Sunday, June 6, 2010

Musink 2010: The Tales of the Anti-social Traveler

It all started on October 22 2009, when the announcement of the Artists and Bands for Musink 2010 was made. I did not even read through the line up when I saw the name FILIP LEU. I saw his name and realized that I wanted to go. I wanted to go with the whole family, but due to the cost of the trip I decided the trip would have to wait. Having the AWESOME wife, she insisted I should fly solo on this trip. Great Mr. Anti-Social himself with his minor case of OCD getting on a plane and flying cross country by himself. Hmm!
So with that settled, I called Filip to see if we could work on my back at Musink, he said "Sure" and that he was looking forward to it. He said he only had one appointment for Friday Feburary 19 only that the rest of the weekend was available. Hello people this is FUCKING Filip Leu why isn't everyone trying to book an appointment. Anyway it was great for me because I took the first appointment on Saturday the 20th of February. Now with the appointment made it was time to plan the trip itself, if there was no appointment there would be no need to go on this trip.
Officially I started planning my first trip to Southern California. In the past my wife (Kerry) and I had only been to San Francisco twice on other Tattoo adventures. These two excursions included work by Filip Leu and Marcus Pacheco. Costa Mesa here I come.

February 18, 2010 the alarm goes off at 3:45 am, this is the same time I get up every morning to go to work. Not this morning, I take my usual train but the destination was different. I was headed to Newark Airport to set out on my long and lonely journey. I make all of my rail connections, it seems that I made it to the airport in record time. Even with a slight delay, Thanks to New Jersey Transit. Finally at the Airport now comes my concern, Security check point. So I have my jacket and shoes off, my laptop was opened, no liquids nothing just my back pack with my clothes. I step up, check in ten people on line to the left of me, no one to the right. A Security Guard saw I was ready and directed me to the line on the right and said " I like to see people who are prepared" right through security in less than ten minutes. The trip was getting better already, this being the first time I was flying since 1995 and by myself I was expecting the worst. Now it was 7:00 am, my flight was 8:20 am, now what. I call my absent travel partner Kerry and bother her for awhile, trying to remain calm because the next step was the flight itself.
The time was now approaching to board the plane my nerves were settling, before I knew we are in the air headed to John Wayne Airport. Flight was not bad, a little long for my taste but still not that bad. After watching mountains, deserts and everything in between, we land. Traveling light was had a major advantage, no baggage claim! Now I headed to the taxi stand to try and get to my Hotel. I got in the taxi, a quick ride later I was there. If I new it was only 3.5 miles I would have walked and saved twenty bucks. Anyway this would be my home for the next five days.

That is when the fun began. The first day I spent familiarizing myself with the neighborhood and I stopped to get my hair cut, had to look "FRESH" for Musink HAHA!. When the nice Filipino man was finished with my hair I walked over to The Orange County Fairgrounds so I would be prepared for the weekend. Once I found the Fairgrounds I headed over to Native Foods Cafe. I picked up their Ponchos Quesavilla which are Vegan Quesadillas with grilled vegetables, caramelized onions and melted (non-soy/cassava based) cheeses. Also I had a BL Tease which was Avocado slices, tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, carrots, onions, and Vegan Mayo on organic whole wheat toast. Both where delicious and worth the six mile walk round trip. I got back to my room enjoyed dinner while watching Curling on the Winter Olympics. This was my favorite source of entertainment when I was not at Musink. After a few calls to my wife who I missed, some Twitter posts I rounded out the night with more Curling on T.V. , planning the next day and plenty of sleep.

Friday February 19, 2010 finally day one of Musink had come. I am awake at 6:00 am PST, showered and dress and ready to go by 7:00 am Musink doesn't open until 2:00 pm. Being on New York time kinda sucked, so I had some time to kill. I took another walking tour of Costa Mesa. Taking in the sights while in search of WHAT ELSE... FOOD, looking for a grocery store or a restaurant with Vegan options. Mission accomplished I found a grocery store, Stater Bros. Market which I returned to later that evening for supplies for dinner. After walking for a few miles I headed back to the Hotel all before 11:00 am. Damn still three hours to kill! Bored and missing my family I turned on "I Love Lucy" one of my daughter Ryann's favorite shows ate some Spicy Sweet Chilli Doritos and called my love. After my snack and conversation it was time to get ready for Musink. I departed for The Fairgrounds around 1:30 for the festivities.
I get to Musink and I am instantly AMAZED, the set up for the festival was Awesome. There were three buildings one was "The Ink" which was obviously were the tattooing was to commence. Next was the "The Mall" which was set up with various vendors selling all kinds of goods from clothes to hand painted sugar skulls. The third building was "The Music" where the various band would play over the course of this three day event. Last but not least I check out the half pipe, were people could skate through out the weekend. Also the skate ramp is were "The Legends of Skate Jam" would take place on Saturday evening.

