I was supposed to fly down to Los Angeles this weekend for a friend’s birthday celebrations, but cancelled at the last minute because my Fast Company editor politely reminded me that I was late with my column by a few days. So instead of having fun in the La La Land, I spent most of Saturday slaving away infront of a computer. For some odd reason, mind was being stingy with words, so instead I ended up meeting and befriending many folks I follow on Instagram. We all went for a photo walk organized by Arthur Chang, who is quite an amazing photographer.
We all met at Equator Coffee on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortified by a few espressos, with Instagram handles exchanged, a convoy of cars took off towards the top of Mount Tamalpais. The winding roads were only a small part of the overall journey. After parking the cars in the small Pan Toll Road parking lot, we climbed up various mountains by hiking up many small winding trails. I brought up the rear — mostly because I don’t hike, and also I was wearing absolutely the most inappropriate shoes for the climb. Lose earth and flat soles meant that I had to tread carefully.
As most marched ahead, I took my time – paused, took photos and breathed in the fresh air. In front of my eyes, fog caressed the skin of the earth, moving sensuously between the ground below and the heavens above. After a long climb I caught up with other hikers. As the magic hour approached, I decided it was time to take out the iPhone and start snapping.
A Moment in time
On a lark, at the very last minute, I threw in an iPhone clip-on telephoto lens created by Marc Barros’ newest company, Moment. It turned out to be a good decision, because it helped me take photos I would normally use a regular camera. So much so, I left a Sony Nex-5n in the bag, though I did take a handful of photos with it. My iPhone 5s with Moment Telephoto lens did a much better job and was easier to handle, especially when walking up and down those mountain trails.
Nature, they say is the greatest show and all I did was just try and capture a few moments of what unfolded in front of me. The drama of fog, sun and mountains playing hide and seek with each other manifested itself in hues that ranged from perfect print to bluest blue to pale gold to brunt orange. All this against the backdrop of a khaki brown dry mountain top — a rude reminder that we are in middle of an extreme drought in California. For me, if climbing up the mountains was a reminder of my lack of fitness, coming down in the increasing darkness turned out to be a tad more challenging. I got lost for a few minutes, before my natural ability to navigate got me back on track.
By the time, I got down the hill, my pair of Tod’s moccasins are ready for retirement — though I wonder if a bit of spit, elbow grease and boot polish might be able to do here. They are built tough. A little dinner break at Super Duper Burger (the veggie sandwich is great option) with the Instagram friends and then home to soak my feet in warm water. More than the excitement of taking photos, it was many moments of quite solitude and a chance to soak in the beautiful California that made it a special evening. All that hiking left me exhausted and after reading for a few minutes, I fell asleep at around midnight.
Here are some of the photos from that trip — for your viewing pleasure, on my Storehouse.
Shake, Rattle & Tweet
I am a light sleeper and slightest noise or light wakes me up. About three hours after falling asleep, I felt a strange kind of shaking and it was loud enough for me to get up. It was clear, it was a quake. This is by far the most severe earthquake I have experienced since moving here in 2003. I picked up my phone, and did what I have been advised to do — get under a door frame. It happened so fast, and just like that it was over. Then I tweeted — shakes #quake. Go figure, why I did that!
Over next few hours we learned about Earthquake’s epicenter (Napa Valley near Vallejo), the magnitude (6.1) and the damage it caused (about a $1billion.) If there was one piece of good news — no fatalities, though 120 people were injured in what was one of the strongest earthquakes in the region in 25 years. We were told that there were a couple of other big quakes around the world — Chile (6.4 on richter scale) and there was another one a few hours later in Peru (about 6.8 on richter scale.)
Unable to sleep, I did some light writing, but frankly writing about technology wasn’t top priority for me. An early coffee with a friend and then it was time to visit the San Francisco Pen Show, that was held in Sofitel Hotel in Redwood Shores. It was my first visit to a pen show and as someone who has involved in putting up conferences, I was bemused by the size of the show — it was in many ways an apt reflection of our society’s growing apathy towards writing by hand and appreciating the joy of a fountain pen, ink and great paper.
Still, many of the exhibiters were pretty positively surprised by the crush of people yesterday and were thrilled with the brisk sales. For me, it was a chance to meet with some of the folks I follow online, including those from whom I have purchased pens in the past. I bought a few pens — mostly used and vintage Watermans’, though I came home with a brand new (made in USA) Franklin Christop, which is one of my favorite pen makers. My collection took a nice jump today — almost 20 pens.
The craftsmanship and the effort that goes into making fountain pens is immense. Some of the Japanese pens I saw — Taccia’s, Nakayas and high quality Namiki and Sailors leave you breathless. I had never seen Italian pens up close and personal, and they too are quite amazing in their splendor. However, for me, minimalism is what defines my choices and I have become partial to Lamy Studio, an old Montblanc 149 and a fantastic Franklin Christop model #03.
Nick Bilton recently wrote in the New York Times about how he has not used a pen in forever, and while I suspect, it is a behavior that is becoming more and more commonplace, I for one find it therapeutic to pick up a good fountain pen and write out my thoughts — it helps me make what is abstract come to life.
Maria Konnikova, one of my favorite young science writers in a piece for The New York Times recently wrote about what’s lost when handwriting fades. Towards the end of her piece, she quotes, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom who quips, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important. Maybe it helps you think better.”I think so! Lately, I have resumed writing a journal — not because I need to, but I feel that it allows me to reflect on my day, and try and remember the good, the bad and the wonderful. Writing with a pen has the rhythm of one’s mind.
As I sit back and reflect on the frenzied activities, all I can say, it was a weekend that was a rude reminder of reality of our existence when put in a cosmic scale. We all like to believe that we have control over events and that we can determine outcomes, but a day like today is a reminder that we are not the boss. The correlation between events is invisible and it is hard to make sense of how they unfold, no matter how much progress we as a race have made.
It was indeed quite an eventful weekend!