13 January 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 1

The "Eleven in '11" series is all about those favorite things we all have. Be they things small or large, simple or expensive, important or humble. Whether they're things bound or fitted, wrapped in steel or a pashmina, living and breathing or centuries still. If it's a favorite thing, we can't help it (and we don't care) if it means nothing to someone else. It's a you thing and it's a me thing when it comes to the Eleven in '11. It's personal and subjective, and darn it, we can't live without these things (or, perhaps it's a thing we'd like to have).
I'll share eleven of mine over the next era, epoch, or eon (however long it takes, there will be eleven entries from yours truly), and just as important, I look forward to hearing about yours! Our respective Eleven in '11 are coeval and equal herein the pages of the ole porkster.
So, here goes:
No. 1.
fountain pens.
Love 'em since high school when mom (lovely mom) gave me my first one. Here are some of the good or more popular ones that I have:
There is something about fountain pens that hearkens back to a time when men wrote their letters to the women ("er, woman, Jg. You mean woman.") they loved; and young women at college wrote their betters, that is to say, the parents left behind in that one-horse town, who expected and received a beautifully crafted missive with nary a misspelling ... and both sexes drafted these fine documents via a writing instrument containing a gold nib and an ample ink reservoir, aka, the fountain pen.
Some mistakenly think that fountain pens are snobbish, and that those with a nice Montblanc in their pocket must be putting on airs. Not so! (Doth he protest too much? He doth.) Or, perhaps that's true for some, but you'll know in an instant when that cap twists off, and the pen is brought into service, if a dandy is prancing around before you with an affectation instead of a real pen. Have I ever played the dancing fool? Perhaps, but that would have been decades ago. Now, they're simply utilitarian. I like 'em well made, inexpensive, with plenty of elan. The old American pens (Parker, Cross, Sheaffer) are work horses, though most are now made in China. The Japanese pens (Sailor, Nimiki) have great nibs and the companies give great service. The German (Lamy, Montblanc, Pelikan) pens last a lifetime and are about function (think Mies Van Der Rohe and "form follows function"). The Italian and French pens are beautiful (Waterman, Dupont, Montegrappa, Aurora) and can be expensive.
But the folks (humble salt of the earth types, reared up here in Shropshire) that I spy with my wicked little eye carrying these badboys around in their jacket pockets tend to be academic or writerly or engineers. Nothing like indelible ink hitting a blank page -- a tabula rasa for dreaming or scheming -- a fresh surface to give birth to some wonderful idea that could change the world, or a funny joke that'll make audience members change their shorts. A man or woman with a fountain pen knows no bounds. They are merciless in crafting their prose or laying out architectural fenestration or editing some lucky bloke's latest opus.
Of course, you must have a decent journal to go with your pen. I carry mine everywhere I go to capture an idea for business, or note taking at church, or remembering a thought on a potential article, or suggesting a new direction on a screenplay I might be working on. Pen and journal especially come in handy when you hear GREAT dialog next to you flowing freely for all to hear at a restaurant or The Coffee Bean or your kid's school.

These pens can be very expense, that is to say, upwards of a $1,000 or more (There are some ridiculous examples with even higher price tags, but let's focus on an actual pen that we might like to have or use.), but most decent fountain pens can be had from $100 to $300 American.
And, did I mention they make great gifts? I've given these as gifts over the years to at least a dozen friends or more, and they do make an impression. I received one after high school, college, and law school graduation, and I still have all three and know who gave them to me. And some day, my kids already know this, when they get to high school, they can have any one or two of mine.
Up next?
No. 2.



Char said...

it was always a rite of passage in my family to get a set of cross pens upon high school graduation and i find myself now giving them to young people. i think it sets a tone for them - beginning their life of either learning or moving on to a business setting. i still have my battered gold one presented by my father's best friend to me. he's gone but the pen remains a treasured gift. these were not fountain pens, but i can see some commonality there, the way i feel when i use a "nice pen".

Julia Christie said...

