Sunday, November 18th, 2012

My Darling B has leveled a challenge: She believes that, if I were to tell anybody how many typewriters I own, I would get an eye-roll from practically everyone.

Well, here is a group shot of every typewriter I own:

that's a lot of typewriters! Or is it?

On the far left: A Smith-Corona Silent, one of the first typewriters I bought from a roadside antique store in a small town back in the 80’s. More than that, I can’t remember. A beautiful machine, I hardly ever use it because the platen’s too hard and slippery to hold paper. The day I get it fixed, I’ll sit down and write my first novel on it.

In the left column, top to bottom: A Smith-Corona Skyriter. I developed an affection for these cute little machines when my son bought one and let me try it out. You really do have to call them “cute.” They’re not fully-functional typewriters but they’re small enough to tuck into a backpack or overnight bag so, if you learned to write on a keyboard and you’re an anachrophile for typewriters (there’s got to be a word for that, but I haven’t found it yet), you really have to take one of these to the coffee shop to annoy all the laptop users. One day I’d like to corner the market on Skyriters, paint them in bright colors and sell them as the novelty items they ought to be.

Below the Skyriter, an LC Smith No. 8. A classic cast-iron desktop, this is the first typewriter I dared to take apart. When I bought it from a thrift shop it was filthy and barely functional. I cleaned it up enough to make it presentable but it’s still barely functional and will probably remain so until I take it apart a couple more times. That’ll have to wait for a long weekend in winter, though.

Below the No. 8, a Smith-Corona Sterling, a five-dollar garage-sale find. A good portable. Was my favorite writing machine until I bought an Olivetti.

Below the Sterling, a Japy I picked up at an auction only because it types in a Cyrillic font. Barely functional, this one’s another project for a long winter weekend.

On the work bench in front of the Japy, a Corona No. 3. Another one of the buys I made when I was going through my first typewriter-hoarding phase back in the 80s. Bought it because it looks very old and because it’s one of the first portable typewriters. Already very small, it becomes positively tiny when you fold the carriage down over the keyboard and close it up in its own little hatbox.

In the center column: a Royal Quiet de Luxe. I don’t collect Royals as a practice, but this is the same model my Dad wrote on. I got an itch one weekend, searched e-bay for a reasonably-priced offering and had this one on my work bench about a week later. Took about a week to de-gunk and un-fungify. Still needs a little tender loving care but is already one of the most useful typers I own.

Below the Royal, a pile of junk. Sort of spoiled the shot. Sorry about that.

Below the pile of junk, an IBM Selectric II. Found this in a Goodwill shop priced at three dollars. My hoarding instinct kicked in and I found myself carrying it out the door before the full import of what I was doing struck me. Selectrics are so well-built and produce such high-quality text that they’re still in use in some offices and sell for hundreds of dollars. Getting a buyer to pay the extortionately high cost of sending a fifty-pound typewriter through the mail or via FedEx is a bit of a problem, though.

On the work bench in front of the Selectric, another Smith-Corona Skyriter. This one’s a little older than the other one and writes in a pica font. And I’m going to paint it navy blue. Just because.

In the right column: an Underwood No. 5. Another of the classic cast-iron desk top typewriters, this is the very first typewriter I bought for fun. I don’t use it much any longer because you have to be in pretty good shape to bang out even two or three pages of copy on a machine like this, and I just don’t have the muscle tone for it. It’s a machine for a young man full of piss and vinegar. Also a good machine to use if you’re very angry; you can mash the keys as hard as you want, you’re not going to break it.

Below the Underwood, a Remington Quiet-Riter. Impulse buy at a thrift store. Pieces missing, but a good working typer. A very noisy machine. Not that I mind, but the name is more than a little ironic.

On the bench in front of the Remington, a Smith-Corona Sterling. I bought this by accident while I was trying to figure out how to use the Goodwill on-line auction web site. No, really. Cost me five bucks plus postage.

Front and center on the work bench, an Olivetti Studio 44, my favorite machine in the harem. Also a thrift store impulse buy, this is the best-built machine I’ve ever seen. The action is smooth and it has a beautiful pica font. The backspace key didn’t work but I fixed that by slipping a washer under the hook that pulls the carriage back. (That’s why it’s still naked.) The return lever is broke and I still haven’t figured out how to fix that, but I still use this machine more than any other.

So, did you roll your eyes? You can be honest with me.

eye roll | 11:09 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, typewriters | Tags:
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Friday, October 8th, 2010

image of an old game

If I’d been able to figure out how to fit it into the back seat of our car, this would be in the living room of our home right now. Or maybe not. When I mentioned it to My Darling B she laughed and asked me where I thought we would be able to put a monstrosity like this in our living room.

“You know … we could put it on the end, where the desk is now,” I pointed out. “That would be the perfect place for it, really.”

“It would be perfect in the basement,” she laughed, correcting me. Is correct the right word? Wait, I meant to say contradicted.

Whatever, it would be awesome anywhere we could find room for it, because look at it! The backboard was a little peeled around the edges but otherwise in fabulous condition, and so was the paint at the near end of the lane. I whiled away so many happy hours playing games like this. Do you remember when games like these were ten cents per play? How long has it been since you’ve even laid eyes on one of these? Okay, wait, don’t tell me if you’ve never seen one before. I don’t want to know.

