Baltimore Pen Show 2019: Fun.
The Baltimore show was a great time this year, as no one will be surprised to find out.
A highlight of this year’s show was having a healthy contingent of my local crew there for the show.
It’s one thing to have pen club friends at your local show, and the last 2 years at the Ohio show have shown the truth of that.
To have folks you see regularly on your own turf at an out-of-town show brings the pen show to a whole new level. It becomes a pen sleepaway camp.
When you’re at your home show, at least in my case, you have home duties like work and whatever to attend to. I work all the freaking time, and the reality of the Ohio show is that I work harder those days. I need a foreign show to kick back and have a proper pens time.
At an out of town show, you’re usually staying at the show hotel, so the pen fun hours extend from wakeytime to pass out-o’clock.
I brought my whole family to the Bmore show, so my attention was (rightly) divided. I know my pen club buddies had a cracking good time doing pen stuff from top to bottom. Anyway, let’s dig in to the weekend.
Day 1: Friday
Friday was mostly a travel day. The plan was to get on the road between noon and one, and roll into Baltimore around 8PM. This was mostly what happened. Added bonus for Friday’s trip: Henry. I got a text from Henry around 930AM. Henry’s plan was to roll to Baltimore with Kaylen, one of our local Pen Heavies. Kaylen is the kind of enthusiastic pen person who will leave at half past midnight in order to arrive at a pen show the moment it opens. Henry is the kind of guy who thinks when you say “We’ll leave at 12:30” you’re talking about the daytime kind of 12:30. So apparently Kaylen was banging on Henry’s door for half an hour while Henry was dead asleep like a normal person. This sounds suspiciously like none of my business.
Henry hitched a ride in the Hofmann Family Van instead. It was fun; my kids pretended Henry was their brother. At one point we went into a McDonalds for a potty break and a snack and Casey stayed in the car. Getting back in the van I explained to Henry what we just did is called Gay Dadding. What a hoot.
Henry and I listened to deep disco tracks and otherworldly Jazz explorations as the last hour of the trip turned into a dark rainy nightmare.
We got to the ‘otel around 830pm and I was a wreck, having driven the whole thing with minimal breaks. I dumped my stuff in the room and immediately headed for the bar where Henry and Kaylen were already tearing it up. Nick Pang and Henry got right into geeking out on ligatures and a gothick version of the @ symbol. I plopped down with Brad Dowdy and some of his pals and got to play around with his current kickstarter pen, the Spoke. It’s cool and magnety and very fidgetable. Later I sat down with some Franklin Christoph friends and we talked about, well, pens. Between the drive and the pile of beer I drank in the bar, by 11PM I was ready to expire. So I hit the sack in preparation for:
Day 2, Saturday.
I woke up at freaking 7AM which is actually sleeping in for me. Eschewing the $37 omelettes in the hotel restaurant, muh girls and I loaded up and headed out for breakfast at Bob Evans. Thrilling. Somebody put a drinking straw in my hair and I left it there for the rest of the day. Why not? After breakfast we made a beeline to Whitey’s Booze Emporium where I was thrilled to stock up on local beer that’s not available in Columbus. Namely, Oliver Beer, brewed by my buddy Steve. Steve got a new brewery to work in since I left Baltimore in 2014, complete with a canning line, and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to buy his stuff in cans. It’s delicious.
We got back to the hotel as the show was getting started. The parking lot was pretty full so we found a spot kinda far away, and pulled into a spot right next to a car containing Lawrence, a regular customer at my shop in Hilliard. I knew he was visiting Maryland the same weekend, and I encouraged him to visit the pen show, but I didn’t really expect him to come. Well, he did and it was awesome.
I got the gorls sorted and hit the ballroom for the friggin pen show. Lots of the regular people were there and it was really fun. Brad was hawking Nock stuff in between Richard Binder and the Van Ness table. Ryan Krusak was all the way down at the end of the room. I loved seeing Ryan’s table, every pen on it was a Legend. I’ve decided the next thing Ryan is going to do in scrimshaw is a series of pens celebrating Cavemen and their accomplishments. There is no way Ryan will turn that idea down.
