Are tattoos to bodies what graffiti is to walls and buildings? I’m not sure. There’s been a lot in the press lately about tattoos and how they colour our judgement of a person who sports them. I’m not sure how I swing on that one, so perhaps this is why I found myself more attentive than usual this week to the tattoos worn in Budapest. For the most part, I don’t give it much thought, except to wonder why anyone would tattoo their face – that’s beyond me. But a couple I came across were particularly fascinating [and this doesn’t count yer man who had Ferencváros italicised across his chest…].
The first was on the décolletage of a young girl of about 18: a blue owl about 6 inches high, with its wings extended to her shoulder blades. It was beautiful, but I wondered how cool it would be when fashion became an issue. A statement that blue would certainly limit your colour palette although, on reflection, a blue sky goes with everything. But how does she cope with the world staring at her chest all the time? That would freak me out.
The second was a gym-body in his mid-thirties. On the front of his left shin, he had a knee-high pair of hands clasped in prayer. On the calf, he had the beatitudes, in English, although he wasn’t speaking English. I’ve seen crosses and all sorts of religious emblems before, but never a full transcript of the beatitudes. And were I to stereotype him, it wouldn’t have been as a churchgoer but then you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beatitudes.
But each to their own. I flirted briefly with the idea of getting a tatt when I was in Hawaii one year, but I didn’t. There was nothing original in the book I leafed through. And if I was going to mark myself indelibly for life, I wanted it to be with something that no one else had. And that would require more thought than I’m prepared to give it.
In Tuscany recently, the graffiti was just as strange, ranging from clever witticisms to painted anguish. For a while, it was as if I was reading instructions on how to live my life. I should have come to Tuscany years ago. I’ve often wondered what goes through a mind before the spray can or the paintbrush or the stencil is lifted? Do they have a design, a plan, a burning need to share? Do they know how a few random words on a wall might impact a life?
This one in Palma had me thinking for quite a while. I actually went back a second time and a third time to see if I could decide if it was the work of one person or two. It took me back in time to my trip to the Holy Land and the graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem. The sense of hopelessness jumped off the cement and stopped a few others in their tracks, too.
This one, in the walled city of Lucca, the furthest place from Planet Shit you could imagine, had me laugh out loud at first. And then, later, as the heat got to me and I passed it a second time, I had visions of a collective suicide and that sobered me up. Goes to show though, that even in paradise people are miserable.
This week has been a different one. I’ve been (and am) in a strange mood, not sure which end is up. I’m not depressed, down, or dispirited in any way – and for that, I’m grateful – really grateful. I’m actually fine. It’s just as if my people plug has been pulled and while I can happily relate to one or two, anything more leaves me completely blahed. I’ve been crowded out. It’s taking way too much effort to be sociable. It’ll take another week of this horrible 32-degree weather before I can blame it on the heat (and don’t you dare tell me to be grateful it’s not minus 32 – that I could live with). Perhaps in this heat-induced lethargy, I’ll start thinking about my tattoo.