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. :-)

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