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Tea Leaves

My second skin, made in Thailand

Tattoo convention celebrates living, breathing 'skin art'

Punters show off their Japanese-style tattoos at this year's Thailand Tattoo Expo. (Photo by Tom Vater)

I first got inked in a dingy tattoo parlor near the Cowley car works in Oxford, England, in 1986. I had a skull-and-crossbones motif tattooed on my left shoulder -- less a gesture of rebellion than a gambit to woo a girl from the clutches of a competitor. My rival opted for a Tasmanian Devil cartoon on his behind; an unwise move as it turned out.

The backstreet establishment was a shabby, wood-paneled shop and the tattooist smoked and did not wear gloves. A sign on the wall admonished clients not to show up inebriated, a credo to which the shop's proprietor clearly did not subscribe. The application of my modest piece of "skin art" cost 5 pounds (now $6.55).

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