WESTMINSTER — Dwight A. King has stuck a stud through his nostril and a pin through his nipple, but until last week never had felt a seven-point needledigging into his skin.
King, a 20-year-old who dropped out of college to travel the country, thought about getting a tattoo for several years before making the commitment.
Thursday, after Vinnie Myers traced an American Indian on King's back and began outlining the drawing in black ink using a needle, there was no turning back.
"Try not to move, dude. Try not to flinch if you can help it," Myers said as he bent over with his face close to King's back. In his hand was a small gun with a needle attached that had been dipped in ink.
King squeezed his eyes shut, but held his back -- Myers' canvas -- still.
Before he sat in the chair in the back room of Myers' tattoo parlor for the four-hour session, King went to the restroom and took a few puffs on a Camel. He was getting nervous.
"I've got cramps in my lower back thinking about it," he said.
But he wasn't having second thoughts. The tattoo, like the stud and the pin, would be a form of self-expression. King said he is one-eighth Cherokee Indian and wanted a way to show his pride.
"Bodies are pretty plain things," King said. "A soul's a beautiful thing,and you can bring a little bit of it outside" with a tattoo.
But with beauty comes pain.
The needle, about one-sixteenth of an inchlong, pierced King's skin, depositing ink in the tiny holes it left.King said it tickled but felt like a pin pricking when Myers moved near a bone.
"It's not really anything compared to what he's going to feel later," said Myers, knowing he would change soon to a seven-point needle for shading.
"It feels like somebody's sticking alcohol in a cut," he said as Myers shaded the horse's tail. The tattoo is about 7 inches long and 6 inches across.
All thewhile, the gun, attached to an electrical cord, buzzed like a dentist's drill. Myers controlled the power with a foot pedal.
"The dentist is way worse, if you ask me," Myers said.
Myers, a 28-year-oldBaltimore resident, opened Little Vinnies Tattoos on June 1 in a second-floor shop to the rear of Winchester Exchange, the former Sherwood Square Mall, on Main Street.
"My ultimate goal is to be an optometrist. This is just a means to an end," he said.
His is the only tattoo parlor in the county, although a number of people, called "scratchers," do tattooing in their homes.
Myers, whose artistic talents may have come from his grandmother and mother, said he likes to tattoo original designs, but will do a U.S. flag or a Bugs Bunny if asked. He charges $60 to $75 an hour.
He has a dragon on his left calf, a lizard on his right calf and the beginnings of an ankle braceletof faces on his left leg. He also has a shamrock on his right shoulder. He did the tattoos on his legs himself. He wants to get a large Oriental design on his back, but his wife isn't crazy about the idea.
Myers learned the art of tattooing while serving in the Army in South Korea but had been tattooed in Magic Marker by his brother when he was younger. After leaving the service, he lived in Hawaii for a year, earning money by tattooing at luaus and other parties.
Business so far has been steady here, he said. Bikers still get tattoos, butso do women who work in banks and "yuppies," he said.
Customers must be at least 18 and sign a release form saying they don't have a heart condition, epilepsy, hepatitis or hemophilia. They also must swear they're not taking drugs or alcohol.
Myers sterilizes the needles and wears rubber gloves.
"If the sun hits it or you brush up against something, it's going to hurt tomorrow," he told King.