My Penned Invention of the Pen Invention (repost)

 

It would prove to be one of the most remarkable events to fall into the lap of England in   the 1930’s. Even Sir Thomas Cartridge, the infamous historian, essayist, and reputed hawker of odious innuendo was aghast when he said, “Everyone familiar with this tragic and despicable crime certainly expected him to be found guilty. But even judicial scholars were non plus: no one had an inkling that an incidental consequence caused by an accidentally stowed and unfortunately uncapped fountain pen which predictably bleeds if it touches any absorbent material, would influence the most harrowing murder trial in fifty years.   The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian immediately blamed the pen makers asserting through editorials that the fountain pen design had remained literally unchanged since Nicolas Bion first described them in 1807.  The pen makers quickly accused ink firms of altering their inks’ characteristic by employing diluted formulas that produced inks lacking gelatinous properties.  If needed, pen makers would blame their customers, insisting that a consistent discharge of ink by a nib pushed absent-mindedly into textile is an accepted (if destructive) characteristic which sensible owners attempt to avoid.  Therefore, it is my opinion that the barrister’s distraction caused by the importance of his closing argument overshadowed his gentleman’s grooming, without malevolence pocketed the fountain pen which immediately enjoyed a degree of notoriety (and sales) normally bestowed upon articles belonging to aristocracy.  It’s as if he’d dropped a jet plane into his pocket!”
To what was Sir Cartridge referring?  An extravagant and utterly preposterous event of the 1930’s: The common ink pen was borne on the heels of a legal decree: The Royal Courts of Justice abolished the use of fountain pens in every courtroom in Great Britain.  Parliament added that the newly invented practical and leak-proof pen would be the only writing instrument sanctioned for official use in every governmental building of Great Britain.

 

The calamity started just after the lunch recess of an infamous murder trial and the sudden appearance of an embarrassing stain which continued its growth like an algae bloom beneath the front pocket of an expensively tailored white cotton shirt belonging to and draped upon a notorious barrister from London. The barrister who, it is told (in hushed tones lest you be accused of slander), that the verdict of guilt had nothing to do with his impressive (and lengthy) closing argument which meticulously and repeatedly outlined the precise order of events.  The barrister’s timeline was so thorough that whatever doubt lingered in the far corners of the courtroom had been swept away like cobwebs.

 

The shameful guilt could almost be seen atop the plump, rounded shoulders of the torturous, adulterous, and maniacal MP who, it was alleged, kidnapped a prominent debutante from a society ball, trussed her up like a common farm animal ready for slaughter, bludgeoned her to unconsciousness, then drove her to a vermin-infested garret atop a saloon on the East End.  She remained imprisoned for a fortnight and each afternoon the MP would appear in the pub and with gluttonous abandon, he ate and drank himself into a repulsive and monstrous stupor, and dragged himself up the back alley stairs, unlocked the bolt, and repeatedly forced the delicate young woman to participate with or perform for him heinous, bestial, and inhumane acts which included demonic rituals, chanting, and minutes before he strangled her with the sash from his MP gown, he branded the young woman’s breast with a mark which closely, was almost identical to the stain on the barrister’s front pocket.

 

Jury members were quoted after the trials conclusion that the increasing stain resembled an apparition of the brand suffered by the victim, and that it was impossible to ignore, for even a brief time, or explain its appearance as a leaky fountain pen, when the leak didn’t appear until the very moment the barrister mentioned the brutality, causing the MP to leap from his chair.  As police subdued and removed the wailing MP, the barrister turned back to the jury who, at the same time, uttered an audible gasp, followed by a scream, then a shout as a dozen arms flew into the air and pointed at the haunting image displayed upon the barrister’s shirt.  The courtroom quickly dissolved into utter chaos as jurors ran from the courtroom and some incredulous men leapt over the railing and attempted to strip the barrister of his shirt, optimistic that it would fetch a tidy sum from someone indulgent in such macabre items.

 

From that day fountain pens were banned from courtrooms across England and the first stationer able to manufacture a pen whose ink was safely sealed in a chamber and distributed in incremental volume only when in use, was sure to win the patent and the incredible wealth which would quickly follow.

 

As the anniversary of the fountain pen’s exodus approached, rumors began to circulate that the Judiciary acted beyond its dominion when it issued the restriction, and continues to defend its authority successfully whenever a challenge is brought before the High Court.  England’s De La Rue and Conway-Stewart pen companies, as well as France’s Cartier and ST Du Pont, Germany’s Pelikan and Montblanc, and Italy’s Omas and Visconti all concluded that the solution required a combination of distinct and precise components: a cartridge, ink, and a system by which the ink could be laid upon the writing surface at the exact volume to ensure a consistent line.  These accomplished, fastidious and resplendent pen manufacturers were perplexed: never before in the history of handwriting were the makers of pens required to reconsider the importance of ink and its transference to the paper as their conundrum.  Ink had always been considered declasse, pedestrian and hackneyed.  Suddenly they’ve acquired relevance and attention and thusly required the world’s greatest maker’s of pens to invite them to participate in this befuddled exercise.

