mark toland mind reader

My New Typewriter

I learned to type at my dad’s office.

His secretaries had electric typewriters that I would poke around on after hours. I’d watch in fascination as the silver ball quickly spun around to the correct letters, numbers, and symbols before revealing them on the page. I always loved the click-clack of the keys and the sound of the bell when you reached the end of the line.

The office was lined with barrister bookshelves full of leather bound books. Often, I’d have an extra hour to kill before my dad would be able to give me a ride home. So I’d walk the hall admiring the bookshelves before taking a seat behind a typewriter to pass the time.

When my father passed away my siblings and I each got to keep one of the bookshelves. It’s one of my favorite possessions and I can’t help but think of those glorious afternoons exploring the office and typing away for hours on end.

Recently I’ve been on a mission to add mystery back into my life. I figured that if I’m trying to encourage my audiences to enjoy mystery then I should probably do the same in my everyday life.

Part of that push has been to live a more “analog” life. I’ve been limiting my screen time, staying away from social media, and taking a more “old school” approach to my daily routine. It was only a matter of time before I bought my own typewriter.

I’ve always been a fan of the mid-century modern aesthetic, so I went with an Olivetti Lettera 32. Isn’t it beautiful?

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I love this machine. It’s in perfect shape, has a perfect fit to my hands, and it’s totally my style. Just seeing it each day makes me want to sit down and get to work.

Also, it’s a manual typewriter, so there’s no need to charge it or upgrade it to the next operating system. It just sits on my desk waiting for me to create something.

Speaking of my desk… I had remembered that my dad’s typewriters had been resting on these large metal desks. They were huge and solid and built to last. So naturally I wanted one of those.

After doing a bit of research I discovered that those desks are known as “steel tanker desks”. I started searching everywhere for a desk that would go well with my Olivetti Lettera 32. I went dozens of pages deep on Craigslist, eBay, and more, but I couldn’t find the model I had in mind.

One day Stephanie and I went out to browse antique stores. I didn’t expect to find the desk I was wanting but I was keeping an eye out anyway. And at our tenth store, in a beautiful moment of serendipity, Stephanie found it sitting just inside the door. Plus, it was on sale. They were practically giving it away.

We cleared out the seats, wheeled it to the back alley, and loaded a massive, solid steel desk into the car. Surprisingly it wasn’t too difficult to transport it across the city and upstairs to our apartment. And suddenly, everything came together.

The desk matched the typewriter, which together matched my lamp, chair, and wall art. Everything was perfect.

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I glanced down at the desk to see a seal from the desk’s manufacturer: Globe-Wernicke.

“I wonder where this desk has been…” I thought to myself.

So I went in search of some information I could find on steel tanker desks made by Globe-Wernicke. Eventually I arrived at this article.

It turns out that Globe-Wernicke is best known for patenting the “barrister bookcase” - the very bookcase that lined the halls of my dad’s office. The very bookcase that sat nearby while I was learning to type. The very bookcase my father left me after he passed away.

I love when everything comes full circle in life. I love when things connect in magical, mysterious ways that you couldn’t possibly anticipate.

Life can be really wonderful sometimes.

And that’s the story of my new typewriter, my new desk, and what goes through my mind when I sit down to write each and every day.


Other Thoughts:

  • Check out some backstage mind reading from Liberty Magic:

  • I was a guest on The Lisa Show on Sirius XM Radio last week. Listen here!

  • Also, check out this interview I did with the Pittsburgh Current.

Experience

There was a fellow performer in my audience earlier this year. It was one of my best shows thus far in 2019. I was completely in the moment and the audience was loving it. Yet, this performer sat completely emotionless, arms crossed, refusing to smile or have a good time.

It reminded me of this cartoon:

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For the entire show I kept glancing over to see if he was enjoying it, but it just looked like the guy in that cartoon.

Honestly, it pissed me off.

When I go to another performer’s show, I try to be a good audience member. Reactions are contagious, so I try to lead by example for the other people in the audience: I lean forward, I smile, I nod, I laugh. I work extra hard to pay attention and respond accordingly, because that’s what I would want if I was doing the show myself.

Seeing another performer refuse to acknowledge my performance was incredibly annoying. There was no reason for him not to enjoy himself. It was a good show, in a gorgeous venue - did I mention I WAS DESTROYING THAT ROOM?! His lack of respect for my effort onstage was rude. There’s no other way to put it. This performer who I thought I respected and admired was being a complete jerk.

At the end of the show the audience leapt to their feet for a standing ovation. (I told you I was killing…) I stepped to the front of the stage and could see out of the corner of my eye that the only person not standing was this guy. So I turned, made eye contact, and pointed right at him as if to say “I saw you the whole show and that wasn’t cool.”

