Tired of e-mail? Over your STARTAC? Try your hand at communication the old-fashioned, romantic way. Beautiful letter writing doesn't require high-tech gizmos, and a good pen can do wonders for handwriting. Highfalutin types stock up on gilded writing instruments, engraved stationery, and antique inkwells. But if you're serious about quality and not snob appeal, you'll need only pen and fine paper to make a lasting impression.
For a pen with character -- and a free lesson on the history of writing instruments -- stop by the New York Pen Company. Owner Max Davis will help you choose from a collection of vintage pens ranging in price from $39 for a red celluloid model from the forties to $175 for a silver ladies' Waterman from the twenties.
Prefer name brands? Don't get ripped off on a "gray market" fax machine; try the Fountain Pen Hospital, where a huge selection of haute pens from Parker, Montblanc, and Waterman is always discounted by 20 to 25 percent (discontinued styles are often 40 percent off).
The Nepalese rice paper that sells for up to $3 per sheet at fancy shops is much less at Vision of Tibet. A cheery folder stuffed with twenty rice-paper writing sheets and ten envelopes (either plain or stamped with the Buddhist "eyes of compassion" symbol) is $5. For special letters, a large sheet of flower-embedded handmade paper with a matching envelope is $1.50.
On a more whimsical note, stock up on quirky postcards from SoHo's Untitled. They're 75 cents each and filed in categories ranging from "Pulp Fiction" and "Diners" to "Rembrandt" and "Literature." Try a scene from Winnie-the-Pooh for a birthday card or an Irish-soda-bread recipe for a quick note. Leave time to wander -- browsing is at least half the fun.
New York Pen Company, Chelsea Antiques Building, 110 West 25th Street, Shop 307 (243-7090); Fountain Pen Hospital, 10 Warren St. (800-253-pens); Untitled, 159 Prince St. (982-2088); Vision of Tibet, 167 Thompson St. (995-9276).
Picks of the Week
Paul Stuart's classic menswear is a favorite of Wall Street and Washington. Here, it's more than 70 percent off: Ties are $6-$12; shirts are $20-$30; suits are $100. Women's styles, too: $25 cotton shirts, $75 cashmere sweaters, and $150 suits. Parsons School of Design, 560 Seventh Ave., at 40th Street; A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Thurs. 9-6:30; 3/9-3/11.
Laura Beth's Baby Collection is one-stop personal shopping for custom nursery accessories. Now it's all 30 percent off: Birth announcements start at $70 for 50; linens are $14-$140. Laura Beth will mix and match, and even hold gender-specific orders until the birth. 300 E. 75th Street, Suite 24E (717-2559; by appointment only); checks accepted; 3/8-4/1.
Felissimo, midtown's luxury-housewares-and-accessories mecca, is clearing out stock at 30 to 70 percent off: Cotton crocheted bath sheet, was $48, now $24; silver-plated bar set, was $70, now $30; pashmina stole, was $475, now $143. 10 W. 56th Street (247-5656); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Thurs. till 8; 3/8-3/31.
Warren Edwards's winter stock of handmade shoes is now 30 to 60 percent off: pony loafers, were $495, now $295; high-heeled suede boots, were $750, now $325; suede pumps, were $455, now $265. Women's sizes 5 1/2-12. 475 Park Ave., near 57th St. (752-4883); A.E., checks; Mon.-Sat. 10-6; 3/8-3/17.
ALWAYS A DEAL
Journal keepers, take note: Look beyond the pricey Asian jewelry at Himalayan Crafts for great deals on paper goods, like rice-paper pads ($2.75) and hardcover notebooks ($5-$12). You'll find standard CD-size Tibetan books as well as cornhusk- and bamboo-covered styles. Write your memoirs by moonlight with Rebecca Moss's battery-operated Night Writer ballpoint pen ($15). Casting a discreet halo from the nib, it'll curb prying too. Himalayan Crafts, 2007 Broadway, near 70th St. (787-8500). Rebecca Moss, 510 Madison Ave., at 53rd St. (832-7671).