I Go to the DC Pen Show: the World’s Worst Pen Show Photo Essay

I was just in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC for a week, which means I was in DC during the world famous DC Supershow. Though I was there to see family and friends, I did manage to sneak away to the show for a short time Saturday afternoon.

Like a real blogger, I shall now share my impressions of the show. Huge, and packed.

It was quite an experience. Amazing crowds. Of course I knew that DC was the biggest show. And I’m not a novice: I’ve been to pen shows for years; I help run a big pen show. But the DC Show in person still surprised me.ย Now, I was there only about ninety minutes on a public day, but it was mind-boggling.

I confess, however, that I am a total pen show failure: I took no photos. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me to take photos. I was just trying to experience the show, find people I knew, and take it all in.

But here is a pen show photo that we can pretend was taken in DC:

2016 Chicago Pen Show fountain pens for sale

Look, pens.

So what did I see at the show besides a sea of humanity? I saw people I knew, which was great. And the usual pens, inks, cases and paper. I saw Kanilea, who won an impressive-looking award from the readers of Pen World magazine. They had only a handful of Hanauma Bay pensย left for sale by late Saturday afternoon. Hugh’s going to be busy before San Francisco.

I saw Dan Smith, and he had a tray of Sailor Professional Gear Oceans, which drew many admirers, including me. I also saw a Sailor Professional Gear in a woody sort of finish at the Andersons table, which I also really like. Those were the two I would have bought, if I could have.

My one quest to purchase something ended in failure because neither Vanness nor Dromgoole’s had the new J. Herbin ink. I think I forgot to check at Andersons because I was talking, and I was looking at Sailors. The pens.

Jonathon Brooks continues to make really creative and beautiful urushi pens. His other pens had almost fully sold out by the time I got there. I should have photographed the urushi pens.

Oh, I saw the new metal black-and-silver-stripe Pelikan M805. It was a little … unexciting, perhaps? Another large black-and-silver-stripe Pelikan, except with thinner stripes. It’s business-like, though.

Well, in lieu of the pen photos I didn’t take, how about some vacation snaps? Everyone loves those! (said no one, ever).

So this is a statue in Philadelphia.


I have no idea why I took this. I think the statue is Benjamin Franklin. Honestly, I was standing fairly far away. There was a thin ribbon of shade where I was, and I wasn’t giving up that shade to walk 200 feet in the blazing sun just to read a name on a statue.

Assume it’s Franklin. He’s all over Philadelphia. Along with heat stroke, probably. The temperature while we were there was in the high 80s or low 90s. But at least the humidity was, too.

Ah well, despite its terrible summer weather, Philadelphia is a fun city and I had a great time visiting. Philly gets an A. We saw some historical things. We saw the Liberty Bell — in passing, though a window, because there was a long line for it, in the hot sun.ย I did go into Congress Hall, the home of the US Congress from 1790 to 1800. And I lingered there. The former American History major in me absolutely loved it. Also, it was air-conditioned.

In the 30 hours we spent in Philly, we had dinner with my best friend from grade school, and I had coffee with a wonderful pen pal, who had two pens, which I did not think to photograph for you. And I had a wonderful dinner at a tiny ramen restaurant, which I now think about every day, which is perfectly normal, I’m sure.

I also spent a happy hour in a small museum called the ICA Philadelphia, which had delicious pastries, air-conditioning, and art. My favorite work was an installation by a British artist named Jade Montserrat, hand-drawn in charcoal along a very long, two-story hallway. Here’s a tiny piece of it.

Jade Montserrat installation ICA University of Pennsylvania

And a closeup of an even tinier piece.

Jade Montserrat installation ICA University of Pennsylvania

Then we went to Baltimore, where we had lunch with another old friend, which was lovely. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was very nice. There were no pens to not photograph.

We got to spent more than three days in DC, where we had lunch with one of my closest friends in life, who happened to be there with his family. Such a great time. (Ballpoints only.)

DC is very hot in August, too. Like, eleventy million degrees hot. Like, Philadelphia hot. Although Lisa Vanness told me that it is nothing compared to Arkansas hot. So this trip I realized that I can no longer complain about Chicago weather.

No matter the weather, I always love DC. There’s so much to do, and very nice people and good restaurants. Unfortunately, we ate a lot of vacation food — things like fancy cupcakes from a cupcake store and fancy ice cream from a “milk bar.” I am not exactly complaining. But I now need new pants.

I took one photo in DC. Here it is:

P-Funk Mothershpi

That, of course, is the Mothership, from George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. I was delighted to see this in the Smithsonian’s tremendous National Museum of African American History and Culture. The music wing was joyous. The history wing was wonderful and wrenching. “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

Then we came back home. It was pouring, and had been for hours. The freeway through the city was jammed. Flash flood warnings were going off on all our phones. But it’s always a beautiful sight. Home.

Chicago traffic

17 thoughts on “I Go to the DC Pen Show: the World’s Worst Pen Show Photo Essay

  1. Somehow, whether you’re talking about this overwhelming pen show where you’re just the visitor or the other ones in Chicago where you help organise, I always walk away feeling like it would be so much fun to go, when I’d never considered it before!

    You may not have taken a lot of photos, but of the ones you did take there’s not a bad one in the bunch!. Besides, who wants to waste travel time taking pictures of famous sights? They’ve all been done and done well a thousand times over. Much nicer to experience them and to keep the photos for the unexpected. Like that amazing charcoal mural, that I’m now going to google ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect it’s because DC traditionally empties out in August for the Congressional recess, which makes hotels much cheaper and easier to book. And a lot of people are able to take vacation that first week, with kids out of school and camp. ETA: I’m totally with you on this, though. ๐Ÿ˜€ If I lived there, I’d be in Maine or Colorado or something that week. ๐Ÿ˜€


        1. Honestly, you live in one of my favorite places, and I’d never leave, but yeah, absolutely. DC in early August is just terrible. My kid told me that the Metro’s brakes will sometimes catch on fire, which at first I didn’t believe, but he swears it happens. Then a kid he knows had his car brakes catch on fire the very morning we left. But then, Lisa Vanness said it was nothing compared to Arkansas, sooo. ๐Ÿ˜‚


    1. Oh thank you!

      I wasn’t going to write anything, having no typical content to share. But you’ve all made me glad I did. It’s nice to have a place where we can just be ourselves. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like you had quite the vacation! It has been a very long time since I visited most of the cities you mentioned. The Liberty Bell is seen through a window now? Times have changed.

    Lisa V is right, Arkansas heat is worse. I have been to all the cities you mentioned, except Baltimore. I spent a lot of time exploring the museums in D.C. especially. I am so glad you made it to the pen show. I’m sorry you didn’t find the ink you wanted. You usually post your new acquisitions. You didn’t buy anything? I think I may be in shock. I’d love to see such a big pen show, but it would be a bit overwhelming to see all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I was totally overwhelmed. โ˜บ๏ธ

      I did end up with a pen or three, but technically, that was before the show. One of them is sparkly. I will fess up at a later time.


  3. This is probably the most interesting pen show review I’ve read in years, and it made me start my day with a smile. And that’s always worth a thank you!

    Strangely I was put in mind of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem…

    Ah, air-conditioning, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways I mention thee…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. ๐Ÿ˜€

      And that reminds me of a favorite line of my own: “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, as he tried to walk around the DC Pen Show.

      Liked by 2 people

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