I’m not a shopper, online or otherwise. Yet I voluntarily walked into a mall yesterday to find an Abercrombie & Fitch store to get these new Field Notes.
And it was worth it. Je ne regrette rien.
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musing about fountain pens, inks and the like
I bought a Lamy Dialog 3 in Piano White with fine nib recently, after I saw it on sale at a great price. I’d always wanted this pen, because it looks so cool, but I worried it would be too heavy for me. Well, it is heavy, but it’s still awesome. I love the Lamy Dialog 3.
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It being Black Friday weekend, and the kickoff of the holiday buying season, there are a lot of new pens floating around social media. Pen makers and dealers are posting them, your friends are posting them, and every Instagram account or fountain pen forum has people posting them.
As this time is upon us, I shall now put on my “Ms. Fountain Pen Manners” hat. This is how a person with good manners responds to someone’s vile new pen they absolutely hate, or someone’s attractive new pen that comes in a box they don’t like, or whatever tricky situation arises.
1. A new pen arrives in dealers’ hands and hits Instagram. The color repels you; the material is garish. It’s awful. But your friends go gaga for it.
You want to say, “What’s wrong with you?! Are you high? That is molten aqua/orange/violet nightmare-fuel.”
Readers, that’s probably a tad harsh. Instead, try to dial it back, with the non-committal “Wow.” Or, the honest “Colorful!” Or, the trying-to-be-positive “I love the rhodium trim.” Or, if you think you can get away with it, “Bless its heart.” The latter is a favorite of Ms. Fountain Pen Manners, because Ms Fountain Pen Manners delights in throwing shade.
2. A company issues a pink pen, in a tacky box, targeted at women. You, being a person who hates pink, is of obviously superior intelligence and thus has appointed herself the Queen of What Every Other Person Should Like, object to the pink pen’s existence.
You feel you have to say, “This pen demeans and insults women. Why do companies think women like pink? It’s an outrage.”
Readers, this situation is one step more difficult. Because, first, you have to get your head out of your ass. Only then can you trot out the “Wow.” Or, “Colorful!” Or even, “Bless its heart.” Or, if you absolutely must register your objection to a pen that is pink, try something honest but respectful, like, “I’m not a fan of pink, myself, but it’s nice to see something different.”
See how easy that is.
3. Someone you know, perhaps Ms. Fountain Pen Manners herself, has bought two gorgeous pens, but both are white.
You want to say, “What’s wrong with you? You know they make pens in colors now, right? Why two white pens? Do you have two favorite white inks?”
Readers, this appears challenging, but it’s actually pretty easy. No, you can’t go with “wow” or “colorful” here. But try, “How refreshing.” Or, “You don’t see that every day.” Or, “So useful: that would work with any ink color.” Turn a negative into a positive; that’s the essence of good fountain pen manners.
4. Everyone you know hates the Lamy Safari, and loves saying so, over and over. Online, in blog comments, in personal emails, in texts, and right to your face in personal conversations.
You just want to say, “Oh shove it up your patootey.”
Well, readers, I’ve considered that fully, over the course of many long years. And I have finally reached a ruling. It is okay, in this one situation. Alternatively, you could go with, “You are wrong, and your taste is bad.” Either would be perfectly appropriate.
Gather round, folks, for a Thanksgiving story. It does not involve Pilgrims, or Native Americans or Abraham Lincoln. Nor does it directly involve fountain pens. But it relates to the latter, in a roundabout way. Also, it’s vegetarian, which is unusual for Thanksgiving.
I warn you, however: this is a dull story. But there is a wedding, some pie, and a happy ending. So I’d only need to tweak a few things to have a great screenplay. And if you soldier on to the end, I will play a completely unrelated song I like.
Today is Thanksgiving, and I’ve been planning and cooking much of the week, because there’s a lot of food to make, and it’s more enjoyable this way. Also necessary. For instance, I happen to have a pie crust recipe that is fantastic but which takes two days to reach perfect flakiness. (While I am instantly flaky. Puzzling that a pie crust is more work than a person.)
As I was doing Thanksgiving things, I was reminded of last Thanksgiving. When a little plastic piece popped off my Cuisinart food processor, right in the midst of apple-slicing or cranberry chopping or some other crucial task. This was a little plastic tab that held the cover on the bowl of the Cuisinart. Without it, the Cuisinart would not work. So this was a dramatic development.
Daughter of pioneers that I am, I duct-taped that sucker together and sped onward to culinary triumph and gustatory delight. But after Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what to do.
Our Cuisinart was a classic. Literally: the Cuisinart Classic. It was a much-appreciated wedding present, and has proved itself a stalwart machine and faithful kitchen helper. We’d named it (“the Cuisi”). And it never cut off anyone’s fingers. Last Thanksgiving was the first problem we’d had with it in more than 23 years.
My attachment to the Cuisi is, therefore, equal parts practical and sentimental. It didn’t cut off my fingers, and it had been a wedding present. We’d used it a lot. We’d moved with it into three homes. It was older than our kids. We’d grown accustomed to its face.
Also, I have the typical old person’s conviction that anything from my time is just better than anything available today. (Rationally, this is irrational. But it’s something everyone comes to believe.) “Sure this PS4 is snazzy, but back when I was a kid, we had Pong and then Atari, and those were really something. We didn’t need fancy graphics. We used our imaginations.”
