Month: November 2021

A personal plea to Tom Hanks

Hi, Tom.

It is perhaps rudely familiar of me to address you by your first name. Those of us who are not actors tend to feel like we “know” those of you who perform for our amusement and distraction. This of course is absurd.

I’ve seen you take on the cloak of many people, and I shan’t pick a favorite, but I’m always impressed by the variety of the work you do. I suppose this has led me to feel a familiarity, as well as heartfelt respect.

On the other hand, we are Facebook friends, after all. I’ve liked several of your “found-glove” posts, while you’ve yet to react to a single one of my snarky posts or semi-macro photos of fire hydrants. But that’s okay. I know you’re busy: travelling, learning lines, answering the same question from the press for the bazillionth time, choosing future roles and the like.

A Facebook post by Tom Hanks.

A Facebook post by Tom Hanks.

I have seen in the media over the past few months that you’ve been shedding some stuff. The Airstream and some cars being among them.

And of course, there are numerous reports over the past few years of you gifting typewriters from your collection to individuals. Such gifts touch the heart and how can I argue against your generosity?

But those reports have gotten me to wondering, worrying to be honest, about the typewriters.

What jeopardy might they face in years to come?

Will they be dispersed?

See for more!

Like you, I have a fondness for typewriters. This affinity has been with me for as long as I can remember. As a small person I watched my mom type on her Smith Corona portable electric that she had used in college.

The first thing I remember from that machine is the fragrance. Like a new Volkswagen of the ‘70s, it had (and continues to emit) a wonderful aroma. It generates a unique olfactory sensation that I cannot describe. It’s not metal, it’s not lubricant, it’s not ink from the ribbon. No, I feel it must be the vapor of the love that went into crafting the machine in some now-defunct factory of the late 1950s.

My grandmother also had a Smith Corona electric that she often typed letters on. As her arthritis worsened, she typed more and more.

When I was starting high school, my mom strongly encouraged me to take a typing class. Apart from having horrible penmanship, she argued that if I could master the keyboard, I’d always have a job.

Another family member recommended that if I had the choice, I should learn on a manual typewriter. Much like driving a stick-shift, it would be a skill that would serve me well.

I followed all of the advice and took up a seat behind a Royal manual typewriter in my high school’s typing class. We trained using the Century 21 method. It was hard work. My mind often went numb while doing the drills. But I persevered.

As my skills improved, I got pleasure from my ability to turn out crisp, clean, elegant copy.

I continue to be in awe of the typewriter. The mechanical complexity of even the most basic machine, especially considering the times some of these gems were created, is stunning.

Consider that when we type, we’re in close, almost intimate, contact with a hard piece of machinery: keys, springs, wires, cogs, wheels, motors. And yet when you get your hands on a good home row, it feels like you’ve put on a perfectly-fitting pair of socks, fresh from the dryer.

My wife and I still have our typewriters of old. I have my mom’s Smith Corona 210 that she used in college, as did I. My wife, who is from Romania, has her Bulgarian-made Maritsa 30. I’m drawn to them and appreciate them for their mechanical power, complexity and beauty.

Aaron’s Smith Corona 210 Electra.
Alina’s Maritsa 30.

You, to my knowledge, have perhaps the largest collection of typewriters in one place. Not because you have fame or relative fortune, but simply because you have the collection, I ask that you protect it.

You owe me nor the world nothing, of course. But I appreciate that however you’ve amassed the collection, that assemblage of hardware is important: as historical artifacts and as art that should be appreciated and preserved.

I can only imagine the space they must take up and I fear that as you re-asses the “things” in your life, you might consider breaking up the band, so to speak.

Please do not do that! Not for me, not for yourself, not for your children, but for the world. Please save the typewriters. Keep them together.

Maybe set aside an endowment for their care. Or bequeath them at the end of your earthly stay to a university of design or engineering, a museum – someplace that will love them. Somehow, please, I beg you, keep them all together and protected. Don’t disperse them.

