Tattooing Talladega: Why I Love my Job

November 16, 2011 / By

“Ya’ll have no idea how glad I am this place isn’t in your mom’s basement,” I admit with a sigh of relief, moments after opening the door to Karma Tattoo in Talladega, Alabama for a site check.

I momentarily question my use of the south’s greatest gift to mankind and the best conjunction in the history of grammar, but then remember I’m home in Dixie. These are my people. They understand “ya’ll” like they understand sweet tea and Alabama football – I’m safe.

“Ah, come on man – I bet you thought we were going to be 400 pounds with dragons tatted across our faces too, huh?” teases Matt, the tattoo artist I’d recently tied my career and livelihood to by employing him to tattoo my client’s logo on any willing and sober adult NASCAR fans.

“Of course not,” I fib with the most charming PR grin I can muster. “It’s just awesome to see how clean and professional your, um, parlor is.”

I smile. He smiles. We both know I totally thought he was going to look like this guy.

Matt proceeds to walk me through the tattooing process, carefully explaining the preparation, art and sanity measures necessary to ink some awesome flash (I’m so down with the tattoo lingo). In return I walk him through our minute by minute run of show (“You guys plan this shit down to the minute?”), message points (“Is this like a play? Do we need to memorize these lines?”) and legal waivers (“Handshakes don’t work anymore, huh?”) I silently pray will protect us all in the name of the Father, the Son and The Alabama State Health Board.

Satisfied our bases are covered, I return to my hotel for a fitful night’s sleep saddled with the most God-awful dreams of misspelled tattoos and unnecessary male lower back artwork.

The next morning, Matt and I open the tattoo parlor early and wait for our first victim engaged consumer to arrive and become brand(ed) ambassadors. As the program has dominated my life for nearly a month, I’m optimistic, but also realistic that the day could be filled with solitaire and PR tears if no one shows.

Then, the most amazing thing happens. A 60-year-old woman in white Reebok sneakers and a NASCAR t-shirt walks through the door with her head held high and an obvious need to declare something of paramount importance.

“Every ten years, I do something rebellious,” she boasts. “This decade has been a bit slow. Let’s jazz it up with a tattoo.”

Mouth agape, I watch as this woman receives her branded tattoo without a grimace. Upon completion, she stands up, thanks us, allows me to take a photo and opens the door where another consumer is waiting.

And another.

And another.

And by day’s end, 17 adult consumers are inked in a whirlwind of Alabama tattoo action only describable by three letters.

O.M.G.

You know, there are days when working in PR is for the birds – high stress, some late nights and a propensity to ruin newscasts for your significant other by shouting, “Pssh. I wonder how much they paid for THAT plug!” But one thing it’s not and never will be when you work with creative folks like I do, is boring. From facilitating mosaic art in the Las Vegas desert to orchestrating kick ass time lapse vidoes to tattooing passionate fans in Talladega, Alabama, I never know what I might be doing in six months.

And I freakin’ love it…because those are “impressions” that will last a life time.

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