all a blur, I had to get the calendar out to try and piece
together the correct sequence of events.
arrived in Chicago on Wednesday evening, my first time in
the Windy City, my first pen show and the first time to meet
Len Provisor outside of cyberspace. I was greeted outside
O'Hare airport with a huge snailie image poking out of the
sun roof of Len's car, and from that moment on my feet didn't
touch the ground until I arrived back in Ireland the following
revelation was the "pre-show" get together. As you
walked through the hotel lobby, small groups of individuals
surreptitiously disappeared into the elevators at frequent
intervals, laden with pen cases. By simply following some
Waterman's, I arrived at the twelfth floor where I found a
busy dealer show getting underway.
is something to watch, it's like a sort of ritual dance where
the dealer has to lay out their pens in preparation for some
selling, while simultaneously checking out the inventory at
other tables. Some just dumped their cases on the table and
joined the groups congregating in front of open pen cases.
The trick appears to be to act cool, fumble the fastener on
a case and several pairs of impatient hands reach in to finish
the good stuff was here, about to change hands before the
main show was even underway. Because the rooms (there were
three) were relatively small, it was possible to do circuits
in double quick time, however every time I went around, I
saw something different. Don Lavin immediately took time out
from organizing the show to teach me how to work the show,
and armed with invaluable advice I set off to appraise the
tables for two hours without buying anything. I carefully
watched which pens were attracting interest, and which tables
were attracting the high numbers. I spotted some pens I HAD
to have, and by hesitating with the pen in hand, I found that
I had discovered the art of negotiation. "OK, I can see
you want that for twenty bucks less", and my collection
started to grow!
three hours into the proceedings another of the organizers,
Dan Zazove, pulled the lid off a box and showed me an array
of perfect Parker prototypes, all different colors. As I reverentially
held a mandarin yellow, several others came screeching to
a halt to observe this unique sight.
time the pizza arrived courtesy of Judd Perlson (who incidentally
can silence an entire ballroom full of people without a microphone),
I had acquired a first year double jewel 51, a Conklin black
hard rubber crescent filler (no fading) a perfectly colored
green vacumatic and a couple of pencils. Several experts confirmed
that I had done well, which is a testament to the caliber
of the pens and the dealers. Before close of play I had spoken
to David Nishimura, Andy Lambrou and John Mottishaw, and fulfilled
a wish by purchasing a 51 with a "Mottishawed" XB
the show had moved from the intimate surroundings of the twelfth
floor, to the ballroom. Here the aisles were wide and it took
a lot longer to walk around the tables. The number of dealers
had doubled and even more familiar names were appearing. It
takes a while to comprehend that nearly ALL the well known
dealers and authors were actually together in the same room.
After buying a copy of the Stylophiles CD from Dean Tweedale
of Penlovers, we had a chat about the various sites and boards.
Dean has a great collection of Parker Flighters, but unfortunately
they're not for sale. It appears that he also had difficulty
getting an internet connection from the hotel, so we all relied
on people posting interim reports from the show on the message
boards. I got a quick posting out on Friday morning at considerable
cost in the hotels business center. Having winced at the cost
of a can of Coke in the mini-bar, I could appreciate why show
co-organizer Michael Fultz looked so shocked after supplying
200 cans for the pre show pizza party.
Schulz and Miles Turner
ballroom, I encountered my first taste of first-timer syndrome,
and I had to leave for a while! OK, try this. Get ALL your
pen books out, particularly the "Blue Book", Lambrous
and as many others as you can gather (you DO have all the
books, don't you?) and put them on the floor. Now in quick
succession, flick fairly rapidly through them until you get
to the last one, and go through them again at least three
times until you can't tell the difference between a Vintage
Duofold and a dip pen. Get the idea? Now multiply by an order
of magnitude and you have a vague idea of how this syndrome
kicks in at a pen show. Panic sets in, everything blurs and
you feel that you will never be able to choose a pen. At one
point I thought that all pens had suddenly taken on the appearance
of Parker vacumatics, until I realized that David Isaacson
had brought at least 10 cases of vacs with him! He still managed
to find ones he didn't already have, how is he ever going
to decide which ones to illustrate his book with?
