An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

07 August 2009

My typewriter

I’m trying not to get intimidated by the recent discovery that I use the same typewriter as William Faulkner used to have, which is an Olympia SM-1 dating back to the late forties. It looks like this. Mine is in a sexy cranberry color, while Faulkner’s, I assume, is black. (Although with writers, one never really knows, and there are no photos of his Olympia SM-1.)

Of course he was also known to use other typewriters, such as the Remington 12 – presumably as his desktop typewriter – and the Underwood Standard Portable – presumably as his portable. I, on the other hand, have noticed that I have twice in my life ended up with Olympias.

I began with my father’s Olympia Traveller Deluxe, which he had since he was in college, and which he used to type his papers, letters, and speeches, most notably his speech when he graduated with a business degree and high honors from the Ateneo de Naga in 1976. I found a photo of it online.

When I found that typewriter, I was seven years old, and just a few days I learned to use it like a pro. At first I used it in secret, only while my parents were away, and used to hide from our maids while I typed, turning up the volume of the cartoons I used to watch on the Betamax player to drown out the clackety-clackety sound of the gray-and-white Olympia portable. I wrote stories, I believe. Long, narrative stories with no dialogue and which had mostly descriptions of places and people, because I fell in love with how a single block of text looked like, in type, flowing out from the typebars operated by my small, frantic fingers.

Eventually my parents found me out, and they just shrugged their shoulders. I ended up being my mother’s official typist. During summer vacations when school would be out for over two months I would spend the mornings reading in bed, and the afternoons in the comprada with my mother, where she would make me type data into forms and envelopes for two to three hours a day.

I don’t know where that typewriter is now. Maybe it is still in the bodega behind my childhood home, which is now inhabited by a second cousin and his family. My Dad visited me recently, and I asked him about it. He still remembers it. He smiled and said, “It has a matching case.” But what I do like best about it is that its keys are not exactly square. I found that very stylish.

In 2000, when I was pregnant with Chandler, I walked into Save on Surplus in Naga City, looking for something which I have now forgotten, and I came across several typewriters displayed on a shelf along the furthest wall of the store. The Olympia SM-1 was displayed in the middle of the middle shelf. Even from about four feet away, I knew that typewriter was mine. After I typed, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” in the spare paper already inserted in its feed, I purchased it for 3,000 pesos.

The salesman took about ten minutes looking for its case in the storage room, and handed the black, battered thing to me. And then as if I had been doing it for a hundred years, I positioned the back of the typewriter to engage with the hook in the case, slowly lowered the typewriter to align with the four metal pits for the typewriter feet, and gently pushed the typewriter down. The locks snapped into place approvingly, like a salute. When I straightened up, I saw the salesman looking over my shoulder with an incredulous expression on his face.

The Olympia has been with me ever since. With it, I wrote on my long-running file of index cards, the first draft of my first (and only) screenplay for a class under Rene O. Villanueva, my novel-in-progress (which, alas, I am still working on), the first draft of “At Merienda,” many letters (which I mailed), countless lists and notes-to-self, and an estimated three reams of letter-sized onion skin paper’s worth of diary entries. I'm no William Faulker, but I sure know how to work a good typewriter.

I am still typing. (Turns out I am not intimidated by the William Faulkner factoid.) And although my Olympia SM-1 shall probably outlive me, as it has outlived its previous owner, in my hands it shall continue to see the most care and the most typewritten pages ever.

[Other related links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]


Blogger Blogger 10.555.5.17.0 said...

Ahahahaha. I agree. It's hypnotic and magical, I feel, how the letters jump out to form the words which expresses how we feel -- well, that's how it is with me, when I would write my letters, long ago.

I now have a mental image of the young you, taking secret delight in using her folks' typewriter. =)

In my other, more secret blog, the journal which I keep for myself, the font type is Old Typewriter. It's my way of paying tribute to the grand old machine of long ago. (Fewer and fewer machines are being sold na, daw.).

Great entry today. Very nostalgic-lotion-ish. Thank you.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Strikethru said...

Nice post. I like the story of your typing experiences as a child. I have the orange traveller de luxe and love the way it looks, although it types kind of strangely.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Thanks, Strikethru. I did see photos of your orange OTDL, your find from eBay. It looks adorable. But then I am biased towards Olympias -- and towards all typewriters for that matter. No matter how strange they may type. :) I've never seen a typewriter I didn't like.

I'm flattered to see you here!

10:01 PM  
Blogger deek said...

Nice story. I've never typed on an Olympia...I may have to change that!

10:55 PM  

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