As far back as I can remember my fascination with the Rockabilly/betty aesthetic has always been there. Then there were my mains: Betty Boop, Betty Cooper, Betty Page, and Betty Shabazz – four women who embodied so much of who I was and formed who I’ve become despite two being fictitious. I wanted to pay a small homage to them since they’ve done so much for my sanity.
Tormented Souls. It’s how I’d usually describe my thoughts, but this is the tattoo shop owned by Steve Gagliano. I had the opportunity to travel to New York for a few days last month and the trip was everything I needed.
I read all the posts on Sista Ink’s site before I began as a contributor and Steve wrote one of them. It was straight-to-the-point facts about tattoos and it stuck in my head for some reason. When I booked my ticket for NY, I thought it might be cool to see if I could get a piece done and write all about my experience since I’ve never been tattooed anywhere but my hometown. I reached out to Dawn to make an introduction; there was an artist at his shop named Alicia who did fantastic lettering. NY is expensive and at the time of this grand idea I didn’t think I’d be unemployed and paying off a $2000 vet bill since my dog needed emergency surgery 3 days before I flew out. I had a simple tattoo in mind; I figured I could fit it into my budget for this story. Dawn told me they were waiting to hear from me.
I reached out via email to see if they had any availability during my time there. I did my research and knew it would be a doable trek. Steve suggested a day and time – I accepted. This was happening. I WAS GETTING A TATTOO IN NEW YORK!
Picture it: July 17th. Friday. 2015. I woke up early and put on my finest sleeveless garment, as the piece would be on the inside of my bicep. Common sense told me to map my route to Long Island before I left the hotel since Wi-Fi is the life I’m about during international travels. I turned my computer on and “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!!!” is probably the most accurate way to type how I sounded when I quickly realized I had no idea where I was going.
Diz map iz diff’runt from map I sees at home tho.
I motored to the concierge and pleaded for assistance: maps to and from Tormented Souls were printed, the front desk even gave me a pre-paid Metro card because they’re trained to sense fear. (Shoutouts to Gild Hall, the most luxurious hotel stay I’ve ever had). The travel time to the shop would fall just under the two-hour mark. With directions in hand, I marched to the ticket booth and found out the train I needed to take arrived 10 minutes before my appointment. This would not do. This incredibly friendly seller of tickets who had obviously lived in NY her whole life suggested an alternate route. Her suggested stop was a mere 10 minutes away from where the hotel said I needed to go, and that train would get me there in plenty of time. It was almost too easy. I bought my return trip ticket, grabbed a slice of pizza and joined the throng of would-be passengers in front of the sealed platform doors waiting for the Ronkonkoma train’s arrival.
I found a seat where I could see each stop displayed while I listened to my music and crammed the slice down my throat. Being on schedule drained me; my only concern was keeping my energy levels way up.
It was my stop!
I‘d reached my roaming limit on my phone but bit the bullet so I could send a text to Steve. I had to let him know I was waiting for the dispatcher at the taxi depot beside the train station. He asked where I was exactly and though we were texting, at that very moment, I felt like time stood still.
Let me explain: my life has officially been defined in two parts: pre-Ronkonkoma bound and post-Ronkonkoma bound. Steve explained where I needed to be and from where I currently was, a cab would be about $80. Eighty, of my black-earned, non-replaceable United States Of American dollars. I barely had enough to cover the tattoo; I still had three days left in NY! I did not have an additional $80 to spend on transportation due to my “directionalitis.” I looked around the platform frantically for someone to help. I’m not a schmoozer or small talker, I’m a panicker and worrier. This was no time to be shy. I ran down the street, found a group of construction workers and asked if they knew the station I needed to get to. They did not. They looked like car owners. *side eye* What good would they be for those of us who live by the rules of the rails! They sent me to the station agent’s hut. You know what’s funny about train stations seemingly in the middle of nowhere? Station agents don’t work there. Luckily, I ran into two strangers who should’ve been Waldorf and Statler’s human manifestations. They pulled up their phone apps, both agreeing they had no idea how to work their phones because they’re only for kids these days. I had a time-line until the right train would arrive on the same set of tracks where I was dropped off. I let Steve know I had two hours to kill. Like a knight in stainless steel needles, he told me to get to the right station and he’d pick me up.