Still, even putting delusions of the good old days aside, this was an objectively excellent food processor, and I did not want to replace it. So I looked at the Cuisinart website for a replacement bowl. I wasn’t sure what would fit. I wasn’t sure if I could get by with just the bowl or needed to spring for the whole bowl-cover-sleeve setup, at which point, maybe it would be cheaper to just buy a new Cuisinart. So I called Cuisinart to ask.
And first, how great for a company, in this day and age, to have a customer service number you can call, with people on staff to answer questions?
I talked to a very nice person who understood exactly what had happened to the little tab. She told me they did have a new bowl that would fit, but she added, “But your current cover and pusher sleeve won’t fit on that, because we’ve redesigned the whole thing for safety.”
Ugh. I began to silently rue my fate: safety always means expense. But I didn’t even have time to venture anything like, “I can make do. I’m not that attached to my hands.” No, she continued, it was okay. They would send me the new cover and pusher sleeve for free. It was Cuisinart that had redesigned these parts, so that was their policy.
And how great is that?
She took my order for the bowl, added the cover and pusher sleeve, and had it mailed to me immediately. At which point I had a mostly new Cuisi for Christmas cooking and all the days of our lives, once again. Which I remember happily every time I use the Cuisi. Including right now, as I cook Thanksgiving and carefully watch my fingers — which I don’t even need to worry about any more, probably, because of the enhanced safety of that excellent new bowl.
And ever since, when I have had to buy a new small appliance, I buy a Cuisinart. New coffee maker. New hand blender slash new-finger-chopper. All Cuisinart. And I will continue. Not just because they make very good machines. But because you can call a person, get help, and buy replacement parts — even for a machine that’s more than two decades old. Because they provide excellent customer service. Because they build things to last.
And that’s where fountain pens come in, in a roundabout way.
We are all different, with different budgets and needs, and we all occasionally succumb to impulse purchases. But I’ll tell you an adage we old people have learned the hard way: buy quality, buy once; buy cheap, buy twice. In the long run, that’s good for your budget and probably for the planet.
So along those lines, here is my personal opinions of four pen brands that in my experience have excellent quality, but also have provided me with the very best service and response if there’s ever been an issue with a pen. Edison, Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan.
Now, thank you for listening to my Thanksgiving story, and for reading this entire year. Happy Thanksgiving, America. Here is something good:
Resolution is the title of the Field Notes Winter 2017 quarterly edition, and it consists of one notebook formatted as a Date Book and two formatted as Checklist Journals, with a separate calendar page. The color scheme is bright: red, white and cyan blue. Field Notes quarterly subscribers also get a bonus Tenth Anniversary Edition — on the right, above.
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This year I went to Ohio not to hang out or shop but to work at our Chicago Pen Show table, selling a large number of pens from an estate. It was busy, and I was basically stuck there, so I didn’t shop at all. But it’s like working at a candy store. I ended up buying two of the pens at our table, both Parkers.
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Pelikan M605 White Transparent with medium nib. My new pen and my almost new ink. A winter white pen with a blueish gray ink.
This M605 has palladium trim and a rhodinized nib. The ink has beautiful shading and a quiet, lovely, almost zen-garden, feeling.
The pen barrel is made of transparent clear plastic with translucent white stripes. The stripes are both a fig leaf and a nod to Pelikan traditional design, but except for the stripes, the ink is fully visible in the transparent barrel.
People will have different feelings about that. I’m a demonstrator fan, and I would rush to buy an M605 clear demonstrator pen, should one ever be produced. But many people don’t like Pelikan demonstrators because ink will get trapped in places usually hidden under the section.
This M605 White Transparent is a nice compromise: you only see the ink in the barrel, which will come clean when you flush the pen.
But you do see the ink in the barrel.
And if you really, really love white, that may bother you. If so, a white converter pen is a better idea.
I don’t love white, so I’m good with it.
But you know what I really do love? Look at that photo, at the part of the barrel that’s filled with ink. You can see an oval that looks golden, in the upper part, near the section. That’s the sun, glinting through a tiny bubble where there’s no ink.
It took a while, but my new Pelikan M605 White Transparent finally arrived, and it’s gorgeous. If you’ve been hesitating, it’s safe to come out now. Maybe not safe for your wallet, however.
I had been very unsure about ordering this one. Why? Mostly because it was white. But then, even after I took a chance and pre-ordered it, I was nervous: I saw some Instagram posts of the pen that didn’t wow me, honestly.
But, in person, it’s a total “wow.” The transparent part with white stripes looks neat, and the rhodinized trim cools off the warmer white plastic used on the rest of the pen. The combination of warm and cool materials keeps the pen from looking either syrupy or stark. It’s really kind of dazzling.
The cap, section and piston knob are made of the same off-white as on the M605 Pink and the M600 and M400 White Tortoise models, but the effect is different with the different color trim. Here are all three of mine, the two M600-size pens and the M400 White Tortoise.
I love them all, but I prefer silver-color trim, and so the M605 White Transparent is icily perfect for me. It’s also the only one of the three that looks sleek. Even, perhaps, a little contemporary.
All of the trim is palladium-coated, and the nib is rhodinized, like the M605 Marine Blue.
The internals are white, which means, as you can see from these photos, that the piston mechanism is nicely unobtrusive. But because the ink chamber/pen body is transparent, when you ink up the pen, you will see the ink inside. Here’s the obligatory “before” closeup.
I inked up the M605 White right afterwards. I’ll post some photos of the pen filled with ink tomorrow.