I have always loved movies about writing or writers, as well as about teachers. I hold an affectionate feeling for stories about these two professions that are dear to me. Newspaper stuff, especially, since I come from a newspaper family. It’s in my blood.
I also love the accouterments. Take the beloved typewriter. I learned how to type on one. Granted, it may not have the fluidity of a computer, but the computer sure doesn’t have the character and pleasurable writing experience of a typewriter.
Recently, I randomly happened upon a bar in Larimer Square in Denver whose wall was decorated with hanging vintage typewriters. Be still my heart! Now this is a place for a writer to go.
The clanking noises of the typewriter keys, pressing the return button and seeing the rolled onion skin paper slide back and forth before you, all the grand clicking sounds, and seeing the inky letters actually make their way onto the paper … it’s fun! If errors were made, there is a trace. Your writing process is somewhat preserved. All in all, with the staccato cadence and spools of ribbon, it is a multi-sensory tactile experience that lends the assignment a certain sense of importance. Like you are doing something more than merely writing; it’s as if you are producing an important document or preparing for something momentous. Meanwhile, it could be that your paper only shows the words: “Hello, how are you?”
I remember the first time I heard Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter.” But of course, I thought to myself: The typewriter as a musical instrument! It’s banging, bell ringing and clicking — why it’s a perfect percussion instrument. I could now imagine being asked what instrument I played and replying, “I play the typewriter.”
I fall each and every time for the frenzied pace and shenanigans of writer’s angst to get the story, only to be followed by writer’s adrenalin, an intensity the likes of the sky falling depending on it. Capture the story as well as possible under the looming deadline.
In this spirit, years ago I came across the movie “His Girl Friday,” an adaptation of the 1928 newsroom themed Broadway play, “The Front Page.” Among the reviews the remake got were phrases such as, “with the rattling fanfare of a hundred manual typewriters,” “with its augustly, nicotine stained pressroom,” “the sense of a professional tribe collectively hypnotized by their own high-octane mythology,” “sense of infectious breakneck speed,” “snagged a scoop,” “beleaguered but indomitable craft,” “regular occurrence of unexpected events,” and so on. I was drooling.
I decided I must see the play. And so I did. The scenery throughout was an unchanged antique newsroom. That’s it. The oak or mahagony roll desk, with its accordion-like feature that literally rolls over the top and surface of the desk. The thick coarse glass wooden lined walls and doors — and typewriters of course. The play was a real throwback.
The dialogue and story are humorous and witty, pretty similar to the movie adaptation I was familiar with. I walked away with an appreciation for the craft, art and responsibility (and addiction, I might add) of finding, reporting and telling a good and important story. But what I walked away with most was a sense of nostalgia for that old newsroom, and especially the good ’ol typewriter!
Then and there I decided I would get myself a vintage, aqua-mint-keyed Hermes typewriter, just like the petite portable one my father used to write papers as a college student, which he kept throughout my childhood. Countless times I would be sitting beside him in various Jerusalem hotel lobbies, mesmerized, as his fingers swiftly hit the typewriter keys. It was so small, it was kind of like a typewriter laptop.
Anyway, after the play, I went ice skating. And as luck would have it, I fell and slammed my body backward on the ice (after skating gracefully for a good 40 minutes, I might add). Off to the doctor. And lo, one of the instructions: No technology! No cell phones! No computers!
A friendly neighbor popped in to visit and somehow it came up that I am on a technology hiatus. Knowing I write a weekly column she mentioned she had recently found a typewriter at a flea market and that I am welcome to use it.
So here I am typing to you, reader — yes typing — from high above Manhattan’s Central Park with a crystal-clear view of the park enrobed in snow-y white, dotted by amber lit lamps, as dusk is descending.
From a vintage, aqua-mint-keyed Hermes 3000 typewriter!
Copyright 2017 Intermountain Jewish News