Thursday, May 21, 2020

ANCIENT TREASURES


My present workhorse cap adorned with the Sullivan coat of arms purchased for me by my daughter while in Ireland.
Once again here we are in reply to questions on my previous posts…primarily the question about hats.
I tend to like old-fashioned things. I have developed a fondness to certain mostly obsolete tools. Most just struck me as classier than their contemporary counterparts, and I enjoy the sensibility or atmosphere they create. In using them however, I came to realize many are frequently better than the more generally accepted modern versions.  I’ve always wondered about this. Why the change? 
Price I have concluded to be the primary reason. Fountain pens for example have never been cheap, but a Bic Cristal, that ubiquitous clear plastic ball point, was introduced at $.19 cents a pen—and it hasn’t raised its price much at all since. Most things changed with the advent of mainstream plastic. Some because plastic was clearly the better choice, as in  medical tools, but others I suspect—like the fountain pen—proliferated based on cost, ease of manufacturing, and the commercial benefits of a product that is used only a few times then thrown away prompting the purchase of a new one. 
When disposable paper cups were first introduced as a means of improving sanitary conditions at public water pumps, where previously an attached tin cup was used, people who were in the habit of not throwing anything useful away, kept the paper cups and reused them. The public needed to be taught how not to be so frugal. While the paper cup was created for a sensible cause, not all disposables have been. 
The razor blade is a prime example. Razor companies don’t make much money selling razors, they make money selling blades. Straight razors create an awful return on investment as a one time purchase is all anyone needs for as the blade dulls, it is simply sharpened. The safety razor, the hefty chrome device that often uses a double headed blade that is dropped in, made shaving easier, but did invite the need for replacement blades. Still, replacement blades for an old-fashioned safety razor is minimal compared to the modern-day metal sandwich stack of the plastic disposables. 
Like most young men who began shaving in the seventies, I started with the new,  “cheap” plastic handled multi-bladed razors, but I soon became frustrated with how quickly hair gathered and clogged between the edges of such blades making them useless. The more blades the quicker they clogged. I took to constantly scrubbing the blades with my toothbrush between ever few swipes, which did my toothbrush no good. Much later I tried the safety razor my father once used. I cut myself several times and the result was an awful shave. 
This is why they razor was improved! I concluded. I was wrong.  
Here I learned a valuable lesson: Old things aren’t like new things. They don’t work the same. Most often, they demand more from the user, they require a bit of practice and a modicum of skill. 
Shaving with a straight razor, or even a single bladed safety has a learning curve. For one thing, I discovered that when using a single blade, it is necessary to shave twice. Once, going with the general direction of the hair, and once going across it. This takes more time than a single pass with a double or quadruple blade, and this time saver was clearly one of the selling features for men in a hurry. But it isn’t an improvement—merely a time saver. The shave of a double blade isn’t as good as a double shave with a single, because the blade only cuts one way. And the idea that one blade stretches the hair so the other can cut close is actually a negative made to look like a positive by marketing people, as this effect causes ingrown hairs by cutting below the skin and often razor burns. 
I was drawn to the old-fashioned safety razor out of frustration with the plastic, but I stayed because of the quaint elegance of the antiquated ritual. I purchased fancy shaving cream and brushes, cups, and soaps and took my time learning how to shave correctly. Side effects resulted in never running out of shaving cream or razors again. I have enough blades to last about a hundred years, and shaving soap for another century. The most surprising by-product is that something I hated having to do, I now enjoy. I actually find shaving fun because I like the smell of the British Truffit and Hill Sandalwood scented cream, I enjoy creating the perfect lather, and I am proud of my ability to do a job that takes a bit of skill.  
Because I found so many benefits from using a safety razor I tried a straight. This is a whole level up. Far more challenging, but also more rewarding—and more versatile. Getting those hairs under the nose is near impossible with a bulk safety or disposable razor, but a strait blade can get anywhere. The first time I shaved entirely with a straight razor with out a nick, I was proud. You just don’t get that with a disposable. 
While I no longer smoke, when I did (back in my twenties) I smoked a pipe and hated cigarettes for many of the same reasons that I now dislike disposable razors. I found them to be crap. The tobacco was dry, and the flavor was always a fine bouquet of charred paper. Pipes, by contrast, were old friends. They went with me on trips and I had my favorites. Tobacco I used were blends that I sampled like wine. By now you can likely guess I didn’t smoke for the nicotine.  In fact, after about ten years, when I detected the first hint of an unreasonable urge to smoke, I realized I was developing an addiction and I promptly quit. I don’t like anything controlling me. It’s sort of a pet peeve, if peeve was analogous to rage.    Still it is the same thing. Pipes I found to be so much better than cigarettes for just as many reasons as razors. 
I still use a computer to write, but I compose ideas in old-fashioned notebooks using the previously discussed fountain pens. There are many practical benefits to fountain pens, (and with the more modern versions, few negatives) but mostly I use them because I enjoy the subtle elegance and old-world, storybook sensibility that accompanies the act of picking from an assortment of artfully designed bottles of ink to load a pen that is a work of art that you might have owned and used for decades, or perhaps was handed down to you from a grandparent. They transcend tools, and aspire to that lofty plateau of old companion the way a legendary singer-songwriter feels about their battered guitar who was always there to console after a heartbreak. 
Books are that way too, and cups, watches, typewriters, some umbrellas and scarfs and…hats. 
The very first thing I purchased with my very first pay check was a hat. It was a Newsboy, the one with the button in the center of the top, not to be confused with the flat top. 
The wool cap was made “popular” in 1571 when Queen Elizabeth, in an effort to help out the wool trade, required all males over the age of six (except for nobility) to wear wool hats. Caps were cheap, so the common man wore a cap. So too did some aristocrats when sporting, as wind had a tendency to topple stovepipes and even occasional flip off the more study derby. 
When Irish immigrants came to America they brought the established habit of wearing wool caps. The most common for them was the single button Newsboy, Cabbie or Paddy Hat, etc. The Flat cap without the button, I personally feel is the more British version of the collapsable brimmed cap, although they are popular in both counties as well as Scotland and Wales. To me the flats are a bit more aristocratic and priggish—but that’s just me and based on the look and mostly the feel of a flat which is stiff, while the button top is more like a rag with a brim, which I find far more versatile and therefore, practical. 
That first hat I bought was a brown corduroy and I wore it often from the age of sixteen and took it on many adventures. Out of an abundance of caution, I even sewed money into the brim when I took my first out of state trip with friends. Then I met and fell in love with a young woman named Robin. We were both poor and I hadn’t much to give her, and so I demonstrated my feelings by gifting to her, what she well knew, was my fondest possession—my cap. 

