Long Story Short: No fish tale
Photo by Ray Enzinna
Catch of the day
If you attended the incredibly popular Music is Art festival (MiA) on Sept 7, you may have spotted a stunningly attractive mermaid greeting visitors at the Madd Ink Tattoo & Piercing booth on the 716 Sideshow alley. She was hard to miss. Check out her Instagram page at 716amarie for many curvacious, abundantly tattooed images.
Humans are inclined to stereotype people by how they look or dress, even though we know appearances can be deceiving. AnnMarie Gallagher’s sexy persona is a case in point. “Some people assume I must be uneducated or work for the adult entertainment industry,” says the part-time water nymph, “That really boils my blood.” Justifiably so. It doesn’t take an ichthyologist to discover there’s more to Gallagher than detachable fins. Just talk to her.
Not what you expect
“I save lives,” is how Gallagher responds when asked what she does when she’s not a mermaid. As a licensed respiratory therapist and practical nurse, she worked for years for St. Joseph hospital. “I would cover the ER, ICU, CCU and all floors at night by myself,” she says, “If there was an emergency on any floor, I was there.”
She left St. Joseph in 2007, and the reason is another revelation; she and her then-husband thought she should stay home after the birth of her fifth child. (Yes, five kids.) She was also concerned about her new baby’s unsettling behavior, later diagnosed as due to autism. “I spent countless hours at home teaching him what emotions meant through pictures,” she remembers. “I learned even more patience than ever before—his meltdowns lasted for hours sometimes.” With her help, her son has come a long way, further than she once thought was possible.
Divorce and a new life
“I became a single mom in 2013 and felt devastated when my husband left,” recalls the amiable mermaid, but Gallagher found the time to do things she couldn’t before. She went back to school for her practical nurse license and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing (BSN). An accomplished vocalist with a powerful set of pipes, she began publicly singing more. In her teens she had worked with independent record label, Nickel City Beat, singing R&B. Her first appearance was at the street fair fundraiser, Unifest. Today, she continues to serve a variety of causes. She volunteers in primary care as a nurse and works as a bartender for the Buffalo Convention Center. A chance meeting with Al Baker got her involved in his group, Buffalo Zombies for Charity. “I’ve always enjoyed helping other people and doing volunteer work for a good cause,” she says.
The Mermaid of Love Canal
A regular tattoo customer, Gallagher was asked by Madd Tattoo owner Mark Madden to model at events like Witches Ball, Summer Luau, and the MiA 716 Sideshow, which raises funds for public school music instruments. “Music and art education are crucial forms of expression that should never go away in our schools,” she says.
In 2017, she bought a Party City mermaid costume for MIA, but the following year decided to amp-up her aquatic game. She found a “functional” costume online, with a rubber fin you insert your feet into, so you can swim. Turns out, it can be a challenge to wiggle out of the tail without assistance. “I came to realize that at this year’s MIA,” she says, “Nature was calling and I had no one to help me up, so I attempted to take my feet out of the fin and push them through the opening slit at the bottom and stand up.” She lost her balance and fell, hitting a table of artwork on the way down, which landed on her head. “Like a fish out of water,” she says, noting the irony. She lay there until someone helped her up.
Kids love the Mermaid of Love Canal, as she’s billed. Some jump brazenly into her arms, while others are more timid. “They all eventually warm up to me and give me a hug and it feels so good,” she says, then adds wryly, “I also get that from some men.” Gallagher looks for ways to add little decorative touches to her mermaid attire: bubbles, sparkles, glitter, and roses all have come into play. “It adds ambience and softens the look of the tatted-up and pierced mermaid,” she says.
Skin art and kids
“I always wanted a tattoo but was afraid I would pick something really dumb had I gotten one when I was younger,” she says. In 2013, the newly single mother “stepped through the doors of Madd Tattoo,” and met Mark Madden. A music symbol came first, by one of Madden’s artists, and then she says, “The rest is history; as they say, you can't just stop at one!" Gallagher lists her other tattoo studios: “The Huntsman House, Underground Tattoo, Divine Machine.” Fortunately, she works in offices that are open-minded about tattoos. Some of her patients admire them; others wonder why she would do such a thing. “I could see it both ways and I respect their opinions,” she says.
As hard as it is to imagine Gallagher as a mother of five, it’s even harder to believe that her oldest son is studying to be a doctor at UB. Her oldest daughter will be studying electrical engineering at UB in the spring. Then there’s a junior in high school, and an eight and sixth grader, which keeps her busy. “They are my life,” she says.
It’s a full life too.
Of plants and fountains
“There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was”
—Documentary photographer, Robert Frank, who died last week.
Now that cameras are ubiquitous, we’ve seen recorded crime and police abuse, but occasionally they also catch stupid human tricks by people who don’t know they’re being recorded, especially under cover of night.
A recent post on Nextdoor, the social neighborhood network, includes a video of a woman plopping her ample buttocks onto a concrete roadside planter, and crushing the three-foot tall cannas growing there. A neighbor enters the scene and scolds the woman. He reports that her response was, "I didn't know it was yours. What are you so mad about?"
Question: do you have to be the owner of an object of neighborhood beautification to be angry at its senseless destruction? Commenters had various suggestions for sit-proofing the planter: “Plant poison ivy,” “Lots of manure and cactus!!!,” “I would recommend prickly pear cactus around the edge of the planter. Surprisingly hardy in WNY, low maintenance, and repels troglodytes.”
Early morning refresher
A West Side friend has a decorative Japanese fountain near the front of his house, which pours from a bamboo spigot onto stones, then recirculates from a small underground reservoir. Some days the water inexplicably runs low. When this happened recently, he checked his home security camera and discovered the cause.
Just after 4 a.m., a woman walked through a plant bed on his lawn and stuck her head under the fountain to take a drink. My friend doesn’t use algaecide in the water feature, out of fear that people using it as a drinking fountain would sue him if they got sick. After a couple good gulps, the woman cupped her hands under the spigot and splashed water over her head. Apparently, this wasn’t sufficient, so she removed her shirt and held it under the fountain, then wrung it over her head. She did this a few times, then staggered off into the night.
Robert Frank was right.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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