It wasn’t surprising that my son Milo asked about tattoos. After arriving a few months ago from Philadelphia, we couldn’t help but notice that the tattoo culture is much bigger in Spokane than it is back East. After a baseball tournament in Idaho last month, Milo, 15, told me that he and his teammates on the 14U Spokane Expos were discussing body art.
A number of his new friends talked about getting “tatted” with crucifixes and phrases. When I asked Milo if he ever thought about getting inked, he said he would like to place the cover art of Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy” album on his back or ribs. “The album is so important to me,” Milo explained. “ ‘Twin Fantasy’ changed my life.”
Milo isn’t exaggerating. My sports-obsessed boy immersed himself in the album and would listen to the 12-minute epic tune “Beach Life-in-Death” over and over. Milo would dissect the disparate set of 10 tunes, which are connected by an invisible thread. I’m not a tattoo guy, but I’m impressed since the band is so significant for Milo, who was a casual music fan before discovering “Twin Fantasy.”
Will Toledo, CSH’s singer-songwriter, crafted an old school album’s worth of catchy, quirky songs, which are the finest teen-angst tracks I’ve heard in a generation. Milo experienced six CSH shows in nine months during 2018-19. During a Philly show, the band pulled Milo up onstage to play a cowbell during his favorite CSH song, “Destroyed by Hippie Powers.”
During a show in Austin in 2019, CSH drummer Andrew Katz saw Milo after the show and said, “What are you doing here, Milo? You’re from Philly, right?” It’s been trippy since the story for most is that your first favorite band lives in a fortress of solitude.
That’s the way it was for me with KISS. When I was 11 years old, there was no access to those dudes in makeup. When I caught KISS as a prepubescent, the pit between the stage and fans was akin to a moat. However, Milo has chatted with every member of Car Seat Headrest. “Twin Fantasy” is a cool tattoo choice.
When I asked his brother Eddie, 18, during a separate sit-down if he was thinking about getting a tattoo, he laughed. “The only tattoo I would like to get is the cover of Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy.” How weird? It sounded good to everyone but Milo.
“Eddie can’t get that tattoo! If anyone is getting it, it’s me. Eddie has only seen Car Seat Headrest twice. He doesn’t understand Car Seat Headrest like I do!” Milo spoke as if there were only so much ink out there. Hey, that’s cool if you want a tattoo, but there is much more to consider.
Tattoos, unlike much in life, are permanent. Many friends regret their choice to ink. I gave my best childhood friend a nickname, Nake, which stuck in more ways than one. My kooky pal, who was formerly known as David, received his odd moniker when I was just 4 years old, but it was an inspired morning during a sweltering summer.
The laidback dude, who is the closest I have to a brother, decided to apply my cool nickname to his body. I suggested that at 13, he tattoo it across his forehead. Fortunately, he chose his fingers a la Ozzy Osbourne’s artwork. “It’s always been great for job interviews,” Nake cracked.
Tattoo exposure is something you have to consider, I explained to my boys. A friend from journalism school interviewed for a job at a CBS affiliate and was hired on the spot. However, a few months later while covering an MLB game, he scored some grief.
While wearing a golf shirt on camera, the tattoo on his bicep was exposed. His boss didn’t like it, and after a heated discussion about how he is alienating some of the audience, my pal quit on the spot. Over a tattoo. And then there are the friends who went through the removal process – expensive and not exactly a walk in the park.
Neither of my daughters, Jillian, 21, or Jane, 11, have any interest in tattoos. They are happy in their own skin . Neither girl nor their brothers have altered the color of their hair. “I think some people believe that tattoos show that they’re rebellious, but to me real rebellion comes from the inside,” Jillian declared.
That reminds me of George Carlin. There was no comic more rebellious than Carlin, who didn’t have a tattoo but possessed a razor sharp wit and welcome candor. Interviews with the late icon were unpredictable, provocative and always a great time.
I recall asking Carlin why he lacked Hollywood friends, and he explained that he never wanted to play the game. No tattoo was required for Carlin, who became a legend thanks to his enviable mind.
I remember as a kid that tattoos weren’t ubiquitous like they are now. Such badasses as sailors and construction workers had tattoos back then. It was kind of cool then, but the day my mother-in-law added a rose tattoo to her ankle, well, the tattoo cool quotient dropped precipitously.
It reminds me of what Prince once said about clothes. The late musical genius said once too many people wore a style of shirt or pants, it wasn’t cool anymore. Years ago, before I had kids, the subject of tattoos came up during an interview with stunning recording artist Phoebe Legere. “I’ll never get a tattoo because blank skin is like a canvas that is so beautiful,” Legere said.
During a chat with Mike Tyson, I couldn’t help but ask the baddest man on the planet about his facial tattoo. “I just wanted to do it,” Tyson said. “I earned the right.” The most intimidating boxer of the 1980s nailed that. Tyson looks good rocking a tattoo on the side of his face.
However, I can’t say the same for pop star Post Malone, who never learned that less is more. Milo hasn’t given up the ghost on his “Twin Fantasy” tattoo. I told him I have an open mind and asked to see his “Twin Fantasy” jacket. However, Milo somehow lost the expensive piece of merchandise.
I was incredulous. How could he misplace his prized possession? Milo turned the unfortunate situation into a reason to bolster his argument for a “Twin Fantasy” tattoo. “If you let me get a “Twin Fantasy” tattoo, there’s no way I could lose it,” Milo reasoned.
I told Milo to get lost.