The tattooed men in Rhys’ life: February


February: Ashley Schwellenbach, New Times managing editor, fiction author, blogger, crazy cat lady

My shoot was something of a disaster (as I knew it would be). I have to emphasize that I am not a model. I derive no pleasure from it. It makes me nervous, self-conscious, and fills me with dread. And if we’d had enough tattooed and properly male models, I would have been spared the indignity of having to participate in a photo shoot from the wrong end of the camera.

If Rhys were asked to describe his notion of heaven to you, I suspect he would tell you about Costco. Rhys loves Coscto. We sometimes joke that Costco pays him to market their brand; that’s how much he talks about Costco. In fact, he keeps a running tally of the number of toilet paper rolls he has in his house; when he first told us about the tally, the number was 56 and I have no idea what that number is now.

Rather than try to get corporate permission for a noncommercial photo shoot, we figured we’d just hang around until the store closed on Sunday and do the shoot when all the employees cleared out. We arrived at Costco around 7 p.m., an hour after the store had closed for the day, expecting the employees to be finishing up. Instead, we were met with the hour-long shopping cart round-up which should have been funny but instead felt torturous because we were rapidly losing the light.

The dayshift employees left but before we could leap out of the car and begin shooting the janitorial crew began to arrive. We waited an hour. An hour and a half. Finally, we decided to just get out of the damn car and begin shooting. I was wearing high-waisted shorts, one of the few high-heeled shoes I own, my Ruth Bader Ginsburg shirt, and a black beard I borrowed from a coworker with an Abraham Lincoln fetish. We had dozens of rolls of toilet paper, which we tossed into the parking lot, and I hastily began posing on the toilet paper with a single roll on my finger flapping in the breeze.

It was cold and very dark and I really was doing my best to work with the conditions we were given, but the reality was that the photos we were taking just weren’t as good as the others. I wonder what would have happened if we’d been shooting in broad daylight, or if we’d gotten closer to the Costco sign. But we weren’t shooting in daylight and neither Colin nor myself was in the best of moods at that point.

We went home and I was pretty bummed about the fact that my photos were the weakest of the bunch. Colin decided that we should come up with a different concept, something playing off my reputation as a crazy cat lady. So, despite the fact that I was still bummed about our Costco parking lot misadventure, we bought two bouquets of flowers, I threw on my cat shirt, and Colin locked the cats in the bedroom with me.

I wound up spending the majority of the shoot biting a rose stem that tasted terrible and petting Jack to keep him in my lap. (Not that I needed to make any effort on his account. Where there is a lap, Jack will be there. Where there is a human trying to read or watch a show on their computer, Jack will be there.) Cat Cat wanted no part of the shoot and can be spotted prowling around the background of the photos–which made it easier to choose which photo we would use since we really wanted both cats in the photo. In fact, looking back at the photos I regret that we couldn’t have borrowed some cats from friends and featured a dozen cats in the photo instead of a piddly two. But they look pretty cute and I’m glad I didn’t have to model alone.

As for how I felt handing Rhys a calendar with a “pinup” photo of myself, well, I’ve done more embarrassing things for the sake of art, a gift, or a prank, and though I’m really not sure whether the calendar qualifies as any or all of those things, it was worth it to see the look on Rhys’ face when he first saw the calendar.



  1. Roll update: 51

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