Morning Muse: Shaving

August 22, 2014


As one who tries to keep up with consumer technology, I couldn’t wait to try the new Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor with FlexBall technology and five blades.

I began shaving with a classic double-edged safety razor, one not too different I imagine from the product invented in 1904 by King C. Gillette.  That was the norm.  Oh sure, razors, or something like them, existed for centuries before.  The Oxford English Dictionary notes the year 1290 for the first use of a word specifically identified as a razor.

Anyone remember when the disposable razor entered the market? The first one I bought in the mid-70s was made of orange and white plastic by the French Company Bic – the disposable pen people.  It was followed quickly by the blue colored Gillette disposable, which had two blades.  These disposables tore me up; I was always going around with little pieces of toilet paper stuck to the nicks and cuts on my neck.  Then sometime in the 80s the cartridge razor was invented and the floodgate opened for products featuring 3 blades, then 4 blades and marketing concepts like “Mach” and “Turbo.”  I’ve tried them all in my search for a better shave.

The new FlexBall ProGlide, I must say, is a beautiful product with a high tech silver and black look and some orange and blue highlights – a color combo I have a particular affinity for.  The tech breakthrough isn’t the blade, but the handle.  It swivels, supposedly mimicking how your wrist works and therefore make shaving more effective.  Some call the swivel a marketing gimmick.  Okay, but so is the “virtual assistant” on my iPhone.  And I’m certain I’ll be using the razor more than I do Miss Siri.  Oh yes: I had a damn good inaugural shave.


For the Love of Chicken

August 15, 2014

So many people have sent me this fabulous photo, I felt obligated to post it, along with some commentary below.

Chicken truck overturns near Dover, DE.  Photo by Delaware News Journal.

Chicken truck overturns near Dover, DE. Photo by Delaware News Journal.

These kinds of accidents happen every year and its big news. Why? Because the modern broiler industry developed in I wrote about its origins in my book The Discreet Charms of a Bourgeois Beach Town. Here how it began….

Back in 1923, a short, heavyset, farm wife with red hair and fiery temper named Cecile Steele raised a flock of laying chickens to help support her family. Each year she would order fifty new chicks to replace losses in her flock. In 1923, she was mistakenly sent five hundred. She sold the excess to a local chicken buyer who then shipped them to New York restaurants and hotels. It proved profitable and the next year she ordered a thousand chicks. Her husband quit his Coast Guard job, and they began building chicken houses and raising birds full-time. News of their success spread, and others in Sussex County began raising their own flocks solely for meat.

I should point out that in the 1920s, chickens were raised primarily for eggs. Chickens were more expensive than other meat, and Americans who did eat chickens consumed young male cockerels culled from laying flocks or tough old hens.

The pressing need for a new source of agricultural income helps explain why so many Sussex County farmers were willing to raise chickens. Fruits and vegetables were always at risk for freezes and blights. Some other factors helping spur the growth of the industry included Delaware’s relatively mild climate, cheap building costs, low labor costs, close proximity to major urban markets, a good system of public roads, and a willingness of banks to provide easy credit.

It was World War II, however, that led to dramatic growth. Chickens moved from birth to slaughterhouse much faster than cattle or pigs. Chickens fed the American army. Chickens fed hungry Europeans. So much money was being made raising chickens in Delaware that attorneys, politicians, and other white-collar types began raising birds.

Southern Delaware continues as a hot bed of chicken farming. Sussex County leads all the nation’s counties in broiler production.





Jury Duty, Me, and Dominick Dunne

July 31, 2014

Like most people who believe jury service is an important part of our American democracy, I try to avoid it. Burglaries and drug dealings just don’t interest me. And it seems I’m always called when I’m extraordinarily busy at work or just about to go on vacation.

I began to reconsider my position, however, when I received a letter from the Sussex County Superior Court summoning me for a two-week term of jury duty, beginning just after the fourth of July holiday. Seems there are so few potential jurors in southern Delaware they put you on call for two weeks. And what for? Chicken house arsons? Trailer park perversions? It was too quirky and way too tempting for a writer like me to pass up.

While there is much written about how to avoid jury service, there is very little information about how to get selected. Some experts say you should appear well groomed and well dressed, but not flashy. Others say it’s important to look interested. And, don’t be chatty. Lawyers eschew talkative jurors.

To raise my chances of getting picked, I decided to channel the late Dominick Dunne, the Vanity Fair writer who specialized in celebrity court cases. He actually came to Sussex County in 2005 to cover the lawsuit brought by Disney shareholders against Disney CEO Michael Eisner over the $140 million deal he signed off on to get rid of Disney’s number two executive Michael Orvitz after only fifteen months on the job.

On jury day, I did my best Dunne impersonation: horn rim glasses, purple checked shirt, and a pressed pair of chinos. From what I recall, the Delaware judges seemed to like Dominick, so I was certain this look would impress.

Per court order, I left my cell phone, electronic equipment, newspapers, and sharp instruments in the car. All I carried into the courthouse with me was a copy of Hillary Clinton’s new book “Hard Choices,” so the lawyers would see I was capable of making the tough choices required of a juror.