Shuffle Bowling at St Vinnie’s | 8:09 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Hey! This is my last week of near-absolute freedom to do whatever I want before I start my new job on Monday! Yay, me! I think.

There are still all kinds of things to do around Our Humble O’Bode before the snow flies, but I don’t know how many of them will get done in these last five or six days because I’m feeling a very strong urge to relax and do nothing in anticipation of re-entering the work force, an urge I think I just might indulge at least a little bit.

I spent yesterday morning and a bit of the afternoon tidying up the basement work shop. It didn’t look like tidying up at first. It looked a whole lot more like I was gathering up all the lumber that was leaning against the three walls of the work shop and throwing it all on the floor in a big heap, not an improvement at all. I needed to make some room on the floor, though, so I could knock together a frame that I eventually tipped up and screwed to the back wall, then added arms to so I could pick the lumber up off the floor and stack it on our new lumber rack.

I used to have something like this before I knocked down a wall to make room for a bigger work shop, but as it was part of the wall that got knocked down, I haven’t had a storage rack for months and lumber’s been piling up all around the walls of the room. This sucked in a big way. Every time I turned around in there I knocked something over. Finally, yesterday, I scrounged up some scrap lumber, cut it to fit, cleared a spot on the floor and screwed it all together, and voila! Storage for most of the lumber that was previously clattering to the ground because of my elbows.

It took me a little more than an hour this morning to fax a copy of my military discharge to the Department of Administration. They love to collect documents like that, and now that I’m working for them they’re putting together a file on me. I supposed that should make me worry, but I’m getting old enough that my paranoia doesn’t kick in until the commandos in stealth helicopters land in my back yard. Jane from the DoA doesn’t even register on my paranoi-o-tron.

You’d think the public library would have a public fax, wouldn’t you? I would. You can do just about anything else there: answer your e-mail, write a novel, print a form, and you can even check out books yet. But they don’t have a fax machine. “You could go to Kinko’s on Monona Drive,” the librarian suggested.

I figured I’d need a cover sheet to send a fax, so I sat down at one of the terminals and composed a very simple one when I couldn’t find a free template on-line. The computer locked up, though, when I tried to print it, and the librarian couldn’t figure out why. She logged in to the terminal right next to it (because I was still logged in to the locked-up terminal and couldn’t be logged in on two machines) so I could try again. “Is there a word processor on this machine?” I asked her, after a quick glance at the vacant directories.

“Sure,” she said, then came up short as she poked around in the same empty directories I’d just been through.

I thanked her for her help, jumped in the car and headed for Kinko’s. Did you think there were still places like Kinko’s out there where you could get big print jobs done? I sure didn’t. I was positive that everybody printed everything on computers any more, but no. The Kinko’s on Monona Drive is a classic offset print shop, with three big, stinky lithograph printers visible in the back of the room and piles of print jobs stacked on the countertop. I thought for a moment I’d been sucked through a crack in time to my days working in the basement of the Iola Herald.

“Help you?” the guy behind the counter asked me.

“If you can send a fax for me, yes,” I answered.

“You think we can do that?”

I smiled at him. “You guys have printing presses. There’s probably a fax machine in here somewhere.”

There was, and he did. He even had a printed cover sheet for me. Three minutes later my fax was on its way and I was headed home again. Total elapsed time from the moment I left the house to go to the library: one hour. Wish I’d thought of Kinko’s in the first place.

Time out | 3:20 pm CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, ch-ch-changes, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, work | Tags:
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Sunday, July 25th, 2010

image of a B-17 Flying Fortress at Truax Field, Madison, WI

Lots of planes fly over our house. When the wind is right they cruise past, low and slow as if they’re going to land right in the middle of our street, on the way to the airport north of town. I’ve gotten used to the sound of jet planes, which often sound oddly like prop planes, and the sound of prop planes that sound like lawn mowers, but the sound of four nine-cylinder radial Wright “Cyclone” engines is not a sound we hear very often, and it’s not easily mistaken for anything else. I really have to look up when I hear it.

“Holy shit!” I sputtered, shading my eyes to catch sight of the World War Two bomber flying just five hundred feet or so above our house, “that’s a freaking B-17!” It puttered along, serene as a glider but one hell of a lot nosier, gear down, until it disappeared over the trees.

I had just finished up an afternoon’s work in the basement and was just about to jump in the shower anyway. As soon as I was cleaned up and presentable to the general public, I grabbed my camera, jumped in the car and motored out to the airport to see if I could catch sight of it somewhere on the tarmac. I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to spot.

And it wasn’t. I caught sight of it through the windows of the terminal and drove around the perimeter road until I found a spot close enough to the fence to snap a pretty good photo of the plane from the rear quarter. I’m not sure why it stopped over in Madison. The most plausible explanation is that it was on the way to the annual EAA air show in Oshkosh where you’ll find old birds like this on display from now through the end of the week.

Flying Fort | 12:47 pm CDT
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