Wednesday, March 07, 2007

JUST ADD SOAP AND WATER:
Of Lucky Shaving Brushes and Being a 21st Century Drifter

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- It first hit me, right between the eyes, while shaving one night.

I was standing over the sink, staring blankly into the steam-covered mirror in my tiny bathroom. It was early evening, and the sunset painted my entire apartment different shades of orange, violet, and auburn.

I stood there, rolling the tips of the boar's hair bristles across the handmade herbal soap, the sounds of the brush handle gently tapping the sides of the mug.

Lightnin' Hopkins' voice bellowed from the stereo in the bedroom.

Man, I said to myself, you're as old-fashioned as rye whiskey and water.

For some odd reason, that made me laugh. I went right back to singing along to the stereo, snickering as the water in the sink steamed and the soap bubbles tickled my chin.
Yes you know my mama told me, the day that I left the door/ She says you gonna have bad luck son, and I don't are where you go / I said just bring me my shotgun, boy you can bring just one or two shells / Yes if I don't get some competition, you know there's go to be trouble here...


* * * *

Yes, I shave with a brush and soap. I've tried using the fancy stuff, and I'll even use that canned crap if I'm forced. For years, I've come up with all sorts of justifications and excuses for it - it's better for the environment, it's more manly, it's a lost art...

Look, I just really enjoy a good shave. And I've never understood why other people find that so damned fascinating, particularly women.

One ex used to make a point of telling everyone she knew about it, almost boasting to her friends that I was some sort of Marlboro Man. When she finally told her boyfriend about who'd really been sleeping over during their (what did she call it?) rough patch, she even used my shaving habits as a rather batshit reason for her slip-up.

Another used to insist on watching from the toilet, fascinated that an Anglo guy groomed his face like her Mexican grandmother groomed her legs. She'd finish peeing, then sit there, elbows on her knees, chin resting in her palms, staring.

Like my grandfather had taught me years ago, I worked the lather up on my skin, not in the mug, twirling the bristles like a ballroom dancer.

I stared down into the sink, running blistering hot water over the brush, rewetting the bristles...

The brush...

* * * *

I realized that I was using my grandfather's brush, the one he received from one of his old Navy buddies back in '38, the gift from the guy who, according to legend, would later lose his life on a December morning on the island of Oahu, that date which has lived in infamy since 1941.

You know, there's a reason I consider that shaving brush my lucky brush. Through some act of fate, my grandfather died quietly in his sleep in a Virginia hospital in 1987 instead of 1941, one reassignment and decades away from his fallen comrades.

Because of its metaphysical associations, I usually only use it on special days. No one else is even allowed to touch the sucker. For some reason, however, on just another afternoon in Oxford Fucking Ohio, I'd chosen to wield the magical grooming tool.

Hmmm. Must be my lucky night.

The baked enamel finish keeps crumbling off the handle, the boar's hair thinning like an old man's, blonded and frail from nearly seven decades of service.

It has lathered soap on destroyers and at port, in places like Guam and Cairo and Norfolk, Virginia. The brush has foamed up mugs beside the Red Sea, in backwoods Louisiana and Arkansas, in Mojave Desert mobile homes and five-star hotels in Naples, Florence, and Rome.

It served my grandfather well, through his Navy and diplomatic days, through countless meetings with world leaders and other diplomats, monarchs and ministers, ambassadors and soldiers.

My grandfather taught me how to shave using this brush and a bladeless safety razor when I was five or six, back on the farm in Virginia. Since then, the brush has accompanied me on my own adventures in life.

I met my first Academy Award winner after a good, old-fashioned shave with the thing, my first Playboy Playmate (hint - she's funnier and much more savvy in person than you ever saw on MTV), first professional ballplayer, first governor, and my own first world leader.

That old shaving brush has camped with me in the Rockies, traveled across the I-10 Badlands of New Mexico and West Texas, prepared me for Mardi Gras revelry, and even cleaned me up for my interview for my first-ever job as a bonafide librarian.

* * * *

And that rather lurid, funny tale I once guest-posted over at Courting Destiny, the one about that oh-so-romantic conversation between me and an ex of mine while we lay naked in the back of a pick-up beneath the Wyoming sky?

The ex in that post often accused me of shaving with that lucky brush as a way of ensuring that I'd get lucky. And, in all honesty, she was probably right. Hell, she was the woman who used to insist on sitting on the toilet and staring every time I shaved, after all.

More often than not, I was almost 100 percent sure that I'd indeed get lucky if she heard the clank-clank of that brush in the mug and if I heard her scurrying out of bed for the bathroom, to go pee.

Err...I don't want to even think about the psychology involved.

