18 May 2014

[writing] I Have A New Cross Pen. Bring On Your Sword.

Okay, so the title's a little grandiloquent. Or, hell, a lot. There was an alternative title to this posting, riffing on something Pete Seeger had written on a banjo as sort of an answer to what Woody Guthrie's guitar famously said: This machine surrounds facists and makes them surrender. 

But so what? It's my blog. You want me to be a shrinking violet about my bad self, you go write your own blog about me.


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It has latterly been my birthday, and I had recently lost my old trusty Cross Classic Century sliver chrome ballpoint. It's been a strange journey. I loathe ballpoint pens, generally speaking.  My personal favorite, aside from this unlikely hero, is the Pilot Precise V5. I like a fine line, not too fine, and the liquid ink from the Pilot is always perfect, has never let me down.

Sustaining a writing habit with the Pilot can be kind of pricey, though, and a little unsustainable to the personal economy, incomes being what they are these days. While I was in handwriting bliss with the Pilot Precise, in my daily work I actually consume pens. I leave them dry. I find excuses and reasons to write. When I was a kid I could scarcely be bothered; I thought pens lasted forever, or as near as practically so. As an adult, I exhaust them.

Ballpoints are also eminently practical, a truth so obvious as to be axiomatic. They travel. They rarely, if ever, leak. With a minimum effort of care, a ballpoint will keep going and going until the ink runs out. So a side quest was to find the perfect dependable ballpoint pen. Since I keep my personal standards in this area so high, it's been a long search.

Sometime in the last few years, I know not how, I battered Cross Century (judging by the style of the lettering, it was made before they started calling it Classic) fell into my hands. I was still obsessing on finding a dependable, affordable fountain pen (that was as I was getting acquainted with the Preppy) so it sat on the shelf for a while longer. Then, balancing the old Century in my hand one day I imagined that it was kind of a cross of two things; the desire to have a dependable modern writing tool and a well-designed object for daily use. 

And, heck, the thing just felt good. So I went to find refills, imagining it would be difficult. It was, a little, but I narrowed down Staples as the best source; not only do they have Cross-brand refills, and a more bargain-priced refill by Penatia that works acceptably.

There was a bit of a breaking-in period. The Century form factor was like a high-performance car: responsive, tight, giving if you got on its wavelength but unforgiving if you didn't (I tend to a vise-grip on my pen as I use it continually). So it's taught me a lot about writing with the pen rather than just dispassionately using it. You have to form a relationship with it, but once you do, it tends to reward you rather well.

Suddenly, it was gone. I have one suspicion as to where it might be, and that will have to wait until Monday to be followed-up. But I missed that pen a hell of a lot more than I thought I would, was obsessing on the fact that it no longer was available to me to use. So … what a perfect birthday gift! And so plans were made.

The purchasing experience was a bit more frought than I counted on. The display at Staples promises that you will get something from the stock room, all you have to do is bring a card from the little stack inside the little hole next to the display model and they'll run back and get one. I had, originally, the basic model, described as a Cross Classic Century Lustrous Chrome. Simple, austere yet elegant. it's the one with the black plastic tip on the clip end. But despite the inventory showing three there was not one. And yeah, we could get it shipped, but wanting it today made for an awkward moment.

How is it I was so obsessed over this silly ballpoint pen? I'm still more than a little amazed at myself. Well, if illiteracy is no virtue, then extremism in the acquisition of one's favorite writing utensil is no vice. That's what I always say (backdated).

The manager of the Staples was most kind and generous this day. After phoning Jantzen Beach and finding none in stock not there neither, and sensing, perceptively, that making me wait any further for this is punishment cruel and unusual, he found the next more expensive model and let me have it for the price we actually had already paid (payment processed before the inventory discrepancy had made itself known) for the cheaper model. And so I now have it.

The new pen is a Classic Century, but it's the Medalist. The biggest difference is the addition of 23-carat gold plate on the clip, the cowling near the business end and the end cap which was plastic on the Lustrous Chrome edition. It feels even better than the old one and it's a little more luxe without being blowout-ostentatious, so it's been easy to get to know and to use.

… even though, it must be said, it comes with a medium point rather than a fine point. It's acceptable for now; I'll not waste it. Writing is a sacrament and ink the consecrated wine. But what is it about pen companies that they think, unless you're looking for some fancy roller ball or gel-ink pen, all you want is medium? Irritating, is is.

But me and my new fascism-surrounding weapon will get along just fine I think.

This all may seem a little intense, but if being obsessive about my pen is wrong, then I don't want to be write.

Er, right.

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