Sitting #4 with Mike Rubendall at King's Ave Tattoo
[Ed. note - Brian Grosz has been getting tattooed by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo for several years now. His previous reflections on the process can be found here.]
Outside of the fluorescent lighting and the lack of leg-room, the train ride out to Massapequa was fairly painless. Ordinarily, I drive out to my sessions at Kings Ave Tattoo, but given the miserable weather (and the fact that NYC trending topics on Twitter were "Snowpocalypse" and "SnowtoriousBIG"), I decided that mass transit was the way to go. After all, I find driving in Long Island to be fairly treacherous in the first place, but the moment the weather turns sour, my van pulls a Cinderella and morphs into a giant lunchbox/cinder-block with Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel after a long night at the club.
I ducked into the cab-stand at the train station, which was manned by a squat man with hair plugs watching horse racing on a flickering television set. When he asked where I was heading and I replied, "844 Broadway at North Kings," he keyed the button on his dispatch handset and growled, "Someone get down here - I got one for the tattoo shop!" I suppose it's a popular destination in them there parts...
The cab screeched up outside and as I closed the door behind me, my driver - an older guy in a satin "Vietnam Vet" baseball jacket and presumably a laryngectomy - turned around, raised a device to his throat and asked in a robotic montone, "Tattoo shop?"
I responded in the affirmative as casually as I could, thinking to myself, "Jesus, I've gotta quit smoking..." But, as he spun the wheels and swerved out onto Broadway, I was hit with the notion that I'd actually had this very same cab driver in Poughkeepsie, NY, over a decade ago. After all, both hacks had the same flagrant disregard for traffic laws and the passenger's bill of rights.
While Mike was setting up and choosing colors for the left side of my chest (I've tried to keep this piece entirely in his hands in terms of color choice, design elements, etc), I mentioned my experience with my cyborg cab driver and the long-shot possibility that he had driven me to the Poughkeepsie train station back in '98.
"He's been driving forever and he did disappear for a few years - it's totally a possibility."
"No shit," I mused. "But I figured it would be rude if I asked him, based solely on the cabby/voice-box connection."
"Well," Mike proposed with a smile, "You could've asked him, 'Do you have a brother in Poughkeepsie? Because I know a cabby up there who sounds just like you...'"
A couple of hours later, we had completed the color for the Fu dog on my left side: orange and golden mane, red spots and blue eyes (for my father; the dog on the right will have green eyes, like my mother and an inverted color scheme). As I carefully slid into my shirt and coat to venture back out into the cold, Eric at the front desk rang up the cab company for my return trip to the train station. Apparently someone on the other line picked up because he simply replied, "Yeah" and hung up the phone.
"That was easy," I said.
In his best impression of the dispatcher he said gruffly, "Tattoo shop - one goin to the rail, right?"
I could only imagine who would be my driver on the way back... Admittedly, I was kinda hoping for Handsome John Pruitt - that guy with the hook for a hand who drove the tow-truck in Adventures In Babysitting.
[Kings Avenue Tattoo is located in Massapequa, Long Island and is home to artists Mike Rubendall, Grez, Matt Beckerich, Justin Weatherholtz and Brian Paul. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 516-799-5464]