I’ve always had an affinity for pens.
Maybe it’s more like a clandestine love affair as I fall hopelessly into the inkwell of love every time I troll the net looking at writing instruments.
I love fountain pens and rollerballs and all the accoutrements associated with them.
I love ink. No tattoo for me but I have some amazing fountain pen ink.
Some of my favorites are Noodler’s , Private Reserve, Pelican and Aurora.
Ballpoints irritate me to no end.
That’s just me.
My interest in pens began many years ago when I began writing.
I had this silly idea that the pen I used would make a difference when I was writing.
Logical? I think not.
I did realize that all pens were not created equal and a writer needed a pen with an even flow of ink and a comfortable balance of weight in the hand. Words and thoughts would flow more easily.
I am a writer. I need pens.
Looking online I was appalled at the money some of these things commanded.
$2000 for a rollerball?
$20,000 for a fountain pen? (This pen should automatically come with a publishing deal)
With 3 daughters in and out of college/Grad school, I’m lucky to have a decent gel roller.
I currently have 5-6 fairly decent fountain pens: Pelican, Aurora, Namiki (vanishing point), a Parker Sonnet and several other inexpensive models.
A friend I work with came in one day and showed me a pen sent to him by a friend or a friend.
It was a ballpoint which didn’t excite me but the pen itself was beautiful.
He told me it was given to him by so and so and that this guy made pens to give to friends.
I wanted to get on that list.
Several months went by before this same friend came in with another pen; a ballpoint but still really nice.
My curiosity got the best of me.
“Does this guy have a website?”
I went to the website and found many wonderful handmade things.
I found rollerballs, ballpoints and several wicked pissa fountain pens.
Years ago, Ross decided to try his hand at making pens.
Most were given to friends as gifts until he realized he was quite good at
this specialized art and decided to expand.
I spied one particular pen and wondered if Ross would be willing to barter a bit.
After a few emails and several days, I now have a fountain pen made by none other than RossG.
I promised him an honest review of the pen and here it is . . .
Modern, sleek, funky, gorgeous rosewood with gold-plated hardware.
Definitely catches the eye.
Several people have already commented on it (and they want more info)
Solid in the hand with a very comfortable weight.
To me it has the feel of a pen that should cost much more.
It feels expensive.
You know you’re holding something special.
Nib and writing quality:
The pen came with a cartridge and a converter (my preference).
The nib was medium size iridium.
Although I’m not a big fan of iridium nibs this sucker worked better than my inexpensive Pelican (which has an iridium nib).
The ink flow was simply amazing and a total pleasure to write with.
If you want a pen that is aesthetically pleasing, easy to write with, ridiculously affordable and a designated friend for life, please check out Ross. (Click on the post picture!)
Or click HERE. (Tell Ross I sent you)
All pens are handmade and have that warm, comfortable feeling in your hand.
I know several people that already want a pen made by this man so get in line.
His pens are in short supply right now as he is waiting for some materials to come in.
He will ship all over the world.
He even says Australia’s not too far away.
I may send him some TinTams someday.
If you can’t buy one of his pens, please promise me you will send the link to this post to someone who will.
That would make me and Ross very, very happy.
They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words.
I say that it’s worth much more than that.
Now and then the events of a single day subtly dovetail.
I have been an admirer of photojournalism for as long as I can remember.
Seeing images that were most likely seared into the retina’s of said photographers would give me pause.
The past few weeks in Boston have produced some images that I can’t seem to ‘unforget’.
I want to rewind the organ of soft nervous tissue contained in my overcrowded skull of vertebrates and bring it back to April 14th when life
seemed idyllic and almost normal.
Not gonna happen.
And I didn’t even take the pictures.
Last weekend my future son-in-law, Jonathan, showed me the cover of SI.
On the cover was a picture of an older runner that had been literally knocked down by an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Behind him were three Boston Police officers seen drawing their weapons and running in three different directions.
