A short piece I wrote after returning from Dave Yerkew's Convention in 1996 20th ann
First North American Serial Rights
About 1146 Words
Copyright 2011 Shotsie Gorman
HOUSTON TATTOO CONVENTION 1996
The Astrodome is the world’s first posh air-conditioned sports arena--a true testament to the crass cash available from the oil industry.
In its shadow another first was being remembered this January day a twentieth anniversary of the first-ever US Tattoo Convention, This one hosted by Lyle Tuttle and Dave Yerkew.
The tattooed crowds were certainly causing a stir in Houston. “You boys in a rock’n’roll band or something?” stuttered out a dumbfounded policeman swarmed by tattooed types shopping in the boot store directly opposite the convention site. Actually, considering what there was to do in Houston in January, a loud fart from one of The Papa Johns Restaurant chain outfits called (about the only place reachable on foot from the hotel) could've caused a stir.
Across from us loomed the Astrodome, like this anniversary of first Texas meeting of the inked, has contributed its own important cultural influence. It suddenly felt the two histories have overlapped in some perverse manner. Both surrounded by used car lots and pawnshops.
Once the Astrodome’s dome construction was complete and the field was playable, the Athlete’s complained they could not see the ball through the magnification of the sun in the glass dome. The answer was to tint the glass. It worked fine. The ball could be
seen--but golly, surprise, cut the sun and the grass dies. Hence the plastic grass ASTRO TURF IS born. It immediately contributed to more shredded knees and damaged backs and deaths in football history, large chemical poisonings of those who made it overseas The high-dollar fans were cool and comfortable, like the Caesars and Romans in their forums before them.
By the way “Arena” is the Latin word for the sand that was spread on the floor of the Coliseum to absorb all the blood!
It seems that the tattoo growth over the last twenty years has produced its own share of the tinted dark tone as well. Far from it’s secretive small community of tattooers it has turned darker Multiply the growth in commercial large scale tattoo events in the last 20 years and see what you get.
I overheard a businessman talking. He had popped into the Sheraton Astrodome hotel with some business clients to have a power lunch unbeknownst to him, smack dab in the middle of the 2oth Anniversary Tattoo Convention and Reunion. On the very day there was a water main break outside the hotel. These two events causing a distinct deterioration in the lackluster personal hygiene of the tattooed and pierced participants. A startling eyeful for our Houston businesman. He glanced around with his mouth agape and exclaimed, “Say, Am I crazy, as he sniffed the air around him, or are we in the basement of the world?”
He sort of summed up many of the mixed feelings that people had there. With him, we watched a sea of youthful, cherubic faces sporting slashes of protruding metal, boiled-up burn scars with weak tribal connections, arms, necks, and torsos (mostly exposed)covered with demons composed of garish stripes of subconscious fears and unrecognizable blurs of color.
“ Am I crazy, or are we in the basement of the world.”
At first I thought I should set him straight. I should give him the ass whipping historical tour of tattooing as an art form. Instead, I laughed out loud.
Frankly, I don’t know where the next stop is on the in the elevator of the convention cult or where my beloved art form was headed in the commercial world.
While pondering this question, I looked outside the window of the hotel, at a large looming billboard across the highway from it that read: WHO’S IS IT?” DNA TESTING CALL 1-800-DNA-8888 and thought, Maybe all of our collective scars and fears are not so far from the surface, tattooed or not. Or yes we are in Texas.
I stood in my 10’X10’ Over priced booth and watched the swarm of humanity go round and round the show, looking for something. All wanted to be looked at and afraid of what everyone will see. On the stage they were shaking and hyperventilating when their wish is finally granted. All eyes on me.
Along came the stories of how Enigma, was having his skull drilled and steel bolts screwed in for a later fitting of steel horns. I guess I'd never considered if the envelope of the avant guard would be the blood brain barrier. I wondered aloud if the body manipulators had considered how Astroturf could be added in.
Another story came off the assembly line of passers-bys of suffering the pain of a surgical insertion (done in a musty mold ridden hotel room I might add!) of a plastic prosthetic under a flap of skin on his forehead. All of this blood and gouging apparently, so he could frown and form a Tim Curry devil legendary look-alike demon brow. I guess the sewing kits they provide at these hotels have some use after all.
Sorry, I guess I am suppose to say “cool dude” and be hip, but I am well more old school and a bit revolted, not by the manipulation of the body in this manner (because that is understandable in the context of ritual but for all the angst, struggle, and suffering of pain merely to portray a trite Hollywood perversion of horror, a demon created for consumer consumption. I think a sad and dangerous interpretation of a powerful metaphor of the human struggle for understanding of what dark forces lie within.
Or maybe I just don’t get it like I used to say to my old man. Yes, the entire cult of piercing and tattooing conventions is heading us fast somewhere but I don’t have a fucking clue where.
I am sure there are those who could spin logical defenses for such insertions of plastics in both playing fields just to piss off the local parent groups and conservative Christians or to enjoy the felling and damaging of an athlete.
Alas, I suspect the youth culture, and cognoscenti will interpret these comments as evidence of my totally un-hip perspective.
This road will dead-end sooner than later. In the end I can’t help but wonder what will become of those who have chosen it.
I am admittedly confused by my participation in this strange convention cult and by my mixed feelings toward the evolution of it. It was in many ways like a Hollywood horror film, or like a religious one, all of this is after all is said and done a commercial property not some profound statement on the inner life.
I was beginning to identify where the real horror was. The well heeled air-conditioned fans of the astrodome watching their prize gladiators being led across the Astroturf of the modern coliseum the rest of us to be manipulated with plastic worlds and six burner stoves their blood splashed across the world for granite counter tops in the new kitchen. All while their souls are ripped to shreds by fear.
Eventually I did turn away from the astrodome looked around me. I just felt I wanted to put my arms around some of the younger people parading by, despite their stink , praise their scratchy tattoos, pat them on the back and say it’s all right.
But that would be totally uncool…