I first saw my Grandpa’s tattoo when I was four or five years old. He took off his dress shirt after church and put on another one. But in those few seconds, I glimpsed the cowgirl leaning against a fence post and I wanted to see more.
For me tattoos were something forbidden, or at least something to hide, because grandpa’s was always hidden under his shirt and he never showed it off. When I asked my aunt about it she said he was embarrassed by it; which later I found out wasn’t true. But I know my love of tattoos started with my grandpa.
I moved to Hawaii when I was 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly how old I was the first time I saw a Samoan man standing on the beach with rows of tattoos arching like a rainbow out of his lava-lava—the traditional wrap-around-cloth that Samoan men wear. Again I felt that these tattoos were supposed to be hidden away. If he wasn’t at the beach I would have never seen these. I wanted to get a better look but I knew I couldn’t stare at them like I really wanted to, not without being punched in the face at least.
As I got older I learned that Samoan tattoos were called a pe’a and they cover a man from his waist to his knees. Samoans use the word tatau, which is where the English word tattoo comes from. This pe’a is very sacred in the Samoan culture. It can either be the mark of a man if it is finished or the mark of a coward if the man doesn’t finish the tattoo because of the pain. The pe’a is respected so much that men who don’t have them sit differently than men who do.
From the first time I saw that man on the beach I knew I wanted a tattoo like his. It didn’t have to be the traditional pe’a, but I wanted a design something like his and I wanted it done the traditional way—hand tapped.
Being Haole—or Caucasian, I knew getting a tattoo like this wouldn’t be an easy task. First of all you can’t just walk into a tattoo shop and get one done the traditional way. There are only a handful of artists who still do it the traditional way and most of them live scattered throughout the Pacific Islands. Secondly a Suluape—traditional tattooist, is not likely to tattoo a Caucasian unless they are married into a Polynesian family, and even then, it will be the Suluape’s call.
Most Polynesians have some sort of tattooing within their culture. It’s not exclusive to Samoans. The Maoris off New Zealand tattoo the face in intricate swirls. The Tahitians mostly tattooed people in high ranking societal status, although commoners could be tattooed as well, their tattoos were just not very big ones.
The Fijians, Hawaiians, and Tongans also tattooed. Their designs are similar to the Samoans, but not exactly the same. All the Polynesian tattoos have some similarities both in design and in technique; although in my opinion the Samoan designs are the most intricate.
Another similarity that Polynesian tattoos have with each other is that the art form was almost extinct thanks to the missionaries. The church had an effect on the entire Pacific Rim and when missionaries conquered the islands with their God, tattooing went out the window, along with the Islanders culture like traditional names and dances.
Fast forward 150 years. It’s 4:30 pm and I’m sitting in a tattoo shop called Soul Signature Tattoo in Honolulu directly across the pool hall I practically grew up in. I have a 4 o’clock appointment with a Tongan man named Suluape Aisea who’s running late. Island-time. Not just island-time, Tongan-time, which is about an hour-and-a-half later than island-time.
A big guy, as most Tongan men are, with long hair that’s tied up in a pony tail walks in the back door and introduces himself as Aisea. His arms and chest are tattooed in traditional Polynesian geometric designs and they run up his neck all the way to the bottom portion of his lower jaw. He informs me that it will be a while longer because we have to wait for the “stretchers” to get out of church.
Around 6:30 pm three giant men in black lava-lavas enter through the back door and I assume these are the guys I’m waiting on.
Tongans are some of the nicest people on the planet. They might be huge but their hearts are even bigger. They seem enthusiastic to tattoo me and they tell me that afterward we’re going to drink some kava—a root with mild hallucinogenic capabilities I’ve always heard, but it turns out, it just makes you numb and itchy.
I called my wife and told her to get down to the shop. She was still at the hotel getting a massage. We were supposed to have dinner with a friend but I knew that wasn’t going to work so I called and canceled with him. The tattoo artist had just started tapping away when my wife pulled up in a cab.
