Tattoos – humour etched in skin by ink

Our latest column from William Thomas

I’m no fan of tattoos although they are proving very helpful in capturing really dumb crooks. It’s been almost five years since the guy who robbed a 7-Eleven in Victoria, British Columbia was caught on the surveillance camera with his full name tattooed on his right forearm. The cops who arrested him are still shaking their heads. I’m sure if he’d had more space on those arms, he’d have given them his address as well.

Still, I’m a sucker for a humorous tattoo. I once saw a guy in Toronto wearing shorts and sandals and on each leg he had a solid black tattoo of a knee-high black sock. It killed me. (Black socks and sandals … he must have been a German tourist.) There’s another guy walking around out there with one foot missing its big toe and the tattoo: “Gone to market. Be back soon. Pig.”

There’s one four-piece tattoo on a man’s leg that is both clever and bizarre at the same time. The top tattoo is that of an eye, below that a donut, then a carrot and finally the word ‘ALL.’ Get it? “Eye donot carrot all!” There’s the man with the skin grown over his right ear and the words above it read: “Out of Order.” Yet another, just above the butt crack shows a red arrow pointing downward and the inscription: “Insert Coins In Slot.” I know what you’re thinking but no, I checked and this guy’s name was not Leston Lawrence from Ottawa who was recently convicted of smuggling $180,000 worth of gold coins out of the Royal Canadian Mint … in his rectum! Security became suspicious the day two Lucky Sevens appeared where Leston’s eyes would normally be; a siren went off and 5,000 coins fell out the back of his pants and on to the floor.

The first time I saw a tattoo on a man was a long time ago during a hot summer when I played intermediate softball at Beamish Park in Welland, Ontario. It should have been a routine Sunday morning fastball practice except that the whole team came straight to the park from the catcher’s wedding which had started the afternoon before. Fifteen players sharing the same massive hangover booted grounders, played pop flies off their chests and put their hands over their ears with each new crack of the bat.

We were a pretty fair fastball team. Besides great pitching from Francescutti and Stouck, a vacuum cleaner in the centre of the field by the name of Hank Fraser, Tony Vallerio who often hit the baseball into the soccer field beyond, our captain and inspiration Howie Doan; besides all that we had … Ginzy.

Ginzy was the most naturally funny character I’ve ever known. If the world today had Ginzys Without Borders , most current wars would have to be cancelled on account of laughter.

The day Ginzy brought the Tattoo Man to practice, the team was in trouble. Besides a K-Mart cart full of aspirin and Alka Seltzer by the bucket, we needed a win. We had a slippery hold on second place and the playoffs were looming large. What Ginzy knew about baseball could be and in fact was, written on the cuff of his C & R uniform. But what our manager knew about human nature and the power of laughter, scientists are just now finding out.

“Take it off!” Ginzy told the Tattoo Man, who mumbled something negative and stood by the bench as we all crowded around him, his T-shirt still tucked in.

Even with his T-shirt on, the guy was a walking cartoon strip. When he flexed his right arm, Popeye on his bicep punched Olive Oyl on his forearm. On his other forearm, “Karen” had been crossed out , but “Mom” was circled twice in red.

“Take it off” said Ginzy a second time, but the Tattoo Man wouldn’t budge until some sort of secret deal was struck that likely involved the cost of a four-coloured bald eagle swallowing a two-foot cobra across the back of his shoulders. Off came the T-shirt and the Tattoo Man stood before us, naked to the waist. The first player that saw it fell off the end of the bench. The rest of us followed in twos and threes and at least one guy starting choking on his own laughter.

The Tattoo Man was a hairy guy with one outstanding exception: a clean, bare two-inch strip across his chest that he had been shaving every day for years. This clean-shaven strip stretched the width of his chest and at the far end there was the perfect tattoo of a man pushing a lawn mower. Sorry, but to this day I tear up thinking about it.

Ginzy and the Tattoo Man gave us the lift we needed to go on and win it all that year. Not long ago I was sitting in a bar in Welland and Ginzy walked in with his women’s slo-pitch team. When he spotted me he grabbed the large woman in a baseball uniform nearest him, put her in a headlock and wrestled her to the floor. Then he pinned her for the count of three and strutted around the bar with his arms in the air, acknowledging the applause. Guys! You might as well love ’em, because apparently shaming just doesn’t work.

I’m still against tattoos but hey, if you’re going to intentionally disfigure yourself you might as well go for the laughs.

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