The United States of Tattoos, Etc. | National Review

The United States of Tattoos, Etc. | National Review

Tattoo artist “JuJu” Becker works to apply a tattoo to the forearm of National Guardsman Brian Wood at the Crescent City Tattoo Parlor in the Garden District of New Orleans, La., October 18, 2005. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

I have a piece on the homepage today titled “Changing, and Staying the Same.” What gives? A well-known line from The Leopard goes, “If we want everything to stay the same, everything needs to change.” The Leopard is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa written in the mid 1950s. It has now been turned into an American opera. So has The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the novel by Giorgio Bassani, published a few years after The Leopard. I write about these things in my article.

All right, let’s have some mail — responding to my “Snapshots of America,” a travelogue of sorts, published on Friday. Let me quote a bit from that column, or travelogue, or whatever it was:

Tucson. Is there a city in the United States with a stranger pronunciation, in light of the spelling? What do you tell a foreigner? The “c” is silent? I suppose you do.

I think I can remember when I said “Tuckson,” as a kid. It was probably watching the NCAA basketball tournament, with the University of Arizona, that set me straight.

A reader of ours — a Polish American — writes,

I, too, pronounced it “Tuckson” till I learned better. Did you know there is a city in Poland whose name is spelled “Łańcut” and is pronounced “WINE-sooth”? I get that “Przemyśl” should, of course, be pronounced “Pshemish,” but the “Łańcut” thing is just weird! Makes me wonder whether my ancestors and forebears wrote their dictionaries and developed their tongues while consuming copious amounts of vodka!

In my piece, I wrote,

Ladies and gentlemen, the whole country is tattooed. I mean, the whole frickin’ country — from San Diego to Bangor, from Seattle to Key West. Every single person is tattooed to the gills. I hate it. None of my business, but I hate it. Self-vandalism, in my (irrelevant) opinion.

A reader writes,

I got over any inclination toward tattoos in Hayward, Calif., in 2000. Another agent and I were at lunch in something like a Denny’s. There were two post–middle-aged women a couple of booths down who got up to leave. They were dressed in tank tops and shorts (maybe ill-advisedly). One of them had a tattoo of some sort on her upper arm — unrecognizable. I said to my lunch companion, “That’s why you don’t get tattooed: Someday, you’ll be that age and no one will be able to tell what it is.”

In that piece, I had a few notes about Chelsea, Somerville, Medford — burgs outside Boston. A reader writes,

I was born in Somerville in the shadow of Tufts 80-plus years ago. Back then, Somerville was occasionally referred to as “Slumerville”: It was a working-class mostly Irish/Italian city; one of the most densely populated cities in the United States (104,000 in four square miles). Growing up there, I don’t remember ever seeing a black or Hispanic person. It was not “cool” to be LGBTQ in Somerville when I lived there. Now Somerville is as diverse as any city in the U.S. and 1,000-sq.-ft. condos sell for over $1 million. Somerville is not as lefty as Cambridge but close.

Medford was more Italian and a bit more upscale and hasn’t changed as much as Somerville. We called it “Medfed.”

Chelsea was originally a Jewish enclave. My dad (born in Somerville) as a kid went to Chelsea every Saturday morning to light the stoves of Jewish folks who for religious reasons were forbidden to light a fire. He was paid 25 cents per family. Chelsea is now home to many Hispanics and lots of upscale millennials. Tempus fugit.

My formerly totally Irish/Italian Catholic parish church and school (St. Clement’s) on the Medford/Somerville line is now a Vietnamese Catholic church. Thanks for the memories.

And thank you, one and all.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.