Now after familiarizing myself with my surroundings, just one of my hang ups I hate being in a place which I am not familiar. It was time to find Filip the main reason for this journey. I head right into "The Ink" building and start looking for the man himself. Mission accomplished within the first five minutes. The booth was set up very nice, a typical booth for any convention except for the two large flat screen TVs so the crowd could watch as Filip was tattooing. I later found out that the TVs were provided by the organizers of the event and not part of Filip's gear. I talked with him briefly just to confirm the time for my appointment for the next day and moved on to the rest of the building. I checked some of my favorites like Robert Hernandez, Nikko Hurtado, Kim Saigh and Norm from Will Rise. All excellent super talented artists. Next was a trip to the skate ramp. Watching everyone skate was really cool, it shortly became Ultra Cool because the man Duane Peters hit the ramp. I was awesome to see him skate with all the New Jacks on the half pipe, I hope they knew that they were skating with Greatness. Compared to all the younger skaters with all there flashy kick flips his style was so Superior in his runs and execution. No flashy tricks for him just smooth flowing, old school awesomeness.
Day one for me is coming to an end, I am dying to get back to the hotel because I hate being out with the general populace for to long. But not before one last bit of entertainment, Mike Vallely's new band "BY THE SWORD". A lot of good bands were playing Musink that weekend but the only one I felt like seeing was "By The Sword". They do awesome cover songs of "Black Flag","Minor Threat" and even Mike Vs' own "Revolution Mother". What an awesome set, hard hitting and powerful, even had a guest vocalist Duane Peters who joined the band for a few songs.

Now with the events of the day over, time for a quick two mile walk to pick up some goods for dinner. I pick up various dinner supplies for the next few days, Boca Chik'n patties, lettuce, grape tomatoes, etc. to make a few nice Vegan salads. Now back to the hotel for food, Curling and a call home. Being on the road by myself was not terrible, but I missed my wife and children. Feeling tired and lonely it was time for bed. I needed to rest up for the busy day of tattooing ahead.

Saturday February 20, 2010 the big day has come, I felt like a kid heading to the first day of Kindergarten, nervous and excited. It's not like I haven't been tattooed before, I just get a little anxious about the pain. As usual I get up early watch some TV until about 9:00 am, starting to climb the walls because I still have three hours before I have to be at Musink. So time to call home to talk to my beloved to see how things are at home. After a short but sweet conversation I decide it's time to shower, shave and head out for the day. I put on my kicks, headed out at 11:00am for a quick walk around Costa Mesa and then over to The Orange County Fair Grounds for Musink.

I get to the Fair Grounds just in time for them to open the gates. I make my way over to "The Ink" building and head directly to "The Leu Family's Family Irons" booth. I get to the booth to be greeted by Loretta and Ajja Leu (Filip's mother and brother), they inform me that Filip is on his way, they had a late night and he would be there shortly. After speaking with Loretta and Ajja for about a half an hour Filip showed up and immediately the fun begins. For the next few hours the guilt and anxiety of me being here away from my family subsides. I went to California on a mission and the mission was now about to start.

