TBT: La Macchina Da Scrivere

Today, April 30th, was a big day for history.

Like BIG big.

I had so much to choose from. Like, did you know that the planetoid, formally known as  Pluto, actually came inside Neptune's orbit today and stayed like that for about fifty years?  That's pretty cool.

In 1995 "Blood Brothers" closed on Broadway after 839 performances, which probably means nothing to you, but landing the lead role in that musical in 1997, changed the whole scope of my life.

Lots of terrible things happening to Jews and Native Americans dating back to before the dark ages and continuing . . . well . . . continuing.

In U.S. news we elected our first president (Washington), established our Navy in 1798, and purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, so we too are continuing continuing.

Sports fans will know this day as the day the New York Highlanders played their first game against the Washington Senators in 1903.

BTW, the Highlanders eventually became the Yankees, that's why it's important.


Now, if you go anywhere today, or listen to any news, pick up a paper, or walk by a television set, you're gonna be informed that today is the 40th Anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War.

. . . or police action, if you prefer.

Lot of old people are gonna be crying, cause they have very strong feelings about all that.

Who wouldn't?

So I spent the better part of my morning wondering if I had anything to say about war, or police actions (not to mention the demotion of Planet Pluto) and two things came into my mind.

One is a story, and the other is a quote.

The story happened in 1990/1991-ish which you will probably remember as Operation Desert Storm and I will always remember as my freshman year of high school.

What I remember is the whole front of the newspaper was taken up by the big blocky letters "WAR!"

What I also remember is that we were all pretty excited about it. Somebody was picking a fight with one of our buddies, and we were gonna go in there and kick some ass.

The U.S. International Motto being: "Do your thang, brah, but mess with my hommies and we're gonna drop a world of hurt down on you."

Or something like that.

Remember, we still said the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of class time. Which, and I know this sounds terrible, I can still recite, and just like "The Lord's Prayer" there's a part of me that misses it. Is it naive if everybody does it?

Anyway, so I go home that day, bombs bursting in air, rockets glaring red, and spoke to my father about cool it felt.

He smiled and nodded his head.

"That's pretty much the way we felt at the beginning of the Vietnam War." and he left it at that.

Now if you grew up in the seventies/eighties or thereafter, you think of the Vietnam War as the terrible horrible no good very bad thing that Nixon did. Propaganda swings both ways.

I'm not saying it wasn't.

I'm not saying it was.

It is what it is.

And I wasn't there.

But to hear someone, who was there, make a remark like that, it reminds you to think of history not as a collection of dates and names . . . but as amazing tool for which draw parallels.

My fourteen year old dad felt the same way about the Vietnam War in 1964 as the fourteen year old me felt about Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Let's kick some ass.

Anyway, the other thing was a quote from one of my favorite books, which was this:

"If you can't communicate . . . how do you know he's not trying to kill you?"

The character who said that was referring to aliens, but let's be honest, a monstrous ant-like creature in a space ship, is no less foreign to me than a man who speaks arabic and covers his wife from head to toe in heavy black sheets.

Nor I to him . . . just to make things seem fair.

And neither of us are pacifists. No one is really a pacifist.

Sure you wouldn't punch a six year old in the face, but what if that six year old pulled a knife on your four year old?

Lights out kiddo.

So the spectrum lies somewhere between 'Let's Kick Some Ass.' and 'Let's Think Things Through.'

We probably shoulda thought things through before Vietnam, just like we probably shoulda thought things through before invading Iraq both times. However, if we hadn't spent so much time thinking things through in the 1930's and early 1940's, we probably could've helped avert the Holocaust.

Poor jews.

Always the jews.

Anyway . . . there is good news. (Aside from Pluto being names a planet again)

The good news is that history is changing.


Over millennia.

But changing.

Because on April 30th 1808, Pellegrini Turri invented "La Macchina Da Scrivere"

The machine with which to write.

The typewriter . . . he invented the typewriter.

Though saying 'la macchina da scrivere' out loud is pretty sexy. Especially when my wife says it.

Lah mahk heena day scree veer ray.


And yes, we've had writing forms for a couple thousand years at this point, and the printing press was already a thing, but the typewriter democratized information.

You didn't have to be rich to write rich.

And the information you had, whoever you are, can go anywhere. It ushered in the industrial revolution, the age of the electron, the age of computers, and now, I can communicate with a guy who speaks arabic and dresses his wife from head to toe in heavy black sheets just as easily as I can communicate to my next door neighbor.

Here's what I'd say to both.

"Hey, could you keep it down? I'm trying to write."

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