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I don't remember exactly when I started using fountain pens; I was still in primary school at the time, at any rate. I started out with cheap no-name fountain pens, but was given what was supposedly a decent Parker when I started secondary school. It served its purpose, I suppose, but it left me stuck using Parker cartridges (it couldn't take an adapter).

After suffering a particularly bad (even by Parker standards) batch of cartridges, I went out and bought a nice heavy Waterman Expert. At first I just used Waterman Florida Blue ink from a bottle, because Waterman Black is really an annoying medium grey. Later, thanks to everyone and their dog setting up an e-commerce website, I managed to get various Private Reserve, J. Herbin and Diamine inks to play with.

I would occasionally get landed using a ballpoint pen, but every time I tried to write with one I would remember just why I hated them so much. They're slow to write with, produce ugly uneven lines on the page and require far more pressure than a fountain pen. With a ballpoint, one has to press down to write; a fountain pen merely needs to be pulled lightly across the page to make a mark. Roller balls are marginally better, but they're still so much more effort than a good fountain pen.

Today, two things happened which made me wonder just how few people still use good pens.

The first was a peculiar compliment I received. I've had people notice the fountain pens I use fairly frequently — these days I have several, including a really elegant Chinese pen with incredibly ornate artwork on the barrel. Comments on the ink colours I use are common too — by using bottled ink I can choose between all kinds of vibrant colours and am not limited to "nasty oily ballpoint blue" and "nasty smeary ballpoint black" (students are encouraged not to use "nasty uneven ballpoint red", that being the weapon of choice of those who do the marking).

This time, though, someone said that they really liked the paper I was using.

I hadn't really given any thought to this. I've been buying 100gsm lightly tinted paper from various art shops for years. It turns out that everyone else in the lecture theatre was using lined refill pads. I always tried to avoid those because of the lines — I can write in a straight line anyway, and the lines get in the way when doing quick diagrams or when laying out equations. What I hadn't noticed was just how bad the paper was becoming. Some of it was as thin as 50gsm.

I tried to write on some of it as an experiment. I was expecting the ink to soak right through and make the other side of the page unusable, which it did. I was not expecting the paper to be torn to shreds. If the exam booklets are ever changed to use cheaper paper, I'm screwed...

The second was far more annoying. My passport is coming close to its expiry date, so a month or so ago I went through the long and painful process of filling in a filing cabinet's worth of paperwork and providing all the necessary bodily fluids to get it renewed. Today the form was returned to me with a letter explaining that I had not filled it in correctly. See, passport forms must be filled in "with a blue or black ballpoint pen". I had used a fountain pen with Herbin black ink.

Now, had I used Private Reserve Shoreline Gold or something similarly outrageous, I could understand there being a problem. Herbin black, though, is a smooth, clean, very fast drying black ink.

Apparently, the problem is that it's too good. So good that some snotty little minimum wage oik at the passport office had decided that my signature must be a photocopy or printout — being used to nasty scratchings, they simply did not believe that it was possible for humans to write smooth lines.

I will be very very annoyed if I end up having to fill in another form using a ballpoint pen. I would write to my local member of parliament, except that he signs his name using a Biro. Maybe I'll have to settle for an angry letter to the Times.

Baby News
I promised I would update when we had any further news. I’m now 14 weeks pregnant. Everything is going well. We went to the doctor today, got to hear the baby's heartbeat and basically be reassured that everything is progressing normally. Our next appointment will be in 5 weeks on October 14th. They will do a second ultrasound at that appointment and we’ll hopefully be able to find out the gender of the baby. Both Chad and I are very excited.

Its time for my annual spiritual bloodletting. If you don’t want to hear it, you should probably stop reading right here.

Life, grief and other crap
Grief is a funny thing, in someways its similar to leukemia. You fight it, you accept it. It becomes a part of you. Just when you think you are getting over it. It comes back with a vengeance.

Every year its the same for me. The days have gotten easier, I don’t cry like I used to. But every single year, when I turn the calendar over to September, I feel like I’ve been slapped. Not just any ol’ slap. But a “don’t talk to your mama that way” SLAP that shakes you to the core. Its like reliving the events leading up to Adam’s suicide, every single year.

I just want to be able to get through this week, ONCE, without being an emotional idiot.

We will be in D.C. this weekend visiting family. I’m glad that I get to see my sister, who I haven’t seen since April of last year, but I am also anxious about being back in D.C. over this weekend. There are simply too many memories there.

