#2: The Rabbi’s Machine is Missing

May 2nd, 2012

The rabbi’s machine is missing. So’s the 100-year-old Oliver where the keys swung down from the sides.

They’re gone, stolen from Chicago with Steve Kazmier’s shop.

I went there today to see. I went to see the empty storefront where the sign still says “Typewriters Sales & Service All Makes & Models.” It had been three years since I wandered in off the street with a battered Smith-Corona ribbon and Kazmier shoved a customer ticket in my face, asking if those were twos or sevens.

“I keep calling and I keep getting a Hispanic guy,” he said, shaking his head.

I knew it was Kazmier because of the voice. It was the same voice that had answered the phone a few months earlier singing “Independence Business Machines ” when I called about hours. A singing, laughing German-tinted voice giddy with pride at his work.

In the store, he showed me a gorgeous old Underwood: black, stately and buffed to a shine.

“That’s a rabbi’s machine,” he said, either proud or amused. He showed me a $500 repair ticket as proof. The name was indeed Jewish.

“Every screw, every button had to be taken off, polished. All the rust, taken off. He put $200 deposit,” Kazmier said, trailing off with a smile.

Just glancing at my ribbon, he grabbed the perfect replacement and told me that my keys were probably cutting through the paper. He was right — they had been doing that. I needed a new roller, he said. $125. I declined.

The ribbon sale took seconds. He showed me typewriters for an hour.

“It’s a Molle. I never heard of that. Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, U.S. of A.,” he said, reading off one steampunk calamity. As he pointed, a faded tattoo peeked from his sleeve.  “I can fix it. But I don’t have time to fix my own typewriter. The customer always comes first.”

He showed me Underwoods and Remingtons, Olivers and machines by companies that never made it into the last century.

“And you lift up the roll and see what you typed,” he said, demonstrating a machine from 1886 where you lay the sheet face-down and the keys slam up from below.

A stack of twins to my beloved 1950s Smith-Corona sat unattended in the corner. They bored him, I guess.

That was three years ago. Now the storefront’s empty, walls painted white and wood flooring added, like they’re making it an apartment. Someone slapped a sticker for the Laugh Factory on the heavy-grimed window. A small pile of mail sat on the ledge.

The phone number from the awning now goes to a business with “Analytics” in the name.

I hope the last repairman in Chicago laughed and sang his way to retirement, a rich man from $500 repairs. I hope he quit on purpose, finally getting time to fix his Molle. I need to believe there’s a future for people who live in the past.

I crossed the street today to check with a bakery I seemed to remember from before. It was trendy, pastel. Michael Jackson, acceptable again in death, played from the speakers.

The counter woman didn’t know. She asked the owner, who could only add, “It’s been closed a couple years.”

I took my cupcake and went home.

Written in April 2012 and summer 2009

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