Archive for September, 2007

When the crows fly

September 28, 2007


Ok, so they’re starlings. But the convention was tonight, in the parking lot outside the Chattanooga Times Free Press.


Is that a catfish on your arm?

September 18, 2007

Jeff Leigh makes sure all of his customers read the sign mounted on the counter before he sets to work with any needles.
“The tattoo you choose to get will be with you for the rest of your life,” the placard reads. “So before asking how much, ask first about the skill and talent of the artist. You are getting tattooed, not buying groceries.”
It’s a warning that has been passed down through the tattooing community for the past 30 years, he said.
Leigh opened Hillbilly Mother Fucker Tattoo — known as HMF Tattoo to the children — on Cloud Springs Road last January, after a friend’s unfortunate encounter with a train provided him enough money to fund the start-up. He had worked at five or six shops and was glad to get his own place.
The 36-year-old specializes in free-hand, custom artwork, while his employee, Scott Anschuetz, 29, takes care of piercings and “flash” art, or tattoos based on pre-drawn designs.
Leigh said the demand for tattoos in Fort Oglethorpe is high. He estimates that he produces 15 to 20 tattoos a week and spends an average of two to three hours on each session. He charges $100 an hour and requires a $60 shop minimum.
He said the most original tattoos he’s produced recently (that he can mention) have been a chicken drumstick and a catfish.
“Fourteen years and I’ve never done a catfish,” he said. He noted that he has done a few bass.
When people come into the shop with ideas, Leigh starts by sketching the design onto their skin with a permanent marker. Once both he and the client are pleased with the look, he sets to work with the needles.
Leigh describes his style as “traditional new school,” or his own twist on the traditional tattooing aesthetic.
Allen Tate, 32, who hangs around the shop and sometimes volunteers to take out the trash, said that when people see Leigh’s trademark skull drawing, they know it’s his work.
“Everyone is well pleased,” he said.
Leigh got his first tattoo, a dream catcher on his left upper arm, in 1991. Since then, he has gotten more than 20 tattoos, which have blended together to form solid masses of design on his forearms. His favorite is the mohawk on his head, a strip composed of a skull with question marks and exclamation points streaming from its forehead.
Leigh said that like himself, most people he knows are “in progress.” They periodically drop by the shop to add a new portion to the design spreading across their skin.
“You don’t see people with just one most of the time,” he said.
He said he enjoys creating artwork that has the ability to hold memory.
Every tattoo on a person’s body marks a spot in time, he said. “And it’s going to be here a lot longer than I will.”
Published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 3, 2006

Party in the street? That’s a capital idea.

September 16, 2007

The party moved outside last Sunday in Washington D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Washingtonians block partied international style at the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival, established 29 years ago to celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural diversity. And it was loud.


I strolled the neighborhood with my college roommate, who now lives there, and a friend of hers visiting from Kentucky.
Our first stop: A section of Euclid Street where flamenco dancers in traditional polka-dotted dresses swished their hips and stomped their feet to the rhythm of a flamenco guitar and drum.
Our second: The intersection of 18th and Columbia, where 20 musicians rocked their trombones and tubas back and forth in unison as they played upbeat New Orleans’ style jazz.
Further down the road, we sat beneath the hoops on the basketball court at Marie H. Reed Community Center, where West African dancers jumped and gyrated to live drum music, then invited the least inhibited of the crowd to join them.
We strolled between the tents selling jewelry, African masks, alpaca skins and chicken on a stick, passed a trio of girls crooning a Third Eye Blind song outside Peyotes Karaoke Café, then decided maybe it was time to head home.

Finish your beer, there are sober kids in India

September 2, 2007

You don’t have to know anything about roving gypsies or Queen’s head-banging rock opera to hang out at JJ’s Bohemia — though it could help you score big at the bar’s trivia night. The Chattanooga watering hole opened about a year ago on Martin Luther King Blvd. and has quickly become a central hangout for the city’s hipsters.
The barroom has exposed brick walls, dim lighting and utilitarian décor: two red couches at the front, two round tables at the back and a row of cushion-covered kegs along the bar.
On Thursday night, one-man-band Scotty Karate took the stage around 11 p.m., wearing a Willie Nelson T-shirt and buffalo wig with antlers. His left foot clapped a cymbal, his right foot pounded a drum, his fingers wailed into an electric guitar and he warbled about super cuties and digging holes. He was likely chewing gum too.


JJ’s regular patrons shout greetings to people who enter, and, for the most part, abide by a sign on the counter that advises, “Finish your beer, there are sober kids in India.”
If you’re thinking of stopping by the neighborhood hot spot, here’s a tentative schedule of events:
Monday: Pub quiz with Eddie
Tuesday: $2 Guinness
Wednesday: Open mic night
Sunday: Movie Night