Picks

The Best Pen Is a Collapsible Japanese Pen

Midori Brass Ballpoint Pen

One day early last fall, I wandered into a store in San Francisco’s Mission District and found a pen. In its collapsed form it was about three-and-a-half inches long and the basic shape of a high-caliber bullet, like the round from a hunting rifle. When you removed the tip, and turned it around, it became a pen. At first, I thought: This is kind of stupid. But it also struck me as weirdly elegant, the way the lower grip was sheathed within the upper portion, and I liked its shiny brass casing. It wasn’t very expensive, so I bought it — what the hell.

Within a couple of weeks, back home in New York, I had new, intense feelings about the pen. I was using it constantly. Within a month, I had found on Amazon, then bought in bulk, what I reasoned was a lifetime’s supply of the pen’s very specific ink cartridges. This was a transformative pen. I needed it to be with me forever.

We’re talking about the Midori Brass Ballpoint Pen, a Japanese design sold either in weird corners of the one-click-shop internet, or in well-curated design stores in gentrified neighborhoods in large American cities. (I bought mine at Voyager, on Valencia Street.) Surely there are hundreds of other collapsible pens. There are also, I know, many very beautiful pens. I submit that the Midori is a rare combination of both, and for that reason it is extraordinary. It is both very good-looking and small. I keep mine in the coin pocket of my jeans. I carry it almost everywhere.

In my time Before Pen, I was loath to carry anything. I resented bringing a bag with me to appointments. I do not enjoy having my jacket pockets filled with things. When given the choice between overprepared and underprepared, I usually chose the latter. But the Midori bullet pen shifted my relationship to preparation. Because it was beautiful, I wanted to carry it everywhere. Because it was small, I could. Now I am never the Guy Who Needs to Borrow a Pen. I am the Guy With a Pen. What a strange and marvelous turn of events. Please ask me to sign something.