Big thanks to all the advice, photos and tutorials here. I got what was probably the most comfortable shave I've ever had. No nicks, no weepers. Certainly not baby's butt smooth, but I didn't go against the grain. I did do two passes, since I have a pretty tough beard and a few days' stubble. I figured I'd put a few miles on the razor before getting too crazy with smoothness.
Here's what I looked like at the start. Rougishly handsome with that growth, if I do say so myself.
I assembled my accoutrements. Merkur 34c with the Merkur blade it came with. 22mm fan finest badger from The Golden Nib. Proraso soap.
I washed my face in hot water, made some lather and brushed it in. I let that sit on my face for about 5 minutes while I puttered around. How's my lather look, btw? It sure felt nice :)
Then I washed off, made some new lather and lathered up for real.
I know, I look like a 70's porn star. But it's Moustache March, and facial hair pride is on the line.
So thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed having my first real man's shave with me :)