Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Will Fleet Week Save Us From Ourselves?

Photos via Fine Young Man productions

The drone of the tattoo gun was a sexy background music to polite conversation. Hipsters, tastemakers and painted ladies enjoyed wonderful concoctions of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, while cute sailor boys mingled. One young lad wearing the whitest uniform ever designed turned to the older mariner and lamented, “Chief, I’d love to get a tattoo, but I live with my mother when I’m done.” The older seaman barked at him, saying, “Get it where she won’t see it,” and headed toward the free BBQ.

It was Fleet Week at its best as “The City That Never Sleeps” embraced seaman from all over the world. An old joke wonders about how long Popeye and Bluto have been at sea. It must have been a long time, it goes, because they immediately get it on with a no holds bar fight over what has to be the ugliest gal in the world, Olive Oyl.

At The Sailor Jerry Home Base, open until the 29th, there were no fisticuffs as the boys in white were on their best behavior. They called all the women, “Ma’am,” and all the men, “Sir,” as they hobnobbed with the likes of Rock Photographer Mick Rock, and artists Buff Monster and Hanksy. The free BBQ from Daisy Mays, haircuts from Frank’s Chop Shop and tattoos from Three Kings were provided to thank them for their service.


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You see, Sailor Jerry was a real dude—Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was in the Navy back in the day before he took the art of tattooing to a different level. I wear his tattoo flash all over my body. It grounds me in old world values and speaks of a time when honor was more important than life itself. Now good ol’ Norman wasn’t what these days we might consider a “perfect” guy. His political views put him a bit to the right of Attila the Hun, but he sure created some classic tattoos. I got one yesterday, a sparrow, which in the old days meant I had traveled 5,000 nautical miles. I may not have done that, but I have been lost at sea and shipwrecked a few times without leaving this island.

As we walked down the streets of the sanitized Times Square it hit me how NYC has changed. Years ago, the sailors would have flocked to the center of our universe looking for love in all the wrong places. Now they just ogle and politely smile. All the politeness is so confusing to me. My daily regime is polka dotted with rudeness and bitter arguments, as this election year seems to have turned us all against each other . Lifelong friends fight over candidate’s shortcomings, as political leanings turn into seemingly religious arguments. On the dating sites I occasionally peruse looking for love in all the wrong places, potential hookups want to know in advance if you stand with this guy or that gal. I can’t imagine, imagining any of the candidates in the bedroom. The campaigns have made all of us idiots in the eyes of those with opposing views. Facebook is a battleground.

Fleet Week and all the polite warriors that have been washed up on our shores have brought us a different set of rules of engagement. Some of us may disagree with the politics of Navies and the military, but there is little argument that these boys and girls in white are standing tall for all of us.

This Sunday everybody’s favorite bad boy from The Walking Dead, Daryl himself, Norman Reedus, will ride up on a custom built Sailor Jerry Harley and make a guest appearance to toast to the troops for all their hard work at the Sailor Jerry Block Party, featuring Cage the Elephant at Hudson River Park’s Pier 84, 12 Avenue and 44th Street. Mr. Reedus will be showing love to the visiting swabbies. I suggest we all bury the hatchets and show them love, too. (Tickets available, here)