The Flower Priest

The Flower Priest

rochishin by carl hallowell

What to say of this, a piece I worked on for years, on a great friend and a great artist, who’s strength is equal to his talent… Over and over what impresses me is the ability of my customers to stand up to the intense physical pain of tattooing… This pain is especially excruciating when doled out across large areas of the body- and the back is the largest area we have. This is called turtle back horimono, kame no koh, and represents the ultimate achievement in tattooing outside of the full bodysuit. It was my pleasure to work on this piece, again and again, month after month, year after year.

Hours would pass when a single conversation unfurled like a flag slowly blowing in the wind. It was relaxed, as if we were fishing, or sitting around enjoying a smoke. But all the while we were hammering, hammering… The armature pulling down, magnetized, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand times… a hundred thousand holes in the dermis letting the sunshine of pigment in.  As I man the machine he tries his best to become a piece of paper, a lay down table… We talk on, then, take a break for concentration.

The Flower Priest smashing the tree represents killing the buddha, usurping the place of the master in the reality of today. All respect and hierarchy is set aside in a fit of mindless strength, a zen of rage, a nirvana of awakening. The Past is uprooted and passed up. From here on- a new chapter. A man is born. A rite of passage has been achieved.

Reading the folklore of the Japanese will hip you to other layers of meaning herein, and in all japanese artwork and adornment. Studying the culture will help you catch the moon in the water. Well, at least perceive it with enhanced vision… I cannot type it all nor would I want to nor do I know it all. But Kerouac pointed me to the east many, many years ago…

I stand at the roadside, my thumb pointed up towards the sky. The wind of the midwest is cool and comforting, It blows the hair off my forehead, blows through the hairs on my arms.   The van is done. The band has broken up. The road goes on. There is my friend just ahead of me. Stronger, BL has gotten ahead of me. I follow him as the sun lazes about in the sky. We are waiting on a ride, out here on a state highway, with nothing but our homemade tattoos and a couple of backpacks. We are waiting on a miracle. We are just throwing the cards up in the air and seeing where they will land.

Meditating on the pine surrounding the Flower Priest, packing in the stg green, I have traveled back in time to that Nebraska highway. JA mentions the pain is much better here, up on the shoulder blade. It brings me back. The breeze of the highwayside has given way to cold Texas AC. The emptiness of the hoboing life has filled, my fiancé waits for me at home. No longer am i a country boy far away from home, I am a city boy in the heart of it all. Pounding the pigment in downtown Dallas, neon light is everywhere. The music is good, surrounds us. All these senses are active, alive.

A new customer hits the door and I size him up at a moment’s notice. I don’t even have to look. I know if he wants tattooed tonight. I know if he wants tattooed at all. A loud cackle pierces the air. It almost hurts the ears in a visceral way. It intensifies the workload before me, it multiplies the pain of the client. A group of customers has migrated to the rail to gawk a little and talk a lot amongst themselves. They make sure to raise their voices, lest their ignorance go unnoticed and scatter in the night… A quiet girl, meanwhile, is pointing out a rose on the wall at the other end of the shop… She points to it and the points down at her forearm… This is the perfect customer, much like the one laying before me… I dip the needles again, and start another hour of tattooing…

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