Saturday, October 18, 2014

A DEEP DIVE INTO A ROSE TATTOO

Dropkick Murphys "Rose Tattoo" video
Dropkick Murphys "Rose Tattoo" Lyrics

A Rose Tattoo for My Daughter Chloe

Music has always been my proverbial go-to drug and the emotive prime mover and the synchronizing clarifier humming in the background of my life. It’s always been right there by my side as I swerve in and out of life’s various lanes of joy, treachery, and thrill.
Along this long tail journey of life, and all the quirky meta-journeys it imposes, there are some sonic moments that emerge out of the normal, absorbed soundtrack that are uniquely punctuated by a heightened relevance—a soul-searing connection to a song, album, or a lyrical phrase. Or even a video.
A handful of these moments have eternally cemented themselves to me via particular songs, bands, albums, video, and poignant lyrical poetic bullets.
In recent years, a tune that has animated all kinds of emotion, significance, and extrapolated personal meaning to me is the song and video for “Rose Tattoo” by Dropkick Murphys. The dichotomies and sentiments weaved into the lyrics and the images in the video paint a tapestry of life that very much mirrors many themes of my life.
So I’mma take a deep dive here and break this down almost line by damn line.
If you’re heavily tattooed and your ink has, at least in large part, some meaning to you, then likely for you it is also the case that “the pictures tell the story” and your “life has many shades”. As I expand here you’ll see that’s definitely true for me.
7 X 70 Room 101 Big Payback
I’ve got a passion for fine cigars. I love the way they go with coffee in the morning and 
bourbon at night. I love the aroma, the flavor, the feel. The way it tames a traffic-filled commute. Love the aesthetic of the cigar band and the thought and art that goes into most cigar branding. Cigars for me are contemplative facilitators that accompany so much of my decision-making. Cigars provide the relaxant mechanism for me to allow all factors of a pending decision to bubble up in clarity. So I can clearly underwrite the ever-changing course of my life. When Ken Casey sings “I’d wake up every morning and before I’d start each day / I’d take a drag from last nights cigarette / That smoldered in it’s tray / Down a little something and then be on my way”, I’m reminded not of last night’s cigarette but of the cigar butt left for my discovery every morning as I down my morning black coffee and head on my way. The cigar butt smoldered in the ashtray that signifies the completion of the previous night’s contemplations, writings, readings, and resolutions made. The coffee that shakes off any remnants of the previous night’s booze intake and soul-searching hangover. The coffee that catalyzes the energy of a bold new day.

When in the “Rose Tattoo” video the camera flashes to the Celtic cross hanging on the wall as Ken sings “I was guided by a compass / I saw beauty to the north”, I’m reminded of the overarching threads of heritage and faith represented in the Celtic cross. I’m struck by the power that those life forces have to guide us through a life that offers very few maps with specific directives of left and right turns. A life that more often than not colors us with the broad thematic direction that a compass provides—a directive that provokes curious margins of wonderment, beautiful instincts of free will, and a teasing hope that keeps us chasing vigorously past disappointments and failures.
As the song confesses that the singer “drew the tales of many lives /
And wore the faces of my own”, I’m reminded of the gift of the vast, diverse swathe of virtual mentors, real-life heroes, and deep impacting personal relationships that have sharply punctuated my life. People from whom whose lives I’ve collectively drawn the tales of—to enhance my life so I could wear the unique face of my own. Individuals whose lives and legacies have had profound impact on how I approach business, faith, loyalty, love, forgiveness, and redemption.