Filip looks over the two thirds of my back he had already completed eight and a half years earlier. I can instantly see the wheels spinning in his head. We sat in the booth, with his sketch pad on his lap we started to discuss how to proceed. He made a crude sketch of what already exists. He asked if I would like to complete the piece by adding skulls or dragons. Of coarse being a fan of both and a wearer of some of his skulls I tell him "No". I proceed to explain that no matter how much I like his skulls and dragons I would prefer to go with the original design we started years earlier. I took out photos we took in 2001 of the original design. He laughs then apologizes and says "I didn't mean for the nose to look like a cock, it wasn't planned." Still laughing he shows the picture around and swears to everyone "It wasn't planned." I ask him something I never thought I'd ask him in a million years, to change what he had tattooed. I said to Filip "No offense but do you think we could fix the nose, my wife and I would greatly appreciate it." Again he apologized and said "No problem. Can I keep these pictures? I want to show a few more people later." We discussed the minor changes, now it was time for him to start working his magic. After thirty to forty minutes of his freehand assault, drawing horns that look like roots with evil faces. He took a few pictures during this process to show me the progress, since I don't have eye in the back of my head. While Filip was drawing I also had the privilege of talking with Nikko Hurtado who came over to the booth. We briefly discussed Filip's work as well as Robert Hernandez and Bob Tyrrell's. I payed him a few compliments and he was off to go tattoo. I remember thinking to myself "Why are all the BIG talent Tattoo Artist so nice" it is pretty Amazing. When the drawing was complete and all was agreed upon with no hints of genitalia. We are in business and ready to tattoo.

Over the next few hours the experience was full of pleasure as well as pain. The pleasure of talking to Filip and his family while being tattooed can not be described in words. Where the discomfort of the needles sometimes makes you want to die, the comfort level you feel while being tattooed offsets the pain. Weather they are offering you food or a drink or just pleasant conversation it is an experience I highly recommend to everyone! After tattooing for about an hour and a half or two hours we take a break. Filip took a walk to stretch and grab something to eat. During this time I recess to the corner of the booth waiting for him to return. I did not like standing there with no shirt on it made me feel uncomfortable being in this state of undress in front of a lot of strangers. All the people I encountered were rather nice, encouraging ,wanting to take photos and congratulatory about the great work he was doing. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole or finish getting tattooed. Filip came back snapped a quick picture to show me the progress and we continued.

I flip around on the table so now Filip can work on my left side. We talked about different things such as Veganism, his lovely wife Titine, their shop and of course tattooing. All while he was making great progress.
Time for another quick break so Filip can stretch and have a smoke. Then right back to the action. We are about four hours in, it's around 5:00 pm and "The Legends Of Skate Jam" is about to begin. Damn I was going to miss it. But that day getting tattooed was more important. During this round of tattooing it was time to finish the nose. Up until the point the pain had been very tolerable, due to Filip's speed and technique. Once he started with the details on my spine I thought for sure the needles were going to pop through my chest. Holy Shit! I had never felt pain like that in my life. It felt like someone kicked me in the chest while I was having a heart attack. Damn it was brutal! I just kept telling myself "It will be over soon." I believe at one point I even told him "We should have left the penis nose because the pain fucking sucks!!!" He reassured me that he was almost done. He finishes and it is time for the final round of pictures.

After these final pictures, we briefly discuss where on me he will tattoo next time. I know we had just finished, the pain had ended and we are planning the next round of tattooing. It was now 6:00 pm a short five hour session plus the six and a half hour session from 2001. That puts us at eleven and a half hours for a complete back piece. Now you know why I waited so long to have him finish. We say our goodbyes, a few handshakes, hugs and I'm off to see if I can catch any action from the skate jam.

So I hustle my way through the crowd wrapped like a tuna sandwich (vegan tuna) after being tattooed. The crowd is pretty big now it was a Saturday Night The Buzzcocks and The Damned where playing, so it was getting busy. Me hating crowds, I find myself ready to get out of there. I make it to the Half Pipe and of course "The Legends Skate Jam" was over. But I did manage to catch a quick glimps of of Christian Hosoi being interviewed by Fuel TV. Then I turned to find Mike Vallely and Duane Peters shooting the shit. My being the nervous wreck that I am, I hesitate to go over to them. But I had to because I was instructed by my daughter Ryann not to come home without Mike V's autograph for her. At this point I was a thirty seven year old man feeling star struck and like I am fifteen again. I see them posing for Larry Ransom who is about to take their picture. I asked Larry if he would mind if I took a few, of course he said no problem. Next thing I know I am introducing myself to Mike and Duane. Very uncharateristic of me but with the mini sketch book I carried with me all day just for that moment, I ask both for their autographs. I ask Mike for one for myself as well as for Ryann, Duane signs one for me. I am totally stoked. Mike heads off for an interview, Duane and I continued to talk. We talked about life and our kids for several minutes it was great. What an awesome conversation and a real genuine man. I have much respect for Duane Peters "The Master of Disaster". We parted ways and I headed back to where the tattooing is happening.