 

The common and convenient ballpoint pen emerged from an unlikely location, a small town on Cornwall’s North Coast that hugged the jagged cliffs carved by the Celtic Sea.  Citizens of Bawhl Point (between Boscastle and St. Gennys) were stout, good-humored, and straightforward Englishmen.  Hardened by their generational resolve to survive the harrowing conditions of England’s southern tip, an isolated peninsula which stretches three hundred kilometers out to sea, and constantly exposed to the full force of the Atlantic’s prevailing winds.

 

John Gahter IV, the eldest of five brothers and sisters, and assumed heir to the Gahter and Sons Ball, Valve and Pipe Manufacturing Company had recently been contacted by a local chemist, F.H. Inkes.  While conducting his business, Dr. Inkes used a technology which required small, spherical particles to be integrated into an easily replaceable plastic ball-check valve which, while under incredible pressure, would release a steady and predictable volume of fluid onto a row of glass slides placed on a rotating table which turned clockwise every six seconds.  Dr. Inkes wanted to know if Mr. Gahter and his manufacturing company could develop such a valve, and if so, could they manufacture a consistent quantity per month?  Mr. Gahter was intrigued and would discuss its possibility with his engineers and plant manager.  He promised to contact Dr. Inkes within a few days to inform him of his company’s decision. If Mr. Gahter and his employees were absolutely sure they could manufacture the valve then he and Dr. Inkes could further discuss all the business particulars.

 

Dr. Inkes was an analytical chemist whose expertise was well-known throughout England’s small number of chemists who utilized an uncommon technology, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to separate and identify compounds suspended in common liquids.  The information discovered during these tests were extremely useful to chemists, especially those conducting research involving complex and indistinguishable compounds.  Until recently when high-ranking officials at Scotland Yard and a few football executives learned that urine samples subjected to HPLC would separate and identify individual elements (of which may or may not interest them).

It took Mr. Gahter and his company two months to perfect the valve which Dr. Inkes requested.  But in the process, the two men made a startling discovery: fluid can be distributed at a consistent rate when pressure is applied, and the margin between the sphere and outlet must be perfectly calibrated to the viscosity of the ink.  Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes were awarded the patent for the steel ink pen and, of course, shocked most of Europe, and as Parliament promised, their ink pen was quickly distributed to all  governmental buildings throughout the Empire.

A reporter from The Guardian reputedly asked Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes what name was given to their invention?  Mr. Gahter replied, “It’s called the Bahwl Point Pen,” and Dr. Inkes quickly added, “And the first model is named after my good friend, John Gahter; “the Gahter” pronounced J-A-H-T-E-R.”

 

 

 

Finally Understanding Life As Mani A.

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I first met Mani A. a few months after my father died when I was fifteen.  He appeared from around a blind corner where Wong-Su restaurant and Teddy’s Tavern meet like a knife’s edge.  He was a restless, sinewy, no-nonsense blond wearing his older-brother’s-hand-me-downs.  I apologized and excused myself immediately, but he roared to life like a freshly started chainsaw and lunged at me with a ferocious diatribe about a blokes right-of-way and his unalienable rights, to which I chimed in, “But you are an alien!”  He paused, his idling mind wafting the blue smoke of burning oil, when suddenly he hit the throttle baring his teeth and chortled that he wasn’t a bloody martian, see, so piss off with the alien bullocks; crikey, he has the right to use public property as a thoroughfare without being gobsmacked by some daft wanker! until, I think, he heard himself running-on about some kind of whack job hyper-speech at which time he slowed, eventually landing softly on a patch of green peckhamengland-1grass.  I sat next to Mani A. who opened up like a teenagers compact, and divulged his personal life in Peckham, England (just outside of London), which, by the way he described it, was a tortuous place; a hometown without a home, a chilling place that nobody admitted coming from, everybody just shows up one day, street-smart and dodgy, showed up-growed up because nobody ever had a childhood.  You were either born a teen-ager or plain old smeg.  Nobody was ever just a kid; and nobody ever saw a kid.  We were around the same age and dreamt of similar things, but whereas I knew mine were silly fantasies, Mani A. was certain that whatever he wanted he could have.  No kidding.  Without the slightest doubt or reservation, whatever Mani A. wanted, Mani A. could get.  Period.  Mani A. had balls.  Whether Peckham beat them into him or he developed that confidence on his own, the strength of his conviction, no matter the degree of unlikelihood, you had to think, hey, it just might happen.  I’ve never met anyone in my entire life that expressed the depth of fortitude that Mani A. did.  I said my life must seem like a cartoon compared to yours: I was two-steps west of being white trash, and while our home lives seemed oddly similar, I never learned how to survive; I just wait.  For what, he asked leaning his elbow onto the grass.  For anything.  Anything besides this shit hole I can’t get myself out from.  At which Mani A. leapt to his feet, extended his hand and said, come on mate, I’ll show you the dog’s dinner that’ll make your life now look like a wee bit of the hard lines.  Your going to get a crash course in Peckham Survival Know-How.  First, you learn about being borne:  In Peckham you didn’t cut your teeth; you growled and snapped!  We learn to bite before there’s anything to bite.  Being ahead, that’s tickety-boo; getting ahead never happens, especially in Peckham.  And so started six months of juvenile delinquency including assault (knife-school-teacher), battery (brother), truancy, and one stern lecture from a juvenile judge away from living in a home for dangerous boys.

