Archive for June, 2010

Pizza Box

Dining al fresco with M.B. and G. at Via Vite. A sunny evening on the upstairs patio over-looking Fountain Square. The pretty, young waitress does not know the wine. I’m partial to the Orvieto, the wine from the walled city on the bluff where M. and I spent an afternoon of bliss, but our dark server girl, looking as Italian as she is supposed to, seeks counsel. We’re led to another wine choice. Fine. Italian whites are undistinguished.

It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter.

Caprese to start. Our cute waitress is chatty. She’s an Indians fan, as am I. One of Grady’s Ladies, I presume. She brings a pizza margharita and one with pesto and artichokes. Latin music and line dancing on the Square. Latin line dancing? Caressed by a soft breeze and the music and the conversation of good friends. If it was like this all of the time…

I wouldn’t mind. I really wouldn’t mind.

C. is coming Wednesday to join G. for a few days. A marriage on the rocks.  She wants to build a geodesic domed greenhouse on their rental property though she will, just as quickly, be gone. G. can manage the rental and grow winter vegetables. M.B. and I challenge the wisdom of a lingering connection. G. knows what he has to do, he says. I should have declared “pizza box” time for M.B. and I. “Pizza box” is code for rule #3. Rule # 2 is “shut the fuck up”. Rule # 3 is “it’s never too early to shut the fuck up.” How dare we?

Pain is private. The pain of love is always private.

M. and I visited Christian Pietosa’s (Via Vite’s owner) Florence restaurant a decade ago. The real Florence. The Italian one. The one without the strip malls. A long cab ride from Centro Firenza. Christian wasn’t there though Nick had told him we were coming but probably not on that day. We had fish fondue. A weird dish. In the night with a soft summer breeze. And nothing much to talk about but…

It didn’t matter. It really didn’t matter.

C. is a Romanian born engineer. I haven’t met her and probably won’t. She’ll be protected from the wild card in the deck. The loose cannon. The angry one (M. could confirm that). Though I’m a paragon of civility when the occasion calls for it. Matters of love and loss are important occasions.  I’ll tell C. what a great guy G. is, given the opportunity. But either way…

I won’t mind and it really won’t matter.

M.B. is no longer with M. Nor J. with K. Nor B. with whatever her name is. M. and I have parted. What is wrong with this little group of misfits? A group that feels things more deeply than other groups to which I am attached. Clean breaks and fractures hurt equally, I’ve learned. The only thing that matters is the length of the hurt, the time required to heal. We’ll move on to Arnold’s for more medicine. We’ll talk more. But not about the other. Whose-ever other it might be. 

I wish we could all say aloud that we don’t mind. That it doesn’t really matter. But the pain of love is always private.

If you, if you could return
Don’t let it burn, don’t let it fade
I’m sure I’m not being rude
But it’s just your attitude
It’s tearing me apart…

Do you have to, do you have to
Do you have to let it linger

…You know I’m such a fool for you
You got me wrapped around your finger
Do you have to let it linger

                            The Cranberries

Categories: From Swerve to Bend

Guilty Pleasures: Under-rated Sci Fi

I’ve been waxing cinematic this week-end. The following is a list of movies I only admit to loving among friends. You won’t find classics like “Brazil” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” on the list because they aren’t under-rated. 

10). A Boy and His Dog (1974)

Post nuclear earth is a ravaged wasteland. Vic (Don Johnson, yeah, that Don Johnson) and his dog Blood, who speaks telepathically, wander about looking for scarce food and scarcer sex. Civilization has moved underground and Johnson, in search of pussy, is captured. His johnson is milked for its reproductive, uh, elements. After he escapes, he finds Blood starving topside. Blood is revived by a good meal of….guess what?

 Highlights: Jason Robards as the rouge-cheeked leader of the underground civilization.

9. Reign of Fire (2002)

Earth has been scorched and humanity nearly eradicated by fire-breathing dragons. Hey! It could happen. Burnt to crisp earth has a very medieval feel. Christian Bale saves the day.

Highlights: Matthew McConaughey as one tough hombre and the dragons.

8. Pitch Black (2000)

Recaptured prisoner (Vin Diesel) is being transported back to prison when their ship crash lands on a strange world, a. planet that experiences a total eclipse of the suns (that’s right, suns, the plural is not a typo) every 22 years. The crew arrives just in time for a blackout. Horrible creatures that cannot tolerate light have been dormant in structures that look like giant ant hills. They are released by the eclipse. Mayhem ensues.

