At the San Francisco Pen Show in October 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Detlef Bittner, from his eponymous shop located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. He immediately spied the Pilot Vanishing Point in my pocket, which started a conversation about the infallible utility of this particular pen. He invited me to write about the “VP” for his blog at www.bittner.com.
I’ve lost count of how many Pilot Vanishing Points I’ve owned in my life, but at any given moment I only owned one. Why? Because the Vanishing Point is one of the only fountain pens in my collection that I’ve never stopped using. Any pen that’s always used will be, inevitably and always sadly for me, lost. The history of the Vanishing Points that I’ve lost reads like a capsule autobiography.
I purchased my first Namiki Vanishing Point immediately after college graduation. I noticed it exactly because it didn’t look fancy. It had a sharp, utilitarian yet subtle design that made it, at first glance, indistinguishable from a ballpoint. It was my first fountain pen, and proved as reliable a writer as ballpoints. This Vanishing Point wrote thousands of words to a screenplay which, though unsold, almost took me to Hollywood. I remember traipsing from cafe to library and back, Vanishing Point so securely in my pocket that every pair of pants I wore eventually frayed at a corner of the right front pocket.
It was lost after about three years – probably so secured to a pair of pants that I unknowingly left it with a laundry or dry cleaner’s.
I purchased my second Vanishing Point immediately afterward, and I used this one daily for five years. It notably helped my wife and I buy a car – I still have the book listing dealer quotes, makes and models. I lost that pen on or just off a bus that we rode on to pick up the vehicle at an out of town dealer. I knew that it fell out of a too-shallow pocket. I even convinced my wife to drive our new car back to the bus stop later that same day. We drove slowly around the parking lot, eyes scouring the pavement like a search party.
Needless to say, I threw away those pants when we returned home and never bought that brand again.
My third Vanishing Point accompanied me in a short corporate career – this time in its current style, larger and perhaps flashier but just as useful. Coworkers noticed this one mainly because of its gorgeous black “Carbonesque” lacquered pattern on the barrel. I prefer this finish out of all the current colors because it gives a pleasing texture in hand reminiscent of holding something covered in fabric. This finish is also bulletproof, resisting scratches either from drops or being carried side-by-side with other pens.
This Vanishing Point went its own way in the world after another five years when a second bottle of wine over dinner made me forgetful. I still hope that the server or busser was a writer, perhaps even became one because of the pen. The very next day, I went to a pen shop. “I’ve lost my Vanishing Point,” I mentioned to the salesperson as I purchased a twin of the one I lost, “so I need to buy a Vanishing Point.”
Such was how unconsciously I’ve come to consider the Pilot Vanishing Point not just as part of my pen collection but an essential tool for my life. I consider it the ideal pen to give to someone new to fountain pens, as its mechanics mimic non-fountains to a unique degree. Using the clip as a guide, the body of the pen is intuitive to properly orient for writing. The nib forgives most writing styles and nearly any kind of paper I’ve ever used. This is a pen of enduring design which should never do wrong to the user. No Vanishing Point I’ve ever used has ever leaked or stained me, never dried out in reasonable storage, and has always come to life immediately upon upon clicking it open.
My latest black Carbonesque has listed driving directions for a cross-country drive, and has written into a journal by campfires. Most importantly, this Vanishing Point accompanies me on a new career as a full-time writer. It’s already seen thousands words, and looks still ready for many thousands more.