Saturday, March 24, 2012

If Your Facial Hair Could Talk...

If facial hair could talk, what would it say? I believe I know the answer to what should have just been a rhetorical question. This is not a beard chart or just a list of facial hair types with silly names. No, this is what the beard says about the man (or woman) on whose face it resides.

I will use Wooly Willy as a model to provide visual representation to my arguments herein. These views are strictly the opinions of the author and in no way reflect the views of the bearded community as a whole. However, you can feel free to take these views and claim them as your own. I will not sue you.

Let’s start with the shortest beards first, then we’ll get into the standard types, and eventually we’ll work our way into the more intricate face garden types.

Clean shaven face, “I am either in sales, or I haven’t learned that I can grow a beard yet. There is no other excuse to leave my chin bare. I am a blank canvas that needs to be painted with fuzz. I am a patch of land just waiting to be cultivated into a follicle farm. I am kind of cold; can you pop your collar to block the breeze? Ah, that’s better.”

The 5 O’clock Shadow (at 5:00 pm), “I shaved either last night or this morning. I am not sure if I will make that terrible decision again tonight or tomorrow. I don’t want to, but I heard that 70% of women prefer clean shaven men. I care too much about what other people think.”

The 5 O’clock Shadow (all day, every day), “I trim my beard 3-4 times a week, but only down to stubble. I read an article in GQ or Esquire that said that this was fashionable. I also care too much about what other people think. However, I don’t much care for women.”

Full beard #1 (beyond stubble to 1” in length), “I am not afraid to be a man, but I may be afraid of razors. I have a job that allows some facial hair, but nothing out of control. If that were not the case, my beard would be a force the likes that have never been seen this side of the Mississippi.”

Full beard #2 (1” to 2” in length), “I could be any kind of person, but I am generally in a transitional period in my life. I could be taking a year off from school/work to ‘find myself’ or ‘write the great American novel.’ I could be just some dude who stopped caring about how the world views him, and decided to cultivate a wonderful face garden to show it.  I probably won’t ever be clean shaven. That’s ludicrous!”

Full beard #3 (2” to 6” in length), “I am either homeless or in a rock band. Offer me a dollar. If I say “thanks” and put it in my pocket, then I am probably in a rock band. If I dance around and thank Jesus, then I am homeless (unless I’m in a Christian rock band, then your guess is as good as mine).”

Full beard #4 (6”+), “I am either a homeless person or a wizard. Either way, I will be chanting random things. Whether that is the booze talking or not, will not always be immediately evident. I would run away, just to be safe.”

Quasi full beard (without beard-moustache connectors), “According to my genealogy, I am not to be trusted. I want to be real man, but God has forsaken me. If my beard is red, then it is probably hiding freckles, therefore I have no soul. Point me to the nearest hallway, so that I can eat my lunch in solitude.”

Mutton Chops, “I generally exude awesomeness, and the people who have jobs that do not allow them to grow mutton chops are jealous of my existence. If I also a have a mustache connecting my chops (aka 'Friendly Mutton Chops') be careful, I could be a time-traveling salesman. Would you like to buy any mustache wax or hair tonic, sir?”

Slim side burns, “I have either never seen how stupid all the tools on Beverly Hills 90210 looked in he 90’s, or I still have a poster of Luke Perry in the room I rent from my parents in their basement. I pay my rent by mowing the lawn, and giving foot rubs to my Nana. Someone please kill me.”

Chin Strap (with or without a wispy moustache), “I think I have a real beard, but I actually just have a stupid line of hair along my jaw line. My beard is high maintenance, and low reward. Women hate my chin strap, and I hate myself.”

Fu Manchu, “If I am Asian, I can probably kill you in over 1,000 different ways. If I am Caucasian and over 40 years old, I can probably quote the lyrics of any Queen song. If I am under 40 years old, please put a mirror in front of my face so I can see how crazy I look. From that point, I can either embrace my lunacy or grow a different beard. Either way, thank you citizen!”

Goatee, “I apparently didn’t realize that beards come in men's sizes too. I am a Fisher Price beard; a starter kit on which to build. Please provide me with feedback as to how I can improve. I need direction, because I started to be beard, but then decided to be ½ a beard after getting so close. If I don’t listen to you at first, please feel free to raise your voice or physically shake some sense into me.”

