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    A couple years ago at a tattoo convention, Ramon Taylor had an idea. Artists were buzzing ink into skin all over the place, no tattoo shop necessary. “OK,” he thought. “That’s dope.” If they could work outside of a studio, so could he. Once every month or so, he took his equipment outside the Tat-It-Up shop on 13th and Broadway to tattoo at clubs like JT’s on Preston Street. Later, filling out some paperwork with the health department, he noticed an option that gave him the idea to take his adventures beyond the studio even further: mobile

    “They told me no one’s done it in the state of Kentucky,” the 37-year-old says, heading out from the shop and over to the Tat-It-Up bus, a hulking 1994 Fleetwood Coronado motorhome that Taylor has decked out in his shop’s signature style: strips of fake brick siding, graffiti-style lettering spelling out Tat-It-Up, “TATTOO” in red and white Gothic letters and the shop’s logo of a skull with droopy eyes and dreads resembling Taylor’s cascading from beneath a fedora. And then there’s all the signatures covering the exterior. Big Mikie, Sasha, Jewell, Litty itty — each the name of someone who got a tattoo on the bus.

    Inside, there’s more fake brick and graffiti lettering, road signs on the walls. A Sanyo flatscreen hangs from the ceiling just behind the cab, and there’s a decoration-only payphone near a window. Head past the table and bench and into the back of the bus, and the whole aesthetic changes: everything silver, from the brick on the walls to the tattoo chair, a comfy-looking seat that would look right at home on Star Trek.

    The bus is parked for the winter right now, but come warm months, Taylor will likely rev it up again, doing events throughout town like he did last year — a spot at the Harley-Davidson dealership near the University of Louisville, a car show, the Flea Off Market. I ask him how it drives. “It’s a little difficult at first,” he says. Lucky it’s parked before the needles come out. 

    This originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is a poet, essayist and journalist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as web editor of Louisville Magazine. His narrative journalism has earned him first-place awards in feature writing and profile reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2015, Sarabande Books awarded him the Flo Gault Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The Collagist.

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