Commonwealth Pen Show

Roadtrip to Boston for the Commonwealth Pen Show
NYC Apartments

Sometime about the middle of last week, YouTube flashed a notification on my smartphone (sometimes my smartphone is too smart for me!) that InkNeedLastForever has posted a new video. Since I am a Noodler’s fan, I elected to watch the video and learned that Noodler’s (Nathan Tardif) created three new inks for the Commonwealth Pen Show. Boston is only about 400 miles from where I’m staying and the show was 20 September 2015.

I could make the show. I have never been to a pen show. The big shows in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the like are so big and so intimidating that I have not attended one. It wasn’t that I could not physically get to one of the shows. But the huge amount of energy, the noise, and the city were too intimidating.

The Commonwealth Pen Show is a small show and just getting started. This was the second year. My work was caught up and so I asked myself, “Why not?”

So, I elected to make a quick trip to Boston for the show. The hunt for affordable lodging turned up nothing, so I elected to stay at the Holiday Inn, where the show was hosted.

The Girl and I loaded up Saturday, about noon, and headed out. I should have left sooner. But, I’m still learning how things work here in the east and highway travel is just different than it is in the west, where I spend most of my time. I hit a major detour near Harrisburg — I-81 was closed for construction. In trying to find a detour, I wandered about in a small town (that happened to have some kind of event blocking all the main streets) until I found (or my GPS found) a way around the clog and was able to get back on track.

There was traffic, but it wasn’t awful. It was enough, though, that passing a slower moving vehicle required a merge into significant traffic.

I stopped in New Jersey to find a geocache (and collect another state), plus the Girl needed some outside time to stretch and relieve herself. We had fun.

It was not long before I crossed into New York and almost immediately New York City. The afternoon light was gorgeous, I-95 was very slow, and the skyline was fascinating. I grabbed a few shots with my Panasonic compact camera when traffic paused and thought “I’d like to visit here. This could be interesting.” Yeah, I’d like to visit NYC and see some of the history there.

The farther along I-95 we moved, the better traffic moved and soon we were moving along again. We crossed into Connecticut, then Rhode Island, and then into Massachusetts. But, with the light failing, I decided against stopping for a geocache and hoped I’d be able to find a few on my way home. We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Boston late (for me) and tired (from all the traffic).

The clerk challenged me on the Girl as soon as we arrived at the desk. “There is no formal requirement for certification under federal law,” I reminded her.

But, because I paid the fee to obtain a “certificate” that is displayed as an ID card on her vest, I bent over to retrieve it. “I’ll get my manager,” the clerk told me. She arrived back in a couple of minutes and I presented Ki’s ID card.

“Will this do?”


I should not have been cranky with the clerk (and wasn’t rude), but it appalls me that people don’t know the rules and that others take advantage of the rules to subvert the system. We were checked in by that time the manager showed. I could have taken the time to explain, but I was just too tired and stressed to bother.

We woke early Sunday morning and went for a walk. Boston was cool and overcast Sunday morning. It rained during the night — not a lot, but enough to dampen things. I showered, dressed, and we went down to the dining room for breakfast. It was decent enough; certainly nothing to complain about.

We were at the door by 0900 hours. There was a short line. The Girl and I interacted with an older man, who told stories about his love of dogs and his encounters with them. I really enjoyed the stories. Then he did a magic trick with a pen and a 20-dollar bill. The pen appeared to have penetrated the bill, but there as no hole. Fun!!!!!

Perhaps I should have taken my beanbags and juggled while waiting in line?

We paid our fee and got in line at the Noodler’s table to collect the special inks. There was a line when I got there and there was a line when I left. I’m not a big fan of Noodler’s fountain pens, but he sure is an expert marketer. He’s also an interesting man and someone I think would be a hoot to know better. I got my inks and stowed them in my messenger bag. I elected to not look at the pens, thinking the line would reduce and I’d be able to look at his pens later. I was dead wrong. Oh well…

The Girl and I walked the floor, browsing at the offerings there and visiting with the vendors. I nearly bought a vintage Sheaffer Pen for Men at one table. The nib was fine or extra-fine, which is smaller than I want in that pen. So, although I thought it was a reasonable buy, I left it. (…and I nearly went back for it later!)

I played with some flexi-pens. That is an art I have not learned. But, I love the shape of the letters made with a flexible nib and think I want one. The offerings I encountered were more than my budget, so I continued wandering. I get back in the Noodler’s line, thinking I would check out his special pens when a lady walked up to me.

“Are you Ruminator or something on FPN?”


“I thought so… I saw you and your dog and remembered your post on FPN.”

We chatted for a bit (the Girl was the big hit of the show, I think, perhaps just behind Nathan and Noodler’s). “Are you looking for flexible nib pen?”

“I’m interested in them.”

“Then you should talk to Pier,” and she pointed out the man running the table. I remembered watching him write. He is very skilled with a flexible nibbed pen.

“Let’s go!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, I can always get back in line.”

So she led me to the table where I met the “trophy husband” (as he calls himself). We sat down and he had me play with a number of vintage flexible-nib pens. I practiced pressure to spread the tines and increase the line width with three or four pens, but gravitated back to a couple of them that just felt “right” in the hand.

Pier walked over (he is a penultimate salesman) and visited with me. He made me an offer on one of the pens I was playing with. It is not a collector’s pen, but an everyday writer. It will do and the price is probably about what the nib is worth. When dealing with cameras, my rule is “a camera is a box to hold sensor or film and create a good exposure; the glass and photographer are what create the image.” The fountain-pen corollary is that a “pen is a tube to hold ink and a nib; the nib and writer create the writing.” So I have a tube that carries a decent flexible nib. I can play.

I’m thankful that “C” rescued me from the floor. I might have wandered about another hour before becoming exhausted. I was reminded that shows like this are hard on me — the energy and buzz push at me and that I have to be careful. When I go to shows, I have to have a plan and stay focused on what I’m there to achieve. Otherwise I’ll wander off into a fog and drift along the floor, there, but awash in all that energy and commotion.

The show, while small, was bustling with interest and transactions. This is good and I think bodes well for the show to grow into something a bit more. It will probably not reach the size of the big shows. But it could be a great regional show for local enthusiasts capable of drawing enough vendors to make it worth attending for both vendors and buyers. There was a good number of pens, nib masters, and papers available — as well as Noodler’s Inks.

I enjoyed my first show. I only wish I’d gotten my camera out a lot more and made a bunch of images. Facepalm

The trip home was unremarkable. The Girl and I stopped a few times to refresh ourselves, get a bite, and find a geocache. Traffic was heavy now and again, especially where construction or an accident constricted the flow. We arrived home late and tired, but safe and glad to be home.

2 thoughts on “Commonwealth Pen Show”

  1. Hi Ruminator,

    Was nice to run into you and the Girl at the show – apologies again for petting without asking – I did some reading when I got home to better understand why – amazing stuff. Hope to see you two at the show next year I had a blast!

    1. No worries, Stu! That happens occasionally when in public and it doesn’t bother me or the Girl. I take it as a teachable moment when it happens and spend a few minutes helping people understand why it’s not appropriate.

      There are some service dogs whose role is such that interference can significantly impact their handler. That’s not the case for me.

Comments are closed.