Every November for the past ten years I’ve sat down with typewriter and written 50,000 words (at least) about something. First there were novels, and eventually there was a memoir, then an account of my hike around Mont Blanc. Two trilogies later (one with a 4th book), a humorous philosophical tale, and a variety of things have come from my mind onto paper. I spent a year of spare time editing only one of these, and many hundreds of hours editing every last thing I have written to date. Since writing two books last year, one in November and another that followed right on the heels of that, I have had in the back of my mind that this November I would just sit down and do it again. Then it hit me that I really didn’t have to do it again. I decided to allow myself to fail. What a relief! The fact remains that at this moment I don’t have much to say. Part of the problem is that after you have written a lot of books, there comes a realization that you can do it if you want to, but there’s nothing to prove anymore. It would have been great if my books had shot to the top of the best seller list, but that only happens with the rarity of lottery winning, and from what I observe a lot of best sellers are pure crap. I don’t want the life of a professional author anyhow, running all over the place promoting their work and listening to people who don’t have a clue discussing the meaning of it.
What I am missing is the pleasure of having my Olympia Traveller on my lap and hammering out 1700 words a day, then reading what I wrote to my wife every night. One day I might write another fictional book, but my next writing project will be to finish up the book I started long ago about how to build a guitar. Now that might sell, as the world seems to be filled with aspiring guitar builders these days. Where do they all come from? Why are there so many more guitars than guitar players? Do pianists all own a dozen pianos?
So, to keep up my typing dexterity and to taste the pleasure of putting words to paper I’ve been writing poems every Friday night after the pizza. My wife writes one too, on her sole typewriter – a 1953 Oliver #4 – one of the cutest and best typewriters ever conceived (and I’ve owned 200 of them). Unlike me, she’s perfectly content with one good typewriter. I still have to restrain myself from adding to the collection however, which stands at 97 today. I have one up for sale however, which is proof that I’m not hoarding them, right? Every year we design our own Christmas card and write a poem for the inside. I’m working on that now, but the poem takes the most work. To get into practice I wrote a couple of poems off the top of my head, which will very likely not be suitable for the Christmas card, but might be good enough for this blog. Well, maybe not but I wrote them so I’m going to put them up.
GRUMBLINGS IN MY BASEMENT IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE BREXIT VOTE
A ONE ACT PLAY by DJ NATHAN
ALF: an old Empire Aristocrat (British)
KURT: an old Olympia (German)
TONY: an old Olivetti with a Scottish accent (Italian from Scotland)
HECTOR: an old Webster/Messa (Japanese-Portuguese)
JACK: an old Smith Corona (New York)
BJORN: an old Facit (Sweden)
SCENE: A SHELF IN A BASEMENT PACKED WITH OLD TYPEWRITERS
TONY: I knew it, we should have left when we had the chance, it’s those Englishmen again, gone thinking they can do it all alone. What are they all thinking?
ALF: You didn’t know it; you’re making that up
KURT: Why does this bother you? Who needs them anyways? Warm beer and crappy cars.
ALF: All German beer tastes the same, but it’s cold. So what?
JACK: Hey, watch what you’re saying. All American beer tastes the same, and it’s cold too. Real cold.
ALF: It has to be cold so you don’t taste it.
HECTOR: You fellows need a nice bottle of wine. I wish I was lying under an olive tree on a blanket right now.
BJORN: I like that idea, but you need some good music, like ABBA.
ALF: egad, another reason why we’re out. Ghastly!
KURT: I suppose you’d be listening to those Beatles? Such ridiculous nostalgia.
ALF: Hardly. I prefer madrigals, played on a lute.
JACK: What the hell is a lute? Some kinda guitar?
HECTOR: We invented those you know. Before we discovered America.
BJORN: I have news for you. The Vikings were in America long before Columbus, who by the way, was an Italian.
TONY: That’s it – I’m going back to Italy to retire in the sun.
ALF: and good bloody riddance, too.
KURT: just wait, the English will be back, begging to join us after they fall on their faces in their English mud.
BJORN: I heard that if they exit, IKEA is pulling out of the UK.
ALF: they wouldn’t dare. Where will they get blueberry jam? The British Navy will embargo Sweden until they relinquish the furniture.
KURT: the furniture doesn’t come from Sweden you idiot. It comes from Asia.
JACK: Asia – you mean where all our jobs went?
HECTOR: who cares about jobs? We don’t have any! How I thirst for a nice glass of Ruby Port.
KURT: You know what it’s really about don’t you? Football. This is their master plan to win the World Cup. But it will fail, because we have mastered their game, ha ha ha ha.
ALF: Football is for hooligans. Our proper sport is cricket I’ll have you know. And by the way, we invented every sport there is, with the exception of basketball, which isn’t really a sport. A freak show for giants, actually.
JACK: Americans invented football, basketball, and baseball.
BJORN: actually, they were all invented by Canadians.
JACK: we call that America north.
ALF: just you wait until we reclaim the Empire, then you’ll all see what a brilliant move this is. (begins humming Rule Britannia)
KURT: God help us, can’t you stop? Anything but that. At least hum something everybody knows.
ALF: Well if you insist, how about this? (begins to sing: Yesterday … )
ALL JOIN IN: All my troubles seemed so far away…
I forgot to note that this one came from Montreal, my home town. The phone number is MA-2142.
Reminds me of a piano
Naturally it should have a red/black ribbon, no?
the following version in a new shell
I think these keys are the most beautiful typeface!
Remington Portable No 2
That’s the All-Black Typewriter Team!
Complaint department: today I saw a nice old Remette at the Salvation Army. Most frustrating that they had it up for auction. Unsporting I say, contrary to the very spirit of thrift shops what? Spoiling all the fun they are!
When my friend came to visit from California, I had to show him my typewriters. Then I forced him to write something, which he did. I then edited it for the blog. Then he forced me to watch the World Series. He now knows the difference between an Olivetti and an Olympia, I think… but I still can’t understand baseball. I have to admit it’s a lot more interesting if you drink a few beers though.
Eaton's Prestige c. 1958 (Smith Corona Silent Super)
DETAIL OF THE ACHIEVER (SEARS - BROTHER)
A close inspection of the mechanics of this machine reveals some interesting engineering. There are variations in the lengths of the key levers, spring hooks, and ribbon lifters which would seem to balance the forces and distances traveled by each key. This is unlike most other machines that I have, where all the levers and rods are strictly proportional to their distance from the centre of the basket. Another feature is a lever which opens the ribbon vibrator so that the ribbon does not require threading into the usual contraptions on either side.
LEVER VARIETY ON ACHIEVER
The small Brother is very portable, all metal, and works well. It’s not impressive from an aesthetic standpoint, but it feels good and makes very nice clean type. If you want aesthetics then look no further than the Olivetti Lettera 22. This machine is a designers dream. There is beauty in every little part of it, including the arms of the paper bail, and the fact that they choose to put chromed rollers on it instead of rubber ones. Not only does it look great, but it has amazing touch, and types very softly with no sharp whacking sounds or tinny vibrations. Typing on this is like the feeling you get when you slam the door of a Mercedes.
I discovered an advert for the Eaton’s typewriter from the Montreal Gazette c. 1959. As a native Montrealer it was funny that this was the only ad that my searches turned up. When I was a university student I once worked at Eaton’s, selling…..(not typewriters) … luggage.
Notice in the ad they include a touch typing course on records. Well guess what I found:
SMITH CORONA TOUCH TYPING COURSE
Another find was a box of ‘Eaton’s Corrasable Onion Skin’. Same name but different companies.
EATON'S WITH EATON'S
One last detail from the Sears Achiever – the gear shift! Actually the ribbon vibrator/holder release lever. Unofficially that is – I have no idea what they called this, but that’s what it does.