When I came to Fairbanks, I couldn’t get my head around the three tattoo parlors that existed in town. The number of tattoo businesses has increased over time, and none of them folded after their grand opening. I haven’t bothered to count the current number of tattoo shops. But today, 16 and a half year later, there is one in most of the malls. These tattoo artists seem to have solid businesses in the community. They are in those places ever since they opened.
Fairbanks is somewhere in the middle of nowhere at the inflow of the Chena River into the Tanana River. There is no commercial shipping on these rivers. The only boats on these rivers in Fairbanks are the Tanana Chief for dinning cruises and the Riverboat Discovery for river cruises in summer. No harbor or port, for which sailors can be excluded as the customers. In mid and eastern Europe, beside sailors, hookers are another clientele for tattoos. However, in Alaska like in all states of the US except Nevada, prostitution is illegal. Consequently, one can exclude the horizontals as customers.
So who are the customers of these artists? I had this question already shortly after we moved to Alaska when there were only three tattoo stores in Fairbanks. It is well known that tattoos are expensive. When someone goes thru the costs and all the pain, the person wants to show it off, right? At least, that’s what I think that this person would want to do. Why would someone get a tattoo in a state where you are bundled up seven months a year? In a state, where summers have billions of mosquitoes? You can’t expose your skin or tattoo unless you don’t mind to become dinner. Not to mention that I hadn’t seen anyone in town having a tattoo.
It took me seven years, before I had a chance to find out. I was in a dressing room. We were four women who tried out gowns for the dress rehearsal for a dance formation. We had been given several gowns to find one that would fit us. When trying out one of the dance gowns I saw that two young women of our formation had a big butterfly tattoo above their Y each. The butterflies were beautifully colored and about 3/4 ft wide and 4 inch high (20 cm x 10 cm).
“Great tattoos” I said in an admiring voice to these about twenty year old women. “They look pretty expensive with all those colors.” “Thanks, we got them when we were 16. We went together and got the same tattoo. It was just $460”, one of them replied. “Who of you had the idea?”, I asked and followed with “What did your parents say?” I immediately regretted having asked that as the words had come out.
“We are best friends ever since kindergarten. The idea was kind of ours together. We had the idea at the same time and we always had the butterfly as our sign.” The other replied giggling. I was sure she was amused about my asking about the reaction of their parents. Full disclosure, both their moms are girl friends of mine. “What can they say after it’s done” one of them replied and looked at me like I were from a different planet, and yes, so old. “My mom has a tattoo herself and many of her girl friends too”, the other young woman replied and smiled looking superior. The third woman pulled up her hair to a bun. The up-do gave view to a Chinese word at the back of her neck.
“Really? I never noticed that”, I replied. “What kind of tattoo?” “She’s got an eight!” The young women laughed suspiciously, as if there is something wrong about an eight. Being curious I asked “What’s wrong about an eight?”, while helping her zip up the gown. “What’s so funny about an eight?” I added innocently. At the same moment, I feared that I had asked the most stupid thing in America. The young ladies’ giggling reminded me of the laughter of my colleagues when another colleague wanted 666 as a course number for his class. At that time, I didn’t know yet what 666 stood for.
She had hold her breath as these gowns are supposed to fit very tightly. Letting the breath out she laughed again. Her face had turned all red and she tried to catch air. I didn’t know whether she was out of breath because of holding her breath or because of laughing so hard. “The location!”, she shouted out like a water hose after removal of a kink. Then she whispered “It’s on the inside of her ankle. Guess what happens with the eight, when she lays down with a guy? Infinity”, she chuckled with laughter.
Focus Alaska is a weekly series here on High Latitude Style about things unique to life in Alaska. You can find further funny Alaska stories about big foot or waxing Alaska’s hairiest man or summer intern being afraid of white powder at the links.
Posh winter outfit for Casual Friday
In today’s outfit, I played with all neutrals, structure and patterns. The blazer has a classic glen check in gray, dark gray and black. the sweater picks up the grays with a different hue. The surface structure of the sweater and sweater differ substantially and the sequins on the pants add a three dimensional effect. When adding the outerwear the structure of the bag and the hair of the color add further dimension. The outfit works despite there is going on a lot. The secret? Neutrals and repetition of them as well as classic cuts of the pieces.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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