The Travelers Notebook

So, I do not mean to sound Jerry Seinfeld here, but is this thing The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or is it The Traveler’s notebook, which happens to be have notebooks made by Midori?

    

    I have been using the Lihit Labs A5 cover, before this.  I have been talking myself out of getting this system for over a year now, but with an impending trip to New York coming up I was basically obligated to get it.  I mean, we will be traveling, and this is the Traveler’s Notebook, it just would not have made sense otherwise, right?  

    I am not going to list paperweight, dimensions, materials, everyone else does that and, if you have made it to this point, I am betting you can read, and all that information can be found here.  Really, I cannot do reviews of a lot of things, I have tried it, and I realized my problem was the technical standpoint, I am no good with it.  My area is the emotional realm, the personal, the…this isn’t true either.  My area is the inconsequential and unnecessary.  

    The Midori (as I will henceforth call it), is not simply a notebook, it is a system.  When you order it, it will show up in a cloth bag, which is in a box, and that is in plastic.  If you are OCD, you will love it.  I did not even want to open it.  It was neat and orderly, it was something you find in a clean room ( I have never found a clean room) and it just had a wonderful symmetry to it.  It is like buying a new shirt, you dont want to take it out of the plastic and remove the pins, you know it will never go back.  

     When you do open it, after you have enjoyed the packaging, you will find inside the bag the cover and a plain notebook.  I have not used the plain as I enjoy lined and grid paper.  The way this works is it has a main band attached through the leather and this…lug?   

    If you use just the notebook it comes with, you can just put the band on the staple page (dead middle) and walk away.  If you use more than that, you will need to order some of the hand elastic bands.  

    I placed the lined notebook in the picture so that you could see how they package things.  It is beautiful, it even has a nice little number on it.  Anyhow, the elastic bands, you use these to stick multiple objects into the system.  You place one around the front cover of one notebook and the back of the other and voila!  Me?  I have four things in mine so far, with a fifth probably on the way.  This is my lay out.  

    So I have a zipper pocket, a file folder, a daily planner, and a notebook.  The zipper pocket and the file folder are placed under the main band as the anchors, and then I put a notebook on either side of the file folder and placed an elastic band around the covers and the kraft file, BAM!  Amazing notebook.  

    Why does this appeal to me?  I think this requires a trip back in time.  

     That is my journal from high school and partly just after.  If you see the stuff sticking out of it, you will see that it is chocked full of souvenirs.  It has tickets, flower petals, movie stubs, a drink ticket after an ABI party in Germany, a drawing I stole out of a bathroom stall of Hitler using a toilet brush on himself, all kinds of stuff.  If you are still reading this then you know what is going on here.  The people who read this kind of stuff, you, they know notebooks.  The best way to describe this is, the way outsiders would,  I like to stuff my notebooks full of crap.  

    The travelers notebook facilitates this!  You do not have to break the spine of a book, and you do not have to depend on the back pocket like in a Moleskine, because while the back pocket is cool, it is only good for me to get the stuff back, I need it to be put in with the page that it goes with.  The notebooks for this thing are small, so they will be used quick, probably before I bust the spine.  That is not the best part.  The best part is that they make accessories for it, like double sided stickers for mementos, or, and this is the best, STICKER POCKETS!!!!!!!.  The sticker pockets are stickers applied to a page that put a pocket on it, and I do not know if they are purposefully this size, but it is the perfect size for Fuji Instax photos! Which I love to stick in a journal.  They used to be such a process, but no longer!  The stickers and pockets come on a sheet that is, of course, sized to the Midori books so they fit in your accessories pockets!!! The OCD is just being stroked sensually!  

    Everything fits together, and I love it.  I have not even gotten around to the actual paper.  Do not buy this if you hate ghosting (where you can see what is written on the other side of the page.  I have used both fountain pen, and regular pen, pencils of all sorts, and they work great, unless you hate ghosting.  Let’s go down the line of what I love and how I use it.

Daily planner:

  • It has room for two months, with a 31 slot index before each one.
  • Each page is numbered, so you can use it as the day of the month or a page number
  • A slot to check off which day of the week it is.
  • One page, one day. 
  • This leads to the notebook

Notebook:

  • I enjoy the paper quality
  • There is enough room to throw a date on it and use it like a journal i I need more space than is allotted by the daily planner
  • Because they are paired up with the daily planner, I do not feel the need to number the pages or conserve, it is simply an extensions, so paste all photos!
  • Did I mention the price isn’t bad once you are just buying the notebooks?

