Hi to you. I am assuming you found my site and are starting to scroll through it with the intention of reading something of mine or at least to look for a post with funny pictures. On that last, I’m sure I can accommodate you somehow. But for now let me state the reason for this post.
Ask yourself, how often does someone or something really surprise you or take you off guard? In this deranged society overflowing with self-absorbed personas, when do you notice something good? I know there is a constant barrage of negative things but are you like me and feel almost stunned when you hear something good? That happened to me yesterday and of all the places, it happened while a guy was jabbing me repeatedly to make me bleed. Of course I am talking about the chair inside the Ragtime Tattoo shop off of Morganford in the city (St Louis). The man responsible for causing my blood to leak from my body was my tattoo artist Matt Hodel. Fun fact: In addition to running Ragtime Tattoo, he also is a family man who produces his own podcast (Bastards of Art).
While Matt was working on the second session of my left arm for over two hours, we got to talking. Our random topics talks are a pretty normal occurrence. When I come to Matt’s shop, we tend to discuss: music, art, culture, society issues, family and whatnot. As I mentioned on my latest personal podcast episode (The Freak Show on the Podbean app), Matt is more than my tattoo guy. He takes on the role of philosopher, psychiatrist and therapist (I would say bartender but there’s no drinking alcohol to be had there). As we catch up on things from a month ago or discuss different life situations, he will invariably ask about creative outlets. He knows I write a blog and produce my own podcast but this time he ventured to probe a bit deeper. He asked the age old question that typically gets trotted out at a job interview: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have heard this question and its variations many times in an interview environment but to hear it in a casual conversation, it threw me off for a second. After a five second pause, I answered honestly. I said I would like to be published on a larger scale than just short stories by then. He immediately asked me what was stopping me. Again I answered honestly. I said with a laugh, and I quote, “I’m lazy”.
He stopped and pushed back from sticking ink into my arm and shook his head. His expression was flabbergasted. He then proceeded to tell me that “I’m just waiting to die”. He said, “Some of us have gifts that others don’t have and they are jealous of those gifts and what we can do. We are only renting them (you know?) because we only have so much time.” I understood and acknowledged his point. As he rolled back to me and began to work on the tattoo again he said, “You can write. I’ve read your blog. You shouldn’t let laziness keep you from doing what you really want to do.” He also said something to the effect of: People are only willing to do small things in case it turns out to be a small failure. People are afraid to do something big because it could become a big failure. The conversation hit on more points about trying things but sometimes out of failure comes the greatest achievements.
Not lost on me was the fact that he had paid me a compliment. And a pretty good one too as far as I’m concerned. Matt is never short on opinions or viewpoints. So I know there was no ulterior motive in him acknowledging that he thinks I can write based on his own first-hand experience reading my work. That small straightforward compliment was all it took to make me feel ashamed. Like five year boy old who made his mom cry ashamed. There is not much in this world that I can say I do very well. But if pressed to name something that I do better than anything else, I would say it would be writing. I’m not saying I could rap battle Eminem into a crying fetal position but I can tell a story or relay an instance and it’s not always sucky to read. Pretty poetic huh?
So I left his tattoo shop with something to carry with me. First, I had a nice fourth tattoo on my upper body area and second, a virtual feather in my cap that another artist recognized something in my word craft worth complimenting. I have written about my experiences with Matt and his tattoos before. Heck I have even quasi-inspired him to draft a blog piece of his own about not judging outward appearances for a potential customer.
On the wings of my tattoo piece (my tattoo literally has wings), I will try to make a more concerted effort to work on what I do best to make it better, for better or worse. Matt was right, not everything is going to be stellar but by letting it out will eventually make the good ones even better.