Tools of the trade

Leather journal, thrifted sportcoat, J.Crew button-down, Saddleback briefcase, thrifted Giorgio Bruttini loafers and Corona portable typewriter from the mid to late 1920s.

Some of these items are called into action daily. That blazer fits me almost as well as if it had been tailored…one of the best coats I’ve owned, and a steal at $6. The elbow pads actually serve a utilitarian purpose for all the days I’m hunched over my desk. When the coat finally craps out on me, I’ll take it apart and see if I can’t make a pattern from it.

The kind of writing I do (mainly the electronic, 21st century kind) may not be best accomplished on a manual typewriter. But it helps to have one around, if only for the inspiration. Same reason I’ve got pictures of some of these guys (hi-ya, Faulkner) hung around my office. And every so often, I light up my pipe, pour a glass of scotch and thwack the 90-year-old keys to get some thoughts in ink on paper.

The typewriter was going to be a July birthday present for my then-girlfriend, also a writer. I was spending the summer as a reporter in sweltering Mississippi, where the heat is so heavy the lakes become hottubs by the end of June.

I hunted for the damn thing for weeks, finally finding it in a junk shop deep in plantation country. The owner—an old, penny-pinching, Southern fella—was reluctant to part with it and asked for about twice what it was worth. We ended up making a deal we were both unhappy with, which I suppose is the sign of a good trade.

I took it back to the antebellum house where I was living and spent a few hours cleaning it up, oiling it, making it maybe worth what the old fella initially wanted for it. Summer ended, and the word-machine came with me to a big-city newspaper where I covered politics. Now, I’m in Chicago—an even bigger city with different stories—and I’ve still got that old typewriter.

Photography by Jeff Kieslich

Valeria - Love the typewriter. I have a beast of a thing that my parents gave me for Christmas this year. Still need to give it some TLC to get it in working order, but it’s from the ’20s & I love it.

The Thriftaholic (Leilani) - We need some portraits of you at the typewriter, wearing that blazer, looking like an ‘old timey’ writer! Am I right?

I finally caved and bought a typewriter a few months ago at a thrift but it’s only from the 1950s. It’s been harder to find affordable ’20s ones so congrats on finding yours.

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