Of Tattoos and Tartare…

Sheila and I got up around ten. I showered and set the table for breakfast before waking her up just to give her a few extra minutes of sleep. She told me that she, Joan and Laney had fun at Bull’s Brothers last night, so that was good to hear. I was definitely sorry that I missed out, but there will be more opportunities for me to do things like that while I’m still here… I just have to not feel as crummy as I did last night. I finally got a chance to Facetime my mother, which I haven’t been able to do in two weeks since last weekend’s Normandy trip threw a pretty good wrench in those usual plans, so we had a lot of catching up to do. My friends and I had planned to go to the Luxembourg Gardens for a picnic this afternoon, but the weather wasn’t looking too pretty, so we scratched it. Sheila and Kyle met at the corner near our place to go to Carrefour to get something for lunch, then brought it back to our kitchen table, and we had lunch there, since I was able to heat up the other half of my salmon, spinach and potato dinner from last night. Lunches are always something we’re supposed to come up with on our own, but since Madame had made so much for us to eat while she was gone, we figured there wouldn’t be any harm in me “getting rid” of some leftovers. We hung out for a while in my room as I stared at myself in the mirror, not to be a narcissist necessarily, but to take stock of the fact that in about five or six hours time (at that point), the right side of my body was going to be permanently changed for the rest of my life since my appointment at Kustom Tattoo was starting to creep up on me…

I hadn’t done much in the way of looking up specific fonts for my tattoo, but I had explained to the manager on Thursday that I wanted something simple, feminine, and easy to read, so I knew the artist would have some ideas for me when I walked in. I had talked to Sheila about how to break up the line itself so that the whole tattoo would be stacked down the right side of my body to fill the space between the bottom of my bra, and the top of my pants. Kyle and Sheila helped me pick out an actual font, then break up the lines two or three words at a time to make my actual tattoo, so I took a screen shot of it and emailed it to myself so I could show it to my artist when I went in for my appointment, which was about four hours away by that point. Charlotte shot me a text that said she and Joan wanted to meet up at Sacre Coeur this afternoon, which was great since I’d only been there at night when you couldn’t go inside. Kyle had some homework to do, so he went home and said he’d work on that, then meet up with me and Sheila to head off to my tattoo appointment around seven. We made plans to find a place to eat right after I was finished “being inked.”

Charlotte and Joan were already outside the Anvers metro stop by the time Sheila and I got there. For some reason, the Funiculaire (little train that the metro system runs that you can take instead of the stairs) wasn’t entirely working when we got there, so we went up the stairs… which was quite the work out… It was drizzling a little bit, so the clouds covered most of the view from the basilica. I had some fun playing with the color selection tool on my camera (namely pointing it at the crowd looking at the view and taking pictures with all of the different color options). Joan and Charlotte have Nikon cameras as well, and they didn’t know they had such a tool, so I showed them how to use it. We went inside the basilica after that. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, which I don’t really mind or have any problems with, but most other churches say “no flash.” There are people inside the basilica that have jobs that seem to be to tap the sign that says “no cameras, silence” as you walk in, which again, I understand… but as we were walking around, there was an angry black man in a beige suit that was loudly (I repeat, loudly) shushing people. If that’s not a hypocrite, dear Readers, I have no idea what is. The man wasn’t just shushing people that were quietly murmuring things amongst themselves like “should I light a candle here?” or “that’s a pretty statue” oh no, bastard was an equal opportunity shusher, I saw him shush a couple praying at one of the statues after they’d lit a candle. Forgive me if whatever it says in your basilica people-shushing job description forbids this, but do us all a favor and go get laid, because maybe that’ll get the twist out of your panties and help you relax. Goodness gracious… The basilica was beautiful. Everyone should go visit it. Just bring your duct tape to make sure you don’t so much as think about talking, and even if you do, you’re covered.

View from the Basilica area, green color selection.