Soul Patch, “If I am not Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bob Thornton, or Howie Mandel; then I am a pretentious douche bag.  If I exist ironically or for some other type of political or creative purpose, tread lightly, there is a thin line between genius and douche. I would recommend discussing this with a licensed beard consultant before continuing on with this charade.”

Neck beard, “I am an enigma wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by a riddle. The fact that I exist has perplexed men and women alike. I am neither fashionable nor functional. I am basically a dust ruffle for your face; without accent pillows or matching drapes. I would rather just be side burns.”

Cop Stache, “If I am not a police officer, then I probably drive a Ford Crown Victoria or a Dodge Charger. If I am a police officer, then you are most likely not happy to see me. Feel free to compliment me on my moustache, but do not attempt to stroke it. Cop or not, you don’t stroke a man’s stache without an invite.”

Handlebar moustache, “I have either watched too many Spaghetti Westerns, or grew up in the 70’s as a big Rollie Fingers fan. I spend a lot of time making sure my ‘bars’ are trimmed neatly and waxed to perfection. Free moustache rides you say? Not on this work of art! If I did offer such a service, you couldn’t afford my rates.”

I am sure more than a few beard and moustache types were omitted from this exercise. I would be happy to read your addendums, corrections, and amendments as well. Please feel free to post them as comments or email them to me directly. Just please don’t take your facial hair decisions lightly. A good beard is a terrible thing to waste.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick: The Patron Saint of Hygiene

I never thought that soap could be at the forefront of a political discussion. At least, I didn't think that until I witnessed a conversation on St Patrick's Day. As is the case on March 17th each year, there were more than a gaggle of drunken Irish and non-Irish alike, gallivanting along the main thoroughfare. As is also the case, many of these people are what I categorize as “amateur alcoholics.” You know, the kind of people who culminate most of their weekend nights by going to bed by 11:00 pm. Their idea of a rowdy night out involves a nice dinner at a restaurant, where they may even order a bottle of wine (to be split betwixt the table of four). If they are feeling extra saucy, they may even go out for ice cream afterward (oh boy!). But on this day every year, those people arrange for a babysitter, and guzzle down green beer with the rest of the part time partiers until they pass out in the car, or regurgitate the contents of their stomachs into the nearest receptacle.

Along with such an onslaught of amateurs comes the wondrous verbal diarrhea that emits from their slurring faces at every table. It is generally too much for my voyeuristic ears to absorb. I have to hone in on a few, and hope I choose wisely. In this case, I did just that.

It was only 10:30 pm, but this table of wobbling babblers was fully intoxicated, and having a discussion that encompassed both of the cardinal sins of drunken conversation. They were vehemently covering the topics of religion and politics. Rarely does that conversation end well for any of the participants. This was not an exception to that rule. Luckily for me, I was not a participant, but rather just a smiling bystander.

The table was occupied by two couples that looked like they were in their early thirties. The women had the shape of those who had experienced the wonder of childbirth, and had the hips to prove it. The men had the streaks of gray hair and the pre-wrinkles associated with a consistent furrowed brow. These were obviously two sets of parents out on the town for one of their very few opportunities to “let loose.” They were taking full advantage of the occasion.

On the table sat two glasses of green beer, one pint of Guinness stout, and what could only be described as the fruitiest drink I have ever seen. The green beer and Guinness fell right in line with what you would expect to see on a St. Patty's Day high-top table. The super fruit drink did not. Further confusing my sensory observation skills, the super fruit concoction sat directly in front of one of the male occupants. I assumed that this was simply just misaligned on their tablescape, and one of the women would soon reach for it to enjoy the sugary mixture. My assumption was inaccurate. No sooner had I cemented my analysis of these people, that one of the gray-haired gentlemen grasped the stem of the martini glass, and took a sip of it. My mind was officially blown.

Drink selection aside, he was as manly as one would expect a patriarch to be. He spoke with a deep booming voice without any hint of a lisp, and not once did he utter a “fabulous” or “fierce” phrase. I guess he just liked fruit. He also was the most adamant (a.k.a. inebriated) one at the table, and he tended to be the leader of most of their conversations.

He would say things like, “Did you know that St. Patrick's Day is actually supposed to be a religious holiday? Yeah, it was to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and was later used to mark the end of Lent. I read that on Wikipedia.”

