ON THE ROAD: Ft. Walton Beach, FL


Skin & Ink Magazine, January 1999

Photographed by Erika Stanley
Co-written by Erika Stanley


This month's adventure takes us to supposedly sunny Florida for Spring Break, where we worked a guest spot at Fort Walton Beach's Tattoos Forever.

We rolled into town from New Orleans last night with The Curse of El Nino on our heels. Jim Perlman wasn't home when we arrived, but his houseguest, Will, let us in. He said something about Jim being at a concert in Pensacola and pointed to the two couches that were to be our beds. Obviously accustomed with the concept of Couch Tour Karma, Jim was housing 5 weary travelers in the same week. Nonetheless, we crashed pretty hard. The steady partying over the last weekend at the National Tattoo Convention in Los Angeles took its toll. We awoke to a strange noise. It sounded like an animal was running through the room so fast that it was banking off the couches, just above our blanket covered heads. We could hear the wind from it blazing through, the Doppler effect as it passed over, and then it spoke! It said quite audibly, "I am Beelzebub". That was enough for me! I was awake. Apparently, this demon creature was Jim's cat, Dugan.

We went out for breakfast with Jim. Erika met him previously in L.A., but this was our first meeting. He wanted to brief us on the politics we might encounter at the shop. It was nice, for a change, to know what to expect considering we've worked in a number of shops and have been dropped into the middle of some pretty crazy dramas! I could tell we'd get along well. Too well, perhaps. We spent the day shopping and checking out the town. By noon, Jim had already hit me on the head with numerous straw wrapper darts and even tried pushing me out of his car! This man had become my sworn enemy! I thought I'd let it slide, but by midnight I had all I could take. So, in the middle of a Whattaburger, I lunged across the table and grabbed Jim by his larynx. He fell down onto the bench and dragged me with him. I released my Vulcan death grip and slumped back into my seat. That same minute, he shot another straw wrapper at me! Without expression, I grabbed one of Erika's fries, dipped it, and wung it gravy end first at his forehead like a Chinese throwing star! While Jim ate the fry and wiped the remains of gravy from his brow, Erika shook her head in embarrassment, "You're drunk!"

"Drunk?!" I retorted. "Did you check out my accuracy?"

Erika and I blew into the shop just in time to set up and work on matching armbands, chain link even. They were a couple of tough guys that acted like their world would end when we told them to stay out of the sun. They sounded like they did the voices on 'King of the Hill'. My customer said something like, "I dun died three times an I'm only twenny-three, you bedder believe it!" (Meant to be read in your best Gump voice!) After we settled in, we toured the shop. It is very spacious, with separate rooms for each artist and piercer. Sesame and Heather are the piercers. Christy, Bill, and Jamie are the receptionists. Our favorite part of the shop was the front window. Jim, the nice guy that he is, took it upon himself to make a poster that announced our arrival!

After work, we went next door to a bar called 'The Point' to shoot pool with the owner of the shop, Jeff Bullard. Erika mercilessly kicked his ass. When it was my turn to play, I warned him, "You're gonna get your 50 cents worth on this game, because I can make it last a whole hour!" And then proceeded to play very badly. We had a good laugh over the fact that it only takes 50 cents to keep me entertained for a whole hour, and about $3 to get me drunk. So, I decided to have Erika tattoo 'Cheap Date' on the inside my lower lip that night. It was one of those spur of the moment drunk things, whatever. Jeff coined us 'the 'Ab Fab' of the tattoo world'. At first glance, Jeff looks like the kind of guy you'd say 'sir' to, but after only a few moments, you realize that he's just a Monchichi in biker clothes.
All those games of pool made us work up an appetite, so we went to a Mexican restaurant with Jim and some of his friends. It was two for one beer night, so we closed the place. By the end of the night, Jim had placed a Mariachi hat on my head and smeared melted cheese across my face. Paybacks suck!

Our last day. I already knew that leaving would be hard. We only worked with these people for a week, but we had such a great time! Erika had an appointment to tattoo Pauly all day. She drew up a dragon, and threw it on him complete with gray shading in 6 hours. She really had fun with this piece since she swore up and down that she wasn't leaving without throwing down a custom piece. She was pretty worn out afterwards. Maybe her resistance was down from all the breakdancing. Because I walked into the tattoo shop with a leash in my hands, saying, "Look what followed me! Can we keep him?" She eyeballed the 6 foot something, skinny, Goth boy at the end of my leash and said, "yeah, but you have to feed him."
To Be Continued...