I have a beard, so I don't shave all that much. I do shave often, because I do keep a line on my cheeks and neck. It takes a few minutes each morning to clean up. I do sometimes use a shaving cartridge, like the Mach 3 Gillette or it's equivalent. But most of the time I use a safety razor, with double edged blade.
A cartridge removes balance from the shave. With a safety razor, my wrist and fingers control the angle of the blade. If I get out of balance, the blade will nick my skin, and I will bleed. The gillette cartridges move on the head of the razor so that the blade stays in contact with the skin at the correct degree no matter my attitude or approach.
I've heard it said that the triple blade shaving cartridge is a noble advancement. My choice is to invest in a single blade straight edge. Starting with a Parker razor that takes disposable blades, I've been practicing for a few months now. And it is practice, it is a skill. The exercising of a skill first thing in the morning is a good way to start the day, in the same way that I practice saying a mantra with the first step out of bed. It is an instance of concentration, a kind of a vow for the day.
But it also feels really good. There's a rush of anxiety when the blade first goes against my neck. I mean jeebus, I could cut myself open, bleed out on the counter top right here, listening to Glenn Gould.
I drink tea while I'm shaving. There is a proper way to make tea, and making a proper pot of tea precipitates the lineage of proper tea drinkers. That's why we do things a certain way, sometimes (Orwell || Hitchens || Adams) .
Such is it with shaving. I learned about shaving from Van Veen, the narrative voice in (most of) Nabokov's Ada. When I started to look for the quote I wanted, I was pretty sure that it came from a lecture Van gave to students played from a pocket cassette recorder while he stood at the front of the hall, silent. Turns out, it's from the essay Texture of Time, written by Veen and included in the final section of Ada.
Our pereception of the Past is not marked by the link of succession to as strong as degree as is the perception of the Present and of the instants immediately preceding its point of reality. I usually shave every morning and am accustomed to change the blade in my safety razor after every second shave; now and then I happen to skip a day, have to scrape off the next a tremendous growth of bristle, whose obstinate presence my fingers check now and againbetween strokes, and in such cases I use a blade only once. Now, when I visualize a recent series of shaves, I ignore the element of succession: all I want to know is whether the blade left in my silver plough has sone its work once or twice; if it was once, the order of the two bristle-growing days in my mind has no importance - in fact, I tend to hear and feel the second, grittier, morning first, and then to throw in the shaveless day, in consequence of which my beard grows in reverse, so to speak.
Shaving is an act that accumulates it's "having-been-done"-ness outside of chronological time. The shave is the same for the blade whether there are two 'shaves' in two days' or one 'shave' two days later. Van Veen says earlier in his essay that
I shall now proceed to consider the Past as an accumulation of sensa, not as the dissolution of Time implied by immemorial metaphors picturing transtion.
The razor blade is accumulating Quiddity, a term I've commandered as a unit of psychogeographical valence. I write this, and Spotify radio has opted to play Taylor Swift "Love Song". I am transported to a much earlier time, where I sit in a car listening to what we called back then Light Rock. Let's speculate that Nabokov would enjoy listening to Taylor Swift. I have an awareness now of each of twenty years sensa that were still to accumulate back then on a warm afternoon in College Park, Maryland. It's an intoxicating sensation, here's Veen again:
[The past] is now a generous chaos out of which the genius of total recall, summoned on this summer morning in 1922, can pick anything he pleases: diamonds scattered all over the parquet in 1888; a russet black-hatted beauty at a Parisian bar in 1901;a humid red rose among artificial ones in 1883; the pensive half-smile of a young English governess, in 1880, neatly reclosing her charge's prepuce after the bedtime treat; a little girl, in 1884, licking the breakfast honey off the badly bitten nails of her spread fingers; the same, at thirty-three, confessing, rather late in the day, that she did not like flowers in vases; the awful pain striking him in the side while two children with a basket of mushrooms looked on in the merrily burning pine forest; and the startled squonk of a Belgian car, which he had overtaken and passed yesterday on a blind bend of the alpine highway.
I know I rarely read long quote blocks on a blog page, but I'd encourage you to go back and read that one. Do it for a masterclass in the use of a semi-colon, if for nothing else. But do it after you've read Ada.