Little Brother

We announced it yesterday, just another lazy saturday like any other except this time we had some big news. Yes, the wife is pregnant. And we will be having a second son.

How can my little 7 month old be a big brother so soon? He’s still so small and just seems to enjoy all the attention. By the time my next is born, W will be barely 1 or perhaps not even 1. Yes, they will be considered Irish Twins and 2 under 2. Quite crazy really.

Did we enjoy him enough, solely him? More importantly, did he have abundant time to have all the love and attention? Is it too soon and are we stretching ourselves too thin?

It is much the same way with typewriters, i think.

We likely started with one. We probably poured ourselves 100% into it and let ourselves be immersed and absorbed completely. Our thoughts enveloped around her and only her. You went hand in hand, inseparable. And there was no other choice. There was no such thing as an option. It was perhaps inconceivable at the time.

But then it happened. The day where #2 came along. Maybe it was happenstance or fate. Maybe a haphazard accident or delicious destiny. I dont believe we would have purposefully deceived #1 about #2 but maybe we didnt make a big deal about preparedness or formal introduction or permission, even.

Maybe we considered it progression – Onward!. Nature: growth and development.

Maybe we considered it a rare magic. New life. And it should be universally celebrated.

Well, let me tell you – my first son (we shall from now on refer to him as “W”) – he certainly is a ham. He absolutely adores our watchful eye, so much so that every now and again he will stop what he is doing and look around and make sure our gaze is fixed upon him. It wouldnt surprise me to find out that he actually thinks that it is a permanent arrangement – that our eyes are spotlights to his one-baby show which of course he will always be the star.

And should our gaze be on anything else, he stares at you until your eyes again find him. And this stare, his look dares you: “Really?” it seems to question in naive bewilderment. “Is there anything more beautiful or important to look at than me?” – he asks without so much as a peep. And of course, coming from a baby it is nothing short of cute and innocent and truly wonderful. You cannot help but smile and answer back via telepathy: “sorry, baby! – you are my whole world!” and you mean this emphatically and absolutely.

My first typewriter was a burgundy-maroon beauty Silent, which i had found out was deemed a speedline. i prefered this speedline design to the earlier flattop because it was a lot more aerodynamic (as if it would take flight one day) and therefore smooth and sleek like myself. It represented me, and at the moment, i thought: this is the ultimate typewriter! It is not black and it is not grey. It’s color is a vintage wine and it isnt brash but instead subtle as all the stories it has lived, seen, and heard in its decades of existence. It belongs neither to the night or day and exists without being tied to the rules of time. In addition to the color, I was further pleased that it was a Silent model, and i imagined it harkened back to the silent film stars. By using this, i became a sort of Rudolf Valentino/Douglas Fairbanks and my typewriter was my Mary Pickford and she had a voice but only i had the ability to hear it.

Lastly i really was fond of those glass keys. They allowed the passage to the past because they a sign of the times and werent as manufactured as plastic. In their reflection with a hard squint you could still see those who used the machine before you.

She was all i had ever hoped for in a typewriter.

And just a few hours later that day came my Olivetti 32, by a stroke of luck and better stroke of genius.

I will make this bold comparison that our typewriters are like our children, to an extent. Can we pick and choose? Sometimes we do, but we know we shouldnt. We should love the same and harbor no favorite or preference. And ideally, we share the love equally.

My wife told me something vastly substantial: Your love grows.

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Transitions

A 2 weekends (this upcoming and next) and a week remain before a major life change. Transition… things are in flux.

It is a new start but it is also familiar insofar as futures are concerned. That is my first grievance.

Despite this, I am solidifying my resolve to commit to looking forward. I must be like Chinese Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang who had promise but then had it taken away. We must get over these obstacles.

We have a similar journey, Liu Xiang and I. We succumbed to our pitfalls even though we fully expected to clear them easily because of talent, ability, and dedication. I don’t believe our expectations were too lofty in our past engagement, but we experienced massive disappointment that threatened our destiny & identity. I know we both questioned our being to a sickening degree. But like it or not, both of us are back to give this a try again.

What i hate is that i have already come to grips with the reality of the situation – its gravity already deflating and shrinking and sinking me. I hardly believe i will have a chance to enjoy a honeymoon period as is typical with these types of things.

So for now, I will try to make the best of it for the next 9 days, try to take things in and live them fully and hope their wonderful memory will be enough to survive on through my sentence.

I will miss him most, of course. His whole life this far, I have been constantly with him. My consulting career afforded me the valuable time to spend with him and I have seen him grow and learn and do so many firsts. Now though it is time to go back to the 8-to-5.

I feel dreadful about it. And a heavy depression fills me like 1,000,000 setting suns and the darkness that follows.

