As recently as not long ago, I wrote about pencils and pens. I reiterated a promise to myself that I would not spend my money on expensive writing tools.

Well, so much for that noise coming out of my talker. Behold, my three-pack of Blackwing pencils. (Photo above.)

In “Me and Things” I wrote,

Pencils, too. I am probably the ideal Blackwing 602 customer, but I like money more. A 12-pack of the pencil—oh! Look at those gorgeous creations to our right!—will set a customer back approximately $21 either online or in person at Barner Books in New Paltz. (Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose and no business interests with Barner Books other than it is one of my favorite bookshops.) That is a lot of money for a mere dozen pencils, eight of which I might very well ignore for the length of forever because of my personal writing tool superstition. Thus, even though I have held a Blackwing 602 only one time so far in my life, and I indeed drooled over its swift action on the page, I have not purchased a set and I tell myself that it is because these Blackwings are knockoffs made by a company that bought the naming rights and these are not the classic pencils themselves.

This was not a lie, as I meant it when I wrote it and I had not been in the above-named bookshop in a couple of years. It was as true as daylight waking a rooster. But upon walking through the shop’s doors last Friday evening, a package of three Blackwings leapt into my hands. That right there is a lie. Upon walking through the shop’s doors, I made a beeline for the Blackwing display that memory told me would still be in place. Seven dollars and fifty cents later, I have three extra-special pencils. They are so special I am typing with them. (That is a fib, also.)

Are they special? Yes. As the three-pack is a variety sampler to whet one’s appetite for the possibility of investing a large sum in a 21-pack of one or the other type of pencil, the packaging itself explains: the “602” (the gray one, which is the one I have sharpened) is “firm and smooth,” the “Pearl” (white) is “balanced,” and the one at the bottom, the unnamed black one (the classic Blackwing) is “soft and smooth.” I have a straight face while typing this, but I also acknowledge that this language could be employed to describe anything from golf clubs to bullets to wines.

I am also aware, as I wrote last week, that there is a Blackwing pencil controversy, in that these are not made by the original company nor with precisely the identical materials. The brand name, “Blackwing,” is for writers something akin to what “Ferrari” is for drivers, so the company that bought the name did a lot (but not everything) to replicate the product. I still have not held an original Blackwing pencil in my undeserving hands. A 12-pack of original Blackwings in their original packaging is available on eBay today at a starting bid of five hundred dollars. (Free shipping, though!)

* * * *
For the last year or so, I have been placing a copyright notice on my photos. (You can see it above.) I recently learned that this is actually worth doing. In August, I took a photo of myself holding a copy of Raif Badawi’s book, and I Tweeted a statement advertising his book. Here is that Tweet:

I also use this photo as my Twitter picture, which is why a smaller version sits next to my name. Please notice the numbers 52 and 31. That is 31 “likes” and 52 “re-tweets.” About two months ago, someone sent me a message on Twitter about I do not remember what, and I noticed that my photo (seen above) was this person’s photo! I have since seen this a couple more times.

A little tongue-in-cheek, I thanked him for using my photo. He said, “You’re welcome,” and replied that it is a popular photo. (I searched for this Tweet but I could not find it.) He added, “It’s viral here.”

“Here” happened to be a country (I wish I could find the Tweet to confirm this) in sub-Saharan Africa. I think it was Kenya. One never knows where one’s work is going to be seen, much less popular, once one hits “Publish.” Am I famous in Kenya?

I know, 75% or more of the photo is Raif’s book cover, and my face is partially hidden behind it (go ahead and thank me for that), so it is a convenient digital grab for anyone who does not have a copy of the book themselves. As a small Twitter portrait, it could be anyone holding up the book. But if I had stuck a copyright on it, might my name be out there a little bit more?

* * * *
Last week, this web site hit 30,000 views in 2015. Two days later, it hit 40,000 views in its 20-month history. Neither of these is a large number, and it is possible that 28,000 of these visits are my mom (thanks, Mom!), but I thank you, all of you who have read my work and possibly shared it. Perhaps this is your first visit, and I thank you for that. Perhaps this will be your only visit. Thank you.

Some people do not like my work and they let me know about it loudly (all capital letters is yelling, right?) on Facebook and the aforementioned Twitter. (It does not roll off my back, but I am learning from the experience.) I always thank them. Many more people let me know when they like what I do, and they take the time to comment on the web site itself. I consider every comment to be a contribution to whatever I wrote. Some write responses that are longer than whatever I wrote. It is an honor to be the proprietor of a salon that hosts moments like that. It makes the page better to have someone else write what they think.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 1 asks, “Share a time when you were overcome with guilt. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome you guilt?”

* * * *
Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!

And please visit and participate in the Alterna-Prompt, “The Blog Propellant.”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. alphabetstory · December 1, 2015

    I write with a no. 2 old school pencil, the kind you used to chew the eraser off if in fact you hadn’t worn it to a nub during writing exercise in English composition. I still erase a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · December 1, 2015

      Thank you for reading this! (I chewed a lot of erasers.)


  2. Frances D · December 1, 2015

    That’s a cool pic – you and the author bear a resemblance to each other. The pencils look interesting – I see a Google search in my near future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loisajay · December 1, 2015

    I always use a pen. Black ink, please; never blue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · December 1, 2015

      Black ink for me, too. The punchline to all this is I haven’t used pencils in decades. This was a splurge with no common sense behind it.

      But I wrote a list just now with the pencil—the 602—and it was a lovely list to behold. ( I always had better handwriting with pencils for some reason.)

      Thank you for being approximately 12,000 of those 40,000 views!

      Liked by 2 people

      • loisajay · December 1, 2015

        that is so funny that you say you haven’t used a pen in decades because I was thinking, “wow. I cannot remember the last time I used a pencil.” Ah, great minds. Your writing is awesome, Mark. Makes me laugh; makes me think. Happy to be one of the millions!! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Un-guilty conscience. | The Hempstead Man
  5. Pingback: What Price Pencil? | The Gad About Town

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.