It was a photograph of a surreal moment in time.
It was also a photograph courtesy of a 30 year photojournalist for the Boston Globe called John Tlumacki.
Little did I know that my own personal path would intersect with that of Tlumacki.
I’ve never met the man but I am sure he is deep.
Read a glimpse of him HERE.
This Sunday morning I sat in a sunny living room reading an article in the T&G.
Read it HERE.
(and look at the photo credit below)
As of this morning I had no clue as to who took the pictures that had moved me close to tears.
In my last post here I used a photo of a woman found on her knees, crying and praying fervently to the heavens above.
She was completely devastated in every possible way, beseeching the blue sky above to take back what had just happened only moments before.
This was the picture I chose to use for my last post.
The picture spoke to me, plain and simple.
Fast forward to me Googling “photojournalist Boston Marathon 2013″.
There were many results but one stuck in my craw because it gave a preview of the photo I had used in my previous post.
I was gobsmacked in learning that the picture was actually taken by Tlumacki.
In my mind, I began to juxtapose many images while thinking how difficult it must have been to take them.
I will never know how these folks do their job.
It was then that I realized that it’s not unlike what I do when I write a song or a post.
I go into something of a trance until the job is over.
It’s a phenomenon that just happens.
The biggest difference for me is that I don’t have to worry about my head getting blown off in the process.
I have a new found respect for these graphic soldiers that visually time stamp the complexities of our lives.
I contacted John via email this afternoon after realizing I had used one of his photos for my ‘Boston Strong‘ post.
I asked for permission to use his photo after finally realizing how much courage and balls it must have taken
to capture an image as haunting and visceral as what it was.
He replied to me 20 minutes later;
“You can keep the photo on your blog, this is my Boston, your Boston, let’s not forget that.”
This is from a man that found himself on the front-line of the battle and chose to do his job.
I am honored that he gave me the okay to use his photo and blessed that he took the time to reply to me.
I pray that the ‘Man Upstairs’ keeps a special eye on this guy.
He’s paid his dues.
If this guy doesn’t garner a Pulitzer this year, I will be shocked.
Thanks, JT for doing the daunting task that you do.
The blood you found on your shoes tells me all I need to know about your integrity.
Time to find some rainbows . . .
Kirkland Oliver was a regular on Friday afternoons at the cigar store where I work in Boston.
He was an affable and enigmatic man still living life like it was 1969.
We hadn’t seen Kirk in over three weeks, a rare thing for a guy that you could count on like clockwork
to show up and get some rolling tobacco and papers (6oz of 3 Citadels and 17 Modiano Club Papers).
On a dark whim, I Googled ‘Kirkland Oliver – obit- Boston’ and came up with a result that broke my heart.
Kirkland died July 29th at 66 years of age of prostate cancer.
What follows is a personal obituary and tribute to a gentle soul many people have never had the good fortune to meet.
This was written in part by myself but a more substantial portion was written by my dear friend and associate, Will Marks.
Enjoy our candid view of a man that truly knew who and what he was.
Kirkland used to make collages out of stuff most folks would discard.
He would make stuff featuring his pals’ names featuring all kinds of symbols and references.
The message was pretty much the same: Kirkland was telling us that we were cool by his calculus.
These works of art weren’t made for everyone.
Just the people that Kirkland let into his cosmic circle.
Speaking of calculus, one time a fellow was in the store going on and on about his math ability.
Kirkland asked him what he did and the fellow said, “I’m a quant!” then he shared some detail in a condescending tone to make sure Kirkland got it saying, “I’m into heavy math for the investment industry.”
The store got quiet and Kirkland looked at him and said, “Yeah, I was into math too, used to make my dick hard in 3rd grade so I got into making shapes and artwork all based on math.”
Sizing up the quant he added “…but I outgrew that stuff, if you dig.”
KO had an unmistakeable ‘jazz’ quality about him.
