June 13, 2012 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Religion

In the mid 1980s I remember starting to attend a “Christian” church in Brentwood, PA. I went with my siblings and parents. This continued more or less for several years. Sometimes it felt like Sunday morning, this was what it was to do. Other times, I was way more into it. I would go to Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and then youth group other times. From about 12-16years old church youth group was my socialization. I met my first real girlfriend and my first crush there (not the same girl). I met a man, Jon Waters, who will still have a special place in my heart for my life even if we don’t actually talk (except FB stalking now)… he was my youth leader and later pastor. A few summers in a row we took a huge van to a youth camp in Coburg, Ontario, and I learned a lot about god, myself, other people at this camp. I learned scripture. I saw real miracles. The camp and experiences hold special places in my heart. Still.

For me, religion is a spiritual and private journey. My brother recently moved back to Pennsylvania and he’s been attending a great church near my parent’s home. This past Sunday he wanted me to attend, and I wondered if he expected me to make excuses why I couldn’t. Just because I do not attend church in AZ does not mean that I am not religious. So we went. It was very familiar. When I was young, I attended a church called Faith Community and this church also had that same name but the people and place were not the same. The music was similar but not the same songs. The friendliness was familiar. There were people there like me. There were people there that were like him. I enjoyed sharing that with him. I will return with him next Sunday and go while I am here on vacation.

Christmas’ tattoos

January 03, 2010 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Pittsburgh

My uncle grew up working in his father’s Harley shop and when the father passed away, my uncle took over the shop. The biker culture always included tattoo art. My cousins grew up with this in their family and when my oldest became a man, he went and got a tattoo. The three brothers were then and are now artists, so Brian, the oldest, purchased a tattoo gun. He practiced on himself, his father and fruit at first. As he had tattoos done by others, I considered my own work. I too am an artist, and I considered getting a tattoo, also. At first I thought of silly things like cartoon characters (ok for some, but not me), and then I wanted the experience of doing this but not necessarily designing it. I chose two interlaced dragons on my right shoulder. Nothing too drastic, and we had my uncle’s friend do the ink. Part way through I felt a little ill, but the biting needles didn’t both me that much. As I left the tattoo shop, he said, “you’ll be back”. He explained that he knows a way large population of people who cannot get a single tattoo.

He was right. Within a year I was back in his shop. Even though I don’t run off to church weekly, I am religious. I wanted a fish that in part represented fisher of men, but I wanted it to be subtle. I had the letters of the fisher of men built into a koi’s scales, and I went back to same tattooist. That fish went on the inside of my left ankle. By this time my cousin was working on his tattooing more and more and he was cheaper than anyone since he was family. Over the next few years during college he tattooed a red and black tribal son on my left shoulder and a toe ring one weekend when were in Penn State and bored out of our minds. Then it was time for the biggest tattoo: my iguana. I got my iguana tattooed over the course of about five hours initially. I remember lying on my mum’s dining room table while my cousin worked on it. We listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket while he worked and I also took a nap. The tattoo is about 14″ and it’s on the back of my left leg. The final tattoo I got for a really long time was my dream catcher under my tribal sun. I got this as my wife and I began dating, and I’ve not had anything since. Not until now.

This past summer Donna and I traveled to Las Vegas with some friends, and we came very close to getting tattoos. This got me thinking of what I would get. I considered several different ideas; some of them were simpler and others really need to be designed well. It wasn’t the right time, not then.

As I began searching for a good idea this year for presents for my brother and sister, I knew I wanted to get my brother something that he could take with him wherever he went that would always remind him of me. The only thing that could be is a tattoo. It was time, but what would I get? I considered a few ideas and then it came down to something that had a raccoon or my daughter’s name. I wanted something that represented my child, and I highly considered getting her name tattooed across the inside of my left wrist. Donna, frankly, was less than thrilled with the idea. I knew I could cover the tattoo with my watch band when needed. That didn’t convince her.

I had a student design a raccoon tattoo for me that had a scorpion in the center, which I thought represented me well. But when I got home, it just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t feel it and I had to feel it. And at this point the only people who knew about the Christmas gift in my family was my wife and mother, and the only reason my mother knew was because she guessed it one morning.

