Chef Joncarl Lachman of Noord (far right) takes a break from the kitchen to join in the "Type In." Mike McGettigan, far left, gives the instructions.
Mike McGettigan, who runs Trophy Bikes in Northern Liberties, was taking no chances when he signaled the start of his fifth "Type In," a jam session for those who are in love manual typewriters and the words they produce.
"Does everybody know what a carriage return is?" McGettigan asked the seven people who were seated at a table in front of Royals and Olympias from the 1960s and 1970s. The "Type In" was the kick off event Saturday at the 215 Festival's South Philly venue, at the Singing Fountain at Tasker and Eleventh streets and Passyunk Avenue.
The typists followed his instructions to write a brief message and then keep hitting the carriage return until the white sheaf of paper, tied by ribbon to a balloon, lifted up into a bright blue sky.
Later, McGettigan, who has about a dozen manual typewriters in his collection, was asked about this love affair with a metal box with keys that click and a carriage return that slides with authority to the beginning of a line. He looked down at the machines that sat mute in front of him.
"It has something in common with pianos and bikes. It's a mono-purpose machine," he said. "It only puts words on paper."
Okay, so unlike computers, typewriters don't play music or videos or electronic games. But still they have an edge.
"No Macintosh will ever see its 50th birthday," he predicted.
Another enthusiast drawn to the "Type In," Michael Ardito of Staten Island, was wearing a black T-shirt that read "Got Typewriter?" He owns Hometown Business Machines, which specializes in sales and repairs of vintage typewriters.
Asked if he had ever worked on the typewriter of a famous writer, he said he had repaired one machine used by the late essayist Andy Rooney.
Ardito said he is fascinated by the connection some people have with typewriters, and then he strayed into the metaphysical.
"A writer ... when they connect with a typewriter, it's a connection with their soul."
Author Neal Pollack, who started what evolved into the 215 Festival, was back in the city on Saturday, reading from his novel, Jewball, and helping to kick off the South Philly portion of the four-day celebration of authors and musicians.
Back in 2001, Pollack got what was then known as the McSweeney's Festival off the ground. After thriving for a few years, the festival went dark in 2010 and 2011. It was brought back to life last year under the guidance of creative director Joey Sweeney.
"Philly is just as weird as it ever was," said Pollack, who now lives in Austin, Texas. The random crowd of about a dozen at the Singing Fountain seemed to take that as a compliment.
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