Christmas 1957

Not every present has to be new; it just has to have love and a special meaning attached to it. 

Every year, as the temperature starts to drop and the leaves turn brassy gold, an old memory comes back to me.  It dates back to my early childhood in Michigan, specifically the fall of 1957.  The air was crisp and filled with the smell of pine burning in fireplaces and nutmeg.  Leaves from the six oak trees that bordered our yard had already fallen and the squirrels had harvested all the acorns their little nests could hold.  Winter was fast approaching –“softly,” as my grandmother would say, “like the whisper of little duck feet paddling through the grass on their way to water.”  Dad was out in the garage putting the finishing touches on the converted house trailer that held the 22 foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser he had built.

“Son,” he called out, “come on, we’re going shopping.  Get in the car.”  To go shopping with my Dad was a big deal for me.  I piled into his pink (yes I said pink) 56 Buick convertible and threw my arm up on the windowsill that, at nine years old, came just about level to the base of my earlobe.  An awkward position I had put myself in, but it was semi-warm, Dad had the top down, and I looked cool.

Off we went until about ten miles later we stopped in our first antique store.  “I’m looking for a special something for your mother for Christmas,” he said turning to me, “so you have to keep this trip a secret.”  I swore I would, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what my mother would want from a store that sold old junk.  Never mind, I was with my Dad.  Three hours and four antique stores later, I was less enthused.  I was tired and bored out of my nine-year old skull.  I hadn’t learned the art of antique buying, nor for that matter – patience.  Besides, there were toys I couldn’t play with, tools I couldn’t touch and God forbid if I stepped too close to a shelf full of antique cut glass.  Dad however was in seventh heaven.

As I stood looking at a set of WWI medals and Meerschaum pipes sitting in a glass case, I heard Dad say, “That’s it!”  As I turned, he was reaching for an old dingy, dirty and bent brass ships bell sitting on the floor this old store.  Holding it in his hands, caressing it as if he were gazing upon the Holy Grail, he headed towards the counter where an old grey haired man and his wife sat; she crocheting while humming to herself and him, watching me out of the corner of his eye.

“How much for this old dirty bell,” my Dad asked.  “$15” the old man said without hesitation.  Remember – in 1957, you were “well off” if you made $5200.00 a year.  $15.00 was a lot of money and a weeks worth of groceries.  Dad put the bell down on the counter quickly stepping back as if it burned him.  “It’s not made of gold is it?” he asked.  The old man smiled but didn’t waver.  “Here’s what I’ll do” Dad said, I’ll give you $7.00 for it.”  The old man shook his head no.  “Make it $10.00 and you have a deal,” he grunted.  Dad shook his head and handed the bell to me.  “Here son, go put this back.  We’ll have to find something else for your mother for Christmas this year.”  Then turning back to the old man he said, “Sorry old timer, all I have is $8.00 to spend and I still have to buy my boy dinner after we leave here.”  Dad hung his head and motioned for me to hurry along.  “Ok,” the old man said, “You can have it for $8.00 but you’re killing me.”  His eyes were smiling as he and Dad shook hands.  By this time, that old bell was getting heavy.  “OK boy, carry it to the car,” Dad said as he paid the man.  On the drive back, Dad pointed out that what he had done was called the art of negotiating.  That was the first time I had ever heard that term.  “We made of great deal,” he said as he carried a Cheshire cat grin with him all the way home.

Christmas day that year brought snow – lots of it.  Early morning, after my brother and I opened our presents and Dad opened his striped tie we got him, Mom started to busy herself with cleaning up the discarded wrappings.  Dad left the room and came back with all of our coats and scarfs, announcing, “I’ve got one more present but it’s outside.”  Bundled up like refugees from a Siberian mining camp, we all traipsed outside, where Dad led us to the garage.  He told my mother to close her eyes.  As she did, he opened the garage door hiding the boat.  There on the stern of his newly built boat just above the dark blue fiberglass waterline were the words “The Shirl J” in gold letters with a red outline.  My mother’s name is Shirley.  He had never told her what he was naming the boat.  There was also a ladder leading up into the interior.  After Mom hugged my Dad, with tears in her eyes, he led her to the ladder.  She climbed up into the boat and there – just past the spot where the flying bridge windshield would eventually go, sat the newly polished – newly restored brass bell with the words “The Shirl J – 1957” engraved on the bell skirt.  They kissed so long this time, we kids were told to go back into the house.

