Back when it was much warmer I posted some pictures of Alan Macias. At the time, he didn’t have an IAM page and I had nothing to go off of when writing the post except for my take on the pictures. Since that post, Alan has made himself an IAM page.
When I stumbled upon his page his description answered a few of my questions and gave me a bit more insight to his life, but it definitely left me wanting more.
I had a motorcycle accident. I was in the hospital for a year. I had about 40 operations to put me back together. I had nerve damage to my left shoulder, my non-functioning arm had to go. My tattoos are decoration first and then they tell the story of me last. I am not shy about being naked in public because I know everyone is the same and most fear being judged, another word for peer pressure.
After finding him and reading that, I felt obliged to send him a message and see if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for me. Luckily for me and the modblog readers, he happily obliged.
For a deeper look into the life of Alan Macias, keep on keeping on.
The following interview comes from a live Skype text interview I conducted with Alan as well as some information from his IAM diary entries.
Sean: So let’s start with the basics, age location career sexual preference things of that nature.
Alan: Well, I was born March 17, St. Patricks Day, 1964. So that’s like 46 years old. I gotta stop having birthdays! I live in San Francisco, California. For work I do Special Hazard Fire Suppression Systems. These are fire systems that are in locations that water can not be used, they will detect a fire and put it out with something else. I like girls a little more than boys, but I have had my share of boyfriends so I guess as long as they are not hairy that is really the test. I am married but it is an open relationship. All that means is we do not get jealous of each other, the only thing is just don’t catch anything!
Sean: Do your mods and lifestyle have any bearing on your career?
Alan: Getting the job done well is the only thing that anyone cares about. My injuries, missing arm and crushed knee, are mostly to my left side, so I have to put a little more thought into how I interact with different locations and equipment. I have never had a customer freak out or anything. I might get a quick look, but I am there to do a job. For the most part I think they assume I can do the job because I am there in the first place.
Sean: Awesome, you are quite fortunate to have a skill set such as that, where your work is important enough that your mods and personal life do not have any affect on your career. The injury your referring to would be what lead to your amputation (meaning it was not voluntary as I tend to assume when I see amputations on BME). I read the injury was from a motorcycle accident, would you care to elaborate?
Alan: I was really into motorcycles at the time. When I died I had, I think, seven bikes in my garage. If I was not working, I was on a ride or trip via motorcycle. I rode with the San Francisco Northstars Motorcycle Club. The accident was all my fault; I was taking a turn too fast. I was pretty messed up, everything was broken, I was in the hospital for eight months, and I had about forty operations to put me back together.
This leg tattoo was done to cover a skin graft .
Sean: Wow, that’s a serious accident! You said you died, any amazing revelations from that?
Alan: Yeah, I think there were three times when I was in the ICU, but I am better now. And no, I do not remember white lights or any of that sort of thing. The thing about death is when it is your time, that’s it. My attitude is from growing up in a funeral home in San Francisco. I am still a licensed funeral director in California.
Sean: A funeral director as well, you just continue to become even more interesting. I read on your IAM page that the amputation was voluntary in the fact it was “just dead weight” can you elaborate on that and how life has been since that as a result of that choice.
Alan: There was too much nerve damage to my left shoulder. They saved the arm, and after the cast came off some tests were done, but nothing much happened. After getting out of the hospital, I went in for an experimental surgery to move a nerve graph from my lower right leg to my damaged left shoulder. That did not work at all; that was one of the surgeries I should not have done. So then after living with this dead weight and having to carry it around in a sling, I asked to have it removed. The next morning I knew my life was going to be more easy because it was not in the way all the time. I weighed myself before and after surgery and there was a three pound difference.
Sean: I have to agree, that seems like an obvious decision in your specific case. It seems you have adapted to life with one arm pretty damn well, what were the biggest challenges though?
Alan: Mostly it is learning patience. Sometimes I have to think about how to do something with one arm. I might have to make a special tool and sometimes I even have to ask for help.
Sean: You seem to do a good bit more than most people in the world with 4 fully functioning limbs. Aside from body mods the biggest interest in my life has always been cars and motor sports, I see the inconvenience of lacking one arm hasn’t kept you from participating in some auto racing. The pic I saw on your IAM page showed you racing, an m3 coupe I believe. Is that a regular activity you partake in?
