A couple of weeks back, my cousin Casey was visiting, and we decided to do a late Friday brunch at the Liberty House Cafe before heading off for hiking and camping in the Smoky Mountains.
Liberty House Cafe is my new favorite brunch spot in Asheville. Despite always being crowded and perenially having a line (though not an unmanageable one), I feel like it still somehow has an off-the-beaten-path quality. It’s popular but not mentioned with the same breathlessness (or covered by travel publications with the same sycophantic quality) as places like Biscuithead or Sunnyside Cafe, places that, in this writer’s ever-so-humble opinion, perenially have unmanageable lines.
I’d ordered your typical two eggs, bacon, and toast breakfast (the bacon and toast at Liberty House is outstanding and worth the price of admissions…the eggs are eggs) and was walking to join my cousin and friend at a table at the far end of the yard. Doing that, I had to pass by one of the most infuriating displays of attention-grabbing hipster bullshit disguised as curated quirkiness that I’ve seen in my two-plus years now living amongst the attention-grabbing hipster bullshit disguised as curated quirkiness that’s ubiquitous with (parts of) Asheville.
“How mad are you?” my cousin asked when I sat down—apparently, my disdain for the performative is well known. Very, I told her. There was an older gentleman a picnic table over from us working from brunch, which on its own is fine—there were plenty of other people typing away on laptops that morning, and I’m not above doing some brunch or brewery writing to get out of my apartment. This gentleman, however, was typing up a manuscript on a god-damn typewriter.
There is no excuse for this type of behavior. There’s no other explanation other than courting attention, hoping someone will come up to you and say, “oh my god, are you a writer?” because unlike other analog functionalities hipsters flock to, there’s no merit to using a typewriter vs. a laptop the way you could argue say, a record has better sound than streaming (my untrained, peasant ears can’t tell the difference, but I’ll buy it’s true).
- Typewriters aren’t exactly easy to haul around. Sure, not everything better for you is more convenient, but even if you’re able to cook up some bullshit reason why you need a typewriter, there’s no reason not to just type at home since you don’t even need the restaurant’s WiFi or plugs to use a typewriter! I didn’t see how this man moved the typewriter from his home to Liberty Street, but I can only imagine it was some kind of leader suitcase bedecked with vintage travel stickers.
- Why, in this age of spellcheck and Grammarly, would you not utilize a word processor with those capabilities? Some say that’s the lazy way out, but it’s not. Full stop. It’s the smart way to work. If I was hiring a content writer to work under or with me, and they told me they didn’t need spellcheck or Grammarly because that was cheating, I wouldn’t hire that person (not to mention the fact-checking capabilities of the internet).
- Good writers know that writing is a living, moving process. You delete. You move things. You switch up the order and experiment with different formats. Typewriters don’t have the functionality for this.
- Before anyone points out that technically, writing by hand is analog, writing with a typewriter is not the same thing as writing by hand. I write a ton of my work by hand before typing it onto the computer. I find it helpful for idea generation, brainstorming, and just relaxing reasons (and research agrees). Additionally, with handwriting, you can still cross things out, move them around, and have the same dexterity a word processor gives you.
At one point, the typewriter man asked the server to take a video of him typing, more or less proving my point that this was hipster bullshit used to curate a certain aesthetic and had no real functional purpose (not that everything has to, but you get my point).
Why did this typing man trigger me so? I think I figured that out about an hour later while Casey and I drove to what I promised her would be a relaxing afternoon at the Midnight Hole.
This man, to me, and taking into consideration that I’m projecting my issues—my trauma—onto him, is emblematic of the Ashevillian hipster ethos of only the most analog, belabored content having any sort of real merit. It triggered memories of a writer’s meetup I attended soon after moving to Asheville. Everyone in the group was an aspiring writer of some sort. Many were poets. A few were short story writers. One had published a chapbook (I must make an admission here: I still don’t fully understand what those are, despite seeing their existence mentioned in the bio of so many writers). Everyone pursued their fiction as a side hustle, as I do. Still, I was the only one who wrote professionally, who was, as one fellow participant said with some disdain, a copywriter. No one said that I was less of a writer because I sold out (and not for nothing, but I’m a content writer, which is different than a copywriter, though I end up doing quite a bit of copywriting as a content writer), but they didn’t have to.
I left that meetup and knew I wouldn’t be going back, knew that if I went back, I’d probably snap at some point and be like, listen, I know you guys don’t respect what I do, that you think I’m not a real writer because I write marketing copy and primarily blog as a side hustle, but I guarantee I’m the only one here with “writer” in my job title, and that doesn’t make what I do anything less legitimate than you. And lest you think I’m projecting onto these folks as much as I’m projecting onto typewriter man, I ran into one participant somewhat recently (at Gold’s gym…a weird place for an anti-capitalist to be…). He said, “I see you write the newspaper now,” with the same disdain the other person said, “copywriter.” It’s like, dude, A) you’d write for the newspaper if you could, B) I’d also maybe only write for small, independent presses if I too had a trust fund, C) eat shit.
We’ve reached the end of my rant. You can achieve professional success and not compromise your creative endeavors. There’s nothing wrong with tailoring your creative efforts to make money. And doing things the obscure way doesn’t make your creative endeavors better than my word-processed spellchecked works. Also, I’ve had it up to here with hipsters pretending like they don’t care via carefully curated states of blase that telegraph the exact opposite. Caring is ok, guys!
Anyway, that felt good to get out.
Editor’s Note: Even though this man infuriated me, and even though I did take his photo to send to friends, the header picture is not that. It is a picture of Liberty House’s sourdough pancake, which is better than both the bacon and toast and probably worthy of a whole post, if I’m being honest.