April 14, 2008


Do you remember the olden days before the computer? Of course not, you’re youngsters. I’m asking those of you who once used the typewriter—that antiquarian machine! WE know about the heavy hits necessary to make the keys to strike the ribbon and paper, whiteout used to correct errors, carbon paper for making multiple copies. Certainly it was more advanced than pencil and paper, chalk and board, charcoal and tree bark. But writers thought typewriters an advantage, they no longer having to dip pen nibs in ink and splotching paper all the time. You writers have so many advantages in today’s world—the biggest being the ease offered by the computer (once you pass the frustration and four-letter utterances while learning the dang thing!).

But return to the typewriter days. Suppose the instrument you’re composing on is hundreds of times larger than you are. Perhaps the only way you discover you can meet your burning need to record your opinions and the history around you is to climb onto the machine roller, dive onto the key you wish to strike, and then repeat the process ad-nauseum until your work is completed.

THAT, my dear authors, was Archie’s dilemma. Archie, my hero and role model. Of course, he was only a poet, mind you. Not just any poet, but a free verse poet, of all things! Reincarnated from a human being who was also a poet. Starting March 29, 1916, Archie made the best of it, turning poems into newspaper columns in the New York Evening Sun (later The Sun) for six years and the New York Tribune for four more years. His prolific writing produced over 500 columns, many unpublished.

Ten years of putting out columns in the poetic genre that are still revered today by some people! Oh the grief—I must struggle to be heard among editors turning away my pen-written work even though, I must say, it’s very very very good stuff. And prose gets the point across so much better than poetry!

Oh, the injustice of it all! Archie never used capital letters or punctuation in his work. How could he? How could he hold down the shift key and the letter key simultaneously while jumping down from the typewriter roller to the keyboard? Of course, with my pen and ink I have no problem inserting capital letters and punctuation. My work is far superior to Archie’s work. The lettering is done to perfection. I don’t understand why an editor hasn’t discovered my fantastic writing and made me famous. Oh well, I truly don’t want to demean myself by writing for newspapers. I’m much better than that. Life and National Geographic should pick up on my material!

Archie typed his poems on a typewriter belonging to a newspaper editor, Don Marquis, who always left a sheet of paper in his typewriter for Archie.

And Archie had to write, once typing “expression is the need of my soul.” His columns numbered over 500. This necessity forced him to overcame the challenge of Don’s hugely oversized writing instrument to produce columns some people still revere today.

His friend Mehitible added to his writing dilemma. The cat named Mehitable, also outsizing him times hundreds, found the taste of cockroaches abhorrent, preferring white tuna. A raucous, flirty, friend she was. In a New York Times review of a film about them Vincent Canby described Mehitable: “a toujours gai old dame with the soul of Cleopatra, the airs of Emma Bovary, the artistic longings of Isadora Duncan, the hangovers of Dorothy Parker’s Big Blonde, and the sexual resolve of “Trash’s” Holly Woodlawn.”

Mehitable’s trashy airs she blamed on her being the reincarnation of Cleopatra, would you believe? As if it were true! Cleopatra, mind you! But I wonder, with the class she pulled her sinful behavior off, could it be?

The unlikely pair is being revived today. Here I am, trying to become known, and they are taking my stage out from under me! The nerve! They’ve actually won over an up and coming author in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Michael Sims and an actor, Gale McNeeley!

Michael edited a collection of Archie’s columns, some unpublished, in a book The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel. The just-published book is available in the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library. I suppose you could purchase a copy if you so desire, but why should you when my writing is coming along and is much better?

Actor Gale McNeeley fell in love with the pair for some reason. He created a one-man Archy and Mehitable show he’s taking around the country. Could you guess where his first performance was? Greensburg! In conjunction with the publication of Michael’s book!

Well, Carolyn saw the announcement for a book reading in the newspaper. Being a rare bird who knew about Archie and Mehitable she decided she had to attend, even though she isn’t enthralled with book readings. She expected to hear an adequate reading of Archie’s poetry. I snuck along in the hem of her dress. Boy, did we get a surprise!
Gale acted out numerous Archie poems, playing both Archie and Mehitable. He wore different hats to denote which character he was presenting. As Mehitable he flicked a boa tail about and kept repeating the line “I’m a toujours gai old dame.” Michael read one selection with Gale, Archie Interviews a Mummy.

Carolyn thought the presentation was superb, and felt the three hours there were too short a time! I saw another Beanery Writers Group member there, Dale, who also enjoyed the show. I wonder if she fell in love with Archie during the show? Gale made him so interesting even I was almost taken in! Still, I can’t believe she’d prefer Archie to me! I think all who attended were not bored at this “book reading.”

Watch for more of my writings in the future.   Doodleoot for now.    Cochran


  1. As an A&M fan and being olde enough to appreciate REAL bulb-type “fountain” pens (and fountain jerks, too) as well as typewriters (sans electric motors even!) that were too heavy to even think of the word “portable”, I want to off a Hats Off! to Carolyn or Cochran or whomever authored the ARCHIE & MEHITIBLE piece. Well cone.

    Comment by Yohanon — July 18, 2008 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  2. I bow down and tip my tophat to you, why, of course, I, Cochran, a formidable cockroach cockroach of the cantankerous type, did truly pen this piece. Please continue to read my writing—you do know that I have been given the honor of my own category at, where I introduce myself. I must say most humbly that my writings are often better than my rival’s writing. Archie is just dandy, but you must read my Christmas posts—and others. And do not forget to submit an application for one of the the North Pole jobs—all posted at
    Dear SANTA from COCHRAN

    SANTAS, MRS. SANTAS, ELVES & REINDEER WANTED: Please apply—Application #1

    Comment by Carolyn — December 15, 2008 @ 4:36 am | Reply

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