As the song persists and takes comfort that the singer has “had these memories all around me / So I wouldn’t be alone”,  I think of the carefully curated images and items that I’ve populated my living space with. Every selection was intentional and serves to remind me of inspirational sources that help inform my ongoing pursuit of discovering the multi-threaded composite of my calling. Images of my Irish heritage, of Americana beauty, of nautical metaphoric significance, of musical impact, of life’s poetic glory and of men who brought the world to new understanding of insightful profundities. I do my best work when I have the likes of Winston Churchill, Johnny Cash, the Liberty Bell, Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, Popeye, Marine Corp slogans, Norman Rockwell paintings and Irish Blessings staring back at me.
Blood For Blood skull
My tattoos are a disjointed storyboard of my life. They detail a seemingly random path of
interests, images, and commitments. From a raging tiger to a trumpeting angel. From Jesus bearing a crown of thorns to a Blood for Blood skull. From a lighthouse to an atom bomb draped in the American flag pronouncing our times as the “Age of Quarrel”. Each stain triggers memories of different kinds and emotions and attachments of all varieties. Some of sweet pain and tumult and the strength of fighting through. Some of love, joy and persistent hope. Some, like the obligatory rose tattoo with the ex-wife’s name etched beside it, with piercing memories of complex relationships gone wrong. Indeed, the whole lot of them can be summed up concisely in the way DKM describes: “Some may be from showing up / Others are from growing up /Sometimes I was so messed up and didn’t have a clue.”
Me and My Daughter Violet
I’ve learned to strategically walk through life knowing when to ignore the false impressions I sense others have about me. I do impression management by simply not doing it at all.  Wearing full sleeve tattoos on both arms gives me lots of practice to exercise this skill. The images are primarily for me. They keep me anchored in who I am, where I’ve been, and where I purpose to go. And the ones etched as a tribute to loved ones, like the two rose tattoos bearing my daughters’ names, are there for their honor. When Ken sings “I ain’t winning no one over / I wear it just for you / I’ve got your name written here / In a rose tattoo”, I smile and think of who I wear those rose tattoos for, and who I ain’t concerned about winning over.
Wild-Eyed Sailor
One tattoo comes quickly to mind when I hear Ken singing “This ones for the mighty sea / Mischief, gold and piracy.”—my Popeye tattoo designed by Aaron Coleman and inked by Keith Reed. The image is of a maniacal looking Popeye with bloodshot eyes, tongue hanging out and steering wildly through the open sea. It is my nod to wild-eyed adventurism, bold risk taking, and sailing through life with curious mischief and a sense of life’s endless possibilities.
The “Rose Tattoo” video is littered with images of the band drinking, smoking, gambling, and playing music. It’s a familiar scene of men unpacking the events and troubles of the day amidst their choice pleasures, vices, and past times. A snapshot of the trimmings of male camaraderie and fellowship that helps tough guys distill unspoken moments of clarity amidst the constant hustle of life. These images remind me of my pals at the cigar lounge and the regular gatherings I share with my treasured, long held friends.
This One's for The Man That Raised Me
My old man almost never cursed. But he did once advise me that, “Sometimes life’s a beach, but most of the time life’s a bitch.” My old man followed the direction of his internal spirit voice no matter how much of a bitch life became. He dug deep and stayed the course of his calling through 
undesirable occupational detours—selling used cars, teaching unappreciative kids and other distractions. But he always saw the purpose in everything and found his way back to the pulpit where he belongs. Back to guiding others to a life focused on the internal. On the spiritual. I have a portrait tattoo of my dad on the inside of my left arm. I echo Ken’s sung words of “This ones for the man that raised me / Taught me sacrifice and bravery,” when I peer at this tattoo.

