I'll bet you any money they still handle a gun the same way they did when they started out. Think about use a pencil. Has the way you held it changed much since 4th grade? Probably not, huh. And paper doesn't scream or throw up usually.

An old tattoo will be blurry, and one on a part of the body that is exposed to sunlight might look really blurry. That can't be helped. However, it should still be recognizable, and it should be evenly blurry. There shouldn't be any big blooms. If the detail has closed up, it should all be closed up to the same degree. Black work should be even, and will probably be deep indigo instead of black. Any other color will be faded and weird looking, though, and that's just the way that goes. They say there's new inks out that stay true over time, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Barring that, watch the artist you've chosen work on another client.

If you hear 'Oh, I don't allow people in my workspace, it makes me nervous'
That's bullshit.
You allow your clients, your co-workers, and all the buttflakes stuck to your co-workers that fell off their clients to drift on through without a problem in the world. Which is totally OK, too - bacteria aren't real athletic. The difference is that bacteria don't have eyeballs, do they? But the client you spend five hours with your face an inch away from does...and they're watching you. But that's fine, huh? Hmm. Sounds a little...sadistic? Guilty? Pissy? You ain't touching this little muk.

A tattoo artist should not be applying a lot of downward pressure, chopping and grunting and flubbing the skin like they're digging a ditch. Neither should they be scratching and flicking and swiping away with dramatic gestures as though they were Mad Jacques the Artiste either. Grinders give you tattoos that spread and bleed into grotesque blurry blobs. That's because the ink has been pushed through all the skin layers into the meat, where the capillaries and blood spread the colored particles around as time goes by.
Mad Jacques the Artiste will leave you bleeding like you ran nekkid through the briar patch. Your tattoo will have bare patches where the ink was washed away, knots of overly-intense color in strange places, and be covered in long, thin white scars when it heals.

I have seen a whole lot of tattoos, and watched a whole lot of tattoos being done. It's only been within the last 15 years that I've begun to see as many good ones as there are bad ones....ones that still look like something you can recognize after 15 years instead of, say, really bad vitiligo. I attribute this to the fact that there are more tattoos being done by more people who are too young to have profound substance abuse issues, instead of a lot of tattoos being done by a few very dirty, very old drunks with gonorrhea.
Just because it's a stereotype does not make it untrue.


Yay! Everything checks out and you decide to get your ink.
After all that, it hurts!

...fine. I will boldly go there.
True or False:
Tattoos are an S&M thing, and people who get tattoos do it for the pain.

...? I have no idea.

I think that a lot of people in my generation did get tattoos for that reason. It had that association, and that didn't come from nowhere.

I'm not real familiar with this kind of sexuality or the motivating factors. If anybody out there is, and feels like answering some clueless dumbass questions about it, would they give me a dingle at please? I'm serious.

All of the tattoo shops I've ever been in were about as sexy as a hair salon. Or a barbershop. That's a good description of a tattoo parlors' ambiance, in fact; a barber shop, but with a lot of really interesting pictures on the wall. I've never been in a shop where anything I recognized as sexual was going on. (Now I'm wondering if I should be feeling left out. )

I've experienced endurance euphoria, and I've had endorphin rushes-with all the accompanying phenomena - sitting in the chair, so I can imagine what might happen if you were into it and knew what you wanted. And I do know that if the experience didn't hurt, I wouldn't bother. Make of that what you will.

Most of the people I know, including myself, got tattoos for two combined reasons: because they wanted something that would give them a little sinister, and they wanted a permanent, visible 'I am tough' badge. Whether they admit it or not.

Now that's not the politically correct answer, but it's the true one. At least for my generation. The ones that got their tattoos before they knew they could be removed.

how to tell a damn raven from a crow

I am a birdwatcher. Not a rabid one, but enough so that I have two pairs of binocs-one for the car-and have laminated the cover on my Pedersons' Guide.

Living in a rural- suburban setting I don't see a terribly wide variety of birds on a daily basis, but I do see more than your average bear because I know what to look for. Most of the time, though, since I have a life, I am perfectly content to watch the usual suspects...robins, sparrows, seagulls, starlings and crows. And here where I live, ravens.