From the way he walked (with a huge wooden walking stick) to the way he talked he had a rhythm and undeniable groove.
It was his ‘groove’ and his alone as he walked to the beat of his own personal drummer.
There was nothing quite like Kirkland striding into the store with the overpowering scent
of a double dose of patchouli oil announcing his arrival.
He’d flash that winning crooked smile and say “Peace” and get into the discussion always leading it back to the tenants of his homespun philosophy (equal parts Hendrix/Shakespeare/McLuhan/Grateful Dead/Health Food Store Chatter/Cantab lounge misinformation) with detours along the way typically including the night Sun Ra played Slug’s when he was blitzed on Owsley acid or how Mingus tore it up another night, his recent favorite band Girls On Top,
or how the Boston Public Library’s address was proof of dark plots.
“You know what the number of the Boston Public Library is, man? 666! It’s the sign of the ‘Cipher’, you dig?”
Kirk would chuckle and say, “Peace . . . peace.”
Naturally, Kirkland bragged about his family and how he played the violin.
Then there were his cosmic rants about people who were too uncool to be friendly.
When Kirk would get rolling papers (always 13 until the size changed and it went to 17)
he always challenged me to grab the correct number of papers.
Sometimes I would and he would smile and say, “Nice, man. Peace.”
And he always rolled one menthol cigarette on Fridays.
Kirkland’s Friday pronouncements—“All the world’s a stage”, “What goes around comes around”, “Ain’t nothing new under the sun”, “Can you dig it?”, “It’s the Illuminati man they are controlling everything these days”, “Man I was checking out the internet you know where that is man?”, “Did you know I was in a coma man? Yeah, didn’t even know my wife when I woke up!”, “I love the smell of that cigar it’s getting me high.”, “I’ll take some menthol and 17 packs of rolling papers.”—are now a thing of the past; part of the store’s hallowed lore.
Kirkland has joined the pantheon of greats who went before him.
No sweat, Kirkland the larger than life friend to all who were willing, who put the “hep” in hepcat,
will live on in the hearts of all who were lucky enough to have been touched by his friendship and love.
I know many things about this man but some I can’t share here.
These were his gifts.
I know he always made me smile in his own and original hepcat way.
And although the sun was shining in Boston today, the city for me was just a darker shade of grey without Kirk . . .
Sleep well, my friend.
Oh, and Peace . . .
Hail to Kirkland for he knew who and what he was:
~m & Will Marks
A year ago about this time the talk around town (and Facebook) was all about Pamela and me going to Australia.
It seems like yesterday but it feels like years since we were talking about it.
That said, here I am still reminiscing about the 2 weeks in time that I will not soon forget.
I began writing about our journey a while back and stopped short for reasons that now elude me.
Let’s just say that life sometimes gets in the way.
Please forgive me.
My last post got us to Townsville in Queensland where Moe and Mark live.
I remember descending into the small airport and thinking, “So, this is where we Skype every weekend,” not knowing that there was much more than meets the eye behind this place called Townsville (aka, Paradise).
After taking a badly needed shower, Pamela and me proceeded to do what you do on holiday.
We sat our asses in the backyard and had a few drinks, a few cigars and talked about our flights over.
The QLD sun was hotter than I thought it would be and I found a slice of shade to sit in.
I kept mentally pinching myself as if to notify my tired brain that I was really sitting in Oz;
being that far away from home can disorient you into believing you’re not really there.
I got the piss taken out of me 244 times that afternoon. (yeah, I counted)
The plan for the day was to chill out for a bit and go to Mel and Steve’s
(Moe and Mark’s daughter and son-in-law) later that day for our first authentic Australian barbecue.
The details of our first afternoon are a bit foggy but I do remember shitting my pants on our drive over when Mark went into the first Aussie roundabout I had ever encountered.
I mentally made the sign of the Cross knowing I was about to die because he was going the opposite way that people in the States go.
