Monthly Archives: February 2012

marked eternal

Ilona & Narimantas, Worthing, UK, 2011


tattooIn 1995, I met Ilona and Narimantas in Kaunas, Lithuania. They’d met a month before at a bar in the Old Town called the Blue Orange (B.O.). Narimantas, bald and tattooed, was at the bar and saw Ilona with another guy. He said to her, “That guy you’re with, is he important to you? If not, come with me.”

Ilona, in the summer before her last year of uni, was intrigued by Narimantas’s manner and fuck-all attitude. Even upon meeting, he struck her as someone who didn’t care about the stupid things most people concern themselves with, and she liked.

She replied, “Not really.” She wasn’t particularly into the guy she was with. They were friends, really. Maybe a little more.

“Then come with me,” he repeated.

“Well, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it,” she answered, taken aback.

“Don’t think too long or we’ll be pissed [drunk],” said Narimantas.

And so she went. I met them a few weeks later, and they were already thick as thieves. Weeks later, I took photos of Narimantas giving Ilona her first tattoo, over 16 years ago.

Then I lost them. After Ilona finished university, they left for the UK. Lithuania wasn’t in the EU yet, so they made their way in under the radar. Because unpleasant guys in track suits were interested in Narimantas’s whereabouts, they also left under the radar and I couldn’t track them, though I finally heard a rumor that they’d left for the UK. Narimantas found work as a tattoo artist and Ilona did all sorts of things. Seven years later, she became a tattoo artist as well.

ilonaThey moved from London to Brighton and last year, to Worthing, where they opened their own shop, Mantas Tattoo. I visited in September, and it was fun to see them together (married), sixteen years later. Although much had changed, not much had changed. They are comfortable with each other, proud of each other, and don’t seem bored in the least. They both have their own interests and habits and they give each other that space. Ilona does more of the tattooing now than Mantas, and they both only work when they want to work.

They’ve set themselves up in a home in Worthing, and walk to their shop, which is right next to the train station. Their home is suburban and comfortable, decorated with Narimantas’s paintings and interesting skulls and skeletons. The top floor is a little cove-like hideout, with a computer for gaming, pillows on the floor, and other creature comforts (there’s a cat, too). While they’re both involved in different online communities, they don’t go out much, the way urban artists might, preferring the comfort and entertainments of home during non-working hours. I found this inspiring, as some Americans like to insult suburban life on principle, though they live totally uncreative, conformist lives in small, dreary, overpriced urban apartments. Narimantas and Ilona have definitely found a way for themselves and live lives they enjoy on their own terms. Not many people can say that—especially first generation immigrants.

Looking back, none of the friends I visited in the UK have traditional 9-5s. Alys and her boyfriend are photographers, Angela and Karen are yoga teachers and studio owners, and Andrew owns a bike repair shop. I can’t help but wonder if people feel more free to venture into their own businesses in the UK because they don’t have to worry about/pay for health insurance, living without a “real” job. A chat I had years ago with an economist friend lends weight to this argument—that our sickening medical industrial complex stifles creativity and small business in the US. And you can bet the corporate giants like it that way.

Marked Eternal is the name of Ilona’s blog.

Narimantas & Ilona in Druskininkai, Lithuania

9E71: a time out

home-1Last week Mar and I saw a play (Rx at 59e59. Very cute). I haven’t seen her in years and it brought me back to our Time Out days. Her photography is beautiful. Like me, she’s not particularly commercial, though she leans toward fine art and I toward documentary. The cover image at right (mine) is still one of my favorites. I was in Uzbekistan when it was published and didn’t know it made the cover until I came back and saw it in a bookstore.

Jpeg is back Monday, thank god. I missed him, but in a nice way. He’s classy enough to call regularly, not use the “ah, oh, yeah, there’s no internet here” line on days we don’t speak, and didn’t need to pick up a Russian prostitute to keep him company on his travels. Respect, gentlemen. That’s all we ask.

Danchik likes to analyze why I stop speaking to people, just cut them out completely. It’s not that I’m angry or upset. It’s that I’m done being angry and upset. After I’ve explained that certain behaviors aren’t acceptable (e.g. lies and inconsistency), not once but ad nauseam, and it’s clear he’s incapable of basic civility, I lose all respect. A line is crossed and I am done. I never really know where this line is or when it will appear, which is perhaps what causes confusion (“she put up with it before. What’s the problem now?”). Sooner or later, clarity descends and the person’s little world seems both toxic and boring. I’m no longer able to look past the trite and unnecessary excuses and lies, justifying them because of the person’s obvious pain. I finally see my own behavior as aiding and abetting, and I’m done. Danchik doesn’t get the respect thing, and he doesn’t get why I haven’t cut him off, a self-proclaimed asshole.

“You’ve always been good to me. Well, maybe there was a short time you weren’t, but you were a baby and I let it go.” Behavior that is understandable at 19 is not acceptable at 25, and definitely not at 49. And that’s the issue. The bottom line is that Danchik is good to me. We have a history. As Bij would say, “He’s family.” I can’t say that for those I can no longer be bothered with. (No, I’m not talking specifically about you. You are typical. You are one of many. And that is, actually, the bottom line. It’s not all about you).

There was some time to think about this with Jpeg out of town. I say it because I’m relieved I broke a 5-year string of bad luck (disingenuous, selfish men) but also because bad behavior seems to be a dating trend in both women and men. I own my misery—it wasn’t bad luck. I let poor behavior continue, and chose to ignore the reality for what I’d hoped was there. Or put up with bad behavior because I felt sorry for the guy. It’s fucking hard to be close to someone, and I’m sure I will always fear it. But I will no longer choose men with whom closeness is impossible—for recreation or relationship. It causes dreadful problems and more pain than simply facing my fear of intimacy and the hurt behind it. But it’s familiar. And easier. Easier to look outward to solve problems than within. Not just for me, but for many.

Take this depressing blog, “Uptown-Lowdown,” about a young woman’s adventures on the dating site OkCupid. My gawd. She started off genuine and endearing, but then somehow got wrapped up in the need to exude freedom and cool, and she lost her voice in the process. It reads now as if having deep feelings for someone and risking vulnerability is wildly unhip for either gender. “Women can be douchebags, too!” Wow. I think most of us got that awhile ago. The need for young women to flaunt it seems to indicate just how far we haven’t come. Or just how scared we all are. Better to justify excitement about a guy in his FULLYPAID invite to Jamaica than to admit vulnerability and excitement the person himself. Sad times. Sad times.

Further, it is amazing how poorly behaved people are willing to be, in writing, in an age that such behavior can be published at large on the internet (and I’m not talking about a dating blog). It’s especially shocking when such people have PR as their first and only concern. But then, in an age of narcissism, nothing should come as a surprise.