A youthful, dopey thing that young dopes do is buy a typewriter under the pretense that they’re going to use it to write. Romantic notion, eh? Plopping this clackety thing on the kitchen table, jabbing out a draft, then harrowed pencil marks, then a new draft, and so on. It’s completely impossible to do this, of course. In my own young and dopey days I faced down a typewriter ribbon and wrote pages upon pages about the experience of writing on a typewriter. Writing on a typewriter is all one can think about when writing on a typewriter, so divorced is it from one’s ordinary mode of working, one’s fluent mode of thinking. Using a typewriter to bang out prose is a bad party. It’s talking about how wasted you are, and thinking you’re fascinating for doing so.
There are times I still bother to notice things. On this sleepy afternoon: the featheriness of the clouds, the grooves-and-gravel texture of my building’s rear façade, the hundred-year history of paint upon rust upon paint upon rust of the fire escape. Nothing interesting, I don’t mean to imply that any of these things are interesting. But now that my phone has displaced my physical surroundings as most-likely-to-be-viewed, I find that the act of noticing has joined the act of typing in its descent to the level of novelty. “Weird, I’m studying the texture of a wall,” I mention to myself, thereby lifting my focus from the wall to the act of noticing the wall, thereby sort-of killing the actuality of the wall itself. What is the texture of the wall? It’s a thing I’m supposed to congratulate myself for noticing. I will congratulate myself using my phone, make my congratulations public, make sure that people know I’m the kind of guy who notices a thing.
I’m very sad about this, of course, but it’s too late to pretend that typing on a typewriter is any kind of way to go through life, or that looking at clouds is anything other than a bad party.