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The Village Idiot

Wisdom is where one finds it

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(12/2016) An idiot walks into a tattoo parlor thinking about getting a tattoo. Not on myself, but on a piece of leather I could have sewn onto a wallet my employer could present to a wholesaler the factory still does business with. There was also some vague idea the shop owner might be able to sell some of our leather goods with his art sewn onto them. The last thing I was thinking about was I'd end up thinking about thinking after stepping through the door of the Emmitsburg Tattoo Company on the square of this place!

I can't claim my first impression of the only tattoo parlor I've been in left as deeply an implanted memory as did a farmhouse outside of Creagerstown in the mid 1970s. Eight hippies sitting on sofas (one raised on blocks behind one with it's legs removed), passing joints and singing the 1970's Mickey Mouse Club theme song will likely be with me when I croak. No, my first impression of the tattoo shop has become blurred by creeping senility. Still, I've learn something each time I stumble through the shop door.

I do recall thinking, Wow. This isn't what I expected. No smoke dimmed room with scantily clan females, or burly bikers, or black clad Goth/Emo types with assorted bits of metal poking out in odd places. Art hangs everywhere and there are comfortably padded bar stools and sofas to survey it all from. Some of the art even looks familiar. Gods! Is that a print of one of Frank Frazetta's classic barbarians? Oo! I recognize that one over there from the cover of a Molly Hatchet album! Hey, maybe this place isn't as bad as my upbringing had me convinced it would be. And then Don Sonn stands up to welcome me to his shop.

Whoa. Reassessment time. Don is burly, probably a biker or a bouncer in a past life. I begin yammering about why I'm bothering him at work and he allows he'd been thinking about experimenting with tattooing leather. How that opening conversation ended up taking me down the rabbit hole of thinking still befuddles me.

I babbled that Dad had a bare chested, grass skirted hula dancer tattoo. Don says that was a classic tattoo for Dad's generation and occupation (WWII crewman in a bomber over Germany). The man knows his tattoo history. We talk about my kidlet getting a tatt, against my advice. Don warns me there will be others and I'd best prepare myself. (There are and I have.)

Because I constantly find new art that fascinates me Don says "Tattoos aren't for you." I admit a bit of relief, though I find myself thinking what I'd let him prick into my skin if I were to change my mind, not an impossibility considering half the time I don't know where it is. What would I carry to the final compost pile if I were to get inked?

A stylized archer based on a 20,000 BC cave painting! And given that people tend to get more than one tatt, I'd follow the archer with one of those cave painted buffaloes! And of course I'd have to have some rendition of a Japanese Zen archer. And a Hungarian horse archer! And... Okay, I see how people can end up covered in art.

Because I'm fascinated by Don, and the art he creates on people, I begin to think of excuses to hang around his shop. Bread comes to mind. Since Simona has left the continent, I decide a short walk to the square is better than shipping a loaf of bread halfway around this rock. Don and his associate Kevin, become my new bread critics, at least until the Mad One returns. And like Simona, Don will eat anything I bring to him and give me an honest critique! Kevin knows what he likes and so far I haven't produced it. (Don laments this place's lack of a bakery and has suggested I consider opening one. I'll think about doing that when I stop laughing.)

Having invoked the Mad One, I have to tell of her recent visit. She and cousin Luke spent slightly more than a week in our upstairs apartment while Simona set about becoming a citizen of our country. (She was eligible to apply for citizenship after living here for three years, but she took ten years to study us and be certain of what she was becoming a part of.) Having passed the ridiculously easy test (without the aid of the lawyers that every other applicant seemed to have by their side, mostly as translators) she decided she needed to reminisce about this burg before she flew back to her current home 7 or 8 times zones elsewhere.

"Walk with me." She commands.

"Yes Dear."

By the time we'd tramped to all of her remembered places we are more than a little melancholic. I hesitate in front of Emmitsburg Tattoo Company and suggest we venture inside when she raises a questioning eyebrow. She was trained in an art school. Peasant that I am, I'm never sure of what she considers art.

I rarely make good decisions. Sobering up and marrying DW was one. Leading Simona into Don's shop was another.

Simona is slow to make friends and quick to dump those she decides are not worthy. I was more than a little surprised at how quickly she took to Don and Kevin. Their welcoming her into their world without reservation probably eased that acceptance along. Within minutes she was invited beyond "the Wall" that separates the artist from us gawkers. Don gave her a crash course on tattooing; tools, styles, skin types, muscle tone or lack of, and levels of pain tolerance. (The young woman he was inking had a higher than normal level of tolerance and she didn't mind Don taking his time with the pricking to explain every step to Simona.)

When the shop closed for the day the bonding continued. The Mad One introduced herself formally as "Citizen Simona". Her accent so delighting Don and Kevin that they gave her a new name, Natasha, after the fem fatale in the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Everything was going along swimmingly, with me generally keeping up, until someone (Simona, I think) mentioned a philosopher that Don hadn't read and I got left behind.

Really? A philosophical discussion in a tattoo parlor? My view of the world flips over, yet again. But Don, ever surprising me, days later hands me a book he claims changed much of his thinking about us, humanity. "The Wolf In The Parlor, the eternal connection between humans and dogs" by Jon Franklin.

"Read this." He doesn't hear my mental groan. I tell dog stories, but I don't like reading them. I take the book. Don has been well worth hanging around and learning from so maybe his taste in literature will be as enlightening?

Two pages into the book's "acknowledgments" I find this:

"Science is a culture, made up of distinct subcultures, each with its own attitudes, prejudices, and perspectives on the world, in this case, of biology."

I'm hooked, but by a tattoo artist?

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.