Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Levenger's True Writers

When I first saw the True Writer fountain pens in Levenger's catalogue many months ago, I scoffed - yes, I scoffed. I did not imagine that these "Johnny-come-lately" fountain pens could be any good. How could they possibly compare to those who only make fountain pens and have been doing so for decades? However, since purchasing my first fireball red demonstrator a couple of months ago, I have become a True Writer sycophant - O.K. that's extreme but once you write with these, it is diffcult to let go of them. Now I have four True Writers featuring all of the different nib sizes that Levenger offers. Everyone of them writes as well as pens that cost two or three times the price. True Writers are very wet writers and their nib size produces a line that is broader than you expect - much like a Cross - the fine writes like a medium and the medium like a broad and the broad nib is like writing with a stub, and all of them are deliciously smooth. Levenger's ink colors are intense and offer you the option to have a pen body that is the same color as the ink it contains - a very nice option once you have more pens that you can easily keep track of. The cobalt blue is particularly brilliant and I was thrilled to discover it before it was discontinued. The luminescent blue is even better in person. Another reason why I like the True Writers is the size: they have fairly wide barrels so the pen is comfortable and balanced to write with even when the cap is not posted. As much as I like my two Pelikans, they are rather small for a man's hand. Surprisingly, the pen that I thought I was really going to enjoy writing with was the Sailor pocket pen with a 14kt white gold nib. However, that pen writes dry. It is just the opposite of the True Writer - I feel like I need to squeeze the ink out of it to get it to write. So, if you like a wet writer, get a True Writer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pilgrimage to Auburn

There are many reasons for making a pilgrimage. But whatever the reason, the pilgrimage is made because of a deep connection with either the past or the hope for the future. A pilgrimage is not usually done out of impulse. However, my recent pilgrimage was one of opportunity. Finding myself in Sacramento with a whole day ahead of me, I realized that I was within minutes of my birthplace and many childhood memories. I am a 49er. Not a fan of the football team but a true born child of one of California’s goldrush towns: Auburn. This year in fact I can make claim to being a 49er by both birthright and age. I turned 49 this past summer. So, it was an appropriate serendipity that I should make this pilgrimage this year just before I move to Florida.

When I was young, my father’s health began to deteriorate so he was no longer able to continue as a contractor but had to enter into the humiliating bureaucracy of the U.S. Post Office. For the sake of his family, he traded the manly independence of carpentry for the sterile dependence upon a government job. As difficult as Addison’s disease was to deal with, I think that the suffocating atmosphere of sorting mail day after day was even more detrimental. Do not take from this that I think that working for the US government is dishonorable – I do not. However, for my dad it was a demoralizing transition. He was “called”, if you will, to work in a creative environment where his quick and active mind could be busy - that was not the P.O.

What does that have to do with the 49er community of Auburn? Everything. When I was born in 1959, my father was still a carpenter and he had just two years before designed and built a beautiful house in Auburn. That is the house you see posted above. My father died about 7 years ago and so seeing this house and driving through Auburn was kind of like seeing him again.

Unfortunately, people can be rather dense and it took me several years to understand my dad’s sacrifice. When I was younger, I was kind of frustrated with him for working at the Post Office when I knew he had so much more potential. I knew he was not healthy. I knew he only had a seventh grade education but he was more well-read than so many people I knew who had college degrees. I wanted him to go back to college and do something with his life but he wanted me to do what he felt he could not do. Therefore, he sacrificed his life for the hum-drum mediocrity of sorting mail, so that I could be a college graduate. It took me more than forty years to figure that out but now I know what it meant for him to give up a vocation he loved for someone he loved. Thank you dad.