First thing I picked up was a cool notebook from Story Supply Co. I like those guys, and this one has a big friggin flower right there on the cover. It says York on it, which is where the guys are from, and it’s also a place I’ve spent a little time, so purchase.
By and by I wandered over to the Franklin-Christoph table (as ya do) and looked over the prototype section. Holy Jeez, there it was, a model 20 (you know I love these things) in a shimmerry black acrylic. Whoof.
I wasn’t planning on picking up another FC although you never can really rule it out. This pen hit a couple spots for me: the black spot and the chatoyant spot. I got it with the Shadow nib, a black 3-tined music nib that writes about 2mm wide. This was the first pen I had set up by Audrey, and it was a lot of fun. Turns out she’s from right by where my wife grew up. We had a fun chat that ranged from the pronunciation peccadilloes of Putnam County to how much we miss Jim Rouse. She did a great job with my 20 and I’m excited to see where she takes herself and FC, tuning pens for happy customers. She’s awesome.
I wandered around the show for a while, and at some point met up with Henry. We sauntered up to the Hofmann Hotel room to begin drinking beers.
I must have hit those beers pretty hard cause the rest of the afternoon gets fuzzy, and I believe it includes a nap.
Around 5 or 6 when the show wrapped, I went down to the bar to see what kind of trouble Henry and Kaylen had gotten into. Lizzie came with me to the bar and sat right down between me and Henry. She had apple juice and I drank some more beer. She was writing with pens and having a blast.
That lasted almost an hour, until the world’s most diplomatic hotel manager told me that they really couldn’t have a 5-year-old child sitting at the bar. Of course they couldn’t, even though Lizzie can easily pass for 6. It was time to get moving anyway; Casey and I loaded the girls into the van and headed off on a family outing to White Marsh, clear on the north side of Baltimore. That took a few hours and we grabbed a pizza at our favorite Bmore joint on our way back to the hotel. We ate and the girls got ready to go for a nighttime swim as I headed down to the bar to see what in the hell was going on. I sat down with Frank (the Federalist) and we chatted a bit about the day. I think it was barely 10PM when I decided I’d had enough and needed a solid chunk of unconsciousness. What followed can only be described as
Day 3: Sunday.
I woke up earlyish, and ran out for some food-type breakfast to bring back to the hotel room. Next came a dip in the pool (I promised the girls a family swim) before the show opened at 10AM. I rinsed off and headed down to the show with my box of coffee to try and pay for way-home gas. I got to spend a little time with Chris Rothe of Write Notepads, one of my favorite guys.
I got to chat with Guy, a local chocolatier with ties to my old Baltimore neighborhood. I picked up some Jinji Chocolate for Casey and we had a really nice chat. I really liked that Guy. Shoulda got a photo!
I made some aeropresses in the main room over by Ryan Krusac’s table and wandered over to see JJ Lax, nibmeister from Brooklyn and all-around cool guy. He was busy as a bee but I was able to get a big Asa pen with a big juicy broad nib from him.
Next came some time hanging out with the one and only Pierre Miller of Desiderata Pens. He helped me switch out the nib unit on the Micarta pen I bought from him last year (look for a review one of these Fridays.) If you get a chance, hang out with Pierre. He’s got a way with words. If you can’t swing that, get on his email list, at the bottom of this page, which is well worth reading.
I’d have loved to hang out longer, but I ended up just rattling around grabbing photos with people before we had to get on the road.
We wanted to leave for home noonish, and the drive was looking to be a nasty one. Turns out, it was! Only the middle 7 hours of it were a white-knuckle nightmare.
All in all, a fantastic show. Bert knows what he’s doing and he had an elite team of stone cold killers running the show with him this year. I’ve said it out loud to people, and I’ll type it here: the Baltimore show is underrated. See if ya can make it to the next one, I’ll be there damn sure.