My very first tattoo, I got this just after my 21st birthday. I was back in NJ at my parent's house, where I did most of my growing up. He was a character, and definitely an old salt. My dad helped me find the place the week before, and my mom gave me the cash right before I went out the door. She was bummed when I came home and said that I had been told to keep the bandage on overnite: she wanted to see it right then. My folks weren't too sure about why I wanted a tattoo and I had many curious reasons when I really thought about it. One thing was for sure: I had the clear sense that this was something that I had done before and that I was probably going to continue to do.
I worked for Shakespeare Santa Cruz that summer and spent most of the summer thinking about getting tattooed obsessively. I would go to the UCSC library during my lunches and browse the special collections for anthropology texts the included tattoos. I found a Japanese dictionary that included pictures of the actual kanji, and kept checking it out until it was requested by another student. I photocopied dozens of pages, pouring over them again and again until I made my choice. The book vanished from the library shortly thereafter, leaving me with just my photocopies.