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     Tattoo: A permanent reminder of a temporary feeling. “Hey doc, now that I have a shot at a nice job, how do I remove this stupid tattoo?” – Urban Dictionary


It was a close call for top honors: the spider web or the bouquet of flowers.

Fireworks, with their noisy, colorful presentation, still rank No. 1, but another art form ran a close second over the July 4th holiday.

With the thermometer in the high 90s, I thought it would be a typical day at the beach, with boats and kids everywhere.

Yet something had changed and suddenly it was as plain as the nose on your face: the abundance of body art.

Everywhere I looked, beachgoers displayed an amazing variety of images, in color and black and white. Those itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis of yore are overshadowed these days by pictures of pirates, heroes, birds, tribal symbols and names written in script or gothic type. Some beachgoers sported so many tattoos (or is it just one large tattoo?) that a swimming suit was hardly required. I think the term is “inked up.”

OK, I don’t know if tattoos qualify as “art,” though I’m sure the tattoo folks would argue that at least some of it is artistic and some are so complex that they tell the owner’s life story.

My Uncle Bob came back from World War II with a tattoo on his forearm that said “Mother” on a heart background. When he got older, it was hardly recognizable. Then, tattoos were primarily associated with sailors, rebels and convicts.

Today, tattoos are mainstream among Millennials and younger ages. They continue to trend upward and the only thing that rivals “tats” is body piercings, a topic I’ll save for another day.

As a form of self-expression, tattoos are as personal as it gets. I saw a man my age at Target Field in Minneapolis a few years ago with a color image of Mickey Mantle on his calf. Unusual.

One drawback is that as the skin canvass ages, the statement remains. Which is why most do not tattoo the name of their girlfriend or boyfriend on their arm. Removing tattoos remains a painful, difficult and costly operation.

I watched with fascination when a young family spread their blanket in front of me, closer to the beach. In their 20s, he wore a handprint on each shoulder; she, a cornucopia of fruit on her exposed back and a barbed wire design around her bicep.

Their child, who I guessed to be about 6, was still without body art.

But he did have two earrings.

The tattoos will come later.

July 18, 2018