Alan: It is just a regular Z3 coupe because I need an automatic, as I would be too busy with a stick shift on the track. Although I did put a supercharger in it to get it to move. Unfortunately that much power tends to kill the car’s transmissions in about 10,000 miles. So I go when I can afford it.
Sean: It’s quite awesome to see someone racing with one functional arm. Were you racing cars before the accident as well?
Alan: No, but before the accident I raced around on motorcycles.
Sean: Cool, I kind of assumed that might be the case, I just wanted to clarify. So how long after the accident was it before you were racing cars?
Alan: Two or three years. I did not know if I was up to that sort of thing or even if I wanted to, but I guess you never change.
Sean: Some people definitely do change after traumatic events like that, you are amongst the minority that do not, that is quite commendable. So where do the body mods fall into your life? What do you have? When did you start getting them and what was the motivation behind them?
Alan: For me they are decoration, a permanent decoration that is like makeup. They also reflect my life and my interests. They are not to be taken too seriously, I want people to look at them and get a laugh. The only mods I chose were tattoos, any other mod just happened. I started to get inked before my accident in maybe 1995 or so. I generally dislike wearing shoes, so I started to get my toes tattooed, and later on I did the tops of my feet. One side is supposed to be a happy figure and the other side a sad figure, but the way they came out, one looked angry and the other looked constipated. On my right shoulder I have a tattoo from the movie Blade Runner, and on my stump a cut on dotted line.
Sean: How about the collection of tattoos in your “shorts”, is there any meaning or story with them or are they just images you like aesthetically?
Alan: The images in my shorts are from my life. There is me, my wife Marilyn, and our three dogs. This was art she had done for a card we sent out one year. There is a motorcycle, and a superhero figure; I like graphic novels. A day of the dead skull, since I grew up in a funeral home. Various sea life; I like to scuba dive. I just drew the others to fit the contours of my body. People wear under garments for different reasons. Some to feel sexy some to keep the skid marks to a minimum and in my case, so I do not chafe. When I started my tattoo of shorts the idea was a solid wall of color that would look like I was wearing shorts and you would have to get really close to me to see otherwise. But as the tattooing progressed I decided that I wanted to have the art not all running together. I like my tattoos simple and easy to understand. So now if I wear underwear it has to go with my art somehow. Be your art or at least let it be a part of you.
My tattoo gal at the time was a great sport about having to crawl up my ass to get in all the nooks and crannies, and the same can be said about my hair removal person.
Sean: Yeah she got ALL up in the nooks and crannies, so I have to ask the most annoying question ever, because if I don’t the comments section will be full of other’s asking. Did that hurt?
Alan: Yes, but like different parts of the body, not everyplace hurts the same. I have to say the scrotum and head of the penis are very sensitive, but is this news to anyone? So just get yourself some numbing cream to help, you do not want to be jumping around. It is hard enough to tattoo a straight line on those wigley parts without you jerking around.
Sean: I can imagine. I have pretty heavy tattoo coverage, but not in such intimate areas as yourself.
Alan: No location is intimate on me. Society makes up some goofy rules, but it is all just part of me.
Sean: Great quote, I like that a lot. Perhaps sensitive would have been a better word choice for me in that instance. Where did you start your tattoo collection?
Alan: I think I got a toe ring tattoo first. The first on my shorts area was the burning man tattoo on my butt cheek.
Sean: Very cool, I have never been to that, but from hearing about it from friends who have it seems like a very life changing event to attend.
Alan: It was for me.
Sean: Tell me about it, if you don’t mind. I saw the pics from your trip, it looked like a great time.
Alan: Burning Man is a place full of people who for one week let everyone be who they are without judgment. So if you want to walk around naked or wear a costume, no problem. I like to go just to meet different people and see all the great art. I also like to see if my planning is well thought out and that I can set up my camp site, shade structure, etc. by myself. It is heavy duty camping and I like the planning. You really have to go to get what it is all about, looking at the pictures on the web doesn’t really do it justice. The art is bigger than life, and the people are weirder than they seem at first. They might look like they just stepped out of the mall, then you talk to them, and wow, they are not what you thought!
Sean: Well, I haven’t ever been to burning man, but I have been to several modcons, so I can definitely relate with that sentiment! The whole thing does sound incredible though, I think that is definitely going on my life’s to-do list.
Anyhow, back to body mods, what about the hair removal? That might not be typically considered in the same realm as tattoos and piercings and whatnot, but I definitely feel it qualifies as a body modification.
