Friday, July 28, 2017

The Kit, Part 2, The Pen

I wore long hair for years. My mother called it nappy, “Nappy Anthony hair.” I always felt like she didn't approve, but it wasn't until years later that I realized that she didn't like her own hair, which suspiciously looks like my hair. Nonetheless, I wore long hair.

I always wore a pony tail. In the years I was a bartender, it was just better that my hair was back. During my shifts behind the bar, when my hair was pulled back, I had a convenient place to put the bar pens. These pens were the cheap disposable ballpoints. They were, of course, for signing credit card receipts. During the course of a ten hour shift I would collect a dozen pens in my hair. And my hair, being as nappy as it is, I could smuggle ten pens out and not be noticed. At home, I had a cheap pen collection second to none.

When I left the bar, I traveled and then landed up in Tucson. The recount of that endeavor can be found here. I spend my days drinking hot coffee, smoking yellow American Spirits and filling page after page after page in composition notebooks and draining cheap pens. In hot places like Tucson where the ink softens and flows, I could drain a pen in a matter of hours.

There are merits to cheap pens. Mostly they're cheap, available and should you need a pen you can almost always find one. I have had some banal conversations over the years where someone tells me that they can't get a writing project done because they don't have a computer or some such thing. Truth is, paper is all around us and cheap pens are everywhere. It doesn't take much, really, the tools of the act of writing.

The only real downside to these pens is that they take a great deal of pressure to work. This is true everywhere in the world accept Tucson where the ink just flows. Over the few years it took for me to drain all the cheap pens I lifted from the bar in my hair, I developed a writer's callous on my right middle finger that was always sore, unsightly and uncomfortable.

In the summer of 2002 I went to a wedding in Houston. Summer, Houston, take that. I don't remember much of the time due to the partying. But I do remember getting a gift of a Waterman Phileas fountain pen. It was a cool gift and I often looked at it. I would not know how to use the pen until mid 2009, and it has been a trusted friend since. It took a year of using this pen for the writer's callous to go away.

The type of pen doesn't really matter. Nor does the paper. What matters is composition of words. In your writer's kit, it can be any method of recording: pens and paper, typewriters, computers, smartphones with apps. What's important is the act of writing. For me, I still use ink and pulp. I write in cursive. A few scrapes of paper and a disposable pen will always set me free.

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