Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Getting what you pay for

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a Pen Snob. No, I don't require expensive luxury brands like Cross, and I love the Foray brand for Office Depot as I've said before. But I just can't get into Rose Art gel pens, at all. I bought a package of SRX Gel Pens (they're so obscure I can't even find a web link to them) at Target last week, and when my Pilot Precise V7 RT went dry tonight, I thought to try these Rose Art ones. No more. For the first time in a long time, I'm throwing unused pens away.

So I have two things I'm thinking about now, and they are intertwined. First, the feeling of satisfaction I get from finishing a pen. It's such a rare occasion in this world. Mostly people lose track of pens, or switch pens before the first one is dry. Or the dog eats them. Or something. But most people don't just stick with a pen until it dries up and then throw it out.

I try to stick with a pen until it dries up. It's a wonderful feeling of completion when the pen dries up and I get to think about all the things I wrote with it.

It's one of the reasons I hate to throw away pens before they are used, which is the second topic I'm thinking about tonight. It's almost as if all the possibilities of the pens aren't going to be fulfilled if I throw the pen out before its time. The words I won't write with that pen may not ever be written in the same way with another pen. I'm superstitious like that. There's a reason I picked that pen, and there's a reason I saved it to use until the time I did. If I throw it out before its time, those possibilities might never be realized.

But it often keeps me writing with pens I don't like, just because I don't want to throw them out early (this is also the reason I finish books I hate, too - there might be a gem of a chapter up ahead, and I'll never know if I don't finish it).

But not this time. These Rose Art SRX Gel Pens they sell at Target absolutely SUCK.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Piedmont Stationers and Flair Markers

So I spent the week in San Mateo and had two Adventures in Pens.

The first was at Target (I was the winner of one of those "fill out our survey and win a huge gift card" contests in January, so Target is my Store of Choice these days). I lovelovelove Sharpies, especially the ones with really fine points, but I hatehatehate how they always bleed through my paper. I was happy to discover, in the same general area as the Sharpies, these new ultra fine needle point markers from Flair, which write like Sharpies, but won't bleed. I bought two packs (they're $4.99 for a pack of five - black, blue, purple, red and green). I'm markering in all my notebooks and happy to report that there is no bleeding.

My other adventure was today when I went to the Piedmont Stationers in Oakland. It's my boss's favorite stationary store, and ever since she's started her job, and become my boss, and known how in love with stationary I am, she's been telling me how she has to get me there.

It reminded me of the Sussex Stationary shops in the UK. All small and quaint with stuff stored in bookshelves and every off-beat kind of stationary product you could want. And a resident dog. They sold Filofax products, which make me feel like I'm in the UK again. And loads of European notebooks like ones by Clairefontaine.

I spent $46 on notebooks and some wonderful gel pens that are the same kind that I bought in my hubby's university store back when we first started dating. I've been hanging on to them all this time because they're special and sentimental, but now I have new ones, AND I know where to get them, so I'm going to start writing with them. Yay!

Anyway, that's the Exciting Pen Report for this week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

It's been a while since I blogged about pens. That's because it's been a while since I thought about pens very much. It's the whole “owning a house” thing. Other stuff, like installing a double-sided wall heater, seems to take precedence. Call it crazy, but there you go.

The other day, though, I had a wonderful pen conversation with an airport security woman at the Ontario airport (ontario california, not canada). Apparently my bag was deemed suspicious during the x-ray security fun, and they had to go through my bag by hand. It was the pens that set it off. I guess through an xray machine, a bag of pens can resemble a weapon, and so they had to check it out.

So the lady was going through my bag, and opening and closing little compartments, and then she found the pen case culprit. We started talking about pens, and I told her that I loved pens, and was completely addicted to them, and we agreed that pens were fun. She started looking at me funny, though, when I explained that the pouch she was holding in her latex-gloved hand held those pens which were my security-blanket; the most important pens that I need to have with me when I travel because they are comforting. I explained that I knew where each one came from, why I had bought it, how much it was; and that looking at them reminded me of whatever happy time it was when I had bought said pen.

It made me think of photos. We carry photos of people in our wallets to remind us of those people. We aren't actually carrying the people themselves, but something that represents them because it helps us picture them. I'm not the most visual person and images don't really stick in my head very much (the other day I realized that I could not, for the life of me, remember what kind of closets we had in the apartment we were in for 2 years and just left in November).

So I don't really remember, nor, to be blunt, do I really care about looking at photos of loved ones for security. What I do remember, and care about, though, are the feelings I get when I'm somewhere, or with someone. And often those feelings are things I write about with pens I've bought in special places. Often just by holding the pen in my hand, or writing my name with the pen, I can bring back all the memories and emotions of a special time.

For example, on September 11, 2001, I was living in London and over my lunch break I walked down Carnaby Street, past the Lush cosmetics store and I got a sandwich at Boots. I also went to Muji, a great Japanese store, and bought three notebooks, a few gel pens, and some markers, all of which they put in a cute little paper muji bag with sturdy folded paper handles. I remember walking back to my office – it was a glorious day and the sun was making one of its last stands of the summer, and I thought about eating outside in Golden Square, behind my office.

But I decided to go back in and catch up on some work because all morning long I'd been goofing off on email with my friends Nick and Paul about tv, gossip, music, and general goofing-off stuff. I thought I should be responsible and go back inside and finish work, and then perhaps I'd leave early and walk most of the way home.

When I got to my computer, there was an email from Nick to Paul and I telling us to look at Yahoo news because something weird was going on in New York. I looked and I remember seeing a headline about a fire in the World Trade Center. Then another email from Nick. Then I thought I shoud call my parents before the phone lines went dead, as they invariably do for intercontinental calls during times of crises. So I called my parents, they watched the news as I watched the internet, and doodled in my new notebooks and nibbled at my sandwich. We stayed like that for several hours; me doodling, just hanging on the phone with my parents. Finally it was time to go home, and I walked out of the office a different person, as we all did that day.

The point is, whenever I look at Muji pens and notebooks now, I remember that feeling, I remember my parents' voices, I remember the confusion and the sorrow, and I remember very much wanting to be around Americans and eat at a TGI Friday's with unlimited icey coke refills.

It makes just as much sense to me as carrying a glossy paper representation of someone.


In other news, I bought some pens this weekend from Office Max. I'm not usually an Office Max girl, prefering Office Depot because they have a nicer looking logo (I hate courier font in general and especially on a logo) and because Office Depot sponsors Carl Edwards in Nascar, and he's super-cute. When you go into many Office Depot's, they have a lifesize cardboard cutout of him, and I like to pretend to lick it as I walk past.

But I went into Office Max and was happily surprised to see this new line of writing instruments designed for them – the brand is Tul, and it looks all Scandinavian and minimalist and like the kind of pens you'd write with while sitting at your Ikea kitchen table with your perfect laughing baby, and your perfect blond haired husband scaling a perfect Scandinavian cod next to you.

So I was a little bit scared of them, but decided to give them a whirl. And I'm glad I did because I highly approve. The writing is smooth, the tips are strong and bold in the 7mm ones, and very easy to write with in the fine 5mm ones. The pens are nice to hold and just feel good in your hand. Not at all Scandinavian.

Also, I've bought some notebooks from Target's new batch of eco-friendly ones. I like the banana paper you can get at whole foods, and this new stuff didn't look very eco-friendly and recycled, but I guess that's part of the appeal – no banana fibers to distract you from your important writing. They come in many different sizes, too, so it's a versatile collection, and I'm definitely a fan.

In a few weeks I'll be visiting my boss's favorite stationary store in Oakland with her. I'm very excited.