VERNON COUNTY - There are certain things I do on rainy days and no other. The tradition started in Baraboo, Wisconsin, when Dane and I were camping at Devil’s Lake for my birthday. It has continued over the years, despite mishaps and mayhem.
We crawled out of our tent that morning and, regardless of the gentle rain that was falling, decided to ride our bikes into town for breakfast: homemade German pancakes and applesauce for me, and a plate full of steaming pancakes for Dane. When we got back on our bikes, the rain was pouring down. I turned and said to Dane, with the hood of my rain jacket blocking part of my face, “It’s raining harder, we might as well go get tattoos.”
“It’s a great day for tattoos. Follow me,” and off I went on my bike.
We found the tattoo shop, went inside, and started looking at all the flash art on the walls. We thumbed through the loose-leaf binders full of pictures of freshly completed bodywork that looked still red and angry. We had to use our imaginations as to how they would look once the swelling went down.
Eventually a man who looked like he may have been napping came out and asked us what we were looking for. Dane showed him an existing tattoo of an Ouroboros and explained that he wanted a web with a spider inside that circle. I said I wanted a small, realistic painted turtle. The sleepy man scratched his head, looking perplexed, and went on to tell us, in detail that I’ve forgotten, why neither of the tattoos we were looking for would work. We decided he just didn’t want to work that day. Tattooless, we road our bikes back to our campsite in the rain.
This was the beginning of a rainy-day tradition with a twist. Sometimes it might be a piercing instead of a tattoo, or perhaps a pedicure. I’d finished decorating my house, after all. Time to move on and decorate my body, and rainy days seemed to be the ticket.
Living in Wisconsin, with all the rain we’ve had, one would think Dane and I would be full of body art and holes. But we’re not—we practice control and moderation. And there always seem to be roadblocks to my best laid plans.
We’ve driven to La Crosse with the windshield wipers working overtime, only to have forgotten my driver’s license. Even if you look 90 years old and you just want your ears pierced or a tiny blue-jay feather below where your thumb and index finger meet, you’d better have ID. Rules are rules in the mind-altering shop that we sometimes go to...only on rainy days.
Occasionally pedicures replace tattoos and piercings. The first time we went for a pedicure Dane choose a bright red polish. I laughed when he went swimming at a public pool a few days later. Fellow swimmers seemed mesmerized by his pretty toenails.
About a month ago I woke up to a dreary day, and sure enough, it started raining. I quickly drove to LaCrosse with my driver’s license secure in my rain jacket pocket. I was on a rainy-day mission: I needed to get the hole in my nose re-pierced. I had managed to lose my tiny silver stud when I had a cold.
I sat on the table in front of the potty-mouthed piercing gal, while she thrust my head upward with the palm of her hand to examine my nose hole. I tried to point to where the hole had been but she slapped my hand away and said, “Hang on there, Honey. I have eyes. I can see it.”
I waited and worried, for she seemed more agitated than normal. Before I could say, “Hold on!” her small blue-gloved hand was jamming a stud through the hole that had closed shut. I started yelping and she told me to stop it, that she was saving me ten dollars by not re-piercing but only forcing the earring into the flesh wound that had once been a real hole. “Ahhh!” I cried out, and “There! Done!” she answered back.
I groaned as she used alcohol wipes to swab up the blood that was dripping from my freshly punctured nose. Damn, she was strong. And boy, could she swear! The torture master was proud that she didn’t have to charge me for piercing, only for the new stud.
I was glad to get out of there alive with my nose still in place. Walking back to the car I let the rain fall on my face, hoping the coolness would soothe the pain. As I drove home the rain slowed to a trickle, and before I hit Westby the sun had come out. I would be content with a dry spell—at least until my nose healed.