When I was six years old, my Dad gave me the best present ever—a huge heavy black Royal typewriter that they were discarding at his office. Even at that tender age, I wanted to be a writer, and the Royal made me feel like a mini-Hemingway—or more accurately Proust, as my early stories ran to volumes. I quickly mastered the keyboard with two fingers, and never did progress beyond that—nor did I really have to, as I’ve been clocked @ 65 wpm. with just the double digits. A behemoth with keys so hard to press you almost had to jump on them, the Royal separated the women from the girls. Anyone with a more casual interest in writing would have given up trying to make this machine behave. I, however, was passionate about click-clacking away, for hours at a time. Typing mistakes I made aplenty—had I purchased stock in Wite-out back in the 60s (and did you know one of the Monkees’ moms invented Wite-out? And you thought this was not an educational blog!) I’d be a wealthy retiree today.
Among my early masterworks: a play based on the life of Saint Elizabeth Seton that was performed by my third grade class at Epiphany School. My favorite dramatic moment had St. E. lying on her deathbed, still wearing the hideous black bonnet that distinguished the Sisters of Charity. “Be children of the church,” I whispered (OK, I admit it—I also starred in this theatrical extravaganza), before expiring, weeping “nuns” around my bedside.
High school brought poetry—reams and reams of poetry. Tortured love poems, wittily sarcastic rip-offs of Dorothy Parker, sonnets, villanelles, sestinas—you name it, I gave it a shot in iambic pentameter. Highlight of this creative period? A spoof of Whitman’s “O Captain My Captain” that I titled “O Superjock My Superjock.” This scathing treatment of the football team appeared in the St. Pius High newspaper. Coach Maloof, the tough-as-nails leader of the squad, took me aside and actually screamed at me for demeaning his gridiron heroes. For a week or so I was quite the rebel celeb.
Finally, I gave up on the Royal, and graduated to an electric. It took awhile to get used to this lightweight machine, and my early days as a secretary I wore out many a correcting ribbon. The electronic typewriter lost me, and for a few years I barely typed at all.
Then came our first computer, the ironically named Leading Edge (they haven’t made those in decades). I loved it immediately, and gloried in goofing up, then instantly deleting my errors. Would that life were like that!
Many years, and many computers, later, I’m still in love, still pecking away with two fingers. My handwriting has deteriorated to the point that, when I autograph my books, I can’t even sign my name correctly. No matter! If I never write longhand again, it won’t bother me in the slightest. Now and forever, it’s QWERTYUIOP for me!