I looked it up, and he was right. Or at least that is what it says on Wikipedia.

The people at the table would chime in, and offer their points. I saw their mouths moving, so I assume their was some sort of language emitting from their faces. It was loud in the bar, and Gray Fruit was the only one I could really hear. It made for an interesting half conversation to overhear. They would stop talking, and he would resume. But rarely was it in line with what I anticipated to hear next.

In my mind, I was expecting something like, “That's true, but just as time passes and the meaning of holidays must evolve, we too must not forget about the true purpose of these traditions.” What I heard was straight out of left field.

He said, “In the Middle East, they refer to it as the 'Arab Spring.' I'm wondering if the origin of this was ever called the 'Irish Spring.' Furthermore, is that where the name of that soap came from?”

How did he get there from where they started? Only in an alcoholic stupor could anyone logically get to the naming of a soap from a Christian insurgence in the 5th Century. I was amazed, and quite frankly dumbfounded by the leap this conversation had taken in just a few short minutes. My mind tried to fill in the gaps of the conversation I had missed. I was saddened by the fact that I didn't hear their exact points and logic.

The other man at the table was a quiet sort, who was much more apt to smirk and nod than to contribute to the conversation. The two heavy-hipped woman were the ones providing additional conversation and counterpoints.

I imagined the woman sitting to his immediate right was his wife. She had a more sheepish demeanor. I originally suspected that just was just her normal disposition. After hearing the nonsense her man was spouting, I believe it was just concealed embarrassment. Her words were probably just verbal attempts to pull the reins, and save her husband from a shameful morning. If she hadn't, he would most certainly have woken up on March 18th asking, “Why did you let me keep talking? We'll never be able to go out with them ever again.”

The other woman was smiling from ear to ear. I'm pretty sure she was just goading him into further ridiculous comments. Her efforts were not in vain. All she had to do was lead that horse to drink, and he was surely gulping down one fruity bit of nonsense after another. Was she the one who brought up the “Arab Spring”, and its non sequential association with the current conversation? It seemed as if such things were true. I also believe that she was having just as much fun antagonizing him as I had watching her do so.

She weaved a magical web of meaning out of a seemingly meaningless string of “facts.” And he was along for the ride. She took him from the origin of St. Patty's Day, to the way we celebrate it today as a appreciation of all things Irish (mostly their affinity for alcohol), and guided him to a ridiculous conclusion that a brand of soap is a commemoration of Irish independence. She was my new hero (move over Chuck Norris and Pat Morita).

After a another half hour or so, and very little else being said at that table (much to my chagrin), they made their way to the exit. I was sad to see them leave, and hopeful that he would give us all one more gem before calling it a night. He did.

Just as he approached the threshold of the bar, he stopped and turned toward his friends. By the glint in his eye, and the grin on his face, it looked like he was about to say something magnificent. But the only thing that came out was a liquified mixture of corned beef, cabbage, and a colorful assortment of fruits. He aimed for the garbage can, and with expert marksmanship, he left the surrounding area relatively unscathed. The stream was powerful, and the smell was surprisingly pleasant. He may have started the evening with metaphorically colorful verbal diarrhea, but he ended it with literal rainbow of vomit. It would seem fitting for there to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on such an occasion. However, I wasn't about to see for myself. I'll leave that to the barback who has to take out the garbage later. If there is a treasure to be found, I'll leave it for him to collect. He deserves it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Putting the Orphan in Dextromethorphan

I did just what I always do when I am looking for inspiration. I went for a bike ride. You miss so much when you are traveling in a car. You can see big billboards or street signs, and maybe even a raving homeless person or two. But you don't get a chance to fully observe the smaller things, or hear just what that particular homeless person is raving about.

Well, just as I had hoped, my two-wheeled ambling jaunt gave me just what I needed. It came in the form of garbage. That's right, garbage. I saw a pile of refuse just off the sidewalk, and upon further inspection, it turned out to be a significant combination of items. There were three empty bottles of Robitussin and three half empty bottles of chocolate milk. They had been discarded in a small clearing amongst the bushes behind a Walgreens. It was obviously the site of a teenage party that was held the night before. I can only imagine how that party would have progressed.

