Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Girl with the Pigeon Tattoo Gets a Tractor to the Forearm

Barack Obama's daughters loved Drummer Boy so much that when Obama wrote a children's book, he picked Loren Long to illustrate it.  The result is Of Thee I Sing:

Buy it, coz.

But toddlers couldn't care less about that.  When you need to entertain a five-year-old, you want something a little more funkengrooven.  You want a friendship between a tractor and a calf.

If that sounds dumb, it's because you're old and your heart is a brittle, numb thing.  It sounded dumb to me when Dylan requested it as his bedtime story, the first time I ever watched Becky put him down. When she read the gentle purring of the tractor's engine that lulls the little calf to sleep, Otis's putt puff puttedy chuff, I fell in love.  Being a family is mostly making things up as you go.  There are very few moments you feel you're getting it right, while they're happening.  That was one.

Also, when it comes to matters of the heart, Becky is my Otis and I am her calf.  In fact, when Loren Long scheduled appearances at Books & Books Bal Harbour and Coral Gables, I wanted to ask for the calf to go with her tractor.  It would have represented her saving me, us as a couple, and the father I became when she brought Dylan into my life.

But I didn't ask, so we'll have to come with another couple tattoo.

You know how this thing with Becky's arm works, right?

First comes the drawing.

While Mo Willems scribbled the Pigeon in about twenty seconds ("The thing is to capture the energy!"), Loren Long was meticulous.  He stopped several times.  He'd stand, step back, stare, erase, and start again.  "I wasn't this nervous for President Obama," he said.

Then comes the tattooing.

Dicky Magoo of Tattoos by Lou (seriously) loves the challenge of replicating other artist's work, trying to get the same effects in tattoo as they did in whatever medium they originally used.  He did Becky's first illustrator tattoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and returned to the scene of the ink for Otis.

Side Note: That last link is to the Los Angeles Review of Books, where Lisa Jane Persky writes, "Becky Quiroga’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” drawn on her arm by Eric Carle himself, is a piece of body art that soccer moms from Sandusky to Timbuktu would find it [SIC] hard to disapprove of."  But people see what they want.  The more ink Becky gets, the more strangers are wary of the badass tattooed chick.  Few look closely enough to see that they're pictures from children's books.

So it's a tattoo artist's rendering of an illustrator's actual drawing on Becky's arm, get it?  Stop saying, "I guess you'll never wash that arm again."

Becky was able to get Otis between Loren Long's first and second appearances, so he was able to see the finished product.
Pictured: Natural behavior.
Long was soooo nice.  He's the type of nice guy who's so nice that I walk away thinking, "Why can't I be more like him?"  Most people who meet me immediately think I'm an asshole.  Which is 1) not far off 2) why hand-selling books is difficult for me.  So this asshole thinks I should buy "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet;" whoop-dee-freaking-whoo.

The Otis tattoo made Shelf Awareness as well, on September 19th.  Yes, that's how topical I am.  More to the point, that's what Miami Book Fair International 2011 did to me.  It took over all three of my lives, the internet one, the writing one, and the breathing one.

With the presidential credentials on her forearm, can Maurice Sendak's Max be far behind?  Are you listening, Mr. Sendak?  Say the word and we're Connecticut bound.

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