JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville man is going viral for the most Florida of reasons.
"I guess I am a Florida Man," Jeff Emmerling said of the choice to get a "lerp" tattoo on his thigh. "We saw the design come up on television, and I was like, 'I think I might want to get that tattooed.'"
The tattoo pays homage to a hotly debated art installation slated for the Downtown Jacksonville riverfront at the site of the former Jacksonville Landing. The structure is part of the winning design for Riverfront Park submitted by Dallas, Texas-based design firm Perkins & Will.
The 151-foot-tall stainless steel structure is meant to resemble the word "Jax," while evoking imagery of the St. Johns River and an anchor, according to the artist behind it, Jefre. But many have questioned the look of the structure, confused about what it's meant to say, with "lex," "lox," "love" and "lerp" among the top misnomers.
Tattoo artist Dustin Burnette of Seas The Day Tattoo & Piercing in the Mayport area shared a photo of the tattoo on his Instagram page Tuesday.
"Yeah so this happened today lollll," the caption reads.
"I messaged Dustin, and I was like 'This is going to be a super fun tattoo,'" Emmerling said. "It's a Jacksonville tattoo. It kind of represents everything about this city, how crazy it is and how fun it is. It was kind of one of those things where I was like, let's just do it!"
The photo was reshared to the Florida Man Instagram account, where it has received more than 33,000 likes and more than 900 likes in just two days.
"We've known each other now like seven years," Burnette said. "I know his personality, and like, he's probably going to throw something crazy at me. I loved it. I mean, life's short. Have fun."
Emmerling said it was the controversy behind the design that inspired him to get the tattoo.
"Is it supposed to say Jax? We don't really know at this point," he said. "We hear stories about the 'Florida Man' and these people doing all this wild stuff. Like, we're the first city when you come into Florida. And you're going to drive by and see a 150-found statue that lord only knows what it says."
Not everyone is as big a fan of the iconic design as Emmerling. An online petition "Stop The 'Jax' Sculpture" gained more than 20,000 signatures.
A City of Jacksonville spokesperson told First Coast News there will be an opportunity for public input before plans are finalized and construction begins for the new development.