After getting through the roundabout I once again made the sign of the Cross and began a deeper understanding of the phrase, ‘DownUnder’.
Please pass me the vegemite.
We arrived at Mel and Steve’s and got a tour of the place which was under some serious renovation.
With the help of Caleb and Lucas (M&S’s sons) we toured the house which was in a transition phase.
In about six months this place would be a palace.
I still badly want Mel’s kitchen which was any true chef’s dream.
Appetizers came out; Prawns (huge ass shrimp for you folks in the Northeast, but they’re sweeter than shrimp), Cabana and cheese (Cabana is like a really nice mild but spicy kielbasa), fruit, veggies and more than one could ever eat. [just you wait for my description of the amazing Brie in Victoria]
But Steve had a plan for me in terms of Australian beer.
XXXX Gold: (rat piss in a can, and Steve told me I could just toss it, which I did)
Toohey’s New: (not bad but reminded me of Sam Adam’s lager, which I hate. I drank it though)
VB Victoria Bitters; once again not bad but not much better than Toohey’s.
James Boag; a total winner for me, hands down. A great beer with flavor and strength to boot.
With multiple beers under my belt I watched in amazement as Steve grilled our food.
The smell coming off the grill should be made into a MAN cologne. [truth]
Snags, lamb chops, steak and grilled onions made my stomach yearn for some food.
Snags, btw, are beef sausages and not available in the US.
The aroma of grilled snags is simply wonderful.
Steve also made some snags w/ vegemite.
How do you spell AWESOME?
We sat and ate a BBQ that just blew my mind (and our caloric count for the day)(like I was counting, right?)
Life was very good that night at Mel and Steve’s.
To them we were in a sense strangers but they made us feel like family.
And maybe we were; I like to think that.
The blazing sun had set hours before we got done eating and it was time for yours truly to look at the Australian night sky.
Me, Mark, Steve, Caleb and Lucas went out into the front yard.
“There it is,” Mark said.
As he was pointing, I saw it.
I’ve loved stargazing for as long as I can remember but never have I wanted to see something as bad as this.
“The Southern Cross.”
I gazed at it, totally spellbound, tears forming in my eyes.
My first night in Oz was now complete.
That was until Mel brought out the Pavlova.
to be continued . . .
ps. Snags and eggs? I love you.
Click on the Diner picture above to achieve greatness in the kitchen!
Fabio is some kind of awesome.
Love this guy.
Trust me, the short video is amazing . . .
As my life zips by at warp speed I barely see the signposts ahead, the lives dripping by, the rain that falls or the
multiple times that particular moments grab me by the stones and scream ‘LISTEN!’.
There is an incessant drone that accompanies the soundtrack of my life.
Like any constant, the human condition adapts and moves on, uninterrupted and undisturbed.
The body is made in a way that it simply adapts and adjusts.
Example: Where did I put my glasses?
Answer: They are up on the top of your head.
If we didn’t have this ability, wearing clothes would drive us to insanity.
I work in a cigar store and hear on a daily basis,
“This store smells wonderful! It reminds of my Dad/Grandfather/Uncle.”
Truth be told, I can’t smell it.
I can be away for weeks from the store and upon my return?
No smell, no recognition.
I am for the most part physiologically incapable of recognizing it.
But I could walk into another cigar store and the smell grabs and smacks me in the face like the cigar smoking bitch that I am . . .
(in a good way, I love tobacco).
My point is that as we live our lives we sometimes build up an almost unintentional immunity to things that mean the most to us.
This includes people, places, things, moments, songs, food, smells, feelings, emotions and more.
It’s physiological and biological as well.
It’s how we are hard-wired.
We are bombarded by so much media that much of what we see consists of perpetuated and virtual cybershit.
Don’t know about you but seeing that on a daily basis puts me on a virtual merry-go-round.
But now and then something throws me off the ride, in a major way.
My 2011 Ford Escape has one hell of an amazing sound system.
