Category Archives: Philosophy

The Lonesome Organ Grinder

“The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries”

“I Want You”, by Bob Dylan

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Orgel Bernd I presume?

As I noted here a month or two past, I spent an inordinate amount of time in deciding what sort of sketching media to take with me to Europe and the TMB hike. Once on the trail I soon discovered that there was no time for sketching.  You hit the trail just after 8 o’clock, hike for an hour or three and then eat lunch in pleasant exhaustion while recovering for the afternoon. Maybe you eat a 2nd lunch at 2 p.m. No matter, it’s highly unlikely you are lunching and have energy or inspiration to pull out the sketchbook and paint box. At the end of the day when you get to the next refuge, you dump your stuff and if lucky, you get to sleep for an hour before dinner. Then you talk to folks, and write in the journal.

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one tick on the coaster for every glass you drink

However, I did do some sketching before and after the hike, when I had plenty of time to sit and observe. My first stop was Dusseldorf, a beautiful city on the Rhine River. Among the attractions is the alt-stadt, where the streets are full of people, not cars. How ridiculous! Also there are some lovely beer gardens that dispense alt-beer, a dark and flavourful brew which, unlike most German beer, is top fermented. Unfortunately most German brew-masters who emigrated to North America brought with them lager beer, which in my opinion isn’t half as tasty. But you can still get alt-beer in Dusseldorf,  a drink I enjoyed while sitting at a bar in the alt-stadt with sketchbook at hand.

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the old Fuschschen Brauerei, Dusseldorf

While lolling on my stool I discerned a faint sound coming from down the street. Soon I realized I was hearing a hand cranked miniature pipe organ, from which pipes came a sweet folksy tune. Shortly, before my eyes appeared a real live organ grinder. He parked his organ beside me and took a seat at a table; then proceeded to smoke a full pipe, after which he shut his eyes and had a snooze. Refreshed, he got up after a half hour and returned the way he came, grinding out a new tune.

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looking down the street, Alt-stadt, Dusseldorf

Stealthily, I managed to capture him on camera and in my sketchbook. Maybe this is so commonplace in Europe that organ grinders are taken for granted, but to me it was a magic moment. As for the question of whether or not he was lonesome; if you spent all day pushing an organ around, who could you talk to?

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organ grinding is a lonesome job

 

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Filed under Beer, Philosophy, Photography, Sketching, Street photography, Travel

Typewriter Hunting in Washington

As I have repeated here, perhaps too frequently, due to my last novel I became enamoured of the Royal 10. I did get one after some hunting, but I thought that they were hard to find – until last week. We spent a week as we often do this time of year in Washington, camping and of course scouring the many antique shops. So what did I find? Yes – many Royal 10’s!

how about a sign saying”type please”

Sadly I couldn’t own them all; the one I have is perfect for me, but if I didn’t already own one… well that might be different. One in particular was in beautiful condition, and it was the least costly. Go figure. It was a rebuild, too, as noted on one shift key – by Regal, on Varick Street, NYC.

rebuilt model

80 bucks, and broken!

All were post 1923 with single glass sides, some with the gauge on the right side, which I don’t know the purpose of. I’m sure someone reading this will educate us on that! It was ironic that so many typewriters in the wild have little signs forbidding typing – I’d like to see signs that say “type away”. Do these sellers think that a Royal 10 that has lasted for 80 years can be broken? How absurd!

note the various decimal tabs

There were other interesting oldies too:

1928 Underwood Universal

expensive broken folding Corona

The Corona folder was exciting to see, but it was not in working order and well over $100! Had it been working… maybe. One other new to me phenomenon in these old junk stores is the proliferation of the Erie iron pans, Griswold being the next big thing. Some shops had huge collections of these, priced into the hundreds! Imagine paying $100 for a frying pan when you could buy a Royal 10 for less. More absurdity!

We got as far as Portland and just happened to park one block from Powell’s Books, the largest bookstore I’ve ever been in – it’s like a department store – think a Walmart dedicated solely to books. One thing struck us; the foul language we heard coming from the mouths of people just talking on the street. I suppose all the books with swear words are simply indicative of the general debasement of language skills these days. But what’s with all the f*cking asterisks? Just spell it if you plan to use it. Only one author among many seemed to feel thus, which is commendable, although not admirable.

Portland reminded me of Seattle, except it’s flat. Aside from the cool bookstore I can’t say it was impressive. Lots of canyon streets that feel oppressively dark, and of course the usual sad cases of homelessness. No one pays attention any more. Not that this is uncommon here either, just that it emphasizes how our society in general has failed so many people.

The thing is, when it comes to all the pseudo-wisdom spouted in the endless river of self-help books, there is no solution to the real problems. It’s all focused on the self. The age of ME. F*ck off, self help authors!

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Filed under Books, Philosophy, Thrift shop finds, Travel, Typewriters, Uncategorized

They Came in Pairs

baby hummingbirds

I received a reminder today of what photos I had taken exactly one year ago. Google does this, for reasons that escape me. All I wanted was a place to backup my picture files, but this is what you get when you join the big machine. However, it was synchronous with a thought I’ve had mulling in my head for some time, which is the phenomenon of pairs – the duality of things. When you get right down to it, everything started with a singularity, which was simply everything in the universe compressed into a point with no dimension. It had no dimension because there was nothing to measure with. Try to imagine the concept – it floors me, so I avoid thinking about it. Maybe Steven Hawking could have explained it to me, alas, but we shall never meet.

So what happened? It expanded, fast. But, mathematically it had to go from being one thing to two, didn’t it? I mean if mathematics holds true in all universes, then the whole number that follows one is two. So I say that two is thus extremely important. With one, there was nothing, but with two there was instantly something, because the 2nd thing made the first thing a point of reference, before which there was none.

Before this gets too confusing I just want to share some pairs of things that I have recently encountered, just because they were a pair. Some were alive, others man made.

Here we have a pair of Smith Corona Sterling’s; a 1951 and a 1956 – one pica, one elite = a perfect set. Since I had collected a few of these, as wonderful as they are, I decided to sell them both. One sold in 2 days. The other just went on the market. What’s the point of having only one of them? So I have to sell the pair. I’m hanging on to my pair of Silent Supers however.

A pair of Olympia SG1’s, both 1963. Both had the same problems – including a disintegrated right margin stop. How odd – clearly a design defect. One elite, one pica – is this a pattern? One sold, the other still for sale. The advantage of this pair coming along in short order is that I have had a chance to examine the engineering closely, since they both required a fair bit of tweaking.

Buying and fixing these is not only fun, but also is a small contribution to keeping these great old machines from the dump. There are no repair shops left in this town, so when I get a typewriter back on the road I feel like I’m contributing something, and the money I make helps me buy and fix more machines, so I’m not out of pocket. Still, they are cheap when you think about what they are worth and what it would cost to buy one in today’s money.

Smith on the left, Corona on the right

Now we move on to wildlife. I always thrill to a pair of bald eagles. This pair was first encountered in one tree, then they flew away. Later on my rambles I saw them again in another tree. To see a pair of them take flight up close is a wonder to behold.

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I saw a pair of ducks we could eat!

Moving on we find some ducks. They tend to hang out in pairs, male and female, but I wonder if they form couples? I think not, but they say geese do.

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Filed under Birds, Philosophy, Photography, Typewriters, Uncategorized, Wildlife

Olympia Regina

For my whole life I have used coins that said Elizabeth Regina on one side. Rarely I had some that said George, but if I ever did save any they have all vanished. For those who do not live in the Commonwealth, I will explain – Elizabeth is our Queen, Head of State of Canada and the Commonwealth, and Regina is a city in Saskatchewan, where she visited. Olympia, however, is the name of one of the twins in my latest book, THE MAGIC TYPER. The story takes place in some smallish Canadian city, which is like the place I live, Victoria (also named for a Queen) and possibly Regina, too.

However, the Olympia Regina under discussion here is none of the about, it is an electric typewriter sold by a German company but made in Japan.  It just seems so Canadian however, which may explain why I recently bought one. Since we never really understand our motives, that is entirely possible. Modern research avows that we make decisions before we are aware of deciding, and furthermore, that we rationalize most of our decisions as a way of making sense of this irrationality. So I’m trying to come up with some more plausible reasons why I now own this new old typewriter, which I most definitely don’t need. I probably need a team of psychologists to help me figure that out and to explain how it is that Star Wars movies invariably use the same recycled plots and subplots, and yet attract millions of viewers! And why does the Supreme Leader look like a creature made from a large over-baked potato? Because his designer once had a favourite toy – Mr. Potato Head! See the connection?

POSTSCRIPT

Some of my recent sales: a retired gentleman for his grandson of 7; a young lady who likes to write stories; a lady for her 17 year old daughter who likes to write stories; a collector in his early 20’s; a new father who wants to type his daily journal; a man who is collecting Olympias only; a retired gentleman who wants to write memoirs and who once owned an Olympia SM3 (he bought my SM3); a middle aged man who likes writing stories; a man for his 93 year old father. I conclude from this brief survey that typewriters continue to have an appeal that transcends any particular age group.

 

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Port on a Port Wine Table

Port on a port wine table
A bistro by any other name
Wouldn’t be half as sweet

Have another slug of Dow’s Late Vintage

How sweet it is with tea biscuits
Irresistible as they are I sample each
Some more than once – I can’t help it

This evening should last longer

The sun sets on time every night
Nothing can stop it or the seasons
Time passes irrevocably

We exist in the present moment

Every taste of port and biscuit
Can last for an eternity or an instant
Solely dependent on savouring the moment

Pass the bottle

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Filed under Philosophy, Poetry