Thursday, January 05, 2006

Your San Francisco Tattoo Guide

As my private eye protagonist August Riordan says in Candy from Strangers, “If you want to be tattooed, pierced or otherwise manipulated in San Francisco, you’ll do best to head to one of four parts of town: North Beach, the Mission, the Castro or the Haight.”

Tattoos, piercing and tattoo parlors figure prominently in the book. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s my habit to “walk the scene” and get familiar with the locations I include in my novels, often taking photographs and notes to refer to later when I sit down to do the actual writing.

Here is a photograph of a parlor located in San Francisco’s Mission district:


Note the sample tattoo designs displayed on the walls of the parlor. I learned during my research that those samples are referred to in the biz as “flash”.

And here’s one from the Castro:



It seemed to me that piercing was more prominently featured in the signs for the parlors in the Castro, but that may have been an accident of my (unscientific) data sampling.

There weren’t as many parlors in North Beach, so I didn’t bother to take any pictures there. However, the Haight is chock full of them. There are so many, in fact, that I decided to set a key scene involving a tattoo parlor in the neighborhood. Here are some pics of the parlors I found on Haight Street near the famous intersection with Ashbury:



You may wonder if my research into tattoos included getting one myself. The answer is no—I’m too big a chicken—but in the annual “secret Santa” gift exchange we do in my writers group (all gifts given to a writer must relate to something in their work), I was the recipient of many a temporary tattoo and even a temporary nose stud!

Maybe I’ll don the nose stud to get into the mood for book signings on the upcoming Candy tour … or maybe not.

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