Sub­texts

Pasatiempo - - in Other Words - — Paul Wei­de­man

Get the ball rolling

When I was a wee whip­per­snap­per at­tend­ing a Bri­tish boys’ school in South­ern Rhode­sia, we had foun­tain pens with lit­tle squidgy levers you’d pull out af­ter stick­ing the pen nib into a lit­tle bot­tle of blue ink, and it would suck it up into the ink blad­der in­side the pen’s bar­rel. I can’t re­mem­ber any­thing more detailed or any funny, messy in­ci­dents in­volv­ing those pens be­cause it was a life­time ago.

But now I will ad­mit— and this may stim­u­late a re­ac­tion of un­con­tam­i­nated dis­gust in the so­phis­ti­cated lux­u­ri­ous-foun­tain-pen en­thu­si­ast— that for most of the past quar­ter cen­tury, when scrawl­ing in­ter­view notes for some­thing in ex­cess of 3,500 jour­nal­ism-type sto­ries, I have re­lied on the black Bic Cristal ball­point in­stru­ment, which costs about a quar­ter.

The Cristal de­sign, brought to the pub­lic in 1950, is in­cluded in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art in New York City. The com­pany’s Web site, www.bic­world.com, in­cludes a part-by-part de­scrip­tion of a Bic ball­point and a photo gallery ti­tled “Mas­ter­ing the ink flow to the point.” Ad­mirably terse!

The splen­did French scrawler starts right up (and skip­peth not), ex­cept on the cold­est days out­side, when I break out my Fisher Space Pen, which was pur­chased about a decade ago at Santa Fe Pens. While I haven’t had the oc­ca­sion to use it in space, or even un­der­wa­ter, the Space Pen is a won­der in freez­ing weather and when you’re writ­ing on your back, with the pen up­side-down.

Speak­ing of Santa Fe Pens, the store (at 500 Mon­tezuma Ave., Suite 111, in the San­busco Mar­ket Cen­ter, 989-4742) is hav­ing its 15th an­nual Santa Fe Pen Fair. No mat­ter what your penly habit— lan­guid vers­e­smith or fu­ri­ous scrib­bler — you can pe­ruse a glory of writ­ing tools from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Satur­day, March 13, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sun­day, March 14.

A star of the fair is the Santa Fe Edi­tion XII foun­tain pen man­u­fac­tured by the Krone Pen Co. of Illi­nois. There will also be writ­ing in­stru­ments by Caran d’Ache, A.T. Cross, Diplo­mat, and Mon­teverde. I won­der if the fair will have any inkpots. Ralph Waldo Emer­son said, “I dip my pen in the black­est ink, be­cause I’m not afraid of fall­ing into my inkpot.”

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