Marked for Life: A Little Number on Tattoos

Tomorrow afternoon, I am going to a new shop in the southern part of my state for my newest tattoo. What it is, I will not reveal! Although you may shrivel into a ball and cry without this information, I will surely put up a picture on my sarah On The Go Facebook page. So in honor of my 10th tattoo, I decided to write a short blog on my love for ink (on myself and on others, the craft; the process and those professionals who make it all happen).

There is a certain subculture in tattooing, and whether you are an enthusiast or have a great dislike for tattoos, this art’s heritage goes back over 5,000 years. Widely receptive throughout diverse cultures across the globe, tattooing was once used as a way to profess religious and magical beliefs, social status, heritage- and some were purely decorative. As I did a little research on the history of the tattoo, I found that covering one’s body and face with ink was not uncommon. 

So thousands of years later, while the method of inserting ink inside a person’s skin is thankfully done differently, why is there still so much negativity towards those with tattoos? With the arrival of television shows such as Ink Masters alongside veteran shows such as LA and NY ink, the popularity of tattooing does not show any signs of settling down. If only people could just accept other’s with their story written in art on their body.

But think about your wedding dress.

What are you going to look like when you are 50!

Your kids are going to see those.

When you’re pregnant it’s going to stretch.

No one is ever going to hire you.

I got my first piece when I was 16 years-old, and although the rose on my lower back (don’t you dare call it that name) has no truly significant meaning, it started my love for the craft. I soon started to seek out the best places in my local area, and did my research beforehand, instead of just picking out flash on the wall. I moved on to getting a butterfly on my side rib cage in memory of my friend, Cheyenne, who had passed too soon. While cute and colorful, I eventually decided to step my game up.

On my right rib cage, I have a skull made up of birds and leaves. It took about two and a half hours to complete and was agonizing. With a high tolerance for pain, I can say that my skull tattoo far surpassed anything I could tolerate. I broke out into a cold sweat and clenched my teeth for the entire duration. It felt like the needle was scraping directly onto my bones. But in the end it came out wonderfully. I am proud to say that I am a good client; I never complain, and very seldom ask for breaks (this was the only one I needed a cigarette break for).

Choosing to get a highly visible tattoo, like on my left wrist, is a decision you want to make carefully- but as opposed to what others say [think about it hard and long for a while], I would say that if you really love it then go for it. I mean, posting a picture on the dashboard of your car so you can look at it every day is clever, but also sounds annoying. If you liked it at all to begin with, why do you need to stare it for three months while you drive around. My Aum is on my wrist and is surrounded by a floral design. Basically, it is an obvious place for a tattoo. And while my ankle and foot tattoos can be hidden, I long for something a little more. So this Wednesday, I plan to get  piece on the back of my neck. Nothing crazy, but something that is vibrant and daring- like me!

My friend practiced on my ankle area. 87 in Roman Numerals :)

The older I get, the more I realize that tattoos are a pretty damn common thing to have. Going through college I met a lot of people with all types of designs and patterns, sleeves and small words, all of which I appreciated in some way. The young tattooed people I worked and studied with daily had a background, as we all do, but some just wanted to tell it in a different way. Some people’s stories go beyond words, which they want to illustrate through permanent picture or words. Sometimes, the impact of a situation deserves to be honored as bodily artwork; the customary next step to remembering a deep and meaningful event. 

There is a true beauty in tattooing. The process which, if you seek out a good artist, is done skillfully and with total appreciation for the craft. The people who tattoo are usually all in. They are artists beyond the ink and are talented enough to translate their creations from paper or canvas to flesh. Learning to tattoo, as my close friend is, can prove to be difficult. It takes a lot of practice, patience and a steady hand. There is so much deserving respect to be given to these artists.  

Like mostly everything in the world, people will always have a counter opinion to your own. While I realize that tattoos are not for everyone, I would like to see more appreciation for this art form. If you are debating some ink, go for it! You definitely do not have to go all out with a huge bicep piece! Get a small design, word… butterfly! Get something you can identify with. Being proud of your work is huge, so take the time to find a good tattoo shop and read reviews on the artist first.

Hopefully I have changed a few minds about how they see people with tattoos. I am just a sucker for anything that gives me another outlet to self-express. Wish me luck on my new addition tomorrow!

My most recent, a lotus flower.

These Boots are Made for Road Trippin’

Good ol’ Tennessee! Home to some of the most distinguished names in music history, this Southeastern state boasts not only its knack for continuously producing music greats, but the food culture and beautiful landscapes add to its national notoriety. With the Appalachian Mountains providing stunning visuals, the Volunteer State is ideal for road trippers, food junkies and music lovers alike. So as I gear up to start making important decisions regarding my June road trip, I am provoked by Tennessee’s enticing reputation to research what it is that has people talking.

Bonnaroo entrance that everyone must walk through to enter the grounds

Although I am not hitting the road for another four months, planning now is essential. Tennessee has long been a desired travel destination for myself, so I want to make sure that all expectations are met by sealing the more technical aspects of this trip in advance. Renting an RV is going to be a pretty penny ($267 per person for five people for the rental not including 2k miles of gas), so saving money while keeping friends on the same page about funds and budget is crucial. Hey, none of us are Daddy Warbucks. Adequate time is necessary to save, and to know what to save for!

