My newest Tattoo Artist Magazine blog just posted, this one is about my good friend Famous Gabe. Thanks again to TAM for giving me this opportunity.
Here is a short exert:
“It’s been almost 10 years since I got some of the greatest advice I’ve ever been lucky enough to receive. I was getting tattooed in Pensacola, Florida at a beautiful shop called Hula Moon. Famous Gabe, a name he received from Bob Montagna, was tattooing me, a little skinny 19 year old. I had just received news that I was going to start my apprenticeship at Aerochild Tattoos, and was so excited that it was all I could talk about. While I was going on and on about it, Gabe said something that stays with me to this very day, he said, “Some people want to be rock stars in tattooing, ya know, but fuck that, I would rather tattoo the blue collar working guy and give him the best tattoo he is gonna get.”. Years later, I found myself in a situation where I felt like I completely lost touch with my roots and where I had come from, and those words rang in my head. In Gabe’s words, “You took the road less traveled, the strange road, and you came home.” Here is the story that comes from my home, about a man who has changed my life, and how he got into tattooing.
First, a little background about him. Famous Gabe Smith has been tattooing over 20 years now and is the owner of Hula Moon in Pensacola, Florida, which has now been open for over 10 years. He’s traveled the world, done enough paintings that could line 10 shops, and put in more hours of tattooing than that of 10 tattooers careers combined. Gabe has traveled the world tattooing and has a good story about every place he has been. To me, Gabe truly is tattooing at it finest, storyteller, artist, and honest. Without further ado, here’s how Famous Gabe Smith got into tattooing, in his words.
“It seems like yesterday all this started but it wasn’t overnight and now I look back at a road traveled and it has been such a long road, over many mountains, and rocky steps. There were the ups and downs but that’s life. I learned from a crazy native american guy called Captain Billy. He taught me a lot not just tattooing but becoming a man too.”
Recently I was fortunate enough to have Tattoo Artist Magazine ask me to keep up a blog on their site.
Here is a small exert of the blog I started doing for them,
“There is nothing like the sound of a solid, in tune tattoo machine. The thick buzz, the pop as the needle first hits the skin, and the feeling as you pull a clean, solid line. Any tattooer will tell you, “that’s addictive.” The feeling of tattooing, it’s like nothing else. That is why I tattoo. All I can think about day in and day out is that feeling. It’s like when you first fall in love and nothing matters but you and that other person. That is tattooing… It’s a passionate love affair that found me in a small town in south Alabama over 15 years ago, it has taken me half-way across the world, and brought me right back to the same small town…
I wanted to write something for the TAM blog that showed the positive light of tattooing, something that all tattooers could identify with, and something that people who were interested in tattooing could also find themselves in, and what better than the love of tattooing.
The first few of these blogs are going to be about how certain tattooers got into tattooing, how their passionate love affair began and where it is taking them today. I am going to talk to friends of mine, people who found tattooing and realized that it is something they could never live without. First, I’ll tell you how it grabbed hold of me…”
Check out more here at the Tattoo Artist Magazine blog.
Thanks again everybody at TAM for asking me to be involved.
In other news, have you heard about the Occupy Wall Street Protest.
Read more at occupywallst.org
And lastly, check out this video, it’s pretty awesome.
It’s something that we all face, and will ultimately experience.
It’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, and a quote from my step dad that i’ve shared before keeps coming to mind.
“You know, we take advantage of so much. We have to be always learning, always looking, always seeking. Ya gotta learn til ya die son. I try to walk a different way to the mailbox to see something new, something that was always there, but I didn’t notice it. A different angle of a tree, a different yard, something new. That’s what life is about, never taking for granted all that is around you and everything you have. Always learning, never giving up.”
“Always learning, never giving up.”
That keeps ringing in my ears, over and over again.
“Always learning, never giving up.”
Today is one of those days that people spend remembering, and thinking about times past, and in that, I feel we should remember, “always learning, never giving up.”
Honoring those that we love with our lives by “always learning, never giving up.”
This piece was originally a piece I wrote for tattoosnob.org.
Kevin was kind enough to ask me to write for them, and i will be doing more pieces for them soon.
I wanted to post the essay here on my site too.
I hope you enjoy. 🙂
Pete and I were looking out from the front of the new shop, the bay glistening in our sights, and he looked over at me and said, “It’s like watching a terminally ill family member die before you. It’s looming, impending, and there is nothing you can do about it, everyday you watch them fade before you.” Pete was talking about the bay that we had both grown up on. I grew up on the Eastern shore of it, and he grew up on the other side, in Mobile. This was a few days after the oil spill in April that forever changed our lives. I worked with him a lot at that point, trying to do the build out for the second shop we were opening on the eastern shore. Our conversations always went in every direction, but seemed to come back to the spill, time and time again.
