The best way to find drugs is to grow a beard. As a result of a bet with Chris and Philip my face looks and feels like an overgrown vagina but I get to claim the title of champion. Our wager was not based on thickness or length, but who could tolerate having one the longest. Chris and Philip shaved but for now, I'm kind of attached to it or rather, it is attached to me. And so when those individuals who sell drugs see someone such as myself with a beard they immediately assume this guy needs to get high. Here in Aruba, a man that hangs out by the cruise ships puts his hand to his lips and asks me if I smoke He asks me three times a week as I run by him, each time as if he's never seen me before. I'm running, sweating and trying to stay conscious in the heat and this man thinks what I'd really like at the moment is some marijuana. At the end of my run as I cool down, walking along the dock towards our dinghy a fisherman says, "Yo, if you ever want to come smoke, just see me, I can get you whatever you need." I could use some water. The Dominican men would grab their face, nod, smile and say Chevo which means goat. Then they'd offer me prostitutes and cocaine. "You look like you do cocaine. Allow me to get you some." said a man in Samana as an introduction.
I get stared at by men and women. Children grab their parents hand tight as they look up at me as I pass. In the middle of the night they wake up screaming for mom. And when she runs in to see what is wrong the child looks at her terrified, "It's the man with the beard, he was in my nightmare." And the mom holds the child, pats it on the back, "Don't worry it's just a dream, he can't get you, it was just a dream." The only way I could be scarier is if I was Muslim or worse, black.
Enjoying coffee and a cigarette at a cafe with my puppy an incident occurred which caused whispers among the other patrons. The curious puppy and the fragile coffee cup met resulting in the dog being doused with semi-hot coffee. She wailed and screamed as if the end was near more scared than actually burned. At the same moment, reacting like she'd trained for moments like this, an overly protective waitress rushed up and doused her a second time with cold water. I laughed while the puppy now sat stunned at the sudden hot and then cold sensations. While the waitress fretted over the dog I looked around at the other tables all watching the scene, like an actor looking out into the audience. A few moments later I heard someone whisper "Did you see what the man with the beard did to that puppy? He dumped hot coffee on her head."Not just that man with the puppy. The man with the beard, as if the beard makes me inherently more evil.
But it's okay because when I hear them whisper "The man with the beard." it reminds me of when I first met Anna and had not a beard but a bird. I was babysitting my friend Josh's cockatoo, CJ, while he was away for a few months. Cockatoos are highly social birds when Josh learned this he started taking CJ to bars. In order to keep the bird comfortable I decided to do the same. The problem was that most bars aren't cockatoo friendly, something about the shitting and feathers in people's drinks. I was kicked out of a couple and tolerated at the rest. It was only at Chez Pierre, where Anna worked, that he was permitted to crawl up the bar, climb on Anna's arm as she shook a martini and dance up and down in rhythm with the shaker, raising the feathers on his head and let out a loud CAAAAAAA. Anna just laughed. A talented bird, CJ's other favorite activity was taking the cocktail straws from the bar, one at a time in his mouth and tossing them on to the floor. One day speaking with her manager she said, "I think I like someone."
"The man with the bird." she said.
And since Anna and I have been watching the History Channel series "The Most Evil Men in History" the whisper about me dumping coffee on the puppies head also makes me feel like maybe I'm on or should be on that list. Maybe we just haven't gotten to that episode. And I think about the men who are on the list and their facial hair, men like Atilla the Hun and Ivan the Terrible and I wonder if they got offered drugs when they went for a jog. If Ivan really was that terrible or did he just seem to be, like a man with a beard who appears to have dumped coffee on a puppies head.