Thursday, June 28, 2012

Antiquing with King RIchard

This past Monday I had some time available to galavant. I spent it hunting for typewriters, of course. I have given up on The Goodwill. Therefore, I employed Yelp to assist me with a different place to search and discovered King Richard's Antique Center in Whittier, CA. It's huge!!! More than huge - its bohemoth like a pregnant elephant. Or better yet: a pregnant wooly mammoth.

There are about 175 separate dealers leasing space within its rickety walls. It was multi-multi-level and it was labyrinthine and quite dizzying. You can truly get lost and I neglected to bring breadcrumbs to mark my path.

Once inside i was sufficiently awestruck by its girth - i imagine it is what Jonah felt like inside his whale. It was a jumbo-Hindenburg ... If the blimp were an antique mall. People who worked inside its stout, vast mass were sparsely located. From a distance they seemed the size of an ant. And they moved like them too.

Other shoppers were either intensely focused, peculiar and eerie, loners in their search. Or loud touristy-types who chortled incessantly with their companions about their experiences with this or that knickknack. I was within earshot of their stories but paid no heed because they were not discussing typewriters.

Inside each lot of space were shoved trinkets and gadgets of old, you really had to look to see everything. Odd objects like safety pins and bottle caps were displayed though not as prominently as a boar's head or a Coca Cola vending machine.

After a time, I finally asked where the typewriters were and was told that they are around! I must have given a quizzical look bc without more prodding, I was provided additional directions: "go downstairs twice and most of them are in that area."

Hmmmm. So off I went, deeper into this animal. Surely I vanished into the horizon and entered a land haunted by ghosts, friendly and hostile. Instead of a light fog of mist, it was a dense cloud of dust. Debris littered my vision. I coughed and it echoed - both mine and the dead.

I came across a skittish worker who hardly seemed alive until I came upon him. I asked my question and it was as if it were the first words he had heard in decades. He hadn't a mouth, but his moss-like mustache said there are typewriters around and I had to find them. As if they needed saving from this dreary place. I felt like I had time traveled. Like inside a vegas casino, this place was holding onto me and its grasp was tightening. Out of a growing fear, I urged him to point me where he had last seen a typewriter. I could hear his mind crank, barely able to start. The ignition was a squeak. He more or less floated away and I followed lest be left alone.

We came to a wide carriage Olympia, probably an SM9. There was no price and he said to go back to the surface and inquire at the front desk. With that he turned like a stegosaurus would and began to walk away, with a deceiving speed belying his overgrown and extinct reptilian brethren.
With some panic in my voice I informed him that I was looking for something smaller, a portable, and a manual at that. At this most recent behest, with a tap of his foot, he urged me to follow once again.

It was then I acquired a better look at him - his eyes though glassy appeared to have innocence, his face where there was no beard or stubble seemed smooth enough, his cheeks though inundated with a ghastly pallor hinted at a plump rosiness, and again, his eyes: there was a faint gleam. I recognized the bright spots of his look bc of my 6 month old who is so full of life he beams with vitality and happiness.

I found myself horrified: was this a young man? Had this place robbed him of his youth? Or was his life force being used to feed this building? Methusulah's crypt. Was he part of the building's collection? Its cold grave. The air was still and the quiet is like that when the river of blood gushed down the hotel hallway. It was Halloween inside here.

As I was about to turn and run, he pointed gingerly, perhaps due to my heightened nervousness, to 2 typewriters against the wall. There was a near pristine 1950s Royal QDL and by its side, an exceptionally agreeable glass keyed Remington Portable. The price for the QDL was $75 - too high, especially since i picked one up earlier this month for $10. The Remington - not sure which portable but probably in the 1930s had an asking price of $90, but i see these on eBay for a lot more affordable a cost. Plus I dont really like either typewriter.

I thanked my new friend and bravely asked him to direct me to the least expensive typewriter he knows. Without a word he moved, left and right and left and right and straight and who knows where else. I only followed. From behind a mini piano he expunged a small yellowed case and said that this was $30. He capriciously opened the case and there was a decent Smith Corona Silent Super in peach/light tan.

Ive read all the praise bestowed to this machine. There is a dedicated following to its supposed superior build despite its rather homely and near unsightly styling. I'd never quite wanted this particular typer but I did not want to leave empty handed. I wanted to survive this trek into the belly of the beast and have a trophy to show for it.

Somehow, I was brazen enough to ask if the price was negotiable. My companion stood statuelike for an eternity, as if he spotted medusa. Had my cavalier ways finally caught up to me and he was to turn werewolf or vampire and end my life, mummifying my body so it could not be found until aliens invaded and took over the world?

He struggled but again found the energy and ability to speak: ill take you up to the front desk.
As we rose from the depths, he became more human and more light and color entered in his face. He was damn close to conversational as we broke to the surface. He said that there was no such thing as 50% off - he had never heard of such a thing, but dealers likely would accept 10% off. Again, I was bold to suggest $25 is a fair price for this piece.

Once at the desk, he whispered to the man behind the desk - he looked like a life-sized hobbit, not a king. This hobbit was taller than me and he went to the phone and called the dealer. My offer was accepted and I am now the new owner of this old Silent Super. I am also a survivor of King Richard's Antique Center.

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