Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Professor and the Olympian: Hanging out with Richard Polt

Note: This blog entry is long overdue as it happened Thursday July 26 but here it is finally

I was supposed to be there about between 5 and 5:15pm. It was my 2nd week at my new job and since we were in training, my days were ending at 4:15pm. So i went ahead and said i could get to Claremont in probably 45min but allowed myself that buffer to 5:15pm.

It being Los Angeles, of course that was not going to happen. First, on the way to the freeway, i chanced upon a train, a long one with 7 engines in the front. While that train was passing, another long one came and they were running parallel in opposite directions - this did not look safe at all and all of us waiting, stalled, held our breaths to observe what likely was to be an oncoming catastrophe. Being at the front of the pack, i had the best view and it was triple digit decibel loud. The original train slowed and then stopped, allowing the 2nd train to pass. And once the other train had cleared, the first train started up again and left. It took about 15min.

Then the LA freeways. I don't drive the 10 freeway east much but boy it is not fun. The 10W to Santa Monica is certainly worse, by far, but at least there is the beach to look forward to. I texted Richard a couple times to let him know of my progress. Luckily, he seemed to be enjoying walking around downtown Claremont.

Downtown Claremont is quite a treat. It is not a heavily marketed, fabricated, trendy chain store commercial fakery; itstead, happily, it is a picturesque and pure holdover from the past. I found a cozy parking spot and began walking to the store. Another pedestrian had touched down from asphalt to sidewalk virtually simulataneously. I began: "You wouldn't happen to be Richard Polt? Because you look like him." The man said "Michael?" As i approached it became clear that he was extremely tall. I had to ask, i do not remember if it was immediately but it came within the first few sentences to be sure: "How tall are you? 6'4?" - i knew he was taller than that but i did not want to guess too tall. "I am 6'7" - i guess i never really pictured really tall people used typewriters - my imagination was limited: of course, anyone can use a typewriter.

Then the pleasantries and small talk, but once the typewriter talk began it was instant friendship. We then set our sights on the prize.

Richard had emailed about checking out this rare machine. I had actually seen this posting for months earlier but did not pursue it because gold is a bit too tacky for me.

The door did not open. The sign said closed.

Was our adventure to end prematurely, and that, in a staggeringly, painfully, and unfairly silly way as 1 inch of brittle wood? The door whose threshold we were to pass in order to enter the typewriter dimension.

We questioned and answered and validated ourselves: we had both earlier confirmed that the shop closed at 6pm. We had more than 20min before the deadline.

With disaster upon us, we, being quickthinking typewriterheads, walked next door hoping that this shop had the same owner... no dice. On the sidewalk was our moment of truth. We found the number and called them. Sweat began to ooze out of pores and collect, a bead dropped quickly to the floor - exactly down to where our disappating hope was headed towards.

The call was answered and the other end needed some incentive to come back and re-open the shop. She sounded like she almost wanted a promissory note. I may have overcommitted a bit to my interest in the typewriter but it got us in.

Once inside, Richard's nose found the typewriter right away and he began testing the bejesus out of it. I walked around and made some small talk with the proprietor, who we later found out was the proprietor's niece.

There were some other typewriters among the vintage junk (yes, i am being unkind - but my only interest is typewriters anyway) - but they were all nauseatingly overpriced. Back to the the reason of all this...

Richard said it was in excellent shape. I took my turn at testing it, more so customarily as obviously Richard's determination is official and decidedly more reliable than my opinion. But seriously, this SM3 had some snappy ass action and butter smooth carriage, perhaps better than the eBay-advertised "Fully reconditioned" SM4 i had brought in the trunk of my car.

The next part is a bit unclear to me. It's the transition of how this typewriter became Richard's to mine to purchase. I completely deferred to him because it was certainly his idea to visit this typewriter. Thinking back now, i believe i recollect that perhaps he saw the joy i had in trying out this typewriter. It is an unbelievable typewriter, you know. Regal.
He said he had one already and wanted to give me the chance to have one of my own.
Either way, i believe that one of us was going to walk out with this machine - no way we were going to leave it there for someone else.

I tried to bargain with the lady and charm her and appeal to her business side but she stone cold stonewalled me. Even calling her aunt who owned the store fell on deaf ears. They said they knew that it was a rare typewriter so they would not lower the price. They would however let us purchase tax-free if we paid in cash.

Suddenly we are walking to the ATM. With Richard generously insisting on contributing $20 to the purchase of this machine.

The rest of the afternoon turning evening continued the fun. Dinner at a real diner and then some typewriting with a new dear friend. And a magnificent new typewriter.

BTW - thanks to Richard for lending me the above 2 pics.


  1. Meeting the distinguished Professor Polt *and* having him guide you to such a magnificent machine like some magical, oversized typewriter fairy? and then he bumps you a Jackson to help out? Yeah, that's a day I'd never forget! :D

    1. Ted - no doubt it was a special day. The man knows his typewriters, alright. It was really cool and i hope a lot of us get to meet him. Besides typers, he obviously has a passion for philosophy and i also learned that he heads a site on one of his fav authors, the obscure and aberrant Harry Stephen Keeler. The typosphere is lucky to have Mr Polt among its more distinguished members and certainly one of its leaders. I hear you're not too shabby yourself!

  2. You told it like it was! (Except for the part about my running for president -- that is WAY beyond my introverted skill set.) Thanks for the reminder of a great afternoon.

    Readers can see the event from my perspective here.

    1. Richard - thank you for hanging out. It was indeed fun and momentous. Hope we get to do it again one day.

  3. Richard seems to have become quite the super-star in the blogs of late! Not that such a nice guy shouldn't get such airtime.

    It sounds like you've had quite an adventure! It's great getting about with typewriters, and I'm really starting to love seeing these posts from all around the place.

    And oh, how hard is it to read a blog, when you KNOW that there's going to be more photos of that olympia to perve at.

    1. "to perve at" - love that hahaha!! like perving at that australian pole vaulter melanie adams or your stephanie rice!

  4. So this is Polt over-exposure week, no? ( :
    RIchard shared with me the Olympia back story; I told him he's a"pusher" lol! The gold Olympia looks to be in pristine condition, what a find!

    1. Yeah he said hes a bad influence hahaha but i did need that extra urging. I went into that store with absolutely zero intention of purchasing that typewriter. In all honesty, Richard was probably going to buy it but i think he saw into the future and the joy i would get in having this machine in my possession. He acted selflessly and for my greater benefit, to be sure. It's a ridiculously opulent machine - maybe too pretty to type with, but i'll use it anyway hahaha - probably not too much in public though because i dont want to encourage people to rob me hahaha

  5. Michael, Richard already has a gold Olympia in his collection.

  6. So blingy! That is a nice looking machine. I'd say it was too garish for my taste if I weren't already guilty of owning a gold Royal. Gold trim and Olympia performance would be so choice. Any idea if the gold is more durable on this machine than on the Royal QDL?

    One of the gold Olympias is on ebay. I can't wait to see how crazy expensive it gets.

  7. You know, I saw that Craigslist ad and contemplated going and swiping that one myself, since it's in relatively close proximity to me. I'm glad it was the two of you that did, and it sounds like (store clerk aside) the afternoon/evening was a really neat experience for you both!


  8. Great post, Michael. Thanks for sharing this momentous occasion with us. That Olympia is downright gorgeous!
    6'7"? Dear guys make me feel so incredibly short...

  9. What a cool story! It's too bad we weren't there at the same time. I hope you continue to enjoy that Olympia you can always haul it out to make the rest of us jealous.