Style Spotlight: Masked Men

Shocked and Amazed! Vol. 7

Throughout the articles presented here as a dedication to those who have undoubtedly inspired and influenced not only my passions and interests, but also have assisted me in cultivating an ever evolving aesthetic.  While there is an auspicious ode to the women of the past who challenged perceptions of beauty by covering their skin with hundreds of tattoo designs, I feel there are certain individuals who deserve a prominent place in the proverbial aristocratic hierarchy.  Michael Wilson is granted this honor though I never met the man nor have even seen a single performance.  It is his character, however, that managed to reach me through the pages of Shocked and Amazed by way of an interview conducted before his death.  A few years later I was staring at his tattooed face again, this time on the cover of [body mod zine], which had come into my possession through a collection of tattoo magazines once owned by renown body modification artist John Cobb.  He was introduced to me by Enigma one afternoon at the Blue Grotto in West Philly, but that is another story for a different time.  The point is that Wilson stood out from the other heavily tattooed exhibits of sideshow history due to the fact that he had his face inked, and my curiosity of what set him and others apart from all of the other tattooed people dove me to investigate the phenomenon further.

Prince Constantine aka Captain Constentenus

When it comes to notable figures of tattoo and sideshow culture, John Rutherford is considered to be the first professional tattooed Englishman and was covered in broad Maori designs which extended to his face.  His 1828 appearance was followed by James F. O’Connel, the first tattooed person to be put on display in the United States at Barnum’s American Museum in 1842.  Prince Constantine, more famously known as Captain Constentenus, became his successor in the 1870’s and is regarded as the most remarkable of these men due to the degree of tattoo coverage.  He may have even been the most tattooed man of that century, though certainly earns the merit of being the first to have a full body tattoo that included work on his face, scalp, genitals and even the webs of each finger.  Blue and red depictions of native Burmese animals and creatures of eastern mythology were considered to be the made by masters of the craft, the quality revered as being the most elaborate at that time.

Horace Ridler – the Great Omi

Deemed to be one of the most popular tattooed men of all time, the Great Omi began his life as Horace Ridler, a man who served the British Army and earned the rank of major before departing from the military.  In the early 1920’s he found himself in financial trouble and sought out show business as a means of amassing a new fortune.  Thus he began to turn himself into an attraction, though the early work was rather crude.  At the later part of the decade, Horace paid a visit to George Burchett [London’s famed artist] and the wide black stripes were a means of covering those tattoos.  It is said that he endured 150 hours and this dedication in choosing to transform his body is something I admire because of the determination he had to literally make himself into a spectacle.  Nonetheless, it is clear that Omi created an image which played on the natural curiosity of others that still remains as a prominent example of what the human body can endure.

Jack Dracula by Diane Arbus

A contemporary counterpart to this impressive list would be Jack Dracula, also known as “the Marked Man”, who was born in 1935 near the Brooklyn shipyards.  After completing high school he quickly enlisted with the Navy to avoid being drafted into the army and spent four years working as a petty officer.  Following his discharge, Jack returned to Brooklyn in 1957 and took on a number of odd jobs, though his life would be changed forever when he walked into a tattoo parlor on Coney Island.  He was looking to compliment a few pieces that had been acquired during service and wound up having a machine thrust in his hand as he was told to do it himself.  Executing a tattoo on his thigh with success, he soon took up position as an artist at several shops in the area.  This was when he gained the most prominent of his tattoos, which included a black mask that circled his eyes.  He then went on to find employment with Hubert’s Dime Museum in Times Square and Barnum Bailey’s Circus in Madison Square Garden.  Tattooing was outlawed in New York in 1961, causing Jack to exclusively work with sideshows, though dissatisfaction moved him to a town in Connecticut with a prime demographic for an artist and only one shop.  Subsequently that city went on to ban tattooing as well, and Jack had to relocate once again, opening shops in Philadelphia.  He closed up shop for good in the early 80’s and by 2003, his deteriorating health required him to take up residence in Park Place.

Jack’s remembered experiences earns him a place in mid-twentieth century tattoo culture and was even the recipient of discrimination due to his facial tattoos.  During an interview he submitted a well-rehearsed answer that was partially true when asked why he got them.  In a follow up he revealed much more self-awareness and stated “It kept me from getting married.  Women were my weakness and I was a good-looking guy.”  He went on to reveal that his tattoos were intentionally meant to nurture his ostracization from normal convention, yet was more than happy to allow others to invent stories about his reason for being tattooed.  Forming a sense of self was meticulously attached to the conditions that made up his life, though it becomes apparent that he selected an exceptional path while deliberately influencing the way other people saw him as well as the way he viewed himself.

Michael Wilson’s Tribute to Jack Dracula by Dan Nicoletta

Earlier I mentioned the interview Wilson, often affectionately referred to as “Tattoo Mike”,where Jonathan Shaw explains how he broke barriers in the sideshow community by having his entire body tattooed including his face and hands.  Managers did not customarily hire anyone with these areas inked, and though there is a progressive amount of people who have these places tattooed, Mike Wilson became an icon as Coney Island’s Illustrated Man, his image used to sell everything from breath mints to clothing.  “When I was first getting my face and head tattooed,” he states, “I didn’t know of anyone else except for legends like Jack Dracula or Omi.”  He goes on to explain how “at that time it was going over the line” but remarks that he has seen a lot of younger people with heavily tattooed faces.  “As I say in the spiel that I do, and I’ve said it a thousand times, tattoos are like potato chips-you can’t just have one.”  Wilson confesses that he used to draw and paint a lot so we he was quite fascinated with conveying them on his skin.