At this new thing, i will think of him most often. Him and my family. I will also think of typewriters to pass the time, of course

Groma Kolibri 1

I am still positively giddy about my Groma Kolibri that I committed to making its cleaning my very first project.
It has jumped to the front of my priorities list. If I were to be logical about it, I would probably clean every typewriter’s case first.

Here is my current stash:

20120704-213951.jpgThen, I’d prioritize cleaning by first cleaning my least prized typewriter, likely my Smith Corona Silent Super or my 1950s Royal QDL. These two are my lesser prized because there are so many of them out there and they can be replaced. I hate to say that but it is true nonetheless. Back to the topic, I would clean the more common typewriters first because I honestly have never cleaned a typewriter before.
Don’t get me wrong, I am prepared.
I have bought the following products as suggested by many typewriter sites especially Mr. Richard Polt’s Basic Typewriter Restoration page and and nearly every typewriter repairman and enthusiast alike:
– loads of Lysol Disinfectant spray 20120704-214134.jpg
– some bottles of compressed air 20120704-214209.jpg
– a bag of dental picks 20120704-214245.jpg
– rubber cleaner & rejuvenator and Plasti-dip 20120704-214154.jpg
– Hoppe’s solvent 20120704-214236.jpg
– Gummi Pflege Stift 20120704-214146.jpg
– Mother’s Mag & Aluminum Polish 20120704-214201.jpg
– Evapo-rust 20120704-214215.jpg
– water-based Mineral Spirits since CA has banned VM and P Naphtha (despite my efforts to procure the real deal)
– Soft Scrub
– PB Blaster
– Steel Wool
– super fine sandpaper

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– some shitty screwdrivers (which I might probably will likely return so I can get real good screwdrivers)

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– bag of rags including about a dozen old boxer shorts (I am mercifully saving your eyes from the pics)

Yes I am an overexcited newbie and I look at all these products and I know I overdid it. But you know what, I am already having fun and I think through all this typewriter thing, that’s what it’s all about.

Back to my Groma.
Here is her case:

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She’s pretty. Two-toned.

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She set me back some but was worth it and i probably would have paid more in fact:

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Here is a close up of her typeface:

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Her imperfections are plentiful however, including that stupid carriage return lever scraping her ribbon cover for decades:

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Additionally, she has some paint loss due to scraping on her bottom back end. The other problem is that she has a couple sticky keys which by the looks of it, i should be able to remedy using some of the stuff i bought.

I started a light cleaning already with just some dishwashing soap and water and a cotton rag. She immediately brightened up.

Consider this the BEFORE pics and hopefully soon i can present some after pics.

Banner Day

It’s a banner day. I mean, I have a lot of good days, and even mostly great because I’ve been able to spend them with my little one. Today though is different. Something is changing soon and forward is the direction we will be going.

I am quite pleased with these new developments, for now at least. I am aware that it could certainly be better and that I am capable of much more. Despite this, I am allowing myself some satisfaction. Breathe easy and deep Michael. You did good today. Let your shoulders down, relax your back, take some moments to be at peace. For yourself. And then for him and her and what else is coming soon.
Ever briefly take it in. For once. Let’s not be too hasty in forgoing celebration. This is just cause. It’s a legitimate victory. Organize a small parade.
I am happy to contribute. To once again fulfill a major responsibility that ought to be mine. Too long has it been carried by others.
The reality of the work though isn’t exactly exciting. It doesn’t matter though. I can bear a cross and I can beat a bear, at least for however long we need.
Now to celebrate! Let’s find a typewriter to buy!

The Rescue

Long Beach, CA – a recent rumor surfaced that she was hiding out among some junk trying to pass itself off as antique. Since when did it suddenly become fashionable to consider all old shit as vintage, leftovers and surplus as treasure, and rusted, broken, withered shadow-of-their-former-selves things as primo collectibles? These items that even in the past, their heyday, weren’t thought of as valuable? Sure I believe some artifacts of the past are indeed prized and significant – we’re talking ancient mayan fertility goddesses, fossilized-in-amber pterodactyls, and the ark of the covenant to name a few; however, dull and bent nails and worn out moth-eaten hats and smelly rotten furniture cannot be and should not be sold at a premium because due to their decrepit states they cannot possibly be reasonably in demand – certainly not in demand enough to warrant a cost triple or quadruple that of a brand new and improved version of itself available now. Again, these are everyday items of old, discarded because they are obsolete as chewed gum. Nevertheless, these antique dealers and steampunk hipsters continue to attempt to cajole us to regard these cheap and inferior, nonfuctional objects as coveted and sought in order to validate their usually outrageously obscene price tag. “Retro”,” vintage”,”classic”,”rare”,”patina”… A bunch of other hogwash words to deceive the truth of what it really is: used, decrepit, falling apart, useless, trash, garbage,  second or third hand thrift store filth and scraps and firewood.

