Honey, Let’s Get Tattoos: Tattoos and Embodiment

Continued from a previous post. Read part 1 here

Tree tattooAfter my wife Katie and I decided to get matching tattoos, we spent months pinning designs and discussing placement, and—let’s be honest—fighting over pretty much every detail. It probably had been easier to choose our children’s names. We’re a stubborn and volatile couple, so there was no chance this would be a sweet story; it could only be a struggle of wills. We arrived, exhausted, at a conclusion, but somehow still grateful for one another, and when we finally got to the tattoo parlor, it could only have been anticlimactic.

Our artist, a large bald man named Bear with tattoos all over his arms, neck, and head, told us to walk around for twenty minutes or so while he made the stencils, giving us the opportunity to argue one last time about where to get marked. We had agreed on tree of life designs—mine more Celtic and hers more organic.

The tree invokes diverse mythologies, not least that of Genesis where it represents the source of eternal life in Christ. It also hearkens to an image of growing together from the sermon Katie’s grandfather gave at our wedding. We’d get the design on our inner forearms—my left, her right—so that they’d sort of knot up whenever we held hands, ‘cause we’re sweet like that.

Agreeing to get a tattoo in the first place had been something of a process for me, and it brought me in touch with the conflictual relationship between my theology of the body and my actual emotions about my body and my wife’s. When we actually pulled the trigger, we both learned something about ourselves. She learned she was not nearly so casual as she had thought herself: She reneged on the forearm placement and opted for her back. I learned, to my own surprise, that I existed in space and time.

Maybe that’s dramatic, but that’s how it felt. When I woke up the next morning with a large, black, knotted tree on my arm, I felt a different relationship to the world than I had the previous day, what I knew was embodiment. [Read more…]

Brush With a Famous Writer

By Ann Conway

airportI was walking down a concourse in the Philly airport when I looked up to see the Famous Writer staring down at me. Actually at first glance I was sure I was looking at the British actor, Bill Nighy. But it was not. It was him, a well-known literary writer who had moved to Maine ten years ago.

I was stunned, but kept on walking to the food court, where I ate a seven-dollar hot dog and thought about the writer. It was strange to see someone famous, especially someone from Maine. I was already back there in my mind, feeling safe with all the stolid types waiting at the nearby gate.

I knew he traveled far and wide; his writing was all about looking for something—the American soul? About this, I was not sure. But I knew the search was his concern.

I had considerations about him. I had last seen him at a reading I attended years before when I lived in Portland. Perhaps that was how he remembered me, although the reading was full of other middle-aged women. Later I read one of his short stories, in which he remarked, “Women who go to lectures always want something.” [Read more…]

Watchmen and Dr. Manhattan’s Miracles

I came late to the DC Comic’s collected Watchmen, the groundbreaking graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I backed into it really, watched the movie first with my sons. Though I tell them it’s usually best to read the book first, it seemed okay in this instance to watch the movie because it’s based on comic books. Of course the word comic is not a good description of what we get.

Watchmen is the story of a retired group of masked avengers who are being murdered one by one. The setting is an alternate United States in which Nixon remained president, won reelection, and crushed the North Vietnamese army, and is now changing the laws so that he can remain president indefinitely. Also, Nixon’s finger is itchy to nuke the Russians.

First published in the late eighties, the specter of the mutually assured destruction of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and basically the total nuclear annihilation of the world hangs heavy over this dark story. In that sense it is dated, but it is still a great read.   [Read more…]