Zipper pocket:

  • I currently use it for stamps, envelopes, basic stationary…despite there not being any tear out stationary…I’ll fix that
  • I plan to put an eraser or two, which was basically impossible with he Lihit cover 
  • I could put a pocket notebook in the front pocket, but the back would be better.  
  • The back pocket is not a zipper, but it is an open faced pocket, two actually one on either side.  I store the stickers and sticker pockets in it.  I will leave one open in which I will place things I pick up until I get home and can put them in the notebook, temporary storage.

Kraft File:

  • Two sides, pockets on the inside, one per page, that allow you to store things you may need through out the day.  Each one also has a smaller slot for things like business cards.  
  • I plan on using it to hold our items for our trip, plane tickets, show tickets, schedules, reservations.  It is kind of the official type of pocket.  The formal pocket.  


   This may become my go to system.  I will come back with an update after New York.  

    The parts I plan on ordering are some pan am stickers which will go in the pockets, so that my travel writing it kitche, a pen holder, a book mark/stencil, and a weekly planner.  I feel the need for a weekly spot.  This system could really fill the gap for those who need a bullet journal, but hate the idea of drawing their own planner pages, like me.  This is officially part of my EDC.  It comes with one leather page marker in it, and I made one out of a thing my kids made me for Father’s Day, but I think you could put more leather cord into the lug.  

    I will tell you my favorite part.  When you are finished for the day, you put the second elastic, which is tied in the back, around it to keep it closed, and you throw it down on the table, it hits with a heavy satisfying thud of a notebook that speaks of someone who is well travelled and worldly.  When you hear this thing hit the table, you know people know you are interesting because of your heavy leather notebook.

5/5 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

What is in your pencil’s history? (National Pencil Day)

Today is National Pencil Day, and the pencil is by far the analog center of the savage’s world.  It is the thing in my pocket, that makes me use my notebook, that contains my entire world.

There will be a lot about national pencil day, but it seems the reason for the day (or at least being observed today) is because March 30, 1858 is when the United States first granted a patent for a wood cased pencil with an eraser on top.  I have seen various explanations for why pencils are usually yellow, and the one we will be going with is that it was to copy the Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth, but that is for another day.

My National Pencil Day bit will be about the pencils made by Mitsubishi.  Can you believe that these pencils are linked to the cause of the Korean War?

Now that you have read that outrageous and unnuanced claim let us get to the meat of it.  This will be a historical post.  In the interest of it not being forever long, it will be written in broad historical swaths.  If you would like to know the rest, I can provide it.  This is not meant to be a scholarly article, it is a blog post, but the history is good.

When people see my Mitsubishi pencils they say something like, ” Wow…Mitsubishi makes everything…”  That statement is not that far from being true, they do make an uncommonly large variety of products.  Off the top of my head I can think of they produce cars, television sets, pencils, microwaves, etc.  People do not seem to notice this until they see a pencil with the Mitsubishi brand.  When I hear this I show them the date (1887) on a pencil and embark on my little story.

In the late 19th century (1860s) Japan made the transfer from isolationist pre-industrial nation to effective imperial and industrialized nation.  Japan had seen the success and power of industrialized colonial powers and it was decided this was the way forward for Japan, constitution and all.  The Japanese had a large goal, to industrialize and catch up enough to be competitive within around twenty years.

This was a lofty goal indeed, but the Japanese pulled it off, remeber the Mitsubishi name is marked as established 1887.  Part of their method was to allow (again I am being broad here) wealthy families to invest massive capital into the hopeful national industries, in return, these families would hold pseudo-monopolies over the industries.  These families were the Zaibatsu or financial clique.  Similar to the early LLC of the United States if an example is needed.

Japan succeeded and by the late 1904 were able to defeat Russia in a war.  Later the industrialized and conquering Empire would take control of Korea.  With the Empire’s defeat in World War II, a power vacuum was opened in Korea, and like Germany, was essentially divided between the United States and The Soviet Union to sort out what should be done to fill the vacuum.  The Soviets set up the communist north, and the U.S. the anti-communist south.  The rest is history.

Now who could have known that all that history was contained in these tiny wooden pencils.

I hope you have a very good National Pencil Day, and that perhaps this is your chance to rediscover what is in my opinon, the best analog tool, the wooden pencil.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

Lihit Labs Smart Fit notebook cover, A5, review 

Welcome back.

The Lihit Labs blurb on jetpens.com says everything I have been able to learn.  “…1938…Osaka…office supplies…STREAMLINE…”

Today we review the Lihit Labs Smart Fit Notebook cover, for sale here for 25$. (At the time of writing they are tellingly sold out, but I assure you with spoilers that you want to push the restock notification button)

Don’t forget to find us on Facebook!

