Thursday, June 4, 2015
Searching for Soap
I ran my finger over the shelves at Walgreen’s, finally letting an associate help search through lotions and aftershaves and aerosol cans. Finally, we reached the same conclusion. “I guess we don’t have shaving soap,” she said in wonderment.
Not a problem. I had to go to the Freehold Mall to buy a birthday present for a friend. But Sephora, the slick, pricey cosmetics place my wife had introduced me on to was closed. I walked back to a place called the The Art of Shaving. I chose an after-shave gel for the friend and, hemming and hawing, decided on a cake of sandalwood soap. Getting it home, however, I discovered the three-inch-diameter cake wasn’t going to fit in Dad’s mug. Back I went to claim a credit on my Visa card. Then I zeroed in on a shop that had large, hand-drawn signs saying “SOAP.”
The place, called Lush or something similar, had a friendly clerk who smiled and said “No shaving soap.” Undeterred by the ultra-feminine appearance of this and other boutiques, I wandered in to L’Occitane.”
“Yes,” the chatty lady told me. “In fact, more people are coming to learn the elegance of straight razors and soaps and after-shaves.” And there was a bar of soap — but in a three-inch diameter size that would never fit Dad’s mug. She apologized. “No,” I replied, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m on a fool’s errand.” They were sorry too at Sephora, which had moved downstairs without telling anyone at the mall.
I drove the 20 miles back to Route 70 and parked at Rite Aid, a drugstore whose help always accuses me of having coupons that won’t scan (they do) or who demand my “Wellness Card.” But — hurray!— Rite Aid had shaving soap. One brand, called Van Der Hagen Scented Luxury Shave Soap, for $4.95 (actually made in Texas and a few cents cheaper with a Wellness Card). And, when I got home, I discovered it fit in Dad’s mug!
This isn’t an isolated instance of wondering where my familiar world has disappeared to. Last month, I wanted to record my stories and a few songs for my eight-year-old grandson. My 28-year-old had told me, “Grandpa, just use your phone!” But I couldn’t use my iPhone. It requires some kind of app, and how do you e-mail a disembodied voice to a kid?
I went to Best Buy for a tape recorder. Best Buy’s clerk said hesitantly, “There may be some in back. Go take a look.”
Sorry, but they had none. So, the default was to try Walmart, a store that overwhelms me with strange customers and clerks with blank looks on their face. Walmart makes me think I’ve entered a Stephen King novel. Sorry, three clerks told me in succession. “We haven’t seen tape recorders in years.”
Well, there was always my favorite store, Target, and there — there! — with all the games and odd electronic parts and plastic things to put in your ears was a miniature boombox. It played CDs, cassette tapes and had an AM/FM radio. Best part, it was only $29.95. But at home I discovered there was no condenser microphone. Just a tiny hole for me to insert my mic.
But my mic, which my wife had used to practice her English on the computer, didn’t work. Complaining about the unfairness of life and a world of disappearing media, a friend said nonchalantly, “Here, take my dad’s old Walkman. And here’re half a dozen tapes.” The Walkman was 20 years old, it worked perfectly, and now my eight-year-old goes to sleep at night listening to Grandpa sing “Back in the Saddle Again” and “The Frozen Logger.”
Now, I really need a new phonograph needle to play my old 33’s and 78’s. But stores don’t even sell phonograph turntables anymore. Would they know what a needle is?
at 7:31 AM