Getting inked: The editor’s experience

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Nick Sanchez, the proprietor of Redemption Tattoo, works on a tattoo for Justin Griffin, this story's author. [Bryan Mordt]

Needles are not my thing. I used to pass out when I had to get a vaccination as a kid. Watching the needle touch my skin, even to this day, makes me lightheaded.

Despite my fear, I’ve always considered getting a tattoo. From conversations with my wife, I knew that Foghorn Leghorn would be somehow involved. He was always my favorite Warner Bros. cartoon growing up. So, after years of thinking about it, I decided 2022 was going to be the year. I’ve recently moved from West Virginia, and the timing seemed perfect.

The next decision: Who was going to do it? I always try to patronize businesses that support the publication I work for. I did it back East and here in Maricopa, it’s no different.

I went and talked with Nick Sanchez, the owner of Redemption Tattoo. It wasn’t a sure thing, however, that he was my choice.

It was important to me to talk to him about what kind of work he was comfortable doing and I wanted to look at his shop. I was looking for all the things anyone should consider — cleanliness, organization, whether the shop looks like a comfortable place for clients. I also wanted to feel out the shop’s vibe. On top of that, would he even agree to do the tattoo I wanted?

A sign in Nick’s parlor says, “Everyone gets the tattoo they deserve.” He’s right. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Tattoos are permanent and require some thought. I was looking for something amusing, but with a meaningful undertone.

I shared my idea with Nick, whose specialty is black and gray. With my newspaper background, the idea resonated with me, like newsprint and the printer’s ink that’s long ran in my veins.

So, in the end, we planned it, and the day came. I showed up and looked at the piece Nick had drawn up for me. I laughed. But in a good way. Foghorn Leghorn — at a typewriter — was perfect. And the black and gray motif gave it an old-fashioned feel. It fit me to a tee.

I wasn’t expecting it, but Nick did what any good artist does, he took my idea and merged his thoughts and came up with something both amusing and thoughtful.

Soon, I was in the chair. After a few moments of setting everything up just right, the stenciled artwork was on my arm, and it was time for the needle to hit my skin.

I looked away and made a point not to look directly at the work being done. The needle stung a bit at first, but the discomfort wasn’t too bad. As time went on — it was nearly a three-hour session, by the way — the pain started to mount.

I likened the experience to eating hot wings — by the time you get to the last one, you’re sweating. Occasionally, I told Nick to find a stopping point so I could take a minute to collect myself. Even at those points, it wasn’t all that bad. I just wanted to make sure I could remain still.

Foghorn Leghorn at a typewriter, Justin’s freshly inked tattoo. [Bryan Mordt]
But the pain really worsened during the last 10-15 minutes of the session, as Nick filled in white highlights. At that point, my skin was thoroughly irritated, and I was ready for the session to be done.

And then it was over.

At home, I took ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, drank plenty of fluids and passed out on the couch. I wasn’t tired, or so I thought, but my body was flooded with endorphins. I was relaxed on a level I hadn’t been in months, maybe even years.

The pain after the fact was like a rough sunburn, with the tattoo itself warmer than the surrounding areas. It took three days for the redness to dissipate, followed by light itchiness. By the fifth day, I had some light peeling. I washed it three times a day, followed by the application of an aftercare salve Nick provides all his customers.

With everything considered, it wasn’t a bad experience. I like the artwork gracing my left arm. The pain, while present, wasn’t overwhelming and as of this writing, my tattoo seems to be healing well.

I can almost hear the old rooster pecking away.

“I say, I say, I say!”

This content was first published in the June edition of InMaricopa magazine.