The Gala Premiere for ‘California Typewriter’


On Wednesday I went and saw the new documentary California Typewriter. In short, the film was wonderful. It began on an interesting note – the Royal Road Test. To a casual observer, the Royal Road Test is a beige spiral-bound booklet that resembles some long forgotten technical manual. Inside is a criminal investigation. Scattered along a stretch of highway lie parts of a deceased Royal 10, indicating that the victim was thrown from a moving vehicle – likely that of the author. As with most self-investigations no guilty party was found. From there, a narrative was spun and an experience was had that comes the closest  to out-of-body that I’ve ever been.

The story goes from the then-struggling California Typewriter shop in Berkeley across collectors, poets, writers, and an artist. All have their own personal relationship with the typewriter and reasons for its continued appreciation and usefulness. At times contrasted against modern digital culture, the film really is thought provoking and at times touching.

The cast of characters is diverse to say the least. The most recognizable names are those of actor Tom Hanks, singer/songwriter John Mayer, author David McCullough, and playwright Sam Shepard. Artist Jeremy Mayer, the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, philosopher Richard Polt, collector Martin Howard, and the typosphere’s beloved Herman Price all make appearances as well – Jeremy and Martin’s being the most significant.

The film beautifully covers the emancipation that the typewriter brought to women, the future historian’s loss of margin notes and on-paper edits, and among others the loss of creative ‘flow’ at the hands of digital interruptions and easy self-editing. If anything the film makes it clear that the death of this analog process is a death to be mourned and has a history to be celebrated. It presents the advantages of working on paper, and of rebelling against the ‘digital regime’.

The parts that I find the most valuable are when the interviewees express what the machine means to them. It makes the idea of using typewriters in the 21st Century rational and relatable to a larger, ‘digitally hipnotized’ audience; the process becoming more presentable and less stereotypically ‘luddite’.

Leaving the theater, I heard the other moviegoers bemoaning the loss of family typewriters, reminiscing on using them and wishing that they had one. This makes me ecstatic. I have been trying to adequately voice some of those ideas for some time now, and the job this movie does is great. If anyone asks you why you collect or use typewriters, just tell them to watch California Typewriter. Seriously.

Made it into that one!

The gala after the showing was packed – one could barely walk. With the amount of wine passing around there were plenty of tipsy folk after a relatively short period of time that made the gala entertaining in other ways… Most of the drunk middle-aged women ended up around Martin, and one mistook me for Jeremy. Fun!

While the ‘entertainment’ at the gala was unforgettably loud and annoying, seeing people crowd around & wait in line to use one out of a circle of manual typewriters was flooring. It felt like the typewriter was once again having its day.

Doug Nichol – the director of California Typewriter – is one of us! At present he has between 80 and 85 typewriters to his name, and that alone makes me recommend the film. Other stars from the documentary were also present. Ken Alexander from California Typewriter, Richard Polt, Jeremy Mayer, and Martin Howard were weaving through the crowd and socializing. I got to talk to each of them, and they were all down-to-earth and very relatable.

I must confess, when I first saw Jeremy Mayer’s work a few years ago I was not enthused. After hearing what he has to say, and seeing the good that his work is doing for the typewriter community as a whole, I am impressed and thankful for his change of my opinon.

Since I forgot my phone (and by extension my light meter) in the car, I have no pictures of mine to post of the event at this time. I winged it (wung it?) with my Nikkormat on Kodak Tri-X based upon previous experience, but I am pretty sure they are underexposed. Pushed 400 to 800, f5.6 (sometimes 4), shutter speed 60, wide-angle Vivitar lens.

Photo credit: Richard Polt

The most ‘real’ part of the night was after the gala was over. It was a little nippy out as the valet from the Ritz was retrieving our car and we stood waiting for it on the sidewalk. We were with Richard Polt, lightly philosophizing and waxing nostalgic. When our car arrived, Dad unveiled the custom powder-coated Selectric that he was doing for Richard as headlights made the metallic finish sparkle.

From behind came a familiar shout and we were shortly joined by Martin Howard and Jeremy Mayer, both of whom had searched for the bar in the Ritz only to find it closed. I don’t know why they decided to go outside instead of retiring for the night when they had to roll by 8am whilst it was a quarter after midnight. That wasn’t a question I had at the time, but it has occurred to me since that that was fortunate.

