Friday, January 31, 2014

Where the Typewriters Live

Nothing new to report. Have been clearing out a single space to put the typewriters in, uniting my collection for the first time. This good-sized walk-in closet has two large shelves that might hold twenty typewriters on each. This isn't enough space, of course, so there will be some stacked on top of each other, and some put in sideways, and some on the floor. And there is room for a smaller table or shelf to go against the wall between the two larger shelves as well. I'll make them fit. I missed the deadline to get all my things out of storage so I have another month to do it now. So I'll bring them in over the course of the next few weeks and present the final results when they happen.

Empty spaces, what are we living for? Abandoned places, I guess we know the score.

Cigarettes and chocolate milk, these are just a couple of my cravings.

Baby, I've been here before. I know this room, I've walked this floor.

Pay no attention to those Neil Diamond albums. Just you move along.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Disappointment by the Pound

Yes, only love can break your heart.

Don't get me started. Seriously.

Oh, I knew. I knew. A buy-it-now $15 typewriter, no matter how beautiful, is rarely a bargain. You really can't expect much, but you hope. Hope has gotten me into a lot of trouble lately, it seems.

When I saw the box, I knew there was trouble. It was a large Priority Mail box, and it concerned me because I knew it had to contain both the typewriter itself and its simulated leather carrying case. In fact, I have an identical carrying case with my old Singer Scholastic T-4, and I knew the box was too small to hold everything.  But somehow it had to.

To my horror, this is how it did.

Don't let it bring you down, it's only castles burning.

The nearly 50-year-old carrying case was rolled up and scrunched into the box on top of the typewriter. Yeah, I'm assuming it will take much of its original form back when I put the typewriter in it, but it will never be the same again. I would have paid a few extra bucks to get some better packing, but I didn't have that option.

The bent letter is the K. It also sticks so I have to get some machine oil on it. I don't think that's going to be a problem. The bell doesn't work. I can live with that, even though I'm not crazy about it. The ribbon was tangled up in the machine, and I had to cut it out with a knife. Not a huge problem, since the ribbon was completely dried out anyway and needed to be replaced.


And man, this is a Kim Kardashian-sized but.

You're typing along, pretty as you please, functions are working as they should, and you get about halfway across the page. Then suddenly, it's like you hit the TAB key and are all the way at the end of the line. This is maddening. I'm sure it's something that can be fixed, but again I'm not a typewriter repairman and don't know that I want to put a significant amount of time and effort into a $15 ($26 after shipping) typewriter when I have a few dozen that work properly already.

It will probably be good for display. It's very pretty and clean, and it certainly won't be stained by ink from constant use. There aren't any parts that would work on the Scholastic T-4 (Royal Dart) since it's older and is nearly perfect anyway.  I am just going to have to consider it a lesson, though not necessarily that expensive of one. It's just annoying. This is a machine that I obviously wouldn't have bought if I had the chance to try it out first.

At this point, I probably have most of the typewriters I want, even if a few of them don't function as well as I'd like them to. I've been seeking out lower-cost models and that often limits me to machines with problems. I've never paid more than $50 for any of them, but I've been lucky to find a $20 Underwood 21 in near-mint condition, a great $25 early model Smith-Corona Skyriter, a $50 Royal Model O that I adore, and several other fully-functional typers that have given me no problems at all. It's just the luck of the draw.

What I'll probably do is stop buying machines from eBay, tempting as it is, at least for a while. I really prefer to check the typewriter out first and make sure I'm happy with it, and even if it costs a few extra bucks it's worth it. If I see something I really want, and can find a seller who can be really trusted to not screw it up, then maybe I'll do it. But otherwise I'm just throwing my money away for someone else's broken typewriter.

I don't know. It was just a sucky night. But it's not the end of the world, I guess.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Slowing Down and Catching Up

There's so much to do.

Stories to finish (I have several in progress but not very far), a storage building to clear out, books to categorize, typewriters to count...the days are just packed.

The outside world puts a lot of pressure on us, it seems like there's no extra time to do anything. The days seem to fly by. It feels like there's no left time to do anything once you've done what you have to. Time management is indeed a problem, and to paraphrase the late Jim Croce, it would be just peachy to place time into some sort of glass container to preserve it. But no, it's just not possible.

So, in the next few days (in which I am still not getting a day off, go figure) I need to make some room here to get my things out of storage. There will never be enough space here, though, so I might have to pay an extra month and gradually bring it in over the next thirty days. I have eight typewriters here, plus one on the way, and there are many more in storage (33? I'm guessing). Also there is a chair, a few tables, boxes of books, and other assorted items that can never possibly fit, ever. It's a nightmare.  But it's either get it out of there or continue to pay $46 a month to not have to look at it.

