Should’ve done this when I hit twenty-five

typed for your pleasure on 23 November 2022, at 2.51 am

Sdtrk: ‘Incubation’ by Joy division

This is the sort of nonsense you get up to when you turn fifty:

Behold: baby’s first tattoo

As of the 14th of this month, I have spent fifty years on this blighted earth, this wretched demesne, this cursèd vale. It’s not really an unending torrent of horrors, though; there’s Synthetiks, and cats, and there are a few places with really good wifi. About three or so years ago, knowing that my half-century mark was rapidly approaching, I’d decided that I was going to get my first tattoo. You’d think someone such as myself with a flair for ostentatious decoration that I’d have more on my person, but I have an understandable aversion to physical pain. Well, pain of any kind, really. But I said to myself that getting a tattoo was something I not only wanted, but needed, to do, so I’d do my best to endure the process.

Now I do enjoy good minimalist design; some of my visual favourites would be the logos and trademarks created by various graphic designers and artists, particularly throught the late Fifties up to the mid-Eighties. Top tier designers in my book would be Saul Bass,

Paul Rand,

with my hands-down graphic design god being Peter Saville. Peter, in case you’re unfamiliar with his work, was responsible for the visual aesthetic of Factory records, his heyday arguably being during the late Seventies to the early Nineties.

I’d been listening to New wave and alternative bands, mostly from the UK, during the Eighties, but I hadn’t heard New order until maybe 1986, when my best friend Sean dubbed a copy of their 1983 cassette release of Power, corruption & lies for me, and not only was I enthralled by the music, but the minimal artwork really gripped me. Granted, the US Qwest records version ruined it by putting the name of both the group and the album on the front, but the concept of a band who simply had art and design studies for their covers and were averse to using photos of themselves on any of their releases — up until 1985’s Low-life, of course — and were making synthesised electronic dance music that seemed generally divorced from humanity struck several chords in me. They were struck quite strongly, as they’re still resonating nearly 40 years later. That’s almost as old as I am!

Looking into Peter Saville back then, I discovered he was the art director and graphic designer for Factory records, a record label located in Manchester, the North of England, and New order were arguably the biggest group on the label in the Eighties (I regrettably have yet to hear more than a couple of songs by the Durutti Column; I’ll get that sorted one day). Over time, I learned that New order were formed in the aftermath of the dissolution of a previous band, Joy division, none of their material I’d heard until their 1988 compilation, Substance. Coincidentally enough, the lass I had a thing for back in highschool bought me a cassette copy for my 16th birthday! And that, dear reader, is when I fell in love… in love with Joy division.

Without getting into tremendous detail, I’m a bit of a Joy division fan, so — bringing us back to the present — it only seemed natural to me to get a tattoo related to them. Joy division is one of those groups where everything they’d released in their lifetime, which would be two studio albums, two Peel sessions, and the first of many compilations, are damn near flawless, and since they’re no longer recording (see link above), there’s never a chance of them making any releases that edge towards the Not Good end of the spectrum. Y’know, like Laibach, who I still have a great fondness for, but anything they made after 1994 simply isn’t as good as their older stuff. Or, y’know, like New order post-Technique, for that matter.

In April, I’d asked MontiLee where she had her pieces done, and she recommended Ed DeLoney of Royal oak tattoo, so I’d made a consultation with him one day after work in early October, bringing a couple of examples of the design I wanted on my phone, to be done in blackwork, two inches in diameter. It’d be on the inside of my left forearm, which, due to the way I dress, is one of the few places where you can actually see my uncovered flesh. Ed said that wouldn’t be an issue, and we arranged an appointment for November. Now, ideally, I’d wanted to get my tattoo on the actual day of my birthday, but this year, it fell on a Monday, and that would’ve been dire. Who celebrates a birthday on a Monday?? Instead of the 14th, I’d enquired about the 18th, which he pencilled me in for.
With the exception of my oft-mentioned friend Amber Hawk Swanson, I didn’t really tell anyone that I was slated to get all inked up… I’d mentioned it a couple of times over the past year or two in reference to my fiftieth birthday, but I didn’t go on about it recently. Generally speaking, I’m the sort of bloke who doesn’t like to reveal major plans unless I’m 98% sure they’ll come to pass; that way if they don’t come to pass, I don’t look like some kind of idiot for talking about this or that that I want to do, and it ends up not occurring.

On 18 November (a Friday), I’d taken the day off. Half due to the tattooing sesh, and half due to that being the first day of this year’s Love and Sex with Robots conference. Which was utterly fantastic, by the way; each year, they’ve been getting exponentially better. But I’d gotten round to Royal oak tattoo for my appointment at 4pm in due course. Apart from Ed, I was the only one there. Ed’s an affable bloke in his eighties whose thick and lengthy white beard, the bottom third of which was braided into a thin plait, makes him resemble an alt-rock Father Christmas. The studio featured, among other things, various actual swords on the walls, a shelf full of Star wars ephemera, a dentist chair from the Fifties, and a fish tank with no visible fish. I told him I was a bit nervous, as I was a tattoo virgin, so he put my mind at ease by discussing various subjects. We ended up talking at length about film photography: whereas I learned ages ago how to develop black and white film during a photography course at Wayne state university, he was taking photos of wildlife in northern Michigan. Loves Canon cameras, isn’t too keen on Hasselblad. Admittedly, with a Hasselblad, you’re paying for the name.