The six of us talked under the lights of the Ritz-Carlton’s awning for a few minutes; it was one of those moments that you know will end shortly but wish would continue for hours.

The two hour ride home was spent in introspection and contemplation. I thought back to my first machine and walked through the list of events that led me to the ride back from the film festival. The death of a relative in 2003. My first typewriter in 2012. The trashed HH I tried to save the following year that unknowingly introduced me to Richard Polt through a phone call. The Cincinnati Spring Type-In in 2014. Herman’s meeting.

Until that moment, after spending the night under high-end lighting and sharing a uniquely human moment in the cold, I had never realized exactly how deep my connection with the typewriter was and how much it had changed my life. Everything about me is different now… partly by way of maturing, but mostly because of events brought to bear as a result of my first machine five years ago. Five years – how fast time has passed. But I digress.

California Typewriter is well worth the wait, and I highly recommend it. For further review of the night’s events check out Richard Polt’s post here: The Typewriter Revolution – “California Typewriter” Gala in Cleveland.

I’m Typemonkey for The Daily Clipper, and that’s the 6:00 news. Goodnight.

A Journey of a Thousand Rolls Begins with a Single Pump

Working at the Piano Company is amazing. The people, the machines, the atmosphere – it’s a fantastic place. When I started I wanted to get an automatic instrument to practice on at home, and much to my surprise I only had to mention a specific instrument once before my parents went for it.

Case in point – found this on the inside of a cabinet door today.

As of mid-summer, we became the proud owners of a Chickering baby grand piano. Chickering among other names was owned by a parent known as the American Piano Company, which in the mid 19teens introduced their version of a ‘reproducing’ player piano. 

During the years of player piano construction before the Great Depression there were three main types. The first kind is your regular run o’ the mill player that can adjust volume only by shifting the hammer rail. The second is an ‘expression’ piano, where the amount of suction in the stack is varied resulting in loud and quiet tones. The last is the ‘reproducing’ player, where the system is designed to precisely reproduce the sound of human playing.

The stack of a reproducing piano is split down the middle, so the bass and treble sections can play at different volumes, intensities, and crescendos. The system was so accurate that a host of world famous musicians recorded Rolls for reproducing pianos. Rachmaninov plays Rachmaninov, Gershwin plays Gershwin, etc.! All brought into your living room in precise reproduction.

Our Chickering piano is in decent shape, but as is expected the Ampico player has seen better days. The rubber hoses, pneumatic cloth, and cork (blech) seals are shot. In order to get the system playing again, everything has to be rebuilt. When it comes to pneumatic systems like the Ampico, that entails tearing the entire thing apart, replacing every soft material in the whole system, and then putting it all back together. And it has to be airtight. Especially in an Ampico.


1923 diagram of an upright Ampico pump.
The inside of our Ampico pump – likely all original.

As the title implies, the first thing that needs to be done is the pump. The electric motor turns a flywheel which pumps all of the bellows inside the pump. In an Ampico, four bellows are going at once, producing a steady flow of suction. In order to systematically test other parts of the system to make sure they are pulling the correct water inches (a unit of measurement used extensively in the player piano industry) I need a suction like that.

After taking notes and disconnecting what I could, my dad and I dropped the pump out of the piano. That night I had the pump pulled apart and got to take a look at how it all works. I cleaned up some of the metal parts including the screwheads, so as I progress I’ll include posts showing the process. I can’t wait to get it working!

The top of the pump with the vacuum distributor removed. The amplifier pneumatic is also visible.

Oakland Ghost Ship Fire

Two days ago, late Friday December 2nd, a terrible fire on 31st Avenue in Oakland California claimed the lives of at least 24 people during a musical performance. Estimates of casualties go as high as 40, but as I type this the authorities on scene are proceeding with caution through the dangerously weak building. More are expected to be recovered.

The structure was a 4,032 square foot concrete warehouse converted into an eclectic art gallery and performance space called the Oakland Ghost Ship. Pianos, organs, clocks, paintings, vintage and antique furniture, varied benches, and vintage Hi-Fi Equipment were piled high up the walls and around open spaces. Any open wall space was covered in ‘random pieces of wood’. Furniture, cloth hangings and vintage light fixtures hung from ceilings. It was an ideal place for urban artists to display their work, but the fire on Saturday night has brought the dangerous conditions in the warehouse into sharp focus.