But I really want that chair. It's super comfy.

The Comfy Chair in happier times, when it had room to cavort with the typewriters.

I haven't mentioned I have another collection going, a growing stack of '60s/'70s sleazy spy fiction and also mainstream private eye novels, though there are a ton of those, too. I have a problem with shelf space now that I'm reacquiring some books I bone-headedly donated to charity last year in a misguided cleaning frenzy.

A collection of sleazy spy fiction like no other. I am the shame of my family.
I'd like to somehow carve out a space here to store the typewriters and display a few. I have a walk-in closet that might do the trick, if I can get some steel shelving in there. This is a project that will take several weeks or a few months, though.  I do believe I have the finest collection of portable typewriters in the East Texas area, though. And also, likely, the only collection of portable typewriters in the East Texas area. And if anyone has any information to the contrary, I'd like to hear it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Won and Lost?

Ebay (or eBay, if you will) is a tricky thing.

You have to take the seller's word for it, which is subjective at best. It's not my preferred method of buying typewriters by any means. The typewriter may well be in perfect condition when it leaves the seller, but it may also be dropped or damaged anywhere along the way. You can get insurance, sure, but what does that really do? And, even if the seller agrees to take the item back for a refund, are you really going to bother spending $20 to ship it back when you only spent $30 in the first place? My eBay typewriter experiences haven't been that bad so far, because I have usually only bought cheaper items and had less to lose. Some have been banged around a bit...but nothing that would warrant sending the items back, though.  I did have a situation with an Olympia typewriter that never arrived after a month, and the seller kept giving me the runaround about it. He finally told me that he had accidentally sent it back to himself. He asked if I wanted him to send it out again or take the refund, and I finally just took that rather than let him invent another excuse for why it wouldn't arrive next time.

The Royal Sabre arrived last week. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much. It was cheap as far as these things go, a gaudy avocado in color like a refrigerator of the late-1960s era, but with fake woodgrain highlights like some horrific station wagon. It was a bit more beaten up than I imagined it. This one was made in Portugal, a last-ditch destination for typewriter manufacturers trying to make a profit before they completely turned production over to Japan and then to China. These Royal models were made for a while in infinite colors and configurations, ultimately being sold in Singer, Montgomery-Ward, and Sears stores under their own names as well. They were branded as Aristocrats, Sabres, 890s, Safaris, Signatures, Customs, Magics(?), Caravans, Professionals, Cutlasses, and probably many other monikers that no one remembers.

Royal Sabre: the typewriter with the face of an angry cartoon robot.

Enjoy the look of genuine simulated glued-on imitation faux woodgrain. Classy.

My Royal Sabre isn't beyond repair, or bad. Just maybe largely imperfect. I jumped at a cheap one when I probably should have spent a few extra bucks to get a better-maintained model. When typing with it, it just stops about 3/4 across the page. That prompted me to simply adjust the margin for the line to end there. The keys are remarkably hard to press. They're not stuck. It just takes a lot of effort to make an impression on the page. Also, either the ribbon vibrator isn't high going enough or I have a bad ribbon, because some of the tops of letters are getting cut off. The capital letters seem higher than the lower-case letters as well. I don't think all this stuff equals a severely broken typewriter...just one that needs a good amount of work. This would make a wonderful parts machine. If nothing else, the bell works. A bit disappointing, but life is filled with those.

In a cardboard box at a sort facility in Oregon, getting ready to break my heart.

Hopes are higher for the Royalite '65 I got in a "Buy it Now" a few nights ago. Shipping and all, it was just over $25. Apparently in working order, whatever that means. I jumped on it because I knew it would sell very quickly and I only had one shot at it. I've literally seen machines disappear just as I was about to click "Buy". It does happen. That seemingly bent key in the picture concerns me, but it can probably be wrangled into place. But who knows. "Working order" doesn't always necessarily mean that. As Randy Newman said, Pluto's not a planet anymore. I'll let you know.

I prefer to test out typewriters before I buy them. That's really the best way to be satisfied. I will try to do that more regularly in the future.

Hoarders: Typewriter Edition

There's a very small flea market less than half a mile from my home, and they only have it one weekend a month. I keep seeing it on my way to work but I always miss it. It's been freezing here in Texas lately so I thought it might not happen this time, but I caught it open today and immediately saw this. It's not something I'd normally buy, frankly. When I'm looking at typewriters online, high shipping costs are what usually keep me from making a purchase. But since it was there, and passed my basic operation test (return lever works, bell rings, paper loads and advances, keys strike paper) and I didn't have to worry extra shipping, I just bought it. $9 is a fair price. I don't haggle on these things or try to get a better deal. What was I going to offer the guy...$7? Pointless. 