At the words streamline, we have a jackpot, and I will attest that these products are very streamlined.  I also have their Bag in Bag A4, but that is another review.

In the beginning of this blog, back when, The Ganger told you the start of a list of items that one needs when venturing out into the savage lands.

  • A bag
  • A knife
  • A notebook
  • A pencil

Pretty sure that is where we left off.  The cover we are reviewing now is not a necessary item, but it is an amazing one.  The Pen Addict beat me to a review, in fact that is how I learned about it.  I bought this item out of pure excitement based on the word of the Pen Addict.  What this does is help you to contain the items you may want or need.  If you have a pencil and a notebook, as you should, then you may want this.  If you have multiple notebooks, for various purposes, to the point that you need a notebook to track what your notebooks are for, then you NEED this item.

It will quickly become a part of your EDC.  What is this item, in short?  It is a travelers notebook, updated to fit the modern world a bit more.  It is what would happen f you attempted to turn iPhone features into their analog counterparts and keep them together.  For me it carries a pencil, fountain pen, my business cards, an eraser, a journal, a floppy notebook of lists, an A5 letter pad, envelopes, address labels, a few letters I need to answer,  stamps, and no less than 6 pocket notebooks (workout tracker, passwords, faithless book, books read tracker, and of course the book of rules and tools.)

I admit I bought this on a whim, but it very quickly became part of the stuff I do not know what I would do without, especially since I converted to bullet journaling,

The Grit:

The cover is made of heavy duty cordura and comes prepared to take two A5 notebooks or one notebook and a notepad, both A5.  There is a pen/pencil holder (holds two easily) a pocket, and a closeable pocket (conveniently field notes sized) all on the front.  

The inside features the two slots, two small pockets, and one larger one on the left inside cover, two ribbons for marking pages, and a stout elastic band for holding it all together.

I love this cover.  The only thing I have not found a use for is the large inside pocket and that is just because the only thing I want in here, that I do not have, is a sharpener, and I simply find them all too bulky to have under my notebook with my current setup.  

I have pushed this things capacity to the very edge of civility and sanity.  The notebook I use as my journal/bullet journal is a full-size Insights, and I keep a Rhodia A5 letter pad, a Write Brand softcover journal, and six pocket notebooks in it!  Just as a FYI, here is how to understand the notebook sizes.  So when I say standard or something similar, I mean that most journal sized notebooks are A5.  This Insights is like a Moleskine, or Rhodia A5.  The new Write Brand soft cover (shown) is also A5.  

I feel it is fair to say that I have found about what it will hold.  The point being, it filled a roll I didn’t really know how to address.  I shove this in the car and I have everything I need.  If I am going longboarding, I still have a fieldnotes and pencil in my pocket, and that information can come here later.  Otherwise, I am ready to workout, sketch, journal, shop, hand out a card, catch up on correspondence…

If I had to name a complaint, it would be that they didn’t find a way to make it to where you could put the notepad on either side, and I don’t think it can be done and have little Pockets.  As it is, you must put the notepad ok the right if you have one.   I am not counting the “notebook” it comes with.  It is obvious to us that you are not actually supposed to use it, it is something akin to the photo they put in frames to show you how it is supposed to go.

Bottom line:  five full stars, and a must have for the total notebook junkie, and analog over doer.

Ganger-Bjorn, Analog Savage

The Viarco 1950, vintage collection

Here is my take on the Viarco 1950 pencil from their vintage collection.

I will not give you measurements or anything like that, everybody does this, so this is just that I felt it is worth talking about.

Viarco:

Viarco is a Portuguese company that opened in 1907.  Their pencils range from the interesting (scented pencils which I do not want to try) to extremely handsome pencils.  That is part of why I like them.  They make a nice looking pencil.

Fun fact about Viarco, they are a pencil company that still operates today, who can say their production was affected by Portugal’s participation in World War I.

I received a Viarco Fine & Candy as part of the CW Pencils pencil of the month club.

In 2016 Viarco came out with their vintage line.  I had to try one.  I bought the 1950.  I liked the look of the box.  I admit it but just look.  Also, CW takes a good photo (this is their photo.)

Viarco_Vintage_Collection_1950_-_box_1024x1024.jpg

There are more than these, and can be found sold by CW Pencil Enterprise, but these were my pick.  Let’s get right down to the grit of it.

I have written one down to about the point that one more good sharpen will do it in for my hand size, which is about five inches of pencil (a little more if it has an eraser) and I will say that this pencil is a good example of an all around HB/#2.  The quality of the wood isn’t bad, and even when put into general twist sharpeners, it does not chip much.  The pencil holds an ok point, it never broke on me, if you put it through a masterpiece or a long point sharpener you will lose your tip.  It makes a very nice clean line.  The large test swatch testifies to the clay content, as you color over the previous portions you can hear the rubbing from the clay in this moderately hard pencil.

