Adventures on the Cutting Edge
I’ve been celebrating the New Year by giving blood.
Please, no applause. Depending on your age, your grandpa or great-grandpa wouldn’t have attached any nobility to the resolution I made. To those old souls, I’ve merely been engaged in a drab daily routine.
Shaving with a straight razor.
There’s no rational explanation for why a sensitive-skinned deep community thinker like me would want to shave with the weapon favored by such notable cutthroats as Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, and Bad Bad Leroy Brown.
I know this. You know this. Transients living under a bridge know this.
Straight razor shaving is more suicidal than wearing a MAGA hat to the Biden inauguration.
All logic aside, I’ve harbored delusions of mastering this lost art practically since the day I noticed peach fuzz sprouting from my chin. This came, I believe, from watching too many Westerns where tough-as-leather cowpokes rolled their own ciggies, drank rot gut straight from the bottle and scraped their weathered mugs each morning with the business edge of a Bowie knife.
I know. Not much of a reason. But 2020 has been anything but reasonable. Due to viral constraints, ol’ Clarksville has been more cloistered than the Count of Monte Cristo.
And we all know about the dangers awaiting idle hands.
Shaving with a straight razor, I convinced myself, would be a swell way to break up the monotony that comes with longterm sheltering in place.
Not to mention that I needed redemption after my last failed attempt with a blade. That happened about ten years ago. It took three chunks of toilet paper to stop the leakage from the razor wounds on my right cheek.
Instead of learning my lesson, however, I blamed the antique chin whacker that I bought at a Monroe Street thrift store, mainly because there was a cool engraved steamship on the blade.
A few years later, with wounds to my pride and face faded, I shelled out real money at a tobacco shop for a quality new straight razor.
“I’ll get it right next time,” I told myself, before sticking the razor in a drawer where it remained until a recent Tuesday.
Filled with renewed resolve, I dug it out and lathered my face with an old timey shaving brush, and…
Men started becoming wimps in 1903.
That’s the year King Camp Gillette, a mechanically minded gent with grand ideas, began peddling his newfangled “safety razor.”
Generations of males before Gillette had considered the straight razor as cutting-edge (har!) technology.
Oh, I’m sure there were wimps back then, too. You can spot them in those old sepia-toned family photo albums. They’re the men sporting beards bigger than badgers.
Covering their straight razor scars, no doubt. They were probably relieved that Gillette had given the planet a far easier defoliating device, never considering that the newfangled razors needed—get this—disposable blades for consumers to buy over and over again.
No dumb bunny, that King Camp Gillette.
But living in the Land of Ease is a slippery slope, dear readers. A slippery slope, indeed.
Before humanity knew it, we were shopping on Amazon, loading books on Kindle, wiping with Charmin instead of catalogue pages, and listening to our favorite music via WiFi and Bluetooth.
Our battle cry was once “Give me liberty or give me death.” Now it’s “I’ll have a tall, skinny peppermint latte with extra foam, please.”
Life has become too easy. Everything is automatic this and instant that. Hell, I get impatient waiting the forty seconds it takes for my Keurig to piddle out my morning coffee.
Shaving’s no different. The once reliable straight razor has morphed into plastic-handled, neon-colored gizmos with synthetic-mucous strips and names better fitted for race cars.
The Xtreme3. The Mach3 Turbo.
One blade is no longer enough. Most come now with three blades at least. Some have five. Next year it’ll probably be 15.
Maybe that’s why I want to be a throwback groomer, a latter-day hard case who’s willing to break the shackles of modern convenience.
Aw, who am I kidding?
Here’s the real problem: I ran out of televised diversions to keep me occupied.
I laughed and gasped my way through Tiger King. Badass Bosch? Been there, done that. Justified. Ozark. Weeds.
The Queen’s Gambit. Jessica Jones. The Boys. Peaky Blinders…
Binge-watched all nine seasons of The Office despite the fact I’d seen them all when the show was fresh. Ditto Parks and Recreation.
The Good Place. Breaking Bad. The Sopranos.
I’m reluctant to admit this, but I actually plodded my way through The Crown. (Poor Prince Charles. The royal nerd never had a prayer.)
I finally hit schlock bottom with—please don’t judge me—Virgin River, the sappiest series since As the Stomach Churns.
Somehow, I completed both seasons of this cruel and unusual amusement, filling my brain with all the two-dimensional characters and corny telegraphed plotlines.
Will Doc Mullins stay married to Hope? Can Jack and Mel overcome past tragedies and somehow find true love?
And Preacher. It looked like he’d get away with burying the wife-beating bad cop’s body. Until—OMG—the dead guy’s angry twin brother showed up!
And what of Charmaine and the twins?
What the hell happened to me? I’m so ashamed.
I didn’t pick up the straight razor blindly, you know. I first watched a YouTube tutorial on my laptop, which is a bizarre slice of techno irony if you ask me.
What’s next, letting the computer teach me how to churn butter?
Anyway, this smart guy demonstrated how easy shaving with a straight razor can be. But before I got to that, he said I must learn about the importance of the strop.
That’s a long piece of leather about as wide as Santa’s belt. Luckily, I bought one when I purchased my steamship death razor.
Moving the blade up and down the strop keeps the straight razor sharp and shave ready.
And a dull razor, according to YouTube shaver, is far more user unfriendly than a sharp one.
So, I stropped. All the way up on one side. Flip the blade over. All the way down.
That’s one pass. It takes fifty passes to fully sharpen the blade. “Lord,” I thought to myself. “Being a real man is a time burner.”
I did have a secret weapon going for me, or so I thought.
See, it’s been a year since my last haircut. In that time, my sideburns have grown into mutton chop proportions.
So much so that my lovely wife, Sherry, has taken to calling me Marty after America’s eighth president, Martin Van Buren.
The point being that my grotesque chops now occupy a considerable parcel of prime facial real estate. Real estate I wouldn’t have to shave, that is.
The flaw in this theory was quickly apparent when I looked into the mirror with razor in hand. I realized that the territory my sideburns covered was flat and smooth. The easiest shaving.
Leaving all the troublesome areas: the twists and turns under my nose, the peak of my chin, the steep incline of my neck.
Beginning to sweat, I pressed the sharp unforgiving blade to my tender skin at the YouTube recommended thirty-degree angle, which would’ve meant something had I passed high school geometry.
Nonetheless, I began to shave with slow and mindful downward motions until—NICK—I cut myself on the second stroke.
I stared at the fresh red line on my right cheek. Then I slid the straight razor back in the box, turned off the bathroom light and headed for something I was good at.
“Where’s the remote, honey?” I hollered to Sherry. “There’s gotta be something on that I haven’t already watched.”
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