Here are a few excerpts from that interview where he explains where his interest in sideshow came from and how he accumulated his tattoos:

“Since I was a kid, I was fascinated with sideshow and carnivals and that whole thing, and the more heavily tattooed I got, the more I was reading.  I  was bartending, and a tattooist told me they were looking for performers at the sideshow, and I went down to Coney Island USA and got the job that day.  I already had my face tattooed.  What my boss said at the time was that there were plenty of people who had their bodies tattooed, but no one had their face.  So they put a big mask over me and put me outside on the stage.”

“I remember seeing a picture of Jack Dracula, and as much as I admired how he looked, I wanted something different than that.  I wanted something specifically with designs instead of pictures on my face.  So I started doing research.”

Photographed at the Coney Island Sideshow by Dan Nicoletta

“I had been getting tattooed by a man named Pat Maninuik in San Francisco; he tattooed me quite a bit, and also did the backs of my hands as well as the work on my arms.  I went to him with this idea about getting my face tattooed and he flat refused.  Then I started making this trek to tattoo parlors in California, and they all refused.  Then when I heard it was outlawed in New York City, I thought I could get it here if I had the money.  So I cam here and met a couple of people and went to Don Boyle and started getting tattooed.  Then I went to FineLine Mike, and he was very nervous to do it because my face was pretty much unmarked.  But finally he agreed, and I really got started.  Other people have picked up from there.”

“Getting my face tattooed really became an obsession.  I was going though all of the files and researching the tribes that tattooed their faces, and at the same time I’m smart enough to know that it was definitely going to change my life dramatically.  I’m the tattooed man all the time, but one thing I’ve learned, specifically in getting my face more and more tattooed, is that during the summertime I keep my shirt on.  I’ve learned to read people.  Getting my face and neck tattooed was something I wanted to do.  My intention isn’t to go out and shock people or get a rise out of people.  It was totally personal for me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t figure out how big of an effect it was going to have on other people, with them getting freaked out or angry.”

“During my spiel, I try to answer all of the questions people have about tattooing and put it in a good light and educate people.  One of the reasons I had to think about it for a long time was that when I was first being introduced as the tattooed man, my boss was painting this picture of this “poor me” individual.  And the more I heard him doing this spiel on me, the angrier and more dissatisfied I got.  I wanted a change, so I could feel proud of my tattoos.”

“I very rarely regret having my face tattooed; I feel like I have really been out in the mainstream in terms of showing my tattoos and explaining them.”

From the Journal of Bison Jack

Touching on the topic of younger individuals who are getting facial tattoos, Wilson stated he is not one to judge but thought “it’s probably wise to be a little older and more experienced in life before you embark on a commitment like that.  It can close a lot of doors.  I’ve had a lot of young guys come up to me and they’re talking about sporting some tattoos on their face and I tell them that they really should be older and really think about it a lot before they choose that path.”

Certainly this allows insight as to what can motivate a person to willingly lend their body to countless hours of being penetrated by a tattoo needle.  Though they are far more commonplace than in the times of those men and women who went that extra mile to showcase not only the quality and quantity of the art, but also played up their ability to endure the pain.  No matter how exaggerated narratives of their origin may have been, there is sufficient evidence to document that they were in fact just as a complex human being as you or I, perhaps just a more colorful version of the same people who know, care for and love in our own lives.

Resources, Reading & Research: Made Marvels – the Tattooed ManCaptain Costentenus – Tattooed Prince, The Great Omi – Tattooed Gentleman,  Of Freaks and Inks: Self-Identifying Jack DraculaShocked and Amazed! Volume 7

Photo credit: 1 – Atomic Books, 2 – BME Encyclopedia, 4 – Jack Dracula, 5-7 – Michael Wilson Remembered

Advertisements

Funny Face

There is no doubt that Coney Island has remained a significant part of my life despite not having properly visited the area since performing there in 2007, though I tend to immerse myself in the history of the amusement area and its incredible menagerie of aesthetic architecture, innovative rides and bizarre penchant for displaying live human oddities on a constant basis.  The Island will never be what it once was, nor has it been as great in many decades, which is more than tragic to know but incredibly heartbreaking to actually be witness to, and thus I have stayed away because I hate to see what has changed.  George C. Tilyou brought the first attraction to the Island in the late 1800s – he had seen the Ferris wheel at an exposition in Chicago and decided to build one of his own – and then added rides including a mechanical race horse course which led to the park being named Steeplechase.  It opened in 1897 and to this day is considered one of the most influential amusement park of all time, having survived a fire that destroyed most of it in 1907.  Admission to the ruins was ten cents, and it would be a couple of year until the park was fully open again, though the new feature was a beautiful five acre indoor enclosure covered by glass and steel called the Pavilion of Fun.  The face of Tilyou in character form, hair perfectly parted down the middle, had been an emblem of Steeplechase and remains a mascot of Coney Island.  Though somewhat frightful and grotesque, the Funny Face exemplified the mood of the park – the attractions were slightly more low-class and vulgar compared to the competition – and visitors hoped to experience irresponsible hilarity for a quarter.  The Funny Face has appeared in many forms such as a neon sign, tattoos, merchandise and even painted on the side of a bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  It has been reinterpreted through art which may change the original design, but there is no doubt that those in the know can certainly see the grin and instantly connect to what it represents.