Highlights: The very hot Radha Mitchell as Carolyn.

7. The Thing (1982)

In John Carpenter’s remake, an alien, frozen in Antarctica after a crash landing, is unwittingly resurrected by scientists. Body Snatcher-like, the thing replicates the scientists, one by one. In the end, two scientists sit in stand-off beside the destroyed camp unsure whether the other is the Thing.

Highlights: Terrific, suspenseful score.

6. The Quiet Earth (1985)

A scientist awakens to discover that he is the last living man on earth. Or is he? The science is flimsy but it’s an interesting story with a love triangle and inter-racial sex.

Highlights: The final scene alone is worth the price of admission.

5. Lifeforce (1985)

 A British-American scientific space exploration team discovers an alien vessel in the tail of Halley’s comet. The alien ship contains three space vampires which the explorers, of course, bring aboard the earth vessel. The female alien survivor (Mathilda May) parades about naked while she sucks the life out of helpless and hapless earthlings.

Highlights: A gorgeously naked Mathilda with glorious tits (and I’m not even a boob man).

4. Waterworld (1995)

Sort of an aquatic Mad Maxx. In a dystopian future earth, covered almost entirely by water, a mutant (Kevin Costner with gills) tries to stay disconnected from humanity but is reeled in (pun intended) by Helen (Jeanne Trippelhorn) and her daughter. Everyone but the amphibious Costner is searching for “Dryland” and the young girl holds the key. .

Highlights: While Costner delivers his usual wooden performance both the little girl and Dennis Hopper deliver marvelous performances.

3. Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

A sequel to Pitch Black. Riddick (Vin Diesel), once again an escaped convict, tangles with evil on strange worlds. Riddick eludes bounty hunters and confronts a race of religious loonies, the half-dead Necromongers, who are destroying the universe in search of the Underverse, their version of heaven. Just think of the Necromongers as the Religious Right and it will make perfect sense. Action packed. Great special effects.

Highlights:  Judi Dench as an Aereon, an ambassador from the Elemental race.

2. Predator (1987)

An alien big game hunter (a cross between a crab and Bob Marley) arrives on earth in search of trophies. A military commando unit led by Arnold Schwartzenegger battle it to the bitter end.

Highlights: The alien is the best alien since, well…the Alien. The cameo performance by Jessie “The Body” Ventura.

1. Dark City (1998)

Humans are abducted and subject to re-programming and experiments by an alien race who alter reality through psycho-kinesis and are bent on discovering the “secret” of humanity. John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell), one of the lab rats, discovers that he shares the Strangers (aliens) power and goes off in search of his home town, Shell Beach. John learns that everything he thought he knew is an illusion so he must use his power to defeat the Strangers and create a reality of his own. His preferred reality includes Jennifer Connelly.

Highlights: A hot, sultry Jennifer Connelly and Kiefer Sutherland’s creepy, halting vocal cadence.

Honorable Mention:

Mad Maxx Beyond Thunderdome

Conan the Barbarian



Categories: Retro Reels

The U.S. is #1. Yay! No wait. I mean, Boo!

As the sun sets on the American Empire, a divided nation is distracted and reeling from two wasteful wars and an economic meltdown brought on by the unprecedented act of  waging war while cutting taxes for the wealthy and putting deregulated foxes in charge of our hens. We are desperate for something to celebrate. We’ve always been winners but we find ourselves in a severe batting slump. How deep is our malaise? Areas where we find ourselves, at best, also-rans or, at worst, broken down beside the road and no longer in the race include:

Health Care (According to the World Health Organization the U.S. ranks 37th)

Most Livable Place (23rd according to the World Factbook)

Literacy (A United Nation’s Study has us tied with 26 other nation for 21st place)

Quality of Life (13th according to The Economist Intelligence Unit)

We’re not even 1st in GDP anymore.

But there are many areas where the U.S. is the undisputed leader. Before you don the party hats and break out the bubbly you better take a gander.

