Monday, January 5, 2009

A Minor Rant - The Tattoo

When I was a youth of 21 years I was fortunate to be posted by the Peace Corps to the nation of Colombia. As a card carrying counter culture liberal (not a full fledged hippy) I was of course drawn to the fashions and symbols of the day. A true hippy by the name of "Gandalf" happened into our apartment as a house guest for a few weeks. The name was appropriate for the long haired bearded guru of peace, love, and free dope. Gandalf (and the lovely Bonney) were with us for a few weeks and then departed on a vision quest to be aided by the ingestion of of significant quantities of a hallucinogen known as ayahuasca. I heard later that Bonney returned to her parents and Swarthmore with a nasty yeast infection but without Gandalf who apparently had wandered off in the jungles of Putumayo under the influence of the aforesaid ayahuasca.

Inspired by the ounce of Punto Rojo left as a house gift and my reading of the cultural anthem, Lord of the Rings I decided that my happiness could only be improved through the display of an appropriate symbol commemorating the indubitable Gandalf. As it happened the city in which I lived (Medellin) was renowned for its quality and and attractive prices of hand made leather goods. After much deliberation and consultation I decided to purchase a pair of boots adorned with a cross and crescent which I deemed to be representative of of the Middle Kingdom or some such thing. The boots were very cool. A rich mahogany leather, with walking heels and the Gandalfian symbol stitched on the toe of the boot. I recall that the boot maker was rather concerned that I was putting this obvious symbol of a bruja (witch) on the boots. I assured him that it was a mythical symbol only with the highest purpose and not to be confused with nasty symbols of witchcraft, voodoo or the like. I loved these boots and wore them for many years after returning to the USA.

One day some years after my repatriation while pulling on my beloved boots I was shocked to see them in a whole new light. To my dismay, in place of my normal feelings of cultural superiority at viewing the unique symbols festooning my boots, I was assaulted by a not inconsiderable wave of embarrassment. While the boots, based on their totally unique design and obviously superior quality should have continued to imbue my life with feelings of superiority and the warm glow of total hipness-it just wasn't working. Lord of the Rings? Gandalf? Cross and Crescent? What was I thinking? I felt like a dork. Why not tattoo my chest with a big ass Unicorn. The boots went in the closet where they lingered for years. I dragged them out a couple of times but always sent them back to their dark corner. I don't recall their final disposition. They just became unimportant. Goodwill perhaps...

Which brings me to my point! If you got this far you will have to read the rest now...

Fashions change, symbols change, what's cool definitely changes. Thank goodness I had not made the decision to have Lord of the Rings symbols tattooed on my body. If I was 21 years old today, of average intelligence, and subject to a moderate amount of peer pressure I would have said Cross and Crescent permanently displayed on my arm, calf, butt cheek or some such. The fashion changes and I am screwed! The boots were easy, I only had to cease wearing them to free myself from the cultural shame of having done something that in hindsight spelled D-O-R-K.

So here are a few examples of my favorite tattoos. Most of which I am quite sure the wearers will come to sincerely regret.

1. Chinese symbols/Japanese kanji - The symbols for such sentiments as power, trust, love, etc. are frequently displayed on the biceps of both men and women who have no idea what the symbols actually mean. They do not speak, read or understand the language or culture in question. In many cases they may actually not carry the meanings intended but rather such expressions as fool, jerk, dork, dipshit or other profound "oriental" thoughts.

2. Full body Yakuza tattoos - Even long sleeves won't cover up these amazing works of body art. In Japan someone who enters the public bath sporting full torso tattoos will cause a quick exodus of all non gangster types from the bath. Yakuza are somewhat dim, right wing, gangster types who are considered unfit for polite or any other society in Japan. This level of tattooing will definitely limit your corporate options. If at a later date you change your mind, the laser removal will result in massive painful disfigurement.

3. Tramp stamp - What is this for?

4. Facial tattoos - I know, you never ever want to have a job or be allowed to speak to my daughter.

5. Neck tattoos- These little beauties creeping above the shirt collar make a big statement!

6. Your own name - I see this on basketball players, perhaps they need to be reminded.

7. Maori/Tongan war tattoos - The next time I interview a job applicant sporting this decoration I will ask them to dance the HaKaa for the human resources director.

I did once see a young lady with the most beautiful tattoos. She was wearing a rather daring backless summer dress displaying a spectacular array of vines and flowers. The soft colors of the artwork were complimented by her fair and flawless complexion. I tried not to stare to much but did anyway of course.

The above exception noted, my guess is that the vast majority of young people today who are decorating their hides with all manner of art both fair and foul will sooner or later regret their decision to imprint current fashion and impulses in so permanent a fashion.

Well fair reader, you may or may not agree with my opinion (it is just that after all) but I would certainly like to hear from you with your thoughts and more importantly your favorite examples of tattoos most likely to lead to profound regret. Let me hear from you! Please comment below...

Friday, January 2, 2009

LA Christmas - The Best for Last

My, and probably your, stereotype of LA is that of a urban/suburban environment characterized primarily by asphalt, concrete, graffiti, and endless subdivisions. As a resident of super green Oregon I was surprised that my favorite images of LA were primarily of gardens. The variety and beauty of plants in the LA area was a wonderful surprise. Following a few photos of my favorite gardens, places, plants etc.

Pueblo de Nuestra SeƱora Reina de los Angeles
Right in the heart of downtown LA is this amazing restoration of the first European habitation in the LA area. I was blown away by the giant opuntia (prickly pear cactus) and the bougainvillea in the courtyard.

These cool giant agaves were at the Museum of Native American History on the Gold Line to Pasadena. Let's make some tequila!

I know this is not a plant, but have you ever seen a building more worthy of the gigantic Disneyesque ego of Southern California? They actually had to sandblast the thing upon completion because the sun reflecting off the surfaces was literally melting the building across the street.

The gardens of the mission at San Juan Capistrano are some of the most beautiful. I recall studying CA history in school (Sacramento) but actually visiting the mission made the whole father Junipero Serra thing a bit more immediate. Too bad about the Indians...

The only place I have seen more and better palm trees was in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney Australia. Why is it, that most Aussies you meet seem to want to emigrate to LA? What are they thinking?

While many "green roofs" succumb to being primarily a collection of weeds (the wind dontcha know) requiring irrigation, the cactus garden on the roof of the Getty Museum is spectacular!

In conclusion let me say that while many of the stereotypes are no doubt true, my family and I learned a great deal about a great city. I am not ready to move there any time soon, but neither am a rooting for the big one to send it sliding into the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More LA Public Transit

We older Gaddas were delighted to learn that our "kids" Bobby and Adonia enjoyed our trip to the City of the Angels as much as we did. As proof of this claim please visit the blog of Adonia Lugo at: Be sure to zoom in on the map. This will enable you to see details of all the cool places we visited. Adonia's comments are pretty much dead on. There you will find a map of our journey (or at least part of it). Future posts will contain photos of cool places to visit in Souther CA if you (fans) are interested.