No fire exit, sprinklers, or smoke alarms have been recorded in the building. A survivor who tried fire extinguishers couldn’t get them to work. The single exit from the second floor was a staircase constructed of wooden pallets with no handrail – as a Boy Scout I can vouch that a stack of wooden pallets burns well. Most fires we build are constructed either in a teepee or log cabin formation very similar to stacked pallets. The pallet staircase was engulfed in flames and proved inadequate for escape.

The venue had illegal residents living there and illegal events regularly – the city of Oakland was already investigating before the fire. If the organizers and owner of the Ghost Ship has attempted to get the proper permits for the parties and live performances, or for rezoning the structure to residential living space, they would have been denied on allegations of unsafe conditions.

I have done much reading on history over the years, and spent some time on historically important fires. Just based on that knowledge, the lessons from fires as far back as 1903 have gone unheeded. The Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903, the Collinwood School fire of 1908, the Cocoanut Grove club fire of 1942, the Our Lady of the Angels school fire of 1958, and the Station Nightclub fire of 2003 to name a few. The combined lessons of just these disasters alone, of clear un-bottlenecked egress, flammable materials on walls, floors, and ceilings, functioning fire alarms that contact the fire department, and readily accessible fire extinguishers (among others), totaling in over 1,464 deaths, were ignored in this instance.

This fire was needless and avoidable. Our safety codes are built on the ashen rubble of previous fires and are meant to protect the public from ever witnessing disasters like the Iroquois or Cocoanut Grove again. If you don’t read history and learn its lessons you’re doomed to repeat it, as evidenced by the burnt-out warehouse in Oakland today.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims, and to the responders sifting the rubble as we speak. Time will tell what comes from this disaster, but I doubt that there are any new lessons to learn from it. To offer support to those affected, there is a relief fund on YouCaring found here. God bless.

Handwritten Letter


Postscript – A very hard to find 1950’s Royal portable with 1930’s heritage should be arriving sometime within the next week, so I’ll compare the two machines in the family side-by-side to review them both. I hope everyone in the States had a happy Thanksgiving!


(Letter written on a 2012 Lamy Safari in a limited edition Apple Green)

9th Annual Antique Typewriter Collectors’ Meeting (2016)


Betsy’s Stash, Angle 1
Betsy’s Stash, Angle 2


Setting off!
Getting milkshakes at Satan’s Steak ‘N Shake



Machines of mine laid out on display.
All of the new machines procured in West Virginia.
The Royal Empress w/ 21″ carriage, carbon ribbon system, and a 16cpi double-gothic sans-serif typeface from Betsy.
Smith-Corona 88 wide carriage 5cpi library/speech machine, also from Betsy.



(At this point, the uppercase I lost its mind completely on the Smith-Premier 10 and I switched over to the ledger Empress)


My Royal Standard #4571 posing with the new book.
The signed and numbered page of the book, No.58.
The back cover of Peter Weil & Paul Robert’s book


Anyone who wants to see the photos from the trip of the collection can take a look at the album put together on the Antique Typewriter Collectors’ page on Facebook here. Thanks for reading!


A Salute To Kroger #399, My Ex-Workplace

From December 2015 to September 2016 I was a Deli/Bakery associate at the local Kroger Food & Pharmacy, and it was easily the most frustrating job I’ve ever had. For the first few weeks as closer I had almost no idea what I was doing because I’d had one night of training! My manager was actually out to get me as confirmed by several sources and seemingly made every attempt to make my life difficult. In those early days every time I came in the floor was covered in icing to the extent that it looked like there had been a snowball fight with the stuff, but over time I got better and figured out what they wanted me to do. Whenever I got on top of things they would just add more to do nightly.

On top of that, Kroger wouldn’t accept my availability despite being part time and able to dictate my schedule (according to the union rep). As a result, I could never get in to the Piano Company regularly on the days that I requested. There was a somewhat underhanded attempt at transferring me out of the department (that same manager) that the union rep squashed. Those were the days when I was caught in the Kroger Catch 22. There was too much to do by myself without another person, but had to get out on time. I told them that either I was staying late and getting everything done or leaving on time and leaving things for the morning people, and neither of those would do. To which I replied,”I’ll need another person at night, then, or that’s not going to work.”

