FRESH INK - Class of 2021/1
Photography and Interviews by Zoe Reifel '21 / Transcriptions by Dayna Weissman '21
EDWARD YANEZ AND MICHAEL FREIBURGER
EY: Michael and I have matching tattoos--we were both on the bomb squad in Afghanistan--and we actually didn’t know each other when we got these tattoos. Every generation of bomb techs has a different symbol. For the World War II bomb techs, it was Felix the Cat, and for my generation, it’s Spy v. Spy [a comic strip popularized in Mad Magazine]. I have a full sleeve: it’s Japanese-inspired American stuff. I have a koi dragon, which in the story goes up the Yellow River, and once it completes its journey, it turns into an actual dragon, and I haven’t completed my life journey; I don’t know exactly who I am yet, I’m in this transition phase. And I have “Death is certain, life is not” on my chest, which is a reminder not to base my decisions on what the chances getting harmed are. It’s to be selfless, knowing I could get hurt or die. I’m doing it for other individuals, for all the times mosques were bombed, for all the Afghans that were going to worship.
MF: I started getting tattoos when I was eighteen, and I really haven’t stopped. My most recent tattoo is for my friend John Mayner. He killed himself on January 15, 2014. My left arm is a sleeve that’s been pieced together over the years. It has a lot to do with my old job in the military, which centered around dealing with explosive hazards. So I have Spy v. Spy, a bomb from Mario, a Banksy girl hugging a bomb, and a little pink bomb which my mom and I got together. On the top of my shoulder I have the Grateful Dead, and “What a long strange trip it’s been” for a few of my friends that were lost in combat. The tattoo I’ve gotten the most compliments on is on my right calf, it’s Norbert from the Angry Beavers dressed up to be a Western gunslinger. The one tattoo that no one ever sees is Sebastian the Crab holding a bomb on my upper right butt-cheek. Other than that, I have stuff all over myself; I have a cheese on my foot. I also have five tattoos that I share with other people. I’m really into getting tattoos with people and sharing that bond.
ZOE: How did you choose the bomb squad?
MF: Lot of money, honestly. (Laughs.) I joined right out of high school, it was a sizable bonus, and I was told I get to play with explosives.
EY: I was a combat medic. I was a paratrooper and was losing a lot of my friends to bombs. I got tired of being reactive to my friends being blown up, so I decided to be proactive and go out there and do something about it. So I joined the bomb squad and ended up in Afghanistan.
MF: I’m sure you also met some bomb techs and were like, “These guys are cool! I wanna do what they’re doing!” Right? Cause that’s usually the story.
EY: No, not really. (Laughs).
MF: Wow, look at Mother Theresa over here.
ZOE: That’s so crazy, that you crossed paths here.
MF: Yeah. It is pretty weird.
EY: We have this random connection, where we’re jerks to each other, and people just don’t understand that brotherhood.
MF: Yeah, we’re just assholes to each other. But that’s, you know, love.
EY: Well, I mean, it comes from the fact that our job is such a hard job that you need to make people resilient.
MF: Break ‘em down before you build ‘em up. We’re still in the breakdown phase.
GM: I got it over the summer with my mom, right after I graduated. She had been designing her tattoo for years and I always made fun of her because she would carry around her little design in her wallet in case she was gonna get it spur-of-the-moment. I found this artist on Instagram who I really liked, he drew this little thing for me, then I got it tattooed over cause I’m a control freak. It’s supposed to be a moth but it’s kinda also ambiguously a butterfly.
MW: I have one tattoo, I got it the day after I turned eighteen this past July. It’s the branch of a hemlock tree on my ribs. I went to this summer camp in Charlton, Massachusetts starting from when I was ten years-old, and now I work there. There’s a place there called Hemlock Point on the lake, and it’s full of hemlock trees, which are these very, very tall pine trees that are native to New England. There’s an invasive species of caterpillar that has infested a lot of the forests in New England, and it affects hemlock trees. Over the years you used to look up and there was zero sunlight, and now barely any of the trees are still alive, all the leaves are gone. The roots of the trees are what hold up the land, and the trees are dying. Within the next ten to fifteen years, that whole place is gonna be gone. My last year as a camper there, my friend and I went — and you should never carve anything into living trees, because it’s very bad for the trees — but we went and carved our initials into a dead tree as a really angsty symbolic teen thing.
RS: I have one on my upper arm and it’s a rabbit. I got it because it’s my Chinese zodiac animal; I’m Chinese, and my siblings both have necklaces of their Chinese zodiac animals. I never got one from my family, so I just got this as my own way of having that. I also have a — I can’t show you because my pants won’t allow it — but I have a five link chain. It’s supposed to be a siblings tattoo, because I have two siblings. We were gonna get 3 links, but three of them looked too stubby according to the tattoo artist, so I got five. My brother has it too, and my sister’s planning on getting it. Lastly, I have a budding rose. It doesn’t have that much meaning to it. It was one of the first tattoos I wanted to get, but it’s my most recent, just cause I thought it would hurt a lot, and it did. It’s more for aesthetics, but I also really like the idea of budding roses.
BG: My tattoo is a Yin Yang disassembled to its smallest parts. I have various meanings for it, one of them is obviously the most common meaning for Yin Yang, meaning balance--how in life you have to have a balance between good things and bad things. You can never be a fully good person or a fully bad person, it always comes in parts. I find that in life it always keeps me in track. Also, I found a different meaning in how it’s disassembled, how everything can be decomposed to nothing, and everything is built from nothing to something. The first time I was ever exposed to tattoos was from my parents. They went to a tattoo parlor with their friends and all got tattoos together. My mom didn’t know what to get, so she asked me. I looked through the walls and decided on a Yin Yang. She got it on her left foot. I always told myself I would get the same one. Earlier this year, when we went to Colombia, where I’m from, we decided to get tattoos together, and I got this.
BS: I knew I wanted to get a tattoo to symbolize me turning eighteen, something that symbolizes passing into a new chapter of life. I eventually decided that I wanted to get something traditional and something that was my own, too. I ended up getting a Wu-Tang [Clan] ‘W’ with roses on the inside. At first glance it seems like something that’s arbitrary and “just a rap group”. But there are a few books of philosophy the group has put out about self-determination and life focused on growth. That really stuck with me.
CC: My tattoos are the drama masks done in the Japanese Oni style, which is a deity that punishes evil humans on Earth. I didn’t want it to be so close to the Japanese style; I wanted it to be more like very colorful, dramatic masks. I’ve been in the performing arts since I was in sixth grade. Before I got into theater, I used to not express my emotions very well. Since then, I’ve been pushed into being an expressive person. My tattoos are supposed to be my extremes of being very sad and being very manic and happy, and trying to find a middle. I actually didn’t go into the tattoo thinking this, but a friend put it into words, and I realized that they were right: these are my extremes, and because they are on my arms, it’s like I’m in the middle of my extremes for once.
Fresh Ink is a series that started in Method Magazine - now done for Method, with The Artifex - that documents tattoos amongst students.
Zoe Reifel can be contacted at email@example.com.