Friday, May 16, 2008

Burn My Body: Carson Honors a Difficult Decision

Needless to say, I was amazed.

Our paths intersected at 23rd and 7th around Noon. He had neck work and a sleeve, and an incredible lighthouse tattooed on the back of his left leg (for
his fiancée, he later explained), but I didn't think I'd catch him. He was walking faster than me, and had earbuds in. I generally don't like to a) interrupt people listening to music and, b) chase them.

But I happened to be walking the same direction and, when I noticed he had stopped to look into the windows of Dan's Chelsea Guitars, condition "b" was no longer a factor.


I approached him, distracted him from his ear buds, and introduced myself. I forgave myself the interruption because his work was so well done.

As I always do, when speaking with folks with multiple tattoos, I asked him which meant the most, which piece I could feature here on Tattoosday. He acknowledged that he had a chest piece which was "in progress". Did he mind showing me on the street? As the photo above indicates, not at all.


Excuse my manners. I didn't introduce our host properly. The guy on the sidewalk displaying has tattoos just downstairs from the Hotel Chelsea was Carson James.

Carson is a Brooklynite that plays bass in a band called Tombs (click to hear some of their stuff on their MySpace page).

And when he pulled his shirt off, I was expecting a great chest piece, but nothing like what scrolled across his body.

Carson confirmed, the words were the complete lyrics to a song, "Burn My Body" by William Eliot Whitmore.


"What," I asked, "is the significance of this song that made you want to preserve it forever on you like this?"

He told me how, about two years ago, his younger brother, Trevor Lorne James, was killed in a motorcycle accident in New Jersey. His parents were understanably distraught over such a devastating event, and the decision fell to Carson - his brother's body was cremated.

Here are the lyrics to "Burn My Body":
Burn My Body

Burn my body in the northern field
and let the wind blow the ashes around
Then you will know that my wounds have been healed
'cause Lord I'll be homeward bound

Let the flames warm your hands
let the glow light your way
These gifts to you I bestow
No one's listening don't bother to pray
if you do I'll never know
Up and up the smoke will roll
like a cloud of frightened crows
carry my not so immortal soul
up between the rows

Some words that are said can cut like a saw
and my ears nearly bled at the sound
I can't help prepare for the springtime thaw
'cause Lord I'll be homeward bound
When frost turns to flowers and they all start to bloom
and there's nothing left to hold
tip one back and sing me a tune
and never let the fire grow cold
You can see a video of Whitmore performing the song here.

We talked about cremation and I asked if he had ever heard the poem "Cremation" by Robinson Jeffers (read it here). I promised to e-mail it to him later.

This piece, and most of Carson's work was inked by Thomas Hooper, an incredible tattooer who worked out of Frith Street Tattoo and Piercing in London, and now works out of New York Adorned's Brooklyn shop. You can see more of Hooper's amazing work on his web site here. The quality of Hooper's tattooing is truly awesome.


Carson also gave me some more background on his other work (which I did not photograph). His right arm is sleeved with a depiction of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and, as mentioned earlier, the lighthouse is for his
fiancée.

It should also be noted that this is another first for Tattoosday, as Carson is the host here whose face is visible in a tattoo shot. Understandable (and appreciated) due to the size of the featured work.

Thanks so much to Carson for sharing his ink with us here at Tattoosday!

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Awesome! Thomas Hooper is amazing.

k said...

Too cool - found you through Hooper's site and will be linking this one to mine.

Anonymous said...

Sick post. Trevor was a good friend of mine and Carson is a cool ass motherfucker.

Paul Harley