Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The sinking of the USS Constitution

When I was a child a story I heard over and over again involved one of our country's most historical of vessels coming to a horrible end.  Often this story, or reference to the story, would be brought up by my father against my mother during arguments.  I'll back up...

You see, when I was very very young (actually, I may not have even been born yet) my father had at least one manly hobby that he doesn't practice today.  Specifically, he built model ships.  Or, at least I imagine he did.  It is difficult to say as I cannot remember events before my conception.  Then again, considering the number of model ships displayed about the house in my youth (that number being zero), some would conjecture that there was only ever one ship.  To the best of my deductive reasoning I can say with some certainty that there was a model ship, that model was of the USS Constitution, and that model was never finished.  To hear my father tell of it, he worked diligently piecing together that grand vessel.  A labor of love, he devoted hours, days, weeks!  Months!  YEARS of his time to bring that model to a fully assembled glory!  To hear my mother tell of it, there was a box with some plastic parts in the basement that she never saw him do anything with, and after several years of inactivity she cleaned the basement and threw it out. . .

As you can imagine, this was seen as a breach of trust and a violation of personal property.  I literally could not begin to guess how many times the USS Constitution, "My Model Ship!" was brought up as verbal cannon fodder in various arguments.  Eventually, the mention of the model ship became a joke unto itself and was brought up when the argument was as humorous as it was likely to be and still considered an argument.  The ship was lost, never to be recovered, and never again would my father devote time to that grand vessel.

Until I became a man of professional employ.  When I am able, I always like to get my Dad something spiffy for Christmas.  Doesn't have to be spectacular, but I at least try to put thought into it when I can.  You can only give so many Bass Pro-Shops gift cards before the concept is stale. One holiday season was particularly successful.  I had asked my father at Thanksgiving what he wanted for Christmas.  To this he replied with a smile, "A good smoke and a piece of ass!"  I still remember him opening the box on Christmas to find a few nice cigars and a plush Eeyore toy.  The joy that spread across his face as he put two and two together still makes me smile.  Eeyore is still Velcro-taped to the dash of his pick-up truck.

The next year, I recalled the USS Constitution and thought to myself.  "Wouldn't it be grand if I could find another of that model and give it to him for Christmas?"  I thought he would be thrilled at the prospect of tackling that project all over again.  For my part, the search took months.  I did hours upon hours of research online, found old modelling forums, and eventually located one on Ebay.  The model was in perfect condition, from the year before I was born and matching my father's description perfectly.  For a reasonable sum I bid and won that model kit, checked all the parts on arrival for completeness and carefully wrapped the box months before the chosen holiday.

Fast forward to Christmas morning, we were all seated around the living room opening gifts.  I passed my father a rather large, but light, flat box.  He eagerly opened it and for several minutes his face was bound in confusion.  At last he asked me what this was.

"It's your model, the USS Constitution!" I said
"Uh, what model?" he replied
"The one Mom threw away so many years ago!" I exclaimed, "It's a copy of the one you described, I thought you would like to try again."
". . . "

"This isn't my model."
Fuck, at least I also gave him the gift card.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

On the Trials and Tribulations of Cologne Selection:

There is something which some men never learn, and that is that your cologne is not being worn for you but for her.  I learned this after a longish bout with singledom.  I have always been one to do the more hedonistic thing, the complete thing, the old school because it works better thing.  Case in point: I use old fashioned double sided razor blades in a Merkur handle based on the Gillette 1912 Safety Razor.  I do all the fancy shit too; puck of soap, shaving brush to work up a lather, buy my blades from some guy in Germany (or is it Japan?).  Anyway, the short story long here is that if I take an extra 10 minutes to give myself a really good shave after a shower I may not have to shave again for 3 days.  It's just that smooth and close to the skin. Now, granted, at the end of that three days I'll look scruffy, but I can at least avoid the 5 o'clock shadow on the day of the shave by using all my gear.

Now, here's the thing about shaving with a real razor or an open blade, all the accoutrements associated with the process make you feel more manly and they make you (think that you) smell good.  The products I use all seem to be some variation on Menthol or Bay Rum.  Bay Rum as an AWESOME smell, to me at least.  It originates in the Caribbean/West Indies and when first invented was literally rum from the island that had been infused with spices, specifically the berries of the West Indian Bay Tree.  It's an old, rugged, spicey, rummy, and all around awesome scent.  Those who knew me 3 to 5 years ago are probably familiar with the scent whether you like it or not.  I was awash with it, many varieties, daily, sometimes even hourly.

Now it may come to no surprise that the scents that you like may not be so hot with someone else, they may be downright repulsive.  Also, your nose should become accustomed to what you're wearing so that you don't ever really smell it after the first couple minutes.  So, if you find yourself in a situation where (for example) you apply a new sample of cologne and you can still smell it strongly and easily on your person 12 hours later, rest assured that the entire room can smell you and has been smelling you since you stepped through the door.  Have you ever crossed paths with that stereotypical gold necklace-wearing track suit-bedecked hirsute gentleman at the bar/gym/gas station.  Did you imagine you could see the looney-tunes animated wafts of aroma trailing behind him like Pepe Le Pew?  All too often, that has been you, and me, and every man who splashed on a little extra whether to hide the need for a shower or just because they thought is smelled extra good.

In short, we all need to cut our dosage.  We also need to throw away anything our fathers or grandfathers would have worn.  My first clue I was going down a dark road should have been years upon years ago at the ripe age of 25, smoking a pipe at the bar.  I would have strange women walk up and sniff me, often remarking how much I reminded them of their Dad, or worse their Grandfather.  Right now, go to your medicine cabinet.  Do you have any Old Spice?  Chuck it.  Tabac? Chuck that, too.  Bay Rum?  Chu- . . Actually, ask your partner if she likes it. (seriously, it hurt to throw those all away)

Now, next time you want to do something for your lady-friend a little unexpected ask her to accompany you to the store to pick out cologne.  She is the one who has to smell you and if she doesn't like how you smell you're just not helping yourself.  Not to say that you can't find something you like, too.  Just try to discover what's available that makes both of your noses smile.  I have found after a while you will be able to somewhat predict what your partner's nose goes for.  Look up her approved scents on or other fragrance forum (yes, there are surprisingly many).  Find the base-notes, mid-notes, and top-notes of the ones she likes and look for others with similar profiles.  Now, go to Ebay.  Find those colognes, EDTs and so on and buy a sample vial for a couple bucks.  Try it on, let her smell you at the beginning, middle and end of the day.  Once you're sure you have a winner you'll feel okay dropping 60 bucks on a bottle (or more for some of these high end flavors).  And if she doesn't like it (or you hate it) you're only out a couple of bucks.

(damn, this one wasn't funny either.  Maybe I'm only funny in person?)