I'm sitting in my office, my son sneezing as I type this ("Bless you David"), and part of me is feeling sad. Sad? Why? I took off today, I just came back from the DC Pen Show, and got a whole bunch of amazing pens and ink, so why the hell am I sad?
I'm sad because for 2 nights and 3 days I got to share my passion with people who felt exactly the same as I do. People that when you brought out your pen case asked if they could try one of your pens, or asked how you felt while using it. It's so different than the looks of indifference I usually get, or the sometimes derisive comments that it's 2016 and using pens and paper are silly. Being surrounded by people, young, old, male, female, various races and nationalities, all together to support this community is such an emotionally charged experience, one that you really can't explain until you are away from it.
As a 38 year old father and husband who doesn't drink and doesn't care much about sports, I really don't fit into what most people my age care about. Making friends after college is hard enough. It's harder when the two main talking points that people your age are interested in you have no interest in, and even if I watch some baseball or basketball, I still don't really talk about it with anyone. For me it feels harder coming from the punk/hardcore scene. I had a close group of friends, but now there are just a few I still talk to. I don't wanna grow up. - The Descendents
There was an episode of the Pen Addict podcast where Brad and Myke talked about how the pen shows are great for getting access to all these neat pens, stationery, and the like. However, that is second to the people you meet, and the friendships you make. I didn't realize how true that was until this weekend.
This is my second pen show. Denver 2015 was my first, but I felt so self-conscious in Denver I didn't talk to anyone. I regret that now, but live and learn.
Each night after the show a bunch of people were at the hotel bar. I made so many friends so quickly, people I talked to on the Pen Addict Slack channel, people who I follow on Instagram, others who just wanted to strike up a conversation. There was an introvert side of me that got nervous when I didn't see anyone I recognized, but I swallowed that, started talking to people, and soon we were all sharing pens and stories like we had been friends for longer than a few minutes. Introductions were made quickly, and everyone was more than happy to have others try their new pen they just bought, or ask an opinion on a possible new purchase. There was no ego, just a wonderful sense of camaraderie, mutual respect, and learning.
The "celebrities" of the online pen world were in deep attendance. Brad from The Pen Addict, Ana from The Well Appointed Desk/Art Supply Posse, Brian and Rachel from Goulet Pens, Matt from The Pen Habit, the list goes on. Every single one of them was nice, kind, polite, and was more than happy to talk about pens, business, and anything else. I even had a great conversation with Brad about his great choice of Nike Flyknit Max sneakers.
I talked to a number of the vendors there, asking questions, learning, and hearing great stories from past pen shows and previous customers. The wealth of knowledge and stories at this show was overwhelming. Someone should really interview these people who have been around and put out a book about it. I'm sure it'd be an excellent read.
It probably seems like I'm stalling on what I purchased but I'm really not. The mental and emotional experiences were just so much more interesting than the pens and ink I purchased. However, here's a quick rundown of what I bought:
- Franklin Cristoph Model 45 brown swirl prototype - 18K Needlepoint nib from Mike Masuyama
- Sailor Pro Gear Orange - Fine Nib - Got this from Brian Anderson at Anderson Pens who is quickly becoming my Sailor guy
- Danitrio Urushi Tome-Nuri Ki Hakkaku - Broad nib. Bought this from Bryant at Chatterly Luxuries after Thomas Hall introduced me. The pair of them gave me a wonderful lesson in Urushi pens that I had really been wanting, and while I'm still new to the style, they are beautiful and addicting, kind of like tattoos. I had the nib smoothed out by Mike Masuyama Sunday morning, and now it's an amazing writer.
- Edison Menlo Pump Filler - Medium Steel nib. This was probably the most enjoyable experience, as sitting with Brian, talking about materials, and then putting it together was just really fun. Brian knows his stuff, and he's just super friendly. I'll be buying more from him in the future.
- Delta Dolce Vita Mid Size Piston Filler - Medium Nib. I've been wanting one of these for ages, but wasn't sold until I held it at Yafa's table. It's a wonderful writer, and screams "Look at me!" The price was really impressive considering what I usually see them go for, so I was happy finally getting one.
- My last pen purchase was a "walking out the door" kind of deal. I had been wanting a semi-modern Parker Duofold. The night before Gerald was more than kind enough to want to sell me one of his Centennial ones for a decent price, but I really wanted orange. Sunday morning there was a guy who was selling one, with a left oblique nib for a decent price. It was clean, with papers, and I hemmed and hawed about it for 2 hours that morning. As we were getting ready to leave, I bought it. I'm happy I did. It's classy, stylish, and is exactly what I wanted. The ease of replacing nib units later on helps as well. While I was buying it Brian Goulet came up to me as well and talked for a little bit, which was just cool and funny. Such a great guy.
Onto the inks and other stuff
- Kobe #38 (Blue Black)
- Akkerman China Town Red and Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen (Blue Green)
- J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey and Caroube de Chypre
- Diamine Aqua Lagoon
- Waterman Mysterious Blue Ink
- Franklin-Cristoph Covered Pen Tray (I had been wanting this since Joe from The Gentleman Stationer reviewed it. It's just as good as he says).
- Fountain Pen Day Leather Notebook cover and some of their notebooks. So pretty, so nice, and such a great cause to support. Cary is a ridiculously nice guy.
Yea, I bought a lot. Probably overdid it a bit. I'm okay with that, as I won't be at another pen show for at least 6 months.
Still. At the end of the day, it wasn't about the pens, or the ink. It was about the people, and the friendships that I've now formed. Given a choice, I'd never buy another pen if it meant I got to keep all my new friends. I'm just lucky I don't have to make that choice.
I really only have 2 regrets. 1. I didn't come down to DC on Thursday, next year I will. 2. I didn't take nearly enough pictures. Go look for the hashtag #DCPenShow2016 and you will see tons of pictures and video (some of which I'm in which is funny).
Thanks to everyone for putting on such an amazing event. Thank you to the pen community for being so welcoming, and making this such an overwhelmingly positive experience, you are all wonderful. I debated on writing a list of all the awesome people but I'm afraid I met so many I'd miss a couple, so just know that you are all amazing!