As someone who is still relatively new to writing about fashion, I often find myself visiting a variety of sites to check in on what has recently been added, and then pass on the information in a way that still falls into the  category of Carny Style.  In doing so, today I discovered the Thrill-A-Rama dress by Sourpuss, a delightful stretch cotton halter design that comes in three colors and features an inspired version of the legendary Coney Island icon printed along stars and dots.  For me it certainly embodies the whimsical nature of Steeplechase, being flirty, fun and all around fabulous.  Though the dress certainly speaks for itself, this guide will assist in creating comprehensive looks that can easily be worn to any carnival, boardwalk or other vacation appropriate destination this Summer.

CORAL

The soft shade of coral that defines the base of this first look can be likened to the piles of cotton candy that send our brains into desire overload as soon as that confectionary scent hits our nostrils.  Certainly this style of dress is ideal for the warmer temperatures that is slowly creeping up the East Coast, but from time to time there is still a bit of chill when evening comes, and a 1970s black sequined shawl is an easy way to keep exposed skin cozy while perhaps taking a midnight stroll along the beach.  During the day, black and white satin pinstripe Teeze shoes with crossover strap and patent toe cap strike a dynamic chord and gives the outfit an instant pinup flavor.  While some will be eager to get their tan on, I am not a fan of my legs and prefer to preserve the paleness of my skin; if you are the same I would suggest using Black Milk Leg Bones leggings for a bit of mischievous misdirection.  Though they are no longer being sold on the site, there are similar designs floating around and could also be a fun DIY project.  Speaking of bones, a set of Kreepsville Gem Bone clips is a fun way to add some sparkle to your tresses while keeping them out of your face.  A coordinating satin handbag that has a rigid body will ensure that valuables are stored safely while hurtling down the hill of your favorite roller coaster.  For a touch of faith, love, hope, passion, wisdom and beauty, accessorize with gleaming stars such as a white gold ring, jeweled silver pendant and shimmering bangles.  Finish this look with a pair of coral framed sunglasses to protect eyes from the glaring sun, a fresh face with black eye liner, mascara, dewy cheeks and the right shade of coral lip stick or gloss from your favorite makeup brand.

GRASS

A sure sign of Summer are well manicured lawns that have an interesting aroma when freshly cut, a sort of freshness that would give you same feeling wearing the Grass version of the Thrill-A-Rama dress.  The satin and lace rendition of the classic Teeze pump brings a slightly feminine touch to this look, while a pair of black and white swirled footless tights will give your legs a silky, luxurious feel without the hassle of shaving.  Layering this Dex Striped cardigan on top, which features metallic thread and embroidered hole details, comes in handy when the need for shade arises.  Walking the streets late at night does not have to be intimidating, and the fashionable Peace Keeper lets everyone know that you are the one in charge.  The quickest hair styles for Summer is a ponytail or vintage up-do accompanied by a bandanna to keep necks cool when the heat kicks in.  If the generic bandannas have gone boring, try the Felon Viva La Meurte one from Sourpuss, which features a print of pinup girls accompanied by coffins and skulls.  Be your own superhero or villain with Cat Woman Claw rings by Noir for DC Comics, which are made from solid brass and doused in Cubic Zorconia stones.  Lovers of tiki and vintage will have no problem stacking up these carved black Tiki Bracelets, while sideshow aficionados such as myself can swoon over the hunky image of famed Half Man Johnny Eck on a stainless steel necklace.  Viewing a world of imagination is best done with eyes treated with a healthy coating of Sugarpill’s Absinthe loose shadow, lined with Illamasqua’s Precision Ink in Scribe from their Human Fundamentalism collection and accented with a pair of Grandeur False Eye Lashes.