It wasn’t until Mani A. left town did I get my head screwed back on tight.  I toed the line, straightened out school, became popular, played sports each season, acted, sang, even led student government.  Counselor’s referred to me as the idyllic example of reform.  But in the back of my head I could still hear Mani and all the things he said and showed and prompted me to do.  Being “ways” by choice, not by reaction.  Mani didn’t show me how to live,chubbyseniorportrait Mani showed me how to survive.  Mani and I have maintained our friendship for over forty years.  One of the things I admired about Mani was his bond of friendship.  Or should I say degree of bond of friendship.  Whenever he helped take care of something cagey, I’d ask him why he’d get involved?  His answer has always been the same: friendship.  He said all other relationships have their own bloody baggage and demands and expectations, and ways to screw you in the end.  But friends are simply friends.  Easy, like looking in the mirror.  I see a wee bit of my bloody self in you.

Mani continued to visit at irregular intervals, all of which were concurrent with troubling, impossible, or unavoidable circumstances.  For example, he swung into town when my junior year in high school devolved into adolescent chaos: ducking senior hazing, sidestepping discussions highlighting my grim blue-collared, unionized, married and fatherly fate; derailing any parochial collision between varsity lettermen and my shadowy shine for Mitchell, an underclassman; and my obesity targeted by jeering and loathsome bullies.  He arrived shortly after Stokowski and I went to Union Drop Forge hoping to snag summer work which leads to full time after graduation.  Our bus drove through the “Blue Mile,” a one mile corridor of heavy, eye-reddening, cough-inducing, toxin-saturated manufacturing exhaust.  We nicknamed that part of oldermani2town the “Blue Mile” because of that solar eclipsing blue haze belched from fifty-foot smoke stacks every minute of every day.  I took my application home where it still remains blank.  I wanted my future to be unexpected.  To be a lifetime removed from the cadence of the dead-end-man: a union job, a wife, a stuffy upper flat, kids we can’t afford, dependence on two incomes, kids dumped with objecting in-laws, hate and regret pitched at the other, and some place my hope tumbled out of my greasy coveralls pocket while reaching for my lighter which I never missed until I reached for it, right after she left with the kids flanked by her objectionable parents.  That tableau was the only life option offered to kids like me.  It was expected, and you were expected to follow the guy ahead of you.  But I dreamt of the unexpected, the unpredictable chaos of life beyond the “Blue Mile.”  College required good grades, but demanded money.  The costs were way beyond my family’s reach; so far afield that going to college became a family gag.  And then, when my avenues and alleyways around the tuition hurdle went bust Mani stopped by on his way back to Peckham.  His first words were, You look like a sorry sod, chum!  causing me to expunge my year of hopelessness and depression.  He waited until I stopped crying before he said, Sometimes you’ve got to be bonkers, your mates marching to a paycheck will call you a mug, but remember life is horses for courses!  And you’ve got to be bold!  You’ve got to be; because being bold and senseless and relentless are the only way out.  Back in Peckham if you’re pegged a nesh or are sussed acting naff the rest of life in Peckham is going to be piss poor.  You and your chums go about blagging tough, and sometimes it goes fist-to-cuffs.  In Peckham it ain’t about violence because violence there is like your factory here.  In Peckham it’s about surviving life, about tomorrow.

In 2008 Mani broke all the rules.  Rather than subtle clues that he’s a stones throw away, he decided that my end game was near, so he ruptured my barrier of sanity, perforated my character, elbowed out reality, and declared chubyoldermaniautonomy.  Mani was finally emancipated; freed from the crushing compliance of decency and propriety, he ignored laws, took chilling risks, discovered a steady stream of opiates which he washed down with lethal liters of alcohol, ignored vows, ruined friendships, tossed out of jobs, denied benefits, and finally barricaded himself in the office of a psychiatrist who eventually evicted him, and reinstated my authority over the dominion of my life.

I’ve never faulted Mani for his insurgency.  He was simply providing the bravado to traverse the craggy cliffs of life, and of which I was ill-prepared to navigate.  But as Mani A. learned, freedom from consequence isn’t freedom at all.  It’s destruction, it’s disregard, it’s vengeful and dangerous and hateful and lethal   But Mani did have a knack for getting the job done which he introduced, tutored, and polished in me, providing the backbone for a career.  I think that’s how he survived: Mani and I got hired by gentlemen to take care of things quietly and cleanly.  Not that we ever broke the law, but we definitely broke the rules.  Mani recited many adages over the years, but the single-most poignant he shared with me was:  You can’t quit; every bloody cry-baby “says” they want “it,” but quit the second they’ve got to act like a chancer.  There are just two times you can quit: when you take the biscuit or hop the twig. 

 

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