It is equipped with Microsoft Sync, Sirius Radio, a great CD player and a USB port for the 4,000+ songs on my Ipod Classic. (and it gets close to 32 miles/gallon highway)
Not sure but judging from the sound I think the speaker system may be made by Bose.
At any rate this thing kicks some serious sonic ass.
It is AMAZING.
(and it has an awesome Australian Southern Cross vanity plate to boot)
I was driving into Boston last Sunday morning and had my Ipod set to ‘Shuffle’ (random songs).
I can fast forward or rewind using the controls on my steering wheel.
As I made my way onto the Mass Pike THIS song came on.
I’ve listened to Marc Jordan for years but never listened to this song as I did this particular Sunday.
It’s meaning was crystal clear as to what and who the song was about.
The next song was THIS from Michael Sembello (aka, Maniac from ‘FlashDance’ fame)
Although I’d listened to this album years ago, I never heard the actual words.
What came to me towards the end of the song was that someone is trying to get in touch with me.
Someone is trying like hell to make me listen.
Someone is going out of their way to get me to wake the hell up in terms of my life.
If you feel like doing some homework, listen to these two songs.
Who do YOU think they are about?
Know that I am listening and know that in my heart the songs are both about the same Man.
Is He Superman?
It’s all about interpretation.
I’m thinking I understand and it’s always been all about Superman . . .
Looking for something that resembles the sentiment in this picture.
My Wednesday has been the polar opposite of anything even close to equilibrium, saved by Zero.
Will tomorrow be any better?
Time and a decent nights sleep will tell.
It began as an innocent and seemingly serendipitous friendship that came by the way of my personal weblog some 5+ years ago.
If you’ve read my blog before you will know the backstory of all that I am about to say.
If you haven’t, this will be a good time for reading a pretty amazing story.
How this friendship happened seems to defy any logical explanation because that’s how many friendships start.
What happened in the ensuing years is the stuff of fairy tales and Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’ stories, all but true.
I still have to pinch myself some days though; days when I find myself woolgathering about whether me and Pamela did actually visit Australia for two simply incredible weeks this past July.
It’s taken some time to not only process the whole experience but also to figure out
just what I want to say . . .
[Interpretation: this is gonna take a lot of posts]
We left Boston on a sunny, pure and crystal late Friday afternoon in July – our first destination: LAX.
Good weather, nice takeoff, flight is smooth, everybody is happy, life is good . . . piece of cake, right?
As we crossed somewhere over Lincoln, Nebraska at approximately 30,000 ft my gorgeous wife grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t think I can do this.”
“Do what?” I said. [me thinking about the mile high club]
“Flying this far. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Sure you can,” I said, “we’ll be fine,” as I squeezed her hand harder in mine.
“You promise?” She said.
“You betcha,” I said.
Not what you want to hear from a wife on the verge of tears and only 3 hours from your point of departure.
We still had another 13+ hours in the air to get to Brisbane after getting to LA.
This was not working out as I’d planned.
It rarely does though, right?
It was about this time that I was able to connect to the net with my laptop.
I have never loved Facebook more than I did at that particular moment in time.
“Here,” I said, passing her my laptop, “Play Farmville or chat with someone who’s on.”
Maybe sometimes a human connection is all you really need to get you over a flying hump.
The Facebook diversion worked and we landed safe and sound in the City of Angels at 9PM (PST) Midnight (EST).
Our flights were connecting so we didn’t need to worry about our checked luggage as we would pick it up in Brisbane on our arrival on Sunday morning (thanks in part to the International Dateline)
Turned out that our 11PM flight was delayed and we didn’t take off until 1AM (PST) or 4AM (EST).
We were both sleeping in the terminal like oh, so many homeless people when our plane started boarding.
We made our way onto a V-Australia huge ass airbus and found our seats.
We were ready for some sleep.
