SHOPPING MY STASH

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Yesterday I was cleaning my desk, and I found a Sheaffer Skripsert, a vintage cartridge fountain pen from the late 1950s. It was a gift to me, from a friend in the US. I looked around some more, and found my three Sheaffer No-Nonsense pens in a previously mislaid pen wrap – translucent purple, translucent grey, and red. The first two were from the 1990s, while the red was from the 1970s. Since they were discontinued about twenty years ago, I guess you could call them vintage. The purple one, in fact, was the first pen I ever bought with my first salary. I hadn’t seen them in over a year – I guess it was time to use them again.

I hadn’t bought a pen in a long time, because I (think I already) had all the significant pens in my usual price range, and couldn’t find any new ones that fascinated me. But seeing my old pens after a long time got me all thrilled all over again – I guess this is what’s called “shopping your stash”.

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The No-Nonsenses still had their original squeeze converters, but I was thinking I would buy modern Sheaffer twist converters in case the rubber in the squeeze converters eventually failed. I asked a friend how much the converter was at National Bookstore, and was astounded that it cost Php500, or roughly USD10. In contrast, a Faber-Castell (standard international) converter from Everything Calligraphy costs only Php120, or USD2.40. Another friend told me I could try fitting a standard international converter in the pens. Alas, while the nipple fit the diameter of the converter opening, the entire converter was too long for the barrel of the No-Nonsense. The modern Sheaffer twist converter from my Prelude fit it perfectly.

The No-Nonsenses have some of the best steel nibs I have ever experienced. I told myself this is the year I’m going to let these humble pens shine.

Daily Prompt: Shine

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COLLECTING FOUNTAIN PENS

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Writing with fountain pens is a joy – the pen writes on its own weight, there’s no need for me to press down hard on the paper, and I can use any color ink I want. I have about eight pens inked in different colors at any given time, and use a different color each day when I write in my journal.

I have been collecting (or should I say, accumulating) fountain pens since 2008, but have been using them since 1986. I have about 35 pens of various ages, makes and prices. I don’t really have a focus, I just buy pens based on features that I like (eg.piston-filler or converter, German fine or Japanese medium nib, favorite brand, others). There was a time I was actively buying on eBay, even while worrying whether my pens would safely arrive in the post. Several brick-and-mortar and online stores for fine writing instruments have since opened in my country, which made shopping a lot easier. I joined online fora and Facebook groups catering to my hobby (I even moderate one), where everyone enabled everyone else on their purchases. For some people, the retail therapy can be addicting (“I must have ALL the colors of the Lamy Safari!”). Fortunately, that isn’t the case with me.

I stopped buying on eBay, because the retail stores that opened locally allowed me to handle pens I was curious about. I also didn’t relish the idea of customs fees being charged “creatively” at the post office for purchases made online (after having heard all the horror stories). I stopped buying the cheap and cheerful pens, opting to upgrade to better-made, higher-quality ones. I even sold off a lot of vintage pens, just to be rid of the maintenance required.

I still haven’t broken the USD 250 ceiling. To me, any pen beyond that point may have more expensive materials and be more decorative, but may not guarantee a better writing performance. I’d also be worried about using such an expensive pen outside of the house, where it may be lost or stolen. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from admiring my grail pen, a Pelikan M910 Toledo. I get to handle it whenever some friends of mine and I have a pen meet. I admire it, but I don’t feel bad that I don’t own it and can’t afford it.

The last pen I bought was an Edison Pearl in Cumberland ebonite, with a 1.1mm stub, the 7th anniversary pen of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines. That was in 2015. I haven’t bought anything since then. Apart from a self-imposed moratorium on spending (2016 was the year of expensive dental work), I couldn’t find any pens in the USD 100 to 250 range that I didn’t already have, that I wanted. I finally achieved (as we liked to joke in FPN-P) “inner peace”. It’s 2017, and so far I haven’t been tempted by any new pen, except perhaps for the Faber-Castell Ambition in coconut wood.

I’m not in any rush to get a new pen, so far I have been enjoying the ones that I have.

Daily Prompt: Tempted

CROSSING

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Photo from Google Maps

When I was in college I tried to ride the bus going home from SM City (now called SM North EDSA), the new mall that was at the end of E. de los Santos Ave., or EDSA, back to my university campus. I was rather sheltered, and had never ridden much public transportation alone before. When the conductor of the bus came to me to sell me my ticket and asked where I was getting down, I said, “Crossing.”

I was thinking that by saying “Crossing”, I meant the nearest big intersection from the mall I came from. Then I realized that I had paid too much bus fare. I ran after him and said, “Sorry po, Quezon Ave. lang.” The conductor looked kind of mad, but he refunded me the excess fare.

