The Tattooist’s Vent

Today’s lament comes from the perspective of a well known musician who doubles as an artist and a tattooist. The talent pixies were pretty goddamn generous when it came to that talent juice they spit in your face when you’re born with this one, let me tell ya.

Alyssa Maucere-Pike has been keeping me thoroughly entertained and intrigued through her Facebook rants for quite some time. So when I decided to get this website going, my first thought when it came to contributors, was Alyssa. She writes in a “zero bullshit” manner that I can relate to on multiple levels. Like, all the levels.

For this particular vent, Alyssa is writing from the point of a tattooist.

How many of you have tattoos? Show of hands.

Photo borrowed from here. And Rush.

I count at least 90% of you.

So assuming for a moment you did not get these tattoos in prison, or drunk on a beach, or drunk in a beach prison (I want to hear that story), and that you went to an actual tattoo studio to get said ink injected into your body, then you know that this is one of the cleanest, safest environments that you could possibly be in when it comes to cleanliness. I’d rather eat off of the floor of a tattoo shop, than some of the venue’s “catering areas” I have been forced to endure.

It’s safe to say, that a tattoo shop knows what they’re doing when it comes to sanitation and sterilization practices.

No idea what I’m talking about?

Press play and listen to some of Alyssa’s band, Lord Dying, while she tells it like it is.

Also my bad on the delay with getting this out. As previously discussed, I suck at interweb type computer thingies…. So whisk yourself away all the way back to 8 days ago when she sent me this, on May 9th, 2020)

Take it away, Alyssa!

This is what Alyssa Maucere-Pike looks like when she is NOT tattooing. Mostly.

Today’s May 9th of 2020, Our governor announced a ban on large events until SEPTEMBER 2020.  I live in Portland, Oregon, one of the lowest numbered cases of COVID in the whole country for a major city.  It’s largely because we’ve done our part and continue to do so, diligently, and we are a small city.  Allowing one person at a time in store fronts, calling ahead with credit cards so no cross contamination.  They’re  spraying every surface with 70% alcohol constantly.  In the case of takeout and grocery, everyone is suited up with masks and gloves, six feet apart, yaddy yadda.  Going out in public has been wonderfully fun to witness, all thanks to how ridiculous some people can be with their costuming and nervous swiveling of their shopping carts.   It’s the grocery stores that are the really crazy places to be.  Probably the most likely for infection, and that’s wide open, “as long as you wear a mask!”  Including a bandana, that offer no protection but…illusion of safety, right?

I imagine that if normal people smoked meth for the first time and were told “we’re going to the grocery store now”, this is how they’d behave.  They’d spend hours creating their version of a cheap superhero costume and once they were let loose in the aisles, their powers of awkward agility would display as a strange dance, wobbling through invisible barriers while grabbing 4 packs of Oreos and 10 cans of navy beans.  Or the infamous “should I get that one….NO DONT TOUCH YET!,” reach out and retract move with their COVID claw hand.  Then the wiping of the cart handle.  And can’t forget the incessant, uninvited opinions offered to other customers while waiting in line, 6ft apart…pulling a mask off to explain how this isn’t real.  “Conspiracy row” is the new name I have for the check-out line.  Loneliness is a bitch.

People with OCD must feel comfortable and welcome in this brave new world…

So more about myself, I am a touring musician with Lord Dying, who’s almost sure our August tour is 100% not going to happen now.  My other  ‘non-essential” profession has one of the most sterile environments to ever work in, but is also mandatorily shut down:  I’m a Tattooer.  Gov Kate Brown announced regular Oregon shut down, shelter in place since mid March, with no mentions of who’s allowed to reopen in what phase as of yet.  If we’re not allowed to do large gatherings until September, I guess I’ll gladly announce that I want to tattoo people I know, as long as i trust them and they trust me, in the comfort of my private studio starting now, May 2020.

I don’t care what the state says.  I don’t have a store front, and even if I did, I would probably work out how to open for private use for regular clients only.  The last thing a state official knows, other than maybe the Department of Public Health and even then they need to consult a handbook, is the sterile conditions of a professional tattoo studio.  In my closet, I have a liquid that is readily used in hospitals, and kills AIDS in a single spray in a matter of 5 minutes.  It’s anti bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-mold, anti-microbial, anti everything truly.  If you get it on your skin, the cells start to die one by one, and you chemically burn yourself as a result.  It works on leather, plastic, stainless steel, glass, plexi, everything.  That is something I’ve used to cure my friend’s horrible tour shoe stench.  Because it kills everything.  I use it to disinfect really anything, including mildew in my shower.  I feel confident that I can do what is necessary to keep my studio more than clean.  I will wear a mask upon request of the client.  Whatever makes anyone feel comfortable.  Six feet apart is great for strangers in a store.  If anything, stay away from me anyway, before, during, and after the pandemic subsides.  No one needs to be that close to me ever if I don’t know them.  But if I trust you…like I would a health specialist or a therapist, I probably should be able to consult them and work with them.

