To Go or Not to Go???

That, my friends, is the question.

So in July, my favorite band will be playing at American Airlines center in Dallas (not too far from where I live). I’ve always said seeing my favorite band live is not one of the things I can do without (come on, I’m talking to you!) but there are a couple of things that are just really bothering me.

For one, I don’t do well with concerts. I just don’t. They’re too people-y for me typically. As an autistic and an introvert I just don’t do well with large crowds, and you know as well as I do a musical group on the caliber of Tears for Fears is going to be a sellout crowd, no matter how big the venue.

For two, they’re not touring alone. For whatever reason, they teamed up with Hall & Oates for their US tour this year. I don’t see how that’s going to work. TFF and H&O couldn’t be any more different musically or lyrically. Synthpop with heavy, dark, even emo lyrics vs. easy listening light-hearted lyrics? Yeah, I don’t get that either.

So you see my dilemma. I might not ever get a chance to see Tears for Fears live, but I have to say Hall and Oates, well, as Roland put it, “these are the things I can do without.” Do I want to suffer through H&O just to see TFF or do I want to skip this one and risk me not ever getting the opportunity again?

(sings) I can’t stand this indecision…

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Rest in Peace, Amy Bleuel…

So a friend shared with me some shocking news today. Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, took her own life on March 23, 2017. (Source: https://themighty.com/2017/03/amy-bleuel-founder-of-project-semicolon-dead/).

Honestly as disconnected as I’ve become with the movement in recent times (due to the religious undertones of the organization), this still saddens me beyond words. If not for the project I probably would have met the same fate not too long after I got my semicolon (my first tattoo). I actually got into it with her one-on-one on her public Facebook page about the religious aspect (because I was left feeling hung out to dry and didn’t feel “welcome”) leading me to get banned from it. As such, I can’t help but wonder if my dickishness about that played a small part in her ultimate decision. I’ll never know. Oh how I wish I could take those mean words back.

All that said, I need to make something very clear: even in my own personal sadness I absolutely respect her decision. I will always respect the wills of those who choose to end their lives for whatever reason. After all, nobody chooses to be born. To be quite frank we were all forced into this world without our consent. That said, the impact of this action on those surrounding the deceased cannot be dismissed and I do think all other possible solutions should be exhausted first. Maybe Amy exhausted all of those avenues herself and just couldn’t take it anymore. Again, I’ll never know. All I do know is I will never speak ill of her or anyone else who makes this decision.

All I have to say is thank you, Amy.  I know we’ve had some strong personal disagreements on your public page(s) but you made a huge impact on my life. You made me realize that there’s so much more to life than pain and suffering and if not for Project Semicolon I’d have never discovered a love and passion for tattoos.

I hope you are finally at peace and whatever demons you fought during your short stay on earth are finally no more.

(Not So) Song Lyric Sunday 3/26/17 – Beethoven’s 5 Secrets Featuring Voiceover by James Hinchcliffe

Healing, such a broad and vast topic so a rather interesting choice for Song Lyric Sunday (though a fitting one). I’m glad Helen is back and her fiance is on the road to recovery. Even in a way it was fitting for me this week as I have a fresh tattoo that’s healing up nicely (Saniderm came off this morning, now the rest is downhill).

Well, it’s also a complicated topic for an atheist. Most songs about healing are religious in nature (and mostly of the Christian religion) so finding secular songs about the topic was a challenge, and by the time I’d decided to go with something someone had already taken my idea (that’s what I get for being late on the draw!). So I’m going to take this a totally different direction and post a not-really-a-song song and go from there.

If you’ve followed me for awhile you’ll know that I am a big racing fan with a particular fondness for IndyCar and it just so happens that my favorite IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was a competitor on Dancing with the Stars Season 23. Hinch and his pro partner Sharna Burgess made it all the way to the finals and finished 2nd behind gymnast Laurie Hernandez and her pro partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy.

