Just as some people's hair can act as if it has a mind of its own, beards react in the same way. My beard was a wild, untamed, magnificent beast of a thing. I admit I didn't train it well in the beginning. You see, he was born of a dream.
Almost two months ago, my beard was just stubble in my mind's eye, when I saw a Youtube video of the band My Morning Jacket performing the song "One Big Holiday" some five years ago on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." It was the first time I had heard of the band or listened to their music.
It was a powerful experience. So much so I jumped off the couch during that performance and head banged my way into a frenzy. There was something mystical about the lead singer, Jim James. The way his long hair and beard obscured his face. The words, though, the words were so clear and so powerful in tone and intensity. Then his hair danced, and the drummer's hair danced and the lead guitar player's hair danced. It was glorious. And when my daughter, Mariela, heard the music, she danced along with me. Her little hands shaking above her head, nodding back and forth.
I wanted a beard and long hair. I wanted my hair, what hair I have left, to dance. I feel like this is my last chance.
I'll be 33 in three weeks. I know people will say that's still young, but not for long hair and a beard. I feel the need to embrace this now. Of course, this decision has been met with some roadblocks from my wife, Leti. She seems determined to shave me in my sleep. Her brother this week, God bless him, said I was sporting a "special forces" kind of beard. I wasn't aware they wore beards, but after thinking about it overnight, yeah, I can see a kinship of beards going on. This facial rebellion is not only a declaration of one free spirit to the world, it is a sign of a patriotic democracy.
Those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (because I know the CIA is out there), Pakistan and elsewhere, I and my beard salute you!
When I started this bearded quest, I though I would go for the traditional "Ernest Hemingway"- type of beard. Bearded men for 50 years have been congregating in Key West, Florida for the annual Ernest Hemingway look-a-like contest. I realize I'm not quite light enough to pull off a true 'Ernie" look-a-like, but I figure donning the beard of Papa Hemingway is more about a state of mind than how you may look in the mirror. Speaking of look-a-likes, during a playoff game last weekend, I ran into a fellow reporter from a competing media outlet that shall remain nameless. This guy was a possible look-a-like for Tommy Chong's younger brother.
He was an inspiration. He had the gray and white mixed into his long beard, he had the long hair, and of course, the sunglasses. He was my Abraham, my Moses. He was sent by the Lord to show me the way to the Promised Land. He was an inspiration and seeing what he had accomplished with his beard, I know that I must redouble my efforts in this endeavor.
"If you're going to wear that beard you should at least use some conditioner on it. You look scraggly," Leti said recently.
So one morning, in the shower, I shampooed my beard, much as you would a carpet or a small poodle. Then I used conditioner, and ta-da, the beast was tamed.
So, how long will I continue with this quest for the great beard? I don't know. I do know I'm not looking to try out for ZZ Top, so there is some level of reason to this madness. But I feel in my heart that I must continue, if not for myself, then for all those other men out there who yearn for the beard that will never come. Don't worry guys— I've got your back.
Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. is a reporter with The Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.