As a married father of none, it has never been my inclination to worry about what “kids are doing these days.” My only glimpse into the shenanigans of today's youth are through the stories from my wife's work. She is a counselor for runaway and homeless kids. Her duty as a clinician is not to reveal names or explicit details about her clients, so I am forced to accept nameless generalities in lieu of the “real” story. It would only be through extensive Googling and taking grains of salt from Wikipedia that I would learn about why Robitussin is the drug of choice for middle class suburban tweens. I tried to find a connection to the chocolate milk, but alas, I think this particular sect of teenagers just had a random craving. Upon further reading, I came across the phenomenon known as “Robotripping.” I learned that it was predominantly groups of young females who partake in this activity. They do so with hopes of getting high and possibly even bringing on a hallucination or twelve. Knowledge is power, the internet is its outlet, and young minds are the blender where that knowledge gets made into a chocolate cough syrup smoothie.

I couldn't help but to picture three teenage girls sitting “Indian style” in that tiny clearing behind Walgreens. Each taking a turn guzzling the Robitussin first, then chasing it with the watered down chocolatey deliciousness. I assume they were kids that could have used a few more hugs in their earlier years, and are frequently seen at the mall perusing the latest fashions at Hot Topic. It was a misguided attempt to feel better about themselves, or just to feel something other than the pressure a teenager must endure every hormone laden day. Gone are the days where you can get a dime bag of pot in study hall, go back to your friend's house, saunter past his hippie parents, smoke a bowl, eat some generic brand iced fruit cookies, and laugh hysterically whilst playing Mario Kart until two in the morning. Here to stay are the days where the next generation huddles in bushes behind Walgreens, swilling cherry-flavored cough syrup, and sipping chocolate milk. I prefer the Eightfold Mario Kart path, but that's just me.

I was never a full-fledged stoner (although the details above were inspired by a true story), but I did not skip my teenage mistake making either. I have also done my share of over-the-counter drugs in my 30+ years on this earth, but only when I had a sore throat or stuffy nose. I also followed the recommended dosages. Even so, I have felt the side effects of those dosages. Many a sick day on the couch I have muttered odd things to my caretakers, and had many peculiar comments mumbled in my general direction as well. Whether it is the occasional “my face feels numb” or the once spoken “I feel like sunshine”, those things are to be expected when someone is under the influence of cough medicine. I can only imagine the nonsense that would ensue if someone (especially a young someone) were to consume an entire bottle of that powerful elixir in one cross-legged sitting.

I have heard the phrases “Out of the mouths of babes...” and “Kids say the darnedest things” applied to the random shit that young people say. What if those babes' mouths or kids' brains were under the influence of 4 ounces of dextromethorphan? I imagine they would emit some pretty crazy ramblings. An attempt to enter into the brain of a teenage girl is not taken lightly, mind you, but in the interest of science (and short story fiction) I delved deep. For the sake of flow and identification, I will refer to the three faceless females as Emily, Taylor and Hannah. Emily would be the leader of the pack, and that is only because I know and respect more adults named Emily than I do Taylors and Hannahs (sorry ladies).

Emily would arrive at the rendezvous point (a.k.a. the clearing in the bushes behind the Walgreens) with three recently stolen bottles of Robitussin. Taylor would bring the chocolate milk, because her mother believes it is never too early to start fighting the war against osteoporosis. Hannah would show up empty handed, because she is a useless human being. God, I hate Hannah already, and I just made her up.

From there, the night would go as planned. They would get really high, pretend to hallucinate, sweat profusely, vomit until their stomachs were empty, and go home to their respective homes only to realize the next side effect is violent diarrhea. It is not a fairy tale in the least, but possibly a cautionary one. Hannah would get the coup de grĂ¢ce though. She didn't bring anything to the party, but she would leave with the knowledge that she was extremely lactose intolerant. The reaction to the Robitussin is one thing, but the ongoing pain and discomfort of having a pint of milk sloshing in her digestive tract is just what the karma doctor ordered.

The moral of the story is twofold. The first is for the kids themselves. Drugs are bad (m'kay), and no matter whether you buy it from the smelly kid in study hall or steal it from the shelf of your local pharmacy, you are in for a rude awakening (and a hurried trip to the bathroom). The second is for the parents. Don't name your kid Hannah. Seriously, you're just damning her (hopefully not him) to be the girl who shows up to the clearing in the bushes empty handed, and leaves with a terrible case of “the runs.”