Total lazybones mood continues; I blame the Healing Process. And I am healing nicely, aside from various irritations. The vicious cycle of oral discomfort: it would all go away on its own much sooner if nature hadn’t provided a large semi-autonomous muscle RIGHT THERE to bother the irritation on a constant basis. Come to think of it, wisdom teeth are one of the greatest design flaws in the human body. I mean, really. Hey, let’s arrange it so nail grow sideways in your head! Great!

In the mail today, hurrah, my Field Notes arrived. I am not a notebook fetishist. I had a Moleskin once but after a while I started to feel as if anything I would write down would be inadequate. After all, Hemingway had one. Right? Or Duchamp. Or someone artsy and famous who wrote down aphorisms or sketched Notre Dame or did other things you’d see in a Moleskine ad. I took one to the Limbo Room when I was on jury duty, because you couldn’t bring laptops, because that would somehow contaminate everything. I wrote everything in a fine-point felt-tipped marker in my best handwriting, because this was a Moleskine, and I tucked paper souvenirs in the little pocket, and felt so deucedly clever and hip. Never used it after that. It just seemed daunting: does this thought or note or jotting deserve to be in a Moleskine, or would it sully the tradition laid down by Hemingway (maybe) or Duchamp (probably not)? So to hell with it.

But the Field Notes are just little notebooks. With matching pens. This is important. Here they are:

That’s the Minnesota edition, in state colors, sort of. Since they’re three bucks a pop, and they’re graph-paper, not lined, the pressure’s off. I plan to impress people with these wherever I go, writing down pertinent information, and storing it in a pocket. Most people will not be impressed, because they will wonder why you’re not doing things the modern way – getting out a phone, turning it on, calling up the app, typing the information, swearing, backspacing, asking the person to repeat the information, apologizing for not being able to type well while someone’s watching, then storing it, then calling it back up to make sure it was stored – some people may enjoy watching the old folkways at work.

But some people will really be impressed by the matching pen. That’s a whole new level. I kid! But I don’t. I would be drawn to the combination. A retro notepad and a matching pen. Let me tell you this, friends: I took the pen out and clicked it and wrote, and yea, the ink doth flow. This goes contrary to the experience of every single fargin’ pen I deal with every day, and it’s why I hate pens.

Because I expect them not to work. This is one of those things that maddens you, because a pen should do one thing: write. But we all know that when you pick up the standard ballpoint, i.e., one that walked home from work with you one day, it will not write. It will make a faint line; the ball will balk. You look around for another piece of paper, and make the Primer Squiggle. Once you’ve convinced the ink to get on with it, then you return to the task

AH HAH! HAH! SNEAK ATTACK! I just picked up the Field Notes pen without warning and attempted to write with it. And it produced. I am now reproducing the experiment with a Papermate Eagle . . . fail.

Hmm. Just thought of something. Hold on.

Okay, I tried an experiment with two other ballpoints within my immediate grasp. One is a remarkable pen from the local Chinese Restaurant; it has a menu rolled up in the barrel that comes out when you pull a metal edge, and retracts automatically. The other is a Credit Union ballpoint. Both worked perfectly when requested.

So . . . the pens people give you to make you think well of their business, they work. The ones you buy for yourself or your office, don’t.

Got it. Complicating matters is the difficult relationship between ballpoints and thermal paper. When you have to sign a receipt at a store, the pen gets stage fright. Never works, does it? Unless you place the paper on a soft surface, like a piece of cardboard, or your wallet. You’d think everyone would have figured this out, no? No. The customer gets the receipt, tries to sign, no ink comes out, he curses the pen and the store, replaces the pen, tries another, same thing, makes a squiggle, whatever. If someone wanted to make a few bucks he’d market a little pad for signing, and sell advertising: just a tasteful logo at the top, targeted to the type of goods the store sells. People would enjoy the experience of signing a receipt without dealing with the Primer Squiggle.

Here’s the boulevard glacier today. En route to the death it deserves.

More exterior photography can be found in the start of the grandly-named “World” section of the pictures site, available here. It’s just as pretentious as the other examples.

See you around – tomorrow it’s more 70s updates, and . . . we’ll see. Okay, a Diner. Maybe. And more! Perhaps.

Said Mr. Lazybones.


