Posts Tagged ‘ straight razor ’

Obsidian

I have to tell you, I have been getting into cigars a lot lately.  I’m learning the subtle differences between crappy cigars and decent ones, and I’m learning more about the major areas of where they are being produced (largely Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador).  It’s fascinating stuff to learn about, if you’re into it.Image

I smoked cigarettes from age 18 until 24, when I met the girl who became my wife.  She never outright told me to quit, but I knew she didn’t care for the habit, and I knew early on that I really wanted her to stick around.  Finally, on the ninth try, my quitting stuck–but only because I replaced smoking with a gym membership.  I found it counterproductive to smoke and try to do any kind of aerobics at the same time, so smoking lost out time after time.  I never really cared to smoke again once I’d experienced some level of fitness afterward.  

But cigars…cigars are among those fantastic “man things”–up there with golf, scotch, motorcycles, and shaving with a straight razor–which will immediately draw other mens’ attention, if they share the same hobby.  It might be a case of Perceptual Vigilance (whereby you decide to buy a VW Jetta and instantly notice every other Jetta on the road), but it bonds people together almost instantly, I find.  I find it to have the outgoing, social nature of smoking without the damage to my health!  (Please, let’s exclude rare cases of throat, tongue, or mouth cancer, and yes, I realize it can be hard on your teeth…but it does not so completely degrade your health as smoking cigarettes does, so let’s leave it at that.)

Anyway, I have a close friend who brought me a Gurkha so we could celebrate the sale of my first home as a real estate agent on the front porch, and my brother in-law (also into scotch and cigars) sent a whole “experiment” box of Obsidians for the same reason.  Obsidians are fantastic, though my palette is probably too underdeveloped to fully appreciate them just yet.  We haven’t smoked the Gurkhas yet, but I know they have won many awards on their own.

In our apartment complex, people we don’t even know will come up and offer to hang out, just by virtue of the cigars in our hands.  I love the social aspect of it, and I’ve noticed that a cigar affects certain Cabernets in interesting ways, much the same way chocolates and cheeses do.  I also find them to be nice, quiet companions for when I take an hour to do some writing–especially now that the weather is finally beginning to warm up.  

What do you know about cigars?  What brands or sizes do you recommend?  Where do you find your favorites?  Is cigar.com supplanting the corner smoke shop?  

Find someone whose company you enjoy, and put some smoke in the air with them.  You never know what’ll happen when you have time to just think

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“You’re Trying To Run Before You Can Walk.”

I’ve addressed this in a past post, and I was just thinking about it some more.  When someone says this adage to you, what is your first reaction?  I’ll tell you mine:

“So what?”

Am I a complete idiot for already having accepted that I’ll trip up and fail a few times?  Any time I do something new for the first time, I fail at it in some form or another.  If there’s a certainty in my life other than death and taxes, that is it.  When I picked up a straight razor for the first time, I nicked myself more than a couple of times.  When I snowboarded for the first time, (after literally falling off the lift chair at the top) it took me two and a half hours to get down the hill.  I hadn’t taken a class, just jumped right in.  When I was learning to fly, I managed to almost injure myself and the school’s airplanes several times.  The first time I tried to replace the E string on my guitar, I tightened it so much that it snapped on me.  (I maintain now that it was a faulty string, but I didn’t know any better at the time, so for all I knew, I did it wrong.)  The first time I ever drove a stick shift was when I was in college, when I was the only sober one to drive home.  I knew the mechanics of it, but it was a long and uncomfortable ride for the others in the car as I figured it out.

Shall I continue on with all of the mistakes I’ve made along the way?  “Run before I can walk?”  Give me a break.

The second time down that mountain on the snowboard, it took me just fifteen minutes, and I was far more controlled about it.  Things like driving a manual transmission and restringing my guitar are second nature for me now.  Shaving has actually become a soothing time for me, now that I know what I’m doing with my razor.  And if you think the mistakes I made as a flight student make me a terrible pilot, you’re dead wrong.  In fact, you want someone who made some mistakes and seen some things–those are the people who know what they are getting into ahead of time.  I’m not current right now, but at the time I was flying regularly, I could do crosswind landings in my sleep.

What have you failed at?  How miserably have you failed, and then crawled back from the dead to succeed?

Why do we demonize risk and failures, and then remain unable to figure out why things don’t change?  How else am I supposed to grow?

