Death and Tattoos

Clair stock tip: Invest in funerals and tattoo removal.

With all the investment fallout that’s going on, here are a few stock tips. First, the death industry will begin to take off any day now, as millions and millions of baby boomers reach old age and begin to follow one another off the cliff of eternity like so many buffalo. Buy now. Yes, it’s been said before; the only thing we can count on is death and taxes.

Or was it death and tats? That’s right: Any day now, millions and millions of Gen Xers weary of being human canvases are going to follow one another to the tattoo-removal centers, and smart folks like you will be ready, having bought up as much laser-surgery stock as you can fit into your portfolio.

“There has definitely been an increase in tattoo removals,” says Dr. Sunil Dhawan of the Center for Dermatology in Fremont. “It’s a bit more than it used to be maybe five, ten years ago. We do about ten to fifteen a month.” The number one nixed tat? Names of ex-lovers.

Those of us who are wisely planning our retirements on the inked skin of poor judgment could only sit back and gloat at this year’s “Tattoo the World” convention at the Oakland Arena. Looking out over the sea of young people freshly painted with Linkin Park backpieces and whole forearm Celtic crosses brought to mind those plucky California prospectors of the Gold Rush, who must’ve looked out over the Sierra Nevada and seen those gilded nuggets winking at them like the promise of a cheap woman.

Indeed, no one seemed to have informed anyone at this event that tattoos are, like, sooo 1993, although that fact was subtly reflected in the convention soundtrack, with the Arena sound system shuffling between Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, and Guns ‘N Roses.

There were the requisite tattoophiles in attendance: the babe with the boa constrictor and really big titties; the tall bald guy with a pierced tongue, clad in a thong and covered with tattoos head to toe; the rockabilly chick with her arms aflame; the pudgy Ren Faire couple who probably live in a clothing-optional house with a ferret named Trickster; and of course, the people for whom tattoos are simply spiritual and personal. (“Please respect my privacy and do not ask me what the Babylonian phallus I have on my face means.”)

Yep, freaks, geeks, punks, and Chronicle political gossip Phil Matier were all in attendance. Matier, an East Bay resident with an apparent closet tattoo fetish, was spotted weaving in and out of the sideshow, one ear glued to his cell phone, and his Eddie-from-Iron-Maiden chestwork obscured by a polo shirt. “But what’s really going on down there?” he asked someone from the city of Oakland as he sat down behind Planet Clair in the stands. “Off the record,” he added. All of a sudden a voice boomed out over the loudspeakers: “Welcome to the 2002 Tattoo the World Convention … “

“I think he heard that,” he said with a laugh after hanging up. It’s tough to be an investigative reporter who moonlights as nü-metal dude with a tat fancy.

So what, exactly, was this convention? The center of the arena was filled with booths for artists and businesses, many of them from the Bay Area. Everyone was getting tattoos. Outside bands like Skinlab played, and Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx showed up one day to sign autographs and generally be fine as hell. Meeoow. Other than that, it was a bunch of people with tattoos wandering around looking at each other.

“We drove here from Fairfield,” said one young couple, he with a pierced tongue, she with a pierced nose, both with an itch to further despoil themselves. “I haven’t decided if I’m gonna get a tattoo or not,” said the guy. “We’ll see at the end of the three days.” Later, the same couple was seen scoping out tattoos on the north side of the arena, and after dinner they entertained themselves by checking out the tattoos by the main stage. What they did for the rest of the weekend was never determined, though there’s a good chance that they walked around and looked at people’s tattoos.

“I can tell you the best days to get tattooed,” said a well-groomed, blue-haired septuagenarian in the astrology booth. Behind her was a giant celestial pie chart; to her left, a despondent husband. The only thing missing was a yippy, pink-bowed little lapdog. She reached for one of her books and began turning the pages and pointing out things with her freshly manicured Vegas hoochie-daggers. “I also predicted a terrorist attack on September 11.” Whoa. Glancing down on her list of dangerous days for 2001, there it was — 9/11 — smack dab between the other dangerous days: 9/3, 9/5, 9/10, 9/13 … basically every other day in the month. The same went for January, and February, etc.

From there, it was on to wandering around and looking at people’s tattoos.


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