I’ve been told that they knew this but continued doing what they were doing anyway.

The whole situation was massively frustrating for a period of nine months. The only upside and really the only reason I stayed for that long was that I enjoyed my coworkers immensely. I made close ties with some of them, but we were all amicable and had each other’s backs when needed. That was the sole thing keeping me there outside of pay.

I put in my two weeks notice, last day being on September 9th. Luckily the schedule worked out so that my last day was September 8th, a Sunday I think. Two weeks after I left the store closed permanently and moved to the new location down the street, which I wanted to avoid working at for several reasons. When I walked out my last day, it got real for me. I wasn’t working with those people anymore, and I wouldn’t see them nearly as frequently as I used to. They also made me a wonderful cake with a typewriter on it.

On Tuesday October 4th the store closed at 5:00pm and the new store opened its doors to the family and friends of associates. I made sure to be there and document the closing of the 35 year-old store (the newest decor was about 23 years old), bringing along my Nikon Nikkormat FTn loaded with Kodak Tri-X B&W negative film pushed from ISO 400 to 800. I polished off the roll, and the results were surprisingly decent.

This post is a tribute to my old Kroger store, my coworkers (the people who made it not entirely suck),and the memories I have and we shared. These pictures were taken on a combination of an iPhone 6, a Sony Mavica FD-71, and my Nikkormat FTn.

Early Photographs (April, March 2016)

Swag Cab in the parking lot

Of all the film photographs I’ve taken, this one is my favorite. In my parking space and in uniform, no less.

Kroger #399

Display on National 8-Track Day
Unfortunately no customers noticed my little display for National 8-Track Day.

Street Photography in parking lot

A friend of mine who worked in Meat & Seafood heading back from break.
One of several little rubber dinosaurs were hidden around the Bakery by myself and one coworker, hidden high on a fire alarm. I took them with me on my last day.
Late Photographs (August, September)
My favorite manager, hands down.
The back room of the Bakery almost always appeared this messy. Cake kit ordering was discontinued that day in preparation for the new store, and the order binder is on the floor just right of center.
The Bakery, looking unusually clean.



The same coworker from the parking lot shot earlier at a Friday night D&D session. I was testing out my then new to me Sony Mavica in dark conditions.
This guy made the whole thing worth it. Kroger would have been a living hell when the drama was full blast if it hadn’t been for him. He reintroduced me to roleplaying, and here he’s making an ability check that same Friday night.
The newest store manager (at center) was a funny guy. If you asked him for a thermonuclear explosive device to help combat files, he would ask if you were willing to sign a waiver for it without batting an eye. Dry, deadpan humor. The old coffee machine is at far right.
Our freezer. Until the last few weeks, it was always disorganized.


The Deli in its usual bustle.
A coworker (the one who helped hide dinosaurs) taking care of chicken shop.
Sushi shop, with the new coffee machine on the right ⅓ mark.
Drink at your own risk. STRONG. It could wake the dead, no joke.
Taking a cake order.
The pharmacy drive-thru between downpours.




I’m glad that I never had to tend to the wet floors.


Last Day (Sept. 8, 2016)
An unfortunately poor photo of my farewell cake. They usually only make these for people who have been with the company for years and are retiring. I guess I was doing something right.
Made another setup on my last day. Went a little more ‘all in’ on this one. The 1929 Royal Portable I won the speed typing competition with makes a public appearance. Few seemed to notice.
End of my last day. Melancholy.


Kroger #399’s Final Hour (Oct. 4th, 2016; 4:30-5:02 pm)














You know it’s bad when the Little Debbie stand is empty.




The time clock. The only physical thing that I would be guaranteed to interact with every day at work.



With the atmosphere in the store at the time, I couldn’t help but feel that these two high-up store managers were going down with the ship.
Sentimentally parked in my parking space one last time.

For what it was Kroger was a good experience. I’m a better and wiser person because of it, but I sure wouldn’t do it again! The people I worked with made this bearable, and the in-jokes we had kept us all going. They all miss me and I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss them. I’ve moved on and my store is officially dead.

