Tattoo Me

   We just returned from a trip to visit my mother and sisters in Alberta. (They didn’t start out in Canada, but all moved there around the time I was a senior in college, beginning with my parents, who moved to a ranch in BC, along with my youngest sister. Meanwhile my other two sisters, who went to college in Alberta, married Canucks. I’m the Remainer. (Although the Trumpocalypse has me re-visiting that decision.)
    One of my Canadian nephews is a gifted artist – Mark Schmidt Art – and musician – Invin – and professional tattoo artist – Mark Schmidt Tattoos. Knowing I was going to be visiting his shop was enough to push me past the edge of wondering if I should get a simple pair of tattoos. I had been daydreaming about having some favorite words “typed”, in typewriter-like script, on my inner forearms.
    On the left inner forearm:


   There’s a reason this is the title of the novel I’m working on, creating my “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott calls them. Shitty First Draft
   Jeebus (or, Jebus) has a wonderful backstory. From my first draft:
   I’m no missionary, I don’t even believe in Jeebus! … Save me, Jeebus! – HOMER SIMPSON (The Simpsons – Episode 15, Season 11 – “Missionary:Impossible”)
   Jeebus – Variation of “Jesus” first invented by Duke Ellington so as not to be beaten by nuns. Borrowed by Frank Zappa and, from there, by Matt Groening.Urban Dictionary – Comment by “mavi”, August 30, 2007)
   Besides the lovely backstory, I like the idea of personalizing the name of Jesus. Just because it’s personal. And, it gives a little tweak to the shibboleth, “What Would Jesus Do.” Give that name to a redeemer figure in a novel and I’m keen to write that story, even if it’s just for my own edification and nobody reads it.
   Turn the question into a tattoo and I’ve given myself the power of icons and symbols. The tattoo gives me creative electricity. And a conversation starter.
   On the right inner forearm:


   This is borrowed from Jitterbug Perfume, my favorite Tom Robbins novel.
   It means Lighten up!
   The best way to show how Tom uses the word is to look to the final pages of the novel. The main female character is Kudra, a woman of many talents, including distilling marvellous perfumes. Near the end of the story, after following her through centuries (she and her partner, Alobar, discovered the secrets of immortality), she winds up, unexpectedly, in the staging area for the Afterlife.
   In Egyptian mythology the Afterlife begins at a wharf where ghostly ships and barges come and go. Your Afterlife destiny is determined when the Wharfmaster, a young woman, has her assistant cut out your heart. Still beating, it is weighed on a balance against a feather. If your heart is lighter than a feather, you win immortality. If not, you will most likely vanish in a poof of spirit. If you are close to lighthearted, you may win a birth on an eternal party barge, marked HELL on one side, and HEAVEN on the other. You’re in for an eternal party, which for some will be hell, for others heaven.
   Kudra just wants out, back to her earthly version of immortality. The Wharfmaster is sympathetic and directs her to look for a door that will lead back to earthly life. Kudra is flummoxed, because there are many doors. The Wharfmaster directs her to a door marked ERLEICHDA. Lighten up.
   I’m someone who needs that reminder almost constantly, to ward off habitual high anxiety and to stop taking myself, and everything and everybody else, so damned seriously.
   Now I have it tattoed on my body where I can easily see it. As can others, giving me another conversation starter.
   Not that I’m looking for conversations. I’m a card-carrying introvert. But I do like the right kind of conversations. Like the ones that might be lit off by my tattoos.