Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicago, Au Revoir

Today marked my last day, at least for now, working with the Pelikans in the Sachs/Fultz collection. The pens were great and the companionship better yet.

It was a long day as all three of us scrambled to get at least half the work done that will be necessary to catalogue and interpret close to four hundred Pelikan pens and pieces of various ephemera.

But I did get a chance to get some images, mostly of Keith and Catherine. And one of our non-pen colleagues took a snap of the three of us. Hope you have enjoyed my account of the trip even a quarter as much as I enjoyed the week.


Keith and Catherine

have a working relationship that the rest of us can only envy.


This is a pose most characteristic of Keith.


Although she is not part of the hobby, after almost a year, Catherine knows as much about pens as many long time collectors. Here she studies the fine points of a Pelikan 100.

Pelikans, at least some of them,

and the three of us.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chicago and Pens

I arrived in Chicago mid-day Tuesday, the 23rd. The purpose of the trip was to work with Pelikan pens that were recently added to the Sachs/Fultz collection, which stands as the greatest known collection of fountain pens. It’s a testiment to my schedule that only today, Sunday the 27th have I gotten time to post here. But the hard work has been lightened by the time spent with Greg Sachs, owner of the collection, Keith Zaransky, the curator of collections, and the delightful Catherine Morris, archivist and collection manager.

Personally, it seems fitting to be here, twenty four years after I met my first pen collecting friends and attended my first pen show while living and working in Chicago.

Many of you know Keith, who has collected and dealt in pens (as well as other antiquities) for more than twenty years. Keith is also a lifelong friend of Greg Sachs, and when Greg decided several years ago to revive his youthful passion for pens, he turned, naturally to Keith, who facilitated the transfer of the collection of L. Michael Fultz to Greg, and when Greg decided to establish a pen museum, he retained Keith to manage the effort.

Keith then turned to Catherine, who, at 26, is an aspiring coloratura whose academic training and field work in anthropology has trained her to manage collections.

Together, they are a dynamic team who are bringing order to the collection, cataloguing it and assessing where to go next and how to get there. With Greg as a guiding light and patron this is the most exciting project in the world of pens in more than two decades. Within the next few years Greg and Keith are developing plans to create a world-class museum devoted to the role of fountain pens in the history of human communication.

For now, the collection is housed securely in this building in downtown Chicago.

As I arrived Tuesday afternoon, I was able to meet the staff of Aqualeaf Holdings, Greg’s company, and most particularly Catherine, who has applied museum cataloguing standards to the cataloguing of pens. Over the next few days, I would come to appreciate the rigor and exacting standards she and Keith are applying to a collection so vast and sprawling that no one, up to now, has fully understood its scope.

This is the office where Keith and Catherine work.

On Wednesday, bright and early, I got down to work at the back of the "living room", a comfortable reception area on the second floor, which is the heart of the collection. Here is my temporary office.

Before me was this cabinet with lovely pen related objects on display

Now, through various means, the Sachs/Fultz Pelikan collection was not altogether unfamiliar to me, but for the first day, I dealt with little more than a dozen pens as I sequenced, scrutinized and learned to apply the exacting criteria of the collection to these recent acquisitions.

I also had a chance to get to know Greg Sachs over dinner on Thursday and lunch on Friday. While it is premature to discuss specific plans, I am confident that in the next few years the Sachs/Fultz collection as exhibited in a totally new museum setting with revolutionize our hobby and take pens to a new level.

I must have done my work well, for on Friday afternoon Keith suggested that we take some time off. So we toured through the building and the collection (which, I have seen before) so I could take the images that follow.

Keith asked what I wanted to see, and since I had seen the Pelikans, you know, I said, how about Vacumatics.


A random box of Vacs



Few of us will ever see one of these Vac prototypes, let alone trays and cases full.

Second from right, a curious, small burgundy Vac, sitting between a deb and oversize for comparison.

Keith here holds a late Vacumatic prototype

Because life ain't all Vacs, here's a 51 you will not see elsewhere, with a frosted gold cap and in an uncommon colour.

Before Vacs there were Vacuum Fillers, here's a charming box that I was previously unaware of.

Before Vacs there were Duofolds, some made for Zaner Bloser

And some even more special than that. Not all Toledo-work pens are Pelikans.


Not all pens are Parkers and Pelikans, so we have some Ryders.

To be honest< I don't even remember if these are Parkers or Ryders and I don't know my early abalone slab pens well enough to tell. But they sure are purty.

At the back of the second floor offices is the carriage house, which some at Aqualeaf say is haunted. The ghost must not be a collector, since (s)he left behind these. In reality, this is combination workspce and photo studio.

Apologies for the blurry image, I was on a stepstool shooting in low light

The storage room ahead of the carriage house.

Because I was pen obsessed and it was late Friday and there weren't many folks around, I did not get any images of people. More on Monday or Tuesday.