I also want to reiterate the contamination issues most people are not observing.  I ensure that giving your groceries to a clerk, who, from personal experience, has not changed her gloves customers to customer, or never seen spraying the conveyer belt from customer to customer.  Or the second conveyor belt that sends the items to the baggers that doesn’t get sprayed between customers, and then you see the bag lady not change her gloves from customer to customer.  And then you see people entering their phone number or PIN number for debit on the touch screen and that hasn’t been sprayed down either between customers, or the fact that at a rate of 5-10 minutes per transaction, that’s approximately 6-12 customers per hour use that same check out line, all of that said, you can surmount that the contamination from “essential” businesses is far greater than when one person gets tattooed per day by one Tattooer, who rigorously cleans and disposes of all contamination immediately.

Ever since I started tattooing, religiously and ritualistically I’ve cleaned multitudes of surfaces several times a day using nitrile gloves, 70% alcohol, sprays containing the suffix -cide (which means kill if you need refreshing.) and scrubbing/sterilizing tubes.  I spent probably a years worth of my life just scrubbing tubes.  A rule of mine and many other tattooers always has been, If you’re sick, were sick the week before, We did not let you In the shop.  If they were coughing or sneezing, repeatedly in any fashion, while I drew up or set up a tattoo, I’d tell em to go home and reschedule.  I’m extremely serious when it comes to that, regardless of a pandemic.  I find that in no way, do I run a risk of harming others in this controlled environment.  I am not going to let officials, who do not educate themselves on these measures, tell me or others that we are not prepared to handle the safety guidelines necessary to be open for business.

Do you think I’m a bad person for opening my services to others who agree to the risks already associated with tattooing?  After what I stated above?  If you don’t feel comfortable, Dont get tattooed!  There are, as we speak, terrible, horrible, kitchen-sink tattoos happening at home with none of the correct cleaning supplies, inks, machines, or people performing the task.  They are doing it right now.  They are the same craigslist-advertising  scratchers who send people to the hospital with MRSA and bubbling rotting flesh.  Would you rather that guy, or punks with safety pins giving stick and pokes, or me, who’s been at this professionally for over 6 years hard time, to tattoo while this shutdown continues with no end in sight? 

You want to complain that I’m wrong, I’m not going to stop you.  If you want to wear a trash bag suit of armor, carry a 6ft pick-up stick, and treat everyone around you like an infected zombie, congratulations, I don’t really care what you do.   I’m also not going to bow down and honor the wishes of people who don’t understand my profession.  My work environment is most likely cleaner than any kitchen you order takeout from.  I have a much lower risk of accidentally giving you a disease, thanks to all the sterile items I use.  Meat, eggs, produce, milk, or anything that once grew, or breathed air: It’s not sterile unless cooked to a specific temperature.  It has a higher chance of giving you some kind of infection than any instrument I use.  But it 99% of the time won’t hurt anyone.  We trust restaurants to obtain quality products that are cooked properly,and that their staff is well enough to work.  I’m sure they’re doing well at cleaning their work stations and staying healthy outside of the job.  As well as tattooers and piercers, even hair stylists, nail artists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc would if they were allowed to work again in one on one situations.  Just because I’d have to touch one  other person for up to an hour and no longer that 5 hours at any given time, or breathe near them, does not negate the steps we take to ensure we’re keeping our clients safe.    Plus, if you have one on one, with 1-4 clients in a single day, and sanitize as per usual, you’re probably less likely to contract it than anyone in a take-out, which can average up to 20 people per hour.  I say to make healthboards happy, N95 mask required for both client and practitioner.  Okay, CDC. End of story.

In my private studio setting, there are a grand total of 4 hands and two mouths to worry about at any given time.  This condition ensures an incredibly low risk of disease, as long as open conversations about health take place.  “Do you work with anyone who was sick?  Did you at any point become sick?  Are there any other risk factors I should be aware of?”  If anything on that list signs a red flag, the prospect is terminated before it even begins.  I don’t promote risking anyone’s well being.  I try to reduce it as much as I can when it comes to all things.  Everything has a logical path to take, and I choose to take that way every time.  

For those of you who are self employed and out of work, in fear of society shaming you into being closed, but you follow very strict rules about how you practice, open up a dialog between your regulars to see what you can do to make it work.  If you’re worried some ninny is going to out you, be smart, don’t post your shit on Instagram, but make it known to your people you can offer what you can in this time, and if the consensus  is “sounds safe to me,” it probably is.  If a grocery store with up to 1000 people per hour touching products, and shelves, and door handles, and carts, and putting stuff back, and inspecting fruit, and dancing around skinny aisles, with the other 100,000 variables of human error per day, if that’s not killing each other with a virus every day for months on end, I think a Tattooer can tattoo their clients in a safe environment for their regulars.  But that’s just me…I’m not a doctor, but I’m also not an idiot.  Make your decisions for the greater good, but remember, there’s the illusion of safety, and then there’s sterile environments.  Enjoy using your mind to ponder what the hell is actually happening in your world.  Cheers

Make sure you check out Alyssa’s band Lord Dying and follow the fuck out of all of their socials in between buying the shit out of all their merch. Remember, they had a tour cancelled because of this bullshit plague business. Support music and the arts!!!!

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