Saturday, March 30, 2019


I can't explain it. Decades ago - yea even a lifetime ago I used to write letters and notes with an actual fountain pen. Then I stopped. The ballpoint pen never did work for me. I couldn't read it after it got cold, whereas I could read what I wrote with a fountain pen. And, oddly, I could revisit my scribbling done with a lead pencil. I figured it was the friction that did it. The tactile connection. There was a sensual sensation between the writing instrument and the paper that made for a more contemplative experience. Whatever: it made for a result that was more legible.

Meanwhile, I taught myself to type. It was a long and frustrating experience. Then way back in the early 80s I entered the computer age. Spellchecking. Instant correction. No more erasable bond. White out and overtyping became a thing of the past. I could just write and write and let some digital editor correct my work. It was liberating.

Yet, I missed my fountain pen. I bought one five or six years ago in a weak moment in the dead of winter and the thing didn't work all that well so I laid it by. About a month ago I dug it out and decided to see if I could resurrect it. So I flushed out the pen until it seemed to be working and loaded it with ink. Behold! The thing performed perfectly. Subsequently I have discovered that flushing out a fountain pen is standard procedure. I didn't know that.

I decided to see if I could find a source for fountain pens and associated paraphernalia. I quickly discovered this marvelous fountain pen store down in Virginia that is the most amazing place. It's online only and they only do pens, ink and paper and other accessories to the writing life. Their inventory is huge. The difference between writing instruments now and back when I used one in the fifties is staggering.

You guessed it: I now own a couple more fountain pens. It's fun - that is, for me. My penmanship is pretty much what is has always been - messy. But, and this is the test, I can read it cold and the few letters and notes I have sent out have seemingly been read successfully. I don' know how long this will last but I am having fun. I have some nice quality writing paper and envelopes. And good ink.

Suddenly I discover that I have email addresses for dozens of friends while missing quite a few actual mailing addresses. Don't worry, I don't expect everyone who gets one of my "original" hand written epistles to respond in kind. This is something I enjoy. Whether you do or not is none of my business.

Sometimes I use green ink.

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Our three way phone call the other evening was a good idea. It was like a visit - almost. However, as usual - I always come away from three way calls and multi person conversations feeling like I missed something. This is the reason I usually depend so heavily on the written word.

Without fail, every time we leave from a visit with friends I always ask CA for a brief summary of the visit. It never fails that I missed something essential. I have all this nice equipment hanging on my head but all that technology does not re-create normal speech. It creates a facsimile - not the same but similar. I do not hear what every body else hears. That's why music no longer works for me.

This is also why it is so important to face me when talking to me. The visual queues really make a huge difference. The environment is also important. Noisy places are sometimes impossible for me. I have lost the ability to filter out unwanted sound and focus on what someone is saying as most normally hearing people can do. That's a disability. I don't like that term, but it wasn't until I accepted the fact that I was indeed disabled that I felt truly empowered to speak up and ask for what I need to enable me to hear and understand.

Of course, it doesn't always work. At times all the best intentions just don't get it done and I must retreat and re-group. In difficult situations the effort to understand and participate is tiring and frustrating. Escape is sometimes the only healthy thing to do.

Meanwhile, I, and millions of other Americans hobble along on our aural crutches: hearing aids, cochlear implants, other assistive listening devices. On level ground I can get along at a fairly good clip. On irregular terrain, however, I might need a little help from my friends.