Monday, September 1, 2008

The Patina of Creativity

For the past few days I’ve had a back and forth with someone interested in buying one of my two Olympia SG1s. I’m willing to sell either for $75 plus postage, which in this case came to roughly $50. We live on opposite sides of the country. We also, apparently, live on opposite sides of typewriter collecting.

Neither SG1 is in perfect condition, but in ways I find endearing. Both are, and were, used. These aren’t “pretty” machines. They are long-haulers that can pull literary or secretarial weight. They did 50 years ago and they can do so today.

One word describes them: BUILT.

I said they weren’t perfect. Let me be specific because it is on the specifics that that the potential buyer and I differ in perspective.

The margin stop for the machine on the left no longer works. But the bell does, so the writer has been amply warned. This machine does not coddle. The baseline is minutely lower for the caps, but it almost looks intentional, particularly because its font is 11-point “Senatorial,” a squarish sans serif. Very modern and readable.

The other machine is in better shape but lacks the intriguing font. It has the omnipresent 11-point Times Roman. The lower and upper cases line up and the right margin holds firm against the colliding carriage.

But both typewriters share a blemish that troubled the would-be buyer. On each the chassis beneath the space bar show signs of a palm resting. The paint is worn thin from so many paused palms. You can see the blemishes on both sides, but, for some reason beyond me, they seem more pronounced on the right.

I’ve come to think of these blemishes as “inspiration marks.” While the palm rested, the muse played with phrasing and transitions, searched for just the right word. Entire plots may have been turned during these moments. Or just the right salutation, the one that sealed the deal, may have been chosen.

Here beneath the space bar, fingers at rest, palms at ease, change happened.

So I’m pleased that the pauses have left their mark on the SG1s. They are as much evidence of use the inked keys, worn ribbons and a breached right margin stop.

To me, these worn spots are the patina of inspiration.

As I write this, the buyer has not responded to my description of the blemishes. I wrote him that if he was interested in finding a blemish-free SG1, I was confident he would eventually be successful. Much of the fun of collecting is the search and the discovery.

I did not tell him that to my mind, a pristine SG1 is soulless, bearing no evidence of serving a cause, of aiding a spirit.