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June 29, 2002
Hobby and the Lion Princess
The Lion Princess is in town with her friend Hobby. They've come to Melbourne to stay at a plush hotel, to shop on Bridge Road, and to check out some of the city's more enigmatic nightclubs.
At least that's what they're telling their families. But the real reason for their visit is to hang out in a tattoo parlour. Hobby got a tattoo on her shoulder and the Lion Princess had her navel pierced. I went along to make notes and watch. If I wasn't completely sure whether or not I should get a tattoo, I am now. I've moved from uncertainty to complete conviction.
So if someone asks if I'm ever going to get a tattoo, I can nonchalantly reply:
If pressed further, I can also add:
Not a chance in the world
It just ain't for me. A tattoo is too permanent. I can't do permanent.
Temporary's fine, though. I can help you with temporary.
Half an hour in a tattoo parlour
Still, it was a good opportunity to meet some people that I probably wouldn't have otherwise met. Ken, the parlour's main man, was a great guy. Very relaxed, very observant, and very good at dealing with people. He said that people's tastes in tattoos have changed radically over the years. The fashion now is for designs of psychotic ultraviolence. Some of the designs available were horrifying combinations of eyes, foetuses and barbed wire. Ken himself had little interest in this kind of material. On one of his arms is a tattoo is a bluebird.
His parlour was something of a mess, which was causing Hobby a little consternation. It very much had the look of a transient, shifty operation. Initially I leapt to the embarrassing assumption that tattoo parlours just had to look this way, that their essential nature was to look transient and shifty. "Uh, no," said Ken. "Actually it's a mess because we've just moved."
And there's a sad story in that. Until a few weeks ago they'd been in the same shop in Flinders Street for decades. The place was an institution. Fathers took their sons there. But then their landlord decided that a tattoo parlour didn't suit his corporate image, so he asked them to move on. One of the last customers was an old American sailor, who told them that there'd been a parlour on that site for most of a century.
Ken has now moved four doors down the road, so he's been left with a close-up view of a long history that's been lost. It seems that if you run a tattoo parlour, you don't get much help from the Trade Practices Act, or the various historical preservation societies around town. Even if you've always paid your rent on time, and you have a very pleasant tattoo of a bluebird.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 11:20 PM in the People category | Comments (0)
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