I learned two things that Christmas.  The first was that not every present has to be brand new; it just has to have love and a special meaning attached to it.  Secondly, antiques – like found treasures, are great for conveying that special meaning.

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Turn off your mind, relax…

I had to re-blog this. My muse is laughing now that he knows he has a partner called creativity.

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A Touch of Elegance

English: A Montblanc 146 from ca. 1990 (top) a...

English: A Montblanc 146 from ca. 1990 (top) and a Montblanc 149 from 2009 (bottom) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is something downright sensual about holding a finely balanced fountain pen in your hand.  The stimulating and provocative flow of polished metal on paper, coupled with the deep translucent color of fresh wet ink as it flows from the tip, stimulates your creativity like no other instrument.  It’s the same feeling I get when I cut a delicate line with a newly sharpened gouge while wood carving.  The connective stimulation one feels when fingertips and instrument are one and the same.

I sit here, late aDSCF3010t night, hold my favorite Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 pen while writing this.  On my desk and up for sale is my most recent acquisition – a rare Montblanc Meisterstuck 146 that I just got received from  Montblanc after having it fully refurbished.  I want to draw ink into it so bad that I had to pull out my 149 just to get over the urge.  It is a beautifully balanced example of German artisanship.  The companion desk holder does justice to the quiet elegance of this pen.

So much is written about the Montblanc, that I could not add anything that could further enhance its reputation other than to say, everything they write about its quality and beauty, pales in comparison to actually holding and writing with one.  The final test of this pens quality – for me anyway – is the hardest part to imagine unless you are a writer who uses a pen.  I will do my best to convey it however.  I have to end this piece and put the pen down.  Unlike many other pens in my collection, a Montblanc become an extension of you that you will not want to quit.

DSCF3016If you are interested in this unique Montblanc 146, ca late 1970’s, you can see it in my pen & writing Instrument case at the American Classics Antique Mall – space B30, (Dads Corner of Mom & Me’s Vintage Linens & Lace,) or write me at GAClark@Write4Me.net and we can discuss details.

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Blurring The Lines: How Some Are Cashing In On The Self-Publishing Craze

This is good information that every author needs to know and well written. I hope you don’t mind that I reblog it.

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Copywriter VS Copyrighting

*Copywriting

*Copywriting (Photo credit: Bazstyle | Photography)

For most / many of you, the answer to the question of “what is the difference between the two words in the title” will be easy.  However, last week, I removed the words “Commercial Copywriting” from the sign on my car.  Apparently, it’s not as obvious as I thought.  I know – you are going to say you removed them because “Commercial Copywriting” might be redundant.  After all, “Commercial” refers to business and Copywriting is the act of writing copy (text) for the purpose of advertising or marketing a product, business, person, opinion or idea.   However, the question most asked of me is “I’ve written a book and I need to protect it.  Can you help me copyright it?”  The second most asked question was, “Do you write fiction?  I want to write a book on my life.  Can you help me write it?”  That was the reason for Commercial Copywriting.Yes – I write fiction.  I have two novels (print and e-book) on the market, (Show Low and Carrasco’s Gold) but that is not copywriting.  If I help you write your book, then I would be either your ghostwriter or a co-author.  If you want me to review and correct your book, then I would be your editor.  Then we get into the various degrees of editing.

If you want me to take your writing and correct, punch it up or fix it, then we are talking about copyediting.  Once again, we get into the level of copyediting you want done.  Do you need help making your book interesting?  Then copyediting turns into ghostwriter.  I have ghosted books, but don’t do it often.  No, I will not tell you who the clients were.  That disclosure would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

I write copy for companies, large and small, i.e. commercial copy.  I write brochures, web content, advertisements or other forms of writing that a business will use to sell their products or services.  I help my client sell or tell depending on their audience.  I also help them define their audience and hone their message so that it has the most impact.  I am for hire, as needed, therefore “freelance.”  I am part of your team, but not on your or anyone else’s payroll.

