Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Musing on Fountain Pens

Hello again!
I'm parked outside the teensy little market in my home town, writing this with a pencil and paper. I'll type it into the computer when I get home.
Those who know me well are probably surprised that I'm not writing with a fountain pen. The simple truth is, I forgot to bring one with me.
It's hard to describe why I love fountain pens so much, but I'll try.
First of all, I find them aesthetically beautiful. The curve and point of the nib has a lovely artistic quality to it.
Second, they're a fun way for a writer to express his/her uniqueness and eccentricity. Choosing to use a fountain pen is choosing to be different from the way most people write. It makes a statement: "I'm slightly out-of-the-ordinary."
Third, it's a way to retreat back to the basics. In a world of computers and blackberries and laptops and I-Pods and palm pilots, sometimes plain old pen-and-paper is really the best. Simple yet elegant.
Fourth, it's an interesting way to connect with history. Not so long ago, fountain pens were almost the only choice for writing. As I write, I watch how the nib and ink connects with the paper, and wonder how many other thousands of people throughout the years have watched the same thing from the same perspective.

The only regrettable thing is, most fountain pens are expensive. Some are very expensive, and some are very VERY expensive. Yesterday while websurfing I found the site for a store in New York called "Fountain Pen Hospital". I'd seen the store advertised in Pen World International magazine, so I was familiar with the name, but hadn't perused the website before.
Their selection is amazing, and they have some lovely items.
In the Pelikan category, I saw one fountain pen I especially loved, and nearly choked when I noticed that the price was well over two thousand dollars. The pen below that was over three thousand dollars. I've seen pens in Pen World International that are over TWELVE thousand dollars. Yes, $12,000.00-- for ONE pen.
Needless to say, all I can afford are the super-cheapo ones on E-bay and various discount sites. Some cheap "no-name" brands can be found on E-Bay for less than five bucks, though I realize you get what you pay for. As far as "real" brands, I do have a few versions of the Waterman Phileas (red marble, gray marble, green marble, blue marble, and plain black), which are usually about $20-$35 each. I also have two Lamy Safaris, which tend to run about $18-$30. This is big bucks for me, but it's small potatoes to a real "serious" collector, one who can actually afford to be dropping multiple hundreds of dollars for one pen. I wish I could afford to indulge fully in such a hobby, but even the inexpensive collection I have is a guilty pleasure.
It's hard to explain all this to someone who doesn't quite understand why fountain pens are so special. Sometimes I hear things like "Why pay twenty bucks for one pen when you can buy a whole package of ten ballpoints for a dollar??!" Well, I appreciate the math lesson, but there's a certain special-ness and class that cheap ballpoints just don't have.
Imagine that you have a particular fondness for steak. Juicy, delicious, charbroiled steak, done just the way you like it, sizzling and mouthwatering. Now imagine someone saying "Why pay $10-$20 for a steak when McDonalds has cheeseburgers for 99 cents?" Well, sure, I love McDonalds (Just look at my hips), but when one is in the mood for steak, a cheapo burger is not gonna cut it.
Imagine that you love Starbucks Coffee, or some other hideously overpriced beverage. What if somebody says "Why pay that much for a cup of coffee when you can drink your tap water for FREE?" If you're craving premium coffee, it's simply unthinkable to substitute it for a nasty glass of diluted rust or chlorine (depending on where you live).
So I completely understand why someone would agree to pay more for fountain pens than for other writing implements. However, at the same time I must say that $12,000.00 is a bit of overkill.
I'm left wondering, if I was a millionaire, would I pay that much for a fountain pen?
The scary thing is, I probably would.


Christine said...

The Parker Snake...
going on ebay at a cool $3600.

Christine said...

So, what does the $12,000 one look like?

Janna said...

Christine: The $12,000 one was a limited edition "magnum-size" tribute to the WrightBrothers and their contribution to aviation history. It was hand-painted with portraits of the two men, plus scenes of airplanes throughout the years, then lacquered to a nice gloss finish. Plus, displayed in the copper/silver metalwork was a teensy bit of wing fabric from the original plane the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk.
It was magnificent! :)

Morgen said...

I KNEW you'd have a pen-porn post sooner or later!!!
And "a little weird"
ha ha ha ha aha hahhaha ha ha
I think I peed myself a little
ha ha hah hahaha haha ah ah


Morgen said...

oh, I'm sorry: the correct terminology was
"out of the ordinary"
somehow my mind translated that into "a little weird"

you know I love ya

ha ha ha ahsaahhh ha ha hah ha