Charlotte and photo-bomber Joan, red color selection

Sacre Coeur in daylight! No color selection/All colors selected?

Sheila and I went home to “prep” before my appointment. In reality, that meant stop by an ATM, take a short nap, and have me eat a chocolate-covered rice cake and take a pain pill in preparation. Joan and Charlotte sounded like they were going to Angelina, the café near the Louvre with the very expensive (but delicious) hot chocolate, and they’d meet us at the tattoo shop later. So home Sheila and I went, and we did our prep work, which included this…

The “Before” Picture

Kyle met up with us a few minutes before seven at our usual corner. I was definitely a little nervous, and Kyle said what was on my mind… “I’d say ‘I totally understand,’ but you already have a tattoo, and you’re getting this one in the same area, just on the opposite side, what are you so worried about?!” The main thing I was scared of was the fact that I knew this tattoo would be over my ribs… well… part of it would be. The tattoo on my left side is mostly over my hip (lots of muscle and fat, not much bone, so not much “pain”), but there’s one part that the artist had to stretch up over my ribs to complete, and that part absolutely killed. I distinctly remember holding my breath while that part was being done. I was pretty sure the first line, if not the first two lines of text would be on my ribs, so they’d hurt quite a lot. Part of the gamble with getting a tattoo also has to do with if your artist is “heavy-handed” or not. It’s hard to tell when you’ve only had one tattoo with one artist, so you have to go by other’s opinions, and I didn’t have any to go on with my last tattoo, nor did I have any to go on with this one. There was a lot I was still needed to find out… The closer we got to République, the more nervous I got, but I was able to suck it up enough to not try to run home. Once we were outside of Kustom, I froze. Sheila gave me a hug, I took a deep breath, and went inside…