If and when the time comes when they are no longer your children, please adopt them out as the family that they are – for the benefit of all.

Thank you for everything, Tom. Both for the entertainment that you’ve given us and for the very fact that you have brought attention to typewriters as the important players they are in our past and future.

Please follow these links for more about Tom Hanks’ love of typewriters.

I recommend Tom’s book, Uncommon Type — Some Stories.

Tom Hanks Gave His Corona Typewriter to a Kid Bullied Over Having the Name Corona:

Many happy returns: Tom Hanks gives typewriter to Massachusetts family:

Tom Hanks gifted this Wellesley family a vintage typewriter:

Artist receives thoughtful gift from Tom Hanks:

Tom Hanks Changes the Ribbon on a Typewriter:

Let’s take a road trip!

What you are about to read is totally true and accurate. You likely will be bewildered and experience stunned disbelief. However, except where I have embellished, lied, amplified or mis-remembered, this is all true!

My wife and I have just completed our first real vacation in years. And I mean that literally. YEARS! We’ve taken a few long weekends away from home-sweet-home, but this adventure was nine days on the road to see something other than our own walls and carpets.

If I didn’t hate people before this trip, and have a short fuse (which I do), those conditions worsened on this trip.

We drove over 2,000 miles passing through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Ontario (Toronto), New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and back home to North Carolina.

We saw some of the most awful roads on our trip. In fact in Pennsylvania I had just, in the dark, entered a curving exit ramp, when the left wheels went through the deepest of all craters. Five cars were on the shoulder after having hit it ahead of us – those cars appeared to be broken and disabled: blown tires and bent-up undercarriages. Drivers were assessing their damage by the light cast from their Angry Birds devices, the look of stunned disbelief quite evident. Our sinuses and spinal cords ached from the impact, but we had no (visible) damage. But we hit it hard! Mr. Toyota: you make a strong Corolla!

We left on a Friday around noon, having worked the morning half of the day. We spent the first night in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Apparently West Virginia peoples don’t believe in masks, the plague, protecting themselves or their tourists. Our hotel was very busy with a 50th high-school reunion going on – complete with coughing and hacking old smokers all over.

It was about 7 p.m. when we arrived and we wanted a good meal and an adult beverage or eight. But we were tired. It was dark and rainy. So we dumped our bags in the room and drove to the nearby McDonalds. Not the type of gastro fare I wanted for my vacation to be sure. I wanted steak, baked spuds, beer and some crazy-tall concoction of cake, ice cream or both, for dessert.

A Quarter Pounder and Filet-O-Fish were to be our first vacation meal delight.

It took us a couple of hours to figure out how to enter the parking lot of said McDonalds. We were shaking with hunger and could smell the fries in the air, but we couldn’t figure out how to get into the joint! Once I finally navigated into the lot, I realized I’d just driven some distance down a one-way street – of course going in the suicide direction. Lucky for us there was no traffic and local law enforcement was busy keeping the peace at a nearby high school football game where the fireworks were blasting off in full force. Or maybe it was squirrel season, I don’t know.

We took our food back to the room, ate and fell asleep.

The next morn I went to the free breakfast to get some food to take back to the room while my wife readied herself for the day’s journey.

Why would people take grandkids to a class reunion? I don’t get it. I was presented with a crowd of 68-year-olds, puffing away on their Winstons, ignoring their pre-teens running about drinking straight from the chocolate milk fountain and running their sticky paws through the bread and bagel basket. I have so far failed to make sense of this.

The only thing I felt safe eating were bananas. And even those were slippery. Bananas should not be slippery.

We ate the tropical yellows in our room and then began our escape.

Next up, I needed my morning addiction: coffee.

I had spied a Starbucks on our way in to town. I knew just how to get there. Or so I thought. In my mind it was only inches away and on our way out of town. I tooled around a bit, both of us anxious to be on our damn way when I said “Forget it, I’ll get gas station coffee!” “No, we’re getting you a Starbucks. I’ll map us.” my loving wife stated.