A couple of people besides me also brought books, but they were cheap paperbacks with metallic embossed titles. One woman lugged a plastic Igloo cooler. I’ve no idea how she got it through security, but I heard her tell the stern court official who wrestled it away that it contained “some ham samiches and a Dr. Pepper.” A very fat man in a pair of denim overalls showed up with a U-shaped airplane pillow wedged around his neck. A young hipster with Elvis-sized sideburns sported a sweat-stained “ill” Phillies fan shirt. An older black woman came with big pink curlers in her hair. These were my rivals.

Following a short informational video, the court clerk began calling names for the day’s prospective jury pool. My name was announced first. And while he claimed it was random selection, I wasn’t fooled. My careful preparations had clearly paid off, I thought to myself, as I strutted past rows of my peers.

We prospective jurors were next escorted downstairs and into a windowless holding room with a big flat screen television mounted to the wall. There was an air of excitement that soon deflated when the court clerk came in and turned on television game shows. Personally, I would have shown old re-runs of “LA Law” or “Perry Mason.”

As we waited the jury pool began to spread out and self-select around interest groups. Cooler lady joined the “talkers” on the right side of the room. “Watchers” moved in front of the television while “sleepers” went to the farthest corner of the room. I joined the few “readers” in the middle of the room, but soon tired of Hillary Clinton’s pontificating about the transatlantic rifts that opened up during the Bush administration, so I began to eavesdrop on the “talkers.”

Over the next two hours, I learned that goats were better than cows and sheep at pasture maintenance and that Aruba was best avoided as a vacation destination because “they’ll kill you.” I heard there would be a beer garden at the State Fair this year and that nobody believed the new reality show called “Married at First Sight” until Cooler lady claimed it happened to her. Seems she sobered up for the first time only on her wedding day.

When three burly policemen escorted two prisoners in handcuffs and jumpsuits right by the open door of our room, everyone got agitated. Was this it? The court clerk came in shortly thereafter and said we were excused for the rest of the day.

Seriously? I hadn’t sat through “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Price is Right” with a bunch of strangers just to be dismissed with the wave of a hand. I confronted the clerk. “Wasn’t there another trial I might be considered for?” “Call in later tonight,” the clerk advised me, eyeing me warily. “We might need you tomorrow.”

Spirits dampened, I headed over to the Georgetown Family Restaurant where Dominick Dunne had lunched every day while he followed the Disney trial. When I asked the waitress to please bring me what Dunne liked for lunch, she just stared at me, slack jawed and silent. I showed her a Los Angeles Times photo of Dunne eating soup in what appeared to be this very same restaurant. Still no response. Outside it began to rain.

I never did get selected for a trial during those two weeks. In hindsight, I’m thinking the Hillary Clinton book might have been a little over the top. So while I cannot report any further about downstate justice, I can recommend a good cup of homemade Lima bean soup if you’re interested.


Summer Storm, Route 16

July 20, 2014

Image 2


10 Years of the Rehoboth Pie Ladies

July 5, 2014

A decade tradition of delivering us pie
A delicious way to celebrate fourth of July.

Pie Ladies with Hoda (July 2014)

Pie Ladies with Hoda
(July 2014)

Delivering the pie (July 2014)

Delivering the pie
(July 2014)

Chaos on Columbia Avenue  (July 2013)

Chaos on Columbia Avenue
(July 2013)

Pie Ladies 2013 spectators
Pie Ladies Pie Stop
Keeping things in order... (July 2013)

Keeping things in order…
(July 2013)

Pie Lady Flotilla  (July 2012)

Pie Lady Flotilla
(July 2012)

Arrival on land (July 2012)

Arrival on land
(July 2012)

Royal delivery (July 2012)

Royal delivery
(July 2012)

Overboard! (July 2012)

(July 2012)

Pie Lady in Lilly (July 2011)

Pie Lady in Lilly
(July 2011)

Thirsty girl! (July 2011)

Thirsty girl!
(July 2011)

Group photo (July 2010)

Group photo
(July 2010)

(July 2011)” width=”450″ height=”366″ class=”size-full wp-image-1623″ /> Demure
(July 2011)[/caption]<a


Arthur Skirts the Delaware Shore

July 4, 2014

A Little Slice of Baltimore

June 27, 2014
Harbor view at sunset

Harbor view at sunset

Rowhouse with formstone siding is classic Baltimore...

Rowhouse with formstone siding is classic Baltimore…

Bacon and chocolate donut tastes vaguely like a Berger cookie...

Bacon and chocolate donut tastes vaguely like a Berger cookie…

Confessional in Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, an old German church founded in 1870s.

Confessional in Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, an old German church founded in 1870s.

Mardi Gras Jesus?  Highlandtown is no longer just a German neighborhood.

Mardi Gras Jesus? Highlandtown is no longer just a German neighborhood.

A classic "shots and beer joint," Baltimore's oldest gay bar dates back to the 1930s, at least.

A classic “shots and beer joint,” Baltimore’s oldest gay bar dates back to the 1930s, at least.


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