I discovered Beardie during a road trip from California to the East Coast. While passing through New Mexico, the Dame and I wandered into a ramshackle antique store off the highway, the kind of roadside dive that smelled of diesel and mortality.There were plenty of vintage curiosities for sale, but most of it verged on the creepy. Everything was rusty copper and sharp edges, and even just breathing the air made me yearn for a tetanus shot. There was nothing there for us, other than a few ironic trinkets we’d surely toss out at the next reststop. But as we slinked towards the exit, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye that looked like a midget Methuselah. He was perched in a dusty bin with other forgotten toys, and he looked at me with such sad, bloodshot eyes, like a scruffy mutt abandoned at the pound, long past his adoptable puppy stage.
It was love at first sight.
We knew nothing of his lineage. He had no name, no indication whatsoever of his origins or identity, other than a date and the manufacturer’s name tattooed on his spine — “Mattel 1973” — like an Auschwitz-ian serial number. All we knew was that he had a spectacular beard — a tangled mess of grey whiskers somewhere between Karl Marx and Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard — and the grubby clothes of a man who hadn’t earned an honest paycheck since the steel factory went bankrupt. He was, to put it kindly, the least desirable toy ever created by human hands. How many tears had been shed on Christmas morning after a justifiably shocked child discovered not an Elmo or G.I. Joe awaiting him under the tree, but a vaguely threatening-looking old man doll?
“Oh… wow… okay… So you basically bought me… a tiny version of Grandpa. That’s…. weird. Does he come with his own glaucoma medicine?”
We bought him immediately — it was the best $5.23 I ever spent in my life — and christened him Beardie. It was supposed to be a temporary “handle” — a placeholder, if you will — until we came up with something better, but the name just stuck. If he was clean-shaven we might’ve called him Cleft-Chinnie. But he wasn’t, so he got stuck with Beardie.
How can I describe Beardie to you? He’s paranoid, xenophobic, antisocial, intolerant of other cultures and beliefs, and borderline schizophrenic. He’s also a cantankerous jackass. (And I say that with love.) He’s like Ted Kaczynski without the charm, personal hygiene, survivalist training or handwriting legibility. He wears aluminum hats to stop the government from reading his thoughts, he suffers from night terrors and spontaneous public urination, he carries most of his belongings in a hobo bindle and catheter bag, he’s had at least one organ transplant — a baboon liver — because of his drinking problem (he performed the surgery himself in a motel bathroom, with nothing but a rusty switchblade and a bucket), he claims to have killed men for sport (“the most dangerous game of all,” he likes to cackle) but we don’t believe him, and he assumes that anybody who looks even slightly different from him (which is pretty much everybody on the planet) must be an “immergrint”.
Over the years, we’ve documented many of Beardie’s exploits. And some (for legal reasons) we’ve tried to pretend never happened. Here are just a few of the highlights:
“Bitch stole my wallet,” Beardie barks at the motel maids who eventually release him. Not surprisingly, they’re unsympathetic.
Beardie’s been journaling again. Two dozen free verse poems about his inner child later, he’s finally able to admit that he’s still pissed off that his alcoholic father never showed up for his 7th grade flute recital.
* * *
It’s been a wild ride. But nothing compares with Beardie, for the first time in his wrinkled life, took a vacation. And not just any vacation, either. A cruise! Sailing from Mexico to Key West on the luxurious (and relatively norovirus-free) Norwegian Jewel, Beardie spent a week relaxing in the sun, meeting new friends, drinking as much as his tiny frame would allow, and generally just getting away from the rat race, all while committing only a handful of felonies (which is a lot less than his weekly average).
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a collection of photos from Beardie’s cruise-tastic holiday on the high seas:
It took some convincing to get Beardie on a cruise ship. He still has too many bad memories from the Lusitania. And the Titanic, wow, that was pretty brutal for Beardie, too. And don’t get him started on the Bismarck, and the Tek Sing, and the SS Dakota, and the Belgrano, and the Wilhelm Gustloff, and the Dona Paz. Yes, it appears Beardie has been on a suspiciously large number of boats that’ve sunk, but he swears it’s just an unfortunate coincidence.
Now if you’ll excuse him, he has to try and get past the Port of Miami’s security without setting off their goddamn metal detectors.
As Beardie liked to remind us, “If this cabin’s rockin’, don’t come a’knockin’… unless you’re into the freaky stuff.”
The ladies on the cruise were enamored with Beardie, despite his sometimes handsy behavior. We probably wouldn’t have recommended quite so much open-mouth kissing, but we tried not to hamper Beardie’s style. We understand that many of these ladies were drunk on rum punch and probably weren’t thinking clearly, but still…
You know what Chlamydia smells like? It smells like Beardie.
We’re not sure how Beardie climbed up to the upper deck all by himself, or what inspired him to stand on the ledge and scream down at the pool, “I am a golden god” before vomiting over the side and showering the crowd with an orangish bile that smelled like fish guts and Tang.
As he explained to us later, “Turns out mescaline and Coors Lite don’t mix.”
Oh Beardie, will you ever learn?
As the ship passed Cuba, Beardie took a moment to drop his pants and moon Fidel. Why he felt compelled to give the communist dictator an unobstructed view of his brown hole (or, in Beardie’s case, grey hole) remains a mystery.
“He knows why,” Beardie grumbled.
Our first port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. Beardie wasted no time deboarding and running down to the city’s marketplace. If there’s one reason to visit Mexico and it’s not donkey sex shows, it’s gotta be the discount wrestling masks.
Three masks for 400 pesos? Muy bueno!
“The blood of my enemies will run through the streets like inexpensive merlot,” Beardie hollered, assuming what he hoped was a threatening pose.
Yeah, yeah, we know. But we didn’t have the heart to shatter the little guy’s dreams. He’s just so damn cute when he pretend-wrestles.
The mark of a good vacation is if you’re finally able to let yourself go and just be a tourist. Beardie, usually so serious, couldn’t help but laugh when he stumbled upon this awesomely silly photo-op.
“Look at me, I have boobies,” he chortled, spit dangling from his lips.
Beardie, please, you’re embarrassing all of us.
Good luck with that intestinal parasite, Beardie!
At Cozumel’s Margaritaville — which is just like an authentic Mexican eatery, only 98% whiter — Beardie befriended much of the waitstaff. We can only assume they didn’t understand him when he started barking, “Pour an extra shot in my drink and there’s a shiny new American nickel in it for you. Whaddaya say, Pedro?”
You know those waitresses in tropical bars who wander from table to table, force-feeding shots to customers against their will and massaging their backs, as if making the experience semi-erotic will make you forget that you’re paying $10 for thimbleful of watered-down Bacardi? They apparently love old man dolls with deep pockets. A few thousand pesos later, Beardie was feeling no pain, and had lost all the feeling in his face.
Also, he had a raging erection that just wouldn’t quit. Thank you, Mexican pseudo-whores!
It took little provocation to get Beardie out on the dance floor. However, it took at least a half-dozen Margaritaville employees to drag him away when he dropped his pants and started singing, “I want to party on your pussy, baaaaabeee!”
Sun and tequila always bring out the worst in Beardie.
Back on the ship, Beardie eventually stopped vomiting around 4am. We’ve never heard the Lord’s name taken in vain so many names, and with so much emphasis on anal rape. We haven’t used the bathroom since, as it smells like a toxic combination of sulfur and baby’s tears. Also, puke.