SKY BLUE

This final look centers around Thrill-A-Rama’s Sky Blue colorway, which is accented with contrasting red trim and my favorite of the trio.  Street wear is just as important as stage clothes and certainly an essential part of my personal style, because one never knows when the opportunity to network might arise and making yourself a brand is a necessary evil when it comes to being a performer.  Taking this dress from simple sophistication to carnal hellion is all about the attitude and confidence to work the look.  Hell Bunny’s Candy Leggings use black and red stripes in a quirky way that make them an item that can be worn with a number of other things.  Slip into a pair of Iron Fist’s Devil’s Plaything wedges – the reptilian print is metallic foil – which feature a horned devil face on the upper and precise piping across the peep toe and foot opening.  Upgrade your diva status with a silk red bolero that is tailored yet comfortable and sets off any type of curves.  Lavish deep finger waves and tight pin curls by pinning in this lovely white feather fascinator, and keep yourself cool while outdoors with a red paper parasol decorated in a tattoo print.  The retro styling of this metal flake glitter vinyl purse along with its bold sky blue and white stripes is hand-made with quality, featuring a coordinating handle, black silk lining and four metal feet that give it stability when set down.  Reaffirm your love for all things Coney Island with a Funny Face necklace, Token earrings and a hand-made recreation of a 1950s charm bracelet, while paying tribute to sideshow attractions of the past via this beautiful and eerie Conjoined Twins ring.  Cinch in your waist with a studded suede cutout corset belt and add some layers of volume with a bright red petticoat.  Dramatic makeup can be achieved by layering Sugarpill’s Afterparty with similar hues that are darker and lighter, a healthy dose of micropearl pigment and a few strategically placed dots using Elmer’s 3D Washable Paint Pens in Sparkle Scents.  Saturate your pout with Urban Decay’s Revolution, advertised to be decadent, creamy, long-lasting lipstick that nourishes and protects, prevents dehydration and fills in wrinkles.  Finish off with some thick cat eye liner, rosy cheeks and feather tipped eyelashes.

Pulling together a look is not something that needs to be incredibly difficult, though one must find a balance when utilizing a specific pattern.  Going overboard with accessories or coordinating a color scheme can make an outfit seem straight out of the catalogue and not very indicative of your personality.  Overall, no matter what one wears, the clothes do not and should not speak for you, but rather tell a story that makes people want to approach you and discuss your fantastic outfit.

Photo credit: 1 – First Steeplechase

Lure of the Ocean

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

Since the beginning of the warmer weather here in the Garden State, I have found myself inexplicably drawn to the sea.  There are a few theories that I have come up with, to perhaps make sense of this phenomenon.

Could it be that like the turtles that migrate every year to the Galapagos Islands, I too have a born instinct that pulls me to the sandy beach?

There are many memories I have of visiting the ocean as a child.  My mom took my sister and I to many shore points including Keansburg, Point Pleasant, Seaside, Sandy Hook and Wildwood, to name a few.  Usually she would lay on the beach and soak up the sun, while I liked to drown myself in the salty water and get sand in my bathing suit.  The sun bleached my hair and freckled my skin and I loved every minute of it – except for those times where I had painful sunburn.  There is still a memory of one time when we were down in Wildwood with my aunt and uncle, he was so drunk that he fell off the tram car, and it left him there!  My sister and I used to spend hours in the water park or on the boardwalk obtaining cherished prizes that have been long-forgotten.

Obviously I still love to go.  Whether it is 18 miles out to Coney Island or down the Parkway to one of the many beaches here in Jersey, I just cannot get enough.  The sights and sounds and smells that hit you all at once.  The salted aroma of the sea mixes with scents of seared animal flesh, fried fat and teeth-rotting candy confections.  The rumble of a roller coaster.  The blinking and buzzing rides and games.  The obnoxious guys that try to get you to play their obviously rigged games.  Going to the beach is perhaps one of the few parts of my youth that I can honestly look back on with fondness and still enjoy now.

The trip down to Wildwood last weekend certainly helped to renew my love of the sea, and I lost count of how many times I have been down to the Shore within the last month.  In fact, it seems I try to go at least once a week, and even though I went twice last week, I could not resist the urge to go again today, especially since it would be such a shame to waste a beautiful day sitting inside.

Gave Jon a call before I hit the Parkway to see if he wanted to keep me company and he was thrilled at the invitation.  Since gas is absurdly high in price [the average is about $1.80 or higher right now], we met at Sandy Hook.  There is always an awkward moment when I am in the process of parking my car with a mad grin on my face as I try to contain my excitement.  It lets loose when I step out and set eyes on Jon, who is incredibly happy to see me no matter how recently we may have shared company.  He swoops in and catches me with a giant hug, smothering me in scents that seem to be as firmly embedded into his skin as his tattoos are.  My heart swells with so much love I want to cry with happiness but I manage to maintain my composure.

There was a nice fog that had rolled in, which was kind of creepy but fun at the same time.  We strolled along the beach holding hands while passing a joint back and forth.  It is not always necessary for us to talk, because I find soaking in the peace and quiet is part of the point of being at the beach.  The ocean roars and occasionally a seagull swoops down to pick at something the tide left behind.  The air is filled with a salty aroma that I can feel sticking to my skin and my toes sink into the damp sand.  When I turn to see him smiling, the sun catches in his eyes making them sparkle like the ocean, I find myself lost in their brilliant blues and striking grays, wondering how I am so fortunate to be friends with this amazing human being.

Perfection may not technically exist, but I have to say that being with Jon on a beach is about as close as it can get and not something I want to stop doing any time soon.  Every time I visit the ocean, I always come away with a new feeling of determination and other emotions I find difficult to put into words.  No matter what may currently be going on in my life, it’s all forgotten the minute my feet touch the sand.  We do not need a cooler or blanket or any of the other things people drag onto the beach.  If I want to sit down, I use my leather jacket, and I love walking barefoot even though my feet [and sometimes even legs] get a nice wake-up call from the frigid waves that creep onto the shore.