I think we have all turned on the television, and watched some sort of horrific sight happening before our eyes. Floods, earthquakes, war, all of these visuals are constantly brought to our eyes, but we can change the channel. We see them, and change the channel, it’s a natural reaction, because it’s not happening to us. The events from the Deep Water Horizon were real, more real than anything I had experienced. We had all lived through hurricanes, but this was something different. Hurricanes come, and leave, and then you clean up. They are devastating, but when they are gone, they are gone, they don’t sneak up behind you and say, “Just kidding, I’m back”. This spill, if you want to call it that, was different, it was, and still is, a looming giant. Everyday we watched in horror, watching the projected path get closer and closer to us, knowing that if it reached our bay, it would potentially destroy our fragile ecosystem. For a month or so we waited, everyone talking about everything from “oil rain” to whether or not we could eat our veggies from our gardens, hoping something would happen to change this. Then dead sea gulls starting washing ashore, and we all knew where we were.
I got a text message when the oil started washing up on the shore in Gulf Shores. I grew up skateboarding, spending my endless days of summer down at the gulf. My memories are of skateboarding all day, and swimming all night, every teenage kids dream. As an adult, I spent countless moon lit nights walking down the beach, a beach riddled with pilings and bits of piers left over from hurricanes, figuring out what I was going to do with my life. This beach gave me more answers that college ever could. Now those beautiful white sands had started to turn black. Before the oil was the dead birds. The dead birds signaled the impending oil on the horizon. Normally, birds are a signal of land for the weary sailor, but for us, it became a different signal, an all together too real, frightening one. One by one the birds turned up on shore, covered in black goop, choking, dying, or already dead. These dead birds signified our future in our eyes.
The oil started washing ashore as tar balls, little black/brownish balls that riddled our shore line like buck shot on a hunting ground. I couldn’t bear to see it, so I stayed away from the beach. It was selfish, but it broke my heart, and I just wanted to act like it wasn’t really there, just like everyone else did and would. I wanted to act like my loved one wasn’t dying. Once the oil started washing up in sheets, you could no longer ignore it, it was there, and it was making its presence known, choking the life out of everything under it. It was like watching the water make a death bed, telling us that this is where our ways have gotten us. This is when I decided to go down to the beach, to see what was happening with my eyes, not through the eyes of the ever changing media.
The oil clean up was definitely quick and good at making everything look “clean”. As I walked down the main beach, it was hard to see if there was even any oil in sight. They worked all day and night, sucking up oil, so that things looked “ok”. The problem with oil and sand is that oil sinks through the sand, seeping into every pour, further and further down. The images of children digging on our supposed “clean” beaches, and pulling up handfuls of oil was striking. I suppose it was fitting really, in the sense of how we try to clean up most problems in our world, usually just working with the surface, never going deeper. As I walked down the beach, and glanced in small holes, all i saw staring back at me were brown globs, below the surface everyone saw.
After seeing the main beach, I headed down to the main pier at the Gulf State Park, a very familiar beautiful place. I pulled up, shaking and terrified, scared of what I was going to see. I felt like I was visiting my grandmother right before she passed away, scared to look into her eyes and know that this was the last time I would ever see her in this way. Which is selfish, in the end, because in death we are angry that we will never see that person again, in our eyes, even if they have made their peace and are ready, we are not always ready. We walked up the pier, and started to look over the water front. Everything was immediately different. Normally you had 50 or so feet of wading area, where everyone would swim, and then the deep water much further out where the fish were, where all the fishermen were spending there days. Now, when I looked out onto the water, all I could see in the wading area were fish, thousands of them, swimming in tight circles. Sting rays lined the bottom of the floor, with mullet and other fish swimming over them, in huge schools. Charging through these were sharks, cutting through the school’s of mullet, devouring all they could. It was like a huge aquarium, something you would see in a glass cage, but instead, this was reality. It was the most surreal event of my life. Everyone watched in amazement, staring, jaws dropped at the sight of every fish that would be out in deep water, here in front of us, on top of each other, grasping for oxygen. The Oil had pushed them there, pushed them inward, away from there home, and to an area that will slowly choke them and kill them, just like it did the fishermen and the economy where we live.
A huge part of our economy is the fishing industry. Everyone fishes here, the shoulder of the causeway going across the bay is filled with people fishing, fishing to make a living, and fishing to eat that night. You see, where we live, a majority of people are blue collar, and working to survive. When this oil pushed the fish to the shore, to be eaten by the sharks, it did the same to our economy and our workers. It pushed the fisherman toward the shore, to then be eaten by the BP execs offering to give them a job. Their “jobs” only lasted so long, and put them in harm’s way, causing many to get sick. But that’s ok, they are just little fish that have to be sacrificed, right? It is sickening to watch.
In very anti-climactic moments over the past few months, the well has been capped, and the beaches have been “cleaned”. The Oil Spill becomes something we hear less and less about, and there is almost a sense of normalcy, until the brown tar disbursement goo washes ashore every few weeks or so to remind us that this is never over. It reminds us that everything is different now, nothing will ever be the same.
