“It’s Only a Beard Dude!”

As I bomb around the city on my Brompton, I have noticed that there is a new fashion trend on the rise. I keep seeing these dudes, sporting these huge beards! There is nothing particularly new about the beard, but these are definitely different – They are bigger and bushier.

Facial hair has alway been a symbol of manliness (no pun intended). I am certainly no expert on beards, in fact I couldn’t grow one until I hit my forties, but my guess is that the beard was an evolutionary thing, to make men appear bigger, stronger and more intimidating to their enemies and competitors. Why do you think hockey players sport the playoff beard – it’s not for good luck, but is intended to intimidate the crap out of the opposing team.

Men wear beards for many reasons. They are often worn for religious beliefs. Followers of Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Sikhs, Hindu and Rastafarianism believe strongly that maintaining their beards is a function of their faith. Beards were worn by kings, emperors and world leaders as a symbol of power and aristocracy – Emperor Meiji of Japan, Czar Nicholas of Russia, Henry the 8th, and President Lincoln to name a few. Beards came and went over the ages as fashions changed.

Beats, poets, philosophers, athletes, artists musicians, rebels, hippies, hipsters and grunges all sported beards. Some notable beardo’s include Charles Darwin, Carl Marx, Earnest Hemingway, Brahms, Che Guevara, Castro, Henry David Thoreau, Jesus, Brad Pitt, Alan Ginsburg, Chuck Norris, Walt Whitman, Kimbo Slice, Kenny Rogers, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill (ZZ Top), Santa Claus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rasputin, Rembrandt, Gerry Garcia, John Lennon, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Macho-Man Randy Savage, Luciano Pavarotti, Sigmund Freud, Gandalf, Lanny McDonald, Joaquin Phoenix, Colonel Saunders, Curt Cobain and of course you can’t forget Clint!

As I read various webpages about beards, I have come across some interesting anecdotal tidbits of historical facts, truths and hyperbole. Did you know Alexander the Great banned beards in his armies because he was of the opinion that enemy soldiers would grab them in battle? I read that online – it must be true!

So as I said above, there is definitely something going on. I keep seeing these big awesome beards all over the place. Skaters in the parks, hipsters in the coffee shops, bikers (as in cyclists), and musicians, all sporting these big, bushy, kick-ass Viking beards. Call em hip, call em cool, call em funky, whatever. All I can say is this dude, is suffering from kind of beard envy!

I may just have to grow me one of those “Attitude Beards!” Haha! Now that would be a sight as I play my banjo!

“Never Take ANYTHING for Granted” and “Yes! You can teach an Old Dog New Tricks!”

“Never Take ANYTHING for Granted” and “Yes! You can teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

You have all heard the adage “Never take ANYTHING for granted”. Well today I spent the morning having my eyeballs poked and prodded. As an Artist/Architect obviously it would suck big time to loose my vision.

A few months ago I noticed a blurry blind spot in the middle of my right eye, which, as you might expect scared the crap out of me. This is not exactly new, but it is still disconcerting. I first started having vision problems back in my twenties when I got hit at the side of my right eye with a hockey stick. The stick didn’t even hit the eye but the side of the orbital socket. At the time it was no big deal, a simple stitch and scar to add some character. Man was I surprised when over the next 30-60 days I started to get a white cloudy film over my pupil. I had developed a traumatic cataract at the ripe old age of 27. I was totally blind in my right eye.

Two surgeries later, I was implanted with a plastic interocular lens and I was back in business. As for today’s episode, I was lucky. What was a macular edema two months ago, had corrected itself before the specialist had his chance to stick me with another needle in the eye!

The long and the short of it, is that you simply cannot take anything in life for granted.

This takes me to the second part of this post. As a creative type, what would I do if I were to lose my vision? I wouldn’t be much of an Artist/Architect if I could not see! These are questions that we should all be asking ourselves. What if we were to get sick, lose our health, lose a spouse, lose a job. One thing for sure, I wouldn’t be sitting around doing nothing! I’d play banjo!!

I always wanted to learn to play an instrument. Unfortunately it was one of those things that just kept getting put off. Self doubt and negative commentary from others sabotaged any early ventures into music. It’s amazing how many well intentioned people there are out there that are willing to give an opinion on wasting your time on frivolous activities, like wanting to play music! Funny, I heard the same rhetoric when I started my Architecture and Art Careers.

So, I did what I do best, ignored what people around me were saying (including myself) and picked up a guitar at 48 years old, and took some lessons. I was brutal. I spent the better part of the first year trying to do a bar chord. It took me another year to torture my wife with a really bad version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. But then it happened. It actually started to click. I realized I knew a lot of chords, and I could actually play a song. Then two, three and so on. I still suck, but I pick up the guitar pretty much every day and I pick away. I just play, and lose myself in the music.

It was getting close to my 50th birthday, and for some bizarre reason I wanted to try the banjo. I secretly would check them out at the Ottawa Folklore Centre, too embarrassed and shy to pick one up. Then out of the blue, a few days before my 50th, Janice sends me a YouTube clip of Abigail Washburn, playing “City of Refuge”. I was immediately hooked and I bought myself my first banjo – a half-century present to myself. And here we are, a year and a half later, and as with the guitar, I pick up the banjo every day, and yes, I suck. But I keep at it and I can actually now play some tunes. I am learning frailling or claw hammer style banjo, a style completely different from guitar playing. It is really difficult, well for me anyways, but I love it, and I lose myself in it. Learning to play is a musical meditation.

So if I were to lose my vision, the Accidental Architect would simply have to become the Accidental Musician! Apparently yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

So my only word to you tonight, don’t take anything in life for granted, and go play banjo!