1987: "It's Not A Matter Of Life & Death": 3D Brain

The 3rd & final part of my initial trilogy of tattoos collectively entitled "It's Not A Matter Of Life & Death" that began with DNA & was followed by Cross-Bones ended with this 3D Brain & was done done by tattooist Juli Moon again.

I highly value the ability to think & think that more thoughtfullness, more mindfullness would go a long way toward solving problems. Hence this brain tattoo as a signifier of my preference. As I noted in the Tattoos index page's introduction: "As I explained to many people, some people "wear their heart on their sleeve" (ie: show their emotions) & I "wear my brain on my head" (ie: show that I like to think)."

I made it 3D to make it more interesting & to go where few tattooed people that I knew of (none, actually) had gone before: into the realm of Op Art. As usual, I wanted to be innovative. For many years, I carried 3D glasses around with me so people could see the tattoo in its full glory. AT one point I had a molded latex hat shaped to look like a brain. I'd wear the hat & if people complimented me on it, I'd take it off & bow & show them the 3D brain tattoo underneath. This, of course, is a form of street theater. The 3D brain tattoo is a highly successful conversation piece to this day.

In 1987, when I got it tattooed, head tattoos were close to non-existent. I'd never met anyone with one. Tattooist wouldn't generally tattoo people on heads, faces, or hands - in other words on places where the tattoos couldn't be covered over. getting such a tattoo was considered to be a form of social suicide. One wouldn't be able to get a job, for example, with such tattoos.

Since I was already such an 'extreme' person inclined toward wearing extraordinary clothing & having haircuts far, FAR outside the norm that weren't even representative of the most 'extreme' subcultures & since I had no intention of bowing to the norm of mediocrity it was my decision that society would have to adjust to my standards & not me to its.

Even tattooists thought I was 'crazy' for being so 'outrageous' & tried to discourage me. The 1st tattooist I went to refused to give me the tattoo saying I "wouldn't be able to stand the pain". The 2nd tattooist I went to refused to give me the tattoo saying she was "sick of identifying corpses for the police". Juli Moon agreed to do it.

It took three 3-hour long sessions to do. It wasn't painful as much as it was shock-inducing. Imagine having a tiny jack-hammer working over your skull for 3 hours straight.

I was harrassed & threatened on the streets of Harm City, as I call Baltimore as a take-off of its one-time PR name: "Charm City", on a daily basis. If I went outside, I could expect to have to deal with people shouting insults at me from passing car windows or with groups of 3 or more wishing me bodily harm. I'd already developed the skill of radiating psychosis & it was real. if anyone had attacked me there's a high probability that I would do as much damage to them as I could.

Once I got the 3D brain tattoo, people started to get seriously afraid of me. That suited me just fine because I hated them even more than they hated me but I didn't want to have to turn into a murderer to prove it. Live & Let Live has always been my philosophy but it certainly wasn't with most of the people who crossed my path. After I got the 3D brain tattoo, people started keeping more of a distance from me.

Alas, by 2 years later, there was an upsurge of white supremacism in Baltimore which the mass media exaggerated for the sake of its sensationalist sales value. Since I kept my head shaved to enable displaying the tattoo, I became a symbol for the thoughtless of this new nazi skinhead 'movement'. Given that I've always been an anti-racist, this was the usual stupidity but stupidity can get a person killed. This resulted in my being threatened & insulted by blacks on the streets at a new high level. Fortunately, there were intelligent people who counterbalanced this.


I did decide to keep the tattoo inside my hairline of the time. I knew that I was balding & that eventually I wouldn't have the option of covering it with hair. I remember talking with one macho coward moron at some sort of tech flea-market who told me I'd "regret getting the tattoo" when I was balder. I've never regretted it, I'm still very proud of it 29 years later. What people like him never understand is that not everyone's as cowardly or as weak as they are.

In fact, a mock alternative to this 3D brain tattoo at the time was to get a bad toupee hairnet tattooed on my head so that as my hair thinned the hairnet would show.

Here the tattoo is just drawn on 1st to give the tattooist a template to work from.


Various shots of the tattoo in-progress in the 1st session of tattooing.


One of the subtleties of this tattoo that's beeen lost with fading are the tiny lines fanning out from the ends of the main red & green lines in the front. I had capillaries in yellow, brown, & green coming off the green lines ymsbolizing organic growth. I had capillaries in red, orange, & white(?) coming off the red lines symbolizing explosive growth. The former were like roots, the latter like fuses. The tattoo faded & was eventually redone somewhat but the person who redid it wasn't asked to try to get the finer points.

In 1987 or 1988 my girlfriend Laura A. Trueseal had a friend who was doing photography for the BalTimOre City Paper & he wanted to do an article about me - largely because I'd just gotten the 3D brain tattoo. When I talked to him about it, he told me he thought I was "crazy" for doing this. Nonetheless, we went ahead with the shoot. I completely directed the composition of the above photograph & I used it on the front cover of my book entitled "How to Write a Resumé - Volume II: Making a Good First Impression".

When the photographer who thought I was "crazy" showed his portfoilio to a photographer he respected for appraisal the only photo the appraising photographer liked was the one of me that I'd directed the composition of. Then the photographer thought that maybe I wasn't so "crazy" after all.





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