I learned about the Rosicrucians after my girlfriend visited the grounds in the hills of Oceanside, CA, in December. The eeriness of the place struck us: it seemed abandoned, but one felt eyes peering from the dilapidated buildings. Although there is housing for the needy, I saw almost no people and cars while photographing the temple grounds from December to March.
I tried to capture these feeling of Kafkaesque unease, and initially planned to structure the essay that way, but that wouldn’t have been true to how I came to feel about the place. I find solace there when I need to get away, and it has been giving and comforting. It has become a silent friend, an oasis brimming with poems and nuanced gestures.
These 12 pictures were intended at first to only be in color for the sake of uniformity, but that would have sharply limited my choices: I usually use black-and-white film. They were taken with 35mm- and medium-format cameras.
This is the first in a series of photo essays.
While compiling my last collection, The Elastic Dome, I began a series of poems titled “The Radio Odes” using various cut-up techniques. Some of those surrealist works were included in the book. They were composed by arranging excerpts from feature shows and news reports from a popular broadcasting station. I wrote down the snippets that struck me, rearranged and tweaked them, and added a few lines of my own. Some turned out well; others didn’t pass muster.
I’m turning to cut-ups again, and plan a collection further on. Some are traditional, but the majority have my own spin. My source material at the moment is radio, newspapers, magazines, journal entries and excerpts from correspondence. The ones pictured were mined from a torn photocopied letter, a character sketch and a copy of Mark Twain’s On the Decay of the Art of Lying.
The Third Mind is the title of an out-of-print book by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. It features cut-ups, popularized by Burroughs and Gysin in the ’60s.
A beast. The return lever is among the beefiest I’ve seen. The DT33, which has a decimal tabulator, exudes brute strength: Norbert Schwarz, an authority on Alpinas, points out that they are “small office machines.” Even my beloved Olympia SM3 feels like a toy compared to this DT33. The platen is rock hard, which was a bit off-putting at first, but two backup sheets improved the type. I’ve noticed that my German portables of this time period have unusually hard platens.
An acquaintance remarked that it looks like a Buick, which, judging by his tone, wasn’t a compliment. I find it a beautiful machine, and think it has a distinct flair. I like its rounded features and turret-like cover. The keys are spacious, though not outsized, and it’s easy to settle into a good clip.
Will Davis (willdavis.org) notes an important feature: “One notable feature of Alpina machines is that, while they employ carriage shift, only the platen actually moves when the shift keys are depressed. This makes shifting rather easy considering the size and weight of these machines —- these are among the very biggest and heaviest portables in the post-1958 enlarged overall size.”
It’s a portable that feels like an upright.
This one took me by surprise. I almost passed on it because it seemed flimsy at first glance: I was woefully wrong about that. Although it has plastic keys, the body is metal. One may be tempted to classify it as an ultraportable, but it has more heft than a Hermes Rocket or Adler Tippa. Closer inspection revealed that it was barely used, aside from small chips in the paint. The type slugs gleam, and the pica typeface is astoundingly crisp. The backup sheet barely shows indentations.
I’ve been using a Remington Rand 17 upright, but on some days my fingers don’t jive with the smaller keys. On those days, I often turn to this Cole, which has ample keys and a nicely spaced keyboard. I like the paper gauge on the right carriage knob: one aligns the red window on it with the red arrow painted on the body. The ribbon selector eluded me at first: it’s under the knob, and I mistook it for a carriage lock, which is on the other side. Seems like an afterthought.
This one was manufactured in Western Germany. To my understanding, Cole Steel had them made there for some time. If I were going on a long trip and portability was an issue, and reliability of the essence, this one would be at the top of my list.
Gorgeous machine. I don’t usually put up with misalignment issues, but it’s a great typewriter that’s hard to put down. It was carefully packed and ready to use straight out of the box, having a fresh ribbon. That’s surprising: I usually have to clean and oil machines upon arrival. But there was a bigger surprise. After typing a page, I saw that there were barely any indentations on the backup sheet. The platen feels rubbery, and may have been replaced.
The exposed spools and stubby return lever remind me of my Corona Four, but this is a different animal altogether. It reflects an added degree of craftsmanship and engineering. Far from me to diminish my lovely Four, but there’s something about this Erika that eludes definition–something that draws me to it.
Misalignment issues are usually a deal-breaker, especially on days in which I insist on mechanical precision–days where typeface must reflect attempts at precision of language–but in this instance I see it more as a character trait trumped by aesthetics and an unusual personality. It’s a German bombshell with perfectly crooked teeth.
Typewriter paraphernalia—from vintage paper and letterhead to tape dispensers and paper holders–has always fascinated me. When I received the spring issue of ETCetera, a quarterly typewriter journal edited by typewriter guru Richard Polt, I was turned on to vintage letter openers.
The article, which is well researched, has pictures of several letter openers, two of which I was able to find on eBay: a Burroughs and an A.P. Little. The latter is in poor condition but the Burroughs is in very good shape. Considering their rarity, I think finding them a coup; they were also fairly priced.
If you have a typewriter addiction, and correspond regularly, you may as well go full hilt and open letters in style.
It’s a long story, of course: that’s one reason I bought the paper roll in the first place. It’s graph paper made for EKG machines and measures 8 1/2 and, I’m guessing, at least 100 feet. I decided to use the white backside because it’s less distracting. I bought it for $10 shipped from a shop in China.
I turned to the roll because my prose slowed to a trickle: I was overly deliberate while trying to write “literature.” And yet, I wrote letters every day, usually for hours. So I decided to pen a manuscript that is essentially a long letter. The goal is to put aside the ivory stage and tap the inner core, “energy unchecked;” to forge ahead regardless of polish. That will come–if it gets that far–during the editing process.
I chose one of my Olympia SM3s with elite typeface for this project: I don’t foresee changing typewriters, and I made sure to choose one that I would look enjoy. I relish its crisp, sharp touch: it even sounds beautiful.
So far, the writing is coming along: average is three or four graphs a day (I still work on letters, and keep a journal). I don’t labor as much because I write as if I were addressing a friend, not an audience. But I have to remind myself that, if I expect progress, I need to keep in touch with the roll and roll with it.
Not being well-versed in Torpedos, I can’t identify this model, which was made in West Germany in the ’50s or ’60s. It’s an astounding machine, and reminds me of my Olympia SM5, though it has a different feel and personality. It has a fabulous touch, and doesn’t require a strong keystroke. In fact, I find a light touch is best with this one, else the print tends to smudge slightly. The keys have a deft heft.
I find the elite typeface seductive, along with the design. It’s not flashy but it’s certainly not drab. It has an understated elegance. My preference lately is for American uprights from the ’20s and ’30s, but I find excuses to use this Torpedo, which is never far from reach.