This pencil has a quality requires quality feel to it.  I wrote a seven page letter on a recycled paper legal pad and suddenly you could feel the grit in this.  It was not all the time, but it was enough that this is not a pencil I scream and should as amazing and must have.

Overall-3.5/5  get them if you want them, just use decent paper.

Ganger-Bjorn

Never should we ever…

Right now my adventures, and for that matter my blogging is at a minimum, the semester started just under two weeks ago and the laser focus is back.  That is not to say that college is not an adventure.  I have already taken this farther than you ever could have convinced me back when that I would.  I have committed fully to the experience, minus living in a dorm and such, I am married and have a child after all.  Maybe that is why I always show up to school with a smile on my face, I live with one child, not five thousand adolescents experiencing freedom for the first time.  I am sorry if that seems low, but I have lived in the barracks, it seems to be about the same.

Anyhow I have created a small group of pencil junkies at school.  Two of them asked for care packages when I took my little trip to CW earlier in the month, and they were well provisioned.  Now in all fairness one of those people was Carl.  I already knew Carl, the fact that I applied to the college he works at is pure coincidence.  The other person is Tyler, who graduated right after we met, but we decided we would make such good friends that he drove from Rhode Island to come and see us, talk pencils and watch X-files.

These two are innocent of something I have committed before.  I have witnessed this going on some at school and at various places at large and this is just my take on it.  No matter what our passion or how passionate we are about it, never should we ever be snobs.

I have done it, I probably still do, although I would say I do it in the privacy of my own home, but even then I fight it.  I have recognized my need to be appreciative and thankful and I try to work on it.  That is why I am here, with an exhortation against stationary snobbery.

First let us recognize that many of the pencils, pens and notebooks we love are luxury items from a relative perspective.


It is ok to admit it.  They are luxuries, they are indulgences, they are the exploration of our passion.  We also cannot allow them to be what causes us to belittle something that is ALL that someone else has.  This is not a rant on equality.  It is simply a consideration.  Imagine a middle school child among us whose family keeps them supplied with all their needs school supplies included, but a blackwing is simply out of reach.  That does not mean that we should not write about them, that we should not post pictures of them.  I simply beg that we stop to consider before we describe something that is functional as “cheap” or “garbage.”  Let us consider some of our less expensive utensils and paper.

There is very little to be called fancy about these items.  They are filler paper in a binder, a notebook with no name, and pencils selected from the brands of staples, CVS, office depot, Dixon, and the novelty holiday sort given away at school parties.  They are also the the items who witness the labor and drive of those who want to succeed.  Those who have had the supplies they needed and maybe had to erase a little harder to use the hard red eraser, but wanted to ensure their homework was perfect.  As I said they are not fancy.  The paper has no name, the pencils are mostly named after the store they are bought at, but you can put a point on them and do work.

When I was in school my mother made sure that within reason we got the supplies we wanted when the school year started.  FiveStar and trapper keeper were common, along with boxes of Ticonderoga and Elmer’s.  Now that I am paying for my school supplies I still buy the brands I like for college, but I stare very hard at what a five star notebook costs (and for the price realized I could take school notes on Moleskine) and wondered why my mother didn’t tell me I was insane that paper is paper.

I am not innocent in this.  I must constantly flog myself with the memories of Iraqi children who were living in relocation camps who aside from probably being excited to have enough to eat, could not contain themselves when they found out that we had sent word home that there were schools, but no supplies and people had come through and shipped us boxes and boxes of supplies.  The generosity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  This is my exhortation, that before we call something garbage, before we describe it as cheap, that we consider for a moment those who treasure these tools as their own, that they are more careful with their no name number two than we are with a 602 due to having forgotten.

I write this not out of self righteousness, but out of the awareness that I have never shown the gratitude and joy that I saw on the face of a very specific Iraqi girl from the camps when I sat down beside her on the hood of a small broken yellow car in the camp, and from my pack pulled out a small backpack full of supplies for her.  We should live to achieve that kind of satisfaction and appreciation.

Hrolf The Ganger.

The El Casco M-430

Today I joined the erasable podcast community on Facebook.  I began sharing some pictures of Liam and I getting my kit ready for the start of the coming semester.  A member excitedly commented on one of my photos that he had never seen an El Casco in the wild before.  What he was referring to is my El Casco M-430 Desktop Double Burr Handcrank Pencil Sharpener.


