Fast forward to 1996 when my BFF from way back in school called me in May to wish me a Happy Birthday. (I know right? Had she ever even met me?) The first words out of her mouth were to ask what I was doing mid August and just as I started to ramble on about having plans with a real friend she interrupted to suggest maybe we should go to Hawaii for 2 weeks and perhaps I should probably just shut up.
So I did.
Back in those days you could find excellent deals on flights if you planned far enough in advance, and since Jen is a major planner I scored my round trip flight from Houston to Honolulu for $485. After a $75 island hop over to Kona my expenditures on things other than mai tais and shopping were complete. We stayed in the basement apartment at Jen's dad's house for the majority of the trip and when I say basement apartment what I mean is the view from the doorway was my first glimpse of Heaven. I could have slept in the driveway and in fact did once. While Jen probably still blames that on the Mai Tais I secretly know it was the 2 shots of tequila I had with that Norwegian guy standing at the bar while she was off shakin' her groove thing on the dance floor with the Spaniard.
Anyway, 5 days before we were to leave I decided it was finally time to get that tattoo. I went to the only ink shop on the Big Island where I was greeted by a 6'3" painting named Rockwood. The only mistake I made during my stay in Kona was failing to get a full picture of him, because to say he was covered in tattoos does the man no justice. He was covered in them, y'all...everything but his palms and face. And they were gorgeous.
We sat down and chatted about what I wanted for a good 45 minutes. We probably talked about island weed too, but since some of you reading this would be shocked to discover I once had more than adequate knowledge on the subject I won't tell you that I once had more than adequate knowledge on the subject.
We ended our meeting with him promising to draw some sketches and me promising to come back the next day and see if he got one right.
So I did.
I opened the sketch book he handed me and on the very first page was exactly what I wanted. I looked up at him in shock and exclaimed "This is IT, Rockwood!" He laughed and said "I know. It's the only one I drew." That was the first time I ever felt creatively understood by another person, and the first time I understood that true art is an extension of the soul behind it~ no matter what form it takes.
That's a lot to ask of a tattoo, huh? Still, it is what it is~ an experience that was 9 years in the making and culminated in one of the best of my life. This photo of him working on my ink is the only one I have of Rockwood, the magic tattoo guy who saw into my soul.