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 . . .
I troll the internet on a nightly basis and find gif images that I would love to share.
Facebook doesn’t allow these creative creations.
Who the hell knows.
That said, I am instituting a weekly offering on Fridays only.
Send me your favorite gif images and I will post them here and put a link on my
There are some amazing, funny and creative Gifs out there.
Send them to me via link/Facebook message.
This could be fun.
My weekly offering is above . . .
If you’re wondering what a gif is, please ask Google . . . :=)
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
There are several things I do know about my nocturnal comings and goings.
I dream in vivid color, for one thing.
Not just fundamental colors either.
My synapses and neurotransmitters treat me to a 4th of July palette of incredible and wondrous things.
My dreams are intensely complex, symbolically speaking, and I have yet to
understand what they truly mean.
I have also been known to get out of bed at 3:47AM to write down many a
soon-to-be elusive thought.
For the past ten years or so,
I have yet to have a dream that included both my mother and father.
It’s always been one or the other.
Given the circumstances surrounding the past chaotic decade,
that makes some logical sense, I guess.
As I said, my dreams have had ‘Ginny’ some nights and ‘Wally’ on the others.
Until last night . . .
Off in the gossamer covered distance I could see them standing together,
holding hands . . . smiling . . . still.
They were underneath a tree of great age that was surrounded by what looked like
thousands of these tiny purple flowers.
I was physically moved (somehow) closer and I immediately noticed that they both looked happy,
healthy and totally at peace.
My mother was wearing a royal blue, knee length coat.
My father, a crisp white shirt and grey pleated trousers.
I smiled at the sight of the two of them, so obviously happy together and said,
“What are all these flowers?”
My mother smiled and said,
“They’re bluebells, Michael. Each flower is a dream of ours that somehow came true.
No more sad, just more good.”
She turned (in slow motion) and kissed my father on the cheek.
They stood underneath the bluebell tree as small white flowers began falling like an unexpected springtime snowstorm.
They faded into the distance, transforming themselves into a Monet-like watercolour.
I faded into my dreamworld distance as well.
Before I went to bed last night, I had never heard of a flower called a ‘bluebell’.
I found it quite appropriate that the beautiful flower is not quite blue but purple – a color closely associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Thinking back on the dream I found it odd that my father never said a word,
though he appeared to be quite content.
Maybe the serenity I saw in his bright eyes told me all I needed to know.
I feel that their hearts have healed after all these godforsaken years apart.
Although mine is still on the mend,
I now believe that there are better days ahead for them
and for me . . .
*a little something from the wonders of the internet regarding ‘bluebells’
“Bluebells have long been symbolic of humility and gratitude. They are associated with constancy, gratitude and everlasting love. Bluebells are also closely linked to the realm of fairies and are sometimes referred to as “fairy thimbles.” To call fairies to a convention, the bluebells would be rung.
Bluebells are widely known as harebells in Scotland.
The name originated due to the hares that frequented the fields covered with harebells.
Some sources claim that witches turned themselves into hares to hide among the flowers.
Another name for bluebells is Dead Man’s bells.
This is due to the fact that fairies were believed to cast spells on those who dare to pick or damage the beautiful, delicate flowers. The people of Scotland are fond enough of the flower to continue this tradition
in the hopes of protecting the little flower.”
It was 5 years ago that I hit the ‘publish’ button for this post.
Many things have happened since that innocent and ‘so me’ post.
I like to think my writing has matured a bit and that I have taken many of you
on my journey down the road of life.
I want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of my life (good or bad)
for the past 5 years.
You have enlightened me, guided me, made me laugh and have given me solace when I needed it most.
You guys are incredible.
I will pat myself on the back for blatant consistency.
I think I can give me that.
There are several people I need to deeply thank.
Pamela, for believing in me when I no longer believe in myself. (and letting me know about it)
My three girls for keeping me on my toes. Always.
For Jon, he keeps me cooking. I love cooking,
He is a man that will drive through hell and high water to have a bowl of my Cincinnati Chili,
Last but not least, my family from Australia.
Maureen, Mark, Kelly.Zoe, Mel, Steve, Tash, Stick, Wil, Stella, Lucas, Issac, Max and all!
(who did I miss?)
Thanks to all that have visited and commented.
Read some ”’old”” Murph . . . .
And watch the video at the end!
This is a piece I wrote several years ago but still seems to me to apply to the present day music industry.
I am still a musician at heart but venues to work in are drying up faster than a droplet of water in a bucket of dry sand.
