Category - Digest

From Harvey, ca. 1940:
“The Parker Pen Letter”

Returning now too the subject of My Father and the things that he wrote during his relatively brief time on Earth:

One of the most “famous” of my father’s works (which is to say, famous within the family) is the letter that he wrote to the Parker Pen Company while a student at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1940.

*

The letter was written in 1940, but I don’t have any photos from that era handy, so here’s one from the 1950’s.

December 6, 1940

The Parker pen company
Janesville, Wisconsin

Gentlemen:

As you can see I am writing a letter to the company that makes (by its own admission) the finest pens in the world – by using a typewriter.

I do  this not because I do not have a pen., No, gentlemen right here in my left hand I have a pen. Said pen is called in one of your ads which I just happened to read, quote, a Jewel of Pendulum, unquote. However, if I were to attempt to write this letter with this pen, the pages would be so smudged up with ink that it would be totally impossible for you to read it. But allow me to explain the case a little more fully.

About two years ago (or possibly a few months less) I wandered into a bookstore on our campus – that of the University of Illinois – and purchased a Parker pen.  Since this memorable date, I have had nothing but trouble with the amazing instrument.

The trouble, to sum it up briefly, is that this pen leaks – leaks torrentially.

Gentlemen,  I did not buy a pump, nor  did I intend to purchase a water pistol. What I wanted was a device that would keep the ink inside except when being used for writing. I received no such device. A whole drawer of ink-stained handkerchiefs offer ample proof of this statement. From day to day – for as long as I carried your pen – I roamed the campus, a member of the legion of ink-stained fingers. After a while of course, I became used to my blue fingertips and blue handkerchiefs. However I do not feel that merely acclimating myself to indigo-dyed hands and azure-stained clothing is a proper solution to the problem.

Nevertheless, during all the time that I was going about in my “Deep Purple” condition, I was not idle. Four or five (I don’t recall exactly) times I returned the pan to the bookstore whence it had originally come and asked them if something could not be done. At the bookstore I was met with a barrage of questions mostly pertaining to my knowledge on the correct method to fill a pen. This, even if I did not know then, I most certainly am up on now. Yes, I have well-learned how to be careful and don’t dunk the pen into the well so that the level of the ink is over the pen point etc. etc.

Then the bookstore sent the pen to you.  You returned it to me. You returned it to me, I might add, in a very handsome, cellophane wrapper. I paid the nice man at the bookstore thirty-five cents ($0.35) which no doubt covered handling, mailing, and the cost of the cellophane. I took the pen home and again tried to establish a friendship with it. But again it spat ink at me. Thus the ink (which had been wearing off my finger so nicely ever since I had sent the pen to the factory) was again upon my hands.

Now, gentlemen, imagine this process repeated over five times and perhaps you’ll understand why I am writing you this letter. Each time the pen came back with its shining, cellophane wrapper. Each time I lay down $0.35. Frankly, gentlemen, $0.35 is a whale of a lot of cash to put out for cellophane wrapper. For thirty-five cents I can hie me off to the nearest dime store and purchase enough cellophane to make bags for 100 pens. Also after laying out thirty-five cents four or five times I have enough money to start saving for another pen. Or don’t you think so??

The truth of the matter is, gentlemen, that I don’t like Parker pens. I don’t give a hoot if the Army, Navy, and even the Marine and Air Corps think they are the greatest pens in the world. I don’t care if 11 out of every 10 college students  swear by them. (Here is one that swears at them.) I don’t care what the devil Robert L. Ripley writes about them. If they’re strong enough to have a herd of wild elephants trample over them, or delicate enough not to scratch silk, I am still unimpressed. That is, they still leak all over my fingers.

The “Jewel of Pendulum” eh? Well,  when I want a jewel I shall go to a jewelry store and purchase one. But when I want a pen, I go to a stationary store and ask for a pen. And you can bet that the next time I do it, it won’t be for a Parker

Now to make my place clear. I would gladly return you the pen and would deeply appreciate your making full restitution on it. However, I suppose that this is impossible. Other than this I have very little to suggest. You are not going to suck me in again on that thirty-five-cents-for-a-cellophane-bag stunt. I am wise to that one. But I wish that you would do something along the lines of returning me some cash for my slightly used combination of Parker-pen-and-sieve. If again you cannot do this how about sending me a couple of dozen handkerchiefs and a cake of soap for my hands (soap of course that will remove ink)?

Hoping to hear from you in the near future, I remain your ink-stained customer,

 

 P. S. Now don’t go blame it on the ink. I’ve even used your Quick (a whole bottle) and found that it leaks out just as well, and stains just as prettily as anything made by your competitors.

 Merry Xmas.

*

Unfortunately, I can’t find anything in the archives that would tell us what the outcome of this particular missive was.  There were certainly no ads in the New York newspapers.

