Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lunch then pens!

After Oblation, I headed over to Silk (formerly Pho Van) at 1012 NW Glisan St. for a light and tasty Vietnamese lunch. I learned it's still owned by the same people but the decor and layout have changed.

Rejuvenated by the mango iced tea and lotus root salad with shrimp, I hoofed it over to the Embassy Hotel for the Portland Pen Show. This was my second time at the event and organizer Carla Mortensen once again did a great job with planning, layout, and registration.

We were so busy chatting and filling out a name badge, she forgot to charge me! As I turned to walk in with my Pen World goody bag, I paused and said, "Uh, isn't there an entry fee?" "My goodness, you're right!" she said. "I'm so excited to see everyone showing up for the show I'd practically pay them!" :-) So I'm not the only one who frets about throwing a party and no one showing up. Not to worry Carla: you did a great job and made the show interesting and well worth the $5 entry. I'm sure the 260-280 people who attended over the two days would agree. :-)

Heading into the ballroom, I saw the usual layout of tables filled with exhibitors, pens and tons of pen-related products. Handwriting guides? Check. A rainbow of inks? Check. Fountain pen-friendly paper? Check. Ink remover? Absolutely! One attendee joked, "I haven't handled any ink but somehow I've managed to get some on my hands!" "It's in the air," I quipped.

Brother and sister pen super duo Sherrell Tyree and Joel Hamilton were set up just inside the door with their wares (Parkers for Joel, Sheaffers for Sherrell). I met them last year at the Portland show, then had the pleasure of attending one of their pen collecting and repair seminars (below) at the LA show in February.

Their online site offers vintage pens, as well as search, repair and sales services.

Back at the Portland show, I continued my trek around the room, taking in all the folks, pens, and product displays. While there were several vendors with new pens, including a representive from national chain Paradise Pen's Portland store, and a representative from Conway Stewart with several achingly beautiful, handcrafted pens, a lot of the exhibitors had vintage pens to buy, trade and sell.

I'm relatively new to fountain pens and find that I prefer the look and feel of a shiny new pen sliding across the page. I don't consider myself a collector, who I view as folks who acquire pens but keep them under glass for display, not for use. And really, what is that about?! It's like: "Here's my Porsche. It's not for driving. I just like to look at it and know that I could drive it if I wanted to, and it would be amazing." Uh, okay.

In contrast to that, I use my small cache of fountain pens every day at home and at work, refilling the converters about once per week. It's great for all the employers I've had: I hate using cheap office supply pens and paper so I bring my own. :-)

So as I wandered the aisles at the Portland Pen Show, wouldn't you know the pen that caught my eye was an older, refurbished model from the folks at Pendemonium? The owners Sam and Frank Fiorella made the trip out to the show from Fort Madison, Iowa where they have a full time writing equipment shop. Having seen pictures of the shop online, it's probably a good thing that it's so far away because I would spend an inordinate amount of time and money in a place like that, so filled to brim with amazing pens, paper and writing paraphernalia.

Compared to their trek, my little jaunt from Seattle seemed pretty rudimentary. They were nice as pie, answered my myriad questions, and didn't mind the 45 minutes or so it took me to decide on a Parker with a modified .9mm italic nib. They even changed the body on the spot because I chose based on the nib, which I've been looking for since the LA show, but wasn't crazy about the boring burgandy body. Frank Fiorella said, "No problem. The nice thing about Parkers is that the bodies can be swapped." So I found a blue and black swirled number that was much more aesthetically pleasing and he popped the nib out and my preferred nib in and voila! Now that's service. :-)

I'm trying to de-clutter my life so my relatively new approach to spending is that I have to love whatever I'm buying. I used to feel bad when I couldn't decide on something in a store and I'd feel like I was letting the sales person down, especially if they'd spent time assisting me. Silly, I know. But now, I just say, "I have to love it and nothing here is speaking to me." I think most folks can understand that, and I don't feel pressured to spend money just because I've spent time looking. I'd rather have something I will love every time I use it, than something I sort of like but won't truly enjoy. Life is too short to not love the things around you, right? :-)

I had to catch a ride back to Seattle, so I didn't stay at the show very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, seeing the various pens, and seeing familiar faces. I plan to make my trek an annual event and since Sundays usually have bigger turnouts and more exhibitors, next year I may plan an overnight stay so I can attend both days.