The original corduroy 

After we married we shared the cap and it wasn’t until I was published through Orbit and went to New York that I felt my first cap was too old. After thirty years it had lost all shape. The lining had shredded. The headband was nearly gone as well and the brim broken in so many places it simply sagged. 
That is when I assumed Manhattan must have a hat store. We spent hours looking for one. I found dozens that sold hats, mostly baseball style with NYC on them, but no pure hat stores. Finally I began asking. No one could help. Then one old man mentioned JJ Hats saying he thought it might be the last in the city. 
We sought it out and I purchased a replacement for the original which lasted me thirty years and which I still have today, but now I leave the old gal on the shelf granting her a much deserved rest. 

Adventuring fedora


Since then I have purchased several. I got a white linen cap for summers, a wool one with fold down ear flaps for deep winter, a black derby for formal occasions, a fedora for adventures, and while I was in Death Valley I bought a cowboy hat for very practical reasons, which I now most often use when riding my lawnmower on hot sunny days. 

The Death Valley hat


Once more I found that the antiquated habits of using hats, scarfs, and umbrellas to be among the forgotten wisdoms of an earlier time. Being from the midwest, no one wore hats or scarfs or carried umbrellas—they were never more than a few feet from the warm shelter of a car. Only when I spent time in a city using mass transit did I discover the wisdom of ancient treasures. 
Hats are one of those—caps in particular. They keep the rain and the heat of the sun off the crown of your head, and the visor aids sight far better than sunglasses which hinder as much as help. The visor also defends against pelting snow and droplets. A cold wind hitting one ear can be defended by pulling down one side, or flaps if you have them. You can use it as a handkerchief to wipe off sweat, or a damp bench for your wife to sit on. When not in use a cap can by stuffed in a pocket, frisbeeied to a friend, or used to protect a drink from insects—or to swat one. I’ve even used my cap as an oven mitt, and a handy bag. 
I suspect that somethings become obsolete because they are replaced by an improvement, but then there are those that people let slip away through false promises or popular fashions. I’m not crazy; like I said I write with a computer, but I always find time to literally put pen to paper because…as with a razor, and a hat, it’s fun, and the ink flowing onto the page becomes more than a metaphor. It is the smell of baking bread that awakens the appetite and heralds the wonders of creation. 

