Monday, December 17, 2012

My Journey With Brother Spiridon Arkouzis

"We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." James Boswell

That's how my friendship with Brother Spiridon Arkouzis began. We met at a Masonic function at Grand Lodge and spoke about the Craft. As we were departing, Spiros asked me where did I live and I told him that I live in East Elmhurst. He said that he lived in Astoria and he offered me a ride home. This simple act of kindness was to be repeated many, many times over the last dozen years. I don't own a car and I've never been a licensed driver, and I thank God for that. Had I owned a car I would not have had the opportunity to travel with Spiros as often as I did. You see, he and I also belonged to many of the same Masonic bodies particularly the invitational Orders. His car became our private travelling Lodge and the Holland Tunnel was our rabbit hole that took us to the other side where we discovered marvelous things.

We not only spoke about Freemasonry but we discussed other topics like movies, music and the fairer sex. Once, while driving listening to the radio, a song was played, it was Welcome to the Machine by Pink Floyd. Spiros said "I love this song" I asked, "You're into Pink Floyd?" He said yes. Now, if you know the song it starts with the sound of some enormous industrial machine. Spiro asked me did I recognize the sound, I told him no. He proceeded to explain how it was the sound of a particular engine found on certain ships. Needless to say I was quite impressed with his knowledge of ship engines as well as Pink Floyd. We also spoke about films and I remembered our conversation about Stanley Kubrick whose films he enjoyed as much as I did. And, like Kubrick, Spiridon was a very good chess player. He was a loyal, faithful Brother with a great intellect and uncompromising integrity.

One of the most wonderful sounds that I treasure is Spiros' laugh. Yes, Spiro was tough and passionate in conversation but he also had a wonderful sense of humor. Spiro was a Gemini I'm an Aries;
he was air and I'm fire: a great combination. But we were also both very earthy and that made for a very strong friendship and lots of laughs.

Brother Spiridon Arkouzis was called from labor Sunday morning, December 16, 2012. I cried deeply when I received word of his passing. I pray that the Great Architect of the Universe will watch over him, protect him and guide him as he travels to that "undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns." Amen, So Mote It Be.

Photo Courtesy of Brother Jason Sheridan

Clifford Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write
December 17, A.L.6012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Zen and the Art of Steam Ironing

The title of this blog is borrowed from the philosophical novel by Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The title suggests to me how one can experience spirituality while engaged in seemingly mundane tasks. So it is with ironing.

I started ironing my freshman year of high school. I have a brother and two sisters and we all attended Catholic school, which means that we had to wear a shirt and tie to school everyday. For a parent that's a lot of white shirts from the first grade through high school for four children.

As I was to commence my first year at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx my Mom gave me two choices. She said that I could drop off my shirts at the Chinese laundromat and have my shirts cleaned professionally, or I could see to it that they made their way into the laundry bag whereby she would wash them but I would have to iron them. I think I did a combination of both. More often than not I would iron my own shirts. Although my Dad worked for the Post Office, he was professionally trained as a tailor. My Dad could sew like a champion and he did all his work by hand;  he was a master of his craft. It was my Dad who showed me the proper way to iron clothes. I've been using his methodology since 1969.


Let's start with shirts. The first part of the shirt that I iron is the collar. I press the underside of the collar then I turn it over to iron the side that faces outward, careful not to leave creases along the surface. I next move on to the yoke of the shirt, which is the part just beneath the collar that rests on one's shoulders. This is an especially important area as the shoulders usually acquire "shoulder bumps" if it has been on a hanger for quite some time. I find shoulder bumps particularly unsightly and annoying. I move the yoke around the front end of the ironing board first the left then the right shoulder, again avoiding adding creases after all, the whole point of ironing is to remove creases and wrinkles not to make new creases except where you want them to be.

Next come the sleeves. I find that ironing the sleeves first ensures that I don't add wrinkles to the body of the shirt when I move on to the larger sections. If you iron the sleeves after ironing the body of the shirt you may have to go over the shirt a second time. This is easily avoided by working on the sleeves first. When ironing the sleeves care must be taken not to add more than one crease to the sleeve. My second pet peeve is having parallel creases in shirts and pants. One of the things that one should have at the ready is a can of spray starch which adds a crisp look to any shirt or pair of slacks. But I would caution against using spray starch on dark fabrics especially black. (More on this later.) The cuffs of the shirt should be ironed from the inside rolling the iron back and forth so that they remain well-rounded with no creases. This is an option if one likes creases in cuffs then by all means crease them. Perhaps an exception should be made for French cuffs, they look better rounded-off.

The body of the shirt comes next. I start with the side with the buttons and end on the panel with the button holes, taking care to iron the small space between the buttons. This part of the process is pretty straight forward. When you arrive at the back of the shirt there is the pleat that runs down the center. Rather than iron both sides in one step, I iron the sides of the pleat separately, that way the pleat's width is uniform on either side. That's it you're finished.

About black clothing in general: always iron dark clothing inside out. If you don't a sheen will build up and your clothing will appear shiny. If you must press dark clothing right side out, use a pressing cloth which can be made from a large swatch of cotton.


I iron 365 days a year. The process of ironing is second nature as it really should be since I do it so often. When the process is second nature the Zen kicks-in. There's no iron, no ironing board, no steam, no starch just the poetry of movement.

While ironing I review the events of the day before or make mental notes about what I need to do when I arrive at the office. Perhaps I say my morming prayers or rehearse my Masonic ritual which I'm required to memorize. Or I may enjoy a reverie about something pleasant, perhaps a vacation I took long ago or dinner that I recently had with a friend. What's important is that ironing helps me to slow down and be in the moment. It soothes me and gives me time to reflect, that's why it is part of my daily morning ritual. 

The other item that I love to iron is the pocket square or handkerchief that can usually be seen peeking out from the breast pocket of my suit. To iron a perfect pocket square with four points it helps to know a little about the Japanese art of paper folding: Origami. If I can find a way to illustrate the process maybe I'll write a brief article on how to fold a handkerchief with three or four points.

Clifford Jake Jacobs

Have Pen, Will Write

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tuscany Dreams by Stipula

Stipula's newest addition to its Etruria Architectural series, Tuscany Dreams, is a breathtaking writing instrument.

Tuscany Dreams reminds one of the homage paid to the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, which was also issued under the Stipula brand. The Tuscany Dreams is made of black ebonite with red striations. What catches the eye first are the pocket clip and the band, both of which are bronze and finished with a rose gold patina. The pocket clip is a homage to Firenze (Florence) in miniature. The upper portion of the clip is the dome of the Duomo Cathedral in Florence. The lower third of the clip feature Michelangelo's David which terminates with a fleur-de-lis.
The cap band bears the coat of arms of the Medici family as well as bas-relief portraits of Davinci, Michelangelo and Dante. I purchased the cartridge / converter version with a rose colored T-flex titanium nib which writes very smoothly. I knew what ink I was going to fill it with before I even purchased the pen: Noodlers Red-Black, which is a perfect pairing. Noodlers Widowmaker would also be a good choice.

The pen is rather large with some heft, but it is neither bulky nor is it fatiguing to write with for extended periods of time. In size it's comparable to a Montblanc 149. It is a limited edition pen and the one that I own is numbered 35/351. There is also a piston-fill version with 14k rose gold nib which is available at the higher price of $700. The cartridge /converter version sells for approximately $280.  This pen is available for purchase from Art Brown Brothers:

Clifford Jacobs
Have Pen, Will Write

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann c.1920