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A close shave is a bracing one

When I shave each morning, I think of Grandfather. My Russian grandfather introduced the Gillette razor into the Czar's Army. He made millions for the company. In gratitude, when Mother arrived alone in Boston in 1919 as a refugee, Gillette undertook to pay the expenses of her education, first at Radcliffe, then at Yale for her master's, and at Radcliffe for her doctorate.

Shaving can be tedious, but there are exceptions. In Rome, the bathroom window at the hotel where I stay looks onto the Pantheon. As I shave, I read these words on the pediment: M. AGRIPPA. L. F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT. ("Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this.")

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The bathroom in my apartment in New York City has a less dramatic view. Here, I liven things up by listening to music when I shave.

Four times a year, I appear for a haircut at a barber shop south of Canal Street, near my office. The barber is an Uzbek. We talk about Samarkand. He is a no-nonsense scissors-and-razor barber.

This is fine with me. Given my current hair style, grooming opportunities do not abound.

Shaven and shorn, all that remains for my upper reaches is selecting headgear.

Since elementary school, where caps were required, I have always worn a hat. On weekends, I reach in the closet for a baseball cap. On weekdays, in summer, I wear a Panama. For the other seasons, I sport a Borsalino, an elegant Italian felt hat – my most valuable possession – which set me back $250.

Now groomed, hatted, clothed, and figuratively booted, and spurred, I leave my apartment for the street, ready to take on the world.


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