What an amazing week. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tuesday was Obama Becomes President Day. And now comes Thursday the 22nd, which is one of my favorite holidays, St. Willie Nelson's Beard Day.
I realize that some of you, depending on which religion you subscribe to, may not even be aware that Willie Nelson's Beard is an actual, bona fide Saint, but indeed it is. Specifically, it is the Patron Saint of Picking Up Hitchhikers.
This holiday is generally observed by bikers, truckers, lot lizards, hobos, rodeo cowboys, hippies, vagrants, and other earthy, outlaw types. Most folks celebrate St. Willie Nelson's Beard Day simply by driving around and giving any hitchhikers they might see a lift. Of course, there are many other ways in which one can honer The Beard.
My good buddy Earl Diggs, for example, celebrates St. Willie Nelson's Beard Day each year by throwing a big shindig out at his auto repair shop over in Woodville (just off State Road 319, about a half mile past Happy Jack's Beer Shack & Holistic Health Clinic). These parties are always a lot of fun, with plenty to drink, occasional nudity, and surprisingly few fatalities.
Earl's band, The Grave Diggers, do Willie Nelson covers all night long, which, I admit, can get a little tiresome. If enough people start throwing beer bottles at the stage, however, they'll usually appease the audience and toss in a couple of Johnny Paycheck numbers, or maybe even a Steppenwolf tune.
The grand finale, though, comes at the end of the night, when we all pay homage to His Beardness by offering up the annual SIRSA (Sacrificial IRS Agent), whom we cleanse in the Upside Down Red Beard of Wrath (which is actually a giant bonfire, representing Willie's Beard as it might appear were it worn by the Earth itself.)
This may sound a bit gruesome and archaic to some of you modern, "educated" folks, but Woodville's a small town, and they take their religion seriously, like in the old days. Also, they get really, really drunk.
Celebrations are not always so serious, of course. Flo Ledbedder, part-time mother of six and professional Meth Lab Engineer's Assistant, likes to ceremonialize St. Willie Nelson's Beard day by going down to Hank's Hell Hole, the local biker bar, knocking back 8 or 9 Harvey Walbangers in quick succession, and then jumping up on a pool table while gyrating to the jukebox and proudly displaying her magnificent tattoo:
Flo is a dynamite lady, and while these displays of religious fervor can be very entertaining to watch, I can't help but wonder how Flo's partners feel about sticking their Pride & Joy directly into the Red Headed Stranger's chin. I suppose they probably try not to think about it. I'm trying not to think about it right now.
I read somewhere that elderly women have no pubic hair, that, eventually, it all just falls out. Poor Willie. He's going to look very strange one of these days.
My other good friend, Ricky "The Blade" Scruggs (God rest his soul), had his own colorful way of honoring SWNB Day, which was to drive up and down the interstate in his Ford F-150, pick up unsuspecting hitchhikers, and then scare the living crap out of them. Once they were going down the road, he'd pull out his shiny, over-sized butcher knife and start waving it around, while talking about how hitchhikers were "a little stringy, but real tasty".
Ricky was a hell raiser, for sure, but he didn't mean any harm by it. Everyone's different, and that's just how he liked to have fun. The stories he would tell about those little encounters would have the boys down at Hank's shooting Pabst Blue Ribbon right out of their noses. Unfortunately, Ricky passed away one year ago, shortly after picking up his very last hitchhiker, Bobby "The Pistol" Wilson.
I, of course, have my own unique way of observing St. Willie's Beard Day. Not to be uppity or anything, but, as you can probably tell, The Captain is slightly more sophisticated than his "good 'ol boy" counterparts down at Hank's Hell Hole. While these guys and gals have much to offer in the way of drama, irony, and situational comedy, I tend to approach these types of spiritual matters in a more thoughtful, philosophical way. Having graduated from highschool and all.
I like to meditate on the deeper meaning of The Beard, and reflect on all that it symbolizes. Willie's chin-bush is a mysterious archetype, when you think about it. It is always coming and going at the same time. The beard on his chin today is not the beard that was there in 1979... yet it remains "his beard". How is that possible? Can something that is be something that was? And if it isn't, then was it ever?
Such a paradox.
And here's another mystery: while Willie himself is still very much alive, his beard is technically dead. And yet it somehow grows. How can a dead thing grow? If something that is dead can grow, is it really dead? Is this some kind of crazy miracle, or simply The Beard's way of reminding us that death is an illusion? And if death is an illusion, then what is life? Are shadow and light one in the same? Does the entropy of death simply reach critical mass, and then manifest itself as the ecstasy of birth?
The fibers of Willie's beard intertwine with one another, in ways that are too complex for us mortals to comprehend. Those curly, corkscrew strands are suspiciously similar in shape to the subatomic gravitational patterns which our scientists have discovered only recently. Is it merely a bizarre coincidence that Superstring Theory just happened to emerge in the 1970's... the same period in which Willie's beard blossomed onto the scene, becoming a lasting yin-yang symbol of unity between the seemingly ever-opposed Redneck and Hippie? Is Willie's beard a magical Superstringy Doorway out of this cartoonish 3D universe, and into another mystical zone, a super-dimensional realm where anything is possible?
Is there any other POSSIBLE explanation? Do you not SEE how it all FITS TOGETHER PERFECTLY???
We may never know the secrets held within that cellular mass of tangled, twisted dead-yet-aliveness. It's not as if The Beard owes us any favors, and, to be honest, most of us probably do not deserve its blessing. However, on January 22nd, the one day of the year that Willie's fluffy, hairy chin-spirit cruises through our simple, paint-by-numbers lives, it certainly doesn't hurt to stick the old thumb out and see if we can hitch a ride to a higher, or at least hairier, state of consciousness.
For even when Willie himself is dead and buried, that which is his facial hair will continue to flourish. I think we can all learn a lesson from that, and take comfort in the fact that, while the flesh is weak, the beard remains strong.
Have a happy St. Willie Nelson's Beard Day, everyone!