The more I go, the less I can stay away, and I consider myself fortunate to live in a state that is surrounded on three sides by water.  To be honest, I do not think I could ever be in a place that did not at least have access to a body of water.  There is just something about the open ocean that cannot be compared to anything else, and I greatly enjoy being able to go whenever I feel like it.  Having someone to share this experience with certainly helps, but I am no stranger to walking around a beach by myself, because there are times when being alone is needed.

Often I dream up grand schemes of living by the ocean, which is not entirely impossible, but I do not want to be tied down to one place just yet, so visitations will have to suffice for now.

First of May

Traditionally speaking, May first is linked to several festivals that have been celebrated in  Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and the United States.  It is recognized as International Workers’ Day, which commemorates the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, and is an important official holiday in countries like China, Cuba, North Korea and the former Soviet Union.  Saint Joseph is considered the patron saint of workers and craftsmen [among others], and so the Catholic church dedicated May first to him in 1955.  May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until 1917, and the following year it was protested by the Mensheviks, though it has been officially called “The Day of Spring and Labour” since 1992, and remains a major holiday.  In an attempt to dissuade citizens from being inspired by the populist tones of May Day, President Eisenhower proclaimed the date to be Law Day U.S.A. in 1958.  Carny Lingo dictates that  the term “first of May” refers to a novice worker who has entered their first season with a particular outfit, and since shows typically open on this date, one can usually find help for hire.  The date was also when many shows would leave their Winter quarters and signified the beginning of the traveling season.

On a personal level, May first carries an enormous amount of significance, as it marks the begining of my apprenticeship with Outlaw Cirkus in 2000, which was several months after I had met the infamous Reverend Saint Jon in NYC.  Learning the skills of variety arts was not something that came easy, particularly since most members were self-taught and had dedicated numerous years of trial and error to hone their talents.  It was their main source of making an income, which was split between maintaining vehicles, equipment and merchandise, and taking care of the troupe itself.  They freely exchanged knowledge but it came with a price and was earned through hard work because respect was given to those who proved they deserved it.  My time was spent repairing props and costumes, sitting in on practice to absorb everything I could and being a main part of the street team where promotion was done via word of mouth and invitation-only fliers that were distributed to a select audience.  Often I felt overwhelmed by the immense feeling of accomplishment I felt when lying in bed and reviewing my day – it was hard to believe at moments but the aches and bruises were very real reminders of the effort I was putting forth.

When Summer came to an end, I was fairly convinced that being a part of Outlaw Cirkus would mean the world to me.  An experience I had at Coney Island where I was randomly selected from the audience to participate in the Bed of Nails routine was what brought the idea that I could be a sideshow performer into my head.  In fact, I frequently found myself driving the 18 miles from New Jersey to visit the amusement area and its resident 10-in-1 sideshow, which subsequently lead to acquiring reading material on its history, and in general I was constantly seeking out information about sideshow.  My passion swelled and certainly did not go unnoticed, though most of the people I was acquainted with at the time had no idea how involved I was becoming with Outlaw Cirkus.  While it was something I certainly held pride for, I also really enjoyed it being a secret I shared with the one person I felt understood my desire to perform.

As my friendship with Jon became an ingrained part of my life, the other members of Outlaw Cirkus were slowly warming up to me and each had their own way of teaching me various things.  Winter was spent creating a new show for the following year, which included all new costumes, merchandise and programs, in addition to fresh elements that were incorporated into each act.  By the time Spring arrived, the troupe had a solid hour and half performance which carried the theme that imagination was an important tool, and that everyone could accomplish anything they set their minds to.  Of course the message was shrouded with brilliantly colored costumes and upbeat music that made most people unaware of the undertones in the lectures Jon delivered.

When May first came around again, I was officially considered to be a member of Outlaw Cirkus though everyone had pretty much already accepted me into their community.  Suffering the loss of this Family has always been a permanent reminder that I have to keep moving forward in establishing the name as a brand that people can be familiar with.  A non-profit fighting for recognition in its efforts to preserve American variety arts [circus, sideshow, burlesque, etc.] with education though live performances, lectures, workshops and a general exchange of ideas.  This is something I have dedicated the past twelve years of my life to because it brings me great happiness, which I find difficult to put into written word.

Reflecting on all of the experiences I have had, whether good or bad, I can honestly say that these are some of my most valued memories and I would not trade them for anything in the world.  Losing people who were incredibly important to me has left scars that are both physical and proverbial, yet I stand as proof that the spirit of Outlaw Cirkus lives on and will continue to do so as long as I am here.  There is no doubt that Jon would be proud of me, and that is something I keep in mind every time I perform or find myself with the opportunity to speak about the troupe.  Occasionally I still get that overwhelming feeling, because I see myself as a fairly ordinary person with an alternative lifestyle who is passionate about their interests and actively speaks about them.  Having people come up to me after a performance and receiving compliments is one of the reasons I enjoy what I do and I always value the opportunity.

