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.

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