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Ramona's Ramblings

Tattoo you?

Ramona Jan
Posted 11/29/22

“How much for your mirrors?” asks a stranger about my artistic creations that took hours and days to make, cost mucho money in materials, and happen to be advertised online.

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Ramona's Ramblings

Tattoo you?


“How much for your mirrors?” asks a stranger about my artistic creations that took hours and days to make, cost mucho money in materials, and happen to be advertised online.

“The prices for each are in the post,” I respond.

“I can only pay $50 for all of them. I’m a tattoo artist and I’m opening a shop in Monticello and I have this long hallway and I want to cover it in really cool mirrors.”

“I’m willing to help you out, take an offer, but really it’s got to be a fair one,” I murmur.

“How about we do a trade? I can tattoo you.”

He can’t see me. We’re messaging. If he could, I doubt he’d pose that question.

My grandfather’s arms were covered in faded and blotchy tats. No one could even tell what the images were. Dragons? Nudes? Popeye? I asked my mother, what’s that on grandpa’s arms?

“Tattoos,” she’d say and then explain how they were made with ink and needles. It sounded awful to a ten year-old. I decided right then and there never to get a tattoo. Fast forward to the offering.

Nothing’s off the table. I imagine myself walking around Callicoon covered in tats. Someone asks, “When did you get the tats and, at your age, why?” I can’t come up with a single good reason.  I need more information.

Elvio, a slender Italian-speaking, bohemian-looking-artist, with heavy earrings in both ears is about to open Lazy Sunday, a tattoo parlor in the Curtis Building in Callicoon. His space is right behind La Garconne (translation: The Tomboy), a vintage clothing store run by his elegant wife Stephanie.

Elvio tells me that the art of tattooing is older than money. In fact, it’s one of the oldest art forms crossing many cultures and dating back before 3,000 BC. Aside from mere decoration, tats in ancient times were also used to mark criminals, verify tribal identification and for medical reasons. The iceman, Otzi, for example, had sixty-one tattoos clustered around his lower back and joints where evidence indicates he was suffering from joint and spinal degeneration. (It happens to the best of us.)

The word tattoo comes from the Samoan word ‘tatau,’ which mimics the tapping sound of the tools used in those times (and maybe today, ask Elvio or anyone with a tat) during the tattooing process. To create tattoos in less modern times, they used turtle shells and boar’s teeth to tap the dark pigment into the skin. Early inks were made from charcoal and ash. I suppose the art form has advanced. Again, ask Elvio.

Elvio’s small, square space with its newly painted white walls, is lined with pictures of tattoos he’s designed. Popeye’s among the many drawings.

“Are any of these tattoos temporary, like maybe in henna?” I ask before realizing what a wrong question it is. Good thing Elvio doesn’t hear me. He’s about the coolest guy I’ve ever met and I’ve me some really cool people. I don’t want to spoil the camaraderie.

Later, at the crowded Farmers Market, I find myself suddenly wedged between two hipsters.

“Hey, what have you been up to?” says Hipster One to Hipster Two.

“Getting tattoos,” replies Hipster Two.

“Really? Where and what do you have?”

I can’t believe I’m overhearing this conversation and, more amazingly, that I’m practically in it. If I want to pass by, I’d have to excuse myself and then squeeze between them. But I want to be cool, too, so I tell them there’s a new tattoo shop opening in Callicoon. They look at me in disbelief. However, I’m all bundled up and they don’t know if I have any tattoos. I just might.

“I was just there,” I say mysteriously as I point to the Curtis Building. “The shop’s entrance is on the side.” 

The hipsters are overjoyed. One of them even says, “It’s exactly what Callicoon needs!” Indeed, now that we have a tattoo parlor in Callicoon, all that remains essential is a good Chinese restaurant.

RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at callicoonwalkingtours@gmail.com.


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