On weight and necessity – typewriter love

Manual-RemingtonNoiseless8-9Its weight is the first thing you notice. It’s not ashamed of it. Not looking to be sleek or refined. It’s a workhorse, full of metal and grit, and the typewriter knows it. You wouldn’t want it any other way.

Like a boulder tumbling through the river of time, your typewriter is a reminder of necessity’s keen mind, when anything built and sold carried weight and therefore had meaning. There’s nothing plastic here, nothing disposable, only solid ability.

Spheres of influence count for nothing here. With a typewriter there is only the physical act. Connectivity, social, and mobile spheres hit the metal bars like waves smashing against concrete pillars. The lifeforms they breed return to their fluid realm, unable to find influence here.

Fingers caress the keys, circling their edges and indentations, and find conductivity. There the words will spill forth, from organic matter to solid machine. This holy union bridges the mind to a single purpose, channeling energy into action, strategically aimed, to a single outcome of universal possibilities. Here you’ll find no mental noise to interrupt that purpose, nothing to distract the union, and nothing to sway your attention. There is noise, talking to be had with your typewriter, but you know it cannot, will not, chirp, beep or tweet at you.

The sound chatters. It clunks, it grinds and zips and scrolls. It’s the sound of ribbon, of paper, of metal and spirit. It’s the solitary sound of your will, your intention, and nothing more.

(Piece written for Digital Gentry: the Social Media Museum Experiment’s Facebook page where I am guest curating for the month of January)

On hold with the IRS

Dainty canned piano music plays in my left ear courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service and their help line.

“Our representatives are still helping other customers. Please continue to hold.”

I should have been counting how many times they said it.

The piano music isn’t enough to make me fall asleep, but it tries. Did the person who wrote that ditty, and digitized it with his computer, know it would be heard by people tired of being on hold? That it would be the music people wanted to claw their eyes out while listening to? He probably got a fat check for making it. That’s what I imagine. He’s off on some island somewhere the tax man can’t reach him. Maybe he’s with the high-pitched woman who tells us to continue to hold? I can see them on a white beach sipping martinis and holding hands.

I click over to Facebook before the fantasy gets pornographic. A musician and a woman who does voice work for the Internal Revenue Service? That combination has “dirty-nasty” written all over it. Best go to social media and not use my mind. But before I can see any meaningless cat pictures or infographics of political dick measuring, I get a text and have to put the IRS on speakerphone. That guy-who-now-lives-on-an-island’s canned music sounds even grosser on speaker. The dog on the chair behind me sighs. She’s not thrilled about the music, but likes that I’m forced to sit here and wait.

The text reminds me I have other things to do. Of course I do. Everyone does. But the IRS takes precedent. They buttoned me up nicely a couple of years ago, but now have no record anything was ever buttoned up – ever infinity. Those records are gone. So let’s drop everything because a government institution, which can ruin a person’s life, can’t keep their shit straight.

“Our representatives are still helping other customers. Please continue to hold.”

Luckily the music man and voice-over woman have offshore accounts, I imagine. They took their payday and bailed on the broken system that pretends it’s always right. Of course they are. They have the authority to say that. Judging by how many times voice-over woman has stepped on the music man’s tune, I’d say they’re short-staffed. When you’re short-staffed nothing gets done right.

I picture the music man to be a scrawny white guy with long white hair and a clean-shaven face. He probably wears Ray-Ban eyeglass that tint in the sunlight. Right now he’s naked on that island. So is the voice-over woman. She’s humming his latest tune while planting kisses on his bare chest. He’s trying to figure out how to work her signature catch phrase into the tune. It’s cute. They’re playing role reversal without even thinking about it.

He tries to mimic her voice. “Our representatives are still helping other customers. Please continue to hold.” And now they’re both singing it.

I may very well forget what I called these people about by the time someone gets on the line. One thing’s for sure. This blog will be posted by the time I have to open my mouth and figure it out.

Abe Lincoln goes to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Spoiler Alert! Do not read if you have not seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If you do not care, keep on keeping on

Lincoln kept his hat on. Not sure why. It’s not like we were going to have our pictures taken or anything. If anything, people would think he was an actor on his way to a local theater production. They probably turned up their noses to that kind of thing. If he were Titanic Leo, they’d be on him like flies on fecal matter, but this is local theater we’re talking about.  Abraham liked the look. He knew it screamed his name. No one really copied his style after he’d been assassinated, so it was all him.

But that hat would cheese people off in the row behind us.

