Fresh Ink

I got my first tattoo in a dark, dank little shop in a run down part of Sacramento sometime in ’89 or ’90. When they brought me in to the back room, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to be mugged, killed, or just tattooed. Parlors like that have gone the way of the dodo. With nearly a third of adults under 35 sporting ink these days, the industry has become a well oiled machine. I would go so far as to say that they’re a little too clean and well lit for my taste. I prefer the sticker laden motif of my favorite dive bars.

Nestled between Marnee Thai and Gordo Tacqueria on 9th Ave, lies the entrance to One Shot Tattoo. I’ve been going there to see Dave for a couple of sessions now. One Shot has only been around for a couple of years, but the artists aren’t newcomers. Owner Dave Bobrick started as an apprentice at Goldfield’s in North Beach 15 years ago, and now he manages (in addition to ink slinging) at that store as well as his own. He tells me he works seven days a week.

As is my modus operandi, I came to him with a half-assed description, which he, some days later, turned into a sketch. After the nits are picked, we get down to business.

My new piece is fairly good sized, covering about half of my upper arm. Putting up with the needle on the outer arm is a piece of cake, but the inner side, near the armpit, stings like election day. My focus during that part quickly becomes the act of not flinching.

While you’re in the chair, there is usually some banter. Some of it is you and your fellow patrons, talking like you would to your barber or bartender. It’s also common to hear walk-ins who want a small butterfly balking at the price. Folks, custom artwork is not quite the same as buying a car. This is not an item for which bargain hunting is prudent. You are buying something you will have for a very long time. Look over the portfolios, pick your artist, and smile as you agree to part with your Benjamins. Work from high quality, experienced shops in the bay area will run you $125 or $150 an hour, with a $100 minimum. That’s the way it is.

After a session, you go home, head spinning with endorphins, rip off the bandage, and do the first wash-pat-ointment dance. Within a couple of weeks, your new Ernest Borgnine portrait is fully healed. You may now commence thinking about your next piece.

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