As Christmas break began, I went looking online. I am never one (after tattoo #1) to just get a stock design but I knew I could find ideas online that I could develop and redesign into something. As I searched, Christmas morning arrived. I wrote a nice note in both their Christmas cards announcing my intentions of paying for tattoos for them both. Meghan was nervous but she has two tattoos already, and her tribal sun needed some work so she could be safe and do a touch up. Jaime, who’s always more reserved, didn’t have much to say. I told them I’d find time when we were available to go get a tattoo. I also began figuring out where to go. I emailed a few friends in Pittsburgh but since I didn’t live there in a decade, I wasn’t sure. I also went on Twitter and sent out a message. One person mentioned a tattoo shop in Bloomfield that I considered, but then @corpsefire wrote to me about Shannon Daley at Jester’s Court in Southside. Southside is my old stomping grounds for years so this felt right to me.

Now I needed a design and kept putting it off. Donna initially was getting ink with us, but then she backed out because (I assume) her design wasn’t ready. As I worked on my design and was frustrated, she suggested I just get them theirs and not worry about mine for now. This wasn’t how it would pan out. This was something I was doing with them. It had to be us all.

One problem I had with the raccoon design was that it was circular and there’s not a spot where I felt like it fit on my body. Then I found a really small drawing of a tribal raccoon online, and suddenly I had an idea. This worked for me, but now I needed it designed. I liked the shape and the body, but it needed work to be mine. I grabbed the body and enlarged it. Then began working on the tail that reminded me of the FireFox fox tail (which I thought was kind of cool), but it didn’t feel right to me. I was showing the initial design to my mother and had this circular area in the center that didn’t work. She suggested the @ sign (it’s called an asperand, if you must know), and I loved the idea! A large part of why I was getting the raccoon was because over the years it has become my online identity. Everywhere online I’ve been known as @nooccar now (including this blog), but something was still missing. As I designed, redrew, and worked on that tattoo I showed it to Donna again. She said the ringed design on the tattoo didn’t seem to work and why not go directly with the word “nooccar” built into the tail as the texture. I adored the idea and began working on it. By now I was running out of days in break, since it was December 30th. Over the course of the next four hours into the wee hours of the morning I designed and redesigned the tail. By about 3AM, it was done. I had “NOOCCAR” built into the tail and designed the asperand myself. Donna, her brother and her mother liked it. Suddenly this feeling came over me that this was the design I’d been waiting for and I was ready. I was giddy as I went to bed.

I called Shannon and set up an appointment for the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. All the while I kept asking my brother what he was going to get, and he just kept shrugging and telling me he’d be ready. He’s a man of few words so I had no idea. Meghan was scheduled to work until noon, so she would meet me and Jaime in Southside. When Jaime picked me up at my in-laws, he looked down at my design and said “that’s what I’m getting”. If I had any idea he was planning on getting the same tattoo as me, then I would’ve designed him a generic tattoo. I was completely touched that he wanted to get the same tattoo as me but the “@nooccar” built into it wouldn’t do it for him. I showed him the design closer and he agreed we needed to change that.


Meghan arrived as Jaime and I walked into Jester’s Court to meet with Shannon Daley. I showed her my design and explained that we wanted change the tail. She agreed and went to draw up the patterns. At the eleventh hour Meghan decided a touchup wasn’t significant enough; this was a gift from me to her and she needed to do something special and new. Meghan had a Celtic swirling circle design that she came in with, and I asked her what that represented for her. She went on for several minutes explaining the significance, and I liked her ideas. It was time to begin and we made Meghan go first since she was the youngest. She wasn’t too thrilled.


Shannon set up the workstation and got out a huge padded table out from behind a row of arcade machines. Meghan stripped off her boots and climbed onto the table. She was worried about the pain, but as Shannon began to tattoo the swirls onto Meghan’s leg Meghan was surprised by the lack of pain. She was ok with it. While we waited, Jaime played Galaga and I shot these and other photos. Meghan’s tattoo took about 90 minutes because the swirls were continual. When it was completed, Meghan was thrilled with Shannon’s work.


Jaime wanted this tattoo on his left leg near where he had another tattoo from the artwork inside of L7’s Bricks are Heavy CD cover. I had suggested the right leg so we could get them in the same area, but he was set on the left. This later surprised me because we had Shannon put them in the same exact place but on balanced ankles, which worked well in the end. Jaime did very well and his work didn’t take long at all. Shannon explained that continual circles and clean lines of Meghan’s swirls. Jaime finished up and I loved the work she did on it.


