Chamblee54

Oldest Living Disposable Razor Tells All

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on November 30, 2010






The other day was the 150th anniversary of the first picture of Abraham Lincoln with a beard. The New York Times thought that this was news that matters. Apparently, the Lincoln Regime was the start of an era of bearded politicians. This was an era before disposable razors, when shaving meant a trip to the barber shop.

The Times article links to an essay by Allan Gurganus ( two L’s, tow a’s) about a visit to the Shiloh battlefield. (Apparently, Mr. Gurganus has a beard ) It seems his great grandfathers had fought there, one for the union and one for the rebels. The essay has little about Lincoln, or beards, except for unflattering comparisons to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Abe Lincoln did not dye his hair.

“Consider our recent actor of a President. One study found that during his eighth and last year in office, his most often repeated sentences were ‘Nobody told me’ and ‘I don’t remember’. Chuckling, he left mere telling and remembering (any leader’s holiest function) to unworthy others. And, how popular he was! Friends, if memory serves, I think we have lost something. We have become a nation of amnesiacs, frequent flyers bent on endlessly upgrading to first class. Lincoln remembers. And therefore is remembered: Picasso owned a large collection of Lincolnalia and told Gertrude Stein that Lincoln was ‘le Quixote USA’. Marilyn Monroe pronounced Lincoln ‘the sexiest man in American history’ and claimed she married Arthur Miller because of his Lincolnly length and raw-boned face. “

These observations were made nearly twenty years ago. It can be assumed that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are not improvements. And all three are clean shaven, even if some say that Laura Bush was a beard.

PG has read two books by Mr. Gurganus, who was the BFF of the late Doug Marlette. At roughly the same time as the Shiloh visit, PG made it through 800 pages of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All: A Novel. At the time, he was riding the train downtown to a job with lots of free time. There was time to slowly read a long story, and contemplate the details. At about page 500, the TV miniseries came on, which cast another light on the tale.

A central character in this story is Castalia, who was the cook for Veteran Will Marsden ( played by Donald Sutherland in the tv show). Cicely Tyson played Castalia, who went from slave to employee. She was not fond of the lady Mr. Marsden married.

As it turns out, Castalia is a small town in North Carolina. Another Castalia story is in today’s Kikoshouse. This tales involves Timothy Leary and Hermann Hesse.
“Out of its ashes rose Leary’s next ego trip, an organization called Castalia that was to set up shop on a tropical island a la Huxley’s Island, a utopian counterpoint to Brave New World where a drug he called soma was used for enlightenment…The name Castalia came from Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game. The IFIF crowd was convinced that the German author was a psychedelic adept from an earlier age who had succeeded where Huxley had failed in that his books were accounts of the internal drama of the psyche.”
The other book by Mr. Gurganus to pass before PG’s eyes is Plays Well with Others. Like the essay about the Shiloh battlefield, PWWO starts off strong and draggggs. This may be because of the subject.

PWWO is the story of a young man who moves to New York, seeking fame, fortune, and good times. He falls in with an artsy crowd, and seems to be doing well. Then AIDS appears, and takes out his friends, one after the other. While writing this book was probably a good way for Mr. Gurganus to put this horrific experience behind him, it is not always worth the effort it takes to read.

One of the themes of PWWO is the pineapple, a symbol of hospitality. One of the fallen friends had a four poster bed, with a pineapple carved on top of the four posts. It was said to be a hospitable place. While PG was reading this book, he drove past a crackhouse/hotel every day. One day, he noticed a drawing of a pineapple in the hotel’s sign.

Pictures for this journey are from The Library of Congress.




One Response

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  1. Allan Gurganus | Chamblee54 said, on August 31, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    […] DBF appearance, Mr. Gurganus read a story from Local Souls. Part of the Gurganus legend is his two grandfathers fighting on opposite sides at the battle of Shiloh. He sticks by his story that one grandfather […]


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