Every time you mention the word 'raven' you get a kind of a half-second reaction from people like 'Geeze, read Elfquest much?' because people think that 'raven' and 'crow' are synonymous; 'raven' being the more 'Goth' of the two, which means that you are making a lame attempt to try and sound all cool.


Don't even get me started on 'blackbird.'

Yes, they are black. Yes, they are corvids. Yes, they inhabit overlapping ecological areas and play similar roles therein. Yes, they make 'caw, caw' sounds. Yes, they are right around the same size, within a certain range, and yes, that overlaps too.
So no, it's not something that you can nail at a glance. At least, not in the Pacific Northwest.

But because I love you, here is the secret to telling a crow from a raven:
(This is a fantastic picture, by the way.) You see the size and shape of that beak? THAT is the surest way to tell. A raven has a distinct 'Roman nose'...what's known as a 'cornute' beak. It is longer and bigger than a crows'. In contrast to the size of the beak, the dome of the ravens' skull looks disproportionately small.

The second diagnostic point is the shape of the tail in flight.
But see, that wouldn't work with the raven in the picture above there. That photo was taken late in the season. The end of his tailfeathers are all raggedy and worn away by using them as props against rough stones and bark.*
In fresh plumage, his tail will look like this, in flight:
Note- his head is facing towards your right, viewer.
That distinctive tail shape is ABSOLUTELY SPECIFIC to the raven. Notice that the tail is not cut straight across at the end of the fan but meets up at a point in the middle, a point which sticks out further than the sides.

Unless you see the bird in flight, though, it's difficult to make that observation. In rest he holds his tail folded up, so unless you're very close, or he decides to fan his tail and have a scratch, you're out of luck.

And now, in contrast, the common American Crow:

See the beak? More conical, and shorter...more in proportion to the size of the skull dome.
See the end of the tail fan? Straight across in a smooth semicircle. No peak in the middle at all.

There are other things that differentiate ravens from crows, but only around 75% of the time... and only on adult birds.

An adult raven runs slightly bigger than a crow, but only just. It is also stockier. If the crow were a track and field man, the raven would be a weightlifter.

A raven does not appear as sleek as a crow. Crows at rest hold their feathers close to their bodies, and they shine like polished obsidian. At rest the raven looks kind of scroungy; uncombed and rough, as though it's just had a good shake and hasn't bothered to rearrange it's feathers nicely. The raven picture above illustrates this quite nicely.

When a raven has somewhere to go across an open space he will flap slowly and steadily in a straight line to get there. Otherwise he spends a lot of time gliding. In a glide the ravens' wing primaries spread wide like fingers, and flip up a little at the ends. The tertiaries come down in a fat semicircle to the body. This is a characteristic of forest canopy birds who make lots of short gliding flights between limbs....more surface plane. Like the shape of a jaybird (forest) wing, as compared to a seagull(soaring, open sea) wing. Crows tend to flap more than glide, and the wing feathers stay closer together. A crow will also play in flight, doing flips and dives and loops and making side trips. Ravens are generally more businesslike.

The feathers on the neck and around the crop area of the raven are raggedy looking, kind of like the bird used gel on them.

Anywhere you will see a crow, you can see a raven. But the further up a mountain you go, the more ravens you will see.
Not much help, huh.

A raven is sneaky, and comically so. They cannot resist spying on people in the woods, and you do feel distinctly spied upon, too. They lurk around bent over like Groucho Marks, peering around corners and over limbs. They will gradually become bolder, but not so friendly that they'll strut back and forth unconcernedly for you out in the open like a crow will...if you get too close a raven will crouch and hop away, fluttering off a few paces, and then giving you a kind of reproachful look.

Unless you are dead, a newly born animal, a placenta or a dying salmon, a raven is not aggressive in the least (unless they have a nest nearby but that's like any bird.)