Emerick (highly doubt I actually spelled that right) was my tattoo artist. Niko is the one that you’ll hear about that owns the shop. Was I disappointed that Niko wasn’t the one that was doing my tattoo? Absolutely not. Not to say that Niko is rude (he’s not, more on that later), but you’re crazy if you think Niko’s going to be bothered with simple lines of text when the guy has won awards at tattoo conventions around the world for things like “Best Original Design.” The artist that did my first tattoo mentioned that he studied tattooing in Paris back in the 90’s and I swear… Niko at Kustom Tattoo sounds so familiar… but I kept my mouth shut. I’ll go home and ask Running Bear (yes, that was really his name) where he studied to see if I happened to walk into that tattoo shop. How Casablanca of me. At any rate, Emerick was so sweet and nice the entire time we worked together (and he’s super dorky-cute to boot)! He had a couple ideas for text, but I liked the one I had already, so I showed it to him. He downloaded the font, took my iPod from me, typed up the line exactly how I had it on the picture, then taped a piece of tracing paper on the computer, traced the text, made a copy in the copy machine, and showed it to me. “C’est bon pour toi?” (That’s good for you?) “Oui, c’est parfait!” (Yes, that’s perfect!) He had me roll up my shirt to see if the sizing was right, and it fit perfectly between my “margins” that I had set before. He disappeared to go prep the area and the stencil, so I rested and tried to psych myself up for a moment. The manager had me pay the rest of what was due (since he’d seen how big the project was going to be, it was decided that the entire price was 160 euro) Sheila and Kyle had gone to find Joan and Charlotte since they got lost, so I was alone for the time being. I noticed something interesting about the French, the tattoo artists at least. When you go to a grocery store, you always say “Bonjour” or something of that level of politeness. When Sheila, Kyle and I walked in tonight and said that, Niko “corrected” us and said “Salut.” Emerick used “toi” or “tu” with me for the duration of the session (that’s the singular or “informal” form of “you” as opposed to “vous” which would be plural or “formal”). These guys manipulate machines that permanently change the way we look (and they’re providing a service), but they’re still somehow on our level. I’ll take it more as an offering of “you’re close to me” since I’ve heard that you can use “vous” with someone who wants to be “close” to you as a way to insult them. Kyle came in with Charlotte and Joan (Sheila stayed back at the metro to collect Laney when she arrived) right about the time that Emerick came back to retrieve me and whisk me down to the basement where he’d “ink me up.” He didn’t make any indication that anyone could come back with me, so I told everyone to stay put in the waiting area. The room was so small anyway, it wouldn’t have been possible. Besides, I’m a big girl, I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand. I rolled up my sweater and cami so Emerick could put on the stencil, but he was having a little trouble. The side of the body is a very difficult area to work with, especially with a stencil that’s all in one piece. The fact that I’m a woman made it that much harder… the fact that I’ve got a pretty decent amount of curves just added a degree of difficulty. Emerick had to cut the stencil while it was half stuck on me at one point. He pulled it off after struggling with the first couple lines. “I really didn’t want to have to ask you to do this, but I think I’m going to need you to take off your sweater.” (That was in French, I just didn’t want to be bothered to translate it) “Ce n’est pas grave!” (It’s okay!) I took off the sweater and tossed it on the head rest of the tattooing table. It was much easier to roll up my cami and tuck it under my bra to keep it out of the way. He was able to get the stencil on this time, but when he pulled it off, he sighed heavily, excused himself, and left the small room, but I wasn’t sure why… until I looked in the mirror. It was crooked. I couldn’t help but laugh. He had gone upstairs to make a new stencil since this one would have to come off. The third time was the charm, and he pulled off this new stencil, took a look at it, said that he thought it looked good, then asked me to look at it in a couple of mirrors to see if I liked it. I said it was perfect. He said that we could start the actual process whenever I was ready, so climbed onto the table, and moved around until I was decently comfortable while he prepped whatever else he needed to prep. “Es-tu bien installer?” (Are you comfortable?) “Oui…” He had me move a little closer to where he was, since I’d so cleverly positioned myself on the far end of the table. “Tu connais le truc?” Do I know the thing? That doesn’t make any sense… I made a face at him. “You know the deal?” Oh. Truc in this case meant “deal.” Got it. “Bah ouais.” (Ridiculous French slang for “yeah”) He saw my other tattoo, he knew I’d done this before. Off we went. He started on the last line on my hip and worked his way up, which was probably a good thing since the top lines were going to hurt the worst. In comparison to Running Bear, Emerick is very gentle and light-handed, so it hardly hurt at all. Since he’s young (I’m guessing no older than 27), he’s a little slow, but I’d rather have him be slow and accurate than quick and reckless. The actual inking process probably took about 25 minutes, and that was with an interruption by Niko. He came in to eye Emerick’s work, which he complimented. He said that Emerick did a good job with the stencil, since that’s a difficult area to stencil, especially since I’m so curvy. I said I heard that, and I thanked him. He went to hug Emerick when he left, which meant that Emerick had to take off his gloves, re-sterilize, and put a new pair back on, which I was thankful for, and found incredibly amusing. Niko had come in around the second to the last line or so, around my ribs, so it was starting to hurt a little more. I had my sweater in my hands so I had something to squeeze when it hurt a bit more than usual. I was able to hold in how bad the last line hurt (I could just about tell what letters he was inking when) decently well, but I couldn’t take it anymore at one point, and spit out “Putain!” Emerick looked at me, smiled, chuckled, and set the tattoo machine down. “You picked a good time to curse, that was the last letter.” Emerick cleaned up the area with water, slathered some Vaseline on it, then covered it with plastic wrap and taped the plastic wrap down. He told me to keep the wrap on for at least for 4 hours, then lightly wash the area with water, and let it breathe as much as possible. I should put a light layer of Vaseline or something similar (I used Neosporin with my first tattoo) on it once or twice a day until it heals. He said that he was very impressed with me. He had a feeling that with a quote like this one, and the giant scar on my stomach, I’d be a girl that could handle a little pain. He didn’t expect me to stay as still as I did (he actually said I didn’t even move). He then said “tough girl” in English and chuckled. I thanked him, and headed upstairs. My friends weren’t expecting to see me so quickly. Charlotte and Joan had left to go to a supermarket to get some booze, so it was just Kyle, Laney and Sheila. They were all super excited for me, and they loved how it looked, but since Charlotte was the only one in the group who already had a tattoo (besides me), everyone else was trying to handle me with kid gloves…