My two o’clock appointment had come and gone – I debated whether I should just head back to Manhattan with my tail between my legs. Then quickly realized I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t even scared or annoyed, really. I was exhilarated! I mean, what a first-time-to-New-York story to tell the grandchildren in my fantasies. If Tormented Souls was still open and they were willing to tattoo me, I was going to get to Tormented Souls. In hindsight, with two hours on a dusty, outdoor platform, I should’ve walked around. I’m sure if I headed to the main road I could’ve gone exploring but knowing me, I’d see a handsome man and he’d be an unsub and then I’d be on Dateline. I sat on a bench in the sunshine instead.
FINALLY! The train I’d been waiting for. Within a half hour, Steve had sent Ms. Alicia to gather me and I was on my way to the appointment that should’ve begun 4.5 hours prior.
When walking through the front doors of Tormented Souls, you’re met with ornate furniture, skull paraphernalia, and good music. I felt like I was coming home.
Alicia directed me down a short, narrow corridor where I met the man who had been my disembodied guardian angel of the day. What can I say about that man? First impressions: Steve Gagliano would intimidate the holy hell out of anyone but I’d been texting with him so much I wasn’t at all. He stopped working on his client to greet me and shared some jokes about the absolute clusterf*ck of a day it had been. HE apologized to me for some reason and I thought Canadians were the ones who said “sorry” repeatedly for absolutely no reason.
Despite the long-ass day, the next few hours went by in a blur. I took the time to check out everyone’s portfolios in the waiting room. I charged my phone in their office while Alicia helped me find a font for the piece I wanted. She gave me so many tips when it came to lettering, especially on dark skin, that I never even considered. She told me to always look for fonts with open loops whether it’s printed or in script like “g”, “e” and “o”. If you don’t take this into consideration, the lines won’t be crisp, they could run together, or heal unclearly making the finished product less than stellar. Little tips like that made the entire experience even more rewarding; I sopped up the information like sponge. I’ve had lettering done twice before and seemed to have lucked out with the fonts I chose because this never occurred to me!
Alicia and I chatted a little bit about where we were from, the work we did, and how long she’s been at the shop. She was surprised I didn’t have a Canadian accent, Steve too – I felt strangely proud for not standing out in that respect. The actual time spent in her chair was very short; she works fast and is precise. Her lines are so well done; it’s what drew me to her online profile in the first place. For those wondering about how sensitive the inside of the bicep is to tattoo, it wasn’t as bad as you might think. I have a good amount of fleshiness. It wasn’t quite like a walk in the park, but if that park had a super-narrow, thorny, rosebush path you could walk through nude, that would be more accurate.
Guys, the tattoo was done. I had survived the travel day and lived to tell you this tale. Alicia (and I should take this moment to clarify it is pronounced “Ah-lees-sia” not “Ah-leash-sha” as I so proudly said the first hour I was in her presence. *face palm*) is such a positive and talented entity to be around. Despite everything that transpired, I didn’t feel like I wasted the day and they made me feel the most welcome into their home at Tormented Souls.
Photo by: Stephanie Lipp Website: http://www.lippfoto.com
Whether they had the same feeling I did, I won’t know. But without this magazine where Steve posted his article, I wouldn’t have known he, or his shop, ever existed. I would never have made the trip to Long Island on my brief time to New York. I wouldn’t have explored the transit system because the safe thing to do would’ve been cabbing it everywhere. I wouldn’t have seen Penn Station; I would’ve associated Ronkonkoma with a made-up condition of someone who passed out every time they watched a romantic comedy. I wouldn’t have met these wonderful, real-life Muppet characters. There’s a lot of things that just wouldn’t have happened and if it took me getting lost and running up my phone charges for the warmth these memories have afforded me, then I hope my brain’s GPS is always set to “roam.”
Life throws the curviest balls and I’ve only started to realize at this time in my life, you may have to get lost to connect with them.
Contact Tormented Souls:
2090 Jericho Turnpike
Kings Park, NY 11754