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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Monday, February 26, 2018



Post-Script: Word-whittled on the front porch, on a cold but sunny day, with the little Brother Webster XL-747. An assemblage of individual keystroke experiences piling up at my feet, along with cigar ash.

This piece was transcribed (i.e. retyped) via SCM Galaxie Twelve. Transcribing isn't writing. It's mechanical. Errors will be made. Errors were made, evidenced by subtle but obvious white correction tape markings on the yellow-green paper. I obviously need more meditative word-whittling practice.

Top photo inspired by artist and writer Austin Kleon.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Visit to the Neighborhood Walmart

Neighborhood Walmart Customer Service

You stand in line at Customer Service, adjacent to the entrance. Nearby there's a cloistered foyer-like area between two sets of automated doors, where shopping carts are corralled, awaiting their customers like steeds their cowboys. Next to Customer Service, in front of the automated doors, in an open area seemingly too empty, representing potential wasted retail square footage, not even a display kiosk, stands a security officer. He appears to be just a few years out of high school. Fresh-faced, tall and skinny; hardly intimidating to the type of person who might be inclined to commit crimes on the property.

I'm here in Customer Service because I need to exchange an item purchased the previous week. There are three people in line ahead of me. Behind the counter, a middle-aged lady is tending to the line while two others are seemingly supervising, at least according to their badges. Behind them, there is a sign on the wall with the eery message Blood Disposal, below which is a dispenser of biomedical hazard bags. Adjacent is a return bin labeled Celebration. I find myself amused by the dichotomy of this found phrase, Blood Disposal Celebration. This could be a good band name, or title of some experimental video. These are the thoughts that come to you while waiting in line at the neighborhood Walmart Customer Service.

Other than the blue vests and ID badges, it would be difficult to tell the employees apart from the customers. There is a kind of default civilian attire on display by both classes, casualness bordering on grungy, a kind of grunge so authentic as to make the most acute culture-maven pine with jealousy. I ponder the dichotomy of the fashion-conscious who seek out authenticity in appearance by appropriating the cultural artifacts of a socio-economic strata completely foreign to them. Here, the casual grunge is not an affectation but an artifact of hard economic reality. I ponder that thought, as I slowly shift my weight from one foot to the other, and back again, tending to a careful balance between impending impatience and a purposeful attempt at keeping my attitude at bay, taking the high road, reminding myself that standing in line is a rather normal anti-activity for dense populations in the civilized world. I remind myself that I am an accomplished line-stander from way back, so far back as to pre-date the terms "old school" and "back in the day". This too shall pass, I tell myself. The line barely moves. I can almost sense the lights momentarily dimming, but am not certain; maybe it's just me. I have visions of cloaked, huddled masses of Slavs, partly obscured by sleet and snow, standing in some Soviet bread line, grim determination their only solace. Perhaps it's not that bad, I tell myself. Or maybe, I ponder, perhaps the Customer Service line at the neighborhood Walmart is our own kinder, gentler form of Soviet bread line. I find a strange comfort at that thought. The line still barely moves.

Eventually, as each customer is attended to, their returned items are packaged in one of those ubiquitous gray plastic Walmart bags - the kind that eventually become part of the landscape, snarled around tumbleweeds in an adjoining vacant lot - which are then stapled shut and tossed in the appropriate bin behind the Customer Service desk, piled high with other identical gray plastic bags, for some other nameless, faceless soul to restock. I can't imagine what it would be like to have the job of restocking; and yet, if you walk into any 24-hour Walmart, late at night, you might be witness to those ghastly silhouettes of the doomed, frantically restocking shelves. You wonder what form of hell this must be, what crimes were committed that this punishment would be meted out upon these tortured souls; until you suddenly realize their labor is self-inflicted, fueled by hard, cold economic reality. Jobs are hard to come by, out here in the badlands. I check my watch and the second hand has barely moved. Other people behind me in line are twiddling at their phones. Me, I have a flip phone and try not to feel too superior.

It's almost my turn at the Customer Service desk, and another employee is making subtle motions implying a second station might be readying to open; you never can be too certain about these things - only God and the shift manager know for certain, and neither are telling. Should it open while I'm still in line, I'll have to decide which station to choose.

