Friday 9 November 2012

The Sound of Genius

The other day I wrote about picking up an inkwell from the second hand store. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. My buddy Ken had a stick pen that he found in his fathers things and decided that I needed a pen to go with my inkwell. Thanks Ken!

The problem is that now I have a pen and an inkwell but I have no ink to go with it. Inkwells aren’t inkwells until they have ink in them; otherwise they are just cute little bottles that are pretty much useless. Pens without ink are really just fancy sticks with an intricate metal point on one end. It took me a few days to realize this, but eventually I decided that I needed to get some ink.

Normal people would go to an office supply store and pick up a bottle of ink. That just isn’t my way. I read a story once of a man that escaped prison using ink from the polish on his shoes. The story is called “The Problem of Cell 13” by Jacques Futrelle and is kind of interesting, not life changing, but interesting. 
Of course I thought that if some guy in prison could make his own ink then I should be able to, especially since I had a bunch of dried ink that just needs to be reconstituted. It turns out that reconstituting ink isn’t as easy as you might think it would be. So far I haven’t had any luck, but I don’t give up as easy as that; that would be the smart thing to do. I kind of looked around for other substances that I could use but the modern house doesn’t have a lot of lamp black on the globes of our lamps. Not too much soot of any kind really.

In the end, I just plain gave up. I drove to the local Staples office supply store and bought a bottle of “Parker Quink Washable Blue” ink. I may have seemed a trifle down to the cashier, but she didn’t know that I was a failure at ink manufacturing; she probably assumed that I was a failure at something else entirely.

I took my bottle of ink home, opened it up, got out Ken’s fathers stick pen, dipped it into the ink and started to write “My name is Ken”. I managed to write “M” and then had to dip it again. I got out the “y n” before I ran out of ink. What the hell? How can this be so hard? Charles Dickens wrote “Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and the Christmas Carol” using a stick pen. I am pretty sure he didn’t have to dunk the damned nib every two letters, at that rate it would take him ten lifetimes to write his books. Hell, Shakespeare used a goose quill!

I gave up on the stick pen when I remembered that I had a calligraphy set somewhere, all that I had to do was find it. Two and a half days later, I found it in my work room. I guess that I thought it would be easier to find things if I piled them under a lot of wood and assorted junk. The pens are cartridge pens, so I had to get a hypodermic needle and fill the empty cartridge before I could use it.

Writing with a fountain pen is wonderful! You actually feel that you are writing and are connected down through the ages to the greats of literature. Dickens didn’t use a laptop! It forces you to slow down somewhat and allows your mind to catch up with the words you have written and perhaps that scratching sound coming from the paper is the sound of genius. More than likely it is the sound of a need for a new nib.

I will practice and perhaps I will write my Christmas cards the way they were intended to be written, hunched over in dim light with blue fingers and a blue lip.

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