To be clear, I realize now that there is in fact a smart way to approach new things, one that mitigates some of the inherent risk:  Education.  Education is the best way to get a leg-up on the task at hand.  I know that when I have prepared for the task at hand, trying something new becomes an exercise in honing the craft instead of merely surviving it.  I will still fail, just in fewer of the more painful places to.  I will still trip, but I’ll have already put on kneepads and gloves.  At that point, all that’s left to do is stand back up and begin moving forward again.  Some days, simply standing back up will be considered successful, but it doesn’t matter.

At least I had the courage to show up.

The Lightsaber

Like a growing number of other men around the world, I have gotten into the art of Wet Shaving.  I always thought Wet Shaving was what I have been doing since I can remember–shaving has been a part of my shower routine since I started it.  During my early 20s, I figured out that it was quicker and easier since the hot water had already loosened up the whiskers, and I eventually knew my face well enough to quit using a mirror, or even shaving cream.

Straight Shaving (also referred to as Wet Shaving) is said to be a cathartic, mystical, soothing, sense-of-accomplishment-filled experience–after all, now you are doing something which not every other man does.  You are wielding a piece of metal which (at its best) is sharp enough to cut a human hair in half simply by resting one on its blade, and it takes skill not to cut your own head off if you sneeze.  You are one with your blade, and can get a baby’s-butt-smooth shave without blowing $25 bucks on ten Mach3 refills.  And you’re a badass because you do it, plain and simple.  Not only that, you are a prudent, frugal badass.

Basically What My Razor Looks Like

Yeah, right.

I have found Wetshaving to be frustrating so far, largely because there are several factors at play here.

The first is the learning curve.  Tribal knowledge among the Wetshaving crowd dictates that it takes roughly 100 shaves before you know just what in the hell you are doing.  A good shave requires proper technique, patience, and having the ability to pull your right cheek taught with your left hand by reaching all the way around the back of your head.  I can sort of pull off that last one.  My shaving technique is probably poor (since I’m trying to just learn by doing it), and I have many virtues at my fingertips, but patience has never been one of them.  I am 9 shaves in, and some days I would rather pull my hair out than try to shave it off for half an hour.

The second thing working against me is the fact that when I got the blade–a Dovo Swearingen, 5/8″, hollow-ground blade with a white handle–it seemed dull on the first shave (basically, it wasn’t cutting anything).  So I went out and bought a set of Norton Wetstones with which to hone the blade (another skill I have no background in) for $150 or so.  I plucked up some YouTube instructional videos, and off I went, and tried to put an edge on the blade.  Looking back, however, the blade could have been “shave ready” (some blades do come that way) and I just didn’t know it because I didn’t know how to use the razor in the first place.  I finally got a decent edge on the blade, and shaved my face a few times.

Right now, I can get the job done without coming out looking like the victim of a carjacking, but it irritates me that I can still get a closer shave with a Mach3.  (The reason is, of course, that while Mach3 blades are cheap in quality, there are three of them.  Not only that, I’ve learned that my face has several complex curves which make it difficult to get a blade as long as mine–probably three and a half inches–into to shave against the grain the way I can with a disposable–1 inch–cartridge.)  It’s something akin to whipping cream with a small fork when there is a Kitchen-Aid with a spinning whisk on it right next to you–I am choosing to use the more unwieldy tool.  It’s annoying, but I keep going back for more, and here’s why.

All of the things I mentioned in the second paragraph are true.  Every one of those attributes can be achieved with the right equipment, the right technique, and enough ambition for a man to develop within him a skill he did not possess prior.  It just takes time.

I suspect that by the time Shave 100 rolls around, I will have learned a few new things about myself, correctly honed my blade and technique to be Lightsaber-sharp, and upgraded my hardware to something a bit better-made than the beginner razor I got for Christmas (thanks, Mom!).  Since my facial hair grows at a snail’s pace (apparently it takes time for my body to put together those bristles you can clean brake dust off your wheels with), I estimate Shave 100 to be somewhere near Halloween.  I’ll update you then and let you know just whatever happened, and what I’ve learned in the process.

Is anybody else into Wet Shaving?  If you have suggestions as to which blade would be a great step up, or opinions on any other aspect of shaving in general, feel free to comment and let me know.  If you’re interested in getting into the Wet Shaving community, this guy’s video seems to be among the most popular.  Don’t forget to subscribe by clicking the button underneath my Gravatar photo, and have a great week!

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