COULD NOT RESIST
As soon as my eyes landed on the worn glass counter top at one of my favorite shopping joints, Second Time Around, a feeling from the bottom of my gut came over me that I couldn’t explain. Warmth, familiarity, depth. I instinctively brought my left index finger up to the round black key and tapped firmly. Click. A virtual symphony of the past reminding me of something I couldn’t, no pun intended, put my finger on.
“Grandma had the same exact one,” my Aunt Kiley said, and like the perfect fit of Cinderella’s glass slipper, I was transported to my grandmother’s desk in her bedroom realizing of course, this was the typewriter she used to type her letters, her recipes and her school work for the classes she taught special ed reading to for her entire career.
No spell check, no backspace erase, no wires, no wifi, no printer hookups, this black beautiful beast weighing enough to cause me to have to get a cart to wheel it out to my car because I just had to have it. I know. I have made many proclamations of reducing my crap, not shopping and creating an almost zen minimalist fantasy in my homelife, but I just could not resist this blast from the past. The sound of the keys, the winding of the paper and the clicking of the clips to hold it in its place. The zing of the carriage going from right to left and left to right and back again, the glory of watching the key embed a letter onto the white paper like an episode of Murder She Wrote or Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam in the Dick Van Dyke Show creating episodes and comedy skits.
As I directed my son to put the typewriter on the kitchen table he sat down and took a good look at it, pushing the levers, moving the cartridge, analyzing its mechanisms, he said, “This is so mechanical.” A machine with no electric. A work of ingenuity yet simple in its form when we really looked at each part making up its entirety. I couldn’t figure out how to open to the front to change the ribbon. I didn’t want to force anything, breaking it right out of the gate, so I just left it on the table like a museum artifact and ordered ribbon from Amazon.
I had heard an interview on Jim Braude and Marjorie Egan about some people writing instant poetry for people walking by. Then as “coincidence” would have it, I ran into this very concept in Providence one day as I came across a young hipster type guy sitting at a real typewriter like the one I bought. For a small donation you gave him a word or phrase and he wrote a quick poem to give to you. I gave him the word “beach” and he crafted a beautiful poem in less than five minutes a virtual lifetime these days for the short attention span Google generation, I am sure I have it somewhere in my piles because it was eloquent and captured my sentiment without us ever crossing paths prior. I really enjoyed the creativity and spontaneity of the experience.
As I affectionately stared at the typewriter in my kitchen I had the idea that rather than poetry, I could sit outside on my sidewalk and do the same with a super short story. How fun it would be to raise money for a literacy program or something and a grown up alternative to a lemonade stand. If I practice enough so that the entire piece does not need whiteout, (do they still even make that?) I know this could be a blast. It would certainly be a great exercise in fast thinking, faster typing and better writing. If a typewriter, old school, brings that out, then the forty four dollars I spent yesterday was worth every penny.