• Remembering My Friend Neil Miller


    Neil Miller's death leaves an empty spot in my life.

    Emerson said, "A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature." How true as I look back on my long distant friendship with Neil.

    Emerson also said, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." That, too, was a blessing, for Neil made it possible for me by extending his hand in friendship.

    The death of a friend is always hard. That he was an artist and a master craftsman makes it even harder. And so it is for me with the death of Neil.

    In talking about his colorful life, he once told me that in most things there is no simple answer. Yet the one answer of which he was sure was seeing the hand of man in human works, as he put it.

    That was obvious in the glorious strop he made. I liked the way his shell cordovan hugged my blade like a blanket of silk. His strop also had an intoxicating effect on my daily stropping, because my strokes often went way beyond what was necessary for a good tuning on my razor. That the strop also was a work of art by a true craftsman made it even more special.

    There was more to Neil Miller the man than just his strops. It was his love of life as an artist that made him an exceptional human being. It was his hunger to learn and to do as many different things as life allowed. "I suppose the chief thing is that I have never felt bound to do any one thing," he told me.

    Here at Straight Razor Place, we knew him for his vast knowledge of the straight razor world. He readily shared it with us. At the same time, Neil was outspoken enough to refute bloated comments and inaccurate statements, often countering them with "Rubbish."

    Neil's humor was pure British, framed in his distinctly acerbic tone. In some way, he reminded me of the great British orchestra conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Sir Thomas, also known for his acerbic tongue, once said to a trombonist who was frustrating him during rehearsals, "Are you producing as much sound as possible from that quaint and antique drainage system which you are applying to your face?"

    That was Neil Miller.

    My friend Neil did a lot of things in his life. Held a lot of careers. He said there were many other things he would like to have done. "But to be frank," he added, "one lifetime isn't nearly long enough."

    Neilís passing reminds me of the line in Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot: "Sadness flies on the wings of the morning and out of the heart of darkness comes the light."

    That light will always be with me. God bless, my dear friend, and rest in peace. Knowing you, though, you're already cutting the leather.