Every year, on Friday the 13th, Elm Street Tattoo's talented staff executes small pieces that must include the number 13 somewhere, for $13 and a $7 tip. On most sleeves in Dallas, you can spot the 13s hidden among larger décor, identifying the shop's fans and loyalists.
I was inside Elm Street Tattoo just before midnight, where there was a literal countdown to the moment the midnight marathon of lucky 13 tattooing could begin. Folks were let in by half-hour slots; gorgeously decorated women with perfect eyeliner greeted us at the door, setting the stage and mood for an established ritual and, as I would find out, a great time.
For the first time, Elm Street made sign-up sheets available at La Grange. Beginning at 9 p.m., you could sign up for your preferred slot in the 24-hour window. A popular strategy was to nab that 2 a.m. slot, and just pass the time at July Alley until your shift started. A convenient last-call tattoo appointment to mark this day of misfortune. Thoughtful, especially since this Friday the 13th fell on a chilly night in January. However, my partner in crime is organized and good at time management, so our midnight slot insured we'd be there just as the party was starting.
Like your local bar, there was a mix of regulars all greeting each other and hugging friends and favorite artists. As that midnight countdown ended, the music flipped on loud and hard and, just like that, everyone was raring to go.
Though not a tattoo virgin, it's been 11 years since I last saw the needle. A cowgirl- inspired silhouette would get the job done, and I can now check that off the list of Dallas traditions I'd previously admired from afar. One of my oldest friends distracted me as my new tat materialized. Cocked hat and hip, a strong lady looks forward to a stronger 2012, now that some less stable ones are behind me. Ask for Chris Erickson, y'all.
Lewis Rogers, the Promotions Director for Blu Energy, a Dallas-based energy drink, gave me a few tips for pain. "Just find a focus point and make someone tell you a long story," he advised. Rogers was there to commemorate loyalty to his company and intended on getting the Blu logo in homage to his family of colleagues, who " ... had really taken care of each other over the years."
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Jordan and Darius were back after collecting several 13 tattoos over the years. Darius, 22, was there for his eighth, which included a dagger, skull and crossbones, and would soon include the state of Texas on his armpit. Jordan, a local skater sponsored by Vans, was in town between competitions and had one of my favorite 13s I found that evening: A broken egg over a previously broken ankle, notable since it kept him off the boards for a bit.
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The fellas weren't the only ones representing. Lauren, Kirsten, Holli and Claire were all in line at 1 a.m., though the doorman had just warned those waiting they best sign up for a later shift, because they were not getting in until 4 a.m.
Holli, a bartender, already counted a martini glass among her tattoos and had her eye on a diamond to mark her recent engagement. Lauren's virgin skin was getting its first ink, and possibly a cherry to celebrate it's, eh ... popping. Though in various stages of their 13 devotion, the four friends were starting a tradition to annually celebrate their friendship with the tattoos. Around 3 a.m. or so, they decided to sign up for a 9 a.m. slot, but made sure to call two more ladies to join in on the fun and pay forward the new tradition.
It's a fun way to mark this theoretical day of dread and a club I am proud to belong to now. Elm Street has created a rebellious tradition that die-hard loyalists rarely stray from. You can bet I will be back. In fact, my new friend Darius put it best, when asked why he never misses Friday the 13th at Elm Street: "Why would you miss such a great party?"