Why are they so rare you may ask? The ballpark retail price is around 500$.  That’s a steep price for a pencil sharpener.  Why would anyone engage in this? It is either the best or the cult status of it has everyone convinced it is the best.  I’m going with it is the best.  I learned things I needed to know about my pencils from this pencil sharpener.  Let us start with the beginning of how I learned of them to the end point of owning one.

First I read about it in the book How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.  I won’t go hunt for the exact quote but Rees described it as one of the three things he owned that cost more than 500$, the other two being his house and car.  This is paraphrasing, hunt the quote if you wish.  He sang this sharpeners praises.  I immediately looked them up and then stopped looking at them.  The price tag was more than I was willing to go in for no matter my great love of pencils.


I started to consistently watch them on eBay and read and Re read the point of the whole thing (pun fully intended) which is that it is the best, it has a window that allows you to watch the pencil being sharpened, it creates a flat and consistent thickness writing point on your pencil, comes with four point settings, suctions to the table, has a telescoping opening for the pencil that will fit just about anything you can feed it and a file on the shavings drawer for customizing those flat points if you must.

 Fast forward some.  It’s on my bucket list to at least try one, one day.  I tell my friends about them as if they are the dream car I will one day but when I’m rich.  I often recieve an “oh geez” from my friend Sarah at school.  My wife went to look at getting one for me for Christmas this year, she saw the price tag and laughed and signed me up for the last big run of the CW Pencil Enterprises pencil of the month club instead, which in my opinion was the better choice, not to impune the El Casco.

I had developed a habit of scanning eBay for them every so often.

  1. There were never many of them, mane three or four at any given time.
  2. They were either perfect or beaten to death, none that were just well loved.
  3. They all started with an opening bid of at least 150$, usually 250$.
  4. They all sold and it was always close to 400$ even for the ones a car had ran over.

Then I came across the one that I have.  Opening bid? 45$.  This can’t be right.  The seller has only 15 feedback, the sharpener was a littler dirty, description read and I quote “good condition” the window appeared scratched beyond repair, and the seller would not respond to any emails about it.  I watched t anyways.  The day came.  I threw a bid in.  One guy bid one time to test the waters.  That was it no more at all, I didn’t even have to fight for it.  In the end I gambled a total of 57$.  I was shocked that I had won.  So imagine my surprise when it arrived in perfect working order and cleaned up with a little windex.  That’s right a fully functioning El Casco M-430 for 57$.  Now for the review.

It weighs 3lbs, you could brain someone with it.  The window is cool, but you can barely ever see the pencils, still cool but you just get a full view of the burrs turning.


There is some pencil on the middle left, that’s about what you see.  The telescoping opening is pretty sweet, I don’t even hold the pencil most of the time.


The suction base works surprisingly well.  It has a lever that you flip over and you can feel it secure to the table as you push the lever down.  Sometimes I have to work to get the sharpener off the table and it leave no damage.


In general the sharpening experience is beyond amazing.  It does what you expect in a perfect world.  It doesn’t continue to eat the pencil like some of the newer ones do, so no wasted pencil, and as you crank it gradually becomes smoother until it feels like you are doing nothing at all.  The best however is the point settings.

It has four.  They vary in graphite exposure length and thickness.  To change them you pull the spring held wheel, rotate the pin into the slot of the pictured point you wish to achieve and that’s it, let go of the wheel.  I will show all four choices.  I am starting with four unsharpened Ticonderoga 2 HB pencils.

Point 1.


Point 2.


Point 3.


Point 4.

As you can see they become progressively shorter and thicker.  Note the flattened points.  This is one of the signatures of this machine.  I have a three hole magnesium hand sharpener that creates something similar.  This is a writing point.  I did not like it at first. Here is what I have learned by putting pencils through the torture test of me learning cursive (a later post).  These points do not break when you put them on the paper where the tip is thin.  These points are thick and strong, less total breaks period, not just less wonky points from where the end crumbled.  These points are not tapered for the most part, so while they start out thicker than a regular point they will remain the same consistent thickness throughout usage, gone are the days of your pencil gradually fattening and destroying your writing style.  Point one is my favorite.  If you feel you must there is a file on the shavings drawer.  It is not a fine grad file and has a learning curve, prepare to experiment.  I have been won over by these points.


No mocking my penmanship, but that point did that for almost three pages.  I am in love with this machine.  Altogether I sharpened 55 pencils with it today.  46 for school, 4 for this review, and 5 because why not.  The metal crank handle will leave you the makings of a callouse if you are marathoning like that.


I do not know what else to say that I haven’t said and I hope this helps your love of this machine or satisfies some of the craving.  If you wish to see one in person stop by CW Pencil Enterprises and observe through the glass the glory that is El Casco.  Enjoy and thank you for reading.