They will methodically go through your shit as soon as your back is turned, or they think it is. And I really mean the 'methodically' part, too. No fear or looking around now...their attention is entirely devoted to the task at hand. If you leave your backpack unattended, they will eventually figure out how to undo the zipper and dump it out. Anything pretty-sparkly that's portable enough for the raven to tug away or fly off with is gone, then. But weirdly enough, they'll fly back later and leave you a rock, or a stick, or a chicken leg or a pine cone or some other thing they've picked up, like a trade. I got a kid's hair barrette once in exchange for the foil from my pack of cigarettes.

They're smart, too. They can open simple latches. I watched one open the door and go right into the back of a camper and have a look around. They can unscrew the shiny button on your cars' door locks if they're on loosely. I've heard stories of them turning on faucets, and flicking the flame on old Ronson-style lever lighters too.

They'll go into your vehicle if the window is down. Right into your tent, too. They'll stick their heads inside your gloves and shoes, check out your sleeping bag and play with the zipper. If you ride a motorcycle and have a spirit bell on it, they love to ding those. Anything shiny and chrome on your vehicle attracts them. They will gaze into the shine, nuzzling and picking gently at the trim or what have you with their beaks and feet.

Now they don't do any of this in a pesty intrusive way; it's not alike a bunch of Gypsy kids selling flowers or monkeys mugging a tourist in Wild Kingdom park. It's more like they're conducting research. They're very serious about the whole thing. It's comical as hell.
All the while, the raven is commenting on everything in an undertone. "Mraw? Pop," he'll say as he picks your cigarettes out of the pack one by one, in a conversational way. If you've ever had a 'talking' cat or dog you know the kind of speaking-type noises I mean. They also vocalize soft clacks and rattles and clatters too, with a hollow sound like tapping on the bottom of a pop cup makes.
Which is not to say that they don't also emit all the usual loud and obnoxious corvid sounds, because they do, but only once they're out of throwing distance and at a much greater volume.

You can hear a raven flying overhead if it's flapping it's wings. This is the coolest thing. It makes a very distinctive, loud WHISH! WHISH! WHISH! sound. Often the bird will be flying quite low, to get a look at you as it makes its leisurely way past, and will comment softly as he goes over. The pair I had nesting next door last year always used to give me a howdy in the evening like this. Of course they left me a strip of dried possum hide on the roof of my pickup truck too, but I think it was just them being neighborly.

*That is a clue to his preferred habitat, too, which is northern and boreal pine forests, riverbanks, gravel bars and mountainous regions. Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, where they forget all that simple forest shit and hang around downtown, robbing dumpsters, picking up sailors and eating bums.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

the 60 mg. of prozac i take might as well get flushed down the crapper

I was just standing here putting together a dish of enchiladas when I was suddenly struck by the thought of just how good the lyrics to theme song of 'The Beverley Hillbillies' would sound if they were set to the tune of "Earache My Eye" by Cheech and Chong:

Come an' lissen to th' story uv a man called Jed..

...Jes a simple country turd, barely kep' his fambly fed!

"...He wuz up one day jest a shootin' at sum food-

...When up from the ground come a bubblin' crude!

God help me, I do not know why I think of these things.

I cannot have been the first person to have throught of this, right? This has to come from, like, a radio goof tune, or a comedy routine or something, right?


Failing the Blood Test: a play in one act

Scene: 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning
A lab in Lynden, predictably decorated with dried floral swags and pictures of Jesus. The waiting area is filled with woozy, hungry diabetics reading magazines. Nations is among the group.

Nations is called in and sits down in the phlebotomists' chair.