The U.S. is #1 in:

Indebtedness (according to the CIA World Factbook 2010)

Oil Consumption (again according to the CIA even though we are no longer 1st in GDP)

Military Spending (according to Global and more sources than I have room to quote  we spend more than twice the rest of the world combined on our military)

Obesity (according to the OECD Factbook)

Prison Population (again OECD)

Health care Spending (W.H.O. says that despite having one of the worst health care systems among economically advanced nations we spend, on average, double the money)

Our differences have never been greater, the debate more shrill. At the center of that debate is the size of our government and, specifically, taxes even though we rank 47th in tax burden among developed countries.  47th!  Maybe it’s not the level of our taxation that matters but what we are getting for our tax dollars. Instead of health care, we get military adventurism. Instead of education, job security and sufficient leisure time we get corporate subsidies.

Civic pride and boosterism is great. We should be proud of the things we do well. But our boastfulness too often degenerates into myopic, xenophobic, ethnocentric, jingoistic sound bites. Our corporate controlled media is not informing us of the truth of our situation. Conservatives like to get on their high horses about freedom and personal responsibility but we can be neither free nor accountable if we are deceived and manipulated, if our decisions are prompted by lies.

The truth is that we are #1 in a lot of areas. And it’s not something to cheer about.

Categories: Breaking the Chains

The Museum of Lies

I had planned something light-hearted for today but after the experience I had last evening you get this:

I was meeting Ben at Neon’s for a drink at 5. Ben had a balky back and couldn’t make it. Other friends were there instead as part of a Museum of Advertising event. I was prepared to get comfortably numb with or without Ben but the gregarious MOA’s slapped a badge on my shirt and insisted I join them. The Museum of Advertising is a virtual museum they want to turn into an actual museum. A museum that isn’t real is perfect for advertising. They should leave it the way it is.

One of the MOA spokeswomen announced that we were “celebrating advertising”. I didn’t have the heart, intruder that I was, to say that I didn’t want to celebrate advertising. I admit that ads can be clever and funny and, at rare moments, can even rise to the level of art. But at they’re core, they are propaganda. Celebrating advertising is celebrating consumerism and lying to encourage consumerism. We as Americans absorb commercial messages at an absurd rate compared to educational ones. I’m not sure that’s something worth celebrating.

Once the MOA crowd had largely dispersed, my friends stayed and we engaged in conversation with a couple of MOA remnants. Somehow health care became the topic. I don’t know how we wandered into that thicket. Did I mention the comfortably numb thing? One young MOA gentleman began to defend the travesty that is the American health care system. In the same way that Americans who are fed a steady corn based diet with empty calorie, high fructose corn syrup can become, simultaneously, obese and malnourished, Americans who are fed a steady diet of corporate propaganda can become Intelligent Idiots (I.I.). They feed us this bullshit and we lap it up. We smile and wallow in it and ask for more. Advertising has taught us not to just accept lies but to expect them. To hunger for them. That’s why we’re not shocked when our politicians lie to us. Give us the lies. More gruel, please. Please master, please! 

I.I. defended 45 million uninsured Americans. I.I. defended spending twice what the rest of the world spends on health care despite the legions of uninsured and without better outcomes overall (Socialist Germans outlive us by more than a year largely based on superior health care). I.I. defended the obscene profits that health insurers earn off our broken health system: profits that go into the pockets of health care industry executives and shareholders rather than being spent on, say…health care. I.I.‘s claim to fame was having the shortest waiting time for health care services.

The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves. We say our health care system is the best in the world when it clearly isn’t and we tell ourselves that it provides the shortest wait for services when it doesn’t. Our wait times are, on average, longer than what Canadians experience (with specialty exceptions) and longer than the Germans. The French, who enjoy the best health care system in the world, despite spending half what we do, have virtually no waiting lines. Think of what our wait times would be if 45 million of us weren’t doing our waiting in the emergency room. France provides basic health insurance for all its citizens. The French see any doctor or specialist they want, any time they want without the intrusion of a gatekeeper. I know this is stuff that propaganda fed Americans don’t want to hear…especially about the French.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure Cincinnati needs a Museum of Advertising, virtual or otherwise. This country has become a giant museum of corporate propaganda; a nation-wide museum of lies. It isn’t a virtual museum. It’s real and it’s killing us.


