What was the pen that got me hooked? Interesting question and a fun trip down memory lane. You have time, right?
It is really hard to appreciate what follows unless you now what came before, join me in following Alice down the rat-hole. Reminiscing about growing up in the 70’s wouldn’t be complete without a brief discussion on Bic Cristal disposable pens. I don’t know about you but I went through these by the hundreds and the first thing I always did was remove the “plug” in the end of the pen and chewed it up. I have no idea why plus I would also chew on the cap clip. The Institute for the Psychology of Eating says chewing on stuff is a “natural outlet for inborn aggression.” Or there is a psychological disorder characterized by an appetite for stuff that is non-nutritive. Or Sigmund Freud blames this type of inclination on being bottle fed as a baby. My guess is just a kid doing dumb stuff. If I was lucky the pen cap would last a month before it was lost, regardless I’d carry the pen in my back-pocket. Invariably writing on my jeans and who could forget the phrase “my pen exploded.” This was particularly bad because the ink was thick and sticky. I remember how hard I had to press the pen to the paper in order to write with it, the ink tended to blob (too thick to pool so you got blobs) and smear, plus the ink gave off an odd odor when you were writing. Hence the origin of writer’s cramps, I guess I should thank Bic for my horrible handwriting. Only teachers got to use a Bic in colors other than black or blue. Yup my tests and papers where grading using red ink, it was clear which answers were wrong and ya know I didn’t grow up too maladjusted. Wait I am writing a blog about pens ….. oh and one more thing, did you know that the Bic Cristal pen is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
On with the topic at hand, the first pen that I can recall having a real appreciation for was a Cross Chrome 3501. I was just a kid in middle school and the pen was a gift. I was thrilled to own something other than a disposable Bic. It was an attractive pen, felt good in my hand and it wrote smoothly. No ink blobs, no smears and the ink didn’t smell. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the pen for long. One day in science class some punk stole it and the teacher didn’t want to cause a scene…. times haven’t changes much from the late 70’s – have they?
Fast forward to 2007 and a business trip to Hong Kong. I was shopping for gifts and through a jewelry store window I spied a display case of Montblanc fountain pens. A Meisterstuck (German for “Masterpiece”) caught my attention, so in I went for a closer look. It was a big pen, a thing of beauty, black with gold trim, very elegant and it had weight to it – felt like it was of substance. As my father and his father before him would say, it’s not good unless it was “battleship built” and this pen was that. I had to have it. After some haggling I got the pen for $20 FYI, this is the most counterfeited pen of all time and I am in Hong Kong. It turned out the pen wrote well but it had a medium nib and with the prevalence of poor quality paper, I wasn’t happy. You see with cheap paper, medium nibs apply too much ink, which bleeds across the paper and through the paper so a fine or even an extra-fine nib are best. The search continued.
Months later I stumbled across a Waterman Philéas and it was love at first sight or maybe it was just infatuation. The pen is named after the character Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days by the French novelist Jules Verne . The pen sported a popular 1930’s Art Deco style in appearance. Keep in mind it was an intro level pen, made of plastic and not nearly as large or as heavy as the Meisterstuck but the barrel had roughly the same girth. This pen was surprisingly inexpensive so I bought one with a fine nib which wrote well so I was inclined to buy a second one. This time in green with a medium nib. Cant say I enjoy pens with wide girth’s, something about “fat” pens doesn’t feel right to me, probably because I have short stubby fat fingers (that’s way too many adjectives). Anyway, as expected the love affair didn’t last.
In short order I stumbled upon the pen I would use for over a decade. I was on eBay and on a whim did a search for Waterman fountain pens, I found a green marbled Hemisphere. I placed a bid and won the auction, it wasn’t particularly expensive so my hopes were not high. But unlike the Philéas which is plastic, the Hemisphere is metal and very thin, about the same size as that dreaded disposable Bic, to me this is not a bad thing. I really enjoyed the feel of this pen, it wasn’t bulky, it was a bit slippery because of the finish but I liked how it felt and how it wrote. Mechanically, the ink is supplied via a converter or ink cartridges (like the Meisterstuck and the Phileas). I soon placed an order for waterman green ink cartridges to supplement my bottle of black Quink and writing bliss ensued.
This Hemisphere was the pen I’d been searching for. I was so impressed by the pen I bought a second one. This pen was equipped with a medium nib to provide options when writing but otherwise I stopped looking at pens. Reviews of the Hemisphere are usually anything but good, nearly all bash it because the style is minimalist, even boring yet review after review declared that the pen writes flawlessly and that it is “strangely endearing.” I don’t consider it a guilty pleasure, I now have three Hemispheres, all in the green marble motif and one is a ball point.
The story continues on “Why, You Might Ask?”