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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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West Allis native, Paul Block, now tattoos in San Francisco.
West Allis native, Paul Block, now tattoos in San Francisco.

Tattoo your nickname?

Expectations are a funny thing. And when expectations aren't met, that's when the learning occurs.

Last weekend I went to the Milwaukee Tattoo Festival at State Fair Park, expecting to find out that having your nickname tattooed somewhere would likely be popular. Well, as I learned, it was ... 10 or 15 years ago. But what I also learned is that the best nicknames resided within the tattoo artists themselves.

Tattoos today have become much more than a heart with a banner and the word "Mother" inscribed. They are complete body art, a trend that has shifted tattoos from simply being a single word, like a nickname, to a whole visual landscape, with almost a limitless variety of options.

I spoke to tattoo artists from San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indiana, and they all essentially schooled me on another fascinating fact from tattoo-you land. If you have the pet name or nickname of your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or significant other tattooed on you, there's better than a 75 percent chance that within less than six months, you will want it covered up or removed.

I spoke to a tattoo artist born in London, now living in New York, nicknamed "Jon Jon." That nickname has become his personal brand in the transient tattoo community.

"I honestly try to talk customers out of the idea of having something like 'Honey Bear' or some other pet name tattooed, because 80 percent of the time, they will be back within three months and want it removed. I'm tellin' ya, it's bad luck," he says.

Clearly the majority of tattoo artists I spoke with said it usually turns out to be a very bad idea.

I had this confirmed by Dan, from Black Ink Tattoo, another tattoo artist from Crystal Lake, Ill.

"I frequently have tried to talk people out of getting their pet nickname tattooed because so often the relationships don't last," he says.

The best nickname from the festival? Hands down, "Bleach Methane." He is a tattoo artist living in Minneapolis. I learned of "Bleach" from Paul Block, another tattoo artist who actually grew up in West Allis and now lives in the Haight-Ashbury part of San Fran. He had an apprentice named Dan Temby back in the day in Madison.

As Dan tells it on his web site: "When you mop a floor at a restaurant, you use bleach in the water. What I did not know was that you do not use bleach on a waxed linoleum floor! As I poured bleach in the mop bucket, one of the tattoo artists (Paul Block) asked me if I was sure I knew what I was doing? I looked at him like he was crazy and said 'yeah! been doing this for years!' He rolled his eyes and said OK then. When I finished mopping the floor he asked me what that smell was, and I said that I must have put a little too much bleach in the water.

So 'here's the thing' (to quote my friend Pedro), bleach mixed with floor wax creates chlorine gas, which when inhaled, burns the lungs and you die! Luckily no one was there until the next morning. But all the windows were foggy all the next day even after they had all the doors open to air out the place. On the good side, the floors were very white and clean. On the bad side, they had just paid a couple hundred bucks to wax the floors.

When I got to work my boss (and step-brother) Brian Jansen told me that I have the new nickname Bleach. 

I started a band with a good friend of mine called Gods Own Methane that was going to be a punk band and both of us were going to use methane as a last name. But that band went nowhere. Out of the blue we started making electronic music using only a PlayStation and we called that project the Methane Brothers.

 So there you have it, and the nickname 'Bleach Methane' was born."

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