After the show this colleague-who-must-not-be-named made his way backstage and we passed in the hallway.

I said hello and shook his hand.

“Did you have fun?” he said, as he condescendingly put his hand on my shoulder.

DID I HAVE FUN? What kind of cop-out question is that? I could see it on his face that he refused to tell me I did a good job, so he asked a surface level question to maintain his seniority over me. He was treating me like a child, when I’m actually his competition. We’ve been in the running for the same big events, we’re of the same pedigree, we are both working professionals, but he was refusing to treat me with respect.

A lesser Mark Toland would have let that exchange bother him for weeks, maybe even months. The Mark Toland of ten years ago would have panicked and wondered what was wrong with himself. He would have thought “Wow, my show isn’t good enough yet. I have to work harder and one day maybe I can earn this guy’s respect.”

When I was just starting out an exchange like that might have soured my entire night. I would have played it over and over in my head, getting more and more frustrated with every single replay. I would have spent countless nights blaming myself and questioning my actions.

But that was then…

I’m more self-assured now. I have the confidence of a thousand shows under my belt. I’ve done shows on the other side of the world and worked for every kind of audience imaginable. Things don’t really get to me now like they used to.

I know now that that guy’s actions during the night were all due to his own insecurities. There’s something wrong with him that made him treat me like that, and it had nothing to do with me.

Isn’t it great to get older and wiser and feel more confident? Isn’t it wonderful to understand that you can’t control people’s actions and usually they have nothing to do with you? It took me years to understand that but I’m so glad I do.

“Did you have fun?”

Those words hung in the air for a moment. Then, I looked him dead in the eye and placed my hand on his shoulder in return.

“Did you have fun?” I responded, slightly sarcastically. And for an instant, I could see the realization flash across his face that he had been incredibly disrespectful for the entire evening. He didn’t say anything but I’m certain it was there.

I walked down the hall and thought to myself “Hmm, maybe I’ll write a blog post about this…”

Then I went and celebrated the success of the night. The standing ovation for my award-winning show, with a group of friends who had come to support it. It never crossed my mind again, and if I hadn’t jotted it down in my list of potential blog ideas I might not have even written this post.


I just got the first (hopefully, of many!) reviews for my show at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh. Last night was the start of the 2nd week of my residency here. You don’t want to miss it. Go here to get tickets!

Where I've Been

It’s been about 4 months since my last Thursday Thoughts post, but I’m back!

Honestly, I needed a break. Writing each week was starting to feel like a chore. I was burnt out and overworked. And I didn’t feel inspired like I want to be. But, I've been missing posting these and, deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time before I couldn't resist getting back on the grind.

So, here’s what I’ve been up to:

• I’ve been getting closer to my 10,000 hours - 10 minutes at a time. I have a super-focused approach to improving my script, performance, and creative ideas. (If there’s enough interest, I could turn that into a future post.)

• I was invited to perform at the Orlando Fringe Winter Mini Fest back in January. Both of my shows had packed houses and I even won a small award at the end of the weekend. (I won 12 awards at 12 festivals in just under 2 years, but it’ll probably be my last fringe festival for a while. It’s been a fun ride, I just need to focus on some other projects for a while.)

• I did a show in Dubai. It was my first time in the Middle East, but I made the most of it. I saw the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Jumeirah Island, Atlantis, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the Dubai Mall, visited a mosque, and did nothing but eat amazing food. I can’t wait to go back.

• I just did a couple TV spots for Windy City Live and Good Day Chicago. Check out the WCL clip below!

• I was also on the Bill & Wendy Show on WGN Radio. It was super fun!

• After MIND READER won a Chicago Theatre Award last year, the Chicago Magic Lounge asked me to be their artist-in-residence this summer. The show just started this month and I’ll be performing there every Wednesday through the end of June. (Get your tickets here.)

Photo by Trainman Photography

Photo by Trainman Photography

• Also, I just announced my other show dates through the end of the summer. I’ll be performing six shows a week for six weeks at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh, PA. (Tickets available here.)

• I haven’t really been going on social media much. Chances are you probably clicked this link on facebook or twitter, but that’s only because it automatically posts to those networks for me. I’m not going to see or respond to your comments there, so if you have something to say please comment below this post or send me an e-mail.

• I’ve been taking time for myself. To get through the miserable Chicago winter I’ve been running and working out more. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K last month and am working towards a 10K next month. I took some trips to Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. And, I just finished the second season of The OA in time for the NBA Playoffs to start.

• Finally, I’ve been searching for more mystery. More on that next week.

It’s great to be back. See you in my audience soon?