People ask me, “Does it hurt more getting it done the traditional way vs. a machine?” And my answer had been, “It’s a different kind of pain.” I didn’t mention that I gotten one tattoo done the traditional way on my leg before. The artist was from Tahiti and traveled all the way to St. Louis, MO to a shop to do ten tattoos in five days and then was flying back home. He basically charged me $500 an hour and left me with a series of seven upside down triangles that ran down my shin and an ankle-bracelet full of some more triangles. It was the tattoo I had wanted the most but I was not happy with it. I felt like I paid tourist prices and didn’t get the trip. My leg was incomplete and out of the ten or so tattoos I’ve received so far, it was the only tattoo artist that I didn’t tip.
This time things were much different. The pain I had spoken of earlier to friends was much more excruciating. Aisea was very heavy handed compared to my last traditional artist, but in these kinds of situations you’re not allowed to show pain. So I laid there and took it for an hour-and-a-half the first session. Then Aisea said, “Ok, you come back tomorrow and we’ll finish the rest. We drink some Kava now.” My wife and I then sat around on mats on the floor and drank Kava while 15-20 Tongan men sang in 4-part harmony and played the guitar and ukulele. It was a once in a life time experience that neither one of us will ever forget.
The next day when I was walking around with my wife I noticed two separate incidents where a couple of local guys were looking at my leg but they didn’t say anything. It was more of a confused look like, “What the…?” One of these incidents was in a McDonald’s bathroom and when the guy noticed it, he snapped his head around so fast to do a double take that I thought he was going to break his neck. He then went in the stall and I didn’t stick around to get his opinion whether or not he liked it.
The next day I came back to Aisea’s shop and sat through three more hours of pain. While he was tattooing me I asked Aisea if he ever caught flack for tattooing Hoales and he said, “All the time. You should see what some people say online.”
“Like what?” I said.
“Like how they already stole our culture so why you letting them have our tattoos? And you shouldn’t be doing that. Fuck those haole people,” he said.
I thought there might be some of that kind of bad feelings out there toward Caucasians getting these kind of tattoos but I wasn’t sure. Now the off-looks were confirmed.
“But I think we should share our culture,” Aisea said. “I mean if we don’t, the art will die. There’s only so many Polynesian people and a smaller amount of them want to get tattooed the traditional way. I don’t care what they think. And tomorrow you’ll be wearing shorts and you get to show yours off,” he said.
And that’s when I said, “Oh shit! At the fucking Polynesian Cultural Center!”
Aisea waved his hand around in victory as if he just won some small war. I thought there was a good chance that tomorrow I might start one, because the Polynesian Cultural Center is run by almost all Samoans. And this would be the place that I’d have to unveil my new tattoo with dozens, if not 100’s of Samoans present.
That night I had anxiety about showing off my tattoo. We had dinner with a few friends and they assured me that I was imagining everything, that there wouldn’t be a problem. One of my friends suggested I wear pants, not to cover it up so people didn’t see it, but because I was going to get burned from being out in the sun all day. The suggestion relieved my mind a bit, but later it made me feel like a pussy.
“If you’re man enough to get it, you’re man enough to wear it,” is what one of the Tongan guys had said the day before and that kept ringing in my head. I decided that I was going to wear shorts to the Polynesian Cultural Center and that I was just going to deal with whatever happens.
“Maybe they’ll think it’s cool,” my wife said. I highly doubted it.
The next day came and my wife and I laid down to take an hour nap before we headed out to the Polynesian Cultural Center. When the alarm went off, I said, “You ready to get up?”
She said, “I’m tired. We’ve been running around since we got here. I just want to sleep and hang out in Waikiki later.”
“It’s up to you,” I said.
“That’s what I want to do,” she said. I let it go at that and we slept for another hour or so and then had dinner in town.
We went to Maui the following day and for some reason I wasn’t as self-conscious of my tattoo there. I wore shorts for the next three days. On the second day my wife and I were sitting in a cabana on the beach and this haole guy and his Filipino girl- friend walked by and he said, “Are you local?”
