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    When we asked local tattoo artist Amber Bananafish to keep a diary of her trip to the Boston Tattoo Convention this past weekend, we weren't quite sure what to expect. What we got involves death-metal red pandas, bloody banner injuries, a freaked-out hotel clerk and lots of sick ink. Read on for Bananafish's chronicle, lightly edited for length and clarity.

    By Amber Bananafish

    ​Photos courtesy of Amber Bananafish

    Thursday 4 a.m.

    My husband, coworker and I arrived at the airport. We went to Boston a day early to rent a car, and drove to Salem to spend the entire day soaking up the witchy vibes of one of my favorite places on earth. 
    I spent entirely too much money on large crystals, tarot cards and jewelry. And of course tons of food from The Ugly Mug (duck and pork confit, omelets and scotch eggs) as well as dinner at Sealevel (fried clams, grilled tuna steaks, fried Brussels sprouts and Mexican corn). 

    Fun fact: drivers in Massachusetts are very aggressive and scary and are often referred to as “Massholes.”

    11 p.m.

    We finally checked into our hotel and spent the rest of the night watching a cartoon about a death-metal-singing, office-working red panda named Aggretsuko while my coworker and I drew up our appointments for the weekend. Sleep by 3 a.m. 

    Friday 9 a.m.

    We awake to spend two hours doing full face makeup/warpaint for the chaos that lies ahead. 


    We proceeded to wait over an hour at the loading dock of the convention center because they only had a few spaces available for load-in. Alexis and I carried all our gear and equipment (which was quite a lot of stuff) into the convention while hubby returned the car to the airport. After dealing with the health department, setting up and decorating our booth, we were finally ready to open to the public at 4 p.m. 

    I spent six hours tattooing a super kawaii red panda on the back of Gerald’s thigh. Full color neotraditional. He sat like a champ, but was definitely hurting toward the end. I also got to do a fun tattoo of a bird skull out of my book of pre-designed tattoos! 

    We were at the convention until midnight. In this time we managed to not have a chance to eat food, I had four ink bottles explode from air pressure and my super fancy retractable banner broke and sliced my thumb and arm open. 

    After we got back to the room we ordered pizza from a local place and all of our order was of course wrong, but honestly I only wanted the box to make a new banner out of and was too tired to eat anyways. Bed by 4 a.m.

    Saturday 9 a.m.

    Back to the grind. Rise and paint my face. Today the convention is open 12-12! My makeshift pizza box banner is a HIT! I get there two hours early to grab supplies and set up my station for my appointment. He ends up being two hours late and once he arrives, he has changed the desired placement of his tattoo we discussed to a location that simply won't work. I try to offer a few other placement ideas, but he is adamant. He decides that he just doesn’t want it anymore. This has literally never happened to me in 10 years of tattooing. 

    My coworker says that he wants to get the tattoo put on him when we get home. I’m OK with this. So the emcee announces that I have a surprise opening, and the booth is instantly flooded with folks. I end up doing three tattoos from my book of pre-designs and make more money than I would have. Score! 

    My second appointment for the day turns out to be hilarious and fun. So we bond and talk the entire five hours I work on her geometric, ornamental wolf head with dotwork. I finish early and get to do one last tattoo of a crystal with some medicinal herbs and ritualistic elements. 

    We ended up getting out so late that no restaurants were open, so we ordered from the lobby marketplace some soups and grilled cheese sandwiches for SO MANY MONIES!!! While we were relinquishing our hard-earned cash, Gerald’s tattoo bandage busted a leak in the lobby. Any of you who have been tattooed are familiar with this gruesome scene. Thick black sludge, enough to fill a Solo cup, cascaded down his thigh and calf into his shoe and onto the lobby floor. Everyone freaked. The clerk thought he was half squid and had just inked himself. He apologized profusely & explained that he had merely “busted a leak” from his tattoo. “Tattoos leak?!” she exclaimed, realizing there were now hundreds of tattooed “leakers” in her hotel. It made my night. Bed by 4 a.m.

    Sunday 8 a.m.

    I’m gross so I need extra time to shower and primp since I fell asleep the night before with Reese’s in the bed because I’m a garbage human. Today I did a big upper back piece of ornamental jewels and lace! I was really happy with this one and it was probably my favorite of the weekend. At this point though, the crappy folding chairs have permanently flattened my otherwise very cushy bottom and my leggings have started to create a not-so-desired cheese grater effect on my thighs.  I even had time to do one more tattoo of a garbage can with flowers blooming out of it and my client brought me a big box of cookies because she works at a bakery! We ended the convention by packing up whilst listening to showtunes and Disney, singing too loudly. 

    After that, we hurried to Fogo de Cháo (as per our convention tradition) to reward ourselves with the most hedonistic of tendencies. I think their name means “A F*ck-ton of Meat.” And now I sit here writing this with a happy heart, a full soul and the meat sweats. 

    For more of Amber Bananafish's work, check out her Instagram.

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