Monday, February 13, 2012

Of Shaving Brushes and Fountain Pens...

I like modern conveniences. I wouldn't trade my car for a horse and a carriage, and I like my refrigerator with the automatic ice maker. I like my coffee maker, and use the automatic function to make sure I can pour a cup in the morning without having to draw water from an old well and boil it on the stove... Velcro and Saran Wrap are pretty cool, too. I enjoy writing using a computer, and I love the internet.

In short, I like life in this day and age. We have it pretty good compared to our ancestors, and I have a feeling the children of this generation will have it better than we do.

But there are a couple of old-fashioned things that have reached a point of obscurity where we forget (or never knew) just how good they are.

My shaving brush is one of those. I got it from my grandfather. Perhaps you've never seen one. It's a short brush with a cylindrical handle, with soft bristles about 3" long. The brush is designed to be swished around inside a mug with a small bar of shaving soap at the bottom. I put a little warm water in the brush and whip it around inside the mug until I have a nice warm lather to smear on my face.

I don't get that thick, rich foam I could get from a can. That's okay by me. That thick rich foam the manufacturers like to brag about can actually get in the way of a good shave. If the razor blade doesn't come very, very close to the skin, the shave isn't a great shave...and I don't care how many Gillette marketing guys try to tell me otherwise. That warm lather I make with my little brush is just enough to soften my whiskers, and the brush bristles lift them so the razor can do its job.

I like to write with a fountain pen. I'll admit I started using a fountain pen because everyone else I knew was using ballpoint pens. There's nothing wrong with a ballpoint pen, by the way.  They're utilitarian, they're affordable, they can write at any angle, they can be made to be inexpensive or expensive or somewhere in between, and the ink in the little tube inside the ballpoint pen lasts a really long time.

I'll stick to my fountain pens, thank you very much, and not just because I think they look cool. I like that the fountain pen is an ancient device (the first ones were developed in India about a thousand years when Romans were the Big Kids on the Block).

I like the look of a fountain pen nib. I like the liquid ink that soaks into the paper. I like the sound of the nib as I write, and I like the way the letters look. I have terrible handwriting no matter what kind of device I use to mar the paper...but a good pen makes me feel better about the act itself. I like to fill the fountain pen with ink from a bottle. I like the way young people who have never seen a fountain pen marvel at the design, and I like the way older people who were taught to write with fountain pens and who danced on their desks when they finally were allowed to use ballpoint pens shake their heads when they see me wield my ancient word-scritchin' device.

I also like the way the nib wears... A fountain pen, after a while, will shape itself to the user's handwriting. It's like breaking in a good pair of shoes. Once they're yours, they're yours.

Shaving brushes. Fountain pens. I'll keep using mine.

Shaving brushes. Fountain pens. Oh, and real books...the kind made of paper, whether paperback or hardcover. Kindles are fine. Nook readers are fine. But give me a real book any day.

Speaking of books... I've written a few. You should buy them, and I don't care what format: paperback, hardcover, epub, or Kindle. (Wink) They're linked here...

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