Sunday, April 30, 2023

I appear in the Cincinnati Enquirer

Every decade or so, I get highlighted in Cincinnati media as a local oddball. (Here's a story from Cincinnati Magazine, 1999.)

Recently (though not very recently) Cameron Knight of the Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed me by letter. His story has now been published—and I was surprised to find myself on the front page of the Sunday paper, looking all too serious. I'm called an "eclectic." (Is that the polite version of "eccentric"?) 

It's a fine story, not just about me but about today's typewriter culture in general. Click on the image below for a PDF.


If you happen to subscribe to the Enquirer, you can find the digital version here, complete with animated typed captions and a few extra photos.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Free thoughts at the end of the school year

 I'd been hoping to be joined by two friends for public typing on the last day of the Spring semester, but one was overwhelmed with work and the other was sick. So I was typing solo—which takes some courage. Fortunately, I had just listened to typewriter poet Kro's recent podcast on this very topic, so I was good to go.

I found myself sitting alone at the Voss, on a cool and overcast day, with no one in sight. Would I have any takers?

Here they come!

Students from Xavier's Montessori school were going around campus, planting trees on Arbor Day. They crowded around the typewriter and were full of questions and ideas.

Here are my thoughts for the kids (on topics of their own choosing).

Another crowd came up—this time, a soccer team. 
Though the typing isn't in focus, the gist of it was: the thrill of the game will be worthwhile even if you don't win, but I bet that you will.

There was a steady stream of more people wanting thoughts for over an hour. Here are some of the results.

This one I typed back in the office for my fellow associate dean, who knows Hebrew (I looked up the word for "headaches" and typed it on my Remington 92).

All told, though I would have loved to have fellow typists, I had a great time serving as typewriter bard today. But the best moment came at the end of the day, when a wonderful student came by my office to share the speech she will be giving at our commencement ceremony—a speech that remembers a thought I typed one year ago

Thursday, April 6, 2023


Here are a few typewriters that recently left my collection, or are about to. Gorgeous treasures, all! How can I let them go?? 

Let's just say that I'm planning for a simpler old age, and when you have hundreds of typewriters, you don't want to wait until you're actually old to start saying goodbye to them. That would risk leaving your heirs with a huge headache. 

I would like to curate my collection down to a few machines that I love to use, that have a lot of personal meaning to me, or that are very rare or historic.

Most of my typewriters were built before I was born, and (I expect) will survive my death. Owning a typewriter means appreciating a thing that is more durable than you are. You are just its caretaker for a few years—or decades. Learning to let go of it can be a form of practicing generosity and wisdom—and preparing for the ultimate letting-go.

Here are the typewriters I'm parting with, in no particular order.

This 1940 Everest Mod. 90, made in Italy, features an italic typeface and an odd keyboard: QWERTY, with English on the shift keys, but with Italian peculiarities—it's necessary to shift to get numerals and a period. This is a very "mechanical" typewriter. Like on early Royal portables, you can sense all the levers working and gears turning with every keystroke. It isn't hard to type on, but doesn't feel very sophisticated.

The streamlined, glossy Coronas—the most beautiful ones, for my taste—were made for only a couple of years. This example dates from 1938. By my count, I've owned at least 18 typewriters made that year. It's a high point of engineering and design. I have used this typewriter to write some letters over the years, but for whatever reason, it has not become a regular.

Here's an Olympia SM3 that I had repainted by an auto body shop (I removed the panels and they did the job for just $100). This was some 15 years ago, when I was just getting to know the '50s Olympias that are so familiar to many typists, and I was just starting to experiment with customization. I used this typewriter, among others, to take a shot at NaNoWriMo in 2008. I didn't get very far

Here is a later, postwar Everest—a K2 made in 1954. All Everests have distinctive styling whose proportions you may love or hate (I like them!). Their controls are also idiosyncratic. As for the user experience, Will Davis has written, "My impression of the Everest is that the touch is not unlike that experienced when one takes a large, dead fish by the tail and whacks it on a wooden table." The linkage between key and typebar on the K2 doesn't create any acceleration or snap.

This 1935 Erika no. 5 is one of the typewriters I've owned longest. I picked it up at a yard sale in Chicago sometime in the late '80s. At the time, I knew nothing about typewriter history. I knew that I loved my 1937 Remington Noiseless no. 7, and '30s design in general. But as far as I knew, most typewriters were just "boxy" and "boring." I also bought a maroon Remington portable no. 2 in Chicago around the same time. These three typewriters were the seed of a collecting passion that was to explode in 1994.

This 1957 Alpina is a stunning machine, with pearly, light green paint and a handsome Imperial-style typeface. I treated it to a new platen, and have used it occasionally for letters and at type-ins. But it never became a typewriter that I adored for regular use.

In 1956, Underwood came out with three versions of the Deluxe Quiet Tab: gray and turquoise, two-tone brown, and black and white. The eye-popping styling is credited to Paul Braginetz. The gray and turquoise and black and white machines typically had the quirky "Continental" typeface (get it as a font on my website). This one is Continental elite. As on all '50s Underwood portables, the quality of materials and assembly is not top-notch, but it is a very cool machine.

My last goodbye (for now) is this 1938 (yes, again!) Rheinmetall portable, with maroon wood-grain finish and italic type, which will be going to a certain collector who adores distinctive typefaces.

If you're wondering when I'm going to sell more machines, keep your eyes on eBay in the second half of this year. I'll probably post something on this blog and on other social media alerting you to the sale.