Interesting that I have been thinking often lately that I need a penpal that would like to exchange actual handwritten letters...something I love to do, that I yearn to do, the anticipation of getting a handwritten letter in the mail from a good friend is wonderful to me, settling in with a hot cuppa coffee and my letter in my hand, reading and re-reading it.

It has been years since I have written with a decent fountain pen...perhaps my time has come ~

Caleb S. Garcia said...

I have been a recipient, I bare witness. I really hope you didn't 100 bucks though. Wow you sure know a lot about pens. I also carry a pen and notebook around, nothing fancy, just cheap and simple. Maybe its time I graduate.

Barbara said...

I think pens may be a guy thing, something like watches. (I bet watches will be in your "11"!) This will be fun to read, J.G. Books would be at the top of my 11. I'll have to give some thought to the other 10.
Looking forward to your all time favorite book list.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Long ago & far away at the age of 18 & while my peers went off to college, I was a co-owner in a stationery store. Cross pens, & Faber-Castell, Shaeffer fountain pens were indeed popular as graduation gifts. It like handing over the keys to the car; a magnificent pen set was much like a right of passage. There is something incredibly romantic and unique about penning your thoughts with a gorgeous pen. Sets the tone much like beautiful set-design, no?

Great series Jg; you are a fascinating man!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Char -- the ole Cross gold pen. just found my mom's in her desk. teeth marks and all. i like your phrase, "nice pen." that's it exactly.

Julia -- 84 Charing Cross Road was a great film with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. They wrote letters to each other over many years. Such a great thing to get a letter. Maybe we should start a new fad by having a dozen or so bloggers go "analog" and write a letter that we then scan on to each other's blogs? might be nice.

Caleb -- you did receive one of my faves, the Retro51 rollerball. You and Danae for high school and college graduations!

DT -- what to say, but JEALOUS. a store owner at 18. dang girl! i dated a wonderful girl in college whose family owned a hotel and she ran the stationary store in the lobby. she gave me a great pen, but, you always pay the nicest compliments!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Barb -- how'd you slip by? yes, a guy thing for sure. love watches, but don't have the coin to collect many of those. but, they are, you are spot-on, men's jewelry: the watch. the pen. the cuff links. the big, giant gold chain with my lady-friend's measurements in the form of a giant diamond-encrusted medallion visible b/c 3 shirt buttons are undone.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Jg..
when i was 10 or so.. I had a favourite Sheaffer... and having forgotten to take it to school on the day of my writing exam.. my mum drove all the way there to give it to me.. The pen is long lost.. but the act of motherly love not.. and I often remember that day whenever I pick up or see a beautiful pen.. I had quite an obsession with them at one stage.. I also have a Cross that was gifted for 10 years employment at a bank I worked for many moons ago... that one is sitting on my desk right now.. Always make me laugh... 10 bloody long years.. weekends.. 80 hr weeks.. but I have the pen to prove it.. haha

Have a great weekend.. look forward to the book segment.. ciao xxx Julie

Thanks for the comment on the flooding.. it is still quite hard to believe.. in with what seems like 24hr news coverage... so sad for those affected.. it will take years to recover..

Shelley said...

OK, I'm hooked. I love fountain pens and books - and lists. Count me in. By the way - I recently encountered your word and was ever so pleased to recognise it. Thank you for making the introduction.

Emm said...

Ooo, this is a cool meme. Well, itis not really a meme but it would be nice to list 11 things I love. My laptop would normally be number one but it is trying to lay down and die at the moment and certainly not playing nicely.

I love pens and stationery too. Not fountains pens but I do like Waterman pens.

christian soldier said...

forgot about my Cross gold pen--think I know where it is!! Thank you all!!
Does Cross still make refills for them-mine is not a fountain pen--

I too-carry a journal/ sketchbook w/ pen everywhere-in fact- have gotten to the point where I carry a small one in my purse and have one in the back seat and one in the trunk--OK and one in the hay barn so that I can draw my horse on occasion...

Toad said...

In a time not so distant all children in US Catholic grade schools were taught penmanship with a fountain pen. It was hell for lefties.

Fifty years later I still use 3 Lamy Safari fountain pens. One black ink, one blue, one green. They provide such a wonderful feel.