Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016    Login | Register        

Tattoo or not tattoo

David Epps's picture

I am currently tattoo free. I realize that it is unusual to be both a biker and a Marine Corps veteran and have no tattoos adorning my body somewhere but that’s the situation.

When I was a child my late grandfather, Charles Daniel Duckett, had several blue and faded tattoos on his forearms. When I would stare at them, usually when he and I were on a fishing trip, he would say, “Son, don’t ever get one of these. You’ll be sorry if you do.” So I never did.

Oh, I started to when I was stationed at Fort Lee, Va., back in 1970. In fact, I was going to head out one morning, but the night before I was supposed to visit the tattoo parlor, a fellow Marine groaned and puked his way through the night, his bicep a festering mass of blood, swelling, and pus — all from an infected tattoo needle.

I skipped the tattoo session.

After that, I never really thought about it until years later. My sons all have tattoos. In fact, 25 percent of all American adults now sport tattoos, some in hidden places, others in locations so blatant they cannot be missed.

Some look like works of art while others look like someone had a nightmare or a bad drug trip and had it etched in skin forever.

My wife is not a fan of tattoos. While at an event earlier this summer, as a joke, I paid for a $10 fake tattoo that was on sale for $5. As the day went on, I forgot about it.

Later that evening when I was home and pulling off my shirt, my wife looked at my left upper arm and, with wide eyes and a horrified look, exclaimed, “What did you do?
What DID you DO!?” As I said, she is not a fan.

Sometimes I think about it anyway. The problem is several fold:

(1) I do not know what I would put on my body forever. Nothing excites or inspires me. Maybe a Marine Corps tattoo but it seems a little late for that.

(2) These things aren’t cheap and I am. Seems like a lot of money for a little bit of art.

(3) There are needles involved. I am not a fan of needles.

If all that weren’t enough, the Associated Press recently reported that an outbreak of infected tattoos occurred around the country. Health officials reported seeing an increase in cases of a nasty skin infection in which tattoo patrons wound up with bubbly rashes on their new tattoos.

These most recent infections cause itchy and painful pus-filled blisters that can take months to clear up and involve harsh antibiotics with unpleasant side effects.

Of course, as my young compadre learned in 1970, infections are nothing new when it comes to tattoos. However, great strides have been made in sanitation over the years. Now, many tattoo artists use disposable gloves and sterilize their instruments.

The cause of this more recent outbreak was the ink. The infections were tied to ink or water used to dilute the ink. The ink has since been recalled.

There is also the matter of outdated tattoos. Occasionally I see people my age with tattoos and I can only wonder, “What were they thinking?” I mean, did that guy who, when 19 years old, got a Yosemite Sam or a Road Runner tattoo even think of what it would look like on his old 78-year-old body?

I suspect that a lot of younger tattooed people will have buyer’s remorse down the road when their children and grandchildren shake their heads in wonder.

So, for now at age 61, I am ink free. Among Marine vets and bikers, I am probably an anomaly. Tattoo or not tattoo? That is the question.

Maybe I’ll get one for my upcoming 41st wedding anniversary and surprise my wife!

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which includes Georgia and Tennessee ( He may be contacted at]


SPQR's picture

Great line in the movie. "officers don't have tattoos"

A tattoo sort of pigeon holes an individual as to how they make life decisions.

kcchiefandy's picture'll find all kinds of military ranks sporting tat's; it's the 'hip' thing these days... Not for me, though; I'm not that hip - never saw the point.

IRISH rolling on Navy right now!!!

rolling stone's picture

I do not have any tattoos, in fact I use that as part of my description of myself (tan man, short, stocky, dumb looking, no tattoos...). It is the permanent aspect that always gave me pause about getting one but like Terry I am at the point in life where permanent is not going to be all that long. There is an alternative of sorts in a new type of tattoo ink that is much easier to remove by laser than conventional inks:<a href=""><stro... Body Art</strong></a>

SPQR's picture

I see your point. If you're a geezer you have license to do pretty much anything you want to do within the bounds of the law. Get a tat, corvette, Harley etc etc. How about a teardrop tat so people give you a wide berth at Walmart.

rolling stone's picture

[quote]How about a teardrop tat so people give you a wide berth at Walmart.[/quote]
No gang tats for me, too much like showing off. If I wanted to get a wide berth at Walmart I would have "This space for rent" on my forehead.