Today I found myself in Margate, New Jersey with my future father-in-law and husband, as we had to visit City Hall in order to pick up our marriage license.  The weather in Philly has been rather dreary lately, so being out in the sunshine was quite refreshing.  We had lunch at some corner bar with a view of the ocean and I stuffed my face with  bacon-wrapped shrimp, as one simply does not come to the Shore without dining on seafood.  As always, it is the small things in life which may seem insignificant that fill me with the greatest happiness.  Mostly because I am content though constantly evolving, rooted in the past but pursuing the future, and greatly enjoying each day to its fullest with confidence in who I am.  There are things I may desire, but at the moment I cannot think of anything I could want, and I truly appreciate this more than I ever have.

Photo credit: 1 – weheartit.com, 2 – tumblr.com

First Ride of the Year

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

Went out to dinner with Jon on Friday because he had enjoyed my company so much the other day he insisted that I deserved a nice evening out.  Thus began what would be the first of many unusual conversations.  We hit up one of the many places where we are well-known, as we enjoy supporting local businesses, which is certainly appreciated.  Jon called in our order so we wouldn’t have to wait for our food, and asked the guy to throw something together for him.  Sometimes it is good to be the King, or his Queen in my case.

As we sat down in the living room to enjoy the food, we covered a wide range of subjects from the way we remember easter as kids [as both our nationalities have deep rooted traditions] and how different it is now, to his grandfather’s funeral where three widows came out of the woodwork, much to the surprise of the grieving relatives who were also in attendance.  That opened up an interesting can of worms on relationships in general.  He commented on the old-school thought that a man could easily have a wife and a girlfriend without stirring up controversy since it was a common practice.  Of course I had to jump in and say that if men can fuck around on their women, why shouldn’t women be able to do the same without being called sluts?

Jon remarked that love is just all a big hustle in the end when you think about it.  Men will lie and bullshit to get laid and drop you like a bad habit.  He then goes on to say “Women are more intelligent than men.  Men are stupid and only think they know what they want. It takes intelligence to be truly dirty.”  Which was in reference to the topic of who has a more active imagination when it comes to sexual fantasies.  It was all in good fun though, and I enjoy that we can have civilized conversations where we can express our opinions in an adult manner, then get high and laugh about it!

The remainder of the evening was spent watching Deadwood, and I must say that HBO has really been putting out some damn good shows as of late.  Very much appreciate the actor who portays Wild Bill, and the man himself is just incredibly fascinating.  Seems as though I am hooked on another series.

While applying the last few bits of my face on Saturday afternoon in the kitchen, we had even more interesting conversation.  It began with talk of visiting diners and Weird NJ sites that stemmed into the location of Joey Ramone’s grave in Lyndhurst.  Then I received a mini musical history lesson in the evolution of surf to punk that started with Joey’s interest in Dick Dale, who was preceeded by the Ventures, etc.  Jon even agreed that the simple beats in most surf music slowly made their way into early NYC punk beats.  Which evolved into one of those impromptu jam sessions where we are ‘playing drums’ on random items.

Eventually we pulled ourselves together, stopped for some provisions and then were on our way to Coney Island.  The traffic was pretty bad, but it usually is.  We had surf tunes and pistachios so we didn’t really care.  It was fun throwing the shells out the windows and listening to them pop and crunch under the tires of passing cars.  An hour or so later, we arrived at the amusement area and attempted to find decent parking.  Convinced him to just suck it up and pay the eight bucks to stick the Chevy  in the lot next to the Parachute Jump.

Nothing compares to the sights and sounds of Coney Island.  Just being on those boards again was enough to bring back the smile that seems to have been missing in action lately.  There were not a lot of people but just enough for a decent-sized crowd.  Wasting no time, I treated us to the first two rides on the Cyclone.  Jerry was happy to see us, as always.  Ancient wood freshly coated with paint and greased-up tracks passed beneath the heavy train.  The lift chain carried it up the hill, and we waved to the smiling faces below.  At the top of the hill, right before the train gets sucked down, you have an unobstructed view of the sandy beach and sparkling water that spans into infinity.

Then you see the first drop.

Down you go, hands high in the air, screaming with excitement.  The train lopes around the first turn, so you can get a good look at the next drop before you go down it.  More screams and hands grabing air as you go up and down and up around the second turn before dropping down again.  Over another hill then up around the third turn.  Down and up and down and up around the fourth turn.  The adrenaline has pretty much absorbed into the body at this point.  Down and up over the last hill, where if you let go and pick your feet up, you can experience a true floating feeling before looping around into the station.  We paid for the first two rides and got the third free which is pretty awesome.  By the time we got off, we were riding high on adrenaline and had spaghetti legs.

Was slightly disappointed with the museum, and realize we probably should have stopped to see the sideshow instead.  However, we were just in the right mood for dinner, so we bought some more pistachios and headed down Cropsey to La Casa Bella, where Diana greeted us at the door.  Once again, the food there was simply divine and it is still one of the best places I have eaten.  That was the end of our visit and while it was only a small one this time around, it was also the first of many to come.

The remainder of the evening was spent watching five hours of Chappelle’s Show, and failing to tape most of them due to a malfunctioning VCR, before passing out.

