Monthly Archives: April 2012

Yet more random shit

1) One of the first questions we get asked when people find out that Cara is pregnant is “are you going to find out the sex?” and for awhile we figured that we would. It would let us settle on a name, start picking out clothes and such and at this point we are hungry for any information and who or what this tiny creature is. But the more we thought about it and talked to folks like my mom who had 6 (!) kids and never felt the need to know the gender before they were born we realized what a cool surprise it would be to meet this little person on his or her own terns when they were born. Besides, neither of us is real fond of the “boys wear blue girls wear pink” thing and this way well meaning folks wont feel the need to color coordinate anything they buy for the baby.

2) I was given a shaving brush and cake of shaving soap a couple years ago by a friend as a birthday gift. I have always been interested in this old fashioned way of doing things and have used it since then. I have come to appreciate how very economical and ecological this is since I have the same brush as 3 years ago and have bought a new cake of soap one time for about $6. Sure you can get all kooky and buy $200 dollar badger hair brushes and shit like that but its completely unnecessary. It takes me about 30 seconds extra to shave this way and I get to feel like im in an old cowboy movie doing it.

3) Cara and I are getting ready for the Baltimore tattoo convention and a funny thing is happening. I have been getting calls and emails about doing appointments at the convention, which is weird because I usually just roll in there and tattoo whoever comes to the booth, but this year I am getting booked up ahead of time. This is good news and so far the tattoos people have been asking about all sound pretty damn fun to do, but i cant help wonder why now of all times since we have been working this convention for 5 or so years! This might be the only convention we do this year (since the Pittsburgh convention is right around Caras due date we might not make it this year heh heh) so Im really glad its in a city where we have so many friends. If you are attending and would like a tattoo from Cara or I you might want to set it up soon as it looks like we might actually be full up by the time it rolls around, call the shop at 412-621-1679 if you want to set something up for the convention.

4)Speaking of traveling to the convention, we will be stopping in Mechanicsburg for a couple days before to hang out with the awesome folks of Black Thorn gallery (with whom we will be sharing a big booth at the Baltimore con.) So if you are in the Harrisburg/Mechanicsburgh area and would like me to tattoo/bore you to death with long stories then call those fine folks and set it up! They are all the kind of quality people and top notch talents that make me want to open a super shop with 15 of my good friends who are that rare combination of awesome tattooers AND kind intelligent humans.

5) Politics. ugh, my head already hurts thinking about it. Like almost anything that people use to keep from having to think deeply about reality it ends up only in divisiveness and conflict. The sort of problems we argue about in this country sound like the silliest form of luxury problems we could be wasting our energy on. When half the world doesn’t have clean water it seems like a grievously missed opportunity to argue about whether we should let ridiculously rich people get richer or a tiny bit less rich. Really? This is the junk we fill our lives angrily with when real (solvable!) problems lie undealt with? Our kinds wont look back and say “our side won in 2012!” they will look back and say “our parents could have fed the world if they weren’t so busy acting like spoiled children.”

6) Ive been really hitting the ol’ cushion on the regular lately and it is amazing how much more smoothly life goes when i meditate daily. I don’t know (or care) about the whys, in fact not sweating the things that are unanswerable is one of the main reasons things go so smoothly! It feels like when your house is totally clean and organized (not that mine has ever been that way) and if you have to get up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water you can walk through each room totally confident that you wont stub your toe on a basket of clothes or a chair that was left in the wrong place. You just know that your shit is arranged and so when life does throw a curve ball your way you are able to meet the changes with a flexible mind not distracted by all the other stuff we normally spend our lives stressing about.

Categories: Buddhism and life, fatherhood, random dumbness | 1 Comment

The Treehouse

Believe it or not this started as a reaction to one of the dumbest controversies I have ever witnessed. Recently the folks who make the Instagram app for Apples Iphone made a version available for users of the android phone operating system. TONS of tattooers use instagram so I was considering buying an Iphone when my contract made it available this fall. Now I don’t need to spend money on a new phone since I can use the app as well, but when I got on there I saw a flood of people, people whose only claim to exclusivity is the cell phone they bought, decrying the influx of android users. They were fucking angry that people who used phones from a different company could now use the same application that had been their own private club. This is indescribably stupid, but it did make me think of this whole notion of secret clubs and a belief that there are those better than others.

If you have been around me for any length of time you will have had the misfortune to hear me rant about exclusion. I’m not just talking about the really obvious shit like groups who ban gays (like the boy scouts) or women (like the entire catholic church structure), but the smaller, pettier kinds. In fact, it is these that drive me even more bonkers than the ancient and archaic ones whose elitism and exclusivity are merely the dried dangling dingle-berries of their history. It makes a kind of moronic sense that the Klan would not admit black people or that the fundamentalist religions of the world would exclude people who were born gay, these kinds of groups have been stupid and backward since their inception. I get it, I don’t approve of it, but I get it. If you have been dumb for 400 years the chances are that you aren’t going to be smart any time real soon.

