Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Going For a Walk

The Old Neighborhood

Post-Script: I wrote this on the new (to me) IBM Model 71 Selectric I. The ribbon was nearing the end, hence the poor imprint quality until I switched it out with the new roll supplied by the repair shop. Two aspects of this experience of composing on the IBM come to mind. First, I distinctly noticed the absence of a combination black/red ribbon. Being able to highlight certain letters in red is something I do miss with this otherwise fine machine. Second, there were times when I reached for the platen knob to manually move the carriage back for some needed correction, only to remember that the carriage is fixed, and instead I had to press and hold the backspace key, then impatiently listen to the cyclic kerchunk of the mechanism as it did its backspacing.

I originally thought, when the idea for this piece came to me during my walk, of composing it by hand via fountain pen, then doing the finish work on the IBM; but time was running short this afternoon and I instead composed the whole piece at the keyboard.

I've yet to find my writer's voice doing these kinds of pieces; the sense of nostalgia is too strong. It's hard to maintain some objectivity as an external observer. I consider it an exercise, which I hope you find acceptable.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Now I'm a Mad Man?

IBM Selectric I

Post-Script: Here's a bit of neophyte poetry from a then-22 year old sailor, serving on the USS Constellation (CV-64), somewhere in the western Pacific. Scribbled in a small notebook with one of those ubiquitous black US Government ballpoint pens, then typed on the red Selectric II that I had access to use. Back then, typewriters were not like cell phones of today. Not everyone had access to a typewriter. They were appliances. Big, heavy and usually fixed in one location, like a sturdy steel desk.

I was serving a temporary assignment as a Master-at-Arms to the enlisted dining facility (i.e. the aft mess decks), and in my senior chief's office was this typewriter. The Chief was a crusty old salt, with plenty of sea stories to tell. (The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is a fairy tale begins with "Once upon a time..." and a sea story begins with "Now this is no shit...") After he'd retire to the chief's berthing area for the evening, I'd go back to the office and type my poetry. Not great stuff, at all. But I have three notebooks full of it.

The Chief had served in Vietnam, on a riverine patrol boat, and had seen action, with a nasty scar on his arm to show for it. He also wore a command ribbon on his uniform, the only enlisted man on our ship who'd been in command of a vessel. He also had other stories to tell, that aren't mentionable in polite company.


Typewriter ribbons, like these one-time-use jobs, are like razor blades or Polaroid film. An artifact of mid-20th century marketing. Sell 'em up front, then keep selling 'em consumables. I wonder what percentage of cost a firm endured in just IBM typewriter cartridges. Imagine how many a place like a law office went through in just one year. Bought 'em by the case, no doubt. And due to the quality of output these machines produced, it was probably well appreciated. I don't expect too much thought was put into conserving letters and words, like what I'd be tempted to do with this machine; especially with a stable of manual typewriters waiting in the wings. But I can imagine perhaps rough-drafting with some portable manual on a roll of cheap teletype paper, then editing and transcribing to the IBM, should top-quality output be desired.

As I was composing this piece in-machina, the thought struck me that it's really no louder than many of my manual machines; quieter than some, actually. Makes more of a low-frequency sound, rather than the high-pitched mechanical thrashing of many manuals.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring 2018 ABQ Type-Out!


It's on! The spring 2018 Albuquerque Type-Out. What's a Type-Out? It's a Type-In, done outdoors. Specifically, under the covered breezeway in front of Pennysmiths Paper, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd, in Albuquerque's historic north valley. We supply the typewriters and paper, and you supply your creativity. Or bring your own machine. Fancy writing & typing papers, and other writing accessories, available at Pennysmiths Paper. Grub and grog available at nearby Flying Star Cafe. Be there or be square!

Always wanted to write that novel but never got a start? Too distracted by Facebook and cat videos to put one word in front of another? You need a digital detox! Sit down at one of these classic machines from our eclectic collection of manual and electric typewriters and have a go. Just one letter after another, just you and the typewriter. And dozens of other people watching; and maybe the local news media, too - but don't let that bother you!

Springtime being what it is in New Mexico, outdoor events can be tricky, unless you like blowing dust and tumbleweeds. Hopefully the weather will cooperate like last year. See ya there!

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