Welcome back, typewriter fans. Are you enjoying your summer thus far? The sun is making a VERY welcome comeback here in Seattle, so I’ve been spending quite a bit of time outdoors. It’s garage sale season, too, which always puts a spring in my step. This weekend I scored a (rather rusty, cat-hair-filled) RED Remington plastic portable. It’s my first red colored machine! I’m over the moon, to put it mildly. It’s going to be a long summer with rust remover and the vacuum, but I’m still excited.
In other news, Richard Polt over at Writing Ball is writing a book about typewriters, and he wants to include a bit about our little project! You can check out his site here. We’re working on editing my little blurb (oh, how I can wax poetic!) as we speak. It’s been a FABULOUS experience to be able to share my thoughts with him (turns out we think very similarly about quite a few issues around the topic of typewriters) and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Stay tuned for more news on that.
Here are more pieces from Ribbon and Rhyme. Enjoy.
Well, it’s been a while, but the papers have all settled down and I think it’s time we started posting the goodies you left us at April’s Ribbon and Rhyme event, don’t you? Again, we were delighted by all the lovely bits you left us. Some of you left thank you notes, some short stories, and some of you left drawings. DRAWINGS!! You made illustrations using the characters! Amazing! So. Without further ado, here are a few. I’ll keep posting more in the weeks to come. Enjoy.
WOW. You guys really turned up in numbers for the final installation of Ribbon and Rhyme this weekend! I was out of town and had to miss it. Luckily for me (and you all), we had a fabulous team of volunteers who were able to assist you with all your storytelling/letter writing/stuck keys needs. I am forever grateful to ALL of you who made this event such a success!
Friend (and Saturday volunteer) Lexie said a participant approached her with the idea that he might donate his company’s decommissioned machines to our little project. Sir, if you’re out there, and you’re still interested, I’d love to talk to you! Please click the ‘About’ button for an email address to get a hold of me. The Carriage Return is always on the hunt for well-tuned machines to add to the collection.
And to the fourth grade teacher who spoke to Stan about how these machines might make a guest appearance in his classroom: by all means, let’s get more kids’ hands on typewriters!
I’ve been thinking throughout this event about how children, specifically, have interacted with the typewriters. Nearly every single one I spent time with was curious and eager to learn what this button did, what that button did, what she/he needed to do to make the paper advance… Of course, they were all tentative at first. And why not? These are, after all, VERY heavy machines, and I think something about not being able to hold them in your hands like modern-day kid-friendly machines makes them seem more… I don’t know. Ominous? Unyielding? Designed solely for business and NOT for tossing grenades at cartoon pigs? The kids warmed up to them eventually. After a few halting stabs at the keys, they were eventually cranking out stories, or just experimenting with the way the linkage worked. They were able to handle it just fine: a machine with a single purpose. A machine that simply made words.
My friend Jen told me a story last weekend about a conversation she’d had with a friend’s kid (who is under the age of ten). When told to “hang up the phone”, he was puzzled. Phonecalls are “ended”, not “hung up on”, he insisted. So, why the command to “hang up” the phone? Ah, youth. Pointing out our anachronisms, one at a time. Why “roll down the window”? Why talk about the “needle scratch”? Why, indeed? None of these parts of speech make much sense when all the devices they refer to these days are soft-cornered, button-less, lozenge shaped packets of lithium ions. It really says quite a bit about how our changing industrial world shapes our language, doesn’t it? How odd and beautiful that “needle scratch” is a stand-in for a “moment of awkward silence” simply because vinyl (and the machine that spins it) existed. Our lexicon keeping pace with our ingenuity… or even lagging behind our ingenuity; it’s such a testament to our very human affinity for tools. ”Tweet” was something only birds used to do. But now “tweeting” and “rolling down the window” exist in the same lexiconic time-space.
I remember the first time I was on a sailboat; there was all this language being thrown around… “knowing the ropes” and “changing tack” and the like. And suddenly, I was hearing figures of speech I’d used my whole life being used in real time to do real things. They all had their origins in the timeless language of seafaring folk.
"Rolling down the window" makes sense to me; I grew up around cars that required you to hand crank the windows down. But "changing tack"? I’d only done that with my speech. Unlike Jen’s friend’s kid, though, I never thought to ask why we still used that phrase. The poetry of a phrase like "changing tack" sort of overtook the utility of it, I guess.
I’d like to think (without being too Andy Rooney about the whole thing) that these machines give us an opportunity to really think about why we use the words we do. It takes a whole lot more elbow grease to get them on the page, so it behooves us to slow our thinking down and choose them more carefully. I’d also like to think that these machines provide their users that same thrill I felt on that first sail, the thrill of associating an ancient phrase with a present-day action. And that maybe, when we say “hit the ‘return’ button” to a young person, something clicks in her mind and she makes the connection between the metal lever on a typewriter and the slick button on the end of her laptop keyboard. Maybe, like me, she delights at the evolving nature of our vocabulary. Maybe, like me, she likes that we still carry around vestigial language that links our present to our not so distant pasts.
Maybe for her, too, the poetry of it trumps its technological relevance.
Typed snippets and pieces from the events coming to the site soon. Stay tuned.