Pen and pouch envy

Lamy Pico (

Lamy Pico (

When Lamy, the German pen company, designed the Pico, it didn’t have me in mind. I didn’t fit the demographic.
The Pico, Lamy’s clipless pocket pen, was simple, functional, and expensive; I was complicated (occasionally), useless (generally), and cheap (absolutely).
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The Writing Dodge*

The supposed tools of the blogging trade. From left, clockwise: barely-functioning iPod, Blackberry Bold, Lamy 2000 fountain pen, and Green Apple-branded notebook.

Small minds think alike.
This was what I told someone in a past life after we happened to express the same idea at the same time.
The person wasn’t amused.
And I can’t blame her.
She was intellectually — and perhaps even morally — superior.
After all, it was easy being ahead of me in the brains and ethics departments.
I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. And since I make stuff up and crack jokes, I’m always singled out to be the scapegoat whenever any kind of trouble arises.
In the meantime, this person excelled in, among others, formulating correspondence that requested the recipient to explain his/her supposedly questionable behavior that took place on a day everyone else has forgotten.
In various past lives, I have received my share of these love letters, asking to clarify and address certain actions I have undertaken.
Fortunately, I have been able to resolve these questions, with the help of my charm and good looks.
Anyway, I have been prompted to recount the anecdote because I received email from University of the Philippines English Professor and friend Paolo Manalo.
After failing to buy a Kindle (negotiations with the seller fell apart), he decided to get himself a Lamy 2000 fountain pen a few days before I bought mine, he told me in an email message sent on Good Friday.

He later learned I also had the same pen after reading — Maestro, music please — this blog. [See: The Anti-Bling]

“I thought I’d regret” buying the pen, he said in the same email. “No, this is a good pen and I’m glad I didn’t get the Kindle.”**

“I write more and I recall the good times when I wrote with a fountain pen. I need something to slow me down and to keep me focussed on the writing.”

Paolo had it right on the money.
I felt the same way ever since I got the Lamy 2000.
Does this mean that Paolo, a Palanca Award-winning, foreign-educated poet, and myself, a beer-drinking but nevertheless good-looking ragamuffin, think alike? Does this mean that we both have small minds? Does this mean that I could have a Palanca Award too, if ever I get to finish the novel I’m writing which is entitled The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe?
I don’t know and I don’t intend to find out.
What I do know is that writing stuff by hand, however slow and deliberate, requires another accessory — the appropriate notebook.
For my needs and budget, I have settled on a Chinese-made, Green Apple-branded Reporter Notebook, which I’ve used to scribble notes for a draft of this blog entry.
Sold at National Bookstore for P259.00, the notebook — especially the black-colored ones — are now in short supply.
How do I know this?
My spare time nowadays is spent scouring National Bookstore branches all over the city for this notebook.
And I have been successful in only buying two so far because stocks have run out.
But then again, I’m not that worried.
I still have the Moleskine Berlin City Notebook that Alan Robles gave me as a present recently. [See: Alan Robles, Moleskine Berlin Notebook]
Except that I promised myself to only use that once I set foot on that city, the location of the Bauhaus Museum, which sells items inspired by the art movement, including the Lamy 2000.
Hope that doesn’t take too long.
I’ve been longing to say “I am a jelly donut” in German for years. [See: I am a Jelly Donut]
*From the Give Credit Where It Is Due Dept. The Writing Dodge was a phrase I first read in Coming to Terms, a collection of columns of William Safire for the New York Times. [See: William Safire]

**Kindle and Lamy 2000 ownership is not mutually exclusive. Come on, Prof. Manalo. [See: Five reasons why Filipinos should get Kindle 3]

The Anti-Bling

Introduced in 1966, the Lamy 2000 continues to have a cult following among collectors, owing to its understated form factor, among others.

It’s not called the “anti-bling” for nothing.
Or so says Rick Conner in his 2005 blog entry about the Lamy 2000 fountain pen. [See: Conner]
Introduced in 1966, the pen was designed by Gerd Muller, who also designed the Braun electric razor. [See: Muller, Bauhaus]
The Lamy 2000 continues to be one of the few pens sold by the Bauhaus museum in Berlin since its understated form factor is emblematic of the Bauhaus’ “form follows function” ethic. [See: Bauhaus Museum]
Among fountain pen collectors, the Lamy 2000 also has something of a cult following in the same way that some only collect Parker Duofolds or Vacumatics. [See: Duofold, Vacumatic]
It’s not difficult to see why.
True to its designer’s intentions, the fountain pen is not too excited about flaunting its aesthetic and technical advantages.
For instance, it’s hooded 14-carat gold nib is coated with platinum, reducing its bling factor.
First, platinum supposedly strengthens the nib, balancing the flexibility offered by gold.
Second, platinum blends well with the pen’s overall color scheme.
But the pen’s penchant for understatement wasn’t what attracted me in the first place.
It was the shape and texture of the barrel — made of Makrolon — and the fact that it was available in other nib sizes, besides fine and medium.
When I first saw the Lamy 2000 more than a decade ago, it was love at first sight.
Unfortunately, since I was a so-called churnalist at that time, ready to rehash a press release at the sound of a fax machine, I was financially unprepared to get myself one. [See: Churnalism]
And so I waited for better times.
During that long wait, I was lucky enough to live and work in two other countries, enabling me to get the only pen I ever dreamed of — a Montblanc.
When the Montblanc Boheme was launched in 2001, I got one for myself.  [See: Montblanc Boheme]
It was Montblanc’s first retractable fountain pen.

The temporarily incapacitated Montblanc Boheme nursing its wounds on a shelf

You had to twist off the end of the barrel until the nib came out.
To this day, it remains the only bling that I own.
However, like all blings, they need special care. And special care means premium prices.
While abroad, the pen got stuck and the nib wouldn’t come out, no thanks to the substandard cartridge refills I bought off eBay.
It wasn’t until 2007 when I realized how much the online bargains really cost me. (I could have had it fixed at the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York but the estimate I got was far too expensive.)

The Lamy 2000 has the uncanny ability to withstand ugly penmanship.

Now, my favorite bling has acted up again.
While the nib isn’t stuck, it’s becoming more and more difficult to have it come out.
I’ve tried everything — dip the nib in lukewarm water for a night or two, leave it alone without any ink — to no avail.
I’ll probably have it repaired again.
But it won’t be in the near future.
After all, I’ve got the Lamy 2000 to keep me company.
Even though it won’t fit neatly into my shirt pocket.
But who’s complaining?