Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Origin Story

At the heart of every character is his origin story. Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider, Vito Andolini murdered another don and became Don Corleone, Rasputin was an uneducated wanderer who somehow developed powers of healing on his way to becoming the mad monk.

How did you get into typewriters?
How did you become an enthusiast? a collector?

we are all asked this, by our wife/girlfriend/significant other, by other siblings, by our friends or acquiantances, by our parents, by strangers, by each other - other typospherians, by ourselves.

usually my answer is short, followed by some validation. it appears in some form in my "About Me" section and goes something like this: i suppose ive liked and admired typewriters for a long while, even dating back to pre-adolescence and really ramping up during my teen years when i was reading a lot and adored certain authors who wrote their work on typewriters. i loved their look and what they symbolized: creativity and expression. however due to lack of funds or space or realized imagination, i didnt acquire one until now at age 34.

when i look more closely at that answer and investigate it thoroughly in my mind, i discover the circumstance that allowed this thing called the typewriter to be suddenly a physical part of my life.

and for something to manifest itself in a physical form takes movement, action, and reaction.
many things exist in our minds, dirty thoughts, naughty trysts, wishes, wants, desires, healthy or not, selfish, usually more selfish than we'd like to admit to ourselves, and especially keep secret to those who might be abhorred by it or shocked because it doesnt fit their mental construct of who you are. Therefore, a great many things, even if we admit it or not, continues to exist in our minds, in our daydreams, rem sleepdream, or wetdreams, or dreams where we dream we are having a wet dream. in our minds, we can be different bc we dont risk alienating or insulting those people who supposedly know us. but sometimes that thing in our mind crosses over to the physical realm and we make it real not just for us but for everyone else.

this happened with me and typewriters due to circumstance. and we should all readily admit that while there is fate and luck, there is also circumstance that intervenes and makes it possible.

let me describe this circumstance that led to typewriters

while being home and taking care of my newborn son, he required us to be his bed, human beds. both my wife and i took turns initially. for some reason, W didnt like to be put down, especially at night. so my wife and i had shifts where one of us would stay up and keep him asleep, carrying him.
this can be especially boring bc its difficult to sleep while carrying a baby. we filled the time with movies, netflix, twitter, reading on the iphone. during one of these nights, i stumbled upon a picture where there was a typewriter in the corner - i do not remember this picture any longer but i can tell you it spoke to me and it rekindled something within me.

i typically am not a materialistic person. i have stuff, but not much. i suppose my only materialistic extravagance is my book collection  probably numbering around 500

which i have since stopped probably around 2009 due to space constraints and have painstakingly and painfully wittled down. usually though i dont want anything for birthdays or christmas. seeing that typewriter though really made me want one on my lap, under my fingers and in my ears and nose and reflected in my eyes.

i slowly began to seek out information, coming across some articles about a dying thing. i purposefully avoided blogs because i thought them to be self-serving inane selfish egofeeding pointless drivel.

then my wife went back to work and i was home alone with my son. just him and me. at least before i got to take some breaks. not anymore, i had him from 8am-5pm. and i had to do all the diaper changes, both #1 and #2 and sometimes in the face if you didnt keep vigilant alertness. and feedings, which was fine except since he had a 100% liquid diet, you had to burp him and keep him upright for at least 30min or else he might puke. and he still spit up pretty much no matter what. so sometimes if he spit up enough you might have to change him bc that gets all over the place, even past the bib.

so being alone, save a baby, i used the time he was asleep to read on my kindle or watch some tv, and generally de-stress and then my mind would focus on the typewriter. i then started reading about them again and found those typewriter websites: Alan Seaver's machines of loving grace, Will Davis' sites, Richard Polt's typewriter page, and my first blog: Robert Messenger's ozTypewriter.

Those 4 sites introduced me to so much information that i perused them esp during W's naps during the day. Eventually i found other blogs but by then i was eBaying. at first i mostly just "watched" auctions. typewriters were already so expensive!!! what were these bloggers talking about with their $5 typewriters or even $20 eBay wins???

