After a wild night in Philadelphia enjoying Flogging Molly and friends, I woke up incredibly hungover. I had no time to recover as I had another state tattoo that morning, my Delaware tattoo. I hugged my toilet for a bit, got ready, and headed to the train. A quick half hour later and I was in Wilmington. I arranged for a morning tattoo because I had another appointment later that day in another state. My chosen artist in Wilmington wonderfully agreed to open her doors an hour early to accommodate me and my train schedule.
I had no tattoo ideas for Delaware and could not come up with a connection to Wilmington. I did want to finish my back, however, with a spine totem pole of traditional pieces. The spot underneath my Portland swallow was a perfect fit for a panther, and I love big cats. There was no reason for me to get a panther in the state of Delaware. I thought that if I read Delaware backwards, “erawaled,” it kind of made a panther sound, but that was a bit of a stretch. In the end, I needed a tattoo for Delaware and I wanted a panther, so Delaware became a default tattoo state. Later, I found out that Wilmington is a banking town and many Americans are in default, so a default tattoo actually made sense.
I was still very hungover walking to Poppycock Tattoo. It was a weekend and downtown Wilmington was a ghost-town. It was indeed a banking town and only lively during weekday work hours. The only people wandering around looked homeless, and I did not feel comfortable walking around on my own, although I probably looked as out of it and lost as they did. I still had time before my tattoo appointment, so I grabbed a Gatorade from Walgreens, took some photos of the historical square and browsed a bookshop. When my appointment time finally came, I went into the shop and met with Tina Marabito, the owner of the shop. I reviewed her design, which combined the reference images I had sent her. I also sent her a picture of the spot on my back I chose for the panther to fill, and the curvature of the panther’s body fit perfectly.
I was still incredibly hungover, but I tried to make conversation as she set up for me. I had a fear that if she knew how sick I was, she would refuse to tattoo me and I did not want to have to return to Delaware. Tina had recently purchased some new tattoo chairs which laid flat, rather than having to switch out chairs for massage tables. As swanky as they were, this was an unfortunate development for me because a chair is held up by a center pole rather than four stable legs. This meant that as I laid down for the tattoo, the chair rocked in a seesaw motion. Being as hungover as I was, this was not a good feeling. I tried to move as little as possible because I was getting motion sickness, but every time she held me down to ink me, the chair rocked. Plus, as sweet as Tina was, she talked a lot, and I ended up moving the chair each time I responded. Tina’s voice was sweet as well, but to a hungover ear, it was quite high-pitched and grating. Another shop person walked in and because I was not in a talking mood, she talked to him, shouting over the cubicle walls. And for some reason, she sang at him. And because she was tattooing a panther, she kept singing “meow meow meow.” With the motion-sickness, the high-pitched voice, and the pain of getting my spine tattooed, this was quickly becoming one of the worst tattoo experiences of my life, joining the ranks of Iowa, Oklahoma, and New Zealand.
The pain of the tattoo was indeed awful, and likely heightened by my hangover. When my spine was being done, not only did it hurt, but it made my extremities numb. It was such an uncomfortable feeling and I kept asking Tina whether she was close to being done. It felt like she was taking forever, but there was a lot of black fill in and she needed to saturate it. At that point, I needed constant updates so I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. When she was finished, I thanked her, paid, and got out of there as quickly as I could. I stumbled back to the train station, my back oozing like crazy, and threw up in the bathroom. I then spent some time washing out my hoodie where the tattoo bled through, brushing my teeth, and getting myself generally refreshed. I had another train ride to Baltimore for a tattoo appointment in Annapolis, and I was in a hurry to feel better.
Wilmington was nothing special, but my Delaware tattoo came out beautifully. It healed really well too, considering the major leakage it produced. The panther is fiercely crawling up my back and ready for a sparrow supper. I felt bad for snapping at Tina while she was tattooing me, trying to hurry her up, but I explained how hungover I was once she was done, and hopefully she understood. This was another lesson learned on my tattoo journey and I will avoid getting a tattoo while hungover in the future.