Well, I waded through this sea of crap and found her. She herself was close to being discarded yet again but this time her lofty price tag kept her out of the recycle bin. How many of her lives had she already used up? She wasn’t too beautiful but she had promise. She was a prom queen, pageant winner but for the last 20-30 years she’s been an alcoholic and homeless, forgotten and abandoned.

She needs rehabilitation. I held her hand to help her step out of her own piss and sweat and paid her bail and then negotiated her freedom.

Then we drove to the actual beach, which she hadn’t seen since her youth in Germany.

She has lost her ability to speak for the time being. She sat there quiet, but looked around with curiosity. Her eyes have some sparkle left. But her colors are faded and she has some scratches and scrapes. She escaped without any dents thank god. Be that as it may, she no doubt has seen better days. Maltreatment and abuse is what she’s accustomed to and she’s been handcuffed and caged. Still, I sense that there is fight left in this one. She’s tough. She’s a survivor.

Soon, food and water. I will help her become strong again.

I now have my very own Groma Kolibri!!!

Is There a Doctor in the House?

What began as fun is now a frustrating ordeal. The exhaustive search for a suitable screwdriver set is an exercise in futility. As of now, I am not even at a crossroads; instead, i have not left the parking spot. Endless research ends in pros but also these red flag cons that halt any further committment.

Why even go through such frustration?

Well, these vintage typewriters are exactly that – vintage. Most are long forgotten and left in that bygone era. Purchasing one is not enough effort to consider it rescued. These machines are in various degrees of poor shape. Some need just a thorough cleaning – that’s easy! I bought my cleaning supplies weeks ago. Others need reconditioning – heck, im prepared for that as well. But still there are some that need surgery.

And a surgeon needs the proper instruments before starting the operation.

I suppose the main trouble is that there really isnt quite a consensus on what screwdrivers to use.

The issue is that no one ever made typewriter screwdrivers.

The conventional wisdom is to use gunsmith screwdrivers.

So there my search began – going through brands, manufactured in the USA but now in China so get German but be careful because some of those are now being made in China too, and different sets and bits, handles and materials.

The top set is the Brownell’s Magna-tip gunsmith screwdriver super set. They run about $130. They’re right for the job because they are hollow-ground tip so they fit the screw perfectly so you don’t “bugger” up those precious 100 year old screwheads. Another feature is they are magnetic so they fit more securely.

I asked some typewriter veterans and many actually said they dont know what brand they use.

I called up Bill Wahl from Mesa Typewriter Exchange and he doesnt know exactly what he uses, only that theyre old and he inherits them from dead customers and that he only uses about 4 different screwdrivers.

I talked to Ruben Flores of US Office Machines who had the same story, minus the dead customers.

I also had an email conversation with Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter

who said that gunsmith screwdrivers are overkill. He said he actually uses Craftsman from over a decade ago. Additionally, he finds a jewelers/watchmaking set useful as well.

In the yahoo typewriter forum, some typewriter collectors who do their own repair wrote to use Wiha or Chapman or Klein or Grace.

I looked at all those and they are nice but it does seem like overkill sometimes because of the 10 screwdrivers in the set, 6-8 are slotted/flathead screwdrivers of varying sizes.

Additionally, there are concerns about quality. Those brands rest on the laurels of their reputations once forged long ago and rightfully earned, although now those same reputations recede as the tide because they have sacrificed that made in the USA or Germany quality for the bottom line, or perhaps its because the new world economy demands those concessions in order to survive. The game has changed.

I actually added a set into my amazon shopping cart but in the end i decided it was premature. I determined that if i spent that $20 on this beginner set, well that $ could actually go towards a much better set. The logic cant be argued against.

At the same time, one has to allow oneself a learning curve. And the best place to begin is the beginning with a set that matches your abilities. And wallet.

Sleep on it, you might say. Well, i’ve been sleeping on it for about 2 weeks now. There are no sufficient answers in dreams. And it has started to bother my sleep as i obsess about finding the right set and making the right choice and the best decision…

Perhaps this has more to do with than just screwdrivers.

Antiquing

This past Monday I had some time available to galavant. I spent it hunting for typewriters, of course. I have given up on The Goodwill. Therefore, I employed Yelp to assist me with a different place to search and discovered King Richard’s Antique Center in Whittier, CA. It’s huge!!! More than huge – its bohemoth like a pregnant elephant. Or better yet: a pregnant wooly mammoth. There are about 175 separate dealers leasing space within its rickety walls. It was multi-multi-level and it was labyrinthine and quite dizzying. You can truly get lost and I neglected to bring breadcrumbs to mark my path.