I didn’t used to be this way, in fact I was pretty into being elite, I enjoyed feeling like I was smarter, cooler, or just plain better than other people. When I was a punk I took great pride that me and my few friends were the ones who were too smart to listen to Journey and Hall and Oates, but eventually I begin to feel that I and my even smaller group of friends were even better than the other punks. WE didn’t drink or do drugs, WE cared about how fucked our government was, WE were not the loutish morons who acted like idiot frat boys only with mohawks and spiky jackets. Eventually I began to listen to really weirdo culty sounding doom folk and pseudo gothic creepfests and decided that even my straight edge friends were not cool enough for me. I became the sole member of a very select and exclusive club of one.

I always wanted to be in the group, I wasted no time in shitting on those who weren’t, everyone around me did the same things with their own versions. When I became a tattooer the trend magnified into a truly frankenstein-esque monster! Here, I was now part of a trade that had secret knowledge, arcane masters that only those “in the know” were even aware of. We had, almost automatically, a disdain for the customer who “didn’t get it” and demanded our wonderful genius be put to use tattooing tweety birds and old English. Were were the pirates, everyone else was either a victim or a rival pirate and either way we were the best and “they” (i.e. everyone else) were the worst. Heaven help the poor kid who wandered into our shop asking about being a tattooer! We told them that our talent was innate, that we were “born tattooers” and that if they were not already touched with the golden light like us then they would be nothing, or even worse than nothing, that they would be “scratchers“. (imagine a small, rat like creature clutching a cheaply made tattoo machine in the dingy dirty kitchen of his trailer spewing hepatitis and bad ICP tattoos onto its group of equally despicable cronys). Never mind the fact that I was, at best, a mediocre tattooer and that all this shunning and decrying was to cover my own secret fear that someday, someone, would call me out for the phony I was. The fact is that secret clubs work because most of the members don’t really believe that they are worthy and that only if they hate on enough of everybody else will they be able to keep the spotlight away from their own failure.

Embarrassingly, I even felt like I had joined a cool kids club when I became a Buddhist, but when you begin to actually do Buddhism (as opposed to talking or reading about doing it) a funny thing happens. You see, we all have that voice we use to talk to ourselves. When were making a tough decision or debating two choices, when we doubt our path or actions¬† it is the voice that use to compare, to literally have an internal dialogue. It’s the voice that calls us stupid when we lock the keys in the car or pats us on the back when we get a wicked zinger dig at someone we’re arguing with. Well if you sit zazen regularly a funny thing happens. That voice gets quieter, it gets replaced by something far more sure and something that doesn’t have to convince you its right, you know in your bones that it is the truth. When that happens the bullshit starts to fall off pretty quick.

Years ago I read a Koan that baffled me for a long time in the beginning. In it there is a monk who would wake up every day and talk to himself. He would say


“Yes Master?”

“Dont be fooled by anybody!”

“yes master!”

“Dont be fooled by yourself!”

“Yes master!”

I thought it was just a funny little story of guy trying to stay on his guard against delusion or something. But the longer I practiced the more I began to see that we do talk to ourselves as a separate person, and that most often the person deluding us is US! Once I began to stop and see the world as it really was instead of how it could/should/used to be  those two voices turned into one and it was not patient with delusion and bullshit. I dropped a lot of my self flogging/congratulation, I stopped arguing over stupid shit (mostly) and most of all I began to feel that I was the same as everyone else.


Even people I despised, people I knew nothing about, everything. It made sense why a total stranger would risk his or her life to save someone even if it put their own lives at risk, it made sense why vegetarians couldn’t eat meat because they identified with the animal, I got why when someone cut down a tree for no good reason it made me mad. I finally began to understand that exclusion wasn’t just mean or prejudiced, it was delusion. It came from the myth that we were different and caused harm not only to those left out of the “club”, it deeply wounded those who were the “in” crowd as well! The problem is that this is something felt at a level that language can’t express, so saying “I felt like we were all one” doesn’t actually exclude the reality that were are separate bodies with separate t-shirts. But I knew at that gut level that the part of me that wanted to be the cool kid, who wanted to set aside a little piece of the world and call it minewas fading fast, I felt like I had a little tiny taste of reality and there was no room in it for fake partitions and snobbery. I began to feel like all the problems we have in this world are a result of believing in and trying to reinforce the lie that you or I could really separate ourselves from the whole universe like that. It would be like a leaf deciding it didn’t need the tree and jumping off to form a secret club of independent leaves. (when that happens not only does the leaf wither, but the tree suffers too!)

Categories: Buddhism and life, Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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