It looks really good, though. It has the plastic snap-on cover too. It's fine. I may seem unimpressed about the whole thing, but there are many typewriters in my life, and they're not all equal. If this was a Lettera DL or a 22 I would be much more excited, obviously. I mean, it's not some awful Chinese-made Generation 3000 that will fall apart as soon as I attempt to use it...but it's not *really* a Royal, either. Not as I know them. I have a 1934 Model O. You ain't fooling me, pal, But I'll put it through its paces and typecast something as soon as I can get the scanner hooked up. My life is really in disarray. I'd planned to move some stuff out of the storage unit this weekend, but...snow. I hate it like poison.

At this point, I don't even know how many typewriters I have. I did make an impulse purchase on eBay the other night, a "Buy it Now" Royal that I can't guarantee that I won't regret buying. I do need to also discuss the *other* Royal I got in the mail last week as well. That's an entirely different story, and a little disappointing. But I'll get to those in a bit. Here's today's Royal...a tan, plastic-bodied, made-in-Holland Caravan.

I'm no better than a crazy cat lady now. I can see it.

$9. What the hell was I going to do with it anyway, eat?

Keys. Not like the ones I have on my other typewriters. No sir, not at all.

And the Caravan is painted red and white. That means everybody's staying overnight.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tower of No Power

Back to the Bizarro World From Whence You Came!
 Again I found myself in Downtown Lufkin, looking at the same old antique and thrift stores. I thought it would afford me the opportunity to get a better look at the same old broken typewriters. The Tower Tabulator in particular stirred my interest. It's such a clean, good-looking typewriter, I wanted to see if they'd managed to put a price sticker on it. They hadn't. I hit the keys and nothing happened again. Well, not nothing. The ribbon vibrator functioned as intended, but the letter arms wouldn't budge. I tried to work a few of them and they were very hard to move at all. I moved one on the end and noticed it wasn't connected to anything. It feels like they are glued in place but I doubt this. Someone probably just put a dubious lubricant on this thing decades ago and it's frozen in time. Even if there was a price on it, I'm no typewriter repairman, and these '50s Smith-Coronas (Tower typewriters for the most part being rebadged S-Cs sold in Sears stores) are usually pretty inexpensive. So inexpensive, in fact, that I have four or five of them already. Although it looks fantastic, I don't think it's worth more than $15-$20 in its current non-working state. If everything worked, I'd be willing to go as high as $45-$50, tops. I already have a battered but working Tower similar to this that I picked up for $20 last year at a thrift store.

There's just not much used typewriter action in this area. I don't think I'm the only one actively searching out old machines here, I couldn't possibly be. I was working on a story in the lobby before work the other day (I work in a fast-food restaurant) using my old Hermes Rocket when I was approached by an older gentleman who said he hadn't seen a typewriter in years. He seemed completely fascinated by it, like he was looking at some sort of space alien. I get a lot of those sorts of looks, but few people say anything.

I've been having a bit of a problem getting days off from work, and I have yet to hook up my flatbed scanner on this new computer, but I do plan on doing some good old fashioned typecasting on here. I have about a week to get all my stuff out of my storage unit unless I want to get charged $46 for another month, and I would like to rescue the typewriters and get them all back into service again. I'm way behind on my new story, "Moustache of Evil", that will be available for Amazon Kindle as soon as I can finish it. Who knows when that will happen, though.

Stick with me, keep checking back, and perhaps I'll get back to doing this on a more regular basis. Shouldn't be long until things get a bit more normal, whatever that means.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Typewriters on TV: Roseanne Finale

First, honesty: I despise Roseanne, and I never watched a second of it. Not my kind of TV. However, I was interested enough to look at a YouTube clip of the final scene where she's writing her memoirs on an old portable typewriter. Looks like a Royal to me, and elsewhere in the scene there's a tan case sitting on a metal folding chair that looks like it holds a Royal. This is the best shot of the typewriter in the scene. This was 1997 or so, and I thought it odd that she didn't use a computer like Doogie Howser. But then I remembered her character was poor, and they probably had that prop typewriter sitting around in her fictional garage since 1989.

I've noticed, perhaps not as much now, that the media perception of "serious" writers has been that they use real typewriters, even thirty years into the home computer age. Tim McGee on NCIS, for example, has long been writing his novel on an old manual typewriter. Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote used a giant machine on her kitchen table to pound out novels, even though she was obviously a millionaire and could have afforded a proper office and state-of-the-art (for 1984, anyway) word processing equipment.