After our fun-filled Saturday, we did not feel like doing much Sunday due to the dreary weather.  No family functions or baskets of joy chock full o’ candy or marshmallows for us.

We proceeded to get ready to smoke but had no papers.  What followed was a good ten minutes of Jon searching his room in search of said papers, and I have no idea how he always loses them.  Personally, I would have a specific place for such things so I knew where they were every time I wanted them.  He also forgot to buy a new lighter, and I only had my Zippo but it would have to do.  Eventually he just gave up and joined me in smoking a pipe while inhaling fumes from the Zippo [to which he confessed sniffing when he was teen] and enjoying Six Feet Under followed by yet another great episode of the Sopranos.

Also had him tape Deadwood for me because apparently I am an old lady who cannot stay awake long enough to actually watch it.   Though I am not usually one for westerns, I really do dig this one.  It is probably due to the fact that Wild Bill has such a prominent role.  That man is incredibly fascinating, and the character himself is so intense that I am eager to see what happens next.  Thus ended the Sunday Nite Ritual.

Swing 32

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

Making the most of these glorious Spring days has been putting me in a better mood.  All I need now is a trip out to Coney Island and a few rides on the Cyclone, then I might just find that smile again.

Decided to get my nostrils pierced, so met up with my sister and took care of a few errands first.  Forgot to bring the nostril screws with me, so we had to come back and get them.  My mind seems to be a bit mushy as of late, as I forget things so easily and I have not been sleeping well either.  At nite I lay in bed and wait, then wake up several times throughout the course of the evening so that by the time morning comes, I am feeling more exhausted  than refreshed.

We stopped at her apartment to drop off the food she had purchased, and so I could see her hedgehog.  He hissed and it was adorable.  Then we made our way to Starlight, passing by a fire that was raging somewhere by the ramp from 21 to 78 in Newark.  Still have no idea what actually caused it [I assume it was perhaps a carelessly thrown cigarette], as the news really had no information to offer.  Other than the fact that there was another fire over in East Rutherford.  Sat in a bit of traffic, accidentally went the wrong way, but eventually found the shop. Now I remember how to get there, so I will have to make a mental note of it for future references.

Kind of surprised that Dom was happy to see me.  We chatted for a bit and then got right down to business.  Thankfully he was fine using the jewelry I purchased, as I had forgotten that artists prefer using a specific kind for a reason.  He spent quite a bit of time marking the area, and with something like this where they have to look as symmetrical as possible, I really appreciated that he just didn’t throw on a couple of dots and put the needle through.  There was barely any pain during the actual procedure, and now I just have to get used to having the screws in my nose, because it feels like I have a boogie up there or something.  Also have to remind myself not to touch my nose for a while, and that those little silver things belong there.

The best part was that he only charged me $30 for two.  When my sister had called the shop to inquire about the price [so I knew how much to bring], they said it would be $35 for one.  Discounts are always appreciated, and I had no problem giving him a tip in thanks for the wonderful service.  Decided that I will never go anywhere else to get pierced.  From now on, if I am going to trust anyone to poke holes in my body it will be Dom.  The whole experience was the best I ever had and that is the feeling I want every time.

Oh, and I suppose I convinced my sister to get hers done too because I am such a good influence.

Going to have myself a nice picnic – it looks really nice outside and I have nothing else to do.  The drive out to Liberty State Park the other day sort of renewed my desire to travel to unspecified destinations, so that might be a good idea in choosing the location of said picnic.

Will be doing that flea market thing with Jon pretty soon, though we have not talked about in a week or so.  There are so many things I have to sell and could use the money since the items are not doing me much good.  Guess I will send him an e-mail to see what is going on with that, pack up some food and embrace this sunny day.

[Later that evening]

Stopped at E-town for a quick visit with the Asshole for some reason.  Bought myself lunch for less than a fiver at the deli next door and grooved for a few minutes.  Then it was back on the road, where the bad drivers were out in abundance.  Nearly hit someone who ran the red light onto 1&9.  If I had not been at a full stop for the light, I just might have.  In fact, the only thing that kept my foot on the brake was that I didn’t want anything to happen to my car, as it has to go to inspection this month.

Of course I forgot where I was headed and wound up driving aimlessly for an hour, though I did get to see where that fire I mentioned earlier was.  Eventually I ended up at Liberty State Park again, and sat listening to the Jersey Guys as I ate my lunch and stared out at the water for a while.  Thought it was kind of funny that they were talking about the circus coming to Jersey, and how it is an American thing to do.  What’s more fun than the circus anyway?

After a few hours I decided to leave, but I did not feel like coming back here right away, so I took a drive down to Keansburg.  In all honesty, I can’t even remember the last time I was there.  My mom used to take my sister and I all the time.  We would find dead horseshoe crabs and put them next to her blanket while she was sleeping, then wait for her to wake up and laughed when she screamed.  Good times.  It has to be at least six years, maybe even more since we carefully navigated the rocky, broken-glass-littered beach.  We would spend money in the arcades or on those wheel games.  Just seeing all the rides again brought back so many memories.

