Whiskerino 2009

My friend Trey was part of this online beard-grow­ing con­test a cou­ple of years ago. In actu­al fact, it is real­ly a pho­tog­ra­phy con­test with grow­ing beards as a theme (and is thus­ly pret­ty much lim­it­ed to male con­tes­tants, though females cer­tain­ly jump in and con­tribute). For the past few years, I’ve been grow­ing out a “win­ter beard” every year around Novem­ber and shav­ing it off in again around the begin­ning of March, which just so hap­pened to coin­cide with Whiskeri­no.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Whiskeri­no only hap­pens every cou­ple of years so I had to wait until this sea­son to par­tic­i­pate. Sign-up was on the 1st of Novem­ber and the response was so over­whelm­ing I almost did­n’t get in (my grand­fa­ther was vis­it­ing that day and I had wait­ed until fam­i­ly left to try). For­tu­nate­ly, an e‑mail plea to the orga­niz­er got me signed up and I post­ed a pho­to of Angela kiss­ing my beard good-bye.

I real­ly did my best to be cre­ative. I was pret­ty much con­strained to what I could pull off by myself (I work at home, alone) dur­ing the time I was tak­ing to eat some lunch or take a short break from writ­ing. I had a few good pho­tos and the pho­to con­straints of the con­test forced me to think about how to use my cam­era and lim­it­ed resources (no post-pro­cess­ing allowed; i.e. — no Pho­to­shop).

My Whiskeri­no 2009 Pho­tos

How­ev­er, between par­ent­ing and vis­it­ing fam­i­ly around the hol­i­days, and all of being more sick this past win­ter than our entire lives, it put a strain on my time. Inter­net beard-grow­ing & pho­to con­tests are unfor­tu­nate­ly the sort of thing that has to get put aside first in these sit­u­a­tions. I stand in awe of the guys who did this every last day with kids, jobs, and way more stuff going on than me. But it is impor­tant to note that many of these guys have been doing this for years and have become very close friends. This is the mod­ern inter­net equiv­a­lent to a guy’s road trip.

And, in fact, there was even one of those! (though many women came along for the fun, too). Last week­end many par­tic­i­pants came togeth­er here in Nashville for the Throw­down week­end. I was able to join for a taco lunch and got the chance to meet some peo­ple whose work I’ve been admir­ing for the past 3+ months. They were all the nicest, most inter­est­ing peo­ple from every back­ground you can imag­ine.

Despite all the grum­blings from Angela (who has nev­er approved of my beard-grow­ing activ­i­ties and was not hap­py at all about Whiskeri­no), despite all the crazy one-upmans-ship that I had not way of com­pet­ing in, despite all the dis­com­fort that I get when my beard goes for a few weeks untrimmed, let alone four months!; I’d do again were it to hap­pen in a cou­ple of years.

Why? Because I start­ed to see what all the peo­ple who’ve done it for the past few years see in it. It is way more than beards. Or pho­tog­ra­phy. Or post­ing every day. It is about mak­ing friends with peo­ple whom you’d nev­er would have had the chance to meet oth­er­wise. It’s about tak­ing the most indi­vid­ual, least com­pet­i­tive things in the whole world and turn­ing it into some sort of team sport. One where the team con­sists of over four hun­dred oth­er guys whom despite not know­ing you and maybe hav­ing noth­ing else in com­mon with you, encour­age you and are your friend.

It was one of the odd­est things I’ve ever done and it was so much more fun than I can begin to con­vey in a blog post. But don’t take my word for it. Go over there and look at the pho­tos from today. Read how much this means to the guys involved. Then go and read some of the amaz­ing sto­ries they shared (babies, engage­ments, can­cer, bro­ken backs, swine flu, news­pa­per inter­views, tat­toos, even big­ger tat­toos, and so much more).

All that being said, I was more than ready to shave off the pile of wire and horse hair that was grow­ing out of my face. I was start­ing to feel very uncom­fort­able (both phys­i­cal­ly and social­ly) and was nev­er so glad to shave as I was today. I did try and have a lit­tle fun with that, too:

You can see all of my 2009 Whiskeri­no pho­tos, as well.

To see what was tru­ly the best of the best in these pho­tos, please check out the King Beard sec­tion (each day’s favorite pho­tos, as vot­ed upon by the par­tic­i­pants). Note, I only made into the top ten one time, and I’m proud to say it was by one of the most amaz­ing pho­tos I’ve ever scene.