Saturday, October 8, 2011


The pain, the pain, the pain, Is worth the ornament we gain.  
Tattoo chanting,  while suffering  through the  procedure may not be necessary today since  tattooing isn’t nearly as painful as it once was. In ancient cultures, and in patriotic America, during wars,  suffering through a tattoo was a right of passage.  Madame Chinchilla,  queen of the Triangle Tattoo Museum, has done thousands of tattoos over a period of 25 years.  Madame and her partner Mr. G. are dedicated to preserving the rich heritage and ancient art of  tattoo,  and it is located right  here in Fort Bragg, California. How cool is that?

Madame goes through a spiritual ritual with most of her customers because committing to body art is a life changing step.  You know instantly that Madame is an artist.  Triangle Museum documents the  tantalizing results covering the walls of three rooms from floor to ceiling.  The designs are there, the people, the ancient culture, books, (three that Madame has written), and devices that deliver the ink. The devices fascinated me;  with ornately designed handles.

Pictures are not allowed in the museum except for the stairwell on the way in. Madame got started because she was close friends with Captain Don Leslie,  one of the last living circus side-showmen billed as the Tattooed Man. One wing of the museum features his personal memorabilia from 50 years of performing with the circus. Leslie was a fire-eater, sword-swallower as well. The word tattoo and from that, taboo,  are the only Polynesian words to be incorporated into the English language. A heavily decorated Maori Chief by the name of  Ta ‘taw was brought to the English courts during Queen Victoria’s reign. Ta’taw was soon shortened to tattoo. It became popular for men and women to get tatooed and flash them in the privacy of their parlors to entertain their guests. Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, his parents and wife had tattoos. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Jim and I got our tattoos the easy way. Should you visit?  Yes, yes, yes!  Fascinating. You can easily spend a couple of hours looking.
Tattoos are not exactly conventional, and we wandered around town, went to the Guest House Museum, poked around the shops, and Noyo Harbor, had lunch at the world-famous North Coast Brewery and enjoyed Imperial Rasputin Stout and Scrimshaw Ale with our chowder. A wonderful day with beautiful weather. But I ran into another unconventional character at the museum. His name was William Bennett, an engineer with the Union Lumber Company during the 1880′s.  He sent glowing reports to his fiance back east, with progress reports on the beautiful home he was building for her. When she arrived, she took one look around the muddy streets and overwhelmingly male town, and fled. So, William, 45 years old, and probably embarrassed after telling everyone his fiance was arriving;  with time and a lot of wood at hand, he carved his own life-sized wooden family. He claimed, a wooden family was less trouble than a real family anyway.  He built parents, five adult daughters, and eventually his own doll wife. He had dress makers outfit them. They could sit at the table when he had guests over. He did it tongue-in-cheek but others figured he took so much fun from his doll family, even putting his doll wife on wheels and dancing with her, that he was perhaps around the bend. Today, wouldn’t we love to have his wonderful artwork? But, he figured no one would take care of his doll family and before he died, he burned them. Dang.
The rest of my visit to Fort Bragg will have to wait for another blog.

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