on the tools of this trade

Tech things which make me smile today? That, when faced with an initial Time Machine Backup, my 1T Passport drive gamely provided an estimate of the time this task would take. It started with “About 15 days” and then, a few minutes later, revised that downward to “About 14 days.” And then it thought about the matter a little more and came back with shorter periods successively until it reached “About 2 days,” on which it has apparently decided to settle. Two days, little black box: sounds more than fair to me. There are things about now that are really quite remarkable for someone born in the mimeograph, manual typewriter era.

Of course, the moment reminded me of an ongoing task: search again for a typewriter like the one I first learned on. For I value now and its tools, but I still pine for those which served me first. I keep on hand at all times: a box of fine pencils, actual erasers, an old wall-mounted pencil sharpener, ink pens and inkwells and bottled ink, Chinese brushes and rice paper and ink stones and sticks, ballpoint pens, onionskin paper, linen envelopes, three-holed lined notebook paper, and stacks of bound journals and notebooks from every country I’ve ever entered. Plus one old Big Chief lined tablet like the first one I got as a child for writing my stories. My writing shed is crammed with books, these tools, and others not yet obsolete in my time: microfilm and micro-opaque readers, paper punch, shredder, and then all the things that make now’s technology function (computers, multifunction printer, and so on).

I keep a dizzying array of style guides (for English and French in particular) and dictionaries in every language I’ve studied (minus, so far, the 20-volume OED that I want so badly) and about 15 Gregg shorthand books (because I’m determined to keep up the skill). It’s all the detritus of a writing life and I adore every jot of it, knowing full well that on my death it’ll likely get carted to the nearest landfill and the people having to do the carting are liable to cuss my memory with some heat. Still, I build and maintain it and dwell close to it even when far away, and in all ways I am heartened by its existence. I have not yet located a manual typewriter like the one I learned on in high school, though, and that’s the latest quest. Banging on those keys opens floodgates into other parts of a soul.

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