Thursday, September 19, 2013

Technophiles, Luddites and the Art of Shaving

I've always been nostalgic for the "old ways" of doing things. I still remember going to a grey-haired country barber out in the sticks of North Carolina and remaining frozen in his chair as he took a straight razor to my ten year old head with the precision of an Edward Scissorhands that had yet to be invented. "The old way," he'd called it, dismissing his younger protege toiling away with scissors in the seat beside us with a smirk.

I suppose that's why I still enjoy going to the farmer's market once a week, even when the grocery store is five miles closer and open 24/7. It's why I still prefer grilling over a campfire or a charcoal grill, even though my gas grill works just fine. It's why the bulk of my kitchen is trimmed out in cast iron and stoneware, vice teflon coated hardware.

And, unfortunately, it's why I thought teaching myself to shave with a straight razor might be fun. My brother, a premier barber back in North Carolina, got a kick out of it when I broke the news to him. "You did what?" he blasted over the phone. Even he would never attempt such a feat on himself, he told me, and he uses straight razors on his customers everyday. (You can see the result of my first straight razor shave in the photo below. I will say that it was an extremely close shave.)*

I didn't shave for a week after this debacle.

Believe it or not, I still use this on an occasional basis, though it's no longer the staple of my shaving routine that I once was considering it to be.


Just as I've had my fascination with the past, I've also always had a fascination with technology. The only difference, though, is that I've often hesitated about adopting new forms of it. When I was younger, much of that hesitation came from simply not being able to afford it. As I got older, it became more of a conscious decision to avoid certain forms of it either for privacy reasons or security concerns. I dodged cell phones for as long as I could until one was forced on me by the Navy when I went into the anti-terrorism and force protection field and they made it a requirement. Even then, it was just a flip phone. No Blackberry for me, thank you very much (does anybody still use those?). Before that, the 'worst' I had it was getting leashed to a pager when on SAR duty in the Pacific. I was grateful when I left the AT/FP world, because it meant I could give up what I'd come to consider an electronic leash. But upon my reentry into the States, my newly acquired wife assigned me a cell phone, despite my protestations. (I later learned this to be a preemptive form of domestication.)

It was just a standard flip phone, a Nokia if remember it right. My wife's phone by comparison, a Palm Pre, might have been a piece of technology shot back through time via a worm hole from the Star Trek tri-coder days of the 23rd century so far as I was concerned. She urged me to go that route too. "The wave of the future," she told me. "Look, I can get on the internet!" But, no, I resisted, and so I held on to my little flip phone right up through writing my first real attempt at a novel. By real, I mean one that I not only started, but finished.**

And here we come yet again to my reference to this completed novel that, had you read some previous entry to my blog you would realize, has mysteriously remained hidden from the public's view. Why? I certainly think it's well written for a first novel. I think it's a good story even, though as soon as the international political scene changes in Asia it may become less relevant. What keeps me from publishing the damn thing, then?

My spies use things like palm tablets in a world that has evolved to smart phones and i-YouNameIts. In short, to today's readers the people in my book would look completely inept by their choices in technology. The worst spies in the world. I've contemplated just tossing it (not literally), and chalking it up as a great learning experience. To sit down and write a full 100,000+ word novel to completion? Freaking amazing! I've thought about just publishing it here, in chunks as I go back an edit it, just for fun's sake. Just to say it's out there.

And then there's the other option. I could actually publish it. What I'd need though is a good editor who can pare it all down for me, removing all the self-indulgent writing -- a trap we authors often fall into -- and shore up the stuff worthy of the reading public's attention removing all the bad grammar and typos I inevitably missed. Someone who could make it a tighter story. Sure, I could do it. But it'd be like killing my first born, if I'd had one. Or, more realistically, like chopping a couple body parts off my newborn. "Hey there, cutie. Oh, you're so cute, aren't you?"

Then, WHAM! Screams. Tears. Howls of anguish, as my newborn loses an arm, then a leg to the ax of my inner editor. No, I don't think I'm heartless enough. Not for my first. The rest, yes. I can and have done this. But not her. She's precious.

I don't know. What do you think?


(Sorry for all the FOOTNOTES):
[*FYI, I've since downgraded from using a straight razor to using an old school safety razor. It still keeps me away from the new styled razors with their moisturizing strips and plastic. It also gives me a very close shave, and in the long-term costs less to use and is better for the environment. I'd highly recommend them, and leave straight razors for those flatter portions of your face and for days when you have a solid 30 minutes to knock out a shave.]

[**This is a tale as old as the first novel ever written, I am sure. Every author I've talked to or read interviews of has at one time or another talked about their multiple great starts to novels that quickly turned into extended short stories with no endings. I'll add my tale to this legacy in another blog post later.]