“His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling
I have a difficult choice to make. Pen, or Bicycle.
Last December, when people asked me what I wanted for Christmas, instead of the usual hemming and hawing and “Oh, I don’t need anything,” I answered directly and succinctly, “I want cash.”
You see, when I thought about what I wanted – it was too expensive for any one person to buy for me. I wanted a pen.
I’ve been collecting/addicted/messing around with fountain pens for a few years now. I am not a serious collector – I am what is known as a “user.” I am interested in actually writing with the things – getting ink on my fingers – which is odd, because I have the world’s worst handwriting – but it is what it is. I am not interested in glass trays of pristine pens in perfect shape and rare colors.
That is a good thing – because I can buy pens with small flaws (like scratches or engraved names) that do not affect the use of the pens, but lower the price. It is also good because it eventually came to limit the number of fountain pens I would buy. I can only use one at a time and once I have explored the gamut and found the pens I liked to use I could pretty much stop buying them.
That’s more or less where I am now. I have a goodly number of pens in my rotation, I know what I like, and I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to buy any more, really.
Except for one. There is what is called a “grail pen.”
I want a Pen for Men.
I have big hands and am always attracted to large pens – they simply fit in my hand better. I like the Sheaffer inlaid nibs. I like the snorkel filling system – the most complicated fountain pen. Put all of these together and you have the Sheaffer Pen for Men, or PFM. Sheaffer came out with the PFM in 1959, right at the end of the line for the classic fountain pen. The ballpoint was gaining ground fast and fountain pens would soon be known as an anachronism, a collectable, or simply an overpriced sign of affluence.
The PFM was an oversized version of the classic snorkel filling line (I have several older snorkels already – I do like the triumph nib style on these) and is highly desirable today – but was not very successful when it came out (few were made, that is one reason they are so dear now). They were only produced in volume for four years or so and all production ceased in ten.
So, in short, I want one. I figure I can get a nice, user grade PFM for a little over two hundred dollars. That’s a lot of money to spend on a pen. Too much money – but I so rarely desire material possessions, that when I do, it feels a little overwhelming. So I started saving up money until I had enough to pay for a PFM.
While I was saving up, I began to have second thoughts. I began to think that I was about to waste my money. At the same time, I noticed some internet ads for folding bicycles.
I have two bikes – both over twenty years old (a Raleigh Technium road bike and a beater mountain bike I bought at a pawn shop for ninety bucks) – though they are workable. The worst thing about my bicycles is the engine, of course: old, worn out, and not very taken care of. A goal I have for myself is to ride my bike more this year – see if I can get in better shape and see some countryside/urbanside while I’m at it.
So, the idea formed in my head – save some more money (maybe around four hundred) and buy a folding bike. I have the idea of keeping it in my car trunk and going for little rides here and there – on the way home from work, on the way to various spots, or on out of town trips. There are tons of bikes out there and I began to look… I’m thinking about a single speed model (less expensive, I live in a flat place, more reliable, and good exercise) – maybe a Dahon Speed Uno or a Dahon Boardwalk. I don’t need a high-end bike – this is for light use and short, flat distances.
So, what’s it going to be…. A bike or a pen. If I get a bike, is a folder a good idea? If I get a folder, what inexpensive model is the best idea? Candy suggested I buy the pen, then start saving for the bike. I’m not sure if I’m going to live that long. The bike would be a smarter decision – I can use it as a goal, a motivating factor.
The pen would be pure luxury. Then again, the pen would be pure luxury.