Bensalem, November 2017

I had five states left to do on the east coast so when Flogging Molly was scheduled to play Philadelphia, I decided to see Flogging Molly play and finish off the states that same weekend. I had known what my Pennsylvania tattoo was going to be for a while thanks to Joan Jett, who was from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Plus, Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. I wanted to transform the Aries symbol behind my ear into a black heart. Not only was it my last piece of flash, but I no longer needed a ram symbol with the massive chest piece I acquired in Marietta. Because of the symbol’s shape, a black heart was the ideal cover up to avoid having to get a bigger piece in that spot. Because Joan Jett and the Blackhearts is plural, I wanted another tiny black heart near it, which I decided to get on my face.

The lovely tattooist, Kate Irving, who did my butt tattoo in Nashville had moved back to Philadelphia, so I contacted her to see if she would dare do a face tattoo. Not every artist is willing to tattoo the face or hands. My Alabama friend, Jenny, had a heart makeup stamp that I wore on my face for a night out and I sent Kate a picture of it. Plus, I explained that I could always cover up the tattoo with makeup for work. She readily agreed and an appointment was made. I also asked her to rework my dragon from Auckland and after sending her a picture of the healed piece and some ideas of what I wanted done, it was tacked on to the appointment.

I flew into Philadelphia on the Friday of the show, and took the train into the city. The train line is called SEPTA, which sounds more like a sewer system, but was actually quite nice to ride. Someone had left their ticket in the vending machine, which I did not realize until after I already bought one, so I paid it forward to a girl on the train who did not have a ticket and would have to pay more to purchase one from the train conductor. I left my stuff at my hotel as it was still quite early and wandered downtown a bit. I had been to Philadelphia a couple of times before, so I did not need to visit any historical sights on this trip.

Mean Street Tattoo was located in Bensalem, which was a decent train ride out. I bought my round trip ticket and hopped on the train toward Trenton, NJ.  I did not have time to wait for the bus, so I grabbed an Über to the shop, which was a cute, transformed house, decorated for Halloween. I met Kate for my appointment and we discussed the shape of the hearts she would be tattooing. She also took a look at my dragon and after some setting up, she got to work. She placed the heart stencil on my face and we only had to shift it once to get it to the right spot. We both thought it looked cute, but I wanted another breath or two to think about it before she made it permanent.

Kate drew the rest of the heart in behind my ear, and tattooed that first, so that I could sit with the face stencil for a bit longer to make sure I actually wanted it. After Kate quickly finished filling in the ram symbol, I took another good look in the mirror and said yes to the face tattoo. As the needle came toward my eye, I closed it and held my breath. It was actually not a very painful experience, just odd to have something sharp in that spot. As it was tiny, the tattoo was over quickly and I could not believe what I had just done to myself. It looked so dark and out of place, but resembled a beauty mark and did not look too unnatural, so I knew I would get used to it soon enough.

Kate then worked on the dragon. She added gray to the blue parts and filled in the wing webbing with black. She added as much black and gray as she could do dull the colors up a bit and unlike my previous session on the dragon, it did not hurt. When she finished the first pass, it already looked a lot better, but I could still see blue so I asked for another darker pass, which she did and again made an improvement. Even the pinkish red looked more red to me without the blue. Now that it has healed, however, I think the blue still shines through. Jordan really drove that ink deep into my skin and it stuck. I had now gone to Kate twice for tattoos that did not involve her designs, and I love her style, so I will have to go back to her someday and actually get a piece that she designs for me.

I took the train back to Philadelphia and changed for a night out after taking as many selfies as possible with my new face. I wandered over to the Philadelphia Fadó and had a pint before meeting up some shipmates at Silk City Diner, a diner featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I really wanted a cheesesteak, but unfortunately there were none on the menu. The shipmates left early to stand in line to be on the rails, so I stayed for another drink and then wandered over to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. It was a preserved home once rented by Poe, and had a cool raven statue that cast a shadow on the brick wall of the house.

The Electric Factory was a tad chilly, so I bought a discounted Flogging Molly hoodie that I could have sworn was glow in the dark, but I think that I just had one too many. I met some new shipmates and then found Andi and Chaz, my good friends from the Flogging Molly cruise, who brought me Guinness and took me backstage. The show was amazing as always and we danced and sang our lungs out. Flogging Molly is such a roller-coaster ride for me. There’s the build-up of the opening melody and lyrics which brings me up the first hill, and then as I pause at the top, the fast part of the song brings me down the first drop and I’m out of breath for the rest of the ride. I never feel as happy or as lucky to be alive as when I’m among friends at one of their shows.

After the show, Flogging Molly was having an after-party at Fadó, so we went over. A few of the band members jammed out until close and I loved every moment of that night. With good people and good music and good beer, I was in heaven. Drunk and hungry, and with a train out early the next morning for my next state tattoo, I stumbled back to my hotel and ordered a late night cheesesteak. I don’t remember much of the sandwich, but it was just what I needed to pass out and hopefully prevent a hangover.

It was a wonderful first day of travel, tattoos, music, and friends. I love my black hearts and am grateful to Kate for fixing up my dragon. It is still not what I wanted, but it is much improved and blends better with the rest of my arm. My Pennsylvania tattoo is tiny, but bold and meaningful. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve, I wear mine on my face.

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