Alan: You’re right. First, some background on why I went to all the hassle and expense of killing off most of my body hair. I was a regular guy, so it was going to take a fair amount of time. I like massages; I used to get them because motorcycles can make a guy full of aches and pains. If you are hairy, a lot of oil has to be used, and then it makes you an oily mess when the massage is over. Hair also gets in the way of either getting or looking at tattoos. Now that my hair is removed, I do not get those bumps after I shave my pubes. At last I am quick to dry after I take a shower or swim.
Original body hair pre-removal treatments in 2003.
The human body has only one third of its hair out at any time, so every three months your hair will fall out and be replaced. That is why the hair on your legs or underarms is not to the ground: it is always falling out and being replaced by a different hair follicle next to it. Permanent hair removal has to be done at least three times, because the most hair that can be killed is only 33%, and even then you are always going to miss a few. You just go back until you get them all, or at least remove enough to satisfy your esthetic. There are two ways generally to go about permanently removing hair from your body.
Laser hair removal works by using a powerful laser that is tuned to shine light at a frequency that will interact with the hair and hair follicle. The light will penetrate a few millimeters into the living follicle and heat it up, a lot like third degree heat. It feels like you are getting a massive tattoo with a needle as wide as your thumb. The pros about laser hair removal is that it is quicker than electrolysis because the laser head treats more than one hair at a time. The cons are that not every hair is knocked out; some are only stunned and will come back later, others may come back finer. Since you are hitting your skin with a laser, some side effects may pop up, such as small bright red moles or burns. With laser hair removal there has to be a definite color difference between skin tone and hair color. Because of this, people with dark skin or blond hair do not do well with it. If some parts of your skin are dark, you can also get burned. I got burned on my penis and scrotum once; I guess the skin color was a little darker there, but that will heal up okay. Also, you can get red scorch marks (like a second/third degree burn) where the treatment is, and that will take a few weeks to heal.
Mid-hair removal results from 2007.
I used laser hair removal to lessen my hair density, but once I started to get more tattoos I had to switch to electrolysis. It is slower, but if you get someone who knows what they are doing, it is a very permanent for hair removal.
Electrolysis works by using a very thin needle that can slip next to the layer down the hair shaft, delivering a killing hot pin point to the hair follicle. The heat of killing off the follicle hurts a lot, but not the needle because it is smaller than a hair. There is also a few weeks of healing all the red bumps and marks from the little burns under the skin. What part of your body you do determines how long it takes to heal. Nora my gal is great. She has no problem crawling up my ass to get those pesky anus hairs; you would be surprised how hair it can be, or not.
Sean: So what’s next for you? Any more tattoo or mod plans?
Alan: The hair removal is alway ongoing, but now I only go in once in a while. I had all my tattoos touched up a year or so ago, but I have learned never to say never when it comes to tattoos. I have no plans at the moment, although I will have to get the sun on my belly touched up as I am going into surgery on January 5th to take care of a problem that cropped up from a skin graph from my original operations after the accident.
Sean: Are there any other activites you particularly enjoy besides what we have already discussed?
Alan: I found being a model in a photo shoot to be a lot of work; I do not think it is for me.
Sean: Was that for the Bizzare Magazine piece?
Alan: Yes, the shoot was for Bizarre Magazine.
Sean: How did that all come about?
Alan: Well, a while back you had posted a photo of me that I posted to my BME account. One of the editors for the magazine then tracked me down and asked if I would be interested in them doing an article on me along with the photo shoot. We eventually did a phone interview and months later I went to LA to meet up with a photographer they use. We shot in two locations, in town and out in the desert. I may or may not make it into the magazine because the locations of my tattoos are not G rated. They put out a book every year with the year’s best mods, and she said I would be in that, so we will see. At least I got a bunch of great photos out of the deal. Having a professional take your picture is much better than doing it yourself.
Sean: Here’s my extremely generic question, but one which I feel you may have a good answer for. If you died today, how would you want people to remember you and your life?
Alan: I hope that people would remember me as someone who lived his life the way he wanted, but did not step on too many other people’s toes along the way.
Sean: What is one thing you have taken from all of these experiences, that you care to share with modblog readers?
Alan: Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, like telling someone you care about them or keeping in touch with a friend far away. You or they might not be here the next day, and so the chance will be forever gone.
Thanks again to Alan Macias. I hope this interview proves as interesting and inspirational to modblog readers as it was to me.