She did so which took us a couple of miles in the wrong direction but surprise of shocks, it was a nearly-new Starbucks and was one of the nicest ones I’ve ever been in, regardless of state or country!

They all have that Starbucks vibe, but the people were so nice. And they were masked but I swear to you, I think they had all their teeth! Really! I think they had full sets of chompers behind those masks. They were clean, friendly, used full and proper sentences and handed over a venti blonde roast with haste and vigor. I only saw one tattoo and I think it was of a bunny. Well done, Parkersburg Starbucks!

Then we were on the road again (cue Willie).

The first of many ways the world stood on my sciatic nerve was on the West Virginia Turnpike which…get this…only takes CASH! Who carries cash!? Well, I do, but that’s not the point.

I was the subject of several harsh rebukes bellowed by Toll Collector Betty. I’m sure she said “We only accept cash, fine sir” but it took about 17 attempts for us to understand her message. If she’d had just one tooth in the front, she may have been able to enunciate clearly. But no. To be fair, I was distracted by wiping from my glasses the chewing tobacco she was spewing.

These days, having been gone for over 22 years, I can only get around the very major landmarks in my old stomping grounds of Kalamazoo, Michigan. It has changed so much. I mean, they had running water and ‘lectricity when I left, but now they like, you know, have paved roads, Costcos and WalMarts and most of the people wear shoes!

It has become a joke that every time I visit mom, my first chore is to replace light bulbs. And in her house she has can lights everywhere. The only place where there isn’t a can light is over the dining table. She had a few lights burned out so I replaced them with bulbs she’d purchased. Well, the new bulbs were white LEDs and dang – they gave off a great light! The old bulbs were of the Edison variety with bona-fide burning filaments in the bulbs. She was so enamored with the great light from the replacements she said: “Let’s go to Menard’s (the Michigan version of Lowe’s or Home Depot and one superior thing about Michigan that has nothing to do with Lake Superior) and load up the cart and replace every light in the house!?” She was so excited!

A few hours and 37 bulbs later, she had fresh and modern illumination throughout the estate. She informed us that she plans to die when she’s 85 so she suspects these bulbs will last her.


While we were at Menard’s to get bulbs (we literally had a cart full of them), it was very busy. Three lanes open with decent lines in each. It’s almost our turn and mom said “Do you recognize the cashier?” I had paid her no notice until then but when I gave her a solid review I instantly knew it was Meredith – a girl I’d grown up with! Well, I haven’t seen her since the 10th grade but she was easily recognized. But I knew she wouldn’t know me – I look more than a little different. She’d of course recognize mom – she sorta stands out in a crowd of bears and trout.

Mind you, we’re in a long line of gun-toting Michiganders who are slightly toasted now that pot is fully legal there, and mom decided to have a reunion with Meredith! Egads!

“How’s your mom? Where are you living? Are you married?  Kids? Coke or Pepsi?”

Those people behind us were seething! Mom insisted on paying so there was no way for me to hurry our exit. Meredith did her best to be friendly, but kept glancing to the angered farm boys who were sharpening their blades behind us – trying her best to send my mom a CLUE to move it! Mom’s retired and entitled to her own timeline, so what the hell. If I make it to retirement, I’ll do the same.

We finally got out of there with our skins, though one Bubba burned rubber right next to us in the parking lot – he was either trying to flirt with my wife, or run us over, I’m not sure which. (TRANSLATION: Michigan boys think making a big burnout is a major turn-on to the ladies).

We also went to the lakeside resort area of South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan. But it was too blasted cold to do much. We walked around, took a few shots and hunted for coffee. South Haven has three independent coffee joints…all of which close at 1 p.m. After that, Michiganders switch to microbrews and hard liquor.

Mom: “But my car has heated seats! Turn on your heated seats and you won’t need coffee!”

