This was originally posted in mid-April 2021. In honor of the blogiversary last week, it is “remastered” and ready for a new audience.
What was the pen that got me hooked? That is an interesting question and a fun trip down memory lane. You have time…right?
Every story has a beginning and mine began as a preteen growing up in the 70s. No story about the 70s would be complete without a mention of Bic Cristal pens. I don’t know about you but I went through these by the hundreds. The first thing I always did was remove the “plug” or end cap from the end of the pen and chewed it up. I have no idea why. Once the end cap was gone next came the cap. Then lastly, the barrel itself.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating (really there is such a place) says chewing on stuff is a “natural outlet for inborn aggression.” Or maybe there could be 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.
The pen cap was lost within a month and I always carried the pen in my back pocket. Invariably writing on my jeans and who could forget the phrase “my pen exploded.” The ink was thick and sticky. You never heard anyone say the Bic glided across the paper. I had to press the pen to the paper in order to write with it, the ink tended to blob (too thick to the pool so you got blobs) and smear and the ink gave off an odd odor.
Bic Cristal, aka the origin of writer’s cramp, is credited as the reason for my horrible handwriting. Only teachers got to use a Bic with ink other than black or blue. Yup, my tests and papers were graded using a Bic with red ink, it was clear which answers were wrong and ya know I didn’t grow up too maladjusted. Wait I author 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 and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris?
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, with 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 changed much from the late 70s have they?
Fast forward to 2007 while on a business trip to Hong Kong. I peered through a jewelry store window and spied a display case of Montblanc fountain pens. A Meisterstuck caught my attention, so 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 – a pen 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.
After some haggling, I got the pen for $20. Yes I know this is the most counterfeited pen of all time, I harbor no delusions about its authenticity. It turned out the pen wrote well, but it had a medium nib, and I wasn’t happy with the prevalence of poor-quality paper. 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. The pen is styled after 1930s Art Deco. Keep in mind it is an intro-level pen, made of plastic and not nearly as large or as heavy as the HK Meisterstuck, but the barrel had roughly the same girth. This pen was surprisingly inexpensive so I bought one with a fine nib and a second with a medium nib. Can’t say I enjoy pens with wide girths, something about “fluffy” pens that doesn’t feel right to me because I have short stubby fat fingers. 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. Unlike the Philéas, the Hemisphere is brass and very thin, about the same size as that dreaded Bic, to me, this is not a bad thing. I really enjoyed the feel of this pen, it wasn’t bulky, and it was a bit slippery because of the finish but I liked how it felt and how it wrote. I soon ordered 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 I bought a second one, a medium nib, and a ballpoint model. 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 is “strangely endearing.”
The story continues on “Why, You Might Ask?”
And, what pen got you hooked?COPYRIGHT © 2021-2023 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.