17 March 2017

The Feast of Saint Patrick—2017

I guess everyone knows about Saint Patrick’s Day, right? It’s the day a lot of cities turn a prominent river green, have parades, and drink copious amounts of green beer. It’s a day celebrated by a lot of the world, a day where “everyone’s Irish!” But what does any of this have to do with the actual person of Patrick or his legacy? That’s what this little post is about.

It’d be great to do one of those “person on the street” interviews we see on various late night talk shows. Have someone go out into the cities celebrating Saint Patrick’s day and ask them some questions about Patrick. I’m sure the answers would be hilarious! And I’m pretty sure most of them would be wrong. For starters—and what comes as a shock to a lot of people—Patrick wasn’t Irish! He was British as far as we can determine. On the day when “everyone’s Irish,” the very person we’re celebrating wasn’t.

While he called himself “Patrick” in both of his surviving writings, Confession and Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, some scholars don’t believe that was the name given to him by his family. But, if that’s the way he identifies himself, it’s good enough for me!

And he didn’t drive out the snakes of Ireland. As far as can be determined, there have never been snakes in Ireland. This image is probably referring to the rise of Christianity and the decline of Druidism in Ireland.

I highly recommend checking out the Confession and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus. They’re great glimpses into the heart and mind of Patrick. If you’re wanting a deeper look into Patrick and other Irish saints, I recommend the following online sources:

  • Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae is the sister site of Trias Thaumaturga and contains a plethora of information about other Irish saints.

I’ll leave you with an adapted version of the prayer attributed to Patrick but may have been written (or at least edited) some time later. It goes by several names: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, The Deer Cry, or The Lorica of Saint Patrick.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

05 March 2017

A Little Piece of Old Hollywood

On a recently trip to Los Angeles, California, I searched around the place I was staying for “briar pipes” in Google Maps. Only two appeared—Kramer’s Pipe and Tobacco Shop and Tinder Box. While Kramer’s was a little closer, I hadn’t ever heard of it and assumed that Tinder Box would have a better selection of pipes and tobaccos. However, when I went to their site, Tinder Box just didn’t seem to…I don’t know…fit. It seemed rather corporate. Along with pipes and tobaccos, Tinder Box sells shaving supplies and beer steins and such things. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. So I checked out Kramer’s.

And, boy, am I glad I did!

Kramer’s was established in 1949 by Allen (Al) and Tina Kramer in Beverly Hills just off Little Santa Monica Blvd. between Camden and Rodeo drives. Al built all the knotty pine fixtures in the shop, including a walk-in humidor! As you can tell by the date, this was back in the heyday of Hollywood. Back then, Al could be seen hand blending his own tobaccos at the tobacco bar or repairing pipes and lighters in the front window. Some of their customers included Cecil B. DeMille, Cary Grant, Danny Kaye, Marlene Dietrich, Tony Curtis, Samuel Goldwyn, Fred MacMurray, James Arness, Buddy Ebsen, Normal Fell, Leonard Nimoy, Charles Bronson, Aaron Spelling, James Brolin, and the list goes on and on!

These personalized hand blended tobaccos were something Al was famous for. As far as I can tell, it all started with Father Dempsey, a local Catholic priest who became good friends with Al after coming into the community (Fr. Dempsey served at the Church of the Good Shepherd just around the corner from the shop). Apparently, Fr. Dempsey told Al if Al could create a comparable blend to the Dunhill blend he liked, Fr. Dempsey would buy Al’s tobacco instead. So, Al went to work. Father Dempsey poured out his tobacco on the tobacco bar and Al studied it, sorting out the different leaves but he couldn’t determine the proportions. They kept trying different variations until Fr. Dempsey said, “Stop right there! This is better than my old blend ever was.” Soon many of Fr. Dempsey’s friends and parishioners would come into Kramer’s asking for “Father Dempsey’s tobacco” and the name stuck. Al made special tobaccos for Cary Grant and Danny Kaye, too. All of these tobaccos and others are still available.

When I arrived I was met by Al and Tina’s daughter, Marsha, who now runs the place with her husband, Jim Keller, since her parents passed away. I’d watched a few YouTube video interviews with her and she’s such a hoot! We had a great conversation about pipes, tobaccos, old Hollywood, and how things have gotten harder, not only small business owners in general, but for tobacco shops in particular (especially in California). I purchased four ounces of tobacco—an ounce of Father Dempsey, an ounce of Extra Smooth, an ounce of Cary Grant’s Blend’s, and an ounce of Danny Kaye’s Blend—and a Fe.Ro pipe. Marsha told me that she’s now selling Kramer tobaccos at Smokingpipes.com!

As I’m finishing this post, I’m sitting outside smoking my Fe.Ro with a little Cary Grant’s Blend and feeling a little melancholy. While I’m glad that Smokingpipes.com now carries Kramer’s tobaccos, I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to. Marsha and Jim don’t have any children and she didn’t seem to know what would happen to the place after they’ve passed on. It’d be such a shame if Kramer’s closed its doors for good. I wish I lived in the area as I’d love to continue such a great tradition and a little piece of old Hollywood.


MarshaKramer.JPG         IMG_3060.JPG

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

22 February 2017

Safety Razor Update!

