Finding Nemo

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Belt Beard-O's

Lovely Dali, a Hippy Oasis
I look across the table full of home-made bead necklaces at the man drinking his Dali, the local cheap lager.  He had on that Justin Timberlake fedora hat trend that had peaked two years ago.  But here in this backwater in Yunnan province, perhaps he was ahead of the curve.  He had on the required bead bracelets and baggy hemp pants, but what really struck me was the face.  Hanging below his nose was something I can only describe as on old-growth virgin forest.  As the foam from the beer soaked into the pizza-stained brown spongy mass, I realized that perhaps I should strike out the virgin part.

I looked around at the other tables here at Bad Monkey bar, in the hippie oasis of Dali.  The common understanding is that hippies as a self-sustaining species died out the moment Ronald Reagan got elected President.  Yet, the truth is that instead they have determinedly survived, clumping together in little remote colonies in places like India, Nepal, Thailand, and southern China.  Its difficult to find a tribe unspoiled by the outside world these days, but if you look hard enough you can find them in their natural element, beards a-flying, body odor a-smellin.  Be warned, they will up-root and resettle to an even more remote backwater the moment too many new hippies arrive and make the place uncool dude.  When nuclear armageddon occurs, it will be cockroaches and hippies that survive.

Upon nearing the establishment, Chinese faces are dramatically and suddenly replaced with western ones.  The beads and beards per capita rise exponentially, until you literally start to spontaneously sprout hairy rasta vines on your own chin.  Wafts of body odor, petchulli, incense, and marijuana formed that old familiar scent I recognized from college.

JP, rocking the rasta mullet
The array of hairstyles was so awesome it looked like a competition to see how many brain-cells could be removed with a comb.  A man walked up sporting something I'd only thought was a rumor: it was the extremely rare rasta-mullet.  The front was all business, and the back was all Bob Marley.  He was white of course.

Rasta-mullet announced he was playing tonight.  I asked him what kind of reggae he liked.  He replied he hated reggae, and was going to play punk-bluegrass in French.  I nodded knowingly.

In the month I'd been in China, I was constantly stared at and photographed like a chimp in a zoo, and a lot of it was due to my hairy chin.  Chinese would walk by and shout "Hairy monkey!" at me in Chinese.  Every time I turned around in a touristy area, another chinese man had his long-lens shoved into my grill snapping a picture.  "Cheese-a!"  Thanks buddy!  Much like the celebrity life is at first novel and fun, the life of a hairy westerner in China is a trip.  Unlike Britney, however, I soon got tired of the constant paparazzi grabbing my arms and snapping pictures of the escaped white monkey.

But here in Dali, I realized I was just a green belt beard-o.  True, there were a few rookie white-belt beard-o's with their first spring-time buds sprouting under their noses.  I scoffed at them.  But there were also serious double black-belt ninja beard-o's.  Old-Growth Forest was the male silverback of Bad Monkey.  All the lesser beard-o's looked away nervously as he strode through the place, his huge ZZ-top masterpiece swaying gallantly, proudly, as he cruised.  His mustache was so thick and wiry it could be used to sharpen a knife.

I had found my guru.

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