It took me a second to answer him because people from Hawaii never ask you that, so I said, “I grew up on O’ahu.”
“Where did you get your tattoo?” he asked.
And as I explained the story, my wife said, “You gotta pretty nice one too,” and as I looked down I realized his calf was covered in a similar design as mine. It was done with a machine, but never-the-less it was there and I hadn’t even noticed it. After he left I realized that the anxiety I was feeling was made up in my head and that most people aren’t even looking down to notice a tattoo, and if they are, they probably don’t care.
When I got back to the mainland people regarded my new tattoo the way I expected them too, with, “Eww’s and Ahh’s, and How bad did that hurt,” and I suspect by the time I make it back to Hawaii, I will have completely forgot that I even have the tattoo. That is until I have some big Samoan staring at me in a McDonald’s bathroom and I’m explaining that, “It’s Tongan, not Samoan.”
(FYI-If you happened to stumble on this site and you want to see some pictures of my tap tattoo, just type in “tap tattoo” in the search bar on the right hand side of the screen and a few pictures should pop up.) Thanks for reading.
Traditional tap tattoo, with essay to follow.
I ran my first marathon on Sunday. It was one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do every since I can remember. After I crossed the finish line, one of the first things I said was, “That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve done in a long time.”
Running 26.2 miles hurts, especially when you’re 220 lbs and you’ve only trained for six months. I did training runs with the St. Louis Track Club. We ran 13, 16, 18—twice, 19, and 20 miles, so I had flirted with the “wall” a few times. Unfortunately for me, during the marathon my legs went numb at mile 16. I hit the wall at mile 17 and it lasted until mile 20. If it wasn’t for a speed walker who let me jog next to him for a couple of miles, I wouldn’t have made it.
When I finally got a half-a-mile away from the finish line, I saw a man with an IronMan tattoo on the back of his calf. He was helping pull a lady up a small hill. It was obvious he had run the marathon to help her along. As I got closer to them he turned and yelled, “Come on big-guy! I was wondering when you’d catch us. Finish strong! Finish Strong!” With that I took off running.
I ran as fast as I could at what seemed like a five-minute a mile pace, although it was probably closer to five miles per hour. The thought kept going through my head, I’m going to beat an IronMan. As I rounded the corner, one of the skinny-running-type volunteers yelled, “Oh now you want to run?!” I thought about flipping him off, but then he said, “Just joking. Run! Run!”
I finished with some of my family and friends at the finish line. A disappointing 7:02 flashed across the time clock. I later learned that my “chip-time” was 6:50:31, which means it took 11 minutes and 29 seconds to cross the start line after the starting gun had been fired.
After the race I swore I would never even consider running another marathon—ever! On Monday when people asked how I went, I told them, “Terrible. My time was an hour off from what I thought it would be. There were four miles of hills, which I walked. And I was passed by several speed-walkers.” But here’s the weird thing. By Wednesday I was relatively pain free. By Thursday when people asked if I would do it again, I said, “Only if my sister-in-law wants to do Chicago next year, then I might. Otherwise I’m only running half’s for now on.”
Today I’m talking to an IronMan coach—not that I’m doing an IronMan, I’m just finding out information—just in case.
If you have aspirations to run a marathon, then do it. But be advised—it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do and you’ll never want to do it again…not at least for three or four days.
Ever had a problem you just couldn’t figure out, then after a couple days of brain-racking frustration you’re in the shower and the answer hits you like a giant right hook to the face? It seems so obvious. Why didn’t you think of this earlier? These moments in life are what I call Ah-ha moments.
Ah-ha moments are one of the most exciting times in life. It’s when the world is full of optimism and possibility. Your problem feels so small, and the answer so obvious, that nothing could go wrong.
Usually not too long after this epiphany you do some research and find out that the answer is not always exactly what you thought it was. Then you come crashing down like a jack-knifed truck and resume your ordinary life. But for that brief moment in time, life is exhilarating.