21 comments:

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  2. I really appreciate this essay. It sums up my feelings on hats, pens and such quite well. Thank you.

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  3. Reading your essays I found myself drawn to a fellow aficionado, a lover of things, of stuff that might today be considered out of date and time. The smell, the feel of yes, a pipe, I too spent many years smoking a Peterson with Balkan sobranie tobacco, and like yourself not the for the addiction. Fedoras especially the crushable are wonderful to wear. Fountain pens, oh yes and moleskin paper is so smooth to write upon an handle. Nice to meet you.

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  4. "And the idea that one blade stretches the hair so the other can cut close is actually a negative made to look like a positive by marketing people, as this effect causes ingrown hairs by cutting below the skin and often razor burns."
    So true. I remember spending hundreds of dollars in my twenties, thinking that the brand new MACH 8000 XXXXXtreeme was going to help with my razor burn.
    Now I use a safety razor and have taught my son (13yrs) how to use it. You mentioned getting to those hairs under the nose so I'll grab a good straight razor, as well.

    Really loving these articles about your day-to-day things and style preferences.

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  6. While I enjoy all sorts of new technologies, there are some areas where the old stuff, which takes some skill, is definately better. Shaving is a good example. I switched from the modern and expensive multiblades to a single-blade safety razor ~10 years ago (I'm 38 now), and after the exciting and painful phase of trying all the various different blades, I finally found the perfect match for my skin (Astra Platinum btw). I have been preaching ever since to friends and relatives and managed to convert a few.
    Same goes for cooking, here I try to avoid shortcuts but try to learn more labor/time intensive ways.
    And well, I used to smoke pipe too, and still wear my flatcap almost daily.
    Regards

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  8. As the photos prove, you, sir, were born to wear a hat. :-) What a great read!

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  9. Thanks for "Ancient Treasures" & its tour of the path less followed. It coaxed me to reflect on my choices that run counter to the modern grain... I share your love of pens & notebooks, but never look anything but miserable in a hat. I prefer old hand colored lithographs to new prints. I like things that come with their own (even if unknown) story & which bear the direct touch of a creative hand. I like autographed hardcovers of favorite stories for similar reasons. I also prefer that glory of design & beauty, the dandelion, over the perfectly coiffed but humorless hot house rose. She's a glory in spring, she feeds you if you're hungry & she's a lighthearted spirit to have around. Finally, there's the rich, warm light from a good alabaster lamp - beats LED every time.

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  15. كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض


    حاجة المنازل إلى شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض
    تنتشر الحشرات على اختلاف أنواعها في الأماكن ذات الأجواء الحارة، ومع توفر عوامل أخرى، قد لا تستطيع التخلص منها ومن بيضها، مهما مارست من طرق طبيعية أو استخدمت مبيدات كيميائية، فتتسبب في الكثير من الأضرار لك ولأفراد أسرتك، لذلك يكون الحل المثالي في الاستعانة بشركة رش مبيدات بالرياض، تعتمد أحدث التقنيات العالمية في مكافحة حشرات المنازل الطائرة والزاحفة والقوارض، كل بالطريقة المناسبة، وبعد تقديم خدمة المكافحة يتم تتبعها وملاحظتها حتى الاطمئنان إلى اختفاء الحشرات وبيضها بشكل نهائي.
    رش مبيدات

    تعتمد شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية افضل شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض على عدد من التقنيات والتكنيكات الضرورية لمكافحة الحشرات بطريقة صحيحة مع مراعاة عوامل السلامة والأمان لكافة القاطنين في المنزل، ومع تزويد العميل بعدد من الإرشادات والنصائح الهامة فيما يتعلق بذلك.
    هل ترغب في تخزين اثاث منزلك أو مكان عملك؟
    شركة تخزين عفش بالرياض،
    في كثير من الأحيان تضطرك الظروف للبحث عن مكان مناسب لتخزين اثاث منزلك أو مكان عملك لفترة زمنية محددة، وهذا المكان ينبغي أن تتوفر فيه مقومات كثيرة تضمن لك استلام ما قمت بتخزينه من أثاث كما كان وقت التسليم دون تعرضه لأي من مساوئ التخزين، ونحن نوفر في شركة البيوت خدمة تخزين عفش بالرياض في أفضل المستودعات الخاصة بنا والتي يتوفر بها مقومات التهوية والنظافة والحماية من السرقة والاعتداء، فإذا كنت في حاجة إلى حفظ قطع الأثاث الخاصة بك فكل ما عليك هو التواصل مع البيوت شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض، ، والحصول على الخدمة المناسبة لحماية أثاثك حماية تامة.

