We haven't gone on a weekend trip in over a year, due to the pandemic. This weekend presented us with an opportunity to take a well needed weekend getaway. On May 14th, the American Writers Museum in Chicago, Illinois had their soft re-opening with a Ray Bradbury exhibit. Valerie and I had to plans to speak of so drove down Friday night so we make the opening time of 10 a.m. The museum is located at 180 North Michigan Avenue ( a couple of blocks from The Art Institute Museum) on the second floor.
Once in I immediately felt a sense of awe. Maybe it's something that religious people sometimes feel in church. I felt that I had entered a place of deities of American literature. They were all there, all in one place. Hemingway, Hansberry, Poe, Chandler, Wright, and Baldwin. I knew immediately that I would have to come back again in order to take it all in. It is not something that one can do all in one visit. I felt renewed and recharged. I felt an inspiration to write and definitely a push to read more.
And there are typewriters. Ray Bradbury's Royal was part of the Bradbury exhibit, but just beyond that was a long table where 6 typewriters sat for public use. Stacks of American Writers Museum letterhead were there to that attendees could leave a note or a poem or a memory.
I left a quickly improvised poem for them
There are many interactive displays within the museum. As I said before, I have to go back very soon. I have not felt that inspired to create in a long time.
And on the way out, I saw an old friend and influence
Go for the Ray Bradbury exhibit, stay longer for everyone else!
I am fascinated by the origins of words or phrases we use or hear in every day life but take for granted. I hope to post more writing in the future. I am also open to suggestions! The word, being that it is May 1st is Mayday, but the distress call, not the holiday (aka Beltane).
Anyone who has watched older WWII related movies has heard Mayday! being used when there is trouble. It is used primarily with aviators and mariners, but in some cases firefighters and police use it. Conventionally, the word is repeated three times when an emergency occurs. The repetition is to prevent it being mistaken from similar sounding phrases and to distinguish it from an actual distress call (as opposed to someone referring to a mayday call)
The term "mayday" was conceived as a distress call in the early 1920s by Frederick Stanley Mockford, officer-in-charge of radio at Croydon Airport, London. Most of the air traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris. Mockford proposed the term "mayday," which is the phonetic equivalent of the French m'aidez ("help me") or m'aider (a shortened form of venez m'aider "come and help me").
The procedure word was officially adopted by the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington as a distress call. The previous distress call "SOS" was derived from Morse Code, but was unsuitable for radio or telephone calls due the the difficulty of distinguishing the "S" in voice communication at the time.
There have been many changes around here recently. My focus has shifted radically from what it was even a year ago. Part of these changes were indeed brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. For around ten years I tried to at least supplement my income by participating in outdoor art fairs. A year and a half ago, I opted to not apply to any art fairs. A couple factors were involved. The increasing heat brought on by climate change was one, and I have minor health issues that wasn't allowing me to sit outside for 8-10 hours in a stretch. The other factor was, well, I wasn't making a sustainable income.
That part of the decision to change things was easy. It was a passive action. I just stopped applying to shows.
The more direct action came about a month ago. I sold the canopy that I used for the outdoor shows. I carried it, along with all the weights, stakes, and other accessories, in my van for two years. I finally decided it was time to let it go. If I ever decide to do art fairs again, they will be indoors. There aren't that many indoor shows, but I suspect there might be more in the future.
That being said, the next step I'm about to take is to put my etching press in storage. At first I considered selling it. I haven't printed anything in nearly a year and I would like to use the space it occupies for other purposes. Namely, I want a desk. Preferably an older (antique) one. I picture a metal gooseneck lamp and other accouterments like pencil cups and a blotter pad.
Many of you already know this, but I have found a new passion, which in turn, renewed an old passion. The new passion is typewriters. Specifically, vintage portable typewriters. I am teaching myself to repair and restore typewriters. The first typewriter, a Remington QuietRiter, I purchased over a year ago and thought it would be the only one I would need. Then I watched the documentary California Typewriter in January and it sparked something in me. Since early February I have accumulated sixteen more machines. I'm about to go out this afternoon and buy one, possibly two more.
The passion that was renewed? Poetry. About 30 years ago I tried to be a poet. It didn't work out. This was just as the Internet was about to take off. I didn't even know there is such a thing as typewriter poetry. Now I have my own poetry website Three Dollar Poetry. I encourage you to check it out.
Of course, I'm rambling, although I do have a point and purpose. And it is this: You can have a passion for creating something and not think about making it a "side hustle." I mean, of course you can but it isn't always necessary or even viable. That was my problem with printmaking. I didn't make very much money with it and unfortunately that was the largest part of my focus. With poetry and typewriters, well, I don't think I'm going to make any money on it and that is quite alright. In fact, not focusing on money aspects makes the passion more enjoyable.
So, yes, I'm going on twenty typewriters. I don't plan on keeping them all. There the typewriters I love and will keep, but there are those I plan on cleaning up and selling them. In fact, I just listed the one pictured above on eBay. And what will I do with the money, if I sell it? Buy more typewriters, most likely!
What did you think I was going to say?
He makes some very good points...
Want to know more about typewriters? Subscribe to his YouTube channel!