Anyway, before I show you the musical piece, dance and voiceover I’ve selected, it helps to see the background. In May 2015 Hinch suffered a brutal practice crash that in all honesty should have killed him. Part of his front suspension failed sending him careening into the barrier wall at 224 MPH, knocking him unconscious and driving the severed part of the suspension through his leg and hip. The surgeon replaced all his blood three times over and Hinch even flatlined at one point. Here was that crash:

Alas, somehow he beat the odds, recovered and was back in the car for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar series. Which brings me to the musical piece I’ve selected: Beethoven’s 5 Secrets (arr. Piano Guys and OneRepublic). This was the piece Sharna used to choreograph their finals freestyle dance and added a voiceover by Hinch himself because she didn’t feel like any song could tell his story quite like he could. Hence for “lyrics” I’m using his own words and I think it not only applies to racing but could apply to any miracle bounce-back, be it from physical or emotional injury. Warning: Have a tissue handy.

“My life can be stressful, but being in the racecar is when I’m most at peace. 
Ironically it’s what slows me down. 
I know my sport has risk, and I accept that. 
But when you’re behind the wheel, you have to believe it won’t happen to you…
…Until it does. 
I remember entering turn 3 and then everything goes…black. 

They didn’t think I’d race again; they didn’t think I’d walk again.
They weren’t even sure I was going to live…
…But here I am.” – James Hinchcliffe 

So there you have it. Please don’t sue me for doing something totally off-the-wall here. I hope you enjoyed the music, Hinch’s poetic words and the beautiful dance (which earned a perfect 40/40 from the judges).

How I Heal a Tattoo

This post will probably eventually become a page for future reference but for now I’ll do it as a blog post.

As it has been a week since I’ve gotten my last tattoo I am well into the healing process and dare I say it it’s almost fully healed by now. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s only been a week!” Well yes, but after a week I’m about 90% healed and after two weeks I’m healed completely. A lot faster than most who have tattoos recall their healing time. Alas, I think it’s a good time now to talk about how I heal a tattoo and a product that in my opinion is a notch above the rest.

My healing process consists of two phases but the first phase is where all the magic happens. Back in the day your only real options were A&D ointment, unscented lotions and mild soaps and just washing, blotting dry and lotioning countless times per day. Well, I ain’t got time for that shit and neither do any of you for that matter. Nah, there definitely IS a better way. It’s called Saniderm. Saniderm is sort of a derivative of Tegaderm has been used in medicine for a long time for like burn victims, surgical wounds, etc. Eventually, a couple of people realized its potential for healing tattoos, thus Saniderm was born. It works on the exact same principle (a waterproof, microbe-proof yet oxygen permeable dressing) but it’s reasonably priced enough you can buy large rolls of the stuff and the adhesives are specially designed to not pull ink out or otherwise degrade the appearance of the tattoo.

The stuff is super simple to use. You just put it on and go about your day. The makers of Saniderm recommend changing the first bandage out after a day or so and then replacing with a new one which can be worn for several days but for all except two of my tattoos I’ve been able to leave the first piece on the entire time. The only time it might be necessary to change the dressing is if you’re a super seeper (which some people are and my knife and saltire on my right leg seeped heavily for two days requiring a whopping 3 pieces of Saniderm!) or you have relatively thin blood and therefore bleed a lot. In such cases, the excess fluid accumulation will break the seal and you’ll need to change the bandage but other than that I’ve not found it necessary. If you exercise and sweat heavily this might also eventually weaken the seal and require a new piece.

Once the Saniderm is in place you’re good to go. You can continue to shower/bathe, exercise and swim as normal because it’s waterproof. This whole thing about avoiding water with a fresh tattoo isn’t a worry anymore. Just be sure when you towel off you blot it dry rather than scrubbing or wiping. Just make sure you keep the area clean (I normally just give it a light wash twice per day – once in the shower in the morning and then once in the evening). So long as the dressing is sealed, it is virtually impossible for infections to set in.

Another benefit of Saniderm is that is all but eliminates the need for touchups. Of my six tattoos, five have healed and remained studio fresh. Only one required a touch-up and that was no fault of the Saniderm, rather it was my own experience with tattoos (it was my first after all) and the artist was still new to tattooing. Tattoos 2 thru 5? All still studio fresh and I don’t see any reason why tattoo 6 won’t be the same. For whatever reason, the Saniderm preserves the ink better than any other healing method.