The adult entertainer ex did the same thing. And so did...

Wait...

Err...

Would that be considered a slick move on my part?

Pffft....nah.

* * * *

I finished shaving that evening, just as the dusk stole away the sun's beautiful art. I carefully cleaned the lucky brush, changed CDs in the changer, putting on some Etta James to re-read Siegfried Sassoon poems and to thumb through the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

While I was shaving, I'd realized something about myself, something fascinating and mysterious. For some reason, though, I couldn't seem to put it into words. And that bugged me to no end.

And then it finally clicked like an empty revolver in some James Cagney flick.

What makes a man is not any one experience but the understanding that those experiences carry with them a certain appreciation of time, the finite nature of the often petty world Mankind has built for itself.

The whole of existence can be measured against something as simple as a good, slow shave. And something as simple as an old shaving brush can hold just as much sway over the course of generations as a thousand neutron bombs.

* * * *

Since I've lived in Oxford, I've often been asked why I choose to live by myself, why I never seem to be in a hurry to date anyone, why I don't seriously worry much about rushing to marriage or commitment or any of that shit, why I don't seem to ever feel truly alone in this world.

Why would I fret about any of that? Life's way too fucking short. That's why I take time to savor each and every moment alone, even when I'm staring into a steamy mirror at an increasingly battered-looking face, laughing to myself and listening to the blues.

Besides, I really am a bit of a drifter, one of those loner types who can, honestly, drop out of people's lives for years at a time, then show up at the most random times.

Man, I said to myself, you're as old-fashioned as rye whiskey and water.

There's always another shave around the corner. And even if that mystic shaving brush were to disintegrate tomorrow, I'd still have a million long, hot shaves' worth of memories.

Er...

Yeah...

I'd probably regret losing the ability to attract women with bladders tied to the damned thing, though.


- # # # -

21 comments:

pia said...

You're getting so noir. I like. I was going to pick out lines I liked but there were many

The shaving brush story was wonderful. It could have been so sentimental, and it was in an edgy way

A Playboy Cover and an Acadent Award winner? Keep going, Jason :)

sassinak said...

you know i like the battering in my face... i see pictures of myself when i was a young lass and my face is so empty

she has no character that girl

HC said...

hey mr. zen!!! wayto deep to read on GBD dude. ya im fucking wasted but i'm not coming to the library, so don't call the cops on me please :-)

but yeah id love to watch you shave but only after spendng the night wink wink.

see you after spring break?

Anonymous said...

OMG! Neat webpage! like your righting styl Happy Green Beer Day!

The ZenFo Pro said...

PIA:
"You're getting so noir."

Lol, it's so funny now, because I used to get a lot of offline critiques from folks I knew here in Oxford about not being more noirish (kinda that way in real life) blogwise in the past.

Now that those folks have made it clear they can no longer associate with me because of moral grounds (lol, sleep with one married woman and not run to confess your sins in the Bible Belt makes a guy a bit of a pariah...), now I become noirish.

Thanks, chica :)

SASS:
Ha! See, the only pictures I have of when I was younger include high school yearbooks, drunken "making out with a stuffed frog" college photos, and a few random photos. Never been good about getting my picture taken...

But, lol, I do like the character. And, actually, the lines do make me look a bit like both my father and grandfather.

HC:
Hey yourself stranger!

Lol, yes, do NOT come to crash in my library on Green Beer Day, esp. if you've been enjoying the free-flowing emerald ale (didya try the jello shots? Dear lord, I watched some buddies make about 2,000 in preparing for today). Public intoxication is public intoxication, and a library ain't a drunk tank.

Um...no comment ;)

ANON:
Hey, thanks. And please be safe and smart out there. :)

The ZenFo Pro said...

NOTE TO LOCAL BLOG READERS, ESP. LOCAL U. STUDENTS:

Everybody knows that today, Thurs., Mar. 8, is Green Beer Day.

Please don't come into the ZenFo Pro or any other library intoxicated, expecting to pass out. Passing out drunk in any of the community's seven libraries will be treated by local law enforcement and staff just the same as if you pass out in a bar or any other business in Oxford.

If ya need to crash, just go home, take a quick nap. And please, pace yourselves. Puking up green is just a waste of cheap beer.

Thanks,

Jason, AKA "The Librarian"

coyotemike said...

There really is something, almost meditative about a slow, proper shave. I started using a boar's hair in the last year, and I feel more . . . I'm not sure. Ready to face the world I guess.

The one I have isn't the greatest brush, but I know where to get a better one. There really is a J. Peterman catalogue, and they have the good stuff.

Not sure on the whole shaving/bladder connection. Maybe it was the running water that did it instead of the clicking of the brush.

