Red Rocket Tattoo is on the third floor of a walkup building on West 37th, right in the armpit of New York. The stairwell walls are covered in framed tattoo templates: skulls, geishas, stereos, storm troopers, machine guns, Indian women with big feather headdresses, robots, roses, lips (“I LOVE GORDON”), spaceships (“WANDERLUST”), circus freaks (“STEP RIGHT UP”).
A long list of “Rocket Rules” hangs on the first floor landing. Number one: You must be 18 or older to get tattooed. Number three: This is an ADULT ESTABLISHMENT. This is NOT a daycare center. Number Five: NO ATTITUDES.
The waiting room manages to look dingy without seeming unclean. The long, L-shaped couch is brown pleather, with squashed, sighing pillows. A high school biology lab skeleton is perched in the corner. A taxidermy coyote silently howls by the front door. The vestibule is filled with the white noise of needles.
A sturdy metal table is piled high with black portfolios, organized by artist and theme. More tattoo templates and photographs: tribal signs, bug-eyed aliens, Chinese characters, double helices, Yoda, Buddha, flappers with no eyeballs in their sockets, rats, babes, Marie Antoinette, pirate ships atop blue frosted cupcakes (with sprinkles). Tattoos of men with tattoos riding old-fashioned bicycles. Barebreasted women with monarch butterflies covering their crotches. A sewing machine and spool of thread (“MAKE STUFF”). A skull and crossbones made out of eggs and bacon (“I HATE BRUNCH”).
Despite their boundless body art options, Red Rocket’s customers were playing it safe on the afternoon I visited. A gentleman wearing an American flag scarf asked the receptionist what the smallest available tattoo size was. An aging Frenchman in a black windbreaker had stopped by with his identically dressed wife so that he could get Snoopy tattooed on his arm. Fortunately the receptionist was bilingual. Two young British women came in toting Toys R Us and Hard Rock Cafe bags— one requested a red delicious apple design on her wrist.
Located just blocks away from Times Square, it appears Red Rocket is the conveniently positioned parlor where tourists go to get inked. It’s the spot where New York City first-timers come for the ultimate souvenir.
A few more days
A final Hi meeting
The local neighborhood bar has a quiet time between six and nine. It is a place that specializes in coffee, beer and seasonal menus. There is just enough of each for a satisfying snack and effective buzz. After the time when the laptop lids close and before the social gatherings start -- there is a sort of twilight*. Often this time is a fugitive ground rife with creative inspiration and meditative work -- of the kind that results in personal reward.*twilight may refer to civil, nautical or astronomical variety depending on your social or terrestrial condition
A man positions his mouse on the edge of his browser window. He clicks, holds and drags the viewport first left then right. The content of a video game promo micro site responds and adapts to the available space. To the man, this is more delightful than the game itself.
A man laboriously moves his piano down three levels onto the subway platform. Classic vocals and strided chords -- he played so well I swore he was blind. Oblivious to the heat on that August stage, he was most in touch with his audience -- whom he elevated with his music.
A woman should do exactly as she pleases no matter what a man may think.
As the Dalai Lama once said, "It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room."
"No one understands me," she said. Her grandmother was silent for a minute. It seemed she was searching for an answer in the star speckled sky. "But no one understands anyone in this world, darling. We are all unique. It is what gives us a sense of wonder."