Hrolf the Ganger

Savings challenges.

People have been wondering how I do things like fund a random trip by train to New York to go touring for a day and my pencil habit.  I’ll admit I don’t have a specific way…yet.  The pencils themselves came out of my allowance I had saved, and my comic habit suffered a little in exchange.  So be it.  

      First off my wife and I use the envelope system for some things and a budget on the rest.  We run a little bit of investment here and there nothing big, it really amounts to just multiple savings for the time being.  However to do things like randomly adventure it is a good idea to have a side savings, so this is what I looked and found.  The weekly savings challenge and the daily penny challenge.   

 
The weekly challenge starts at 1.00$. The increment increases by a dollar every week.  The idea is that you stuff this amount in a jar.  Now I started a new bank account, and jars (having free checking will help the bank account part.)  The amount does start to get higher, by the time you’ve done half of this you are putting 26$ in a week and it keeps growing.  The touted savings after one year is 1378.00$ which is nothing to scoff at. 

     The penny challenge is daily.  It starts at 0.01$ and doubles everyday.  This is where the envelope system and doing our allowances in cash comes in handy.  We already have a decent stash of change on hand to carry this out, but I am guessing that it will evaporate pretty quickly into those jars as the amounts go up.  I am doing the jar and bank account for this one as well.  The savings at the end of it is supposed to be 667.95$.  This is also a decent little savings.  

  However these are challenges, and these are the difficulties I see coming.

  1. Remembering to do something daily or weekly is usually a short lived challenge.
  2. Having the correct amounts on hand for your jar.  There are a lot of very odd numbers on the penny challenge.  I would advise not to be afraid of doing a small amount of rounding to make it work with whole dollars if possible or even to the next change increment I.E. Turning 1.11-1.19 all into 1.20.  
  3. Having the cash on hand as well for the weekly one, even if you use an ATM you get whole larger bills, you will have to be willing in both cases to not be afraid to inconvenience a cashier for change when you are already checking out.  
  4. Again just keeping up with it, I am putting the checklists next to my calendar so that I see them everyday.  
  5. If you use a new bank account make sure you have free checking with no minimum amount and no monthly fee as this could quickly kill your savings.

     It will be a pain and towards the middle of the weekly one the amounts may even become a challenge.  If you can pull both of these off though you will have saved 2045$ after a year. This is my plan for future adventures.  You can use it for whatever you like though, saving for a down payment, vacation, an investment (my bank asks for a 1000$ minimum to start most investment funds.). I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps you fund and plan adventures and that it is fun along the way. 

Hrolf The Ganger

Pencils from friends.

I am finally getting around to this, I have a friend in France.  She is the daughter of part of the church family (not excluding her from it) and she has done amazingly well after college getting to teach English in France after college.  When she was setting off I had one request.  My request was a rather tall order to fill in my mind…”I would like some pencils from France please.”  

     After that the waiting begins, however her family visited over Christmas and hinted that they had a package for me!  Not only did she come through in fine fashion, but she got me the extra gift of a very nice little pencil bag made by Elba and a staedtler stick eraser to go with them.   

       The bag’s company I think is funny only to a history nerd…French pencil bag…made by Elba? Bwahahahahahahaha.  Anyhow, the bag has already supplanted my normal locking pencil case as part of my everyday kit.  It had a nice little note in it.   

       I was ridiculously eager to translate the bottom.  In fact I was so eager that as I sat down ralphie style to decode this my brain decided to let go of it’s crude grasp of most Latin based languages and I was actually surprised when I read the translation “a bag for your pencils.”  I still love it, I have not bothered to remove the tag, I believe I will keep it where it belongs.  I wanted to thank my friend again, and tell you to read her blog as well.  Kaitlinplachy.wordpress.com.  I love that some of them aren’t even French, what they are is popular.  These (I believe) are what the children and faculty of the school she teaches at use.  The Noris is the most popular European pencil my research shows.  What my friend did was not to simply find manufactures, but she stretched out her cultural feelers and found me cultural artifacts.  That is almost intoxicating in an anthropological way.

      I even showed how special these pencils were by giving one away.  I had six of the staedtler noris.  The day I got them one of my friends (Nicole) told me that she was unsarcastically enjoying my pencil blog.  She was rewarded with one of my favorite new things.

     As people learn of your love of great graphite they will begin to surprise you with pencils.  Today another woman at church surprised me with a French pencil, bought in Boston.  It is all black and made by La Compagnie Du Kraft.  Upon looking this unique object up, I now believe they don’t sel it, they included it with a special edition of a notebook, which makes it rarer.  

