Tag Archives: Karin Kessler

America’s Story. In Just 6 Words.

No matter what your political views, it can feel as if there are no words to describe America’s current situation.

But all you need are 6.

Ernest Hemingway wrote the most famous 6-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Since then, writers of all types have tried their hand at the 6-word exercise.

Karin Kessler wants to hear yours.

She’s the upbeat, indefatigable owner of Backspace, the typewriter shop/writing space on Church Street South, behind Little Barn.

Karin Kessler, in her Backspace space.

Customers always talk about the political climate, Karin says. They usually throw their hands in the air, and say they have no voice.

So this month, she invites everyone to come to Backspace and write their own 6-word story on any typewriter. There’s no charge.

(You can also write at home, and drop it off at Backspace. You can email it in too — backspacewestport@gmail.com — or post it on a special Facebook page. But if you haven’t seen the shop, you really should.)

Any and every viewpoint is welcome (except hate-mongering).

The 6 words should have something to do with the political atmosphere — and be a thought-provoking reflection of the times.

“We can show that right and left can coexist, and respectfully disagree with one another,” Karin says.

This is not a competition between parties, she notes. She’s looking for “a description, statement or feeling about politics today.”

Karin offers her own suggestion: “United we stand. Divided we fall.”

She hopes to compile the stories, to promote both thought and conversation.

December can be a stressful month. She hopes this can be a fun exercise, done during downtime on the train, while stuck in traffic, or anywhere else. (Except, I guess, watching Fox or MSNBC.)

“Let’s start a wave from Westport, using our right of freedom of speech,” Karin says. “Let’s all hear what everyone says.”

In exactly 6 words.

Unsung Heroes: Special Edition

Wednesday is the day of the week when “06880” honors Unsung Heroes.

I posted an already-written story earlier today. But yesterday’s flash floods produced many other heroes, from police, fire and EMS, to tow truck operators who rescued stranded motorists, to neighbors who provided shelter and sump pumps, to teenagers who cleared blocked roads.

Karin Kessler — owner of Backspace, the funky typewriter store behind Little Barn — has her own heroes. She writes:

We are making lemonade…

Unfortunately, yesterday’s insane rain flooded our storage area. Fortunately, I had 2 students — heroes — who moved quickly and helped me lug 50+ typewriters into our main space and out of harm’s way.

The remainder of the typewriters are still in storage but were hoisted onto racks.

Thank God we were here and able to manage the situation before any damage was done.

Congratulations and thanks, Mimi Zauls and Shay Buchanan!

4 of Karin Kessler’s many typewriters — saved!

And this just in, from Ani Rockwell:

I wanted to write to let you know about someone who, for me, was an unsung hero.

During last night’s torrential downpour I was hauling buckets of water up out of my basement, trying to keep even more water from pouring into my basement.

My husband was in Manhattan. He had called Gary Brown of GB Plumbing to see if there was anything he could do. From a plumbing perspective there was nothing.

But instead of charging a call-out fee and leaving for the next job, he spent a good hour with me and my 9-year-old son (who had also come out to help haul buckets of water away from the basement), carrying and pouring out buckets of water. When he left he refused to take any payment.

This is not the first time he has refused payment for a call-out when he has come to examine an issue and determined it was not plumbing. He really is a decent guy, and at a time when you hear so much about the less friendly and neighborly people in town it is beyond wonderful to know that people like Gary are here.

For me and my son who spent 2 hours hauling out buckets of water he really was a hero. Sharing the load made it so much easier to bear. I hope you are able to give him a mention in your column so that he knows what he did was truly appreciated. Thank you.

Done! And if you’ve got any more heroes to add to the list — click “Comments” below.

 

Unsung Hero #40

Last month, Karin Kessler opened Backspace — a vintage typewriter sit-and-hang-out shop behind Little Barn.

It’s a great new venture. It’s warm, welcoming — and welcome.

Of course, her mail carrier might not think so. He’s the guy who has to deliver all those heavy packages to Karin.

Fortunately, Karin’s carrier is Kevin Logue.

She says:

I have the best mailman. Kevin has delivered hundreds of typewriters to me with kid gloves.

He has such a thankless job. He could easily be disgruntled, and throw my boxes into the garage. Yet he neatly places packages close to the door, and has never commented on the weight or how many he delivers.

Kevin Logue, in his truck.

Kevin has only inquired with excitement about my collection, how my store was coming together, and when it was opening.

He even showed up late afternoon after work to check it out. And he was as excited as I was when I heard from Tom Hanks.

