Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Saturday Snapshot #11

Khermariah McClinton, at Atlas Stationers, 227 W. Lake.

     It was raining, lightly, on Friday afternoon when I finished lunch. Leaving Petterino's, I meant to head south, to grab the Madison Street bus back to the newspaper. But I was slightly awhirl from my conversation, to be honest, and found myself quite turned around, walking west down Lake Street when I finally got my bearings.
     I decided to keep going. Atlas Stationers was only a few blocks away, and I braved the sprinkles to pick up my new 2019 Brownline datebook before they ran out, as they sometimes do if I wait until too close to New Year's. I could have easily bought it online, of course. But I hadn't been to Atlas in months, and stopping by was like visiting old friends, literally, from walking past the timeworn iron columns, to catching owner Terese Schmidt between deliveries, and being introduced to her younger son, fresh from college and now working at the store.
     She expressed relief that I had come for my Brownline—they had worried—and proudly showed off Atlas' new pen section, explaining how young professional types are hot for fancy pens, for Waterman fountain pens and high tech Lamy pens from Germany, displayed in a case that the company custom made for the store. I observed that with the Gilbertson pen store finally closing on Chicago Avenue must have left those desirous of high end pens underserved, and she was wise to stop into the void. She said that guidebooks are now lauding Atlas for its pen selection, and that the splendid office supply shop had now become a "destination" sought out by pen-savvy tourists.
     Owners of fancy pens, Terese explained,  like to use colorful inks, not just in the traditional blue or black or red, but an entire rainbow of possibilities with names like Rose Tendresse and Violet Pensie. As it happened, an Atlas employee, Khermariah McClinton, was penning a colorful card, to let customers know their ink options. When I asked her to write her name in my Moleskine notebook, she did so in a bright Hunter Green hue.
     I explained, rather sheepishly, that I write too much to be able to indulge a fancy pen, certainly not a fountain pen, and that I was sure to lose any pricy pen I was so bold as to buy, and keeping track of the treasure until that inevitability would be a continual burden and source of strain, its certain disappearance a source of grief. I thought of suggesting a compromise—a trainer fancy pen, once only mildly pricey whose disappearance would be a manageable woe. Instead I showed off the cheap yellow Sun-Times promotional give-away pen I glommed from the newspaper, as proof that what I said was true. Still, that attitude, once articulated, seemed a species of cowardice, and I promised that I would keep track of the pen trend, and perhaps reconsider my refusal to acquire a fancy pen of my own at some point in the indeterminate future.


  1. Another item sent to the wayside. Fancy, expensive pen and pencil sets given to graduates. Favorite pens handed down. A fountain pen creating just so lettering. When we use to write letrers instead of emails or texts.
    I still have a favorite ball point brand, but, it's not the same.

    1. I still have the Cross pen and pencil set my brother gave me for my college graduation, several decades ago. Of course, the only reason I still have it is that I rarely use it!

      It does feel more special writing with a quality pen.

    2. My father gave me a Cross pen and pencil set in the late Seventies. That was a fancy brand at the time, used by executives. I still have it. I never used it. I remember filling a fountain pen to write "compositions" (they became "themes" in high school) for Mrs. Perkins, my short-haired, no-nonsense, sixth-grade teacher, who was also the first VW Beetle owner I ever knew. Don't remember if the pen was a Waterman...probably not. Not for a kid in grammar school. There were also Parker pens, too.

      The ink I used was Sheaffer's Skrip. The label was yellow with dark blue script lettering. But the box and the bottle did not say "ink" was known as "writing fluid"...and my favorite color was Peacock Blue. I think I was ordered to switch to a less flamboyant color in junior high, but by then, fountain pens were on their way out anyway. They were replaced with "cartridge" pens, which leaked. Then ballpoints, and then "stick" pens, which also leaked. The "19-cent Bics" appeared during college.

      We were taught cursive writing in third grade, but I don't recall using a fountain pen that early. Maybe we didn't even use ink at all. That was back when Elvis first began his career, so it's all getting more hazy every day.

  2. I love browsing office supply stores. To me it's like a hardware store would be for a handy guy.

    That said, I don't go in for fancy pens either, if only because I have a near-lifetime supply of trade-show giveaway pens, some of which are surprisingly nice.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.