It seems that nearly every person in Echo Park sports at least one tattoo, tributes to lovers, bands, gangs or the legacy of one too many drinks. But how do you explain what motivated an Echo Park man to have the words “Echo Park Book Club” scrawled across his tummy? That man, named Jason, was working at an Echo Park cafe a few years ago while taking courses at L.A. City College. Jason, who had returned to college in his early 30s, talked up the classes to patrons. A group of those patrons inspired by Jason also enrolled at the community college, and he tutored them in math and helped with their homework. Friends of Jason nicknamed the informal study and support group, which also included some Belmont High students, the Echo Park Book Club, said Robin, Jason’s girlfriend and a teacher who worked at the college (she was also a member of the club). The name of the club came to mind when the couple went to get his-and-her tattoos about three years ago. “We both had a light bulb go off” about the the tattoo idea.
Of course, Robin said she had no idea that Jason would decide to have a large tattoo inked across his abdomen. “I was thinking like a little ankle tattoo.”
Robin, a research assistant who directs a writing program for low-income students, passed on a tummy tattoo. Instead, she decided to have a line from an Anne Sexton poem (pictured) tattooed on her right forearm.
Three years after getting the tattoo, Jason, now 37, no longer works at the cafe but still tutors while pursuing a bachelor of arts degree. The couple, who preferred to be identified by their middle names, keep in touch with the other members of the Echo Park Book Club, one of whom graduated from Cal State Fullerton last year. Meanwhile two are planning to transfer to UCLA and one has an internship at UC Berkeley, Robin said.
Jason’s tummy tattoo makes an occasional public appearance, usually to an appreciative audience, Robin said.
“People love the tattoo. They cheer. It’s always a rallying point for people who love Echo Park.”
Photos courtesy Robin