Queen City Suffer Club

                                 Accepting Nominations and Applications for Membership in

                                                          The Queen City Suffer Club                               

Eligibility Requirements:

1. Currently in a state of financial, emotional or physical distress. Satisfaction of all three criteria makes you a Platinum Member. Special consideration given to those suffering a recent romantic breakup, job loss or untreated illness due to a lack of medical insurance.

2. Smart enough to realize that where you live (the Cincinnati region in particular and the U.S. in general) is in a state of severe crisis but pathetic enough to be stuck here.

3. Harbor an appropriate degree of rage toward the U.S. health insurance industry, Fox News, Glenn Beck, BP, streetcar and rail opponents, televangelists, mega sized suburban S.U.V. drivers (car and/or driver), exurbia, farm subsidies, the military-industrial complex, wealthy individuals and corporations that pay no taxes, propaganda disguised as news, Monsanto, Tea Partiers, Sarah Palin, Twitter addicts, the Petro-criminal industry, smokers and cigarette butts on the ground, Texting addicts, Lite beer drinkers, American Idol, NASCAR, Red Bull, adults who use the LOL acronym, genre fiction, soft core porn (what’s the point?), Paris Hilton, Chili’s and Applebee’s restaurants,  Adam Sandler, Wal Mart and hemorrhoids. You’re allowed one vice from the above list, but only one, while you are being re-educated.

Communal sufferings will be observed periodically at Arnold’s Bar and Grill, Rock Bottom on the Square, The Righteous Room, Frie’s Cafe, Dewey’s Pizza in Clifton and Neon’s Unplugged.

Meetings of the Q.C. Suffer Club Management Committee occur every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Market Wines wine tasting at Findlay Market. Interested and prospective members are welcome to attend to learn more and sign up for a schedule of events. Bring your credentials.


Categories: A Day in the Life...

A Traveler among Tourists: The Anti-tour, Tour Guide

          It’s easy to spot an American tourist abroad. Look for the bewildered and harried, those racing from one must-see site to another, consuming as many experiences as they can. Look for the stuff, the bags and packages, packages and bags, the holdings as beefy as the holder. Tourists are easy to spot with their tell-tail markings and defined habitat. You might not notice the travelers at all. We travelers are camouflaged.

          Most people consider the exotic destination to be the mark of a true traveler but it’s the mindset. You can be as much a traveler in Rome as you can in Kamchatka if you take the right approach. I suppose you can be a traveler at Disney Land too but I’m not willing to test the theory. Here are 5 ways to stray from the herd, to experience something different than Frommer’s or Rick Steves’ agenda, not that I have anything against Mr. Steves. Okay, maybe I do.

Lesson #1: Lighten Your Load

            Tom Robbins wrote, “That which you hold, holds you.” Travel only with what you need. You need a lot less than you think. Purge as you go. Let me explain.

            Before you pack for your trip, go through the closet. If you are like most Americans you over-consume clothing. You have stuff you never wear. If it still fits and you haven’t worn it in months it’s fair game. The one exception is shoes. If you have a pair of shoes that you don’t wear because they are uncomfortable don’t travel with them. Comfortable shoes are the highest priority.

            Add to the “haven’t worn in months” category every shirt, skirt, pants or whatever that is worse for the wear, frayed cuff or collar or hem, stains, shiny knees and elbows, lusterless leather. These are items that you like so much that you have almost worn them out. Let them die with dignity and with an appropriate farewell. Underwear with holes and permanent stains are perfect traveling companions.

           Remove from your selections any item that can only be worn with one other specific item. Divide the number of trip days by two or three… or four If you’re traveling for 14 days you need, at most, seven tops and seven bottoms. You will wear tops and bottoms at least twice and everything has to match up with everything else. Go ahead and pack a full two-weeks worth of underwear and socks if cleanliness is a priority (even though undies and socks are easy to wash in the bathroom sink) but remember holes and stains take priority.

            With each passing day you are going to shed underwear and socks. Every few days you’re going to shed one or more tops and bottoms. You can always buy something new to wear if it catches your fancy or your trip gets extended. If you’re a shopper, you’ll pack your purchases in the freed up space in your luggage where your old clothes used to be. Better yet, ship your purchases home. I once boarded a plane in Barcelona with only my passport and a paperback novel. The Polo duffel that was free with the purchase of the deluxe set of after shave, cologne and lotion stayed behind.

            The south of France is littered with my old underwear.