They came to see if J.J. could pull off a new Star Wars movie – as in making something we’d all like, non-fans, monster fans, women, men, transexuals, Republicans, Democrats, Muppets, kids, dogs and cats. So many waited like hungry zombies to see if he’d fail, so many thinking it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, to the sickening level of abject fervor, and were ready to devour those responsible with one out of place sentence – to digitally shame them for the rest of their natural lives – and if they came back from the dead like Abe did, for eternity – or as long as online fanboy trolling stays a thing – one or the other.

The tall former president leaned forward in his seat and snatched the popcorn as the lights dimmed. “As I was saying, Patrick. Being a writer, whether in the world of journalism or fiction, means you must teach humanity how it can grow, how it can be better than it was yesterday.”

“The hell it does.”

“Show your readers the true path to wisdom,” he said.

“The movie’s starting.”

“Yeah, shut the hell up,” someone said a few rows below us.

I looked behind us to make sure no one had their view blocked. Thankfully the seat was empty. Lincoln stuffed his mouth with popcorn, but kept speaking.

Bits of yellow filth jumped out of his mouth. “Wisdom can be found in any man, but most don’t know to look for it. A writer must teach these things.”

I couldn’t think of anything clever to say, but I kept thinking about how I love Six Million Dollar Man novelizations and read those more often than I did Strayed or Angelou. “Writers are no smarter than anyone else. Dumber probably. You’re not supposed to talk during a movie. I saw this on opening night remember. It’s a cool movie. Take your damn hat off and enjoy it.”

“This is why you can afford to listen to me, Patrick. You’ve seen this movie.”

I began to wonder why Lemmy from Motorhead, or Kubrick, or even Rowdy Roddy didn’t show up at my front door. It had to be Lincoln. The same dude from a row down shushed the sixteenth president before I could.

Abe continued. “You’ve seen this Star Wars. You already know Han Solo dies at the end.”

“Are you serious?” The man from a row down again. This time he was on his feet. Anger surged through his tall, muscular body. The evening deteriorated from there into a bloody mess of sneers, foul language, split lips and white hot pain. Security, police, rage and the realization that theaters and Abraham Lincoln do not mix. Spoilers trump wisdom. Experience can make you bleed. And humanity can grow backward. One thing I know for sure?

Abe punched first.

Not sure how to feel about it

USA, California, Big Sur, Esalen, a woman sits on the edge of the hot spring at the Baths and takes in the evening view, the Esalen Institute

I know I am excited. I know I think about it every single day. I know I can’t wait. At the same time, I fear it will go by so fast that it’ll be over before I know it.  Or it will be so alien to how I think I’ll leave with no real idea of what happened.  Or I will disagree with everyone or feel like a fish out of water. I suppose I just don’t know how to feel about it. But I can’t wait to go.

I’m talking about my first writers retreat – an unbelievable gift from Natalia for the holidays. I was given the choice of attending a writers conference, a retreat, or something similar that might add to my repertoire as a writer. After checking dates, costs, what was happening in the writing world where and when, I settled on The Writer’s Journey: Crafting Personal Stories that are Vivid, Compelling and True with the fascinating and well-traveled writer Laura Davis. This weekend workshop, located at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, takes off April 8, 2016, and is so close to our house in Seaside I can drive there in no time. Being that it’s Esalen, with views of the roaring Pacific Ocean and healing hot springs (not to mention the presence of literary ghosts in Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac to name a few), I’m also looking at the outing as a short respite from the world and a chance to meet Laura and others who love the written word.

Normally, retreats are the sort of thing I could never afford and, at the cost of such things, I would question whether they’re worthwhile. I’ve often wondered how writers, historically poor, can afford such diversions. Isn’t their time better spent writing? Would it benefit my writing if I went? Like forever? Shouldn’t that money go to an outstanding debt or my empty retirement? Or maybe a new computer or two?


Me and my not-so-gently-used copy of

Natalie Goldberg’s famous book.

But this is where I let go and allow my desire for knowledge to override my common sense. I have never done this sort of thing before and I have been writing for a long time. I want to know what a retreat is like. I want the experience. I could love it so much I’ll yearn to return. I could come away with reasons to never return. One thing is for sure. I will never know unless I go.

And I do plan to follow up on this blog with a post-retreat entry.

The Laura Davis/Esalen retreat includes meditation and personal exploration, and includes a mandatory reading of Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. I don’t meditate except when I’m trying to remember what I was supposed to do next on my to-do list. I’ve never thought my inner writer shackled to anything except my own time limitations. But I am excited nonetheless, maybe because I’ve never done these things, maybe because the idea of exploring my inner voice from a new perspective has me uncomfortable, or maybe I feel like I will be pretending (in glorious Big Sur of all places) to be something I’m not: affluent, metaphysical, interesting, privileged, etc.,

It could be we all merely pretend. Do it long enough and you’re an expert, right?