La course des barbes / The running of the beards

I've tried to keep this blog pretty chronological for the most part, but I'm going to have to break tradition here for a minute. Reason being, because I just went to Pamplona for the San Fermin festival (also known as the Running of the Bulls), and boom shaboom, there were almost as many redbeards as there were red scarves. 

We arrived in the city around 10am, and the narrow streets were already packed. Everyone was merry as hell, walking around drinking kalimotxo, which is coca cola mixed with red wine. It sounds foul, but with enough ice it's actually quite wonderful. Especially because the first day of San Fermin was a brutal 100 degrees fahrenheit (38 celsius). The folks on balconies were pouring buckets of water on the people below, and it was a true shitshow. 

We roamed and drank all day long, the kind of partying that I was much better at 10 years ago. We'd go from walking through the streets to dancing in sticky, windowless bar caves. And everywhere we went, there were redbeards aplenty. Based on the situation I've described, you can imagine how I didn't want my iPhone out all the time, at risk of being destroyed. So not all the beards I encountered were photographed, but I have a select few for you to enjoy. The guy with the red tuft is one of my favorites, very unique.

Monsieur Fixit et la barbe de feu

One of the hardest things about adjusting to life in France was learning the spots. I mean, it’s quite obvious where to go if you want a crepe, wine, any type of fromage or some cigs. But for example, what’s the French equivalent of Target? Does such a place exist? What about Franco-Bed, Bath & Beyond? Is that out there somewhere? Sometimes I’d consult Google, sometimes ask neighbors, and other times just give up in frustration and scour

But when I moved into my Paris apartment, the tiles on the wall of our bathroom were a hideous leaf and flower motif that was shameful to the eyes. Driven by their fugliness, I searched far and wide, and successfully discovered French Home Depot. Its name: Castorama. It was located right near the Eiffel tower, so Max and I metro-ed over and scurried inside. We found some pleasant gray tile paint, a new bathroom rug, and all sorts of other goodies that one might impulse buy at a French Home Depot.

And when we got up to the front, behold! A handsome, hardworking redbeard running the checkout line. It was truly a great day. He scanned all the items we needed to make our bathroom better, and furrowed his brow in concentration. He seemed like a catch, this one. So if any of you reading this find yourself in Paris, make your way to the Castorama near metro Bir Hakeim, and snag this bearded gem. Oh and here’s a bonus shot of my bathroom, post tile paint. So much betta.

La barbe touristique


While hunting for our Paris apartment last June, a redbeard was spotted. Not on a Frenchman, but what was very obviously, a tourist. He was staring at the Palais de Justice with a gaping maw (or perhaps just yawning), when I found him. I probably should've approached, it's very possible he spoke English, but I think I was in a hurry, off to the next apartment viewing. And the tourists here take pictures of absolutely everything, often with a selfie stick, so I have no shame in taking pictures of them. 

I was with my father-in-law at this particular moment, so I had to explain why I was photographing random tourists. Some people find it very odd that I collect photos of redbearded men, but I believe it's good to have a collection of something. It keeps you curious and seeking new experiences. I collect redbeards, and also crushed pennies. 



As you may have noticed, I've been making all my post titles in French or Franglish. It's because I can say very simple, caveman-esque things, but it then sounds lovely. Also it's good practice for me. Maybe one day this entire blog will be in French. Ha, but not really because my French is horrendous. I felt the need to point this out, because the above title is not in fact French, but Italian. I know I should stick to my theme, but the word "barbarossa" is too gorgeous to be denied. I also thought about doing my titles in the language of the country where the featured redbeard resides, but that would just get complicated. What if I go to Russia?

Back to the purpose of the post, which is this charming, Italian redbeard. So last June, my husband Max and I went to Paris to find an apartment. Max's mother leads a study abroad program in Italy, that my mother took part in, so both our moms were abroad. After we picked an apartment, we headed southward to meet the moms in Siena. Twice a year, in July and August, Siena hosts a badass, no holds barred horse race called the Palio that pits its 'contradas' (basically the different city districts) against each other. It is wild. People are shoving each other off their horses, brawling in the street, trying to sabotage each other's horses before the race, crying, kissing, etc. If a married couple are from different contradas, one of them literally moves out during the Palio days, it's rivalry like I've never seen. 

Well like any city-wide celebration, it was a clusterfuck, the streets of this tiny, medieval town just stuffed with people. Yet amidst the chaos, I found a redbeard. I didn't ask if I could take this shot, I just took it. He was shoving past in his U2 shirt and the moment was ripe. I also like the woman over his shoulder wearing aviators and a mean face.


Où la barbe rouge grandit / Where the red beard grows


It was hard to leave San Francisco for many reasons, but one of those reasons is because the city is filled to the brim with crimson beards. Maybe it's the whole hipster/hippie vibe, so there are more beards in general, but I used to encounter at least a handful a day. Sometimes when I would spot one, I'd just let him go. Perhaps I was in a hurry, or he was, or it was clear it would be an awkward sitch if I were to ask for a photo. But some strangers had to be stopped, for their beards were just too good to pass up. This man was one of those types.

My buddy Matt League was in town, so I was already in a happier mood than usual. I believe Matt wishes he had a beard of rouge, but his beard is composed of many colors, red, gray, blonde, etc. Anyway, we were tromping through the Mission en route to a bar called The Sycamore, known for its bottomless mimosas and chill back patio. When we passed the redbeard, Matt and I made eye contact. He gave an eyebrow raise and a slow nod, which I read as, "Wooo, that was a good one." I knew I had to act quickly or the beard would escape, so I doubled back and asked the dude for a photo. He was a good sport, people in San Francisco are used to encounters much weirder than this. 

La première redbeard

I've always had a bit of a fascination with redheaded folk, but it wasn't until the past few years that I began to focus on the bearded variety. It happened in an instant. It was one of those euphoric moments, where everything is magic.

I was at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, California. Some friends and I had ventured north to swing by the brewery for a flight of beers, and then proceed on to a corn maze. There was live music, people dancing, and then I saw him. A redbeard so distinguished and prominent that I was forced to gape in wonder. I eyed him for a bit, pointed him out to my friends, then made some creepy attempts to take a photograph of his magnificence. 

The spotting of this man is what began my quest to capture ginger beards of the world. He set the standard. I wish so badly that I could go back in time and get a better picture, perhaps interview him a little, really just a get a sense of how he feels about his impressive bristles. Just looking at that thing, you can tell it's been loved. He definitely grooms it, maybe oils it even.

Anyway, seeing this guy was a total Baader-Meinhof situation for me (Baader-Meinhof = when a thing you just found out about suddenly seems to pop up everywhere). I started seeing redbeards constantly. And eventually, I began collecting them. Now I'm living in Paris, France, traveling often, and there are beards of rouge wherever I look. I must say, it's far more awkward to ask someone if I can take a photo of their beard in my broken French ("Je peux prendre une photo de votre barbe rousse?"), but I'm getting better.