By all accounts Saint Peter, more specifically Pope Peter I of Alexandria, was something of an ecclesiastical badass. Imprisoned and sentenced to death during the Diocletian Persecution, the final and harshest persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, a large group of his followers turned up at prison demanding to die in the place of their beloved Pope. So concerned was he for his flock, that he advised the soldiers guarding him to dig a hole in the prison wall through which he could be seconded to a private place and be martyred. Upon baring his neck to the sword he declared to the soldiers, “now, do as you have been commanded,” demonstrating that though his head would soon be separated from his body, his enormous Nietzschean Ubermench sized testicles would remain resoundingly attached.
San Pedro, the coastal community named for Saint Peter was consolidated into LA in 1909, and the hardscrabble, bare-knuckled life there has always necessitated a comparison with Peter I. Once the stomping grounds of the US Navy and still home to one of America’s most famous prisons, its ethnicity is defined by a lively combination of Croatian, Hispanic and Asian cultures. And despite my timid and pacifistic nature it seemed that my fate and that of San Pedro’s were intertwined because residing within it’s geographical milieu was the studio of the man considered to be the greatest black and grey tattoo artist on the planet, Carlos Torres.
My birthday, the 11th of November, is the same as my wife’s birthday, which is also the date of our wedding anniversary. And somehow knowing we would be in Los Angeles on this date I convinced my wife to allow me to spend the entirety of this day gritting my teeth while getting ink pounded into my arm, by the Rembrandt of the needle, Mr. Torres. Getting an appointment with him had been something of a minor miracle considering his near three-year waiting list, but after I’d reminded his assistant Juliette of the time I’d flown Carlos to Singapore to produce my half sleeve, her response was, “of course he remembers you and has cleared the entire day for you.” Excellent. And transport had also been procured in the form of a Harley Davidson Low Rider S motorcycle, which I had borrowed from the brand to cruise bucolically along the Pacific Coast Highway. However one major point of logic had escaped me. “You’re getting a tattoo on your right forearm that will take about 10 hours to complete,” my wife queried. “Indeed,” I replied. “You don’t think you’ll have trouble holding onto the handlebars of the bike on the near one hour ride back.” Damn logic and its wanton intrusions into my life. The irony that the chosen motif for my tattoo was a portrait of Athena the Greek Goddess of Wisdom was not lost on me. Commiserating with The Rake’s editor Tom Chamberlin, based in London, during an early morning editorial tete a tetes on the day in question, he replied, “I’ll sort it out.” And literally an hour later the front desk of Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica rang my room to declare, “Sir, your car has arrived.” The tone they used was reverential and I wondered why.