Letteras from Washington
I hit the road yesterday. Pre-COVID I would have considered it a quick day trip. In May 2020, it felt like a grand adventure. I went to Bremerton, and I was reminded yet again how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. And how much I like riding the ferry.
Why Bremerton? I wrote about the reason elsewhere – let me see if I can add it here in a legible form. (the post continues, with photos, after the typewriter part)
I’ve wanted a typewriter for a long time. I don’t envision writing my novel on it. That would require writing. Something I’d like to do, but I usually only get as far as jotting notes down late at night. On the rare occasions that I revisit those notes, I either can’t read them or think, man, that’s a bad idea.
I’ve sporadically researched typewriters for a about a year. Criteria – relatively lightweight, well-built, low maintenance. As far as I can tell, there aren’t many companies still manufacturing typewriters, even though there’s a strong market for old ones. I think the new ones are Royals. They get bad reviews.
The old ones aren’t just for hipsters. Ask Tom Hanks. I’m definitely not a hipster. I buy ground coffee, and I wash my jeans. The hipster gatekeepers would have me shot on sight.
At some point you’ve just got to make a decision. Getting a Smith Corona – or a Corona – appealed. If you’re going to occasionally write about 2020, it might as well be on a Corona. Olympias get great reviews. I hear the SMs are incredible machines. And they weigh a ton. I opted for the Olivetti Lettera 32. Same model that Cormac McCarthy used, so any letters I write on it are likely to be…mailed.
I learned some of that in my own research. But speaking to Don (I think it’s Don) at Typewriter Fever in Bremerton helped me pull the trigger. We talked about the pros and cons of some of the models, and when I settled on the Lettera 32, he ran it through some tests. I appreciate that kind of attention to detail. He’d already repaired it, cleaned it, and put it on a shelf for sale, but he double-checked it. He found something that he wanted to triple-check, so he asked me to call him back in a couple of days. I called back, and he was happy with it. His shop (more of a museum) is closed during the COVID quarantines, but he’s doing some sales and repairs by masked and gloved appointment. Bremerton here I come (or there I went). Can’t get that from Amazon.
It was nice getting on the ferry again after several months of not venturing out of my neighborhood. It was strange, I was a little antsy on the road. I caught the 1450 ferry to Bremerton. It wasn’t packed with vehicles, but there were more than I expected. The ferries have extended their winter schedule, which means fewer boats. I’m not sure if most of the vehicles were people running errands in the big city or leaving work a little early to avoid getting stranded. The ferry lines understandably ask you to remain in your vehicle. It was a little sad not being able to get a Rainier and a mediocre soft pretzel. I’d be lying if I said I ever braved the galley’s clam chowder.
I haven’t been to Bremerton in ages. Well over a year now I think. I shot photos for a Kara Hess concert at The Admiral. Bremerton is known for its U.S. Navy presence, but I think its economy has been taking off the past few years. Most people in Seattle can’t afford to buy homes here. You know how that story goes. Typewriter Fever isn’t far from the ferry terminal. Even in that short drive I saw a lot of apartment buildings going up. I can see why people would want to live there. It’s a Main Street town with access to the Olympic Peninsula, the Puget Sound, Seattle, and Tacoma.
Traveling these days is a little strange. After buying the typewriter I had a couple of hours to kill until the 1840 return ferry. Pre-COVID (last time I ever use that phrase…it’s going into the trash bin along with the new normal) that’s coffee shop time with a book or walking around with my camera. I started walking around, but it was raining, and I was cold. So I did what I never do – arrived at the terminal with hours to spare.
I haven’t taken my car on the ferry that many times. I bought the ticket in a hurry, and I wasn’t sure if it was one way or round trip, so I asked the person in the tollbooth if I had to pay again, pausing awkwardly to mask up. The person was wearing glasses, which were perched further down on their nose, classic you’re about to get a lecture style.
“You know the ferry doesn’t leave for about two hours, right?”
“Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.”
I handed over my ticket. Several moments of Gatekeeper 101 silent inspection. Look at ticket, look at me, look at ticket, look at my car, look at ticket.
“Your car is longer than 14 feet.”
Fair enough. I have a Subaru Outback. I guessed the length, poorly it turns out. There’s a crude joke in there somewhere.
“Oh, sorry about that. Do I need to pay again?”
“I’m not sure why they let you on with this. Your car is longer than 14 feet.”
“Who bought this for you?”
I’ll admit it, I started getting a little annoyed. I wanted to say something like Oh, my lover pays for these trips.
“I did. I came over to buy a typewriter.” No idea why I included that.
“You have a one way ticket, so you’ll need to pay for the return. That will be $20, because your car is longer than 14 feet.”
“The ferry won’t be here for another 2 hours.”
“Lane 1 or 2 to the right.”
Pole position, lane 2. I wish I’d had a book and a thermos of coffee…because I had to wait 2 hours for that ferry. Sounds like I owe the state of Washington $4. The check is in the mail.