It’s an abysmal state of affairs these days musically and sadly we all saw it coming.
Some say business is cyclical. I wonder.
Hey, Paul McCartney played the halftime show Super Bowl Sunday, right?
Remembering Miss American Pie
The musicians of the 60’s and 70’s had a wealth of powerful and insightful compositions from which to draw their inspiration. The songs had shine and creative musical integrity that would forever set them apart from today’s musical mainstream.
The music spoke of the dynamic of the human experience; from love found and lost to political innuendo shaking hands with world peace.
The older generation frowned upon these freedoms of expression and saw the music created as an irrevocable evil to be stamped out in the hopes of ending the reign of terror that floated over the airwaves.
From the shaking hips of Elvis to the Mop-Tops from England to the androgynous and enigmatic David Bowie, the music written back then made us think and connect; it gave us an up close and personal view of the broken heart.
So what the hell happened to perceptive content?
Music, in its purest form is therapy, a most fundamental discipline of meditation the human race has, but along the way we altered the magic formula, ultimately changing its destiny as well.
It’s supposed to make you feel good.
Just think of a song that truly means something to you, take out a piece of paper, and jot down five things that come to mind immediately.
Chances are you can come up with more than ten.
That’s the miracle of music; when something unexpected touches the heart.
Much of what I hear today is tainted, biased and so musically inept that when I hear one of these prized gems, I can only wildly shake my head and slobber saliva like an angry PBR bull (which tends to make loved ones around me very uncomfortable).
A rule of thumb for future songwriters regarding lyrics: if it rhymes with shucking but has nothing to do with corn, get out a thesaurus and find another word.
The English language is chock full of them. Really.
It seems that few people write real songs anymore; that is a simple and yet sobering fact, not a generality. If it weren’t for artists like John Mayer and Dave Matthews, I’d have lost my mind by now.
Much of the music today is like bad poetry, arranged, set to a groove from the late eighties, and thrown into a 4,000 track, all digital recorder (yes, all the tracks must be used, read the contract).
Recently, while listening to a song on a brand X radio station out of Boston—the exact frequency slips my mind…you’re welcome—I remember thinking to myself, what language is this guy speaking?
I strained to hear anything remotely intelligible.
Musically speaking, the song was as mundane and pedestrian as an arrangement that oozes from a generic portable keyboard purchased at Wal-Mart.
I also thought that somewhere in the midst of this urban cacophony, I could hear the sound of a dog being run over and over, and over again… I’m not positive about that and maybe it’s just me. Somebody call the ASPCA.
The inspiration for this article came to me as I ambled down Main Street a few weeks ago (us old guys don’t walk, we amble…it’s much hipper) when a pulsating sub-compact Toyota Celica loaded with what sounded like two, maybe three 18-inch subwoofers drove past me towards City Hall, emitting music so thunderous it almost knocked down the lady walking next to me.
Initially, I thought it was just wind.
I didn’t get the license plate number because I was too busy bending over to retrieve my own two eyeballs off the sidewalk.
Sound pressure levels that can cause buildings to vibrate precariously…hmm, I wondered if the Slater Building was up to code on that one.
Nope, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Then there’s the whole debacle surrounding present day artists hiding behind the 5th amendment, and we all can see what a gush of rotting sewage that is, but it doesn’t mean we have to buy a bucketful of it.
When a major proportion of the music available has a “parental advisory” sticker slapped on it, what’s left for those of us who prefer substance in what we listen to?
Maybe we need a special store that caters to people fed up with listening to music and lyrics that insult our intelligence with the glorification of worthless profanity while wasting our hard earned money on garbage that someone in the recording industry somehow deemed fit for human consumption. Bon appétit.
Maybe I’m not meant to understand what all the hype and excitement in the industry is about these days, because I’m no longer a child.
But there’s always that outside chance that as I struggle with my own foreseeable mid-life crisis, I’ll pleasantly discover that perhaps I’ve grown a little bit wiser in the process.
Just watch the Grammy Awards this year for a taste of the ultimate in garishness.
In the end, the music we choose to listen to and support should remain solely in the hands of the listener, but the overall message that it brings should be more of a boon to society as opposed to an outrage against the machine.
Comedian George Carlin hit the proverbial nail on the head when he stated that, “…inside every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.”
Get out your umbrellas, kids; it looks like rain.
Happy 5 To S&M!!!!!!!
See you for the next five years . . .