Columbia Heights Men Participate in Moustache-a-Thon to Raise Money for Writing Center

By Stephen Lowman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Among the men of Columbia Heights, a face full of stubble is a common sight. The college students, nonprofit workers and part-time indie rockers who call the neighborhood home have found other ways to spend their time rather than remove facial hair.

But this month, 18 men will sport their scruff for a cause. They're competing in a moustache-a-thon to raise money for the Capitol Letters Writing Center, a nonprofit organization that offers free tutoring and creative writing programs to D.C. students.

The participants, or "follicle farmers," gather sponsors and meet each week to track each other's financial and facial growth.

First, they had to get a clean shave. So on Feb. 28, they gathered at DMC Beauty Salon in Columbia Heights and had straight-edge razors applied to their faces.

Eric Axelson, 37, struggled to recall the last time his face was hairless. The bass player and former teacher decided that it must have been about three years ago, when he dressed up as one of the smooth-skinned lads from Duran Duran while playing a cover band gig at the 9:30 Club.

"I'm nervous," he said before sitting in the barber's chair. "I haven't seen myself in a while."

After Axelson's beard was trimmed with electric clippers, a warm, wet cloth was placed on his face to soften the remaining whiskers. A shaving brush then turned a soapy liquid into lather. Under the barber's control, the razor sliced Axelson's facial hair down to his skin. Another warm towel and a dusting of talcum powder completed the treatment.

This scene was repeated throughout the afternoon.

Afterward, while considering which variety of upper-lip coiffure he should grow, Axelson said he was unsure but was "not doing a '70s 'pornstache.' "

"I am!" said 27-year-old volunteer William Bert, referring to a long, full moustache shorter than a handlebar style.

Later, after thinking it through, Bert said he decided to "let it grow and see whatever comes."

Under the guidance of Capitol Letters volunteers such as Axelson and Bert, students learn how to write plays and make 'zines, small-circulation, noncommercial publications.

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