When I got to the tattoo shop, the smells came back to me. The ointment, the soaps, etc… and it all came back to me. When it was my turn I lay down and prepared my self. I remember the biting needles and the shading/coloring hurting a little more than the line art. I won’t lie, the bottom of my tattoo hurt near the top of my Achille’s Heel where it was more tender, but it wasn’t anything unbearable. Jaime’s tattoo and my tattoo both took half the time of Meghan’s because they weren’t symmetrical. Shannon went over the care instructions with the three of us, she finished my tattoo which turned out wonderful, and then we thanked her.



Below are some of my favorite shots of the day.

Meghan shot this photo as Shannon prepped my tattoo.

I love the composition here of me, Meghan and Michael Patrick, another tattooist working that day.

Shannon as she began my tattoo.

Shannon finishing up Jaime’s tattoo.

Shannon working on Meghan’s tattoo.


I can never go back: A New House

April 27, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Adams, holidays, House, Parenthood, Pittsburgh

Ok, I think it’s time to comment on this one. One day in 1984 I was walking home from school and my parents drove by. I waved them down and hopped into the car. They told me they were off to look at houses because before that we’d been renting, and it was time to move on. We went to this three story cape code on a major highway. The former former occupant had died on the first floor master bedroom and the basement had nice wood paneling. The next day I wrote the address on my wooden desk at school. This was midyear. Within a month we were moved into this new house on Curry Hollow Road. I finished grade 4-6 at two local elementary schools and spent junior high and high school in that house. I can begin to tell you some of the stories in that house, and some others will never leave my lips. I visited home through undergrad and then moved home (into the dead lady’s room) for all of grad school. My brother has lived there for 24 years now. My sister about 20. I lived there for a good part of two decades myself. The house isn’t the largest, the yard isn’t the biggest, and it’s on a highway. In 1993 I became a man in that downstairs basement. Through the early 1990s my cousin courted his now wife and mother of 3 children while spending most weekends living in that same basement. In early 1994 I got my largest tattoo to date on my parent’s dining room table in that house. In spring of 1995 the house caught fire. The basement was destroyed, half the first floor. That same basement where I was sleeping on a December morning in 1994 when I was informed my grandmother was dead. That same house where I lay in an upstairs bedroom with fever and chills in 1988 and was shortly diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The house where I met with my tutors through Jr High when I couldn’t go to school. The same house from which we all three graduated from high school. The home to which my sister headed after a stint in Colorado and, years early, my brother after another in South Bend, Indiana.

My parents are getting older. Dad has bad knees (over weight, skied for four decades). Mom has bad knees (baker’s cysts), bionic hip and a terrible back (sciatic and discs). Did I mention the house has three floors? You can’t even get to the living room without going up a flight of stairs or two… and in the snow and ice, it’s even worse. They need one floor.

Now, I come to say this. It looks like I will never ever be in that house again. Never. Ever. My parents are selling it. They too are moving on like Donna and I did a decade ago. They aren’t going as far. My parents are prepared to put in a bid on a single story (with a huge basement) large home in Canonsburg, PA. We shall see if they get it.

When they talked about moving, we always told them to go for it! Curry Hollow has always been small, too small for two dogs, three children, two parents, a parade of boy friends, girl friends, friend friends, and our own families now. Mum began looking more earnestly after Christmas (now that the economy sucks and you can get a good deal); she liked the Thomas Road house, but I didn’t realize my father would run our the day after tax season to look, too. When he’s ready, my father acts quickly. Too quickly almost for me right now.

My uncle (Dad’s little brother) is in town. They all went to view this Thomas Road house yesterday, and today my parents began packing our house. Yes, Ours, still. I’ve not lived there in a decade, but I am really town now between being happy for them to have the room they need and the lack of stairs, etc… but it’s like I can never go home now. There will be nothing familiar at all with it. No sleeping on the back porch in the summer, listening to New Kids on the Block and getting my ear pierced when I was 12, or the pond where I froze my snapping turtle to death by accident. Nothing. When they say you can never go home again, now I really get it.

This feels like it’s becoming a reality. We talked about new carpets for 15 years and they are doing it now… to sell our family home. We talked about new bathroom model. Now, they are doing it. The basement acoustic ceiling has been falling down for 15 years, my uncle and brother replaced it today. Today. Took 1 day. I waited 15 years, and I will never see the ceiling, the hardwood, the paint. I will get off the plane at Christmas and go to someone’s weird unrecognizable house.

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