Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Just your type? Vintage typewriters enjoy comeback

My first typewriter was a grey Smith-Corona set in a neat, tweed-pattern hard-shell carrying case with a plastic handle. It would write anything: funny stories, high school papers, letters to the editor, college and job applications. Its keys didn’t have the crisp clack of the bigger, older models. It hammered out a gentler, muted tap that still said “I’M WRITING SOMETHING” to anyone nearby. Our old newsrooms were filled with the noise of Remmington staccatos, pneumatic tubes, brash-talking reporters, harried editors and jangling phones, with linotype machines clanking away next door. That felt and sounded important. Today’s scribes connect to soundless keyboards and voiceless devices. Just different, or better? I couldn’t do without my quiet computer that can not only type but share every word with the world. But I am a little nostalgic for the art and inspiration and hard work and inky fingers that went with my old  typewriter.

As Meg Jones wrote in her Journal Sentinel story, there was a purity and single-mindedness in that old, now hip, writing machine:

“While computers are great for connecting people, finding information, playing games and watching videos, typewriters only do one thing: type.”

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Music, Mainly

Every Thursday night in summer we have “Music on Main.” Main Street. Stop IMG_2966downtown to hear a group of fiddlers, singers, horn blowers, keyboardists, guitar players and other musicians perform as day turns to dusk and the once-busy street fills up with friendly folks in lawn chairs. For many, it doesn’t matter if the music is pop or blues or rock-a- billy or country. There’s wine and beer and food from a local establishment. There are friends to meet and music to listen to.

Scenes like this happen all over the country I know. But just because it’s Wisconsin, and  warm, breezy summer nights like this one have been rare, we’ll enjoy it just a bit more.

What are you listening to tonight?

3 Rules for Geocachers

ImageI am now a geocacher. My friend Chris and I, with a sunny afternoon at our disposal, tested the geocaching waters in my fair city recently. It was my first venture in geocaching, which I had to look up on Wikipedia and geocaching.com before I started. I usually shy away from activities involving numbers, coordinates and rain-soaked jungle paths. But Chris was a veteran – she had geocached the previous day in Ripon. And she has always had an irresistable way of enlisting me in something new.

What is geocaching anyway?

Geocaching combines hiking, hunting, trespassing, gambling and social media into hours of fun, followed by hours of laundry. On the website, it’s billed as “a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online.” Lucky for us, West Bend, Wisconsin, is the Geocaching Capital of the Midwest™, and has more than 900 caches within a 10-mile radius, according to my friends at the Chamber of Commerce. When you find one, it’s often a small canister or container wrapped in camo duct tape. Inside is a record of the last finder and perhaps a trinket or two which you can leave or replace with something equally cool of your own.

You search for the cache using your smartphone GPS app. Data about the location and the find have already been entered online. You can use that data, along with maps and aerial views on some apps, to hunt down your cache. Meanwhile, you are enjoying and exploring nature and the city, getting sunburned, making friends, getting bit by bugs or all of the above.

So what do I need to know?

Within about two hours, Chris and I had ably discovered three caches. We were still within about three blocks of my house and had gone through a primordial swamp, public park and residential intersection.

We learned alot about geocaching and we wanted to share three rules:

  1. Don’t wear white. Those crisp capris should not be climbing on a soggy, moss covered log.
  2. Don’t drop your phone. It’s hard to get the mud out of those tiny crevices.
  3. Seek and you shall find. Caches can be anywhere, and they usually are!

Next time you want something to do, turn off the TV, phone a friend and go geocaching. It’s caching!

What’s your geocaching experience?

Our Little House

The house you grew up in is like a first love. You never forget it, and it always seems bigger and more exciting than it really was. But we loved our little house. It was where I waited in my grandmother’s arms, there in that center door, as my father brought my baby sister home in 1947. It was the first time my mother had seen the new house.Image 1

The upstairs window on the left? We had a playroom there with waxed linoleum floors we’d skate over and cubbyholes with sliding doors that became our play houses and stuffed animal lairs. We each had a child’s roll-top desk. I would play office and post my writings on the wall with thumb tacks.

On the right, in the picture, the driveway had a strip of grass down the middle. It still does. It was quite irritating to cut.