To keep it real, I will just continue to refer to my scars as my tattoos.

SPQR's picture

Ok. But I'm still thinking about the Corvette.

ctkcec's picture

I did get the Harley.

David Epps

LessThan3PTC's picture


A tattoo sort of pigeon holes an individual as to how they make life decisions.[/quote]

How so?

tgarlock's picture

. . . I now have one. It is a large cobra along with an ox, on my right calf in color, the cobra green with red eyes, a long hissing tongue, long fangs and a white belly, and the ox a deep brown.

I had always shunned tattoos for the reasons you stated, but when I turned 60 4 years ago I decided, what the heck, my body is a wreck, I may as well use some of it for art!

A couple weeks ago in Kroger, while wearing shorts and looking over the choices in the chicken cooler I heard a man about my age close to me say "That's an interesting tattoo on your leg, but why a snake and a bull?"

I told him it was supposed to be an ox but the images are pretty much the same, and that I had a reason to pick those two images. I was ready to move on, but he just looked at me, waiting. "You want to hear the story?" I asked him? He said "Sure, I have time if you do."

So I told him the snake is a cobra, the namesake for the helicopter gunship I flew in the Vietnam War, and that one day I had occasion to intentionally kill an ox. I really didn't want to kill the animal, but the place and circumstances made it necessary, and I felt like a blue ribbon putz anyway for having done it. So I flew in the snake and killed the ox.

The guy said, "That's the story?" I said, "Well, that's half of it." He continued to wait with an expectant look as if I owed him this personal information, but he seemed a decent guy and I figured, what the heck, it's not a state secret.

So I told him I have two daughters adopted from China, and that Chinese people pay close attention to where their birth date places them in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. They believe they will have the behavior characteristics of the animal representing the time of their birth. Melanie was born in the year of the ox, and Kristen was born in the year of the snake.

"That's the other half," I said. He said, "Cool! Thanks for telling me," and we parted to continue shopping.

When I had the tattoo done 4 years ago Melanie was 11. I picked her up from school that same day, my new ink covered by long pants. I hadn't decided how to reveal my venture to "the other side" to my family, but I didn't need to worry about that because Melanie misses nothing and she grabbed the receipt for my payment from my truck cup-holder, gave it a quick look and declared, "YOU GOT A TATTOO? Where is it? Hurry up and get me home, Mom won't believe this!" And predictably when we pulled in the driveway my little town crier jumped out of the truck while yelling, "M-O-O-O-O-O-M!"

The other thing she said, of course, was that she wanted a tattoo. Fair is fair and since I had one she figured she could get one, too. I told her absolutely not. She did the "why" thing, said she wanted a tattoo really bad and I told her that was one reason she was not going to get one, but that as soon as she turned 60 she could decide for herself whether to get a tattoo.

But you, my friend, have already had a lot of years of seasoning to help you make the choice right for you, and you get to choose whatever you want a tattoo to say, no matter what anyone else may think of it.

Once was enough for me. Let me know if you ever defy expectations and do the deed, we can compare ink over coffee.

Terry Garlock

Terry Garlock, PTC

SPQR's picture

Mobile tattoo parlor parked outside the Gathering Place.

frotzed's picture

I have a tattoo. When God called me out of paid ministry I decided to mark that point in my life indelibly in my skin. My father had always been a huge influence in my life, and he had a tattoo of a mushroom (got it in the 70s, draw what conclusions you may) so I took a picture of it, brought the photo to a tattoo artist I discovered upon several recommendations and asked him to create a custom piece based on my father's tattoo.

The end product is a stylized mushroom with a red fern growing up around it. Red fern meaning many things (just google it) but mostly symbolizing love and life which literally and figuratively grew from my father.

Presently it's my only tattoo, and I don't plan on getting others though it's not out of the question.

One thing's for sure, it's interesting to get into conversations with folks and watch their expression as I explain that I do have a tattoo and was once a Southern Baptist minister.

Lest ye be judged.

SPQR's picture

tattoo parlor behind McDonald's gone. New store just opened , Gremlin Growlers, selling craft beer on draft in returnable quart or 1/2 gallon bottles.

NUK_1's picture

Gremlin Growlers is where the pool supply place and several other things have been over the years at the left end of that building. Area 54 Tattoos still going, was over there this morning on the way for a haircut at Head's Up.

Ad space area 4 internal

Sponsored Content