Before the Deep Water Horizon, we (Mobile) were slated to be the first city to completely bounce back from the recession. We were the Great Hope. We had new contracts at the ship yards, new businesses coming downtown, everything was hopeful. Now, 5 months later, the well is supposedly capped, and everything is back to normal, right? But what is normal? We were lucky in my town, because the oil didn’t get into our bay, I can’t tell you why it didn’t but by some act of the universe, we were spared, and we are thankful forever, but our lives are forever changed. Our economy is based off of our bay, and our Gulf, how do fishermen make money off of oily carcasses? They don’t. And so the Great Hope was destroyed. Our economy, the economy of the entire Gulf Coast, has suffered more than they want to tell you. Our environment has suffered, more than they want to tell you. They don’t want to tell you any of these things, because the worst is over and now for the next “headline”. This is what remains and is standing strong, Our Will. Our will to live, and to try to take care of our home is something that no BP exec can take away, or try to buy from us.
I’ve always said the same thing, I’m not one of those tattooers who is tattooing to pay for my fancy car and huge mansion. I’m not tattooing to help fund one of my many other business ventures, not that there is anything wrong with any of that, for everyone has a path that is theirs, that is just not mine. I have always been a working tattooer, never making money hand over fist. I tattoo because I have to, it’s a spirit I have to exercise, it’s something I have to do, like breathing. So you may ask, “Sean, that’s all well and good, but why are you telling me this, we were talking about the oil spill.” I tell you this because this is the mentality where I live, I don’t think I am out of the ordinary here. We do what we love because that is what we want to do and where we want to be. As our economy sinks, our wills grow stronger. I have never been more proud to be from where I am. Through all of this, I look at the people around me and find inspiration from everything and everyone. The farmers markets, the artists, and the resilience to never give up, and never back down. The small town I live in, Fairhope, is an artist community, founded as a utopia on the bay. And I feel it is still that, and will always be that because of the people here. Our lives were forever changed the day the birds started dying, but hopefully we will be able to change that to something that will mark a new beginning, an awakening, to the world around us, our connection to it, and everything around us, and our responsibility to make a change.
We are all connected, everyone of us, with the world around us, the environment, and the people. I look around me here and now I see more gardens being planted in my neighborhood, more people buying from the local farmer’s market, more people supporting local, and it gives hope. Watching more people getting around on bicycles, more people watching where they spend there money, what they contribute to, it gives hope. The price that was paid was horrible, something that can never be really truly be understood, but hopefully everyone realizes this and will live more ethically, responsibly and recognize the connection that is really so key to our lives. Hopefully all those deaths, all those senseless killings, were not in vain. We may be one small town in Alabama, but maybe the awakening can start here, can start now.
In the end I remembered this, death is nothing but a fear, and the end is never the end, this is all a ride. Going back to the beginning, and talking about watching a terminally ill family member die. The reason why that is so hard is because we are selfish, and we don’t want to see them go, we don’t want them to leave us. No matter how prepared for death they may be, we always want one more minute with them. Death is not the end, and it’s just the beginning of a new ride, one where if we remember how the last one went, we can anticipate the next drop, and enjoy it that much more. There is nothing to fear in life, there is nothing to control you, you can change the world, and will, as long as you remember and look forward to the next drop in the ride, and enjoy it.
If you are interested in helping in the recovery of my beautiful home, here are a few links to help
The guys at TattooSnob.com where kind enough to ask me to write an article for their site about the Oil Spill and how it affected my home. Thanks to Kevin and the guys at TattooSnob for the opportunity, here’s an exert.
“Pete and I were looking out from the front of the new shop, the bay glistening in our sights, and he looked over at me and said, “It’s like watching a terminally ill family member die before you. It’s looming, impending, and there is nothing you can do about it, everyday you watch them fade before you.” Pete was talking about the bay that we had both grown up on. I grew up on the Eastern shore of it, and he grew up on the other side, in Mobile. This was a few days after the oil spill in April that forever changed our lives. I worked with him a lot at that point, trying to do the build out for the second shop we were opening on the eastern shore. Our conversations went in every direction, but always seemed to come back to the spill, time and time again.
I think we have all turned on the television and watched some sort of horrific sight happening before our eyes. Floods, earthquakes, war… all of these visuals are constantly brought to our eyes, but we can change the channel. We see them, and change the channel; it’s a natural reaction, because it’s not happening to us. The events from the Deep Water Horizon were real, more real than anything I had experienced. We had all lived through hurricanes, but this was something different. Hurricanes come and leave, and then you clean up. They are devastating, but when they are gone, they are gone—they don’t sneak up behind you and say, “Just kidding, I’m back.” This spill (if you want to call it that) was different; it was, and still is, a looming giant. Every day we watched in horror, watching the projected path get closer and closer to us, knowing that if it reached our bay, it would potentially destroy our fragile ecosystem. For a month or so we waited, talking about everything from “oil rain” to whether or not we could eat veggies from our gardens, hoping something would happen to change this. Then dead seagulls starting washing ashore, and we all knew where we were.”
Check out more at tattoosnob.com
Today will be part one, and tomorrow they will put part two up.