Thursday, March 11

Christian's Gold Cross

Today I'd like to highlight one of my favorite writing implements, a Cross fountain pen.

I don't know what model it is, and I can only guess it's around ten years old. It has survived considerable damage and wear-and-tear over the years, as evidenced by the picture on the left: the end of the pen just tore and pried off, right under that metal ring at the end, and I had to reaffix it with Super Glue. I don't know that it really affected the working of the pen, but it looks nicer with that smooth nub rather than a jagged maw of torn plastic.

Likewise, the pocket clip became bent--that is, bent away from the cap--and when I tried to reform it, it simply broke off. This isn't a cheap pen, I'm not saying that, I'm just saying that I've put it through quite a lot and yet it still functions as a reliable pen. Perhaps I'm so willing to keep it because it was my first really expensive pen ($80), or maybe it's just the emotional value it has for me now.

I bought this fountain pen as a replacement for another one. When I was in high school we hosted a German exchange student, Markus Meister, who was a senior when I was a junior. He was quite popular and I was quite unpopular: my schoolmates would wave hello to me as they came in to the room we were sharing and took him away to some party or another. I didn't hold their thoughtlessness against him, however, and he taught me a lot about not being such a social retard. When his parents received him at the end of the year, they gifted me with a very nice desk set: a pad of paper with personalized letterhead, a stack of similarly embossed envelopes, and a lovely fountain pen with my name engraved on the side. I believe it was a Parker, with an arrow for the pen clip, and it was a medium nib with cartridges. And the German ink cartridges were so clever: when you thought you ran out, you'd unscrew the body of the pen and simply tap the end of the cartridge wherein a reserve of ink was stored. This way you could finish whatever you were writing and knew you had to replace the ink soon! So clever. That was over 20 years ago and I've never seen this ingenious system replicated in today's ink cartridges.

Did I bring this nice pen with me when I left for the Army? I don't think so. I think I discovered it among my stored stuff when I returned home in 1991 and started taking classes at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Desperate for a touch of class in my formless life, I used this fountain pen whenever possible. And it was at ARCC where I was first introduced to the Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen, in fact, which quickly became a favorite sidearm in my stationery arsenal. Bold lines of deep, deep black ink prompted me to buy a box of this pen all for myself.

But as it happened, I left my Parker behind in a Nutrition class one day. I don't think I forgot my books, but I was without my pen for the next class and I ran back to look for it and it had disappeared. Whoever found it didn't bother to return it to the name engraved on the side, and I imagine they just got frustrated with trying to make it work and threw it away: I stored it in my pocket and this caused it to snap in half. I could still use it, but I had to hold it a certain way to keep it from jack-knifing in my grasp, on top of the special way you hold a fountain pen anyway.

Years later, when I was temping in downtown Minneapolis--we can guess circa 2000--I passed a watch store in the skyway. On display was a rack of fountain pens. Having reached my third decade of age, I decided I should start behaving like an adult and part of that meant attracting the accoutrement of adulthood: I would have a nice, new fountain pen. Among those models, however, I was driven to select the least expensive and so I came away with this Cross. I call it my "Gold Cross" because of the tip, and with this pen I learned that I prefer a gold nib for smooth writing. Steel has too much drag for my liking, and the verdict's out on iridium.

I have other fountain pens: Kaweko, Lamy, Retro 51, another Parker. The Cross remains my go-to pen. I don't use cartridges anymore: I use the screw plunger to refill it with Noodler's or Mont Blanc ink. I read an article where the refillable fountain pen is a "green" solution over disposable pens, so I'm pleased to do my little part to reduce my carbon footprint with this lovely pen.

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