1. A Vintage Beauty
Recently the girl at our local hardware store, knowing I’m a writer, offered me an old typewriter. Although somewhat of a historian, I’m not in the habit of collecting artifacts. But there was a special allure to the instrument I used to start my writing career. (Yes, I’m that old!) Always being somewhat suspicious of new technology, I held out until 1990 to start using computers and word processors. I could hardly have known then that all my earlier writing, produced on a little portable Olympia with a hardshell case, would soon become artifacts of a passing age. Now of course the typescript once produced by typewriters is almost an arcane art form for young designers.
While wondering where on Earth I was going to find room to store this little beauty, I decided to make a quick detour to the Valley Voice office, where Dan and Jan were busy toiling to deadline for the next issue. “Wanna see my new ‘laptop’?” I crowed with a mischievous grin, popping open the oh-so-cool molded case. They both laughed. Dan said, “Some of my best work was done on one of those.” (Dan is just a couple of years younger than I am.) The case even had some paper slipped into a pocket so I plucked out a sheet and rolled it into the carriage. Having just been out walking in the brilliant autumn sunshine bouncing off every golden leaf, a title sprang to mind: ‘Autumn in New Denver.’ (Not another poem, goddammit!) I started typing whatever came to mind. Surprisingly, the resulting poem seemed to hold potential. I wrote a second draft, typed another copy, then signed the original and handed it over to Dan as a keepsake. (Or firestarter, as he likes to call back issues of the Voice. I have no illusions about my legacy.)
The Majestic 612 even felt like my old Olympia—if indeed that’s what it was, memory being what it is these days. They share the same sky blue shade of silky smooth enamel, are equally compact compared to the monster Remingtons of an earlier era, and both came with snazzy, fitted cases that snap the typewriter neatly inside for carrying. Proudly inscribed on a tag inside the case of the Majestic 612 are the words, “Typewriter and case made in Nagoya Japan.” Now there’s something you don’t see much of these days from manufacturers—pride for a well-made product. Thanks to the Gates-Jobs Universe, everything now is designed for obsolescence the moment it comes out.
Call me old-fashioned but I grew up in an era when there was still pride in a job well done, when a product was made to last a lifetime and function with little or no repair. My old Pentax K1000 film camera lasted me nearly 20 years without a hitch or any need for an expensive upgrade other than adding lenses. True, I had to pay for film and developing but I’m willing to bet the constant upgrades in both hardware and software for digital photography costs a helluva lot more. That’s the plan.
My Olympia typewriter, if cared for properly and stored in its handy case, looked as new when it was sold as the day I bought it. I don’t remember how long I had my sky-blue magic machine but it was built to last for decades. Not a great plan for making billionaires of industrial capitalists, I grant you. But it was elegant, and made sense, from the utilitarian, esthetic and even environmental standpoint. With some economists now calling for a ‘steady state’ economy to avoid overtaxing Earth’s resources, this ethic may yet come back into vogue. But just as “no good deed goes unpunished,” no good idea that threatens profits can escape being ignored, so I’m not holding my breath.
2. A Shy Beauty
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Fall has always been my favourite time of year. Possibly this is due to having a late September birthday, so there’s some biological predisposition to enjoying the autumn. Partly I’m sure it’s due to the artist in me, seeing the world come alive with splashes of colour in a final celebratory dance just before the land slips into a deep sleep. It’s a liminal threshold—that brief moment between worlds before skies darken and the heavy rains come that presage snow. Not unlike the dream state we inhabit as shreds of dreams cling to waking consciousness. The somnolence and deep cold of winter challenges us to hold on to these scraps of vision before they’re lost.
Winter has its own beauty, of course, as all seasons do. Though I suppose it helps to grow up Canadian to appreciate the beauty of a frost-tinged landscape. Summer is easy to love but like a too-obvious beauty on the beach, often lacks the depth of a more ponderous season like autumn. Spring is the great dance of life awakening, moist and newly green. What’s not to like? But like a shy beauty, autumn can be devilishly difficult to photograph, and even harder to capture in words.
Yet in a world that wants to capture everything, reduce it to ones or zeroes, there’s something to be said for autumn’s elusive quality….