The Skinny on An Old Tattoo

Ron Nagasawa
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Wednesday - August 29, 2007
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Ron Nagasawa is on vacation. This column was published originally on Aug. 11, 1999.

It may surprise most of you to know that I have a tattoo on my right arm. Never mind what that tattoo is, but I got one long before body art ever became fashionable.

In the summer of 1983, I went to a tattoo parlor in my hometown of Wahiawa, and for no reason in particular, became a marked man.

A few days later, I was in the kitchen without my shirt on and my mother asked me why I had a bandage over my arm. She was not impressed when I told her it was a tattoo. In Japan, the country of her birth, tattoos are considered the mark of “Yakuza,” Japanese gangsters.


She gave me the look that mothers give their sons whenever they do something crazy and yelled, “You go take that off right now!” That was the last time I ever got any grief over my tattoo, at least until last week.

I was shopping at Times supermarket and had worn a tank top. I got up to the checkout line and in front of me were two young women, dead ringers for Kona Carmack and Stacy Kamano.

They were whispering and giggling when I overheard one of them say “Awesome tattoo.” I looked around and it seemed apparent that they were talking about me. I suddenly became overly concerned about my physique, especially my tattooed arm.

Now I don’t have “guns” like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I’m no Dennis Franz either. I started to unload the contents of my shopping cart onto the conveyer. The last item I grabbed was a can of corn. I kept it in my hand so that my bicep was at maximum flex.


That was a mistake as I wasn’t in the express checkout. After several grueling minutes of keeping my muscle tense, it started to cramp on me. Just then one of the women turned and I saw she had a tattoo around her navel. I suddenly realized this was the tattoo they were talking about.

When I got home, my wife saw me massaging my arm and asked what happened. I don’t think I lied when I said, “I strained it while pumping some iron.”

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