About 30 years ago, a buddy and I went out to ‘celebrate St. Patrick’s Day’ in San Francisco.
We started on Front Street, where the bars would close the block and hold a huge outdoor party. As the late afternoon became evening, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Harrington’s, the Royal Exchange, even Shroeder’s (German, Irish, what’s the difference?).
Before long, we’d migrated west to Geary and the heavily-Irish Richmond District bars: Pat O’Shea’s, Ireland’s 32, the Abbey Tavern, and others.
Complete happenstance – in the couple of blocks that separate these bars was a tattoo parlor my pal and I kept passing as we went from place to place. It was on the third trip, as I remember, that one of us had the brilliant idea to get tattooed that night.
A few more passes, then we looked at each other with that slack-jawed stare of idiots that meant we would, in fact, go in and get tattooed.
We went in and had to wait; the one artist on duty was busy branding a hoodlum. He told us to look at the designs that covered the walls and pick something out while we waited.
And here, precisely, is where our drunken stupidity evolved into inspired lunacy.
My friend and I were both involved in fairly serious relationships at the time. And for some reason I can’t for the life of me explain now, we thought it would be absolutely HI-larious to get completely grotesque tattoos with the names of other women on them. And we picked random names to permanently affix to ourselves.
I selected the name ‘Debbie.’
Now, I didn’t know anyone named Debbie particularly well, had never dated a Debbie, had no specific intention of ever doing so. To us in that moment, that was the point.
Hahahahahahaa. Such, my friends, is the stupidity of drink.
We sat on a big red leather couch and waited for our artist to finish a very elaborate piece inspired, perhaps, by Albrecht Durer’s owl, on his client’s left butt-cheek. And I settled into a very self-satsfied state of amusement.
Out of nowhere, my pal said:
“Oh. Oh, no. We’re getting out of here.”
“What?” I said.
“Read that,” he said, pointing at a large poster entitled, ‘How To Care For Your New Tattoo.’
To the best of my blurry ability, I read:
Point 1: If swelling persists for more than 3 days, see your doctor immediately.
Point 2: If puss or other discharge oozes from the area of your tattoo, see your doctor immediately.
Point 3: If yellowing occurs in the skin around your tattoo, this could be Hepatitis; see your doctor IMMEDIATELY.
And on it went. Honestly, I never got past Point 3. Out we went, and never looked back. But for that hoodlum, but for my friend, I’d be going through life with a hideous tattoo and a stranger’s name on my upper arm forever.
So, a couple of things. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Debbie, whoever you are. And thank you, Marty. I owe you, man.