Column number 186, a last word
by Debbie Carini
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, I used to make a “pretend” typewriter by stacking National Geographic magazines and then fanning them ever-so-slightly so that they resembled the “staired” silhouette of a 1960s Smith Corona.
I drew a keyboard and then I would “type” my stories—short tales usually involving two sisters who help a down-on-her-luck-looking old lady by carrying her groceries or raking the leaves around her spooky, yet mansion-like home, who turns out to be an heiress with no heirs. (Just FYI:?this happened a lot in Disney movies of the era, but seldom in real life).
I learned the QWERTY method of keystrokes from an old secretarial manual. As I persisted with my sad keystroking on old magazines, my father, a bargain-hunter if there ever was one, found a vintage 1930s Underwood typewriter. It wasn’t so old that you couldn’t find a ribbon for it, but it was a hulking mass of black metal; probably the type of thing that used to be tied to gangsters’ legs before they were thrown off bridges. Each letter I keystroked met the page with a resounding clang. What I was writing meant something.
My father crafted a desk in the garage where my sister and I established the Viceroy News, named for the street where we lived. I still have copies of this early community newspaper, which detailed local events such as Mrs. Raab’s sick dog, and Gary Popaloski’s summer vacation plans.
Eventually, junior high school and other interests put an end to the Viceroy News, but I never lost my love of story-telling or writing. I was an English major in college. I was on the school paper in high school and at Rutgers University. After graduation, I took my writing skills to RH Macy’s advertising department to sell all manner of things, from 200 thread count sheets to day-into-evening dresswear. I just kept writing, even if it was about toasters.
Eventually, I got married, had children and moved to Southern California, to Claremont. One of my first acts upon arriving was ordering a subscription to the Claremont COURIER, so I would know what was going on in my town. “How wonderful,” I thought, to even have a “town” newspaper.
As a mother and part-time non-profit writer (another newswriting career), I would often think about the absurdities in my life—the running to-and-fro for soccer games and lessons and school projects and “Oh Mom, I don’t think the turtle is still alive;” all of it happening as I was writing grants and newsletters. Sometimes I felt (and probably looked) like a crazy person.
Somehow, I felt that writing about these things might potentially be cheaper than seeking professional help. And so, I wrote a column about looking for children’s Halloween costumes and it ran in the Los Angeles Times. My husband thought I had a knack for a kind of Erma Bombeck-ish story-telling and said I should send the sample to Martin Weinberger at the Claremont COURIER.
As it happens, Rosemary Adam, who then had a column entitled “Adam in Print” was retiring, so Martin gave this mom a trial run.
This is my 186th column for the Claremont COURIER, and my last. It has been an incredible privilege to share my life, ideas, and crazy musings with readers.
I have enjoyed running into community members (even in my travels, as far-away as Boston) who tell me they enjoy the column; sometimes they also ask my husband, “what’s it like living your life in public?!” For the record, he hasn’t seemed to mind, even when I act like a Kardashian after someone at the ice cream store says, “Hey, aren’t you that lady from the COURIER?”
This month, we’ve moved to San Francisco—a new stage in our lives. We will miss idyllic Claremont and the people we’ve come to know and love, but we are excited for a new adventure.
Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist, is said to have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea after completing his novel, Beautiful Losers.
With this column I am finished with “Out of My Mind” for the Claremont COURIER, but I am not done writing, so I will not be flinging my laptop anywhere. Thank you, Claremont, and Martin and Janis, and now, Peter, for giving me this opportunity to type and share stories. This is a happy ending for my work at the COURIER and time for an exciting new chapter in the story of Debbie Carini.