I help people communicate.  For a person, not a business owner, a résumé or biography is their personal sales tool.  That means that this person should use a commercial writer.  I use my commercial writing skills to write honest and accurate resumes and biographies.  Because of my background in business and sales, I help them properly define their job skills but I won’t create a skill where there was none.

How many of you have agonized over a presentation.  The task before you is to make your ideas logical and understandable for your audience.  I can help you do that.  However, I do not help people protect what they have written.  If you are afraid someone is going to steal your original ideas or work as an author, then you need an attorney who specializes in copyright law.

This week, I removed Commercial Copywriting from my vehicle, replacing it with Freelance Writer.  Yesterday – one day after the new sign was in place – I was asked, “What company do you work for?”

I can’t win.

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Steampunk Colorado – not a place, but a state of mind

My wife’s post.

Mom & Me - Vintage Linens, Lace & Antiques

Steampunk

I have to admit I didn’t know much about steampunk.  I probably still don’t know a lot about steampunk, even after my long conversation with two neat people who came into my store dressed in Victorian steampunk style.  I’m learning however.

However, I am always curious and open to new things.  Shrugging off my middle America farm girl cloak, I went looking for answers to my question “What is Steampunk?”  Thanks to Wikipedia I learned that Steampunk is a genre that originated during the 1980s and early 1990s and incorporates elements of science fictionfantasyalternate historyhorror, and speculative fiction.  It involves a setting where steam power is widely used—whether it be an alternate history such as Victorian era Britain or the “Wild West” era United States, Science fiction depicts Steampunk in a post-apocalyptic time —that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.

Now I understand it.  Turns out I…

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Pen Spinning, the Chinese and the Moon

Did you know that if it hadn’t of been for a ballpoint pen, our moon landing astronauts might not have returned from the moon? Did you know that the Japanese are tops in Pen Spinning? Did you know there was such a sport. Didn’t know that people spun pens? Neither did I, until I saw it. I decided to master this art, but after breaking a few glasses, sticking a pen in my eye and generally feeling quite inadequate for my age, I said the heck with it. Here, check it out http://youtu.be/mTIbc7WKoKs

The history of writing instruments is the history of civilization itself. Easily traceable, the history is evident in everything we see, hear or experience. Somewhere, sometime, someone had to write it. Our earliest known graffiti artists were cave men who left evidence of their thinking by scratching and painting their thoughts on cave walls. Then some genius determined that carrying a clay tablet around was easier than carrying a cave wall.

Necessity became the mother of writing paper when it was found that Papayas was lighter than clay, and that by pounding wood into pulp not only eliminated all your anger, but also made a lighter material called paper. Paper came about around 2000 BC. The problem with paper is that it required a pen and something called ‘ink.’ Some far thinking Chinese scholar had already invented the ink 600 years earlier in 2600 BC. They called it Indian Ink. (go figure) It was made from the oil from donkeys, musk ox , soot and lamp oil. It smelled nasty and the musk ox didn’t want to give up their oil to easy. (Have you ever tried to scrape oil off a musk ox?)

The problem with ink was that it was a liquid. Liquid held in suspense by bristles on a brush were ok, even though somewhat messy, but when you put this ink stuff on a pointed stick and tried to write with it, it didn’t get too far. Therefore, the Chinese used hollowed pieces of bamboo. They got farther in writing across a page, but still messy.  Someone thought of using the stem from marsh grass and we had ourselves the start of a communication. Next time, I’ll write and tell you about a sales rep and a lost million dollar sale, that led to the best known invention of modern times.

Fisher Space Pens

Fisher Space Pens (Photo credit: mr_t_77)

Oh, and that ballpoint pen and the astronauts. After returning to the landing module, Buzz Aldrin accidentally broke the switch used to activate the ascent engines. Without being able to toggle this switch, the rockets would not fire. NASA Engineers scrambled trying to figure out a solution. One of the astronauts took apart his new Fisher – write anywhere Space Pen and used the tube to shove down into the broken part of the switch.  Neat.   FYI, you can buy a vintage Fisher pen from my Antique Pen Store in American Classics – case 110 (Moved to a bigger Case #409 and we also expanded to Dads Corner – Space C30)

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