When a Spectator editor, who shall remain nameless, emailed months ago to ask for an article on the business of post-mortem tattoo preservation, I was horrified. Not because it’s such a horrifying subject, as I discovered and had the pleasure of outlining in this week’s issue. Rather, horrified because it’s a subject that would require genuine effort on the part of your untattooed correspondent. It’s just not something this particular writer could whip up on inspiration, experience, and Googling alone.
But one doesn’t like to deny Spectator editors, so I wound up harassing my tattooed sister on the matter. She let me, despite her extreme reluctance to discuss post-mortem anything. That was weeks ago – well before the US election. Now the article is online – just in time for Thanksgiving and to distract one’s family from politics with the question: ‘Shall I have my sister’s skin peeled off for display after she dies?’
Here at casa Jolis, where Mother and I are preparing the traditional feast, Father mutes the cable news Trumpland shouting in order to peruse my article. A lifelong Spectator subscriber and therefore the most erudite of our bunch, he points out that it fails to mention a 1968 French comedy on just this subject, Le Tatoué, starring Jean Gabin and Louis de Funès. The original trailer is here and the plot, per Wikipedia: In an artist’s studio, rich Parisian art dealer Félicien Mézeray sees the old soldier Legrain, whose back has a tattoo by Modigliani. This he sells unseen to two American dealers and the rest of the film revolves around his efforts to literally get the skin off Legrain’s back.
I get on the phone to tell Sister the good news: the tattoo article is live and Dad’s already got a quibble. Sister is thrilled. You see, as annoyed as she was weeks ago with my prattling about Johnny Depp and mortuary innovation, she is now – like millions of Americans – quite desperate for topics of Thanksgiving discussion that have nothing to do with politics.
She’ll be here tonight with her new husband and his family. It will be our first Thanksgiving as in-laws. There will be Trumpers, Clintonites, alcohol, and mountains of mashed potatoes in which one prays the face of Steve Bannon will not appear. For when the Thanksgiving table becomes a political arena, there are no winners – only survivors.
So this year, as we prepare to gather ’round Mother’s table, Sister and I both are thankful for that Spectator editor whose request seemed so burdensome at the time but who has proven a blessing. By extension, we are doubly thankful for all Spectator subscribers – starting with Father, who regrets my omission of an amusing film and who will, we hope, spend all evening caviling about the matter.