Doe-eyed female anime characters and cute, furry animals play on a green landscape on his right forearm, while his upper arm is a swirl of razor-sharp teeth. Goblins, skulls, and vaginas inhabit the biomechanical tattoo covering half his back and his left arm. Legions of naked women with vacant stares adorn his abdomen and legs. A bar code marks his right temple, and the phrases l'amore y cieco, see no evil, and kiss me are etched above his left eyebrow, on his left eyelid, and on his bottom lip.

Like Coco and Alberta, modifying his body has been a journey of self-discovery for Dazed. He's indicative of another extreme edge of the movement: tattoo fanatics whose passion spreads from their arms and legs onto every bit of flesh. The result is an ink-drenched appearance that has made Dazed a fixture at fetish parties, tattoo conventions, and porn exhibits.

His father, Esteban Rodriguez, owner of a Hialeah video store that stocks only Spanish-language films, says his son was as normal as a one-dollar bill as a kid. Rodriguez divorced Dazed's mom when his son was 4. But he spent almost every weekend with Dazed.

"He loved to build and paint remote control and model cars," Rodriguez remembers. "Every weekend, I'd take him to a hobby shop down in West Kendall and buy him one."

His tattooing fetish, his dad suspects, goes back to the ridicule he regularly endured about his weight. "He was a chubby boy," Rodriguez says, "and he got teased a lot for it." By the time he entered high school, Dazed was obsessed with working out. Tattooing became just another way to control his appearance. "Even now, he doesn't miss a day at the gym," Rodriguez says.

Dazed's physical transformation began when he got his first tattoo, an image of horned faces and skulls on his pelvis, after graduating from Barbara Goleman Senior High in 2002. "I had never gotten a tattoo as a teenager because my dad hated them," he says.

But Dazed met a graffiti artist and tattooist named Rey Grillo. "I saw him tatting, and I was like, Man, I want this guy to tat me too," he says of Grillo's art. "It gave me a whole different perspective to use my body as a canvas. For me, tattooing is an art. It is in my blood." He remembers hiding his tattoos from his dad for two months by wearing long sleeves and long pants.

Today, Dazed works as a barber at the Fade Shop, a salon on Main Street in Miami Lakes. But his passion is far from that quiet suburban main street.

One of his tattoos, in fact, is a kind of statement to the denizens of Dade who glance at him like a circus freak. It's a stylized book with a question mark in the center.

"It means 'Don't judge a book by its cover,' " he explains.


On a rainy afternoon this past June 23, the whir of tattoo machines blends with A Tribe Called Quest's song "Electric Relaxation." Dozens of booths with artists from around the country are packed with people getting new ink at the fourth-annual TattooLaPalooza, in full swing at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami.

Near the entrance, Dazed sits in a chair as he paints a surreal beach landscape on the back of a waif with a blond bob. At another booth, Alberta lies in a dental chair. His friend Steve Santacruz, owner of Empire Ink Tattoo on South Beach, is finishing a replica of the Mona Lisa on Alberta's abdomen.

The convention is one of the few events in Miami where freaks like Dazed and Alberta congregate and talk shop with body modifiers from across the nation. But the scene in Florida still has a long way to go, says Mando Islas, a visiting tattoo artist from Los Angeles.

"In L.A., body modification is a lifestyle," he says. "Here, I've noticed the people getting tattoos and piercings do it to draw attention to their toned bodies and muscles. Most of the girls ask for tats near their bikini lines, and the guys ask for work on their biceps or upper bodies."

According to Amato, founder of the Boca Raton-based Skin Mechanics Suspension, body modification in South Florida has become more popular in the past decade but remains a small niche. His suspension group has been around since 2004 and has 25 regular members. Every month, Amato holds training sessions for the shows he puts on around Broward. They've teamed up with other suspension groups from around the country and gone on tour with hardcore rock band Nassau Chainsaw.

"Suspension has reached a little further into the mainstream," he says. "Our crew do monthly shows where we try to entertain the crowd in a funny and positive way... We don't have a strong following in Miami. In Broward, we can do monthly shows."

Hoping to spark Dade's scene, Dazed and Coco started their own suspension group, the 305 Airborne Division, putting on a couple of exhibitions at Eve nightclub in downtown Miami and for a news segment on local TV station Telemiami.

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