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Season 4, Episode 1: Baltimore Tattoo Museum

In the season opener, Frank heads back to the old sailing port, Fell’s Point, to visit a museum honoring one thing sailors love … tattoos.

Frank's Thoughts

While I have always been fascinated with tattoos, I’m not sure where that fascination stems from. None of my relatives have tattoos. I grew up in the country, so most people I knew didn’t have any tattoos. My only real, major exposure to tattoos was through media. Television, movies, band photos (I’m a bit of a music nut), were my only gateway into the world of ink on skin.

Still, from as young as I can remember, I’ve wanted a tattoo. Of course my parents said, “No. Never. Not in this lifetime.” But eventually they softened, probably mostly because they knew that when I turned 18 they couldn’t stop me, so why not just embrace it. And I did just that. When I turned 18 and went off to college, I saved and got my first tattoo (I didn’t want it to be cheap). I knew what I wanted when I went in. The artist - yes, tattoo artists are truly artists - drew up what I described, and then put it on transfer paper. You can you can see this process in this episode.

I was a combination of excited and nervous. I thought for sure it was going to be too painful and that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the process, and then I’d forever have this weird, half-finished tattoo on my back. That fear was only accentuated when he turned on the tattoo machine. That buzzing can be intimidating for someone not accustomed to it. It sounds like an angry hornets nest - you will definitely be able to hear some of this in the episode. I clenched the chair, closed my eyes, and waited.

Sure it hurt, but not much. It oddly feels good. It’s hard to describe, but if you have multiple tattoos, you’ll know what I mean. There is something in the endorphins released when getting a tattoo that just kind of numbs it. After a while, it’s almost meditative and the tattoo machine sounds less like an angry insect and more like a white noise machine. I’ve heard people say “I can’t imagine someone falling asleep while getting a tattoo done.” (People do, especially during long sessions.) I haven’t fallen asleep, but I can imagine it.

There’s just a sense of calm and zen while getting a tattoo.

Which is probably why after that first one, I’ve gotten many, many, more.

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