Is You’ve Got Mail the best New York City romantic comedy? Does anyone today not wish Tom Hanks were their father-in-law? Is our very own Caroline Weaver a Kathleen Kelly for the modern era? These are the questions we ponder at CWPE. To that last one, I swear I’ve seen Caroline, a shop owner of indefatigable optimism not unlike Kathleen herself, walk down the street swinging her tote bag in the same sunny way our movie heroine does. (We won't mention who the 2020 equivalent of Joe Fox might be.)
You’ve Got Mail features a classic romantic comedy setup of a seemingly mismatched pair who spar for just about the entire film before realizing that the bickering and banter they’ve been engaging in has been flirtation and lo, even falling in love, all along. Would the owner of a beloved children's book shop and the pompous executive hoping to eat up the former's business work out? No way, you’d reasonably say. But do these specific characters, our charmingly ornery Joe Fox and sentimental Kathleen Kelly, find a way? So very much yes.
And a big reason for that is because unlike everyone else on the Internet today, Joe is actually kinder, funnier, and more interesting online than he is off. It's in an email, after all, that Joe Fox gives us the most memorable line about pencils uttered in a movie.
"Don't you love New York in the fall?" he writes to Kathleen early in their friendship. "It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." Joe speaks our language.
I see Kathleen Kelly as a woman unafraid of modernity--she does, after all, hang out on Internet chat rooms in the year 1998--who also reserves her deepest love for the traditional. Kathleen's probably got a stash of vintage Venus Velvet 3557s that she inherited from her late mother, and which she's not soon to run out of.
While many associate Velvets today with Eberhard Faber (we've got several boxes of Velvets with Eberhard Faber's logo on them in the shop right now), they were just the very last company to manufacture them. Venus Velvets were originally made by the American Pencil company, which was founded in the 1860s in Jersey City, New Jersey. The company and its pencils went through many hands before they made it to Eberhard Faber, but Kathleen's got a collection of the originals, which were bestselling pencils in the early 20th century. I know Kathleen treasures her vintage pencils with their signature blue band on the ferrule.
Ask her and she can tell you not only fun American Pencil Company trivia but also delightful Eberhard Faber facts too. (Did you know that Eberhard Faber's first pencil factory was erected in the spot where the United Nations building stands today?)
With pencils made in the 1950s, those Venus Velvet erasers are all but dried pebbles now, so Kathleen's definitely got to reach for some Papermate Arrowhead erasers for all the note-taking and shop work she does.
And Joe? He has his secretary bulk order several gross of Dixon Ticonderogas every quarter. Ticonderoga pencils, so named after the New York town where the pencil was first manufactured, were still made in the U.S. in Joe's day, and were ubiquitous pencils perfect for everyday use. He's not precious about them. They come, they go, there's always a freshly sharpened batch on his desk. Joe, the rapacious capitalist, is more focused on steamrolling his competition. And crafting the perfect email to his pen pal.
Please join us soon for our next edition Rom Com February dedicated to ..... To All the Boys I've Loved Before!