My middle name is Thorp, if you ain’t figured that out yet. It’s a name passed down from the English side of my family and it means ‘small village’ or ‘small farm’. Now I could care less about small villages or farms to be honest, but my family and heritage matters. I named one of my record labels THORP RECORDS and I gave my son Griffin the middle name Thorp to perpetuate the significance. I have the name tattooed in Old English script across my back because “This one’s for my family name / With pride I wear it to the grave.”
A sign reminding that “if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough” is seen in the “Rose Tattoo” video. True enough. This truth reminds me of my grandmother who grew up in a working class Irish family in the Kensington part of Philadelphia. My grandmother left home in her late teens. Her dad was a tortured alcoholic. ‘Ole
Betty hoisted herself through life with a bootstrapped Irish Catholic faith that converted to Protestantism only to later mingle back with Catholicism in her seventies after she re-married as a widow. But through it all she never stopped emphasizing the luck of the Irish. A luck that is theologically anathema to the constructs of her faith but somehow seemed to make sense and accent it in the way that she explained it. I think of this when I look at my ‘Blessed” tattoo consisting of a harp and  clovers. My grandmother’s maiden name was McIntyre. In honor of her, I named the protagonist in my spy thriller Blaze McIntyre. Lucky enough indeed.
Madball - A Reminder to Adapt & Overcome
As the “Rose Tattoo” video shows images of Dropkick Murphys posters and tattoos, I’m reminded of the strength music has always given me. A strength further represented by some of my tattoos honoring some of my favorite bands. A Madball tattoo to remind me of the band that has always been my musical workout companion and the angel in the boxing ring of my life coaching me to bob and weave and pivot for the next body shot. A Cro-Mags tattoo to help me traverse through hard times with perpetual PMA. A tattoo of Sheer Terror’s cover art for Love Songs For The Unloved to wrap up my divorce. A Blood for Blood skull with its trademark tear drop to remind me of the necessity of pain as one approaches life with an outlawed approach of risk-taking authenticity. And a set of Social Distortion lyrics from the song “When The Angels Sing” to memorialize a dear friend who passed away after a long battle with a heroin addiction.
A Ship That Always Stays The Course
I’m not a seaman. I don’t fish much. I don’t own a boat. I do love the water and cherish any time away in which I’m able to spend time near the water. So I’m not a nautical purist. But the image of a strong, towering ship has always captured me. Images I usually see in paintings. A ship holding fast through furious waves crashing against it. Through an angry sea begging the ship’s defiance. It’s been a metaphor that I’ve always internalized. Stay strong and hold fast through life’s crashing waves of difficulty and conditioning. Stay the course. Fortify the stern. This is what flashes to mind when I see the ship tattoo on my forearm. It’s what comes to mind when DKM sings “This one means the most to me / Stays here for eternity /A ship that always stays the course.” And when he follows it up with “An anchor for my every choice”, I think of the various anchor tattoos I wear. Mostly the one with banners around it reading “Truth”, “Love”, and “Discipline”—three virtues I strive to remain anchored to with every choice I make in life.
Another prominent thrust of images in the video are the barrage of boxers fighting in the ring. I don’t box other then amateur heavy bag training for exercise. I don’t really follow boxing adamantly and couldn’t really hold a strong fan boy conversation about the sport. But the sport itself still strongly attracts me because of the spirit it possesses. I love the raw lessons that can be wrought from the personal stories of fighters, both real and fictional. Whether its Micky Ward, Mohammed Ali, Jack Johnson, or Rocky Balboa. I internalize the fighting spirit of boxers as much as possible in a metaphoric way in my own life—in business, in parenting, in relationships, and in my spiritual life.  The tattoo on my left arm with boxing gloves stating “Never Give In” roots me in this life approach.
My left arm dons an angel tattoo blowing a trumpet with a skull coming out. It was designed by Dave Quiggle and inked by Ryan Pauliff. The piece is surrounded by two banners. One is the lyrics “Stand Up Strong, Feel The Pain, When The Angels Sing” from the song “When The Angels
In Memory of My Grandfather, Lothar H. Miller
Sing” by Social Distortion. The bottom banner reads “In Memory Of Richard Seiferheld”. Rich was one of my closest friends that passed in 2006 after years of battling a heroin addiction. On my right tricep is an eagle with a banner memorializing my grandfather, Lothar Helmut Miller, who served in World War II. When DKM sings “You’ll always be there with me / Even if you’re gone / You’ll always have my love / Our memory will live on”, it’s these sacred ink tributes that flood my mind with memories of the men they are dedicated to. They will always be in my heart and honored on my skin.
The end of the video showcases a flash to a scene of an American flag flapping gently in the wind. This buttons the whole thing up for me perfectly. Although imperfect like any other nation, America has offered its inhabitants an endless
stream of discovered opportunities, uniquely crafted streams of adventurism, and reformative revolutions that are historically special. These sentiments make me think of the American flag tattooed on my wrist. I don’t know DKM’s intentions for inserting the flag, but to me it’s an apolitical symbol of the land that I know and love.
So maybe I’ve taken this song and video a tad too much to heart. I’ve extrapolated all kinds of meaning, memories, and value out of it that others may not venture to pull. This is just how my mind works. How my soul thrives. When something resonates, I ingest and dig deep. I instinctively grab application and substance. Many times when such substance impacts my life I’ve put ink to truth and  signed and sealed” the relevant “words in blood”. I hope you do too.


American Mick Spy Anti-hero, Blaze McIntyre is chronicled rocking Dropkick Murphys in his ear buds as he boxes CIA Director Chuck Gallagher in my new novel BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity. Pick up your copy today on AMAZON.

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