I was sitting drawing roses one day. Actually it was a good lesson in trusting the artistic eye too. I was sitting there with a 4B in my hand, this blank look on face, which ain't normal for me unless I'm thinking, and I closed my eyes.
I didn't have an apocalyptic vision, but I'm a fan of Chris Rock, and much like his "old guy in the club" bit, I saw myself at 60 (now granted, if you saw how I lived, smoked, and ate, you'd go, "Gloomy, you ain't gonna make it past 40."), bitterly bitching, covered in big think lines and shading with no color left.
Burned out but still there.
I put the pencil down and sat there. I really love to tattoo, and this thought kinda freaked me out.
"Man, how do you keep from burning out? Stay off the drugs, the booze?" I asked the master.
He stopped drawing hisself.
"I watch TV or go the movies. Sometimes by myself," He said, and went back to drawing sad looking new school things.
I do nothing. I draw, write, and on occasion I run out of paper or India ink pens and I go out, but on the whole I'm inside most of the time. If I were a nun you could call it cloister. I swear too much though. In fact I was inside so much that when dragged to the beach last, while I did put sunscreen on my tattoos, I didn't on the rest of me and ended up with second degree burns.
As a former musician I have mixed feelings about the public. I like them, and now I tattoo them, but if I'm out too long, or I get too much of the prevailing wind in my ears, I start to get sorta pissy. Call it what you will. Pique. Or that I don't like people. Or myself.
So the night I asked the question I ended up at the movies and it was all I could do not to throw pop corn at the screen, and I don't even remember what it was it was so forgettable. I did jeer the film though, a 'la mst3K, and had a small audience waiting for my next wise cracker.
(Remember that show with the selfish robots? Dr. Forrester? Joel? Mike? Great, now I'm showing my age and geek again. My fly is up though! So you're spared that, although I bet now you're thinking about it, huh?)
In the book form of Stoney Knows How, he said that Paul Rodgers was a great guy, but he had a "small mind".
I couldn't reason through it. Rodgers? The guy who worked with Coleman? The king daddy machine builder? THE PAUL RODGERS???
STONEY! SAY IT AIN'T SO!!!
It took me while to realize what the former sword swallowing carny was trying to say, and I had to look up Rodgers on the 'tube and see him talk, see him deal with other aspiring machine builders and show off his tattoos before I got it.
Rodgers smiled. If you see a picture and see him work he's all dead serious business. But the rest of the time he grinning, and has a "gosh golly, gee wiz" look on his face. The man loved his job, people, and had a sense of duty, no, a passion for helping people be better.
I think the guy might just have been a mortal muse.
Think about it. You couldn't just jump online and find a Paul Rodgers machine. Yes, I know he'd dead and it was pre dijital, but he never was a big supply house. You had to know him. Sure, you had to show respect, but when you did you got it too. As it should be. (The tattoo dude or chick these days has a warped sense of that. I blame TV. OH MAN! I sound like my Grandfather! "You buncha young punks, with your ABBA and your Pet Rocks!") Mike Malone had to convince him that people wanted and needed these flesh etching devices, and I'm sure Rodgers thought about it quietly, smiled big and said, "Well, OK."
Where is your smile? I'm still finding mine, and it isn't the easiest thing to do. In fact it's much easier to be a grump. I'm grappling with it like portrait work. I do like history, so I try to find the old guys that no one remembers and bring them to life again, if only in word or an old photo. If I can I try to write or call if they are still around. Sad part is that I'm past the time of many I admire. My idea of great tattooing, the kind I want from the guys, with a few exceptions, stops in around 1978.
To answer the question of why it's a little past 5AM and I'm still up? I am, sadly, relentless, even in doing nothing. Or almost nothing. I can pull off a nap for ten or twelve hours. I can sit down and go into myself, but I can never shut off my mind. So I find that when I can't sleep, averaging around four to five hours a night these days, I try to do something so I'm not bummed out about it.
So there you go. Just keeping busy, plodding along.
And that makes me smile.