Today, on this beautiful, Southern California November morn, a place where fall smells not of foliage and fire places but of the hot urine and cold hearts, I hiked up the canyon to clear the crazy from my head. Minding my very own, uninteresting business as I reviewed all the reasons why I feel I need extensive therapy, strong medication and a new handbag, I see a topless guy walk passed me with his iPod shuffle shoved into his over-tanned ear holes. I notice his back is covered with tattoos but think nothing it. I am always passing people on the hike that look as if they’ve been raped by the alphabet and left for dead. I just assume this walking billboard was the same as the rest. Maybe he was tatted with the names of all his exes he had strangled or his family members that have lent him money or the ingredients of his daily fruit smoothie at Jamba Juice. It was not for me to judge or to read what his back skin said. I was busy reconstructing my sanity.
Tattoos are as common in Los Angeles as catching Herpes from a Trader Joe’s shopping cart or getting a Posh Spice Nose job off Craigslist. I have seen every kind of tattoo, from an upside down bald eagle with testicles to a noose on a gallows holding a dozen roses. One of my favorite ink stains was on a pudgy guy who was hiking shirtless and showing the world his lightning bolt on his forearm and the word “villain” scrawled across his rotund belly. The only thing frightening about him was his cholesterol level and his high-waist gym shorts.
I have spotted the dated, Pam Anderson barbed wire ring, those hacky and trendy tribal symbols most often associated with Polynesian drink specials, sloppy and misspelled gang writing, angry elbow spider webs chronicling hard prison time and crayon drawn likenesses of skanky chicks whose faces appear to melt anytime the owner sweats or flexes.
Ink is a personal choice and a way of letting the owner of the skin suit express him or herself. I get it. Your body is a canvas, your skin is a message board, and the ink is your permanent Facebook update. It’s a free country. Do it! Own it! Love it! But like organized religion and cheap street drugs, don’t shove it in my face and make me try it.
I mean, here I am trying to mentally alphabetize all my poor life decisions and I realize that while I am staring at this guy’s bronze backside, the letters have morphed together and formed a word I shamefully recognize. I continue to stare at his lower back, something I am sure his aged lover does before ejaculating all over his shoulder blades to the golden oldies. And suddenly, it hits me like a black platform wedge from 1994. The word I see before me is CELESTINE. The last time I saw a group of letters form that word, I was standing in line at Barnes and Noble wearing a chocolate brown snap crotch body suit and Fake Prada baby back pack, clutching a corporate credit card for a was-been celebrity and a pile of dark teal books titled, CELESTRINE PROPHESY.
Yes, those were the days when I worked for an over-processed icon whose reading list required less imagination than a sock puppet in a clothes dryer. And not only was I told to purchase twenty copies of these used pantiliners, I had to get twenty first editions of the humiliating, “The Bridges of Madison Country”, as well. My peroxide employer not only loved giving away her forged headshots to anyone who collected scratch paper, she adored handing out aspirational gifts to all her wrinkled and angry, thrice divorced posse of pals.
So, these horrible, dated memories flood back to me via this manskank in my eye line, on a gorgeous, clear day. I am dumbfounded. I will never understand how this dude had the gall, the nerve and dare I say, the sweaty balls, to get a permanent tattoo across his lower back, of possibly, the worst book ever written. I know some of you will shout from your rooftops and curse my name, but read it again and fight the good fight. His tat, this mess of madness, made every other tramp stamp I have ever seen look like a rare Kandinksy on the wall of The Met. I would rather carve out the word COOZE with a broken pencil into my collarbone than carry around that triple discount Amazon special on my dermas. My friend, my dear misguided pal, this lapse in judgment is clearly a case when your tattoo is a daily reminder for you to sober up and start reading the classics.