I have always been squeamish about irrevocables and quasi irrevocables like hair cutting and putting holes into one's body. When Bekah was in sixth grade, she very calmly decided to have her hair hacked off. It had been trimmed, but never cut. Snip, snip, snip to her waist-length braids: and a new look. With my own hair, I stopped having it cut when I was 17. I left home, I loved Joan Baez's look, and so I let my hair grow. As Joan and I approached middle age, she cut her hair; I didn't. When Bekah got into college in 1992, I decided to see if I could survive major change by cutting my hair off 30 years after the last hacking. Snip, snip, snip to my below-the-waist hair. I survived the major change of Bekah leaving home; I haven't cut my hair since.
Bekah was able to convince me to have her ears pierced because she explained that she was the only girl in the ninth grade whose ears had not been mutilated. I had visions of festering ears that would have to be amputated. Indeed, the ears festered, then they cleared, and then she started collecting and wearing great looking earrings. I had such fun buying her earrings, too -- until she suggested I buy earrings for myself instead. So on my 45th birthday, we went to Graystone Jewelers for my own personal piercing ritual. I was practically the last of my friends to discover the joys of ear piercing.
I have not followed in Bekah's footsteps about the tattoo. She got one, a Navajo sun sign, on the base of her spine during her sophomore year of college. Just another young woman in a long line of females having dye put under their skin by puncturing it with a sharp tool. Dr. W. D. Hambly's The History of Tattooing and Its Significance (1925) states that there is archeological proof of body markings by puncture tattoo in Egypt between 4000 and 2000 B.C. Did Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother, really have a snake tattooed around her wrist?
Egyptian Pharaohs pierced their navels; Roman soldiers pierced their nipples; Mayans pierced their tongues; and Victorian royalty pierced nipples and genitals. Bekah's ear piercings increased from one to eight; the current count being six. Last summer, she branched out, coming home with a belly button piercing. Change that to a festering belly button piercing.
I actually didn't hear about Bekah's most recent piercing until after she managed to rid herself of the festering. She told me about going into a place called Primal Decor in Eureka. The 22-year-old who owns the place, Jason, was meticulous, patient, and gentle, Bekah explained. He managed to remove the ring, cleanse the whole area, and reinsert the ring. "You would really like Jason," she said.
This adventure is set in Humboldt County where everyone knows everyone else. Therefore, it was not all that surprising when Bekah's father's response was that there was a photograph on his wall of Jason's mother and me celebrating July 4th at his place. A former chiropractor, Jason's mom had been a great help to Bekah's Dad when he was having major problems with his knee. Small world.
So a few days after Bekah's visit to Primal Decor, her friend, Cassie, and I headed over there with Bridgit and my camera. It is a residential-style structure in a residential neighborhood which includes a Catholic Church, Hospice, a long-term care facility, grocery store, and pharmacy nearby. The Primal Decor sign is a little funky, and some of the cars parked in front look like they have come home to roost.
We walked into a waiting room that was filled to overflowing with teen-age energy. Kids were sitting, milling, looking through binders of tattoo designs, and checking out the accessories at the counter. Lots of body adornment in terms of hardware and permanent stain. There was music with a very persistent beat weaving its way through everyone's toes. I liked this place.
Someone asked me what I was doing with the mannequin. I explained that I am interested in how people relate to Bridgit. One young woman who works there, Megan, said that she had had her nipples pierced about a month earlier. She would want to paste nipple rings on Bridgit and then be photographed side by side, torsos only. I immediately saw the image to which she was referring. "Did I want to do it?" she asked. So off we went to the back room where there happened to be a black drape we could attach to the wall. Photograph is exactly what we did. Two torsos, and between them a beautiful black space.
Jason and his girl friend, Jennifer, walked in to see what we were doing. When I explained, Jason actually jumped out of his clothes. Cassie and I both tried to look as if this was an everyday occurrence for us. In the back of my mind, I wondered what Cassie's mother would say when Cassie replied to the question: How was your day?
Jason's body is both his palette and his artistic creation. He is pierced in places I had never imagined people piercing, and he is tattooed. As he explained to me about the sensuality of inanimate objects, he reached for Bridgit.
Jennifer, Cassie, and I watched with astonishment as he choreographed an interaction.
There was nothing to do but hope that the light, focus, and steadiness of hand would be able to capture Jason's scenario. We, the three women, were completely captivated. At one point, we all saw him transform from young man to boy child before our very eyes. Radiant. What struck me about the way both Jason and Megan interacted with Bridgit was their gentleness.
When I went back to Primal Decor, with Bekah, to show Jason and Megan the photographs, we had an opportunity to look around. Jason is a man of many talents. He has a display of quite beautiful glassworks including didgeridoos. His photographs grace the walls. Several people were working as piercing and tattoo apprentices as well as making glass products.
Bekah and I met a very interesting young woman who was just about to enter a major new chapter in her life. She arrived in Eureka from the Bay Area by bus several years ago after her mom had essentially thrown her out of the house. This young woman had burned her bridges at the regular high school and antagonized the administration at the continuing high school. She started taking classes at the community college near Eureka. Four years later, she was transferring to an east coast college, full scholarship, and planned to major in urban planning. She knew no one who had been to school "back east" so she was really happy to get encouragement and tips from Bekah. Am I the only one in Humboldt County that thinks Primal Decor might be providing a community service?
I stopped in at Primal Decor recently. Jason now has a staff of nine, and the glassworks are being produced in a separate building. In fact, he is selling his glass blown objects on a national level. I was glad to see Megan, age 21, again. Several of us looked at this website on Jason's ginormous television screen while his pet ferrets ran around.
When I asked Jason how he came to set up his business, he said that he quit high school at 16 and began taking classes at the community college. Jason's father, who died when Jason was two years old, left him funds for college. When Jason was 17, he asked his mother if he could use those funds to start a business in what had been their family home. Jason's mother was getting remarried and relocating. So, at 17, Jason, a staff of one, started tattooing. Six years later, he and Jennifer were getting ready for a week-long business trip to the Bay Area to show the glass products.
I wondered how the neighbors responded to Primal Decor. Jason said that every year, he has a pot luck, sending a card about it to every one of his neighbors. He said that usually about 50 people show up. Two years ago, one of the local priests came by with a large salad and spent the entire afternoon. Yes, there are rumors about what goes on behind the Primal Decor doors. But my overriding impression is of Jason's gentleness, industrious nature, and natural ability to get along with people of all persuasions.
Bridgit in Malta
Bridgit at St. Brigid's
High Light: The Winter Solstice
Excursion to Primal Decor
Getting to Know Felicity
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