I was listening to a podcast of a NPR show called This American Life. If you’re not a NPR fan let me bring you up to speed. This American Life is a fascinating radio-reality-before-reality-was-mainstream kind of show. The producers pick a topic, and then they find and interview normal everyday Americans who have something to do with that topic. This particular show was on “Million Dollar Ideas.”
Pet rocks, fake snow, and Chia Pets are just a few stupid ideas that have made millions. I’ve had so many million dollar ideas that I can’t even count them. Insulated water bottles (like a thermos but fits in your cup holder), or a website with nothing but cool gifts for guys, or a book on How to Make a Million Dollars in the Next Week, which would sell on the title alone, are all million dollar ideas that I’ve had and never did anything with. For the record, the first two ideas went on to make millions and the third probably has a deal in the works as we speak.
I’ve got a whole notebook at home where I keep my million dollar ideas, but they will probably never be followed up on mainly because I can’t focus long enough on one idea before I’m off to another one.
Most of my ideas won’t be followed up on because of lack of money or time, or pure disinterest. I mean, who wants to live their lives making the world dog-poop free? I know there are some people who will do it if it makes them enough money, but I want to focus on helping the world with what I consider real problems and dog poop just doesn’t rank up there in my world; that is of course unless I just stepped in it.
So how do we get Ah-ha moments and million-dollar ideas?
“Ah-ha moments are when the intellectual mind, the emotional mind and the physical body all com to an agreement at the same time,” says Wendy Piersall former CEO (Chief Extraordinary Officer in Business and in Life) of Sparkplugging, an online resource for home-based entrepreneurs. We also get them by creative problem solving and leaving our minds open to solutions. We might not be able to think of the answers right off hand, but once we give it time to cook, our minds often come up with the answer.
I don’t really know where I was going with this topic, but maybe I’ll give myself some time and I’ll come up with my Ah-ha moment and get back to you. Until then, please feel free to help a brother out and give me some of your million-dollar ideas, especially if you’re not going to do anything with them. Or better yet, let this be your motivation to get off your ass and doing something with it.
On Monday, the Japanese Foreign Minister apologized to a W.W.II veteran group who had survived the Bataan Death March. The 90 year-old leader of the group was not satisfied with that. He wanted an apology from the private companies who, “used and abused,” prisoners in their mines and factories.
My grandpa is a W.W.II veteran so I’m not saying this lightly, but I wondered if all the Japanese families in Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn’t mind more than just an apology for having their entire city destroyed in a matter of seconds. I know, I know, they started it. I’ve been to the U.S.S Arizona memorial and have seen the oil that’s leaking out. But war is the ugliest thing on Earth and you can’t just apologize for it later, especially if you had nothing to do with it personally.
I was listening to the radio a few days ago and I heard two people arguing over the use of the “N-word.” One person arguing was a white lady, the other person was a black man, but both people were actually saying the N-word—on the radio!
So the white lady said what every white person says to each other when a black person is not around, “So why can you use the word so freely and we can’t?” The black man’s response was, “Well when you go through 150 years of slavery, then maybe you can use the word.”
There are some things that will probably never be ok to joke about: slavery, the holocaust and 9/11 are a few that to come to mind. But here’s my question, how long do we as people have to apologize for something we weren’t around for? I am 36 years old. World War II was over 30 years before I was even born and there hasn’t been slavery in the U.S for almost three times as long as W.W.II has been over. So why do we have to keep apologizing for things our ancestors did? You shouldn’t be required to apologize for history that you weren’t apart of. It’s like apologizing for your second-cousin selling drugs. The situation has nothing to do with you or your character.
Were these situations bad? Yes.
Am I responsible for them? No.
When I was growing up in Hawaii a friend of mine, who is Hawaiian said, “You haoles—white people—told us to look up to heaven for God and as we were looking up you stole our land.”
“I didn’t. I was born in 1974,” I said.
“Well your family did,” my friend said.
“My family’s from Missouri and has never even been to Hawaii. Well, except my grandparents who has visited Waikiki.”
“Well your ancestors did, way back,” he said.
