I think in lead and ink

Writing implements are an important part of my life. I carry with me a fountain pen, a ballpoint pen, and a mechanical pencil.

I use the fountain pen for writing. For business matters - signing checks and credit card slips - the ballpoint. For correcting letters and articles, the mechanical pencil with a much-used eraser. In my shoulder bag I carry essential spare parts: lead and erasers for the pencil, ink cartridges for the pens. (I gave up on ink bottles. Too messy.)

Using a fountain pen makes me feel part of a grand tradition, a link to writers who through the centuries have put pen to paper.

On the subject of paper, being a lawyer, I favor long legal pads. Each sheet is an inviting space waiting to be filled.

The clatter of a typewriter I find distracting. My mother, who was otherwise amazingly unmechanical - she experienced difficulty opening car doors and could not manage a can opener - was transformed when sitting in front of a typewriter. Her fingers raced along the keys like those of a concert pianist performing a Tchaikovsky piano concerto. Mother acquired typing skills at a secretarial school in Boston after arriving on these shores at age 16 in 1919 from revolution-torn Russia.

Yesterday I purchased a new fountain pen. I am using it for the first time. It replaces a purchase I made from a peddler on West 43rd Street. Out of an attaché case he produced a brand-name pen, charging me $15. Probably a counterfeit, the pen looked fine, but the ink flow was irregular. To get the pen to work, I needed to wave it up and down in the air. Writing a paragraph became an athletic endeavor.

I paid $67 for my new pen, a not insignificant sum of money, but modest compared with the $400-plus pens in the lower Manhattan store where I purchased it. Hefty in weight and size, the pen is mahogany-colored with gold trim. The price is high enough for me to be attentive to its whereabouts - losing pens is a frequent occurrence - but not so high that I would be fearful of removing it from its box.

I have yet to try the computer.

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