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Love is … California Typewriter

Sheer joy – a documentary that brought tears to my eyes and made me laugh out loud several times: California Typewriter, about the weird band of retrograde eccentrics who still use and love and collect typewriters. And what a bunch – Tom Hanks, writers Sam Shepherd and David McCullough and musician John Mayer, who speak about the visceral pleasure of striking the keys and preserving work on paper; an amazing artist, Jeremy Mayer, who makes sculptures out of parts; the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, who, yes, make music with theirs, and a very sweet, hapless Canadian who is reliving his halcyon childhood with his typewriter collection, searching for one in particular, the oldest and rarest. And the centrepiece of the film, the shop in California of that name which gathers, sells, repairs, and struggles to survive.

What’s interesting is that there’s barely a woman in the film. This is a world almost entirely male – the collectors, the artists still using these machines. Why is that? Perhaps the typewriter is too associated with one of the only jobs a woman in the old days could get, dead-end, a trap. And yet the history segments of the film show that typing opened up the wide business world to women, gave them better paying jobs than factory work or even teaching.

But mostly – the film celebrates writers, their process, choosing the right tools to transmute the words from the brain to the page. It’s a long film, too long, the filmmaker does not want to let his lovely people go, and I understand why. Still, I loved every minute. I have two very old Royal ones myself, and perhaps need to buy one I can actually use. Stay tuned. Highly recommended.

This morning I Googled myself – because I’m that sort of narcissist – and to my surprise, found this photo on the website for Bikestock, a celebration of bicycles I went to a few years ago. Too bad I wasn’t there with Marilyn, my current beautiful bike, but this sleek old one I bought on Craigslist is still nice. Speaking of 19th century technology that still works better than anything …

After much nagging from all my children and friends, I wear a helmet more regularly now. Hate it – itchy, heavy, ugly – but there are so many bad drivers in Toronto, and shit happens. Still, I much prefer to be without, even with risk and windy fluffhead.
Wayson came for supper yesterday, hobbling more slowly with a bigger cane – I am sad to see him physically diminished, though his sense of humour remains as sharp as ever. We watched some of “Present Laughter” on PBS and then Bill Maher, more depressing about ISIS and the future than I’d thought imaginable. And tonight and all tomorrow, apparently, torrential rain. Still – friendship, family, love. Falling leaves.

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2 Responses to “Love is … California Typewriter”

  1. theresa says:

    We still have a couple of typewriters out in our printshop, along with our 19th century letterpresses. (Fitting…) And I know that my own writing has changed since I abandoned them in favour of computers. I paid 50 dollars for a typewriter I used to write 3 books. Many drafts. Maybe even better for my work because I'd edit those typewritten pages so carefully because I didn't want to have retype too many times. (Though of course I had those rolls of correcting tape and also Whiteout. Remember Whiteout?) And now the stream of laptops that one seems to need because keys stop working and hard-drives seize up and, well, do they earn their keep the way typewriters used to?

  2. beth says:

    A kid in the film says, as he tries a typewriter in the shop, "You don't have to turn them on!" And one of the writers says of the machines, "They just say, At your service, sir, I'm ready for anything." It reminded me of my first when I was 22, a small electric Smith-Corona bought for me by my grandfather. I used to get stoned and type pages of musings. Yes, it's interesting to think about how our thought patterns change depending on what tool we're using.

    Of course I remember White out – I probably still have a coagulating bottle somewhere in my office!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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