Throughout, I have to say that Keith has been a superb colleague, companion and host. I have had the time to hang out both during business hours and afterwards with Keith and his wife Lynn and with Catherine, who has become a younger sister to Keith and Lynn. I have smoked cigars with Keith and his father Rudy, met Keith’s mom, Sherrine, and have been as much a guest as a consultant. Friday night Keith and Lynn hosted dinner for Catherine and me and today Keith and Catherine and I hung out, talked pens, (and cars and stuff) had lunch at Fat Willy’s BBQ and rambled through Oak Park looking at houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Sadly I forgot the camera.

It’s been work, a lot of work, but it has also been fun, even more fun.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Farewell to Ashland

Yesterday, sadly, was our last day in Ashland, and the last for a couple of years, as next summer we will be in Europe.

We closed out with another Cold Reading, this of The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window by Lorraine Hansbury, her last play. These readings, initiated by the new Artistic Director, Bill Rausch, were a real revelation and a highlight of the trip.

In the past we have made sidetrips while visiting Ashland. Partly because of our schedule and partly because of some allergic reactions that Sharon had to some insect bites, we did not this year.

Yesterday we got out for the first and last time, a quick stroll through Jacksonville, one of those charming historic village/tourist traps. Found some good gelato, however. Just what we need.

At any rate, below are some random shots of the town that, I think, speak for themselves.








Our last play, last night, was The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, by Jeff Whitty, who also was responsible for the book for Avenue Q. I’m not sure how I felt about it.

Still, and all, this has been a wonderful trip, despite having to deal throughout with school and PCA stuff.

Next stop, Chicago, for a visit to the Sachs/Fultz collection. I leave on Wednesday and will report from there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We are now midway, more or less, in our Ashland journey, having seen four plays, Breakfast Lunch and Dinner by Luis Alvaro, as well as A Comedy of Errors and Coriolanus with two to go and two additional readings. Last night we saw Othello. The acting from the principal characters, Othello, Desdemona, Iago and America, was superbly balanced and most powerful. As always, the level of production, from sets to direction to acting has been incomparable. You will not see any better theater anywhere. The OSF has a new atristic director, Bill Rausch, and what we have noticed this year is a striking improvement of casting and/or direction. What is most noticeable is how balanced the acting is.

Yesterday morning, after my early morning walk in Lithia Park, a delightful urban park, and breakfast, Sharon and I wandered the town taking some photos for your enjoyment.

In truth, the theater complex is architecturally undistinguished, below you see the outdoor Elizabethan theater that proclaims itself to be the first in the US. Much of the Shakespeare is presented here.

The Bowmer Theater, named after the founder, is the traditional theater.

The New Theater, added in the past few years, is the most flexible and innovative space and because of its size and configuration(s) seems to house some of the most powerful productions, this year, most notably Coriolanus and last year King John and The Rabbit Hole.

A pair of costumes on display in one of the many membership and other festival shops on Main Street.



The Main Street, itself, is a charming mix of early twentieth century architectural styles.



The town has a charming Carnegie library, which, unlike most communities, they have incorporated into their modern library complex.

Lithia Park, whose entry opens onto this plaza, is a delight and a favored haunt of townspeople and visitors alike. Despite warnings, many young transients sleep there and seem to be tolerated.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ahhh, Ashland

The city of Ashland and its Oregon Shakespeare Festival is pretty much Disneyland for intellectuals, summer camp for theater fans. For more on the festival, http://www.osfashland.org/index.aspx

The town, itself, is a delight of tasteful shops, comfortable hotels and B&Bs and wonderful restaurants. Eat, sleep, go to the theater, repeat. In between, go shopping or eat ice cream (every second shop seems to be a gelateria).

We got into town mid-afternoon yesterday after leaving Portland at about 9:30. It’s blisteringly hot, as so often it can be, with temps in the upper 90s.

We are staying at the McCall house, where we have been for the past several years.



Today, we see two plays, Comedy of Errors and Coriolanus.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Portland Wrap-up

Well, this was far and away the best Portland show, from every standpoint. Had a great time seeing everyone, sold some great pens, got some great pens, ate well--too well. In fact I gained two pounds, which I had avoided thus far on the trip. But the razor clams at Higgins on Saturday night were terrific and the paella at Lauro on Sunday was as good.

On Sunday, the show was a bit more relaxed and there was less of a public presence, but I was able to do a bit more buying and selling to cap off the weekend.

No images from Sunday, but I do have to show off one of my several acquisitions, the Visconti Skeleton in titanium.

If you haven't been to Portland, you have missed five great pen shows. If you haven't been to Portland, you need to make plans for next year. Carla Mortensen, supported by the Portland Pen Club has done a superb job of creating one of the finest pen shows in existence, one that just keeps getting better and better.

For us, next stop, Ashland.