RogueMuirHead: Photography and Writing

Tattooed Dreams: Roadtrip September 2016

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Location: Bishop, CA


We are at the Gypsy King Tattoo Shop, located on their downtown main drag of 395 between a bank and a few hobby stores. The only shop in town it’s clean, crisp with no separate rooms. Only cubicles line the tiled floors. Walking straight down the row passing by other empty areas for future artists who wish to relocate to the area.

Arizona and I are the only ones here at the moment. Many flash pieces and other artwork adorn the greying walls with images of tattoo Americana. The skulls of steer and deer painted in a hodge podge of swirls and colour line a display case along with some cheap jewelry that would make Blue shudder. She is the main piercer I trust after all. Too bad she could not have come on this trip. She would definitely be into the animal parts. Songs from the early 2000’s swing on the radio to disrupt the inferior silence while the world continues to spin on in the heat of the early September day. People still traveling to their final destinations.

(Duration of time where I was getting tattooed and did not write. Kinda of difficult to do the combination.)


I have my Highway 395 tattoo, which includes bullet holes and a rusted exterior. Feels nice to have ink finally on one of my trips, sometimes finances do not allow me to get tattooed. I have many on my arms and legs; a cacophony of storytelling from many moments in my life. None of them are regrets, no matter who was involved when I got them.

I was discussing tattoos with Johnny, the eighteen year old apprentice, who is already mostly covered. He proudly showed off his chest, legs and arms. Gray scale lines and shading marked his once white skin, all badges of honour. The work was somewhat good. Most was done at the shop, some had been done on his own within his own house by friends or himself. Twenty-one was when I got my first tattoo. A peace sign done in the early stages of self discovery that I would soon come back to at thirty-three. Peace, love and happiness! However, each one are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of the my days. Johnny did make me question though, why would one want to write all over their blank canvas in one go? Possibly eager to show off to the world. Possibly eager to adorn their temple with the random acts of a rebellious youth. It is their decision, not mine to judge. Although, I still wonder why the rush?

Westen, the artist, is talented in his own right although during our session he did attempt to change the image slightly that both Arizona and I wanted to something more “feminine.” Our appearance gave away that we may have had vaginas! However, even with those crazy caves hidden beneath our pants we still knew what we wanted on our own damn skin. Looking back on it, we failed to call him out on it. It could have been the area of Bishop or his own personality. However, I was also hesitant to chime back since he was, in fact, using a machine to drive ink into my body.

Westen has two apprentices, Johnny and Faith, both of which carefully observed the appointments Arizona and I had booked. They stayed close as they watched the light handed artist transcribe our images to our flesh. I learned that they were all not from here, but fell in love with the area. To be quite honest, I have fallen in love with the area as well. Nestled in a crevice where the Sierra Nevada Mountains stand watch like sleeping gods, what is not to fall in love with. So, from all walks of life these three stayed and set up shop. One of the only tattoo places in the community and they are now part of it.

Arizona is nearly finished getting her’s done, then we will hit the road for our day trip to Death Valley. She too is getting the highway 395 sign tattooed. This is a symbol of her childhood and a reminder of the past for her while mine will remind me of the path I wish to follow.

Formulated thought is all but gone. Here in the silence of this vast wasteland. The barren beauty that builds up to the dry paths will all but break down in the identity the universe offers as a whole. And, here is where my feet will plant themselves.   

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