Early Riser: The First Watch Blog

Tattoos – Part One

Tattoos - Part One Image

“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night.”
– Anthony Bourdain 

As a young kid, I was mesmerized by the counter culture surrounding tattoos: the bikers, the military, the “bad guys,” as my grandmother would say. “Tattoos are only for sailors and jailors,” she told us as kids. My mom was also VERY clear about the rule around tattoos at her house where she raised my brother and me – “IF either of you get a tattoo before you turn 18, you’re out of this house!” and she meant it. So neither one of us tested her rule, but on my 18th birthday, she was right by my side as I got my first one!

Since then, I have spent about 120 hours in the chair, decorating the walls of this temple. Some of my pieces have a much deeper meaning than others, but every single one has a story. I’m a fan of getting tattoos that connect you to an event or a period of time in your life. I’m also a fan getting meaningful tattoos if you are continuing on any sort of journey, which I always am – literally as I travel around the world and figuratively as I continue to grow and experience new things in life.

That said, let me share a couple of the stories behind some of my work – My arms. Tattooing the lower arms is a real commitment. When you make that choice, you will be judged. You will have uphill battles to fight (especially in the professional world), and you will scare some people. For me, that choice came after I had already tattooed both upper arms and my entire chest. It was time to commit. My right arm was first – a swashbuckling, scandalous lady pirate reminding me of a past relationship gone bad, complete with a banner reading “True love is true pain!” I was young and just had my heart broken. Don’t make fun of me here… I’ve already gotten enough of that from my brother and friends over the years. But still, it’s an awesome piece, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Tattoo pirate
I got my lady pirate tattoo early on, and it represents heartbreak. It’s part of the journey!

And next, on my left arm – a piece titled “Tools of the Trade” is dedicated to my craft. I worked with a great friend and tattoo artist to talk through what I wanted for the prime real estate of the lower arm. We settled on a collage including a Chef’s knife, sauté pan and an oyster knife that I’ve had since I was 16. Plus a number of my favorite ingredients: Kosher salt, lemon, lime, stone crab claws, star anise, pomegranate and saffron flowers.

Tattoo chef 2
My lower left arm is dedicated to my craft!

About 5 years ago, I wanted something new, something to commemorate the birth of my son Ship tattooJackson and the journey that my wife and I were about to take! I wanted to go big, so my entire right side, ribs, belly… everything needed to be covered. I’m not a small guy, so this would take some time. I chose the image of a ship setting out to sea – a great representation of our beautiful new journey. Sometime in the months it took me to get this tattoo – big piece, many sessions – we found out that we were pregnant again with a little girl! So, when the ship was complete, I added the handprints of both Jack and Olive to the sails.

I see these pieces as priceless, one-of-a-kind artwork that no one else will ever own, no museum or collector will hang these on their walls. These are mine. These are me. I’m proud of their quality and of what they represent. I get tattooed for myself, to tell my own story, and it’s a privilege now to share pieces of that story with you!

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