As if that all wasn’t good enough, due to the moist healing environment such dressings promote scabbing is all but eliminated and itching is greatly reduced (the makers of Saniderm claim no itch but this isn’t true in my experience; there is still some itching but it’s much less intense and lasts a much shorter duration).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. After about a week the Saniderm is about ready to come off. The stuff does stick pretty damn well so I normally remove mine in a hot shower with plenty of soap to help break the seal. On one occasion I needed the help of some olive oil to further degrade the bond (note that these are all methods that are recommended by the makers of Saniderm). After removing Saniderm, provided you just left it alone as you should have an almost healed tattoo. Usually the next day after I remove Saniderm I begin peeling (the last stage of tattoo healing regardless of your method as the epidermis is irreparably damaged from the tattoo process) and then I’ll switch to a light, unscented, non-comedogenic (important for me as I’m prone to breakouts) lotion to ease discomfort and keep the tattoo looking bright as it will usually dull during this time. Keep in mind this isn’t the multiple times per day thing – usually I’ll just lotion once per day after showering (and note during the peeling process you still should not vigorously scrub or exfoliate the area; just hand wash, blot dry and apply the lotion and you’ll be surprised how much just easily sloughs off simply doing that). After 5-7 days or so of this phase the tattoo will have peeled completely and I will have a completely healed tattoo that’s still as bright and vibrant as when I first left the studio. From there, proper care and maintenance (religious use of sunscreen, occasional lotioning and staying hydrated) should keep your tattoo bright and vibrant for many years to come.

So that’s how I heal and maintain my tattoos. I’m not saying this is the above all and end all but I personally can’t imagine healing mine the old fashioned way. Of course, Saniderm isn’t right for everyone and there are a select few individuals who should not use it (most notably those with allergies to adhesives). If you have a known sensitivity to adhesives I’d recommend taking a small piece and sticking it to an inconspicuous spot on your body to see if you react. That said, I have a feeling once you try Saniderm you won’t want to heal your tattoos any other way. It’s just so much easier. You can buy Saniderm here. I always have some in my medicine cabinet in case I need to change the dressing on a healed tattoo,  in case I run into an artist who doesn’t really believe in it or for other wounds. In addition to being useful for healing tattoos, Saniderm is also great for healing cuts, scrapes, scratches, minor burns and the like! There’s no doubt you will find multiple uses for it so it’s always handy to have some on hand. As such, I just purchase the biggest roll they have and it lasts me a long time, but you can purchase however much or little you think you’ll need.

Anyway, I hope this helped someone. Happy tattooing and wishing fast healing for all your future tattoos!

 

Tattoo Topic Tuesday: “Gun” vs. “Machine” – What’s in a Name?

Tattoo machines have come a long way since Edison’s electric pen. They’re more precise, more durable and with the recent increase in popularity of rotary machines, lighter weight, quieter and even dare I say less painful. However, what exactly do you call that thing which oscillates the needle and drives the ink into the skin?

In most parts of the world the term “tattoo machine” is preferred, though in some parts of the world the term “tattoo iron” is also common. There is, however, a term that laypeople coined back in the day and is still in common use among laypeople that is considered a big no-no in the tattoo industry and even I cringe every time I hear it – “tattoo gun.”

Now, the term might seem harmless enough but if you think about what a tattoo machine actually does you’ll see why it’s improper to call it a gun. A gun is a device for shooting a projectile (be it a bullet/shell, water, air or whatever). A tattoo machine does not shoot a projectile. It merely acts as an oscillator for the needle grouping and drives the needles into and out of the dermis at a rate far more rapid than is capable by the human hand.

The inaccuracy of the term combined with the negative connotation of the word “gun” in an industry which has a bad enough public image as it is are the reasons the term is very much frowned upon.

All that said, despite the fact the term is frowned upon occasionally you will hear an artist use it because it can become so ingrained in one’s memory. Case in point my session this past Saturday my artist actually used the word twice and I called her out on it both times (all in good fun, mind you). We had a good laugh about it and even she admitted she uses it at times without even thinking. I told her I heard another artist (not from that shop, but in general) said when he was an apprentice his mentor had a jar and every time his apprentices used the word “gun” they had to put $20 in the jar. I imagine one would learn to use the correct term very quickly if it was costing you $20 each time you said the g-word.