I had no idea that “Crossing” was a specific location. Shaw Boulevard corner EDSA, to be exact. The question was recently asked on Reddit, but of all the answers, I like best the one that said it used to be the only major intersection in EDSA, back when it was still called Highway 54, but of course we can’t be sure that’s the correct answer. I’m asking that question on Facebook, maybe some of my friends know the answer.

Addendum: One of my friends commented that there may have been a pre-war railway crossing in the area, given that it was a major intersection without a rotonda.  Interesting theory!

Daily Prompt: Crossing

OLDER

I celebrated my birthday several days ago, and we’re into the New Year. Every time my birthday comes I register the fact that my age is advancing and yet I don’t feel any older.

One day a few years ago, while powdering my nose at a hotel ladies’ room, I discovered lines under my eyes. The halogen room lighting wasn’t kind; all of a sudden I was confronted with physical age. In a few minutes I passed through the stages of panic, sorrow and regret (at not using eye cream or under-eye concealer or specific anti-aging products) straight onto resignation and acceptance. It was painful, because there was no denying I was in mid-life, and there was no unseeing what I had just seen. But then I had also just been to my high school reunion last December, and was comforted to discover that all of my classmates had lines under their eyes, too. While I have a few horizontal lines across my neck, at least I had no lines on my forehead or between my brows. I still don’t use eye cream, rarely use under-eye concealer and have no dedicated anti-aging products. My skin is dry, but it’s in relatively good shape. I don’t wear heavy makeup.

I didn’t have that kind of reaction to when I started getting white hairs. It’s so easy to have one’s hair colored. There have been times I wished I didn’t have to go to the salon to maintain my hair color. I do feel that I’m too young to go fully grey, though. I read somewhere that I should only go grey when my white hairs regrow in less than a month after coloring, or that I should be 75% grey already, something like that. Then I came across this video:

The thing is, I don’t feel old. I’m reasonably active and can still touch my toes at yoga. There are times I don’t feel young, either (when my energy is low and I’m hormonal). My friends are having grandchildren. I don’t have children, so I can only imagine how it feels. As Carrie Fisher said, “Youth and beauty aren’t accomplishments. They’re the happy by-product of age and/or DNA.” I like to think I’ve come to terms with my mid-life body, the way I think and the person I am at this age. And I still like myself. There are still so many things to do, there’s little time for mourning years and youth that have gone.

It’s a new year, hopefully with good new things in store for us all.

Daily Prompt: Gone

POIROT, POST-CHRISTIE

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Photo from Google

This is not a review.  This is a read-in-progress. I received a copy of this book from my dad, for Christmas.  Closed Casket is the new book from Sophie Hannah, who was authorized by the Christie estate to write more books featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Hannah is a well-received writer of psychological crime thrillers, as well as a poet.

The Washington Post’s review notes that Closed Casket “lacks the special charm of the originals”, yet calls it “endearing”.  They wanted more of Poirot’s larger-than-life brilliance, I suspect. I suppose it’s difficult to take one author’s character and write with her template in mind. I won’t let this review color my judgment – I find the first few chapters well-written and intriguing.

I’m not a fangirl nitpicker, I just want to read an interesting mystery, regardless of who reboots the franchise.  The Christie estate has resisted what The Guardian calls “authorial regeneration” for the longest time. I guess the truth is that ultimately, nobody will measure up to Agatha Christie.

I still want to buy The Monogram Murders.  A friend of mine who has both books says, “You know it’s not Agatha Christie, but you can enjoy it anyway.”

Daily Prompt: Renewal

A DARK YEAR PASSES

This year has pillaged the world
Of its musicians, actors, writers.
We are tired of so much loss,
So much death.
We are anxious
For the year to end.

There are two days left.
Hide all of your beloved heroes,
Your teachers, your dream-weavers,
Lest the wars of 2016 find them
And smite them without mercy.
We do not want to be bereft.

But there is no guarantee
The next year will not betray us.

Daily Prompt: Pillage

FAREWELL, PRINCESS

When I was ten, I saw Star Wars (A New Hope) for the first time. I queued at the movie theater with my grandma. The moment I saw Princess Leia, I knew she was a different kind of princess: a feisty, kickass woman who would eventually lead a rebellion, a heroine for the ages.  She remains one of my favorite movie characters of all time.

Aside from playing Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher was also a successful screenwriter and memoirist, all the while battling bipolar disorder and drug addictions. She reminds us, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary, happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

Here’s a jazzy love theme to remember Carrie Fisher by, from the now-rare album, Empire Jazz, by Ron Carter.

Carrie, you deserve a standing ovation.  Thank you for being real.

Daily Prompt: Ovation