ROCHESTER (AP) -- James Hanson will poke a hole just about anywhere in your body, for a fee.
Hanson, a body piercer at Viva Tattoo and Piercing in Rochester, has pierced throats, tongues, nipples, pretty much anything above the waist. He personally has a ring between his nostrils, a "barbell" across the bridge of his nose, three spikes through his eyebrows, and a labret -- a spike poking out from the skin below his lower lip.
But no earrings. "I've just never had any urge to pierce my ears," he said. "I prefer something that's a little more different, unique."
Hanson has a high standard for unique.
"Eyebrows, nose, tongue -- those are so boring, everyone does it," he said.
Hanson, 22, grew up on his father's farm near West Concord. The farm kid got his start in body piercing in California four years ago when his fiancee's uncle introduced him to it. Hanson is the main piercer at Viva, where he's worked for the past 2 1/2 years. He works with his fiancee, Angela Carrier, who has done piercings for more than four years.
Last Friday, Hanson put two "barbells" on the back of a man's wrist. Procedures like that involve pinching the skin together with a medical clamp and poking a needle through. (That's when Hanson suggests, helpfully, "think happy thoughts.")
Most piercings cost around $45, including the jewelry. Costs can run to $75 or more for exotic work like neck piercings. And there's plenty of competition for people with Hanson's skills: Viva is one of four places in Rochester that offers body piercings.
So why poke holes in people instead of, say, working on the farm in West Concord?
Hanson loves the variety he sees. He recently pierced the tongue of a woman in her 60s. One man came in with his 17-year-old son, and they both got their eyebrows pierced. "I told the kid, 'Man, you've got one of the coolest dads,"' Hanson said.
He sees all types of customers. Recently he pierced the tongue of a man whose ears sported more than a dozen rings and spikes and other metal detector fodder, along with a 2-inch wooden spool lodged in his lobe. Others have a simple bellybutton piercing, which one customer said she favored because they're easy to cover up.
In a business where customers could catch a nasty disease if things weren't sterile, Hanson gets repeat customers because he's well-known as someone who keeps a clean shop. He uses an autoclave to sterilize his instruments and powerful germ killers for the rings, spikes, barbells and miniature horns that people pay him to poke into their bodies. And customers get a good talking-to about the proper care of their new piercing, including how it needs to be cleaned three times a day. His business is unregulated by the state, but Hanson thinks that should change, that piercers should be required by law to follow health and safety standards.
He often uses a light-scope to tell where a customer's blood vessels are, so he can avoid them. That becomes especially important in sensitive spots like the throat and back of the neck.
"It's not something where you just take a needle and go," he said. "It's definitely something where you have to know what you're doing."
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