By Canyon Webb
Our flight left at 6:15 a.m. Thursday, still dark and half-asleep getting on the plane. The onset of pre-flight jitters and excitement of going to a new place fight the urge to sleep. It seemed like I closed my eyes and re-opened them to notice the reflection of the sun on a huge salty lake. We were here, and the landscape was scattered in jagged mountains, dirt and sagebrush. Down the escalator to the baggage claim as a black suited driver holds a sign that says Jeff Gogué, I turn to look at Jeff with a huge smile...
We wait for our bags and I'm praying my sleeping bag stayed attached to my check in bag. I was assured in a stern tone from the Delta ticket counter that it would never make it. I freaked and desperately tied it tightly to my luggage.
There were no hotel rooms available in Park City this convention weekend. It was my only hope for a bed. I spotted my bag come down the conveyor belt and by a thread my sleeping bag is still attached... Phew. We met our driver outside to see a beaming white limo, not a van, not a cab, a limo! Jeff's face was priceless. I said, "Holy shit man, they got you a limo ride to the resort." "No way man," Jeff said. We hop in reluctantly thinking this is all a big mistake, and by the look on the drivers face, he wasn't expecting to pick up a couple tattooed dudes. Jeff is noticeably overwhelmed and in usual humble form says,"This is way too much for me."
A half-hour drive to Park City through winding hills and I reflect on the funny contrast in my life. I'm getting to ride in a limo with Jeff Gogué to the tattoo convention and on the other hand I'm preparing to sleep anywhere in a sleeping bag for the next four nights. Unbelievable... The show's promoter and owner of Lucky Bamboo tattoo Jared Preslar greets us, shows us around, then we bullshit over lunch.
Park City reminded me of a mormon flavored Aspen Colorado. Obvious rich people jogging and riding their mountain bikes, beautiful mansions on mountain sides surrounded by immaculate ski resorts and runs. The long day wrapped up with a few beers and dinner with amazing people. Some hopeful sleeping options didn't pan out and I'm destined to Jeff's couch for sleep. More than I could hope for, except for taking the privacy away from a friend sucked.
Friday morning... and were pumped to get started. I headed to the show to set up and Jeff prepared for his seminar. The showroom is on the small side, but feels intimate. A nice contrast to a lot of other shows trying to cram in as many booths and artists as possible. The mood was great and it's clear the emphasis was put on quality and not quantity. It was nice to see familiar faces, like-minded people, and lots of talent. The show opened and a steady stream of people walked the aisles. Fridays are always interesting, it's either hit or miss. I burned up most of my day meeting new people and catching up with friends. As Friday night winded down Nikko Hurtado was the last one working showing true resilience and tattooing all day and all night till 1:30 a.m. on Keith Chiaramello.
Saturday morning we woke up with plans of zip lining down a huge mountain behind the convention. It was hot and dry, and a break in my Oregon routine. Four of us went on a ski lift to the top of the mountain to an unexpected stop and start to a zip-line drop off. I hate heights so the adrenaline buzz carried right over into the perfect start to a busy day of tattooing. I started my day tattooing a colorful Quetzal bird on a back, and finishing the night tattooing a skeleton key and ribbon.
I tattooed till midnight, the last one tattooing Saturday night. I asked my last client for a ride downtown to meet up with friends for dinner and drinks. I got dropped off on a tiny main street filled with ritzy ski bars and restaurants with no shortness of drunk people and noise.
I walked down a random alley alone and to my right I spotted a Banksy piece painted on the wall and protected with plexiglass. A piece I recognized, a camera man pulling a flower from the dirt. It was the most unexpected thing to find in this rich little mormon ski town. I walked a couple blocks down and found the fancy restaurant and asked the hostess, "Is there a big table here with a bunch of tattooed people?" she smiled and led the way to the table. I was so thirsty, I missed dinner but was just in time for some drinks and was handed an amber-colored shot of God knows what as soon as sat down... I throw my head back, swallowed the shot and thought, "What in the shit was that?"
The table stared and laughed, letting me in on the joke... “Ha-ha,” I muttered under my breath as I tried to chug water and eat off the leftover dinner plates from surrounding strangers I hadn't met yet at the table to get the shitty taste of unrecognizable booze out of my mouth. I headed back to the hotel to bullshit, as we all scheme an unsuccessful plan to sneak into the hotel pool late that night.
Sunday morning and I'm starting to miss my wife, my home, my comfy bed, my bathroom, all the things we take for granted in life. Park City Utah is still hot, and the elevation high. The last day of the convention and its a nice relaxed atmosphere. Everyone is used to their neighbors. Artists exuding camaraderie. Tattooers taking their finished tattoo from booth to friendly booth showing their work in supportive fashion. I was content walking around and soaking up as much as I could from some of my favorite tattooers like Cory Norris, and being blown away by artists I haven't met like Vic Back, and snagging up the last bit of inspiration before we packed up.
We ended the night at a cool little sushi place called the Flying Sumo. A table packed full of artists and an end to the 1st Annual Park City Utah Tattoo convention. An intimate convention with amazing scenery, great artists and attitudes. A great job by Jared Preslar and the hosting Lucky Bamboo crew...
(Canyon Webb is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Canyon can be found at Off the Map Tattoo in Grants Pass, OR.)