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  16. شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية أعلى مستويات الأمان لمنزلك
    كرّست شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية جهودها لتوفير أعلى مستويات الراحة والأمان في منزلك، والذي يحتاج إلى مزيد من العناية والاهتمام بكثير من التفاصيل ليوفر لقاطنيه مقومات الأمان والرفاهية، ويمنح أفراد الأسرة مزيدا من الشعور بالراحة والسكينة، ويجنبهم مواجهة الكثير من المشاكل المنزلية التي قد يتعرضون لحدوثها.
    في كثير من الأحيان يحتاج منزلك إلى عدد من الخدمات المتنوعة كخدمات التنظيف، التعقيم، مكافحة الحشرات، العزل بأنواعه، نقل الأثاث وتخزينه، الترميم، وغير ذلك، الأمر الذي يجعلك في حيرة من أمرك من أجل البحث عن عمالة ذات كفاءة مهنية احترافية، متخصصة في كل من الخدمات التي ذكرناها سابقا.
    وانطلاقا من هذه الفكرة، ولحمل هذا العبء عنك وتوفير كثير من الجهد والوقت والمال، وضمان الحصول على خدمات متميزة تنال رضاك، بذلت شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية جهودها في توفير طاقم لديه الخبرة الكافية والمقومات اللازمة للعمل وتقديم الخدمة على أكمل وجه ممكن.
    شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض:

    نقل أثاث منزلك إلى منزل آخر مهمة تتطلب الكثير من التخطيط والجهد المبذول، لأنها تتم على مراحل متعددة بدءا من حصر المقتنيات وتفكيك قطع الأثاث والتغليف وانتهاء بالنقل والتركيب وما إلى ذلك، ومن البديهي أنك ستستعين بعمالة لكل مهمة من المهام السابقة، ومن الممكن أن تواجه عمالة غير جادة، أو غير ذات خبرة وتتعرض مقتنياتك وقطع أثاثك إلى الضياع أو التلف.
    أنت في غنى عن ذلك كله، فشركة البيوت افضل شركة نقل عفش بالرياض تعدك بنقل أثاث منزلك وتسليمه إليك مثلما كان، لأنها تهتم بأدق التفاصيل التي تحتاج إليها عملية النقل، وتوفر فريق العمل والإمكانيات المناسبة والتقنيات الحديثة اللازمة لتقديم الخدمة على أفضل وجه ممكن.
    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض:

    البيوت افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه
    تساهم الكثير من العوامل الداخلية والخارجية في حدوث تسربات المياه في أسقف وجدران المنزل، وهو أمر خطير للغاية خاصة مع إهمال علاجه والتغافل عن سبب حدوثه وإيجاد حل جذري للمشكلة، ربما بسبب عدم توفر الوقت لديك، أو عدم العثور على متخصصين وخبراء في هذا المجال، وربما خوفا من تشوه المنظر الداخلي أو الخارجي للمنزل بسبب تبعات الكشف من تكسير وغير ذلك، ولكن شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية توفر لك خدمات كشف تسربات المياه باحترافية تامة وبحيث يتم حل المشكلة بشكل نهائي ودون حدوث تكسير أو تشوه في المظهر، وذلك باستخدام أحدث الأجهزة المعتمدة عالميا، والتي يستخدمها متخصصون في هذا المجال، ممن يعملون على سرعة تحديد مكان وسبب مشكلة التسرب، ومن ثم اتخاذ الإجراءات اللازمة لذلك، لذا يمكنك بكل سهولة حل مشكلة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض، عبر التواصل مع شركة البيوت للخدمات المنزلية، كذلك لطلب خدمة كشف تسربات المياه بجدة وسوف تتوفر لك الخدمة حيثما كنت وفي أسرع وقت ممكن.

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