And despite or because of it, chin hedges and lip caterpillers continue to recycle into vogue. Even as we speak, you need only gaze about any of the numerous hipster ranging grounds in major cities, be it Williamsburg, Berkeley or right here in Seattle up on Cap Hill, to find that Beards Be Back. Specifically, Big Ass Beards Be Back, pencil-neck tattoo canvases sporting throat goats that wouldn't look out of place on a 19th century mountain man or your friendly neighborhood cave bear.
Naturally, such pretensions lead old fart me to a hearty har-de-har session. As well it might. Few indeed are the perks or advantages of old-fartdom, and the ability to laugh at callow would-be cool youth in hot pursuit of obsolete fads is one that never loses its appeal. Yes, yes, beards, oh my, hee hee. I had a beard once (beard once...beard once...beard once...)
The first time I tried to grow a beard, I was 18, fresh out of high school and rarin' to find out what I could get away with. I let my fluffy uneven face hair flourish rank and leggy through three quarters at dear old Reed until the looming spectre of summer employment pursuaded me to mow the wretched weeds back off.
I didn't get into the whisker biz again until after college. Pursuing a career as a wandering minstrel, I'd moved body, soul and what possessions I could fit into a Volkswagen sedan. Said possessions did not include a razor. Again I let a hundred flowers bloom on my chinny chin chin. My basic grooming theory was Mister Natural: beard = the opposite of shaving. When it got long enough to get in my soup, I braided the bottom and bobby-pinned it under my chin.
That beard saw me through several years of sub-subsistence in the fast-paced high-rolling new vaudeville wandering minstrel industry, until a case of mono drove me out of my car and into a house full of snide roomies who induced me to clean up my appearance, which had admittedly decayed to sub-troglodyte status.
Nicely tidied up, I met and married the love of my life. Coincidence? I think not. Even so, within a year, she'd induced me to refibrate. At this point the record becomes hazy, but though photographic evidence exhibits the presence of the beard in 1979, by 1981 it suggests that it was gone again. After that, expensive publicity shots demanded consistency of appearance. I experimented with variations on moustaches, but beard was a no no.
Welcome back to the near-present. Yes, I know, yuck. Following a long and motley musical career and the demise of my musical partner, I remarried. Limbo set in, a period of uncertainty as to my preferred vocation and appearance. On vacation this January, the love of my life (v. 2.0) encouraged me to try sprouting something, perhaps suggesting the college professor I never was. Also, it might help disguise my turkey neck. The poor man's facellift, folks...
The new edition manifested as an inchoate mass best described in the manner Reggie Miles uses in his revival of the vaudeville classic "The Weird Man With The Beard," which opens with the period idiomatic declamation "B-E-E-EAVER!" delivered in a tone reminiscent of Mr. Ed paying a call on Dear Young Clarence. My own personal B-E-E-EAVER was nearly pure white and spread in all directions with the chaotic energy of a blackberry thicket, and the patchyness as well. Despite its sideshow appearance, I dutifully allowed it to fill out, expecting to give it the same diligent attention I'd paid to previous cheek gardens: none.
Ironically enough, it was my participation in the latest incarnation of New Vaudeville, the same questionable profession in which I'd rocked my previous Castor, that held my feet to the fire and cleaned up my punim.
It was Moisture Festival time, that magnificent bizarre bazaar of manic stage banter and acts of questionable utility held every year in this my fair city, and after much finagling and far fewer hissy fits than you'd think, my band Snake Suspenderz, for so long a bridesmaid nor e'er a bride, finally made it to the Show. Though only minimally remunerative, yet many are the perks of said Festival: jolly, responsive crowds, the company of world-class weird entertainers and hot burlesque babes, the performers-only goodies, free beer. And then there are the pro photographers engaged by the management as exclusive witnesses to the endless panoply of brief shining Moisture moments.
One must, however, beware the presence of experienced image gatherers. Never gainsay the power of a real shooter to catch your soul in that little box. In the Snakez first MF appearance, one of the official Eyes got several choice slices of us, including one of me in full song delivery with my beard a disreputable itinerant's blob around my mug. And posted it.
Simultaneously gratified and mortified by having my negligent grooming displayed in front of God and everyone on Facebook, I immediately went out and invested in a cheap Chinese trimmer and proceeded to whip a little topiary order into my bushes. The results were notable enough that the same photographer lured me to the makeshift studio in the back room and took a few portraits, one of which also ended up on Facebook, eliciting some positive feedback from faraway friends.
All this really means that the afforementioned tonsorial theory is pretty well thwarted. It takes me just as much work to keep this baby up as it did to stay clean-shaven, as well as twice as many razors. But it does cover my double chin, so at least my vanity is assuaged. Give a little, get a little.