Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weed and Typewriters

Something groundbreaking and equally unremarkable happened as of January 1st in Colorado: anyone over the age of 21 can legally buy marijuana. Of course you loyal Telegraph reader already know that. Everyone knows that, it’s plastered over every paper from USA Today to the New York Times.

As someone who voted for the measure I’m proud to be a part of what will hopefully be a trend setting law for our country, and across the world. One of the major reasons I support the legalization and decriminalization of the herb is that people should simply not be going to jail for marijuana use, simple as that. If alcohol is legal, then weed should be too.

I contemplated filling my column on the legalization of marijuana, but I simply don’t have it in me. I’m bored just thinking about a thousand words dedicated to weed. Maybe the Telegraph needs a proper marijuana editor like the Denver Post? I’m sure there wouldn’t be a shortage of applications, or perhaps we could hire within?

No, you won’t find me painting my face green, wearing a weed necklace and waiting in line for an hour to buy some legal marijuana, I’ve got work to do. There are enough champions for this cause. Plus, I’m working on my New Year’s Resolution: to write on a typewriter.

I got the idea from my friend Brian. Each year he makes practical, achievable New Year’s Resolution. Last year his resolution was to wear more blue jeans. He also has a sock addiction and owns nearly 40 pairs. He prefers women’s socks, and says he likes the colors and they fit better. He also doesn’t smoke weed, but loves the smell of it. He sent me a text last week that read, “Finally I can smell in the open without fear of prosecution.” Brian’s full of quirks. Once on a road trip to Yosemite we brought a dictionary and kept ourselves entertained by looking up new words. It was formidable.

I bought an old typewriter at a local thrift store this summer, and figured why not put it to use. I once attended a party where people wrote poetry on a typewriter, and I felt like a beatnik. I’ve always wanted to be a beatnik. Other than that I’ve never used a typewriter. I’m part of the very first computer generation, and like the 13 year olds with iPhones these days, I take it all for granted.

But since I’m old school and was born in the seventies, I’m starting to do the whole, “When I was your age” thing. For example, “When I was your age, we couldn’t text girls, we wrote them notes, and they had to circle yes or no if they liked us, and you had to risk getting your note caught, or other people finding out who you liked.” Or, “When I was your age, we didn’t have cell phones, we had beepers, and my Mom found my beeper and took it back to the store because she thought I was going to use it to sell weed.”

I once had an English professor say there’s no way we’ll know how the computer has affected literature until years from now. I mean in some ways I’m envious of the writers who never used a computer. No Facebook and Twitter to distract you, no iPhone buzzing texts while you’re typing out your great masterpiece. No wondering if your personal information has been compromised by Snapchat or Skype or Target. Just you and your thoughts at the typewriter. And, aside from my desire to be a modern day beatnik, that is why I wanted to compose something on my typewriter, that meditation, that lack of distraction, that beauty which comes from a singular, meditative focus.

My typewriter, it sat around for months until one day I got motivated to replace the old ribbon, and put it to use. I took a picture of it and went to the one office supply store that I thought might sell typewriter ribbons. They saw the picture, told me it was super old, and I’d have to order one online. So I did. Five dollars.

People have either laughed at me when I tell them about my typewriter or they say things like, “that’s sexy.” Then they see it and its covered in cat hair and dust, and its like 70 years old, and they just say, “eeeewww.”

To me this typewriter is like my shelf of books. There’s no rational reason to have this shelf of books, I live in a small room, where I could expand my yoga floor by getting rid of my books and simply putting everything on a Kindle. But I hold onto my books because they make me remember when I read them and fell in love with them, and made me want to become a writer, because there’s magic in beautiful stories and the book is a work of art, and its perfect and people will go on writing books forever because we need them to live.

So, when I returned home from the holidays my ribbon arrived and I cleaned off the typewriter. After watching a YouTube video the ribbon was successfully installed. And then I started writing on it. The words are blurry and I had to use a single finger keystroke, and play around with the mechanisms to type. I started getting frustrated. But this thing is 70 years old, and it still works! Looking at my computer and my iPod and my iPhone and they are all going to be in the trash in five years.

Now, back at the computer I appreciate it a little more. I also want to buy a better typewriter. Maybe my old one is just something nostalgic, something to sit around like my bookshelf and make me appreciate this juxtapose in time, where we can have the luxuries of modern technology, and the nostalgia of the past. And we can go to the store and buy weed (no beeper required). 

This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph, January 9, 2014.

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