Nations: I'm a little nervous...the last nurse that tried to take my blood had a lot of difficulty finding a vein.
Nurse: Just relax.
*In pavlovian response to which Nations tightens up like a nuns butthole*
Nurse: *Dabbing at pit of nations elbow with her finger, a puzzled expression on her face* Yes, we've had a lot of complaints about her...huh. Make a fist and relax it a few times for me, would you?
*Nations feebly closes hand several times as puzzled dab-dabbing continues*
*Nations rigidifies into vibrating heap of terror*
Needle: poke
Nations: OW *Jerks, looks away*Nurse: .......whoops...uh-oh. Well, we missed it.
*Nations spasms involuntarily, kind of like PeeWee Herman being assfucked by Mike Tyson might spasm involuntarily*
Nurse: Oh, but look at those nice veins in your hand! Let's use tho-
Murse: Ok, Ok. calm down. Ok.
Nations: *Hyperventilating* Wow. Listen, I'm sorry. I think I'm...
Nurse: Put your head down and breathe. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Relax. You gotta relax.
*Nations draped over arm of chair feels the world becoming all whooshy and sparkly*
Nurse: ...And then once you feel better you can give me your hand. See those veins sticking up there on your hand? Those are great! Let me-
Nations: NO. *Snatches hand away, experiences horrific, incapacitating episode of pure terror and simultaneously experiences warm, wet moment of stress incontinence*
Nurse: *To receptionist* Um, get her husband. I think she's gonna...
Nations: I think I'm gonna pass out.
Biker: Hey.
Nations: I think I'm gonna- *Dry heaves*
*Nurse, receptionist and Biker dive for wastebasket*
Nations: Hyuurk! Hyuurk! Wow, nothing. Hyuurk! Buraaaaaap!
Biker: fasted. That's why they call it a fasting blood test.
Nations: Hyurk! Huuack! Hyuurk! Buraaap!
Nurse: Do you feel like you're going to faint?
Nations: Probably after I get done puking here.
Biker: .....I think you're done.
Nations: ....Yeah, I think you're right.
*Nations begins to ooze out of chair*
Biker: *Propping her sideways over arm of chair* Don't faint.
Nations: *hearing this at a great distance* I'll try not to.
Nurse: Are you gonna faint?
Nations: Yes.
Nurse: Don't faint.
Nations: Hmmm.
Biker: I'll be out in the waiting area.
Nurse: Just sit here until you think you can walk. Take all the time you need, hon. It's ok. We see this.
Nations: Wow. Um, I think I peed myself a little. Sorry-
Nurse: Can you walk?
Nations: I can't feel my legs so probably no.
Nurse:......Oh. Do you think you can walk yet?
Nations: Not until I can feel my legs.
Nurse: ....Oh. Well let me know when you can walk.
Nations: I think I'm ok now. *slowly rises from chair*
Receptionist: Have a nice day!


He knows you're single again.

He's already on a plane.

Here he comes, baby.

...Comin' ta GITCHA.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

quaint vignettes from my charming rural idyll

Oh, you know what? forget about that. I'm here.

My new furniture is here and it looks GOOD!
Behold the goodness of my new furniture:
this small living room comprises the original cabin-sized house, which was added on to over the years.

my squat...i always think of that old Marantz speaker ad when I sit here

The gladdest moment of my career as a housewife was saying sayo fucking nara to the old stuff. Is this pathetic? I do not care. I genuinely enjoyed watching those disgusting floral atrocities sail off the back of the truck. My only regret? The recycle center frowns on patrons setting things on fire once they are in the crusher.
Oh yes indeed. I am officially a grown woman. My furniture MATCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!

I recently pulled the washer and dryer out of my utility room (not nearly as well apointed as Ms. Betty's, I feel certain) and set to work spring cleaning. One job rapidly turned into about seven. Right off the bat the flexible dryer vent just fell apart into a pile of flakes and wires. No problem...I ran in to Lynden and bought a christian one from the hardware store.
Then I dusted and swept and washed down the walls and floor. Noticing I had some wear spots in the paint, I leaped happily like a big happy leaping thing to where I stash the interior paint, under the kitchen sink (I like to touch up the walls every so often. Yes I'm a little obsessed.)Yay! paint! I love paint! I love to paint! I have an excuse to paint!

It had frozen over the winter. Nothing but a gallon-sized chunk of white guck with a bunch of clear crap all floating around on the top of it.
Same story out in the garage. ALL the house paint had frozen over the winter.
I now have five damn gallons of what a few months back was perfectly good paint out waiting to go to the recycle. PLUS I had to trip on back into Lynden and buy a christian gallon from the Do-It center.
Fuckin' buzzkill.