Me: “I hate heated seats. They make my butt sweat.”

Wife: “I don’t like heated seats…they make me too hot.”

Mom: “But they’re FANCY! I paid for ‘em, you might as well use ‘em!”

Several miles towards home we came upon a Biggby Coffee location. Desperation called for a stop. I really do not like the juice that comes from Biggby Coffee. But it was hot and warming, and maybe created only a small ulcer.

Next, we were on to Toronto, Canada to visit with family and see some sights.

In order to enter Canada, you have to install an app on your phone, create an account, and enter Passport information, immunization records and the results of a Covid test no more than 24 hours old and a 20-page essay extolling the virtues of the confirming interrogative “eh!”

The day before our departure toward maple-land, we went to a local testing facility to have our nasals probed, in order to satisfy the requirement to cross the border.

We were so impressed with how well organized the place was. All drive-up. In 10 minutes the whole thing was over. They promised that an email with the results (good for international travel) would appear the next morning. We planned to be on the road at 10 a.m. that next morning in order to get to our Toronto hotel before dark.

Morning came and a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee was had, but nothing appeared in our email inboxes. Well, apparently we have an issue with our car warranty, but that would be handled upon our return home.

We began to get nervous. Without those results, we couldn’t cross the border.

Hotel rooms were bought and paid for.

Venue reservations had been made.

The horror!

My wife called the testing place.

They didn’t know who we were.

We had been given no “paperwork” from the nose-voyeurs so all we could give them was names, birthdates, etc.

After she was on the phone for many dozens of nervous minutes it turned out that the clerk had mis-typed our names, email addresses and phone numbers. I’m sure our handwriting had nothing to do with the fat-fingering as we both exhibit enviable script when filling out papers on our knees while seated in our car during a blizzard. Anything is possible.

The fine Michigan lady told us we passed the tests, but that it could take a couple of hours for our certificates to be generated.

And don’t forget to check your Spam folder.

At long last we got our certificates and completed registering on the ArriveCAN app and we hit the road.

Hugs and goodbyes and we were away!

Once on Michigan main ruts, er, roads, it rained. It blew. It fogged. We couldn’t even see the capitol dome in Lansing as we passed by. No impressive photos were had. And the traffic was awful. I can’t tell you how many close calls we had due to the traffic and weather.

We finally made it to Port Huron, Michigan where we could take the Blue Water Bridge to cross into foreign lands.

“Hello, bonjour! Said the nice border security lady. Passports, ArriveCAN code, bribe, fishing license and vaccination cards.”

I handed them over.

I’m always nervous at border crossings.

She was wearing a Glock G22, with two spare magazines. She was ready to not take crap from some fat and bald American. Or me.

When I was a kid, we went to Canada a lot and back then smuggling cigarettes was a big thing. Eight-year-old me was traumatized by seeing a families’ car torn apart by Canadian Mounties looking for smokes, while little Timmy and his doggie watched in terror. The painful memory lingers.

Agent: “Why do you want to come to Canada?”

Me: “To visit the CN Tower and the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum).”

Agent: “You’re coming into Canada to do that on a WEDNESDAY? Who does that?”

Me: “Well, it’s when we got time off work.”

Agent: “What do you both do?”

Me: “I’m a computer programmer, she (pointing to my wife) is a technical writer.”

Agent: “Neat.”

Agent: “How much alcohol do you have in that trunk?”

No “DO you have alcohol?” She ASSUMED alcohol! Is it written on our faces?

Oh, yeah, we were entering from Michigan, so yeah. But she didn’t ask about Mary Jane. She didn’t care about Mary Jane at all.

But we were PREPARED!

Me: “We have about six cans of beer.”

Agent: “How many liters is that?”

Me: “Um, I think they’re each about 12 ounces.”

Agent: “Canada is on the metric system you dolt. How many LITERS are you bringing in?”

Fortunately, Romania is metric and my wife hailing from that land quickly calculated and gave the woman a number.