This afternoon I listened to the beginning of Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks in the van on the way home from work. The music suddenly palpated my brain and I had an epiphany that in order to write on a daily basis as I want to I needed to stop using black notebooks and switch to blue ones. It was as if I had woken from a long sleep and I knew then what I had to do. I searched the better part of the evening for somewhere to buy a blue notebook. It didn't have to have lines or dots or matrices, it only had to be blue. Perhaps decent paper would be good given my choice of pen. The rarity of such a thing only inflamed my desire, my need to own one. I finally found one but am now forced to stew in my passion until it arrives. While I wait I will take the black notebooks and journals that I have written and drawn in and collected over the last 10 years on a bookshelf and put them in boxes to sit in the studio closet where eventually they might get discarded since they represent something that I was at the time but am no longer.
Every spring the dormant
seed that lies sleeping
below the ice and snow
emerges from the
dream of being just a seed
and becomes a flower
or a tree
or a blade of grass.
Everyone who really knows me knows I am more than a bit of an introvert. Although I joke that I am a functioning sociopath, it's really not the truth. I am not anti-social for the most part. I enjoy talking to people, I love hearing their stories. My full-time job allows (requires) me to talk to people all day. I have met an array of people with the full spectrum of personalities. I enjoy, for the most part, talking with them.
And it's also exhausting...
On the weekends, it is quite a different story. I call the weekends hermit time. Hermit time is necessary for me to exist. Hermit time is when I manage to recharge my batteries from the day to day where I am in public. Hermit time is a requirement.
It's not necessarily solitude. I don't go off into the woods spending the weekend in a cabin to "get away." I am not a Thoreau. What it really is is a matter of being in control of my environment. I read what I want to read, listen to the music I love (frequently with headphones). I make art, I write, I work on my rapidly growing collection of vintage typewriters. I drink my coffee from a real cup instead of a travel mug. I listen to the noise of my own choosing.
I mentioned typewriters. As some of you know I have a new found passion for vintage typewriters. Part of my hermit time is teaching myself how to restore and maintain vintage typewriters. I have nine typewriters at this writing. I am not planning on fixing them and re-selling them. Each one of them is different. I tell myself (and Valerie) that I am done searching for now, There is one more on my list, however. I am keeping my eyes out for a reasonably priced typewriter with a script (cursive) typeface.
And you may ask, what does my wife, Valerie, think of all this? The best I can say is that she loves me and knows I need this to be a functioning adult. When her weekends are free, we go on our own adventures. We both love road trips. Road trips are part of hermit time. Like I said, I do not aspire to be like Thoreau. Since Spring is definitely coming soon, there are road trips in our immediate future.
As I sit here this morning, I am sipping an espresso, listening to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and contemplating my own hermit time for the day. I have nothing on my agenda that involves being in a crowd, no gatherings to attend. Even if I did I would be trying to find ways to get out of it. Avoiding crowds is definitely part of hermit time. I have food, books, coffee, and the love of person who understands me. What more do I really need?
Hermit time is what you want it to be. It's basically taking control of your environment, even if it's just for a day or two. It doesn't have to be productive. It could be sitting around watching TV all day, although I usually find that over-stimulating. Over-stimulation is exactly what I take pains in avoiding.
We all have our addictions, things we have to have to endure or cope. My addictions when I was younger were definitely more self-destructive. My current ones are definitely better for me. They don't ravage the body. They don't as of yet cause me to turn to petty crime to satisfy. The financial cost, well, yeah, there's that.
I am addicted to books, coffee, reading, doodling. And now add to the list: typewriters. Collecting vintage typewriters. I just purchased the third one, the 1946 Smith Corona, a few days ago. It's the beautiful machine on the right.
Oh, it started innocently enough. About a year ago, I started noticing an occasional post on Instagram of typewriter poetry. It stirred something in me that I didn't realize was still present. Twenty-five or so years ago, I aspired to be a poet. I had a few pieces published here and there, nothing major. It was fun while it lasted. However, I put myself into a living situation that caused any creative impulses to just dry up. I was rudderless and drifting for about five years.
I feel like that wasn't me, that was a different person. Once I got back on my feet, though, the creative energy was back.
Sorry, that was some tangent...
Yes, typewriters. I forgot where I was....
Again, about a year ago I felt the poetic urge again. I scoured Craiglist and other resale venues for a decent, inexpensive, and vintage typewriter. It didn't take long and soon I became owner of a 1956 Remington Quiet-Riter. Soon after, I posted my first poem in a long time on Instagram.
Nine months or so went by. Although I still went to work daily (being an essential worker) the pandemic caused Valerie and I, along with others, to stay home more. To oversimplify, it forced us to read more, watch more movies, and not eat out. I coped with this pretty well, being a weekend hermit anyway. And one night while perusing movie choices, I came across the documentary California Typewriter. And a new facet of life opened up for me.
I'm not sure why I felt like having one typewriter wasn't enough. But here we are. I have three. There are so many beautiful typewriters out there, available for purchase. Some are even restored completely. I had no idea that is was such a movement. So yes, I am obsessed with typewriters. Manual typewriters, specifically.
Of course, I can quit at any time. I also am, at least for now, out of space in the studio.
Welcome to the new home of Coffee Before Pants.
I needed a change and I needed to organize my websites (I manage three now) more efficiently. You can still find older posts at the old site.
I tried to import the blogger site to here, but was unable to. Nothing like a fresh start, right?
My intention is to post on a semi-regular, less sporadic basis. I have 2 other websites, one features my art work, the other is for my typewriter poetry and other typewriter related things. I didn't list juggler in my bio. Maybe I should have...
Thanks for stopping by. Keep checking back. A website seems to be a constant work in progress. At least that's how I am approaching it.