Kings and Jesters

Gianni works in Wolfgang Coffee off the Zieglergasse stop on the U3 U-Bahnn line. I ordered an espresso from him and asked, “This is absurd, but can I interview you for my tattoo blog.” A week later, I was seated across from him in Vienna, Austria.

“I have eight I think,” Gianni had to pause and count. “No, actually nine. I don’t know, my tattoos do not have as deep as a meaning as other people. A few are for family, while others are just for me. All of them have a little meaning but I also got them to please myself because it has to look cool also for me.

“You get tattoos for yourself, you don’t do it for anyone else. You can’t think, ‘What do people think? Is this cool? Is this not cool?’ I mean, I’m a barista so it’s cool and hipster to have tattoos and do coffee but that’s by chance. I never thought, ‘I do coffee; now I have to get tattoos.’ I had a few before. It shouldn’t be a problem anymore but a few jobs think you’re a criminal or stupid. A good friend of mine is going to be an interpreter and he has a sleeve and his chest and back, but he’s obviously not stupid. He got his masters degree and he’s very intelligent. I also don’t want to call myself intelligent but I got my masters degree also. If I see someone in a bank office with tattoos, I would treat him regularly. Just because he has tattoos doesn’t mean he’s not as good in some work. It doesn’t say anything. But it’s definitely a thing in our society.

“There are some other ideas for tattoos that will come but I’m fine for the moment. Maybe I’ll get more after the summer.” I asked Gianni how many tattoos he wanted to get. “I don’t know, there’s no number!” He laughed. “I don’t think I’d get anything on my hands; I promised my mother. And neck? I don’t think so. And the back is really painful. It’s because you have thin skin, bones, and not a lot of muscle or fat. Maybe one day, the arms are fine for now though.

“The first one was this. It’s Scopa, an Italian card game, I don’t know if you know it. The picture is of the King of Suns card. This is for my grandfather because he played with me when I was young, these cards. My master’s thesis I wrote about cards. I really like cards and globes because I studied history. You see how people saw the world in the cards.”

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“This one is for my two grandmothers.”

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“This is for my father.”

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“This is a woman with a bear for my mother.”

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“My family is in Luxembourg, Germany right now.” I asked if he was close to his family. “Yeah, I mean we fought from time to time. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t close when I was younger, but it’s family, when you see them you’re happy. Even if you have had problems. Studies brought me to Vienna. I came here for my masters, somehow I came into gastronomy and coffee and that stuff. I didn’t know what to do, I studied history because I knew I wanted to do something cultural, like a museum or some cultural club. I wanted to finish my studies for sure. I searched something in a cultural area, for example in Luxembourg Embassy. I didn’t get anything because sometimes I did not have the right studies, sometimes the jobs didn’t need anyone or did not have the finances to get new people. I had to work just nights to make a living. There were some points, maybe it was luck, where I could focus more on coffee and learn a lot about it.

“The perfume bottle,” he pulled up a picture from the tattoo artist’s Instagram page. “This is because we also have the bar. It’s called Die Parfümerie. It started one year and a half ago with bar catering, with drinks. We had little, a really low budget. We even built the bar from some wood ourselves. And now we are self-employed. With two friends, we created the bar. It was just a few, small bar caterings. Then everything grew. Then I told myself that I had to go completely into self-employment. Now we have to try it, now we have the energy to do it. Maybe in five years we won’t have the energy to do it anymore, or you get a family. So many things could happen. But at the moment we have to do it, we have to try it.

“Then this,” he gestured to the coffee shop we were sitting in. “came really spontaneously in between. It was a little project. And I didn’t know if I should do it because it was a financial risk and a lot of time and stuff. But the conditions were alright. Otherwise, it would be impossible.

“This is a telescope, what seamen use to see the distance. It’s because I like to travel and to explore some new things or places or whatever. And this is a Kraken with a globe.”

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“This one I got in Japan. It’s a phoenix, like how a phoenix rises from the ashes, I will also rise. Never give up. Actually, I had the idea to do this because it was cool. Then, later, the meaning just came into place.”

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“This is a jester, a court jester, not a joker from cards. This, I liked the picture. It was from a door somewhere in Germany, I think, in some hidden bar. The court jester was the only guy in the court who could tell the truth to the king to his face without anything happening to him, he couldn’t be punished. I liked that idea. This is really fresh as you can see, I got it Monday. I had the idea to do the jester, then I just looked online for inspiration and picked this photo to do. I told the artist he could change it a little but he thought it was really nice like this.”

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I asked Gianni if he had any closing thoughts. “For me, my tattoos have a little meaning. It doesn’t have to be a lot or have a lot of thought. It has to please me, I have to look at it and not regret it. I think that’s important. I’m not just thinking, ‘Yeah, I want this, I’ll get it now.’”

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Thanks to Gianni for sharing his story.

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