Anyway, I don’t write this post to make fun of anyone or anything, but merely to educate those who might not know. The proper term is in fact “tattoo machine” and I know it might be difficult for laypeople especially to adapt. If you ever do start getting tattoos and talking them (and especially with other artists), if you ever want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, use the term “machine.” You might just impress someone with your use of proper tattoo industry jargon.

Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

“He [the old Charlie] wanted to be a ‘gen-ass’ like each of you, but now I know you’re not ‘gen-asses’ you’re just asses!!!” – Charlie Gordon, Flowers for Algernon.

Those of you who have read the aforementioned book or watched the film adaptation thereof are all too familiar with this quote. For those who are not, the backstory is that Charlie Gordon is a mentally challenged adult male in his early 30s who is selected for an experiment which is said to artificially increase intelligence. Well, it does do so but due to a flaw in the psychiatrist’s theory he eventually reverts to his old self, but not before realizing the world wasn’t as pretty as he’d always thought it was and realizing the people he thought were his friends weren’t really his friends but just enjoyed making fun of him. In essence, he found out that the grass isn’t in fact greener on the other side and he overall was negatively affected by having his intelligence increased.

In light of this “Charlie Gordon” effect, despite my constant wish that I was neurotypical and that there was a cure for autism (much to the chagrin of many on the spectrum), at times it does make me stop and wonder if the grass in fact greener on the other side. Is being neurotypical really THAT much better? If I were to be cured, what negative effects would I potentially run into? Would my sudden increased awareness of others’ feelings and increased empathy actually be too much for me to handle? Would my increased awareness of body language, sarcasm and social norms cause me to emotionally hurt as I would be more attuned to when people are making fun of me?

Now, make no mistake about it, I am of the personal belief that life is going to suck no matter what (true of all lives whether we consciously realize how badly our lives suck or not) but it’s a question of what sucks worse? Having my dream career, increased emotional intelligence and decreased academic intelligence or being stuck in a shitty job while being emotionally dumb yet having a genius-level IQ? 99% of the time the answer is the former is less bad (because let’s face it, we all spend a vast majority of our waking hours at work) but every now and then I think of the alternative. I’d probably lose all my friends, might wind up dumb as a rock but with the memory of what it was like to be smart. That would be  a very, very bitter pill to swallow, I will admit.

Although it would be nice for the FAA to wise up and realize that many of us who happen to be on the autism spectrum would be competent pilots (or the US military to lift its sweeping ban on those with autism, etc.), I’m no Pollyanna and I refuse to delude myself into believing that the government will change its ways. I realize the only realistic way for those of us who have those dreams to attain them would be for us to be “fixed.” I guess that’s what bothers me the most about Neurodiversity people, namely that they don’t know when to fly the white flag. There are some battles that are unwinnable and thus not really worth fighting. This is one of them. Why do you think I gave up when I got my final notice of rejection from the FAA headquarters? I knew I couldn’t take them on and that I was only hurting myself worse in trying. It’s beyond time ND people realize they’re hurting nobody but themselves in fighting unwinnable fights.

Anyway, I digress. If you’ve never read or seen Flowers for Algernon I would recommend it. If anything, it’s food for thought, but especially for those of us who have any number of various mental health conditions.

 

Happy New Ink Day To Me…

So here we are, at 11:32 AM this morning local time (I was born at 9:32 mountain time but two hours difference since DST starts earlier now) I officially completed my 30th trip around the sun. Goodbye, 20s! How time flies, right?

Which is why I chose a time themed piece for my 30th birthday tattoo. I wanted a pocket watch but something kind of cool and steampunk-ish. Well my artist took the ball, ran with it and delivered! Here’s my newest piece:

IMG_0075

So the parameters were pocket watch with a steampunk influence. I think this definitely hits those points. My original version was B&G but my artist suggested some splashes of color with the general design of a pocket watch ripping out of my skin. Well alright, I figured she’s the artist and I’ll trust her and I am so glad I did. This thing is just amazing. Couldn’t think of a better way to ring in my next decade of life. As always, you can read more about this and all my other tattoos on the My Tattoos page (link on the menu bar up top).

Anyway, now I’m off to have a Scotch, a cigar and my birthday dinner. Cheers, everyone!