Agent: “And you’re going to drink that in the CN Tower?”

Me: “No, we’ll drink it in our room.”

Agent: “Because Canada doesn’t have beer?”

Me: “No, but we brought beers we like.”

Agent: “You wouldn’t want to try Canadian beer? Just your own?”

Me: Hunting for my next words, eyes locked on that Glock….

Agent: “Tell me about the weapons you have on-board. Keeping in mind that pocket knives and mace and mean words are considered weapons.”

Me: “All we have is my Swiss Army Knife.”

The Agent gave me a disgusted look, apparently not a fan of the Swiss. She tapped away on her computer while we sweated in the frigid Canadian wind.

Finally, she handed our documents back to us.

But she wasn’t finished with our shivering and apprehensive personages.

Agent: “You’ve been selected for a random Covid screening.”

She handed us two blue boxes.

Agent: “There’s a box for each of you. You’ll drive ahead towards that Red Cross flag over there. Park by the cones. Open each of your boxes and follow the instructions inside. Do not open your windows or doors. Stay in your car. This is a secure area. We will shoot. We’re cold and we can warm our fingers on our hot gun barrels. It’s up to you. Now drive to the flag very slowly.”

I drove to the flag and we opened our boxes. Inside was a form to fill out with the usual identifying informations.

Finally, a Jamaican dude appeared in front of us. How he can exist in such a frozen clime, I do not know. The man did a stilted mime that seemed to indicate that we were to drive ahead through a maze of cones and concrete barriers only wide enough for a Trek to trek. I finally made it through the course with side-view mirrors still attached.

Then we were in the hands of nice Red Cross peoples. I tried to call my friend Mark who is a highly-placed volunteer official with the American Red Cross to see if he could get us out of it, but he didn’t answer. I suspect our call was blocked by the Canadian Air Force, the air being thick with geese on maneuvers.

The Red Crossers swabbed our nostrils.


And they made each of us create a Red Cross Canada account on our phones.

They waited while we did this.

They continued to wait.

Our eyes teared after having been poked from below and assaulted by the strong wind off Lake Huron. Filling out lengthy forms on an iPhone whilst crying is not a scenario that lends itself to speedy completion.

More waiting ensued during which the Red Crossers danced to unheard tunes in an attempt to not be frozen to the tarmac.

Our windows were open so the Reds could talk to us. We were lodged between trailers, barriers and assault rifles. And bears, probably. There was no early escape to be enjoyed. Oh, and that moose. He looked to be asleep, but I think he had one eye open, clearly focused on us.

The app registration complete, they told us that it would allow them to contact-trace in the event our tests came back with bad results.

We were finally released and allowed to continue our Canadian trek, where the maximum speed limit is 55 mph – or 88 kmh – THEY’RE METRIC! I had frequent flashbacks to Jimmy Carter – not the best kind of distraction whilst one is on vacation.

It was several miles through gorgeous countryside before we came upon a gas station. That was fortunate because I needed to change my undies and get a bottled Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino to re-engergize.

Now for a word about the details of the Canadian visit.

We visited Toronto sites, we walked hundreds of miles in the windy, cold Toronto downtown, we ate too much, we drank too much, we shared stories and laughs with family who had met us there. But alas, after a couple of days, it was time to return to the land of angry people (Canadians truly are over-the-top in the friendly department).

I was feeling a little nervous about re-entering the United States of A, given our nasal challenges entering Canada.

We got to the border crossing and because at that time it was closed to all but returning citizens, there was nobody there. One lane open. Nobody ahead of us. Nobody behind us. I think I spied a few clowns to the left, maybe a joker on the right.

The agent glanced at our passports and opened the gate. He didn’t make any utterance. And just like that, we were at Niagara Falls, New York.

Other than that, the trip was uneventful.

Except for that crevasse in Pennsylvania. My lumbar region will always remember you.

I need a vacation.