I woke up at 4 am this morning after having bad dreams brought on by my anxious worries. Basically, it all boils down to this. I made some bad decisions in the past. However, I don’t know whether or not making good decisions would have really changed the course of events. I can sit here, today, in 2005, and look back to decisions and problems I had in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and over analyze everything, second guessing and blaming myself all day. Hell, I’ve done it for 4 years already. Why stop now? Well, I want to stop because I’m sick of it. It makes my heart and head hurt. Besides, it takes two people to make a marriage fail. Adam was certainly not blameless and neither am I. But at some point, I have to stop these thoughts.

I still haven’t learned that the “what-ifs” will make you crazy.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not unhappy. I'm happier now than I've ever been. Chad is an amazingly good husband and father. I have a great job. My kids are doing well. We're expecting a baby. Life is good. I just want to get rid of these guilt-ridden doubts in the back of my mind.

p(For some reason my logs got shifted backwards 24 hrs. yesterday. I'll be catching up tomorrow. )

Yesterday, woke up on ledge as detailed. Had breakfast of orange juice and nuts from Rite-Aid a few doors down. Went to Yale Library and Mom called.

"Don't forget to ask Cousin Jean for a shower," she reminded. "And call me from there." (She can't see me, 'cause she's got MAJOR shingles...)

Jean called up, and told me that her grandchild Arianna, would be there, "...and we've got a lot of appointments."

Ah, Arianna. GossipGirl for her school, Queen Bee and problem child.

Long story short, I'm out there and we meet, for the first time in her 17-year-old life.

"Ah, I'm Alissa, and you must be..." I catch sight of her dreadlocks. I sense a Fellow Soul. "Love what you've done to your hair!"

She smiles, and says thank you.

"I've put the money into an envelope for you." Cousin Jean says. "Arianna, this is ...Alissa." (Shouldn't it be otherwise? Hmm.)

"I like...need a shower, but I know you're busy."

"Weren't you supposed to be moving in?"

"It was a hoax. I'm going to go back to sleeping on the ledge, like I have been. "

"Okey-doke..." Jean says. She's already discharged her Christian Duty to me, having had me in her house for a month a few years back. According to her, I'm not supposed to sleep over again, ever, since otherwise this is going to be Feeding My Dependancy on Others, or somesuch. Perhaps showers fit in the same category.

Arianna stands with her mouth open. It's clear she's going to be asking some questions.

I noodle back into town in my bike, and decide to look at the old neighborhood, where I spent my first thirty-odd years.

It's changed, and not in a good way. Mayme's house, where I lived, used to have hemlocks and a few mountain laurels hiding the foundation, the new owners have let the hemlocks turn into trees, and chopped off all the lower limbs. They've also painted the house white, and neglected the Great Tree in front, by not having it pruned, with the result that the tree may blow over or get sick.

Ah, well, someday I'll buy the house back. Someday. Most of the other houses I remember aren't doing so well either: the Brousseau's, for instance, with its old golf-course manicured lawn, has a front yard that's yellow and full of weeds. (But you can see the Great Tree for yourself, on satellite photos: check out 167 Treadwell St. Hamden. It's a black oak, old enough to be historic.)

I go off to the park in the Powder Farm, to rest.

This too, has changed since the late Eighties: instead of the swings, slide, and gliders, we now have a gated kiddie park, where moms anxiously flutter over three-year-olds with disinfectant. There's no one at the basketball court, which used to attract, well, everyone, and the Playing Field has a jogging track on it, instead of being just bushwacked meadow. Wonder how the Mothers feel about this bummess putting down a stadium blanket near the park bench "donated by the Bogart (as in Maud and Humphrey? It's new.) family".

I sleep, and wake up. At least the forest is familiar. I write a bit of a love scene in my novel, Scarlet Woman. I wonder why I haven't written more. I lie on my back and watch the wind blow the trees, like giant stalks of grass, and lieder play in my head. I realize I'm very hungry, and bike over to the Mc Donald's on Dixwell, blowing a bundle on a Double Quarter Pounder Combo, feeling vaguely depressed.

I catch a bus and go back to my office in Yale Library. There's a piece of mail in my inbox.

"I just read your daylog. I'm in Trumbull (used to live in NH) and if that's not an impossible commute for you (provided you can commute) I've got an extra bedroom you're welcome to. If that's not practical just let me know what you need and hopefully I can help. Maybe I can put you up in a hotel in town?" There's also a few very warm leads for longer-term housing.

Hot damn. I write back furiously. Phone numbers are exchanged. Credit card numbers are faxed. People are alerted.

I eat another large meal, bus/bike out to the motel, and have a nice, hot bath.

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