     I have decided that the best pencils are not the ones that you buy as expensive treats or have some rare feature.  The best pencils are pencils from friends who wanted to give you a smile for the day.  

A trip to CW Pencil Enterprise…The best day that was ever had in New York City

As I promised I went to New York City to go and see CW Pencil Enterprise for myself, and I had to best day in the history of New York (in my opinion.)

You can take this as a rock out in the United States on a budget kind of post as well.  I had kicked the idea around for a while, there is a pencil store so close-Boston and New York are close to me-so I had to see it for myself.  I get it, in the small community of stationary junkies, I am a small fish, but I still thought it would be awesome to hit the store up and just spend a day in New York City a place that a lot of my favorite movies and TV shows are set (I either obsess about something or I let it die) and this is what I do, I like to randomly go and do something.  I started my planning Amtrak.

 Amtrak is my new favorite way to travel, especially to a place that when I drove there I hated it. First off there is no ridiculous security line like the airport.  Went in, waited for the train, ate and then boarded.  A conductor scanned my ticket and we went on our way. The price is worth noting as well, I got to New York and back for 120$, and I did not have to drive in New York.  Add 40$ to the total for parking my car in Boston.  The train is something I am going to use as much as humanly possible on my adventures.  I had time to work or read whatever I wanted, I am not crazy about flying, no take off no landing, and I can go and buy my own soda rather than waiting for it to be brought.  If you travel by train you get to see some amazing views of the country.

Im not even sure where that is, somewhere between Boston and Connecticut, it is probably Rhode Island, but the whole thing just felt right.  Watching America go buy with a pencil in my hand was pretty great.  Im kind of stoked to figure out where to go next, but I will need to save for the next one.  The next thing about train travel is the people you meet.  Sure I probably lucked out this time, but right now it is train 1-plane 0.  On my last good plane ride I spent four hours listening to a woman who was convinced that denim was making a comeback in fashion, and she was excited about it.  Head phones are not the international symbol we think they are.  On the train I met a Vietnam veteran who was an actual hobo.

I asked him if I could write about him, he said that would be cool, but part of the story is about how many beers he had during this time so for the sake of his Dignity we will just be calling him JL on the off chance he was not sure to what he agreed to.  JL sat and rode for a while and looked well enough, minus the fact that he was running through beers at a good clip (he had them in his bag.  See what I mean about security? BYOB!) At some point I got a pepsi and he assumed the can to be beer and wanted to know why I paid the eight dollar train price of beer.  I told him it was soda, he then offered me a beer, to which I declined, being 0750 and all.  He told me his story.  He is a hobo (his term) and he was on his way to Tampa.  He stays in Boston as long as possible, and then heads south for the winter where he has connections with a lot of street people (his term also.)  His sister had bought him a nice new pair of boots as a Christmas gift, and his Ex had let him spend the night waiting on his train.  He said she woke him up promptly to be on his way.  He had a backpack with him and he would hop off the train to smoke at any stops longer than a minute.  He said if he missed the train he wanted me to have his bag.  We talked for a while about why he moved about.  He said he came back from Vietnam and eventually moved into a bottle and stayed there.  The long and short of it was that he travelled back and forth according to the seasons and ate and drank on his VA check while living in shelters.  He has it figured out and seems to work for him.  We enjoyed a little pizza before he hunted a liquor store and went on to his connecting train to move on.  If your in tampa and you spot JL remind him to call me so I can check up on him.  He has my number.

SO that leads us to my first slice of New York City pizza.  We had it at a place called Little Italy, that is the name of the eatery.

I was not disappointed.  New York Pizza was everything I had dreamed it could be.

Next came The Empire State Building.  The fee to go to the 86th floor was 35$.  That brings our total (with the pizza) to about 200$.  I wanted the open air observatory, so thats where I went rather than the top to be in a box.  It was here that I got to kill off a bucket list item.  They cram the elevators full for efficiency.  The second trip on one of them and as soon as the doors closed I said to the full elevator “I suppose you all are wondering why I gathered you here today.”  Needless to say the uncomfortable was palpable.  It took me fifteen minutes of tour dodging and security to get to the top.  Let us describe a special kind of cold at the top of that building.  However the photos and the recreation of a Home Alone 2 moment were worth it.  As well as meeting a British woman and her daughter who seemed to believe that my southern accent was from some forgotten colony island rather than the southern United States.


On my way out I acquired my Rough Guide to New York ( a must and it is in the first photo.)  Brings our total to 215$.  I escaped this building and set off on the three mile trek to CW Pencil Enterprise.  Here is part of the beauty of a trip like this.  Whip out the pocket guide, grab the map, plan your route and see what attractions are listed along the way.  A ton of them are things like buildings that cost you nothing at all to admire and take a photo of.  Things like The Flat Iron Building make me wish that I could sketch.  However I cannot sketch so I tell you how to visit cities and sites on a budget.