At the end of March the eagles are all laying eggs and hatching young destined to carry on the fine eagle tradition of standing around. Mr. and Ms. Mallard duck have vacated the back yard, and the seasonal lakefront we enjoy here at ranchoFirstNations has gradually receded, allowing the septic drainfield to function more or less normally again. The herons are no longer seen fishing behind the garage...and the swans have gone on to wherever swans go to when they aren't here. Now what we have in droves are starlings, house sparrows and robins.

Unlike their cute little British counterparts, the American robin is a thrush. They leave in the fall so fat and round and full of blueberries that they're just barely aerodynamic. They arrive in February slim from migration and ready to kick ass. The males pick a likely nesting range and suddenly whammo- they're stupid with testosterone.
If only a fraction of this aggression was spent in finding a mate or learning to read we'd be tit deep in robins with magazine subscriptions. But instead the male robin devotes his first week and a half back home to kicking other male robin ass. Any male robin. Including themselves.
It's true. They'll attack their own reflection in a glass window, not once or twice but until they flutter to the the ground and lie on their sides, panting with fatigue. If the neibors cats don't get them at that point, once rested they regain their origional determination to drive away the evil, evil reflection robin and start all over again. We have had them attacking the side mirrors on the truck, chrome car bumpers, and the shiny interior of a coffee can my husband had placed on it's side in the grass.

In comparison the male house sparrow is a mellow little guy. He'll chase another male rival off, but mainly he just perches on shit and chirps.
This sweet song consists of one note emitted with the aid of a battery powered police loud hailer:
about a hundred and fifty six times in succession.
Apparently the female house sparrow finds this impossible to resist. Once she has selected a mate the two of them will spend the rest of the season and on into the early part of the fall raising successive nests full of young, picking at invisible things, and rolling in a frenzied, feathered ball of orgiastic sparrow coitus on my front lawn.

Nature is beautiful.
...this one's gross.
Last week a former workmate of the Bikers' showed up at the door , pale as a ghost. The police had just released him.
He had gone down to the plant to pick up something he'd left there by accident.
And found his boss-my husband's former boss-lying on the floor in a pool of blood and fluids feebly trying to pull a screwnail out of the top of his head.

Oh yes.

Suicide with a nailgun is a less than optimum method by which to effect ones' own demise, turns out. Particularly if at the last moment you lose the courage of your convictions and your hand wavers.
And particular if the loads are meant to drive a much smaller projectile.

This particular nailgun was loaded with framing gauge nails. Since it was used to assemble pallets out of dunnage, in order to avoid blowing the nails straight on through the wood the percussion strip was the one you're supposed to use with smaller fasteners.
His skull stopped the head from penetrating.
He was awake when they found him. With his hair full of brain matter. Obviously regretting his decision.

Now why this man, in a country that allows private gun ownership, chose to do himself in with a fucking nail gun is a mystery. Also a mystery is why he chose to do himself on the mill floor. That he was trying to do himself is beyond question. The nailgun was still in his other hand, still pointed up underneath his jaw.

On the other hand, the guy who found him is now the plant manager.
You have never seen a guy less enthused about getting a raise.


My tater was put to sleep two days ago, and I may not be ready to write this, but whatever.
His kidneys shut down.
He fell asleep in my arms, wrapped in his blanket, and the last thing he remembered was my arms around him and my breath.
I miss him so much.
If you have an animal that's in their final extremity and you're dreading the final vet visit, I cannot emphasize enough that it is not bad at all, not horrible in any way. They gave Opie a hefty shot of painkillers first, and it was a blessing to feel him relax and to know he didn't hurt for the first time in a long time. He simply drifted off to sleep in my arms with me kissing his face and telling him he was loved. And once he was asleep the doctor injected him with the euthanasia drug. He never felt it. He simply slowed down and stopped. It was so quiet and gentle. I was with him all the way out.
It didn't take any longer than it might take to read this.
We're putting him in the yard, out front, and putting a dogwood tree over him.
I am going to take a week off.