Even though it was dark out, I wanted to see the beach, because I am hopelessly drawn to water.  While walking towards it, some kid asks for a smoke – I fetched them out of my car and chilled with him and his friends.  They wanted to know why I had come all the way down there, and honestly, it was to get away from the insanity I feel surrounds me here.  The beach has always been that once place I can go to so that I can escape from the real world and float along in happiness while soaking in the sun and salty air.

They also thought it was funny that I didn’t have any friends even though I must have absently mentioned Jon several times.  Apparently being alone at that moment meant that he is invisible, which I am sure he will find hilarious.  Smoked a blunt, drank some beer and piled them into my car to drive them to some park where they met up with their other friends.  Only one of them thanked me and said I should come chill again, which is not likely going to happen since it was just a random thing.

They were all younger than me, and I generally have a problem with that, but I honestly can’t take the teenage mentality.  No, I don’t want hear about how you would like to fuck this person or that one.  Believe me, my mind is constantly in the gutter and full of perverted thoughts, but I highly doubt anyone wants to hear that.

Toss in the three accidents I saw along with the large quantity of construction taking place and I had a pretty full day.  Have to clean my piercings and attempt sleep now.

Anti V-day ’04

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

One week ago was the day that people celebrate their love, .and all that other sentimental bullshit.  Flowers die, and there seemed to be a lot that went to waste this year due to lack of purchase.  Balloons deflate and then are tossed in the garbage.  Stuffed animals lose their cuteness and wind up as a play toy for a pet.  Chocolate gets eaten and then complains about being fat are made.  Jewelry is just an excuse to say “I spent [insert monetary amount here], and that means I love you”.  All of these are cheap ploys for sex or whatever it is people get in return, because I honestly refuse to equate love with materialistic things.

Then again, I never expect anything on V-day because I feel it is ridiculous that we have to feel pressured to express our love for someone thru ridiculous merchandise.  However, Jon did present me with a box of chocolate and a funny card filled with money.  We dressed in our Carny best, both decked out in black from head to toe with our clothing carrying and overall vintage flair.  My hair was tamed into tiny, shallow finger waves, and Jon sculpted his own locks into a heavy parting that was then slicked down.  There was also an extra treat that we shared before our lips met briefly and we climbed into the Chevy.

Then commenced the lengthy drive up to the City for the Shocked & Amazed event at the Palace.  The video was really good, and of course I would like to get a copy at some point in the future.  There were some performances by the Coney Island sideshow crew, followed by James Taylor and other signing copies of his book.

Then came the fun task of gettin’ to Brooklyn, which was a pretty bad idea on a Saturday nite.  There was an insane amount traffic everywhere, and when we got to La Casa Bella every table was full.  It also happened to be the peak time for outgoing orders, as there were people constantly coming in and out.  We entertained the idea of leaving, but were too damn hungry to go anywhere else.  Luckily, a few minutes later a table suddenly opened up. The food was fantastic, as always, and it the second time I actually cleaned my plate.

We tried to make it back for the Bindlestiff’s performance at the Palace, but traffic continued to plague us and there was no way we could get back to the City.  Instead we returned to South Jersey for coffe and massive joints.

All in all it was a good day, and I am really glad that we had the chance to go out.  While I do not talk about Jon to people at work, I thought it would have been nice to meet Keith and Stephanie, since he did kind of help me get the volunteer position.  He still has anxiety about being in public places, and with the amount of people that would have been crammed into the Palace, I know it would have been an uncomfortable situation.  Which is funny considering he can get up stage in front of a bunch of strangers and deliver flawless pitches for sideshow acts.  That’s just Jon tho, and I stopped trying to figure him out because things like that don’t matter.

The real excitement of the day came while we were a few blocks from Jon’s house, just talking while he waited for the light to change.  A car starts backing up into traffic, and I thought that maybe whomever was driving wanted to pull out of the parking lot to merge into the flow of traffic.  That is, until the car slowly crossed over to the next lane and we realized something was very wrong.

Suddenly Jon cries out “Jesus, there’s a fuckin’ kid in there!” while quickly throwing the Chevy into park.  He jumps out, runs across the street and stops the car as it bumped into the sidewalk.  Everyone else was just standing there watching in awe.  If the flow of traffic had been heavier, that car would have gotten totaled.  Jon pulled the boy out of the car, then took the vehicle into a parking lot.  Since I knew that  it would be a bad idea to leave the Chevy parked in the middle of the road, I got behind the wheel and moved it.

Seems the father of the boy had left him in the car momentarily while he went into a store. Not sure if he didn’t leave the car in park or put the parking brake was  on, as Jon said the car was in neutral.  The father has no clue how close he came to losing his son that day.

This is certainly something you will never seen on the news or read in the papers.  Of course I am extremely proud of what Jon did, as no one else even bothered to make a move.  There wasn’t even a hair out of place.

It took quite some time for the adrenaline from the event to die down, tho we did try our hardest to relax while watching some classic horror movies.  One of the scenes startled me enough that I jumped into Jon’s arms.  He laughed heartily and held me close, joking that he would not let the Wolf Man come and grab me in the middle of the nite.  The teasing somehow turned into something more serious, which I am not going into detail about.  However, I will say that we put all that built up energy to good use and I slept quite well.