Kevin is a part of the community. He’s much more than just a delivery person. He cares.

Thanks, Kevin! We hope you know that “06880” — the blog and the community — care about you! 

(Readers: To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Thanks, T. Hanks

On Friday, “06880” highlighted a great new Westport store. Tucked in behind Little Barn, Backspace is a spot where folks can admire and buy old typewriters — or pound out poetry, prose, even a thank-you note.

Readers flooded the comments section with praise for the concept.

One suggested that owner Karin Kessler contact Tom Hanks. In addition to his day job, he’s an avid typewriter collector.

Karin replied:

He does not give email address, only a physical one. Wants people to actually take the time to write a letter. I have typed him 4 letters so far. I think he will respond when he actually receives one – don’t know who passes along mail. In his movie “California Typewriters” he says he would respond if someone typed him a letter. We will see!

Cohl Katz — the popular local hairstylist who counts Tom Hanks (among many other A-listers) as a client — heard about Karin’s quest. Cohl suggested Instagram. (He’s @tomhanks — and, she says, he loves seeing photos of cool typewriters.)

Karin immediately posted a photo, with a link to the story.

And — just as immediately — Tom typed a letter in return.

Karin was thrilled to hear back. She promises to let us know if when he stops by her store.

I gotta say: I think it’s pretty cool that he read “06880” too.

Backspace: A Very Different “Type” Of Store

It was not your typical Christmas gift.

A few years ago, Karin Kessler wanted to give her 4 children something more than electronics or gift cards. She thought a typewriter — a big, black 1930s-era machine — might be a way to connect them to a world beyond screens and stuff.

She found one online.

Her kids had never seen a typewriter. They had never heard the clicking sounds of keys on platen, or the “ding” at the end of a line. They never knew the frustration of whiteout, or the fact that “cc” on emails come from “carbon copy” years ago.

A relic from a bygone era.

They may or may not have loved Karin’s gift. But it sparked a curiosity in her to know more about typewriters, of all kinds.

She researched the history of the machines. (Did you know that the QWERTY keyboard developed as a way to space out the most popular letters — to avoid jammed keys?)

She began collecting typewriters. She found early models — like one where the typist could not even see what he was typing.

She found crazy-looking bat-wing typewriters, heavy typewriters, and the amazing portables that enabled journalists to type anywhere (of course, they had to carry them there).

4 of Karin Kessler’s many typewriters.

The machines — including still-newfangled electric models, with rotating balls instead of keys — became dinosaurs in the 1980s, when word processors were all the rage. But, Karin notes, “for 100 years typewriters were a part of people’s lives.”

Many times, sellers had emotional attachments; the typewriters belonged to their parents or grandparents. But the machines were useless, and taking up room. Sellers asked Karin to take good care of the typewriters.

She does. (First though, she cleans them. Many have decades-old nicotine stains.)

Karin’s typewriters come from all over the world. She’s amassed a mind-boggling collection of fonts and keyboards — including languages like Spanish, French, German, Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew and Arabic (the latter two type, obviously, in the opposite direction as ours).

There are complicated keyboards like Japanese, Korean and Chinese. There are Braille typewriters too, which have only a few keys but nonetheless seem very complicated.

Karin Kessler’s Braille typewriter.

Karin’s basement is filled with typewriters. She has no idea how many.

But she does have an idea what to do with them.

Last October, leaving Barnes & Noble, she saw a “For Lease” space on the small building behind Little Barn. She had an epiphany: open a space filled with typewriters. She’d sell them — but also invite anyone to sit, use them, and learn to love them as she has.

She got the lease. Now she’s filled the store (called Backspace) with all her typewriters — plus desks of different height (so people don’t feel like they’re on top of each other), sofas, and a sign saying “Everyone has a story to tell…put it in writing!”

A mentor from SCORE — the nationwide network of volunteer business experts — has helped keep her focus on the business plan.

Karin Kessler, in her Backspace space.

So who will rent these typewriters?

“Some people want to type thank-yous, or wedding invitations,” Karin says. “Or poems or short stories. Whenever you type, you feel really productive. You have to slow down, and think about your writing. There’s no spell check, no predictive text.”

Typing is particularly suited to fiction writing and journaling, Karin says.

Backspace is available to rent for events, like book signings, lectures and game nights. She also envisions people coming to take typewriters apart, and learn to repair them.

“It’s a work in progress,” she explains. “I see it as a fun, creative, positive educational place.”

There’s a soft opening this Wednesday (February 7). Then Backspace will be open Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Write on!

Backspace is located at 8 Church Street South — right behind Little Barn.