My dad bought a Brother electric typewriter in the late-'70s and that was the first machine I wrote on, though my sister had a pretty blue Smith-Corona portable I remember seeing her use when I was a child. I bought a used Montgomery-Ward Signature 510 in 1988 and refused to use a computer for years (though, obviously, I buckled and bought my first PC in 1995). I like to think I would have been a better writer had I held out, and that the time spent on the internet dulled my abilities. Hard to say, because what happened happened.

To be honest, I find it very difficult to write on a typewriter now. I'd like to. I love pounding the keys and hitting the return lever when the bell rings, but I find myself getting frustrated when I hit the wrong key or my thumb gets in the way. I've become too conditioned to the computer keyboard, which is sad to me. I can go back and delete things easily without wasting paper, and I don't have to re-type anything when I'm done, just copy and paste. But it doesn't seem right. I think we've lost something.

I have many typewriters (in fact, another one arriving today by UPS), but they seem like decoration furniture, which they are not. They serve a useful purpose and it's not fully realized sitting in a case for thirty years or on a shelf gathering dust. The computer is not the same, not at all. I'd like to train myself to use a typewriter again for serious long-form writing if it's not too late to do so.

If computers haven't spoiled me forever, that is.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Typewriters on TV: Kolchak the Night Stalker

Hard to tell exactly what machine Kolchak is using. I suspect a Smith-Corona Secretarial, but I have been and am regularly proven wrong about almost everything. It does happen.

No Auction Action

This was the eBay auction item I made a bid on yesterday, an Undewood Golden Touch. Didn't win, lost out at the last moment by 50 cents. Probably just as well, because it came without a case. It had come up before and I missed out on it because no one bid and it was re-listed at $19.99. It's similar to the one I got in the mail yesterday except for the color and the gold faceplate above the keys, and I already have a '55 Underwood in this color. Anyway, no biggie. They're plentiful, and I'll get one of these eventually.

The Day No Typewriters Would Grow

Sometimes you just can't win. Spotted this pretty Sears Tower Tabulator (Smith-Corona rebadge) at an antique store in Lufkin, Texas today. There was no price on it, and the wobbly typewriter table it was on was marked $20. However, when you hit the keys, nothing happens. The ribbon vibrator moves up but none of the keys do anything. Assuming they were stuck, I worked one of the letters up, but the keys didn't move. They don't seem to be attached to anything. Bummer.

Royal (Safari? I didn't pay attention to the model name, should have). Nice fine...yes...$30....yes. BUT. It's cursive script. I have no use for a script typewriter and I'm not in the business to try and sell them. Doesn't seem worth it.

Nice big Remington here. Works well as far as I can tell, seems to pass all the functionality tests (but didn't check the bell, which I normally do). My interest waned when I got a load of the $65 price tag. It's probably worth it, if you've got room for another huge typewriter (I don't) and if you have $65 to throw around (which I do, but don' know what I'm saying). If this was a $35 typewriter, we'd talk. It's certainly beautiful, I'll grant you that, and I'd love to have it. I just don't have the space for my own neglected mechanical children. I'm not ready to adopt again.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Here's to Future Days

This Royal Sabre I "won" on eBay. Meaning, I was the only bidder and it has to come to me via UPS on a truck, and for that pleasure I spent $30+ dollars. I don't care, because I have long wanted one of these. In fact, hours after I won this auction I saw a similar one at a local antique store for $30 but was turned off when I found it was a cursive script model. If I was just getting it just for display purposes that would be fine, but I try to use all my typewriters (hard to do when you have 40+, I admit) and I already have two cursive machines (an Olivetti Lettera 32 and a Remington Personal Riter) that don't see much action. Aside from that one, every other typewriter I saw there cost $65, and none of them were worth it. Gaudy and tactless as it appears, I await the arrival of this one with great interest.

A Kind of Madness

As near as I can tell, this is a 1958-ish Underwood Golden Touch Jewell, a beautiful machine that arrived today. Damn near flawless and beautiful, save for a bell that doesn't always catch. Very clean, and well worth the $10 (plus shipping) it cost me. I had sworn off buying more typewriters, you know. But then I bought this one, and another one, and have a bid on yet another that ends in a few hours. Also, my mom's boyfriend died recently and I inherited a Smith-Corona electric from him. I don't even know what my total is now. 41? 42? Somewhere in there. Most of my machines remain in storage, but my intention is to free them by the first of February and get back to doing this blog on a more regular basis. I also have several stories in the works and hope to have something new on Amazon in a few days. I'll be in touch, because it looks like a big week ahead.