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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea

For those of you who are still looking for that special gift which appears thoughtful but is really just an act of desperation, I offer this suggestion: the fountain pen.

I have been fond of fountain pens ever since I had to use them as a child in Switzerland. At that time, we used pens which had some sort of sponge in them. When we ran out of ink, we would have to ask permission from the teacher to refill the pen at the inkwell set into the top of his desk. I can't recall the words we would use to make this request, but in Swiss-German it sounded as if we were clearing our throats noisily. We would then remove the nib and dunk the sponge-like thing into the ink for a few seconds.

I recall one day I was chewing thoughtfully on my pen (I was in third grade at the time), when I had a funny taste in my mouth. It turns out the pen was cracked, and I had been sucking ink into my mouth. My entire mouth was black for a while after that. It tasted disgusting, and I was the source of great amusement for the class that day.

Fountain pens also tend to splatter ink and smudge ink on the paper, and get ink on places one couldn't imagine, but I still like them. In the book The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, there is a character called 'The Senses Taker' who records the details of peoples' lives before taking their senses. He uses a fountain pen, and he looks like this:

That is what I look like after refilling my fountain pen. Illustration by Jules Feiffer.

During my intern year, at hospital in Detroit, I received a $25 gift card from the administration. It was for an upscale department store in Detroit. Rather than buying something for my wife, I searched for something which was less than $25 for a long time, and finally found the one thing in the whole store which I could get for free: a Cross fountain pen.

That was when I started using fountain pens again. Since then, I have expanded my collection, but I still have a Cross pen. I don't have the original pen I bought in 1991 because Cross Pen Company had(maybe still has) a lifetime guarantee for their pens. They will either fix or replace the pen if you send it to them. I have sent the pen in twice, and each time it was replaced by a new pen. On one occasion, they informed me that the pen I had was no longer in stock, so they sent along a suitable replacement.

Here are a few pictures of the pen I have now:

This pen has a medium nib which looks as if it were plated with gold and takes either cartridges or converter( a device which draws ink in from a bottle ). The cap does not screw on, but fits nicely. On occasion, I have had to encourage the ink to start flowing, especially if the pen has not been used for a day or two. I think that is why God gave me a tongue.

This pen looks great, feels great in my hand, and writes very well. The down side for me is that it sometimes needs to be kick started to get the ink to flow, and that I worry about losing the lid. It is not my favorite fountain pen, but it is my first. I shall write about my favorite some other time.

Here is where I buy pens online.


Anonymous said...


dadwithnoisykids said...

This Geek loves you with his whole geeky heart, Carolyn!

MightyMom said...

Merry Christmas!
enjoy your family this week!

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
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Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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