Some writing stuff I did

I wrote this piece over the past couple of weeks. I think, in the end, I had close to 14 hours invested, from interviews through a couple of drafts.
It was published, but edited to take out some detail and some of the edginess (in my opinion).
Hey, I'm not saying everything I write is untouchable, but I'm proud of how this piece turned out.
And I wanted the original to get some love, too.

William Nelson York, piercer, punk, businessman

Billy York sat, folded up somewhat like a teenage girl sits all angles and elbows, on the carpeted floor of his split-level, West Redding home. The carpet may once have been cream, but a bachelor’s life has ground it into something close to dirty snow.
The laptop was open and beeped every so often, as did his mobile. He drank loose green tea – every once and again he’d move the thumb and index finger to pluck a leaf from his lips – in an oversized Coca-Cola glass (no logo, just the large bell-shaped opening that tapered to a slender base that screamed “Coke”).
A glass plate heaped with sliced banana and apple — Fujis — sat on the coffee table, with two forks.
The coasters were old CDs, decorated by Sharpie.
On the bookshelf, one of those pressboard jobs you construct yourself, sat copious amounts of vinyl records. A place of honor for “Black Market Clash,” The Clash’s nine-track, 10-inch EP that features the very rare first recording of “Capitol Radio One.”
The high-end stereo components were stacked on a side table; the music was loud enough to hear the lyrics, but not so much as to interrupt the conversation.
Moose, York’s gentle, cream-and-tan pit bull terrier curled up on a secondary, tumble-down couch, just for that purpose.
The coffee got a warmup. More boiling water for the tea-filled Coke glass.
“I love punk rock,” said the 34-year-old entrepreneur — and lead singer of Redding’s The Gamut. “It’s in my heart. The energy. The sincerity.”
York unfolded a bit, then repositioned. The navy work pants rode up and showed off the Chuck Taylor low-tops. A black T-shirt emblazoned with the logo for Naked Raygun, an influential 80s Chicago punk band.
Dark mutton-chop sideburns, heavy nasal septum piercing — a circular barbell — and a tattoo “sleeve” that covers his entire right forearm.
It’s Joan of Arc.
“I love history,” he said as he put his left palm over the work. “She was incredible. She spoke the truth.
“I try to be just like her.”
You could sum up William Nelson York as just another Gen X slacker with too much time — and not enough drive. Enough tattoos and piercings to be called profuse, pit bull, the mutton-chops, the dark hair that jabs like spikes over hazel eyes.
That’s what people see, in a casual glance.
York grew up in Catasauqua, Pa., a community of 6,662 about an hour’s drive north of Philly with his two sisters and brother. He played football as a kid, free safety. Spent three years in the U.S. Army in a Patriot Missile battery, stationed in Germany and Saudi Arabia, to pay for college.
The bachelor’s degree in business and logistics from Penn State University.
York rose quickly in the corporate world, with Toyota in New Jersey and Los Angeles (where in the North American Parts Division, he was responsible for correctly shipping $1.5 million in spare parts a day to shops and dealers across the greater L.A. basin) and then with Stryker Corp., a “world leader in medical technology.”
(His first day on the job — Sept. 11, 2001 — was spent watching the World Trade Center buildings smolder and topple from the roof at Stryker, just eight miles away.)
Suit and tie. Fabulous apartments, money — a girlfriend. The American dream, right?
Yeah. Until that pivotal moment that may or may not come for everyone. Another promotion, another position. More money, but under a new supervisor.
“I hated the new position,” he said. “That was it. I hated it. It tore at my soul.”
Since 2004, he has owned Nathan’s Anthems Tattoos & Piercing on Market Street in Redding.
“First thing I did was join the Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “Meetings are interesting. I tell them I’m not here to pierce you — but I am here to pierce your sons and daughters.”
It was punk rock that more-or-less saved York from the corporate hamster wheel.
York tells it best:
“I’d met Nathan at Penn State, when I was deejaying punk rock and doing promotions for punk bands, just trying to find a place to play, just trying to make 50 bucks in merchandise so we could make the next gig and play,” he said of business partner Nathan Peterson, who owns Nathan’s in Canoga Park. “We’d kept in touch — I’d visit when I was back in SoCal and we partied, he’s big in the punk scene. We were pals. We started talking and then we said, ‘Let’s do this.’
“I left my girlfriend, I left my apartment, I left it all behind to be a piercer apprentice. I mean, I never thought that sticking people with a needle was all that cool, but it was my job, and I wanted to be great, so let’s be fantastic — and I really wanted to be clear ‘Let’s just blow it up.’
“I learned real quick, with the hopes of one day owning my own shop.”
For two years, Peterson and York tossed around locations for a second location. Hollywood. Redding. SoCal. NorCal. The West Coast in general.
“Redding was always up there on the list,” York said. “A lot goes into picking a shop. But we looked again and said, ‘Let’s give it a shot, let’s do it.’€”
It does help that Peterson’s family owns the Sherven Square building where Nathan’s is located, along with other eclectic enterprises, like KLXR AM 1230’s Music & Memories studios, Cheesecakes Unlimited and the Door to Paradise Orthodox Church bookstore.
And on Sept. 30, 2004, York put a sandwich board on the sidewalk — Suzie’s Shop on the Corner occupied what now is Nathan’s storefront at Market and Tehama streets — and waited to pierce and tattoo north state denizens in an upstairs space where tattoos and more private body piercings are still done.
“It’s been awesome,” said York as he brushed the hair from his eyes. “It’s been good; it’s had it’s ups and downs, but I don’t ever want to go back to the corporate world.”
His world now percolates between the traditional and accepted — to the new and newly accepted.
“Here’s my store, what can I do for you?” York said. “I don’t want it to be intimidating. I want it to be a place where anyone can hang out.”
Neon in pinkish-purple, blue and gold glows from the corner windows at Nathan’s. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and you’ll find York there Sunday through Wednesday.
“Dude, this is the compilation we made of all The Clash’s reggae stuff,” piercer Dallas Beldon said in a quasi-question of the background music while he worked to bend shut 10-gauge titanium earrings for a customer.
An elderly woman walked in and inquired about piercing.
“I will be with you in one red-hot minute, ma’am,” Beldon said.
Kendra Quan, another piercer who will soon jump next door to open Sugar Mamas coffee shop and bakery (but she vows to continue piercing), talked in low, calm tones to a 20-something woman who was moments away from a stick — and a jeweled nasal stud.
Hats, from beanies and straw cowboy to trucker and rose-stitched ivy style caps, frame a wall. Punk rock buttons and flip-posters of tattoo art. Glass cases filled with all manner of piercing jewelry in wood, bone, metal and precious stones. Leather goods with metal studs and spikes. Swag from the latest Redding Ink Tattoo Convention, an enterprise York now owns. A rack of dog-eared tattoo magazines next to black swivel chairs with metal bars to rest your feet.
Then there’s the wall filled with certificates and diplomas. Education is important to York, and he makes sure he’s up on every new thing, every new procedure and practice — and his staff is, too.
York is a Red Cross instructor who teaches first aid, CPR and bloodborne pathogens. He’s a member of the Association of Professional Piercers. His employees are all Red Cross certified.
“I want to do it right and I want to have fun,” he said. “I love teaching Red Cross. There’s just a lot of good people in Redding. I want to be there to help.”
To that end, he has begun to explore more of this community and said he relishes being more involved in things like growth plans and policy (hey like it or not, in 20 to 30 years the President of the United States of America will likely be tattooed — and possibly have nipple rings).
And to have fun doing it.
“Every day, we smash stereotypes,” York said. “I’m a happy-go-lucky guy, but I look different. It can be challenging for some, but I do not care one bit what people think, ‘cause I’m a good person.”


Hilda said...

When does Sugar Mama's open? Sounds like my kind of place ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dude... that is a fucking GREAT profile. I loved it.