Fingerman, Kim Sosin and Steve Zucker
spent some time putting faces to names I knew and people I
had only met in cyberspace, Ed Fingerman from the Fountain
Pen Hospital, Ann-Marie from the Ink Pallette, The Zuckers
who are organizing the NY Show in September, Frank Dubiel
(Da Book), Sam Fiorella, Howard Levy from Bexley and countless
others. Best of all I got to meet some familiar names from
the Pentrace boards, Jimmie Cockburn, Herb Schulz and Miles
Turner (who came on Sunday). Its slightly surreal to meet
face to face with people you have known for so long and continue
conversations that started months ago!
night and its time to take a break from the tables, meet in
the lobby and whisked off by bus to Buddy Guy's Legends Club.
Len Provisor and Sandy Andina led the group, and while Sandy
answered questions with an encyclopedic knowledge of ANY topic,
Len continued working throughout the gig, ensuring that everyone
at the table got an autographed poster. He even managed to
introduce me to Buddy Guy himself, and got John Mayall who
was playing that night to sign a poster and CD for me. Something
tells me you will have to book VERY early for the blues night
at next years Chicago Show.
and the show was even bigger. Highlights for me were the seminars
and the auction. Don Lavin told people how to handle a pen
show, Rick Horne and Neal Frank gave an invaluable Q&A
on pen repair, and John Mottishaw worked his magic before
my eyes. I learned more at these seminars than I had learned
elsewhere in a year.
was also a first for me (I haven't even bid on Ebay or Penbid).
There WERE some real bargains to be had as bidders concentrated
on some of the more unusual items. I picked up six Eversharp
pencils, a Lady Patricia with a wonderful flexy nib, another
51 double jewel, a "True Blue" rotary pencil and
of all things, a 3 inch seated "imp" from a Duofold
era desk set, made for Parker by Binney & Smith.
night and Don Lavin and his wife Ellen and Dan Zazove brought
me to Gibsons, along with George Fishler and his wife and
the Brookings from California. Don wanted to show me what
American food was all about, I just had to take a picture
of the dessert to show the folks back home what these crazy
Yanks are capable of! Back to the hotel and another great
music session, this time with show participants playing in
a jam session with Sandy Andina.
Provisor and "Buddy Guy"
morning and I'm warned that the crowd will be even bigger,
with the main public day under way. Most of the big manufacturers
and dealers are here, and the show has spilled out into the
lobby area surrounding the ballroom. Some really great modern
pens here to tempt me and some incredible wood display cases
holding the entire Krone range. I believe that the Krone display
at the New York show will not be easily forgotten! Fountain
Pen Hospital have a HUGE stand with what must be most of their
range on show. Lots of FTS (first timer syndrome) here, even
Miles Turner has to buy me a coffee to enable him to refocus.
He plays the show very well, asking lots of questions, comparing
different dealers and has a pre prepared list to look for.
Sunday is when the prices can "improve" as dealers
seek to unload inventory before heading home. FPH have a "blow
out" with $95 books going for $35! I pick up a Rotring
Core (gotta love them!) and prepare to call it a day. I have
everything I need, including a basic set of tools (section
pliers, knock out block, dental pics, shellac, sacs) and a
good illuminated 10x loupe (the Kaplans spent a good 20 minutes
patiently helping me decide on the best one). As I did one
last circuit, I was called over by the dealer who sold me
the first year 51....and there is a beautiful cocoa demi 51
pen and pencil set, the pen having a demonstrator hood. Well
when I hear the price, I quickly went for my check book and
some advice. Needless to say it was a real bargain and I now
have a set I didn't expect to come home with.
Lavin with George Fishler on right.
I'm now back home and I can think back, here are my main impressions.
Firstly after reading books, a pen show is a must. It's worth
the extra all show fee just for the education and the chance
to meet so many great people. Secondly the dealers go out
of their way to help, explain, demonstrate and generally add
to your education. It's no problem to get a second or third
opinion from an expert. Finally you will never see so many
wonderful pens in one place, it's literally amazing. Remember
to take a break from time to time, drink a lot of coffee and
unlike me take lunch from time to time! I was extremely fortunate
in having great people like Don Lavin, Dan Zazove, Len Provisor
and Jimmie Cockburn to guide me and make me feel welcome,
its an experience I won't forget.
by the way, I wasn't kidding about the dessert!