Because typewriters were so expensive, i decided to acquire only the best one and that was it. After reading so many articles and personal essays, blogs and entries and those 4 websites over and over, i determined that the best typewriter to own, if i were to own just one, is the Olympia sm4.

however, i also wanted to own my favorite author's typewriter and Philip Roth use(s)/(d) an Olivetti Lettera 32 (Thanks Richard!)

since eBay was so expensive, i checked craigslist. i happen to find a lady in newport beach selling her corona silent (the one that Ruben Flores returned to me earlier today) for $300. I had to see what a $300 typewriter looked like so i texted her and she sent me some pics and i was smitten. I told her, i cant afford $300 but if you can take $70 then thatd be spectacular. To my astonishment, she accepted the deal. BTW: i plan to profile the story of acquiring this typer in its own entry one day so ill spare some details. Anyways, i also happen to find a Lettera 32 on craigslist the same day and took that deal face value.

That day, my wife picked up the Olivetti in Irvine, CA and later that night, we picked up the burgundy/magenta Corona Speedline Silent in Newport Beach, CA. Later that weekend, i dropped both off to US Office Machines and my jaw dropped when Ruben gave me the estimates.

That convinced me to pay top dollar to get a machine in good shape. i still wanted my Olympia so i spent the days finding the right one.

Thats how i got into acquiring typewriters. It became a daily, all day obsessions to find the perfect Olmypia sm4, which at the time were all going for over $100 easily.

I was on eBay and craigslist basically all day. I was emailing sellers like crazy. Im sure many of you have a similar story.

But basically that habit is still strong today. Months later and nearly 20 typewriters and i still check ebay and craigslist and the pennysaver and recycler and some goodwills and some antique stores. i obviously do mostly ebay and craigslist bc i cant be driving to antique shops and goodwills all the time with my baby.

soon the madness will stop though. My garage is nuts bc i have no room to keep them in the house. The house belongs to the baby. and soon, the next newborn.


  1. Interesting origin story. I didn't so much collect as accumulate cheaply, and form opinions of typers that way. When you were reading the blogs did you catch the 21 questions in March? You might enjoy answring them. They started on RetroTech Geneva.

    1. Thanks for reminding me about those 21 questions Peter - i just might do that.

      Your way to typewriter knowledge is pure. Your opinions are definitely your own. That streak of independence - is that a personality trait of yours that you can follow throughout your life?

  2. I'm always fascinated how people become interested in typewriters, especially those folks who didn't have them around when they were young.

    My mother always had a typewriter around the house and I was immediately smitten as a kid. I begged her to teach me how to type at age 10 and I took to it like a duck to water. I typed many a letter, story and journal entry until I got my first computer in the late 1980s.

    My interest remained largely dormant, except for a brief flurry of collecting a dozen years ago, until last April when I read an article in the NY Times about the younger generations becoming interested in typewriters. This rekindled my own interest, and I now find myself with a collection of 22 machines! Most of them have come from thrift stores, 6 as gifts, 2 from eBay in 2001, and a couple from antique malls.

    1. Cameron, very nice! sounds like you came upon your collection very naturally and organically, even.

      the typewriter has been a part of you virtually your whole life.

      im going to go on your blog and check out your 22 typers!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Here are my "21 questions":

    1. oh ive read your 21 questions before Rihard - but i will certainly re-read :)

  4. This inspired me to go into detail about how I started collecting. Just posted about it. Great story. It's amazing how much some people will come down from asking price. That always gives me hope.
    Thanks so much for sharing. I love stuff like this.

    1. awesome Ken - im looking forward to reading your origin story - your blog is one of my absolute favorite to read.

      as far as pricing goes - i really dont get it.

      People dont even try to set a value on the thing before setting a price. They just come up with a random number, usually quite obscene and then work their way down until they find someone who will pay that amount. Really irritating.