Hitting The Road With Kyle Dunbar: Put On A Happy Face

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Former Ink Mastercontestant Kyle Dunbar has packed up his tattoo equipment and hit the road looking for adventure. With his family in tow, Dunbar will be traveling the country and trying to make a living as a roving tattoo artist. Over the coming months Dunbar will share his tales of the road with us here on Inkedmag.com. Part 1.Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.Part 5.Part 6.Part 7.

I feel like an old pro at this nomad thing now. We're about to board and after so many flights I feel as if I can see the masks people put on to protect themselves while traveling. Traveling on a plane or train is stressful. I feel like I can see their masks because I once wore them. I was the look away from the eye contact guy, and the dead-eye guy who looks though everyone like they are ghosts. Far too many times I have been the scowl-faced douche that usually ends up pissed over any change or delay. As if flying should be like clockwork. But today I'm trying the “traveling with a smile” guy. They can't make me join in the misery if I won't. So I'm putting a smile on and I mean it.
We got to the BWI airport with plenty of time. We've already learned that we don't do good with any flight before 4 o'clock. We've finished the curbside check in even though I usually avoid situations where tipping is required for work I can do myself. This time I'm happy to spend an extra $10 to not have to lug my own bags to the maze of barricades where they separate us like cattle. You, keep your shoes on, and you, you leave your laptop in its case, And you with the neck tattoo you go with officer latex glove.
I also got a buzz on. Ballast Point IPA. The beer is pricey but I've found it's well worth it. Small price to keep my spirits up.
My wife and son David have just boarded family boarding. We're flying Southwest and they don't use assigned seating. David is too old to qualify for family boarding but they have never stopped us yet when it’s just Candy and David.

Family boarding allows them to get on and save a seat for me. You don't want to be split up to different parts of the plane. But were prepared. If some douche refuses to give up his seat so my wife or I can sit with our son, we'll just hand David his wrestling figures and tell him just to entertain himself with a full on battle royale ‘til we land. If the seat Nazi hasn't moved by then either he will when the Undertaker climbs his shoulder to do a flying headbutt on Triple H, or David just made a new friend, and my wife and I can make our new neighbor uncomfortable by making out while we enjoy our brief respite from the responsibilities of being a parent.

Checking into a hotel after a stressful day of travel can set you and your spouse at odds as much as backing a 33 ft camper into a campsite at night. Probably more. The flight attendant got on the speaker and asked, "did some one leave this up here?" When we all looked she went on to say, "now that I have everyone's attention…" Then she went through the preamble to every flight about how to use a seat belt and all. Is this information still needed? Is there really someone that ties the two ends of the seat belt in a knot around their waist? When Candy and I start out on a trip we are often goo-goo eyed in love with each other but by the time we get to the hotel the romance can too easily be replaced with a short temper. The more we keep mindful of this the better we get at being patient with each other.

Kyle doing his best to land a beer sponsorship.

Kyle doing his best to land a beer sponsorship.

The pain of traveling comes from being vulnerable. So we put on masks and desensitize ourselves from caring for or fellow man. What we know is we’re not in enough control to worry about anyone else but ourselves and/or our families, a real “me first” kind of attitude. Having dinner with a friend, Phillip Spearman (a truly amazing artist and inspiration... I really have to stress the inspiration part), has helped me see that I control not only myself but also how others treat me. So far the genuine smile I'm wearing is working well.

Last night we were at the Papermoon restaurant after the Baltimore convention ended. We were waiting for Caesar and Dutchess from VH1's Black Ink Crew. We've met them several times but never have had the chance to sit and break bread with them so we were excited to get the chance to at the Papermoon.

The Papermoon is a munchies style diner that has... personality. They have taken the time to convert this modest looking restaurant into a place of wonder and weirdness. If the bacon milk shakes don't transport you to a new reality than the odd decor may. They have decorated with mannequin parts, naked baby dolls and every weird mobile thing that hangs from the ceiling you ever wanted to look at but never would own because of its tackiness. And all of it is decorated like Al Fliction was set loose with a bedazzler.

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Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: Men's "Night Watcher" Tee by Fortune Killer

Enough about them because despite how cool the decor is it's the people inside that make a business. And the manager was a douche. Although they proudly advertise that they SEAT until midnight the manager would not allow Cesar and Dutchess into the restaurant even though the other five of us in our party were already seated in time and had not yet finished ordering when they showed. He insisted they don't allow anyone into the restaurant after midnight. I implored him and explained how the rest of our party had been hoping to eat with them for almost a year and this was the first chance we had to do just that. I even explained my own understanding of "policy." You see, as I explained, policy is what plots a steady course but it is the captain's keen eye that brings the ship into harbor. And a wise captain understands that there are times when the policy and course might need to be abandoned for unusual circumstances. I know, I know, I was amazed I came up with such an amazing line of bullshit too. But he was still unmoved. Now I promise you I never pull out the TV card but in this case I wasn't using my own TV card. So I pulled it. "Please understand these are our friends from VH1's hit series on its 5th season are you sure you can't step around the policy in this unusual circumstance?"

David Dunbar and Dr. Blasphemy at the Papermoon.

David Dunbar and Dr. Blasphemy at the Papermoon.

A short drive across town and we were at a 24-hour Italian restaurant called Valentino’s. Remember that name, Valentino’s, because if you are ever in Baltimore, and hungry you will be happy you did. The food was not only amazing, and I mean AMAZING, but they deliver 24-hours a day. The manager I believe was Bobby (sorry bro if it wasn't. I met a lot of cool people this weekend). Bobby took care of us and, more importantly, our hunger. They overfed us, kept the conversation lubricated with alcohol, and made all of us feel comfortable even as everyone in the restaurant recognized Caesar and Dutchess. One drunk girl even ran up to Dutchess and hugged her in her chair while she was eating, I was an afterthought. One guy kinda recognized me but thought my name was Tom. It was super cool to see the effect of their stardom. It allowed me to see how such popular celebrities could become reclusive. But not Caesar and Dutchess, they were calm through it all. I can imagine if I were surprise attacked by random drunk strangers during my meals how I could become afraid of going out in public. How would I know who I was safe saying hi to and who would become a danger to my family or me?

So, anyways, Philip Spearman showed up too, and as he always does he inspired thought and expanded horizons. The result is the smile I wear even now as we fly over America. The smile that I'm going to keep wearing to brighten the moments I get to interact with the ancillary people that travel in and out off my day. I realize now that if I had shared it with the douche manager at the Papermoon before I needed his kindness I would have more readily received it. But F him. You suck dude, next year we are eating at Valentino’s.

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