After a nice snack we both hunkered down for a long summer’s nap, as visions of the calming waters of the great barrier reef danced in our heads . . .
(alright, I made that part up)
If anyone tells you that flying to Australia is easy and you could ‘do it in your sleep’, tell them they can go pound sand.
It is a long ass ways away and when we finally landed in Brisbane [19+ hours later] if all that we saw was two crazy kangaroos getting their freak on with some abo playing the didj, we would have left happy campers.
That’s not what we found.
The air was different.
The sky was different.
The layout of the land was different.
The spring water was different.
The birds sound were different.
The toilet water flushed the wrong way.
And the people are friendly! [unlike some in Boston]
And they drive on the wrong side of the road (a trip unto itself!)
I think I actually shit my pants as we drove through our first roundabout.
Bringing adult diapers is merely a suggestion.
We found out very quickly that Australia was more than just an island, a huge ass country, and a continent unto itself.
It was a place of incredible beauty and majesty, a place of tropical fish the likes of which we had never seen, wildlife that boggles the mind, food that makes us yearn for more, Cadbury chocolate that will never see the US shores and nighttime constellations that are unique to the southern hemisphere.
We also found out that Australia is a place where one very special family would open their hearts and homes to two American strangers they’d never met before.
We got our suitcases in Brisbane and headed to Australian Customs before embarking on the final flight to take us to Tropical Queensland and the home of Mark and Maureen Harrod, friends of a lifetime.
We didn’t know it then but we’d already fallen in love with this magical place called Australia.
As I looked at the Southern Cross in the sky on our first night,
I decided I should stop dreaming. I was here, we were here.
to be continued . . .
Back in 1972, the Stylistics released ‘Betcha by Golly Wow’ to the masses.
Although I’m not sure just how high it climbed on the charts, it was an amazing song in so very many ways.
The song’s harmonic complexity was something of a rarity for the ’70’s.
I loved the song back then (musically, not really knowing why but understanding it now)
and had all but forgotten about it until today.
A friend had given me the new Pat Metheny CD to listen to,
I put it on my Ipod and completely forgot about it.
Shuffling my way to South Station tonight this old familiar song came streaming into my headphones.
Betcha by Golly, Wow?
Who the hell is this?!?
I can’t believe that there are still people that have never heard of him.
If I can turn one person onto this incredible musician, this post will have done its job.
If you have 10 minutes, please listen to the original and then to Metheny’s rendition.
Maybe you will hear why I am just so amazed by this man (and the Stylistics)
Either way, enjoy them both.
Expect some posts about my sojourn to Australia in the next few weeks.
Right now my cranium us still sifting through the incredible and amazing details . . .
Now and then someone comes into your life and changes it.
They improve and inspire it, smoothing out the rough edges and pushing you towards
your own personal creative and artistic dreams.
For me, the writer, I have been blessed to have met Mira Bartok, a gifted artist, musician and writer.
How we met is a long story and not fodder for this particular post.
Mira has a memoir coming out this January [1.11.11] called, ‘The Memory Palace‘,
a story about growing up with a gifted, incredibly talented but schizophrenic mother.
I was honored that Mira sent me an ARC [advanced reader copy] of the book
which I devoured in less than a week.
Mira’s words and images took me on a journey I won’t soon forget.
For me, the memoir confirmed the idea and thought that, ‘Love conquers all.’
I refuse to give anything away except to say that this book literally took my breath away.
It’s about love and forgiveness, music and art, memory and the present tense, home and the homeless.
This book changed the way I feel about the many panhandlers I walk by every day in Boston,
a city filled with sad stories and sadder characters.
Watch the promo trailer and please, please, please leave a comment.
If you could pass the Youtube link on to several friends, I would be forever grateful.
When someone does something wonderful for my writing and creative life, I need to return the favor.
This book is incredible, as is Mira . . .
[and her husband, my dear friend and multi-talented colleague Doug Plavin]
just watch . . .