“My ancestors are from Ireland and Scotland. They migrated to Maryland in the late 1600’s and the last I heard, the Scots-Irish are not the ones who stole your land.”
“Fine, maybe they didn’t steal our land. But they stole the Indians.”
“Can’t argue with that,” I said.
But do I have to apologize for it? Do I have to say I’m sorry for everything my family has done before 1974? History is messy people. But it’s history, learn from it and move on.
A person I know says, “It’s called history. Or his-story, everyone’s is different.” But I’ve also been told that there’s three sides to every story, his story, your story and the truth. History needs to be studied or we’ll be doomed to repeat it. But my plea is please learn from it, and then let it go.
I have always been a procrastinator. When I was in school I always did reports the day before they were due. And I’m not talking about just the writing part of the report, I’m talking about the research part too.
I’ve been out of high school for over 15 years. I don’t procrastinate as much as I use to, but occasionally I slip back into my sloth-like ways. And when I finally emerge from my procrastination-cocoon I think, What are you waiting for? Your fairy-freakin’-god-mother to come down and wave her magic wand? Get your ass in gear!
So now that I’m in a M.F.A program as an adult, trying to learn to write on a serious level, I realized that I’ve been procrastinating again. Two things that I’ve been putting off is trying to get my work published and promoting this blog. These are two things that will help get my book published when I finally finish it.
Right now I’m in a class called Writing for Publication. I’m three weeks away from finishing the semester and I haven’t submitted any pieces to any publications except two Letters to the Editor of Rolling Stone, which is like trying to get into the Presidential Ball by severing people dinner and drinks. Yeah you can say you were there, but does that really count?
So I’m putting this out there for my viewing public because that’s the only way that I can think of to be held accountable for what I’m doing. I’ve got a lot going on in the next month, but a few things I want to add to the list is submitting at least two pieces in the next month to some sort of publication and doing at least two things to promote this blog. I’ll keep you informed when it’s done.
The last thing I’d like to leave you with is something I heard from a music producer that I thought was interesting. He said, “If you want to make something your hobby, then treat it like it’s your hobby. If you want make it your career, then treat it like it’s your career.”
P.S. As I was getting ready to publish this, I realized that this is my 100th post! That turned my self-loathing into a small self-congratulatory moment. Hopefully in the next ten years I can say I have 100 in-print articles published and maybe 1/10th that amount of books in the next 20 years. But in order for me to do that, I need to start following that music producer’s advice and start producing. Thanks for reading the first 100.
There have been a lot of things that have happened on September 7th throughout history. Here is a quick list of things I found interesting.
1813 “Uncle Sam” was 1st used to refer to U.S. in print. (Troy Post of New York)
1822 Brazil declares independence from Portugal (National Day)
1880 Geo Ligowsky patents device to throw clay pigeons for trap-shooters (This is what you do if you don’t have a thrower.
1889 Start of Sherlock Holmes “Adventure of Engineer’s Thumb”
1896 A. H. Whiting wins 1st automobile race held on a track in Cranston, Rhode Island
1914 New York Post Office Building opens to public
1915 John Gruelle patents his Raggedy Ann doll
1963 Pro Football Hall of Fame dedicated in Canton, Ohio
1995 12th MTV Awards
2004 American military deaths in the Iraq War reach 1,000
There are many other events that happened on today’s date. If you’re interested in what else went down on this date, click here.
Josh Dueck set a new Guinness Book of World Records record on Saturday August 28 for the most high-fives slapped in one 24 hour period. Dueck a silver medalist in the Paralympics Games slapped the shit out of the old record, which was 3,131 and is now 9,307 high fives.
Dueck did this to bring attention to workplace safety, which is great. But what I want to know is how do people come up with these nutty ideas for World Records? Who decides, “How many times do you think I can get slapped in the face for one minute? Or better yet, how many times do you think I can slap you in the face in one minute?” The answer my friend would be, 46 and 628—and no I’m not joking.