            Oh, and women, no hair dryers or curlers or any of that beauty nonsense. I have a female friend who insists on traveling with a personal pillow. Sheesh!

            Anyone who cringes at timid little Lesson # 1 can stop reading now. You are and forever shall you be a tourist but never a traveler.

Lesson # 2: Stay Put

            I know what you are thinking. This may be my only chance to see France or Italy or Ireland. I need to see everything and since my crummy job only gives me two weeks of vacation, I need to see everything as fast as I can. Well, unless you want to return home with memories as blurry as your photos, you have to leave that thinking behind. Plant your ass somewhere interesting, Siena, Arles, Guanajuato, anywhere, and let the place come to you. Even if you stay in one place, a two or three-week trip is a horrifically short period of time. You’ll barely scratch the surface. Think micro instead of macro. On your deathbed you’ll remember the friends you made on your trip not the time you spent driving on the autobahn.

Lesson # 3: Don’t over-Plan (or) Ignorance is Bliss

            I book my first night and maybe the last night hotel room in advance. The first night because I’ll be cranky and jet lagged and incapable of rational decision-making. The last night if I need to be near an airport early in the morning. Also, I can get the best rate for an airport room, on-line and in advance. Everything between the first and last night I play by ear, knowing that the best and cheapest and quirkiest places to stay are only to be found in person. If I’m worried about the place being so crowded that I won’t be able to find a room I’m either going to the wrong place or at the wrong time.

            Know when to ignore Lesson # 2. If you’re thrilled with where you are, stay there. If you’re miserable, move on. A former lover, J., might be a wife today were it not for The List, the list of things to do and things to see and when to do and see them. J. is a breathing, walking itinerary. She has plans. She has goals. J. is now rich and married and living in suburban bliss whereas I am broke, unattached and often miserable. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my life for a year of hers.

            The best experiences are often the accidental ones. You can’t have accidental experiences if every minute of your life is planned.

            My wanderlust overtook me in Dublin. I went north to the other Ireland. Sitting on the tiny bed in the tiny room in the tiny town of Port Rush, map spread across my lap, my fingertips traced my train route and beyond, Colerain, Port Rush, and to the east Bushmills? Bushmills. BUSHMILLS! Jesus H. Christ, I was within spitting distance of a distillery.

            A cab sat at the curb, in front of a butcher’s shop. Maybe the only cab in town. Tired of waiting I inquired within. The fat butcher in a blood stained apron, finger held aloft belayed my query. Packages stacked atop the meat case. The customer dropped the packages into her bag. Laden lady leaves. “Where ye off to mate?”” or something to that effect, as he lifts the apron strings over his massive head.

            “In two hours come collect me,” I said. Two hours is an eternity in a distillery, an eternity of grace and beauty and wonder, but an eternity none-the-less. They carried me to the cab. Yeah, I could have done some research in advance and “planned” to visit Bushmill’s but somehow I don’t think it would have been the same.

Lesson # 4: Court Disaster

             Danger is exciting. Danger is sexy. Just date danger. You don’t have to get married. There’s big danger, there’s little danger. Don’t get in over your head but a life without a little danger isn’t worth living. You can’t truly travel without exposing yourself to risk.

            I wound up in Cancun because, well, everyone winds up in Cancun at least once.  I knew on my first day that I despised Cancun. It was Senor Frogs that did it. I don’t need to go to Mexico to meet girls from Michigan. So I boarded the ferry (not the fast tourist ferry but the slow one, the open air one that the locals use) to Isla Mujeres. Yeah, Mujeres is a little touristy too but nothing like Cancun.

            I met Zeke (the name has been changed to protect the not so innocent) in a bar. Zeke was a forty something American ex-patriot who for reasons he’d rather not get into can’t go back to the States. Zeke had a boat and knew how to take Americans to Cuba without the risk of passport stamps and all of that nonsense. I’ll spare you the rant on American foreign policy idiocy. Zeke will take you to Cuba for free. All you have to do is pack your luggage with Cuban cigars (they’re Mexican, if anybody asks) without the identifying bands and boxes. I guess the packaging travels separately with nother accomodating American.

            I now plead the Fifth on the grounds that I may incriminate myself. I admit to nothing,

Cuban women are beautiful.