First, the reason I am going: the Bonnaroo Festival. The acclaimed music gathering is coming up on its 10-year anniversary, and I am anxious as ever to pack my bags and join the tens of thousands of music lovers for a weekend of moving and grooving. The dates are set for June 7th through the 10th, and although the lineup has yet to be released, past acts predict epic tunes. The most alluring aspect of this particular festival is the mesh of old and new musicians. Throughout its run, Bonnaroo has hosted old school favorites such as The Police, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bob Weir and Ratdog, B.B King, Phish, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers and Robert Plant. While these heavy hitters prove to bring in the masses year after year, it is the alternative bands that has me reserving my spot before a lineup is even announced. Favorites such as Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Black Keys, Weezer, Pearl Jam, The White Stripes, Nine Inch Nails, Death Cab for Cutie and The Strokes have all made Bonnaroo history. If you want to see for yourself what the hype is about, check out their past lineups here.

One of the many in attendance wearing signs of self-expression!

Located in Manchester, Bonnaroo is an hour drive to country music capital, Nashville, and only 40 minutes to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. My idea is to visit Jack Daniels prior to setting up camp at Bonnaroo, because let’s face it, I am going to be a strung out mess after four days of nonstop partying.

Twenty-year old Katherine Dussan, Connecticut native and Psychology Major at West Virginia University, says she cannot wait to attend the Tennessee festival again this year.

“Bonnaroo was the first festival I’ve ever attended this past summer, and it was the craziest thing I have ever experienced,” she said.

“After going, I couldn’t imagine being home that weekend while everyone is back there having a blast and seeing, listening, and experiencing all the artists… I would be heart-broken if I wasn’t there.”

Katherine is a perfect example of how a fan of any type of music will find a welcoming spot at Bonnaroo.

“I have such a variety in [music] taste. It goes from rap to pop to dub and house. My favorite artist is Eminem. I absolutely love his music and lyrics. I love listening to Tiësto and Steve Aoki, along with David Guetta, Kaskade, and all other house and trance artists.”

Another favorite band of hers, Mumford and Sons, is quite the change from club-thumping beats, and played the festival back in 2010 and 2011.

“Their songs are so peaceful. I couldn’t help but to keep them on repeat,” the aspiring couples therapist explained. “I’ve never heard a song or seen someone live where they have put me into tears, and Mumford and Sons did that. Their music was beautiful , it’s the best word I can choose for them- simply beautiful.”

Katherine (3rd in with black top) and her “Roo Crew”

So what is it about Bonnaroo that has people road tripping across the country to attend?

“Ahh, the atmosphere of Bonnaroo was amazing! It is seriously crazy how once you step into the festival- even just the camping ground- how genuinely nice and warm people are. I did not witness one fight, people arguing or anyone having a bad time,” she went on to say.

“It wasn’t weird to just walk up to people and start conversation. Girls were walking around half-naked with no shirt on and their chests painted… no one hesitated to look at them differently. People were free, in the sense, in being whoever they wanted to be, and doing whatever they pleased while not being judged.”

Katherine (red glasses) with friends on their way to The Black Keys pit


I know, as well as my friends, that after more than half day driving, we want to set up camp without a hassle. Katherine explained that although the line into Bonnaroo may seem huge, she waited no longer than 8 minutes to get in. With thousands of cars creeping into the campgrounds, the crew apparently worked hard as hell in that summer heat to keep things moving smoothly.

Her story goes on, and the experience she had this past summer provides pretty solid evidence as to why this particular festival is a sensation of a musical gathering.

“My group and I camped. I wanted to experience the festival to the fullest, so I told myself that I was going to suck it up; forget about all the bugs and the showers I wouldn’t be taking. We got there on Wednesday night (the festival started Thursday), and set everything up so we could walk around. People were seriously just coming up to us and offering us beer, water, (typical festival treats!), everything and anything we needed,” she said.

Well, Katherine, what about the Tennessee heat?

“The weather was 95 degrees every day with not one cloud in the sky.”

And while that sounds lovely on a freezing cold day like today (Damn you, New England weather), what can one expect when traveling in the summer down to the South?

“I remember the next morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. crawling out of my tent drenched in sweat. Oh my God, it was horrible. We had no shade whatsoever. Sitting in the tent was not even an option, it was way too hot. Luckily, our neighbors (who I will never forget) were at Bonnaroo for their 6th year in a row and had everything down to a tee; shade, tents, canopies, everything we didn’t have. They were so nice, they let us chill at their camp site whenever we wanted to,” Katherine detailed.

Danielle, Katherine’s best friend, before Bassnectar. Bright colors preferred!

Okay, so now that we have the logistics down, tell me more about the music.

“Eminem, my absolute favorite, was headlining, so all of Bonnaroo was around his stage. I was able to be right up front since it was right after The Black Keys (one of my favorite acts of Bonnaroo, as well). Their light show was amazing and they worked the crowd so well.”

The Black Keys have been Bonnaroo veterans for four years, debuting in 2004 and playing again in 2007, 2010 and this past summer in 2011.

“Later that night, Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, Bassnectar, and String Cheese Incident (a new band I discovered while there) came on and amped up the crowd. You can tell how much love was in the air, it was crazy. I loved that I was able to blast out of rap, listen to folk and then rage to house and techno. That was my favorite thing about this festival,” she said.

Katherine (right) and Danielle under the “Mushroom”

Now, to leave all you potential festival-goers with some advice from this kickass young lady: bring car chargers, water, comfortable shoes and the most helpful, pull up to your camp site with a full tank of gas!

“Bonnaroo was a blast. I would recommend this festival for its variety in music, and knowing that no matter who you are, there will always be someone performing that you will love,” she stated.

I may fall out of my chair in excitement just proofreading this post. And just when I thought it was too early to start stocking up on tie-dye and glow sticks, Katherine reminded me that I am not, in fact, crazy for being hyped so far in advance.

“I remember my count down started months before Bonnaroo actually came, so I know how excited you [sarah On The Go] and your friends must be! I promise you, it will be an epic time with the best memories.”