My first post about shaving with a safety razor was 12 July 2014. So, it’s been roughly two and a half years ago since I’ve started this journey. It’s something now that I don’t even have to think about; it’s part of my routine. But, like a lot of hobbies, one can get really sucked into all the “stuff” that goes along with it—new soaps, aftershaves, blades, brushes, and, of course, razors. I now have 6 safety razors (and I’ve given away some as gifts) but I only use a couple with any regularity. I still have my Maggard MR18 but I also have the MR1 handle (it’s shorter). The MR1 is my “go to” razor. The shorter handle of the MR1, for me, offers more control and maneuvering around the contours of my face. I also have an Open Comb head (OC) that works on either handle. The Open Comb head allows for more blade exposure and more cream/soap and hair to escape the razor. I generally use the OC when I haven’t shaved for several days. I also have a small travel razor from Merkur, a German company (I got it at a flea market for $2! I know!), a really old Gillette that I don’t know the model of (I’ve only used it about half-a-dozen times), and a 1965 Gillette twist-to-open I received Christmas 2015.

A couple of the razors I see a lot of YouTube shavers use are the Gillette “Slim Adjustable” and the Gillette “Fatboy”. These razors are twist-to-open (TTO) and adjustable, meaning you can adjust how much the blade is exposed. Since I watch a lot of shaving videos (as I said in that first post, they’re therapeutic, and Paul and Kevy are hilarious) I’ve been wanting to get one of these razors and I’m always on the lookout for one when perusing vintage stores or flea markets.

The other day, while my wife was checking out the gemstones at a local gem show, I ventured into a large flea market in an adjacent building. After going through almost the entire building, I stumbled upon a woman who had just what I was looking for—a Slim and a Fatboy! I picked up the Slim first and looked it over carefully. I noted that one of the hinges was bent. This allowed more blade exposure at the end of one side but everything else worked fine. I then picked up the Fatboy. And now I knew why it was given that name—that little guy was heavy! All of the parts seemed to work, too—the TTO knob worked fine, the doors opened and closed without issue, the adjustable piece twisted and “clicked” at the different stages of 1-9. It even had the little red indicator showing which setting the blade was on. I decided on the Fatboy and paid the lady her asking price of $10.

I purchased this knowing that it was in good working condition (as far as I could tell) and that I was sending it to Razor Emporium for their “Tune Up” service. So, I mailed it off and waited with bated breath…

The people at Razor Emporium are the best! I got email notifications about the whole process—when they received my razor; when it was checked in; when it passed inspection; when it was placed in queue; when it made it to the technician working on it; the condition of the plating (some of the nickel was very worn); and when it shipped back to me. I loved the way they kept me informed throughout the task. I highly recommend their services. They also offer a replating service called “Revamp” where, along with a Tune Up, they’ll re-plate your razor. Whichever service you choose, Razor Emporium sends back your razor cleaned, sanitized, and ready to use.

Here’s some before and after pics:


I’ve been using the Fatboy exclusively now for a few weeks and it’s been fantastic. Every shave seems to get surpass the previous shaves because I’m learning how to handle the razor and settings better. Having an adjustable razor has made a lot of difference in my shaves—I’ve been able to do more passes with less irritation than I normally would. It’s easy to “over-shave”—trying to get the closest possible shave—that leaves my neck red and irritated. Using the Fatboy almost never irritates me. If it does, it’s because I’ve over-shaved an area and not paid attention to the way my skin was feeling.

Wet shaving or DE shaving is a lot like the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. You must be in the present moment and paying attention or suffer the consequences. I know. One morning I was half-asleep and started shaving and not paying attention and cut myself. It wasn’t a deep cut or anything like that, just enough to wake me up and focus my mind on the subject at hand. The whole process of wet shaving is similar to a religious ritual:

First, you must first prepare the face—washing the face with very warm water for several minutes hydrates the skin, opens the pores, and softens and lifts the whiskers.

Next, depending on the bush, you soak the brush and shake or squeeze out the water (you want it wet but not dripping).

Then you create a lather using a shaving cream or soap (I prefer soaps, either Mike’s Natural Soaps or Sterling Soap Company). You can bowl lather—taking a little soap and placing it in a bowl and start lathering—or face lather. I prefer face lathering.  Just taking the wet brush and loading it with soap then start lathering it directly on your face (see Nick Shaves for a great example of this technique).

Now you heat the blade under hot water and start the shave. Most people do three passes—with the growth, across the growth, and against the growth—and then “pick ups,” i.e., going over any remaining stubble.  I generally only do two passes—with the growth and across the growth—but as I noted above, with the Gillette Fatboy, I was able to do a full three passes and then the pick ups.

The post shave ritual is just as important as the shaving ritual itself. Once I’ve finished the shave, I use Thayer’s Witch Hazel (unscented). Witch hazel is a natural astringent and, given some time, your face will be a lot healthier. It has tons of other benefits, too. If you don’t have it in your bathroom, you’re really missing out!

Next is an aftershave and then a moisturizer. These are personal preferences but are very important to protect your face. After all, you did just glide a razor blade across it!

All of these steps keep a person in the moment. The ritual of shaving one’s face is just that—a ritual. I wouldn’t call it a routine because routine, in my mind, means one can be somewhere else mentally. Ritual infers attention and intention. If either is missing while shaving, well, a sharp blade will bring you right back to the moment.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC