They Were Wonderful…

Underwood Standard nr.5  1919  antique black typewriter with image 1

All of them. All of the typewriters I have owned & borrowed & used throughout the years have been special. Each one participated in at least ONE GOOD sentence typed up by me. There is something about the paper rolling on & on & on, filling up with words. Didn’t matter if it was a poem, or a letter, or a stack of pages of a short story, or a much longer manuscript that could be the Treasure of a Novel.

It was all about the noise. It was all about the page riding & inching along, & the “CLING” telling you it’s time to whip the bastard back into fresh attention… time to start another line.

I write about this – writing on typewriters – at least twice every six months. Right now, on a shelf above where I type my nightly work on a laptop, sits an Underwood No. 5. And it is a machine that has been through battles!

(I think the model is from 1919, but I have seen similar Underwoods from the 1930s look the same.)

This typer is rusted. Every piece of it needs refurbished & worked upon. All the keys are still intact, though. It is a great “art piece” or conversation starter to have. But it is a non-functioning item.

A few days after Christmas, Tara & I traveled from North Carolina to Ohio to visit my family. Gifts were exchanged, of course, but it was my father that took me by the shoulder & pointed to a large object wrapped in a garbage bag.

There it was: an old typewriter – that very same Underwood I had in a house years ago – sitting on a table. We were at my aunt’s house And I knew the damn machine looked familiar, but for the life of me, I do not remember when or where I got it.

What I DO know is it was a Treasure from my life before. My life before all the BAD things started to get out of control.

Whenever I write with a typewriter – depending on the typewriter – I think of Hemingway, e e cummings, Bukowski, Jack Kerouac & all the beautiful Beats… if it’s an I. B. M. Selectric, I think of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. I think of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance going insane, working on an Adler Tippa S typewriter in The Shining; James Caan as Paul Sheldon, forced to write on a “fifty-pound clunker” Royal 10 typewriter in Misery.

A flâneur, that was me, returning to my room or office after a day or night out, watching the world & the people of the world around me, & then to sit in front of one of those big, ugly, metal & noisy machines – it was a GREAT time, my early-to-mid-twenties. The time I spent with those magical, archaic keys… filling up the pages… the pages piling up, face down to the right of me on the desk or table.

Most of the writing I did a year ago was on a Smith-Corona from the 1960s. Later on in the year, an electric AT&T 6100 replaced the old manual girl. I would switch from one machine to the other, depending on my mood. Some of the time, I would be working on two things at the same time, darting from one end of the small room to the other, making much noise, & freaking out some of my housemates.

Most of the time, though, I stuck with the old manual.

Most of those pages are with me, untouched.

Why am I waiting – or, more accurately, reluctant – in typing them up on the computer to post?

I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact they were written somewhere else, by a person I outgrew. Growing (& growing FAST) has become a big part of my move to North Carolina.

My time spent in Cleveland, for the most part, served me well. But like so many of those places, a person can outgrow them… they can evolve. – Then it’s time to move on.

I made the choice – the gamble – of leaving Cleveland for the golden-warm promises of a better life in the South, with a person I had faith in. I had to believe what was said in our phone conversations was sincere. That there was a home waiting for me.

So far: North Carolina is greater than I imagined. Greater than any fantasy I conjured up while curled up on some bed that was not mine, or in some abandoned building in Ohio. And I’m close with someone. Someone who trusts & believes in me.

Still, I have these typewriter pages… & something SHOULD be done with them. And I have the Underwood No.5 above me, reminding me of a piece of my past that was not ALL gloom & doomed days.

Maybe I will go through those pages & find something nice. And when I do, I’ll share it.


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