For my first act as a single dad, I traveled from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for a tattoo

The day started off at my home in Healdsburg and finished at a tattoo parlor in a Las Vegas strip mall, from which I emerged with a brand name new tattoo on the higher correct segment of my back again.

Yes, the tat is significant. Of course, it is colorful. It’s also pretty straightforward as considerably as ink goes these days: Three stacked and crimson-shaded hearts, adorned with a wraparound banner that bears the names of my a few daughters in cash letters.

All told, the working experience was a way station on an unpredicted journey into existence as a one father. But this is a story about my tattoo, not my divorce.

It may appear strange that I went all the way to Vegas to get a tattoo. For me, having said that, the town has turn out to be a household absent from property.


As a travel and gambling writer, I’ve included the metropolis as a conquer for almost 20 several years in that time, I have written elements of 15 guidebooks and penned dozens of content about everything from activity inventors to butt types. I know the city much better than most locals. I’ve bought as many close friends there as I do in my neighborhood below in Wine State.


There’s far more to my link with Las Vegas than work. As a type-A New York transplant who life out loud, the city’s garishness resonates in my main. Visiting is like mainlining an more than-the-top rated zest for daily life I haven’t identified any place else outdoors NYC. I feed off the city’s vitality. This phenomenon is concurrently rejuvenating and restorative for as prolonged as I can try to remember, Las Vegas has been my go-to place for a dose of positivity when I sense depleted, defeated or rundown. Place just, it is one of the sites on Earth where by I experience the most me.

The natural way, then, Las Vegas experienced to engage in a big position in the changeover to my new reality. It also seemed like a great backdrop for a person of my initially formal acts of independence: the tattoo.


“The Tat” has tempted me for many years. Again in 2015, after my youngest was born, I don’t forget considering the idea as a motivation to placing her and her sisters very first. Pre-pandemic, I flew to Vegas about once a month now and then I frequented some of the area’s 200 tattoo parlors for “research” reasons. I just by no means felt prepared.

Rapidly-ahead to this yr. I filed for divorce in mid-March.  I was absolutely vaccinated by early May well. Sometime about June 1, I was prepared to guide my initial vacation back to Las Vegas in 14 months. So I appeared at the calendar and it hit me: The girls would be with their mother on Father’s Working day.

I saw it as a indicator. 

The to start with, and most significant, move was to find the correct artist. I wasn’t absolutely sure what I required the tattoo to glimpse like, but I realized I desired it in the American traditional fashion. This is the cartoony ink you see on aged sailors and, for me, would be an homage to my paternal grandfather, who experienced a “hula girl” tattoo on his forearm that he would make “dance” by flexing his muscle tissue.

In the end, a mate proposed Amanda Hoffman, an artist at Dirk Vermin’s grungy Pussykat Tattoo Parlor out close to the College of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. I sent her a deposit by way of Venmo and booked the very last slot of the afternoon.

My alarm(s) woke me all over 5 a.m. on Father’s Day. No young ones, no cards, no breakfast in bed — just me and my suitcase. 

Absolutely sure, it was bittersweet for a instant I was unfortunate to be with no some of the married-guy rituals I had loved for my first 12 Father’s Working day celebrations. Then I remembered: This pilgrimage to my distinctive spot was the top tribute for the future stage of fatherhood, a fitting celebration of the joy my daughters deliver me each and every day.

When I rolled into Pussykat, Hoffman greeted me with honesty that left me experience seen and validated all at as soon as.
  
“I simply cannot be with my dad today, but I feel this is a quite cool choice,” she said.

We invested the initially 45 minutes talking about design. With large metal blaring in the background, I told her what I desired as she sketched on an iPad. The partitions were being covered with drawings of her perform, and I referenced touches I’d like to see in mine: shading on the hearts, a wraparound banner, those exaggerated money letters.

Last but not least, I asked her to listing the ladies on the banner in beginning purchase the 12-year-aged on top, the nearly-10-yr-aged in the center, the 5.5-year-outdated last. When she showed me the sketch, I burst into tears.

I really do not recall much about the tattooing approach. I was on the table for about 90 minutes. It was scorching. When it hurt, I shut my eyes and daydreamed about the destinations I want to get the ladies as a vaccinated loved ones of 4: Hawaii, my hometown on Prolonged Island back again east, the San Juan Islands of Washington.

As Hoffman was wrapping up, a close friend arrived to just take shots. Mainly because of its placement, I could not see the tattoo specifically, so these images ended up additional treasured to me than a progressive jackpot at pai gow poker, my most loved Vegas desk video game. 

I immediately texted a pic to my oldest, who experienced been nagging me for one all day. Her response: “OMG,” followed by a thumbs-up emoji.

I expended the rest of my Father’s Working day excursion to Vegas wearing a perma-smile. Nevertheless the women were with their mother 600 miles away, they were also with me as I schlepped close to like I usually do when I’m in city. We had some great meals at new dining places. We toured a massive shiny Resorts Planet lodge. We sweated out some sports activities bets. We spent an afternoon in a darkish tiki bar. The girls even joined me in spirit when I requested strangers to utilize Aquaphor to the tattoo to maintain it moist (seriously). You’d be surprised how quick it is to make friends with that line.

If life as a one father indicates voluntarily offering up 50 percent my time with the a few most crucial men and women in my daily life, at minimum now I’ll by no means have to be with out them yet again. Las Vegas has provided me loads more than the yrs. This, with out concern, is the greatest present of all. 

Matt Villano is a author and editor in Healdsburg. Discover a lot more about him at whalehead.com.

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