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A New York Story: Gramercy Typewriter Co.

Posted: 01/25/2012 11:55 am

A New York Story - "Gramercy Typewriter Co." from Prospect Productions on Vimeo.

Eight million people live in New York City. The great metropolis needs no more introduction than that, but Paul Schweitzer does.

Paul, at 72 years old with thinning silver hair, stands like a relic from a bygone era in a three-piece, tailored suit and tells us that he fixes typewriters for a living. On its face, especially in today's 24-hour tweet-a-thon, who Paul is and what he does might be forgettable. We would click through or change his channel, but Paul's story needs to be told precisely because he makes up the fabric of this city, this country. He's a regular guy, the kind we see a million times a day on an Uptown A or the cross town express. We've seen him in elevators and in giant lobbies on Park Avenue and once in a awhile we might even ask 'what's he up to?' But the latte is ready and the phone buzzes and when we look again, he's gone.

The facts of Paul and his ancient yet still surviving business have all been relayed before: the smaller-than-it-once-was office across from the FlatIron building, near Madison Square Park. The "No Credit Cards" sign hanging neatly above that battleship of a desk. The ringing of a telephone and the surprise when Paul or his son Justin picks up the line. But to see Paul in action, working in the back room on an Olivetti or an Underwood is something like confirming Mays actually played center field. We know it happened.  We've seen the video, the catch, the throw,the smile, but we have nothing to touch or point to. 

Except Paul Schweitzer still very much exists. The craft of supplying and maintaining typewriters not so much in need as it was when Mays roamed the Polo Grounds, but like the ribbon eating machines he services, there is still something to point to, to touch, still someone making house calls to fix an Underwood or Olivetti. 

The phone will ring in the small 5th Avenue offices and Paul will pick up. The keys on an electric are jammed down on Broadway. A few essentials taken down with pen and paper and he's off, physician's bag by his side, to ply the trade he's been in for more than 50 years. To ply the trade that so very few in this world can, that so few of this eight million could even imagine still exists.