65 Responses to The Primer Squiggle

  1. Mitchell says:

    I’m a Moleskine man myself. LOVE these things! Not only that but I also got a real tony leather cover for it that holds a pencil as well. Lots of great stuff at that site (check out the iPad cover). Yeah, they’re a little pricy but the quality is unbeatable.

  2. RexV says:

    The Sanford Uni-Balls used to be my pen of choice but I agree with Joexrayguy that the Foray pens are excellent. The cushion grip is very comfortable and the things seem to last forever.

    Like a lot of things in life, there are a lot of free or low-cost options, but sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little extra for a quality product.

  3. But the real burning question is, what kind of pen did MR. TINK switch over to???

    (nods to GardenStater)

  4. swschrad says:

    @Steve Ripley: perhaps it’s because banks (yes, BANKS… still society’s most despised evil, ahead of Japanese power company executives) swat the blue ones out of your hand and lecture you.

    perhaps they get their copiers and scanners the same place they get their pens.

    @Wagner von: why, to TINK pens, of course. mr. Tink previously got his pens from (lovely old Sally Forth joke) the dumpster behind the bank.

  5. DensityDuck says:

    I remember OGH posting, a while ago, that one way to spot a time-traveller was if they just threw away something that was incredibly precious or unique. The example he used was a ballpoint pen; you didn’t throw it out, you bought a refill for it! Those things were expensive!

    I imagine that these days, it would be like someone just throwing their phone in the trash when its battery died.
    “Oh, you’re a criminal, that’s a burner?”
    “What? No, it just ran out of battery.”
    “So…uh…why not recharge it?”
    “*recharge* a *phone*? Why would I wanna do *that*?”


    I’m not much of a pen guy; any extended writing I have to do is typed here on the Magic Box. I have found, though, that I can’t get away with mechanical pencils. Either the lead is so thin that I snap it instantly, or it’s so thick that it’s like trying to write with the end of a piece of pipe. I have three or four boxes of plain-old wood pencils against the times when I have to sketch something. (Speaking of which, what happened to those Mirado Black Warriors?)

  6. Apropos of nothing, does anyone else think the road sign above (the one with the multiple eyeballs on it) is a little … Orwellian?

  7. John says:

    @John Robinson: before I visited the World, I saw those eyeballs, and thought them most unimaginative as civic-responsibility-encouraging graphics go. It was in 1972 that I read 1984, a long time ago either way, but I am sure my memory is reliable when it tells me the word “graphics” appears nowhere in that novel. Which kinda makes the eyeballs even creepier, as if certain commercial artists in our own time feel authoritarian fashions need maintenance. 1984 Is Past, But The Fire Still Burns! In any case, I am glad your post is apropos of nothing having to do with…pens. Or…notebooks.

  8. Brian Lutz says:

    John Robinson says:
    March 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm Apropos of nothing, does anyone else think the road sign above (the one with the multiple eyeballs on it) is a little … Orwellian?

    I don’t know, when I first saw it I thought it looked like donuts for some reason.

  9. Dan Holway says:
    March 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    James…I’d hate for you to miss this:

    That. was. awesome!

  10. Kurt says:

    I like Moleskine but even though they’re too expensive the deal breaker for me is the thin paper. If all I can put my hands on at the moment are those hideous gel pens…they show through the paper. Otherwise the narrow ruled tinted paper, size, and ‘leather’ binding is perfect. Put some heavy paper in it (like Black n’ Red) and I’d buy.

  11. Mikey NTH says:

    The Pilot V7′s work real well on those types of receipts.

  12. Jay Amundson says:

    I use Canson 8.5×11″ sketchbooks, they have plain white pages and look good on the bookcase when they are full of drawings and observations. That takes some time – They normally last me almost a year. Fountain pens are neat, but they take a lot of maintenance, I often use pencils, since the fountain pen has dried up and I don’t feel like cleaning it and refilling it. Ball point is good for checks and forms, I don’t enjoy writing or drawing with them in my journals.

  13. Ryan says:

    On the subject of the difficulty of writing on thermal paper (receipts), why do we still have to sign credit card slips, anyway? Actually, I’ve noticed that in some cases now they’re no longer requiring the signature. But when they do require it, what’s the point, anyway? Nobody ever looks at the signature you produce, or compares it to the one on the back of the credit card, which the slip-signer could have put there themselves anyway, even if it isn’t actually their card.

  14. Joni says:

    That insight on pens was positively Joe-Ohio-ian.

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