It was 1993.
I’d just finished a two-year tour at a remote Royal Air Force base in Machrihanish, Scotland, and I was coming home for thirty days leave to see my two best friends.
Once I arrived in town, we then headed south for a day of white water rafting along West Virgina’s New River. I remember car camping that night and drinking a great deal of sticky sweet bourbon. Then there was a long drive through the night in order to reach Tarpon Springs, Fla., by dawn. (I took the night shift at the wheel and nearly got us killed, having grown accustomed to driving on the other side of the road and the other side of the car. I’ve never cared much for driving to begin with. I’ve gotten better at it, but apparently the shit can kill you.)
The windows in the rental were down and NWA was blaring from the speakers as the southern humidity yawned in and my friends caught some much-needed shuteye. My first tattoo, the giant spiderweb on my left elbow courtesy of Terry’s Tattoo’s in Glasgow, Scotland, hung out the driver’s side window. I’ve gotten a lot of looks for that one. I didn’t get it because I’d killed someone or spent time in jail; I just liked the aesthetic. I’m actually a pretty nice guy.
We arrived at our destination in Tarpon Springs later that morning but when we pulled up in the driveway there was no one home, so we drove around town a little while, probably in search of food.
At some point we passed Black Diamond Tattoo. Without even thinking, I shouted, “Hey, stop the car!” This surprised the driver somewhat, but he did. “Great, thank you. Just drop me off here and could you please pick me up in about an hour or so?” I don’t know why I felt so compelled but just like that I walked in and picked out the band of barbed wire that would live around my right forearm for the next million miles. Eight barbs. Fuck knows why I chose eight barbs…
Years passed, life happened. I moved around, held a lot different jobs, fell in and out of love and changed as a person. And over time, the ink gradually faded and things started looking pretty shitty. Then one day I wasn’t even that person anymore. It was time for a change.
Today I walked into Brooklyn’s Fly Rite Tattoo on Metropolitan; after a few painful hours and the darkest ink he had on hand, Jeb Maykut did me up right. We talked about experimental music, pirate radio and the benefits of travel on one’s horizons.
Here’s to the next million miles. (Thanks, Jeb!)