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Eye of the Needle

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Potheads and piercings at the NYC tattoo convention.

The sound of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” echoed through the Roseland Ballroom as I walked into the macabre mayhem that was the Fifth Annual New York Tattoo Convention. Giant tapestries of sideshow acts decorated the walls, while the dance floor and balcony were jammed with booths full of buzzing needles, populated by an eclectic mixture of vampires, Varga girls, greasers, freaks, metalheads and maniacs. Onstage, emcee Paul Bearer (of hardcore band Sheer Terror) was calling various people up to show off their body art and handing out trophies in such categories as Best Black and White, Best Color, Best Tribal and Best Tattoo of the Day. There were artists present from all around the world—Germany, Spain, Italy, Taiwan, Scotland, Holland, Brazil—but the most interesting was the Japanese contingent. Located upstairs, its members practiced the ancient technique of tebori—lying on mats and tapping the ink into the skin by manually pushing a bamboo rod with a needled tip.

At the end of the main aisle was the Triple X Tattoo booth, where I stopped first to visit my friend Verena, a sexy tattoo artist from Vienna I hooked up with in Amsterdam several years ago. When I got there, she was busy working on a client, so I told her I’d swing by again later and rolled on. I hit the bar and had a beer with my friend Pat Sinatra, who operates Pat’s Tats out of Woodstock, NY. No, she’s not related to Ol’ Blue Eyes, but she is the president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (the organization responsible for overseeing safety and sterilization in the industry), a fellow pagan and the ink slinger responsible for the goat-headed goblin living on my calf.

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