Parker is in a funny place in my internal world. For most of my life, prior to the descent of pen mmmmmadness, vaguely present in the background. I was aware of them– my family subscribed to National Geographic, and Parker ran ads– but the combination of my youthful inattention, the presence of cheap Sheaffers at the nearby drugstore, and absence of similarly accessible Parkers meant that I never quite locked in on them. I have a somewhat truncated memory of destroying a desk-mount “51” belonging to my Grandfather sometime around age 10, but had no clue what it was I was beating up, other than something that I couldn’t figure out how to get the cartridges into.
In my current form as a practitioner of mannenhitsu-do and pen-aware person, I have come to a better appreciation of the Parker. I commented in my notes here regarding Sheaffer about the remarkable consistency of that company, something which really can’t be said about Parker. There is some broad variation between models, even those that were contemporary with each other; the similarity of feel shown by “51”s and “21”s is actually off the standard for Parker. As a collector, I appreciate this inconsistency, since it usually doesn’t run to the sort of extreme which finds one saying, “Man, what a sucky pen.”
However, there is sufficient variation that I can say, “Well, I don’t really like this model,” and I can say it for completely different reasons each time, although usually with regret. The 61, for instance, has the goofy anti-cleaning filler and flimsy plastic; I might love it but for that. Even the Vacumatic, which I like for both its writing and its looks, cools my interest with brutal flushing routines and a whole constellation of failure modes for the filler.
The result is that I find myself quite liking particular pens, and enough of them that I sometimes feel a little like I’m cheating on my first darling, Sheaffer, because the reason I like those pens is more than just simple beauty– I like the writing feel of a good Parker more than I like that of a good Sheaffer. Also, I discover that my mid-life crisis fling is the Parker 75 silver crosshatch. As with some Sheaffers, I’m apt to lose time to just holding the pen up in front of me and staring, possibly coming to my senses before a string of droll messes up what I was writing. It somewhat elevates my opinion of the whole company which brought it forth.
What do I really think of Parker? Affection, with some lust, although I think they’re being poorly managed at the moment. Parkers of recent make do little to turn my head.