“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”
– Jack London
A brightly colored, large breasted mermaid covered his left deltoid muscle, strategically placed so the mermaid’s breasts rested on the biggest bulge in his upper arm. Decorating the rest of his arms were a dragon, werewolf, skull, snake, demon, tattoo gun and a bracelet of Celtic design. Ziggy, the tattooist, displayed his tattooed arms proudly. “This is why we do it.”
“So women check you out?”
“Yes,” he answered shyly.
It surprised me that Ziggy, who looked so tough dressed all in black: jeans, boots, t-shirt, with long wavy black hair, and scraggly beard, was shy.
Anarchy Ink Tattoos and Piercing on Granville Street was as clean as a dentist office – one that played hard rock music and sold skull candles. Black leather couches lined the smoke-free waiting area.Cases displayed objects one so inclined could attach to pierced body parts: four-inch bone tusks for the nose, twisted barbed wire and locks of varying sizes designed to hang from who-knows-where.
A hand-painted sign greeted potential customers: “If you’re drunk, on drugs, sick, pregnant, sun burnt, barefoot, dirty, smelly, under 18, broke, lost, trying to sell us something, looking for a deal, or otherwise rude – please come back when UR Not.”
With no customers in the shop Ziggy was bored and talkative. He told me when he was seven his sister lived with a tattooist and he found an outlet for his artistic talent. By eleven his friend, Bud, was the first to receive a Ziggy tattoo; a skull, dagger and three roses.
“Have you been a tattooist since eleven?”
“Sort of. I spent a few years in jail for robbing a 7-11 store, so I had lots of time to practice tattooing on other inmates. I used a tattoo gun made from a walkman motor and a guitar string as the needle. It was all very clandestine.”
When he used the word clandestine, I wondered who was this man hidden behind the black armor? I asked him about his name.
“My brother started calling me Ziggy when I was young. Hated it. It just stuck.”
“Do you like it now?”
“No one’s ever asked me that before. I don’t know. I’m Ziggy. That’s all.”