Here are some other crazy records: Tandem knee slaps in one minute: 592
Most times saying, “Hey,” loudly in 30 seconds while jogging in a grocery store: 41
Most times kissing a dog while wearing a Groucho Marx mask: 77
Most times asking, “Where are my glasses,” to someone tuning a guitar in 30 seconds: 28
Oldest piece of wood used to make a guitar: 35,000 years
When I was growing up Guinness was the Official World Record recorders, now apparently there are two World Record companies. The second called is called The Universal Record Database. These guys, in my opinion, don’t seem as official as GBR, but they do seem more accessible for someone who wants to set or break a world record.
My officemate and I thought of three World Records that we are going to set or break. I won’t tell you exactly what all of them are because we don’t want you to steal our ideas, but I will give you a hint. One involves spelling Mississippi on the Mississippi River, the other involves hugging, and the final record will put Josh Dueck’s high-five shenanigans to shame. But it won’t be the amount of high-fives; it will involve how far the high-fiver starts away from each other. The current record is 2.05 miles away. I ran 19 miles on Saturday so I’m pretty sure I can blow that record out of the water. The only problem is you have to run with one hand raised in the air, so we might look like two eager kids who’s trying to answer the teacher’s question while running down the sidewalk, but it’ll totally be worth it.
Now it’s your turn. Give us some ideas and we might decide to do yours too. You’ll find that thinking of something to try, that hasn’t already been done, is much harder than breaking the actual record.
America is one of the craziest places in the World to live. In the U.S we hear about insurgents in Iraq or robbers in Brazil, but the rest of the World hears stories about the stuff below about us.
One of the hot new news-stories is that a preacher in Southern Florida plans on burning Qurans on September 11th. If that happens, you know the World is going to look at all of us like we all are a bunch of ignorant Americans. Well, they already do that, but you know it’s bad when an armed right-winged militia named Right Wing Extreme says, “We’ve decided against helping them because it doesn’t glorify God.”
In other news from the weird:
Least Competent Police
In March, four NYPD officers, acting on department intelligence, went to the home of Walter and Rose Martin in Brooklyn, N.Y., looking for a suspect, and broke a window as they worked their way inside. The Martins, retired and in their 80s, were clean, and a police spokesman later admitted that officers had wrongly visited or raided the Martins’ home more than 50 times since 2002 because of a stubborn computer glitch. When the software was originally installed, an operator tested it by mindlessly typing in a random address, but that happened to be the Martins’ house, and thus the visits and raids began. The Martins say they have been assured several times that the problem had been corrected, but evidently their address has wormed its way too deep into the system. [New York Post, 3-19-10]
Government in Action
A Treasury Department inspector general reported in June that, out of 2.6 million applicants for federal mortgage relief, 14,000 “home buyers” wrongly received tax credits and that in fact, 1,300 of them were living in prison at the time of filing, including 241 serving life sentences. Sixty-seven of the 14,000 received tax credits for the same house, and 87 more potentially fraudulent tax-credit applications were filed by Internal Revenue Service employees. [ABC News-AP, 6-23-10]
Things That Shouldn’t Get Backlogged:
California requires that if a sex offender’s GPS tagging device signals that he’s in a prohibited area, parole agents must immediately respond, but that law was easier to pass than to implement. As of June, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune investigation, the state had fallen about 31,000 responses behind. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6-16-10]
Thank Goodness for Researchers
After surveying 374 waitresses, professor Michael Lynn, who teaches marketing and tourism at Cornell University, concluded that customers left larger tips to those with certain physical characteristics such as being slender, being blond or having big breasts. Lynn told the Cornell Daily Sun in May that his study was important in helping potential waitresses gauge their “prospects in the industry.” [Cornell Daily Sun, 5-7-10]
Perhaps more usefully, University of Central Lancashire (England) researchers writing in a recent Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that women achieve orgasm more often during foreplay than intercourse but that they more frequently emit orgasm-signaling “vocalizations” just before, or simultaneously with, male ejaculation. [PubMed (National Institutes of Health), 5-18-10]