Translation: Nearly all men die of their treatments and not of their maladies..
Molière: The Imaginary Invalid
Act III, sc iii

We walked around a little to go find some food, and we ended up stopping at this place that had all hand-written menus that were chalkboards on the walls. The place is called Chouchou & Loulou (140, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011). I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to have… I wasn’t feeling all that hungry when we initially sat down, but I knew I wanted to have the crème brulée for dessert at least. Most of my friends had pasta, but Kyle and I had some different things… We thought Kyle had originally ordered horse meat because “cheval” was in the name of the dish, but that was only there because there was an egg on top of the steak, like the egg was a horseback rider and the steak was the horse… I had something VERY different, and VERY French. Steak tartare. I knew it was raw steak, it’s usually raw steak that’s been chopped up and mixed with seasonings. Kyle said he’d had it before, and it’s usually the texture that gets people, but that’s only the first couple of bites that people can’t handle, then they’re fine. So I ordered it.

Salad, Steak Tartare, and fries. Delicious.

I wasn’t too sure about this initially, but this ended up being one of the most delicious things I’ve had in France up to this point in the entire trip. The texture wasn’t an issue, it was chopped up well enough that it kind of melted in my mouth. It was mixed with a little bit of chopped pickle and sweet onion, and some spicy mustard. I cleared the plate. All I can say is that I’m seriously depressed that things like this aren’t allowed to be served back in America (dang food laws), because it was seriously that good. For the record, no I do not feel sick now that I’m writing this. I think this may have voided my eligibility to donate blood (we’ll see when I get home, I know I can’t donate it for another year because of my tattoo as it is), but I’d say it’s worth it.

We headed over to the Latin Quarter so Joan, Laney, Sheila and Charlotte could drink what booze they’d bought at the Seine, then we figured we’d go back to Bull’s Brothers. It had been a while since Kyle and I had been there, and Charlotte had never been. Laney and Sheila had bought some god awful rosé sparkling wine, and we couldn’t finish it. Bull’s Brothers had something special going on tonight… The entire bar area had black-light reactive string all over it like a web, and the bartenders had black-light reactive makeup on. For anyone who ever wants to go to Bull’s Brothers (27 rue de la Huchette, 75005), just know it’s probably better to be drunk by the time you get there. The cocktails (like a Sex on the Beach) are 11 euro, and the strong cocktails (like a Long Island Ice Tea) are 13 euro. Kyle and Laney had Energy Islands, which are Long Island Ice Teas (which Sheila ordered) with Red Bull instead of Coke. Charlotte ordered a Sex on the Beach. Joan didn’t order anything since she was pretty far gone from the vodka she’d mixed with lemonade on the Seine. I opted to not order anything either since I wasn’t sure how long we’d be there, I’d already spent a lot of money tonight, and the bar was swamped. I did try everyone else’s drinks, however, and that’s a new thing for me since I don’t drink hard liquor. Is trying a drink really drinking it…? Once everyone finished their drinks, we danced for a while, then we all left together since we didn’t want to take the nocturnal buses home.

Once Sheila and I got home, we cleaned up my tattoo, took the picture that’s earlier in the post (and like, 10 more), then I Facetimed my mother and Skyped my boyfriend so they could see it, and we both went to bed… at 3:30 in the morning… Overall, I’d say this was one of my favorite nights of my entire stay in France so far! It was certainly the most successful!

Ta vertu met ta gloire au-dessus de ton crime. -Corneille: Horace

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