Now it is just after 6:30 pm I made one final pass through the room. I stopped to check out Nikko Hurtado doing a Harry from"Harry and the Hendersons" tattoo it was incredible. In the next booth was Robert Hernandez doing an awesome skull. I made my way over to the Memoir Tattoo booth to watch Shawn Barber working on a crazy leg piece. Last stop is to watch Bob Tyrrell working on a skull hand piece, WOW!
7:00 pm it was time for this old fool to get out of there, at this point I've had my fill of people. Not that the people attending Musink were bad, as a matter of fact they were a very nice and laid back crowd. But that did not make me want to stay any longer. As I walked back towards the hotel I called my wife to tell her about the events of the day. I finish our conversation and continue to walk. I walk past the hotel because I realized that I had to stop at the store for lotion for my new tattoo. By the time I get back to the hotel it is around 8:30 time to take of the plastic wrap and take a nice hot shower. Shower and lotion complete, time for a salad and some curling. At this point I was thinking "Damn I still have two days here!!!" Just watched television for the rest of the night, went to sleep. After what was the busiest and best day of the trip I was exhausted.

The next day I decided to skip Musink, not that the event wasn't Awesome but I had my fill of crowds for the weekend. I spent most of the day just watching TV in the hotel with my shirt off letting the air at my back. A couple of phone calls home, some Twitter and Myspace action helped pass the time. Now it was afternoon and I needed to get out. So I set out once again to investigate Costa Mesa. I walk up and down Newport Blvd., I head down some side streets to check out the local residents. The area is nice and so are the people, I am not use to walking down the street and having people say hello. During my walk about town I found this and it made me laugh. Like a real child I see the word DICK and lose it.

Now back to the hotel for some more TV until dinner time, I even squeezed in a nap. That night dinner consisted of some Cucumber Avocado rolls from the local Sushi place. With dinner now finished time for another hot shower to clean my back, lotion it up and time for more TV. Bored and counting down the hours until I board the plane, a phone call to Kerry and then off to sleep.

Day 5 February 22, 2010 the day had come for me to head home. Check out is at 11:00am so what do I do, I wake up at 7:00am. Four hours to kill is not long, I had to pack my stuff and check it about ten times to make sure I didn't forget anything. Showered, packed and ready to go by 10:00am. I needed some time for the lotion on my back to dry, so I relaxed until 11:00am put on my shirt and checked out.

Being the cheap skate that I am, I decided to walk to the Airport. After all I had five hours before my flight. A 3.5 mile walk in the warm California sun, sure no problem if it saves me twenty bucks. GREAT. It took me about an hour to get there, now I only had four hours until my flight. All is well, I checked in and made it through Security all by 12:45pm. My flight is approaching little by little. Finally cooling down after my long walk I get to the gate and started to play the waiting game. I call my wife to say hello and to tell her I'll see her at Newark around 11:50pm Eastern time, which is still about ten hours away. The next two hours pass rather quickly and I board the plane. Not as nervous as the flight to California but still anxious to land in New Jersey and drive home. Flight went smooth no Emergency landings or crashes in the desert I never thought I would be so happy to be in New Jersey.

I headed to passenger pick up, wait for Kerry to come. She arrived, a quick hug and kiss. Now we are on our way to Upstate New York where we call home. It felt like I had never left. After a very long weekend, which had some high points I came to a conclusion. I don't think I ever want to travel alone again. Between missing everyone, being bored and having no one to share the experience with traveling solo sound great but it really sucks.

Thanks for reading I hope I didn't bore you with a Super long post. But that's my story. Trip to California gets a thumbs up, but traveling alone gets a thumbs down!!!

Thanks again,


  1. Hey this is a great post. I'm one of the producers of MusInk and I was really stoked when I read this. Thank you for coming out all the way from NY. Again, great post and take care.

    Cory Danger

  2. You know what, I loved the post! Been to see Filip for my first tattoo (of many more to come I hope) from him and share your experience of him & the family. Well worth everything.