Each choice has some risk. If I choose the newly opened station, does that signal my impatience with the middle-aged lady at the first station? That I'm meting out my exasperation by snubbing her? Or, if I choose her station instead, does that mark me as stoic and inflexible; that, damn it, I made my choice and I'm sticking with it? Is it a signal to the other employee that they took their own sweet time opening up a second station, ignoring us poor saps in line, so to hell with you? Yes. Maybe. Actually I'm not certain, but now it's becoming less important because there's only one guy in front of me, with a shopping cart containing some partially wrapped contraption-like thing that looks entirely out of place here, like it could not possibly have been sold in a Walmart, but instead some secondhand junk truck stop bazaar, something long and gangly and coiled up, with a tinge too much patina and wear to have been purchased recently new. I begin imagining some gang of thieves who hock their booty at the neighborhood Walmart Customer Service in exchange for cash or credit. I begin imagining some one-offramp town near the interstate highway where the local Walmart has put all the other local businesses into receivership; and everything that every person in town owns and wears, aside from major appliances and automobiles, is purchased under that one roof, and how can they, like the tall, gangly security guard man-child, tell if a customer has shoplifted if everything they're wearing, from shoes to jewelry, was purchased there? I begin thinking of a wallet or purse stuffed to overflowing with receipts for everything one wears. I begin thinking about thermally printed cash register receipts and their intrinsically short lifespan before the paper begins to fade. I begin thinking that perhaps this is intentional, as I gaze into that internal maw of limitless conspiracy musings. I purposefully have to shut the door on my inner paranoia.

The guy in front of me, he's struck up a conversation with a lady in front of him, who I thought was his wife but now I'm not so certain, their intimacy seemed too overt for having just met in line; but then I begin to wonder, how long have we actually been in line, that they had time to become acquainted and intimate, and is this the new form of dating venue, instead of singles bars, meeting someone in the Customer Return line, and suddenly I realize I'm next in line and I have to make my choice.

It is only ten minutes later but feels like a lifetime. I'm now walking out through the automated glass doors into the bright daylight, partially filtered by clouds and a blustery, cold wind, into the vast parking lot that faces toward the south, my favorite direction because the vista is so sun-lit, so replete with possibility and the warmth of hope. I think I know which row I parked in, but suddenly don't recognize the rear of my vehicle until I'm almost upon it. I begin to notice that many of the vehicles around me look newer, fancier, except for some stand-out beaters that now sport a new-found patina of appreciation. I press the button on my key fob and that familiar chirp reminds me that my errands are not yet complete, but that I have survived for another day the Customer Service line at the neighborhood Walmart, and I am perhaps the better for it, but am not entirely certain.

(Composed and edited on the AlphaSmart Neo.)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Casey Rocks the Brother ML100

Y'all probably know this feller by the name of Casey Neistat. YouTube blogger. Co-star of MTV's The Neistat Brothers series. Skateboarder. Drone flier. Father. Husband. New Yorker. A self-made person. He's doing well enough that he probably doesn't need me promoting his videos. But I've linked his Valentine's Day video above, a love-letter to his wife Candice, because it was sweet. And it prominently featured a Brother ML100 electric typewriter.

I liked the sound of the staccato rhythm of his electric Brother through out the video. And as a typewriter collector, I also like the idea that, for Casey, he's not a fetishist or collector. For him, it appears that an electric typewriter is just a practical tool. Like all the other practical tools that adorn the walls of his studio. That's cool, and refreshing. If I wasn't such a typewriter nerd and collector, and didn't like manual typewriters so much, I too might be happy with just one machine, a modern-day electric daisywheel "wedge".

I don't want to over-analyse Casey's video too much, but I liked how the typewriter, a not-nearly-as-glamorous-machine-as-a-black-and-chrome-manual-from-the-1930s, was the perfect tool for writing a love letter, which he then folded and placed in an envelop. He could have - if he had a printer - word process the crap out of a love letter. Or pen it by hand with quill and bottled ink. Unless his penmanship, like mine, is sorely lacking. Typewriters were made for people like us.

Casey's video, I'm certain, will garner millions of views. And those millions of people will be witness to the eminent practicality, in 2018, of a typewriter in one's home, office or studio, a tool ready to do the work of printing directly to paper a brief document, like a love letter.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Perea Nature Trail Hike

Rio Salado and White Mesa


Post-Script: These images were digitized via camera, rather than using my scanner, which hasn't been performing as well as it used to. I suspect I need to clean the optical sensor and the glass, at the very least. These paper negatives were also semi-matte finished, so weren't as sharp as glossy negatives. Lots of dust spots to contend with, too. Fun.

I know that I eventually have to get back to shooting black-and-white film, rather than merely paper negatives; but I've been shooting paper for so many years (since the mid-1990s?) that it's hard to change old habits. Of course, with film that means lengthy drying time in the drying cabinet. And then the problem that I'd need to rig up a back-lit copy stand, to digitize the negatives via my camera, with even more problems with dust; but at least the tonal range would be improved.

There are some scenes in northwest New Mexico that look like they could be from another planet; or from another era. Volcanic cones, ancient geological upheavals. I've got to get out and explore.


Typecast via Olympia SF.

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