  

There is a ton of free city to experience along the way.  However the point of this entry is of course CW Pencil Enterprise.  We have arrived.

This is why I had come.  This is the reason for the trip in the first place.  Four hours on a train, three miles on foot, and do it all again later to see this wonderful little shop that has gotten so much press.  I know that I am a small fish in the world of blogging and especially among stationary junkies, however The Pencil Ladies will make you feel like they opened the store just so you can visit.  That is how awesome they are.  I got to meet two of them on this day.  I walked in, sat down my bag and proudly declared that I had trekked from Boston to see this store and write about it.  Caitlyn did not miss a beat and told me to stay as long as I like.  The resident blogger showed the shop off, allowed me to show off some of my own pencils and exchanged my dollars for quarters so that I could gleefully continue to feed them to the pencil machine in the store.  Eventually Caroline, the pencil lady that started it all, came in and I was introduced while trying not to come off as weird.  Again The Pencil Ladies are awesome.  They chatted with me for quite a while.  Now the super fun part comes in when two ladies who had already checked out and left came back to the store.  Apparently there is an Atlanta based stationary blogger/podcaster named Brad whom I mildly resemble (I am sure to them the accent is basically the same) and so they came back and asked if I was Brad.  I was not sure what was going on, but we eventually established who they were talking about and that I am not The Pen Addict.  However I was very flattered and of course the stories are the point of the whole thing.  They added me on Instagram and such (she’s a popular artist herself @penguinscreative April Wu, seriously she’s talented) and they allowed me to get a shot with them just because…they are awesome.

The Pencil ladies showed me some of their cooler vintage items, like a box os 1950s Blackwings and a 1920s case of mongol brand pencils, which we established the packaging was a little racist.

  

Lastly before taking off I presented them my humble offering.  I figured they would have some sort of wall of fame for analogue items people would bring to the store as an offering to The Pencil Ladies.  Turns out that is not a thing…not yet!  See for yourself that they enjoyed the excellent military compass!

I think it goes without saying that I gave up a good bit of my spending money in this store.  This will not be factored into the cost of the trip as you can recreate a trip similar to this without feeding an addiction.  I have two friends (you guys know Carl, and will soon know Tyler) who had asked for an awesome grab bag of graphite from my travels.  I was happy to suck them into this world with me.  I cannot lavish enough praise on this store or the wonderful ladies who run it, it will become a New York must for me.  They treat you like a friend the moment you hit the door.  Now the rest of this is going to go fast as it is getting long.

I made the trek back to the ESB.  I want to point out that every single citizen of New York that I encountered along the way was awesome.  Everyone was helpful, kind, did I say it was the perfect day?  Anyhow seeing as how this became a part pilgrimage for another one of my obsessions (Home Alone 2) I wanted to see The Plaza Hotel and Central Park.  I was getting low on time and would have to book it if I wanted photos.  Fifth Avenue here I go.  Free attractions along the way.

Along the way I encountered a building playing what could only be the soundtrack to Home Alone 2 and putting on a light show.  I asked an officer of the NYPD why this was happening.  He pointed behind me.  I had unknowingly come upon Rockefeller Center.  As any Home Alone Pilgrim would, I fell to my knees and wept…and face timed my son and mother so they could see…then I took pictures.

 
Now me ? I consider the things that you can see along the way to be free attractions  and a way to make the most of your trip.

  
  

In the end I made it to The Plaza Hotel, and had my photo taken on the steps in true Home Alone fashion.

  

After this I headed into Central Park.  I did not go far, I wanted my Grandparents to see it on FaceTime, and so I took them in as far as a bridge, and from the first bridge along the path of Kevin, I took what will be some of my favorite photos.  They will be seen after my signature when this finally ends.  It was 1850, I was low on time and had a train to catch and 1.5 miles back.  I started walking.  A quick duck into a store for souvenir NYC snow globes for the family and I made my train with twenty minutes to spare.  For less than 300$ I had an utterly awesome day in New York City and am already thinking ahead to what to do next time.  One of my big savings is that I walked.  New York is a walking city.  (The Ganger means Big Walker.)  I accomplished a lot of goals (home alone and otherwise) and I made my journey to see the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise and meet the pencil ladies.  Needless to say despite it being 0200, Carl came over and we dug into our goodies from the pencil store.  I hope you enjoy this and can take a trip on the cheap and live a little for yourself.

  
Hrolf The Ganger


  
  

 

 

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