Steph said...

Only YOU could make shaving sexy as hell.

Jess the Fullerton Princess :) said...

Agree with steph. Pretty damn hot there killer ;) just don't grow that vagina mouth goatee back. ever.
hah. not like i haven't heard stories about the brush before but you do tell stories well.

wait. green beer day is next week. they celebrate early there? or just normal college kid binge drinking?

The ZenFo Pro said...

Mike:
It is the meditative quality for me, the inner-peace. There's also the connection to history, as well. (Thankfully, I gave up on trying to master the straight razor - dated too many women who've been on some sort of formal suicide watch to keep one of those around.)

I normally just use a Burma-shave brush, or other drugstore brand.

Hmmm...the water...dammit, now I have to pee.

Steph:
Lmao. I wouldn't call shaving sexy, but, well, the bathroom mirror does get pretty steamy ;)

Fullerton Princess(?!?):
Vagina mouth goatee? LMAO! Not planning on it. But I may one day go back to the full beard. Easier to pick up Amish women in Indiana ;)

No, here the students celebrate a separate holiday called "Green Beer Day," which is only vaguely associated with anything St. Patrick's Day-esgue. The students just like to get their drink on early because they're on spring break next week.

Yep. Just binge drinking. With green beer.

xboxgirl said...

Hey,I just wanted you have a sexy face,[and I'm guessing a hot body],I'm going to try to read more of what you wrote,when I get the chance.

I'm from Cleveland! Yay! said...

Hi Jason,

Two things really. I'm a senior here at Miami. I've been reading your blog now for a year and there's just something I have to get off of my chest before my roommates shoot me or something.

First are you allowed to like hook up with students? Not that Im positionin u or anything but it came up last weekend when we were sitting at mac and joes and you were with the tall blonde supermodel looking chick that used to work there. i've seen you with her before at techno night and brodies. are you dating or something or just friends? is she like why you haven't written anything about girls in the present.

And two I wanted to know if its ok for ppl who read your blog to ask for your help on research at king. I have three papers due after break and i'd like it if youd help me. do i just grab you when youre in the coffeeshop or what? and would that creep you out any?

Okay sorry. Packing for Florida. Have a great spring break!

And you do look handsome in person too. love the fact that we have you here.

cooper said...

I've never seen one of those expect in an antique shop. ha ha

Don't feel bad, I get asked similar questions all the time and I'm only twenty-one.

The ZenFo Pro said...

xboxgirl:
Lol, thanks :) Feel free to read away.

Nah...just like every other guy. Kinda look like a hairless albino gorilla naked...with the tail on the wrong side ;)

Cleveland:
Lol, so...you're not from Chicago? Or Akron? Or Dayton?

No problem with getting things off your chest. Guess I should probably clear a few things up...

Well, there's nothing that forbids me from dating Local U. students, unless, of course, I supervise or grade them. But, lol, with hooking up, it's always a crap shoot - hence why you don't see me hitting on people (under 25 at least) here in Oxford. I don't ever want to put myself in a potentially scandalous position - or my employer.

The "supermodel" (I've just got to share this with her ...) in question and I are just friends. There aren't too many of us in our mid- to late-20s here in Oxford. We tend to stick together. And, as with all friends, I try to be extra-sensitive to complaints about content and potential identity leaks.

And yep, you're always willing to just grab me (gently...) if you see me wandering about, but you can also just email me and we can schedule some office time. That usually works best. Lol, I guess it shows how dorky I am, but I know longer get creeped out when blog readers become offline patrons.

Thanks for the compliment :) Be safe in Florida and have a wonderful break.

Cooper:
Chica...are you trying to call me old??? ;) Lol, they still sell them in drugstores.

Yeah...it's kinda annoying after awhile to get those kinds of questions.

xboxgirl said...

With that great face of yours,and your description of yourself,there is no way you are anything short of sexy.

coyotemike said...

I do have a straight-razor, but I'm afraid to try to use it. Plus, since I wear a full beard, there isn't too much shaving, but there is enough to warrent doing it right.

Now, if I could just get all these women to flirt with me like they do with you :P

xboxgirl said...

Hey,I just read more of your blogs,damn,not only are you cute and sexy,your are a real sweetheart(big kiss).

The ZenFo Pro said...

Xbox:
Why, thanks. Lol...yeah, it's, er, a face, I guess.


Mike:
Lol,yeah...I'd like them to flirt with me offline a little more, er, bluntly. I'm pretty dense, actually :)

xboxgirl said...

I live in California, but if I could, I would be more than happy to, bluntly [you saying that you are 'pretty dense',coming from you, sounds so cute], flirt with you offline.

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