Miami Ink may have put this city on the tattoo map - seems as though on any given day one can spot as many tourists outside this shop as the mansion formerly known as Versace - but after this weekend, I've realized Miami has nothing on the West Coast. No, not L.A.

Sarasota, fools.

Like I've said a few times in this blog, I don't care for the beach. I feel like that kid in Powder when I step foot on the sand, struck with paralyzing fear that the sun is searing my skin by the second. Sure, you may be thinking to yourself, lordy, that's a little dramatic, but I managed to come back from a weekend in Sarasota with third degree burns. Yes, it's true -- I didn't put sunscreen on right away. And yes, I was at like 1 p.m., when the sun is directly over you, shooting its death rays. But seriously, it must've only been 15 minutes. 30 tops. This is all beside the point, of course.

Point is, I went to the beach. And at the beach, in addition to my sassy burn, I saw America. And I'm not just talking about the American flag flying at the lifeguard stand, or my pasty bretheren taking a dip in the ocean, coozied Miller Lite in hand. I'm talking tattoos. Big, loud, tacky-as-all-get-up tattoos. There was, in addition to the usual tribal stuff, a girl with what appeared to be a shower of Dr. Seuss Sneetch-like stars, all different sizes, cascading down her back, a guy with, among others, a peacefully lounging lion, another girl with some kind of date stamped on her ankle, and her boyfriend (parole officer?) with a ginormous Cleveland Indians mascot -- in full color -- on his beefy white calf.

Now, I love the 'Canes, but the only way I would even consider burning a green and orange ibis into my leg is if Sebastian took a bullet for me. And even then, I'd probably just write something really heartfelt about the experience and express my undying gratitude. Then again, in a way, charring my skin with ultraviolet rays isn't that much different - and, save a few more freckles, I don't even have anything to show for it after a few weeks.

I often think about what I would get if I got a tattoo, and mostly I've just weeded out stuff I definitely wouldn't want: any word or phrase in another language, flower, butterfly, anything wrapped around my ankle, cartoon character, mermaid/fairy, sword, a portrait of anyone.

But in regards to that last one, I'll end this post with a nice book-cover-judging story. I was sitting outside at my neighborhood Thai restaurant with my dog one night, reading my next book club book. My waiter, I forget his name - but let's go with Manny - was very attentive, asking questions about my dog and then about what I was reading. I figured he was just being polite, possibly attempting to flirt, but the more I tried to just stick my nose in my book, the more he went on and on about reading.

This isn't the first time a guy has claimed he "loves to read," throwing out some books obviously on his high school required reading list (Oh, your favorite book is Catcher in the Rye? No kidding.) Then, as if sensing my b.s. meter rising, he pulled up his sleeve. Dude had a tattoo -- and a BIG one -- of William S. Burroughs. Author of Naked Lunch, a book I read three pages of before it felt like steam was going to come out of my ears and my head was going to explode. At this point, I realized I would be the one faking my way through a literary conversation and therefore breathed a sigh of relief when the check came.

I guess the moral of this little ditty is, if you're really passionate about something, you want a way -- be it on film, on paper or on, um, yourself -- to share that passion with everyone, whether it's one of the most provocative authors of our time... or the Cleveland Indians.

-- miaeditor