Once inside i was sufficiently awestruck by its girth – i imagine it is what Jonah felt like inside his whale. It was a jumbo-Hindenburg … If the blimp were an antique mall.

People who worked inside this stout, vast mass were sparsely located. From a distance they seemed the size of an ant. And they moved like them too.

Other shoppers were either intensely focused, peculiar and eerie, loners in their search. Or loud touristy-types who chortled incessantly with their companions about their experiences with this or that knickknack. I was within earshot of their stories but paid no heed because they were not discussing typewriters.

Inside each lot of space were shoved trinkets and gadgets of old, you really had to look to see everything. Odd objects like safety pins and bottle caps were displayed though not as prominently as a boar’s head or a Coca Cola vending machine.

After a time, I finally asked where the typewriters were and was told that they are around! I must have given a quizzical look bc without more prodding, I was provided additional directions: “go downstairs twice and most of them are in that area.”

Hmmmm. So off I went, deep into this animal. Surely I vanished into the horizon and entered a land haunted by ghosts, friendly and hostile. Instead of a light fog of mist, it was a dense cloud of dust. Debris littered my vision. I coughed and it echoed – both mine and the dead.

I came across a skittish worker who hardly seemed alive until I came upon him. I asked my question and it was as if it were the first words he had heard in decades. He hadn’t a mouth but his moss-like mustache said there are typewriters around and I had to find them. As if they needed saving from this dreary place. I felt like I had time traveled. Like inside a vegas casino, this place was holding onto me and its grasp was tightening. Out of a growing fear, I urged him to point me where he had last seen a typewriter. I could hear his mind crank, barely able to start. The ignition was a squeak. He more or less floated away and I followed lest be left alone.

We came to a wide carriage Olympia, probably an SM9. There was no price and he said to go back to the surface and inquire at the front desk. With that he turned like a stegosaurus would and began to walk away, with a deceiving speed belying his overgrown and extinct reptilian brethren.

With some panic in my voice I informed him that I was looking for something smaller, a portable, and a manual at that. At this most recent behest, with a tap of his foot, he urged me to follow once again.

It was then I acquired a better look at him – his eyes though glassy appeared to have innocence, his face where there was no beard or stubble seemed smooth enough, his cheeks though inundated with a ghastly pallor hinted at a plump rosiness, and again, his eyes: there was a faint gleam. I recognized the bright spots of his look bc of my 6 month old who is so full of life he beams with vitality and happiness.

I found myself horrified: was this a young man? Had this place robbed him of his youth? Or was his life force being used to feed this building? Methusulah’s crypt. Was he part of the building’s collection? Its cold grave. The air was still and the quiet is like that when the river of blood gushed down the hotel hallway. It was Halloween inside here.

As I was about to turn and run, he pointed gingerly, perhaps due to my heightened nervousness, to 2 typewriters against the wall. There was a near pristine 1950s Royal QDL and by its side, an exceptionally agreeable glass keyed Remington Portable. The price for the QDL was $75 – too high, especially since i picked one up earlier this month for $10. The Remington – not sure which portable but probably in the 1930s had an asking price of $90, but i see these on eBay for a lot more affordable a cost. Plus I dont really like either typewriter.

I thanked my new friend and bravely asked him to direct me to the least expensive typewriter he knows. Without a word he moved, left and right and left and right and straight and who knows where else. I only followed. From behind a mini piano he expunged a small yellowed case and said that this was $30. He capriciously opened the case and there was a decent Smith Corona Silent Super in peach/pink/light tan.

Ive read all the praise bestowed to this machine. There is a dedicated following to its supposed superior build despite its rather homely and near unsightly styling. I’d never quite wanted this particular typer but I did not want to leave empty handed. I wanted to survive this trek into the belly of the beast and have a trophy to show for it.

Somehow, I was brazen enough to ask if the price was negotiable. My companion stood statuelike for an eternity, as if he spotted medusa. Had my cavalier ways finally caught up to me and he was to turn werewolf or vampire and end my life, mummifying my body so it could not be found until aliens invaded and took over the world?

He struggled but again found the energy and ability to speak: ill take you up to the front desk.

As we rose from the depths, he became more human and more light and color entered in his face. He was damn close to conversational as we broke to the surface. He said that there was no such thing as 50% off – he had never heard of such a thing, but dealers likely would accept 10% off. Again, I was bold to suggest $25 is a fair price for this piece.

Once at the desk, he whispered to the man behind the desk – he looked like a life-sized hobbit. This hobbit was taller than me and he went to the phone and called the dealer. My offer was accepted and I am now the new owner of this old Silent Super. I am also a survivor of King Richard’s Antique Center.

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