But I do recall the family getting a pretty good laugh out of it some decades later:

At some point when I was either in college or shortly thereafter (i.e. sometime in the 1970s) I wrote a letter to (I think) SONY in regards to an issue I was having with one of their audio products.  And SONY very graciously sent me a gift to compensate me for my troubles.  They sent me a SONY logo-branded …. wait for it….  Parker pen.

Hello, New York

Just my luck to be seated on the LEFT side of the plane as it headed up the Hudson toward LaGuardia – the Manhattan skyline shining through the windows on the RIGHT side of the plane.  I was seated well behind the wing, too, and so couldn’t really see what was coming; Liberty Island was already behind me before I even realized it was there.  I’ve never actually been to Liberty Island, I think I’ll put that on the itinerary…

“Guitar Mash” = “Music 3.0”

Remember when I was writing about “Music 3.0“?

Of course you don’t, that was almost 10 years ago, before I folded “celestialjukebox.org” into one of the archived elements of this CohesionArts website.

My idea of “Music 3.0” (there are others, but they’re not nearly as prescient or comprehensive… 😜) was the culmination of what I still occasional refer to as my “Grand Nebulous Theory of The Future of Music” – a concept both “grand” and “nebulous” because, while I think the historical trajectory offers some useful clues, I don’t really have a solid grasp of the ultimate destination.

Whatever the ultimate destination, I think I walked into a fresh landmark along the route this past Saturday when I spent the afternoon at the City Winery in Nashville for something called the “Guitar Mash.”

The concept is hard to describe, but is summed up in the project’s stated mission to “change the way you experience music.”  Follow this link to get a better idea of the concept (simplified version here).

As I wrote in a Facebook post the following day:

I got to be present for – and photograph – a rather extraordinary event yesterday at City Winery.

It’s called the “Guitar Mash.”

It starts with a “house band” of A-List musicians – like Jerry Douglas on dobro, Mark Stewart (musical director for Paul Simon, among other things), Victor Krauss on bass, Larry Atamanuik on drums and John Deaderick on keys.

As the afternoon unfolded, the band was joined on stage by featured players including the likes of Brent Mason, Keb Mo, and John Oates.

But the really unique feature is: the audience is encouraged to bring their own instruments and… ohmigod… play along with the stars! Chord-and-lyric charts are displayed on the video screens and “Chord Coaches” (from the W.O. Smith School) wander the audience helping the guests suss out what they’re trying to play.

There will be more to come after I’ve sorted through all the files, but this morning I want to share this one shot of MV Gauthier, as she performs Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and looks out at a venue full of people playing and singing along with her. Her reaction here captures the entire essence of the event. Long story short, it was a blast for every one.

While technology continues to disrupt the “virtual” music business, I felt like this was an indication of what’s possible in the “real” world of music: empowering more people to make music themselves. I kinda think Mary is catching that spirit in this moment and realizing what a wonderful thing that could be.

It oddly frustrates me sometimes when I go to a concert or a club, and there is so little for the audience to do.  The performers put their best effort into a song, and the rest of us sit there and repetitiously flap our hands together in appreciation.  Rinse and repeat.  I don’t know that there is any viable alternative to that, but here’s a venue full of people doing something other than waiting for their chance to applaud:

Digital Caveats re: the above slideshow: I’m having some issues with ZenFolio – my web gallery/service provider – over their continued reliance on Adobe Flash for these slide shows.  10 years after Steve Jobs wrote the epitaph on Flash, ZenFolio only lets me create an “embeddable” slideshow if I use Adobe Flash.  HTML5 has been the de-facto standard for nearly a decade,  but when I try to embed the HTML5 version of this slideshow in my WordPress post, only half of the images appear in an otherwise half-black screen.  I love ZenFolio, but this one rates a big WTFF?  I don’t have Flash on my new MacBook Pro, so I have no idea if the embed above works or not.  If not, follow this link to see the entire gallery; there is a button to display the HTML5 slideshow in the upper right corner of the gallery page.

 

My Name Is Harvey…

…as in the rabbit….

So began a letter that my father, Harvey Schatzkin, wrote to Macy’s in the winter of 1946 – four years before I was born.

He and wife Ellen were living at the time in an “inflated white house” in Milltown, New Jersey – building their lives together on the early fruits of America’s post-war prosperity.  For a vehicle, they owned a surplus Army Jeep, and as they assembled their household, they purchased a lot of stuff from Macy’s Department Store in New York City.

Problem was, Macy’s kept delivering their purchases to a factory on the other side of town.

So my father wrote Macy’s a letter.

Letter-writing was one of my father’s talents.  For decades now, I have been sitting on a trove of letters, essays and stories that he wrote.  All along I have been thinking I might one day do something with them. It seems that day has arrived.

Read More