Lesson # 5: Roam Alone

            Arles wasn’t my destination. I got off the train because I was hungry and hung-over and decided to treat myself to a good meal and a night in a nice hotel. Just one night. Until I met S., the Innkeeper’s daughter. Small and blonde and leggy. Short women can be leggy, I learned. It’s a matter of shape and proportion rather than length. Ooh. La. La., was S. leggy! She introduced me to the finer points of French cuisine and Provencal wine and amour.

            Ten days later, I got to Paris just in time to catch my flight. I should have abandoned the ticket home and stayed with S. (see Lesson #3 and, I suppose, 4).

            Things didn’t work out with S. I tell myself it was because of the long distance romance thing but maybe it was the underwear.


Categories: Ramblin'

A Haircut Aboard the Titanic

Ferrari’s Barber shop on Garfield Place, the narrow strip of urban park that runs between Vine St. and Elm St. A short walk from the public library. Three barber chairs. Two barbers. Old, Italian brothers who came to America after the war. W.W.II. The big one.

I prefer Fausto. Most of the regular customers will wait for Fausto, while his brother Emilio’s chair remains empty. Emilio gets the newbies. Guys who wander in for the first time and wonder why a chair is available while others wait and read the newspaper or glance through old magazines. The novices soon find out.

Emilio rushes through his work. What Emilio really wants to do is go outside and smoke and get a cup of coffee from Cafe de Paris a few doors down. Emilio does this about every twenty minutes. He mutely gives fast haircuts without all of the flourishes and extras provided by his older brother. He charges the same amount non-the-less. Emilio is good for business. Not his business, but the haircutting business in general. After an Emilio haircut you’re ready for another haircut. Maybe tomorrow. Emilio only knows how to cut hair one way. You leave the chair looking a lot like Emilio. Sort of a Moe Howard thing.

There are pictures and framed news clippings on the barbershop wall. The clippings are short, human-interest write-ups about the barbershop and the brothers over the decades.  They are yellowed with age and pretty much unreadable. There’s a picture of George Washington. The one from your grade school classroom where George looks like a stern grandmother. The brothers, like a lot of immigrants of their era, are fiercely patriotic about their adopted country. There’s a picture of a Pope. I couldn’t tell you which one but I’m sure he isn’t a recent one. I’m not up on my Popes. There’s also a photo of the Titanic, a big, beautiful, stately ship floating serenely at sea. I want to ask if there’s a story behind the picture but I never do.

Fausto doesn’t like to talk about the past. At least not to me. I try to talk to him about Italy, which I have visited numerous times. Apparently the brothers haven’t been back to their home country since they arrived on the boat. Our conversations don’t go very far. Fausto would rather be here than in Italy. I’d rather be in Italy than here. That’s how it goes.

Fausto must be in his late seventies to early eighties. His brother somewhat younger. Fausto still delivers a credible haircut despite his age but he’s a little unsteady. He grasps my shoulder and holds on as he moves around to get a better angle on my head. The scissors clack without pause even when not engaged with my hair.

Fausto is easily distracted. If the phone rings and Emilio is out (he usually is), Fausto will shuffle to the back of the shop to answer it. It rings until he gets there. There is no answering machine. He speaks Italian on the phone and sounds irritated. I imagine that his wife is on the other end of the line. His barber chair is at the front of the shop, right in front of the plate glass window. Garfield Place is a busy pedestrian street and Fausto acknowledges passersby. Sometimes he goes to the door to say a word or two. You need to make sure you fill your meter before you go in, even if there is no wait. Fausto’s dalliances have led to some pretty expensive haircuts. You don’t want to be in the chair when the mail arrives. It’s an important and diverting event.

A haircut costs $12.00. It used to be $10. Be sure you have exact change. If I hand him a twenty he’ll tell me that he can’t break it and send me to the quickie mart around the corner. He’ll say this even if the guy ahead of me paid him with all one’s. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s payback for prying about his history, about Italy.

Fausto finishes my haircut by dabbing my neck and hairline with a lime scented concoction from a bottle. He massages my scalp and shoulders with a vibrating device strapped to his hand. I need this calming treatment after he shaves my hairline with a straight razor. I always tense up when I hear the razor slapping against the strop. Fausto’s hands are steady but there’s something unnerving about an eighty-year old man scraping a razor across my jugulars. I can’t take my eyes off the Titanic.