What did I think of the physical sensation of having a tattoo, you ask? I wouldn’t say it was painful, but it definitely wasn’t pleasant. ‘Getting repeatedly jabbed by a needle’ doesn’t really convey the feeling… I’d say it was more akin to someone Dremeling me. Rather like a sandpaper sensation. Sandpaper Sensation — that’s not a bad band name! Kinda Sixtiesy.
‘Don’t hold your breath,’ Ed advised me, noticing that I was in some discomfort. ‘Not breathing causes your nervous system to tighten up’. To be honest, I think that’s what he’d said, as I was too focussed on nice thoughts to be able to concentrate on putting the buzzing from my mind. I’ve had worse experiences, like when my painkillers wore off after a root canal back in 2007, but let’s just say that one of the reasons I went with a small design was less flesh scraping.
Overall, though, Ed did a professional and fast job of it — I was out of there after 90min — and was amusing and helped put me at ease through the process. I’d highly recommend him, but if you want him to work on you, you’ll have to be quick, as he’s retiring at the end of this year!

Speaking of design, Davecat, you ask, exasperated by this point in the narrative, what the hell does your tattoo mean?? It’s related to Joy division, yes, but unlike most people who have Joy division tattoos, I wanted something that wasn’t the famous CP1919 pulsar diagram, aka the design from the cover of Unknown pleasures. If you type ‘joy division tattoo’ into Google, you’ll see what I mean. Plus, that would be an AWFUL lot of linework.
Factory records had a publishing arm called Fractured Music that only released music from the latter half of Joy division’s catalogue, as well as New order’s first single, and that was their logo. It also references the f-holes you find in the bodies of violins, cellos, and guitars, and in musical terminology, 𝆑 means ‘forte’, or ‘play loud’. Still was a compilation of various otherwise-unreleased songs by the band, posthumously released after lead vocalist Ian Curtis took his own life, and the Fractured Music logo is one of the only two elements on the cover.
It’s common knowledge that I tend towards the obscure; I love instances where 98% of people seeing or hearing a reference I make are like ‘lolwut’, but the other 2% are like ‘AW JEAH I SEE WHAT U DID THAR’, those 2% are my people.

So there you have it! I love my tattoo, as it’s pretty fucking amazing.

One thing Ed mentioned is that it’d be odds on that, like many of his customers, I’d be back to have another piece done. He told me that he’d had a lass in a while ago who was convinced that she only wanted one, and that’d be the end of it. Shortly after, he said, she returned for four more tattoos in as many days; she’d be there waiting for the crew to open the studio.
*admires tattoo again*
I’ll give it some thought, Ed

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

Moving, on a molecular level / Needs more cowbell on September 12th, 2007

Not at all good on October 19th, 2004

9 have spoken to “Should’ve done this when I hit twenty-five”

  1. claire writes:

    very brave and chic of you, davecat! i’ll take your word for it that it wasn’t out-and-out painful … i definitely won’t be getting one anytime soon!

    it looks quite sharp on you, though. i’m so glad you’re happy with it!

    happy thanksgiving, my friend!

  2. Davecat writes:

    Thanks, Claire, and thanks, Claire! It was one of those things where I saw myself chickening out of the procedure like three minutes into it — like early on, when I mentioned to Ed ‘it’s probably gonna be harder for you to use that tattoo gun on me, as I’m covered in flop sweat’ — but much to my surprise, I endured it! I endured it with aplomb.

    Hope everyone at Worthy Estates is having a smashing holiday! As most of you there are artificial, will you be going with the tofurky? 🙂

  3. anonymous admirer writes:

    curious how the lasses interpret the instruction to “play loud” when they read it on your BODY!? wishing you the most playful (and loud) weekend. and happy first tattoo!

  4. Davecat writes:

    That is the sort of information a gentleman never publically divulges. 😉

    And thank you for the compliments/good wishes! ‘First tattoo’, I see what you did there. 🙂 I would consider getting a yakuza-like sleeve if I knew what kind of design I wanted! Or maybe a full-back tattoo — again, like many yakuza members — but instead of a dragon, tiger, or a koi, as is popular with that crowd, I’d get a kitty. However, an aversion to pain + mucho dinero has already pumped the brakes on that idea…

  5. Karma writes:

    Very nice and well thought out first tattoo!!! I am unable to commit on a design, but have a desire to get one, glad you made it happen. Enjoy your body art.

  6. Davecat writes:

    Sankyuu very much! I am, and I will!

  7. Luna writes:

    Welcome to the tattoo club! After getting mine a bit ago, I definitely want another. Going with the PunPun theme, I may just do a whole “Sad Idiot” half sleeve. I’ll look at it from time to time and have myself a lil’ “memento tristis” moment. I like to have fun.

    Also, you’re not 50. This is a lie sold to us readers by Big Cat to make the rest of us feel like shriveled husks. For shame.

  8. Davecat writes:

    You should totally get a sleeve done! I recall your PunPun tattoo, cos I remember having to look up what Oyasumi PunPun is. People will either marvel at your ink, or they’ll tell you to stop crying all the time. Either way, it’s a hell of a way to meet people!

    And I am indeed fifty. Personally, I don’t see how this is even possible! Undoubtedly all the preservatives in my diet are keeping me ‘alive’; that’s my guess.

  9. esaeelljae writes:


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