So here's my alliteration overload wrap up paragraph: all in all, with the 80-degree, wondrous weather (can one have a favorite temperature? If so, 80 is mine!), the pleasant perambulation of the Pearl District, the stirring sightseeing, the beckoning Bastille Day festivities, the savory sustenance, the plethora of pens, and genial gathering of pen pros, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday. :-)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

First paper, then pens

From there I headed farther into the Pearl to hit Oblation, a great stationery store at 516 northwest 12th avenueat Glisan that also sells pens, cards, journals, letterpress invitations, and just about anything a paper and pen hound could want.

It was a nice place to start because I don't think you can ever have enough nice notecards and paper, and it was the perfect spot to whet my appetite for the coming pen buffet.

Qu'est-ce que c'est? Bastille Day!

I love all things French. So what do I happen upon in a little park in the Pearl District but a Bastille Day celebration! How cool is that?!

The only things distinctly french about it at that slightly early hour were a cheese booth, a french bakery booth, booths of artists with paintings of french things (the Eiffel Tower, sidewalk cafes, etc.), and a few people with French accents setting up a stage for a band.

Oh, and a petanque game! I always think of it as the more refined ancestor of lawn darts. It was definitely shaping up to be a fun event. Lots of people were already out enjoying the weather, which was quickly creeping up into the upper 70s.

Made it!

So the train arrived right on time in Portland at Union station, which is a very cool train station that originally opened in 1896(!) as a train depot. It's one of the classic, marble-laden, old school train stations that really give you a glimpse of what it must have been like decades ago when traveling by train was still an occasion.

Here's a shot from outside as I headed towards the Pearl District.

So much for sleeping

I spoke too soon. At the Tukwila stop, a woman and her three or four year old son boarded and sat right in front of me. Over the next three hours I learned a few things: everything about trains excited this child; he had not yet learned the concept of "inside voice", no matter how many times his mom asked him to use it (about 17 times); and it is possible for a child to maintain, for three hours, a level of excitement and wonder that would cause most people's hearts to stop. While seeing the world through a child's eyes is a wonderful thing, I would have instead preferred to see the insides of my eyelids for those three hours. Judging by the annoyed looks on the faces of several fellow passengers, I wasn't alone. Ah well, note to self: bring earplugs next time.

All aboard!

We left on time and are cruising southward. I have a full seat row to myself, so i'll be catching some zzzz as we glide through the 4-5 stops on the way to Portland. Wow: 15 minutes and we're already in Tukwila.

Portland Pen Show bound

Bright and early (by my Saturday snooze 'til 9 (okay, 11) standards), I headed to the Amtrak King Street station to board the Cascades train for Portland and the Portland Pen Show. It's one of the smaller shows across the U.S., but it it draws a nice turnout of pen enthusiasts over its three days. I am hoping to pick up some nice stationery, but no pens: I already have a hard time rotating through my favorites.

I was startled initially by all the people lined up to board the train to Portland on a weekend morning, until I saw several in Lance Armstrong-esque regalia: it's STP weekend - the big Seattle to Portland bike race. I'm not sure if they were headed down to meet other racers midway or just following a misguided belief that "riding" in the event includes trains as well as bikes. But there were quite a few of them, plus the rest us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back in the saddle

A view from the treadmill in downtown Seattle. I've started working out semi-consistently after years of getting by on a high metabolism and decent eating habits.

But with summer weather here, some body parts looking and feeling a bit more jiggly than I'd like, and a general feeling of being out of shape and out of breath with moderate exertion, I had to hit the gym.

I've never loved working out so it helps that I found a gym close by with decent rates and a discount for my employer. Thanks to the new regimen and some unexpected life stress, I've dropped eight pounds in the past three weeks. Now that the stress is reduced, I've leveled off at five pounds less.

I didn't NEED to lose weight, but it's a nice side effect, along with the firmer muscles and general feeling of wellness that comes from exercising more than you thought possible just a couple months ago. I hate to admit it, but I think I've actually started to enjoy working out. And I don't beat myself up if I miss a day. I just get back on the treadmill at the next opportunity. Who'd a thunk it? Only a mile and a half to go. :-)