My left arm

By James at August 23, 2008 15:14
Filed Under: Life in General

Wedding rings are worn on the left hand, as the veins in the arm go straight to the heart. During my time with Carmina, I've collected several trinkets which I wear on my left hand and wrist. Little tokens of her, which go straight to my heart. While planning our 3rd anniversary trip to Ensenada, I decided to surprise her with a picture of a Mayan calendar representing our wedding date - July 23, 2005. It took a while to figure it out until I found a few different web sites with glyphs and tutorials on how to translate dates. I brought the artwork and information home, showed Carmina and she was really tickled, but started wondering what it was all about.

I have two great friends @joshhighland and @gemery who have tattoos. Josh is almost totally covered with the most beautiful artwork I have seen. Geoff is a world traveler and gets a tattoo from every continent he has visited. Now I'm an older guy, who occasionally will put a hoop through the ancient hole in my earlobe, but with no body art to mention.

With the deep love of my wife (and of Mayan heritage), my two brothers as an inspiration and going a bit further, in my head and to myself, I decided I would get a tattoo while in Mexico. While driving I broke the news to Carmina. She got all excited and decided to join me on my search for a place to get it done.

Ensenada is the city of rip-offs, cheap transvestites and counterfeit Cuban cigars. Neither of us felt terribly comfortable in having me get inked in any of the places we saw. Somewhat disappointed, Carmina perked me up by mentioning Chris, the husband of one of her co-workers, Alma. Chris works for the city of Riverside and does tattoos on the side. Carmina hooks me up with Chris and we set up a date.

Today was the day. I didn't sleep at all the night before, I was excited. I had heard it would hurt, and seen pictures of right afterwards with the oozing, but I really wanted to do this. Chris is an awesome guy, un-assuming, friendly, joking, a liberal. His "shop" is decorated with slasher movie props, meat cleavers, meat hooks and antique car memorabilia. "Welcome to the Butcher Shop Tattoo Parlor" is painted on the floor.

So we get started. At first I had wanted it on the inside of my arm. Chris asks me if I'm sure, tells me it will really hurt in that spot and talks me into putting it directly on my bicep. I agree, so he traces the design, and works three times to get it just right on my arm. This isn't like getting the wrong shade of paint in the bathroom, once you start, there is no going back, and I appreciate him taking his time.

Time to start. Outline is first and I think, this isn't so bad. I start meditating on my third eye and breath deeply, getting into the experience. Things are going well, when all of a sudden...WTF!!! Ow!!! that hurts! He just started outlining into the inside of my arm, right on the edge where I wanted him to start. OMG this HURTS! I let it all wash over me, glad when he gets to the outside of my arm, squirming when he gets to the inside, breathing a sigh when he stops for more ink. He is careful and detailed and it takes an hour to do the outlining. We take a short break to stretch legs, drink some water, and pee. Then its time for the shading.

Chris says the shading will be easier, "it's more of a burn, than a tearing like the outline". Whew...ok, I can deal with this. WRONG! The outlining is done with a single needle. Shading is done with four to seven needles dragged across the skin. The soft part of my arm takes the brunt of the pain. After each pass, Chris wipes the skin, and I don't know what is worse, the needle or the wiping of punctured skin with a paper towel and green soap. He's using a lighter shade of black, but all I see is red, my blood under the skin. "Don't worry, he says, that will fade. This is looking awesome!" During the shading, I'm squirming big time. Chris teases me with "it's rough isn't it?" I respond with "F*** you"! We both laugh and get on with it.

Finally he's done with the shading but now wants to put some highlights with white. Nice, more poking, but I've gone this far, we're in 3 hours by now, so what the heck. Another 30 minutes and then he's ready to do the details. Huh!?!

Carmina's favorite color is purple. The top glyph means "Esposa". I had previously asked Chris about coloring, so when he was done with the detailing he get's ready to start with the purple highlights on the top glyph.

Four hours later and we're done. It's amazing how fast the pain fades and I look at myself in the mirror. The white highlights make it pop, the purple is cool, and it is "more better" than I had imagined.

Will I get another? Who knows. This one is significant and meaningful to me. Will getting another dilute this feeling?

Here are the pictures

Original graphic based on my research


My finished tattoo


The Mayan calendar is actually a number of days from creation, with the significant event the main glyph on the top. Each long oval represents "five" and each open circle represents "one", with the other glyphs representing the portion of time in the epoch. So, in this case the top glyph represents "the wife of", with the rest counting up the days from creation to when Carmina and I were married.

Carmina is already looking up glyphs for what she wants. Have I mentioned how much I love this woman?


Comments (6) -

8/24/2008 2:33:31 AM #

geoffrey emery

nice tat bro. Glad your joing the fold of inkers

geoffrey emery | Reply

8/25/2008 4:13:08 PM #

Ed Marquez

Congrats Man, that is cool!

Ed Marquez | Reply

8/27/2008 7:30:06 AM #


OUCH. It is much bigger than I imagined. My pain tolerance is pretty low--Id faint as soon as I walked into the shop. Props to you!

Tim | Reply

8/27/2008 7:36:45 AM #

James Johnson

its about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide at the most. Today it started to peel. Interesting.

The pain is all part of process, I suppose. It feels so good when it stops. Smile

James Johnson | Reply

11/1/2008 8:44:53 AM #

Daniel Egan

Cool James,

    You should have showed me at the PDC... I didnt know you had this done.


Daniel Egan | Reply

11/5/2008 7:29:02 PM #


Holy moley! That looks like it hurt!

I'm like Tim, my pain threshold is very low, but what a romantic thing to do.

Rachel | Reply

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About the author

James James is a five time and current Microsoft MVP in Client App Development, a Telerik Insider, a past Director on the INETA North America Board, a husband and dad, and has been developing software since the early days of Laser Discs and HyperCard stacks. As the Founder and President of the Inland Empire .NET User's Group, he has fondly watched it grow from a twice-a-month, early Saturday morning group of five in 2003, to a robust and rambunctious gathering of all types and sizes of .NET developers.

James loves to dig deep into the latest cutting edge technologies - sometimes with spectacular disasters - and spread the word about the latest and greatest bits, getting people excited about developing web sites and applications on the .NET platform, and using the best tools for the job. He tries to blog as often as he can, but usually gets distracted by EF, LINQ, MVC, ASP, SQL, XML, and most other types of acronyms. To keep calm James plays a mean Djembe and tries to practice his violin. You can follow him on twitter at @latringo.

And as usual, the comments, suggestions, writings and rants are my own, and really shouldn't reflect the opinions of my employer. That is, unless it really does.

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