I meet Forbes and Ed at Tattoo City on Lombard early in the afternoon. Ed first makes a drawing on my body, for placement of the tattoo. It looks so great I want it on me right then! I am lucky because after so many years of being the tattoo maestro, Ed wants to focus more on his painting, and do less tattooing. He still does it of course, but he doesnâ€™t do the epic pieces he is known for anymore. He says that mine will be the last one!
The needles are at hand, but Forbes and Suhaila are keeping me calm and happy. The room is crowded with love and anticipation, and we are starting. When the tattoo gun hits my skin, I am surprised at the pain. I didnâ€™t think it would hurt so much. The peony is centered right at the base of my spine, where the nerves are outraged at the unusual stimulation. Ed has a gentle touch, and works quickly, but it still feels like my skin is being scraped off my skeleton. I keep looking up at Forbes and Suhaila for reassurance, and that makes it better â€“ but then it goes on again and wow! It really hurts. I almost start crying at the cutting feeling, the way it shoots sparks of pain up into my arms and down my legs. I am so very alive and I feel it quite keenly. The searing sensation is really bad over my rib cage. The tattoo gun vibrates the skin directly on the bone, which feels like a dentistâ€™s drill being used as a murder weapon. It is unbearable, but I am bearing it.
And then itâ€™s over. The time goes by quickly, and itâ€™s a good thing. Half of the outline is finished, and the beautiful peony and one snake are bandaged up for the night. We go to dinner in North Beach, with Edâ€™s fantastic wife Francesca, and I canâ€™t stop laughing and sneezing. I seem to have come down with the worst allergies ever. But I canâ€™t stop smiling, even though my nose is running.