To all of my old coworkers: Keep on trucking.



Car Parts

The Antique Typewriter Collectors’ Meeting is a week away as of today, and the excitement is definitely building! Our arrangements put us there around noon on the 28th, driving more or less straight there from Columbus. That drive sans detours will be 3 hours, 48 minutes and 253 miles. That’ll be the farthest I’ve ever taken my car in one go. That means that it’s time for all the necessary work to make sure that it won’t become a fixture on the side of a road somewhere.

In the past month I’ve been working on that. Rotated my tires and checked brakes. Seatbelts? Drivers’ side needs to be replaced. Coolant? Low. Windshield wipers? Replace ’em. With no warning my JVC Bluetooth stereo decided that working wasn’t high on it’s list of priorities and crapped out, and that simply won’t do. The list goes on.

While I do have a parts car in my possession, I had either taken out the parts I needed and had discovered that they didn’t work (in the case of my dome light switches in the doors) or that they were already missing (in the case of the cold start valve). Off to the junkyard we go. A nearby junkyard does have a Rabbit but it was perched high above a mini-van, and as such was unusable. Dad found a place in Columbus called Woody’s Auto Salvage and we set out on an expedition.

Salvage Yard

On the first trip to Woody’s, I got the HVAC components that go under the hood at the bottom of the windshield out of an ’87 Cabriolet. Before those parts my recirculation didn’t work and I got a puddle in my passenger footwell whenever it rained. Glad that’s over. By the end of the day I’d retrieved HVAC components, a cold start valve, a complete ashtray (I don’t smoke but I want the thing to work and be original), parking brake & door switches for the brake warning light and dome light, relays, and original pedal covers. Mine had been replaced with ‘sporty’ looking pedal covers that I said I’d replace the moment I laid eyes on them.

1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet In Junkyard
The junkyard’s 1987 Cabriolet. It had 810k miles!
Car Parts
The HVAC components in their natural habitat.
Car Parts
My tools and flannel amidst the wealth of car parts.

The next day my wisdom teeth were removed, and I was out of commission. During that time I revived the blog after a time spent manually porting each post. Another thing that I’m glad is over.

I took the pedal covers out of my parts car and used the best out of the bunch to replace the sporty covers with stock. Dad went back to Woody’s and while he was there I had him fetch the center console from that car, which contained a cassette tape holder that was in much better shape than that in my parts car. After some tinkering with the door switches, the retrofits were complete!

1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet center console
The center console with cassette tape holder.
1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet center console, disassembled.
The same center console, disassembled for cleaning.
Sport clutch pedal cover
Sporty cover…
Stock brake pedal cover
…not so sporty cover.

Using Dad’s vacuum tester I discovered that the vacuum servo for the center vent was faulty, preventing it from opening and warming the car up. With winter around the corner I tore into my parts car to retrieve the functional servo contained therein – in the process learning how to remove a mid-80’s VW Golf dashboard. Fun times. I also took the vacuum control head for the HVAC system from that car since the mounting brackets on the one in mine had shattered. After installing it I discovered that it leaked. Badly.


HVAC control head
My original HVAC control head.
1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet without dashboard
The aftermath of dashboard removal in my parts car.
HVAC control head
The HVAC control head from my parts car.

The second expedition to Woody’s Auto Salvage was wildly successful. After removing the ’87’s HVAC control head I sought out a late-90’s Cabrio. I’m considering replacing the door, trunk, and ignition lock cylinders on my car with those compatible with the far more secure sidewinder style key in use on modern VWs. I knew that the ignition cylinder from a Cabrio of that era would fit in my steering column, and I was quite content when I found a white 2000 Cabrio not far from the ’87. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought the tools necessary to remove it, but as I looked about the car I thought that the cassette stereo still in the dash looked like it would fit in mine. All I had was a hole were the JVC unit had been. I bit the bullet and retrieved it. Dad told me that these stereos were compatible with a 6 CD changer that he’d seen in several cars, and soon I had one of those too.

HVAC Control Head
Control head No. 3.
Volkswagen stereo.
The stereo in the 2000 Cabrio.
The yard at Woody’s Auto Salvage

Dad was skeptical about the radio, and honestly I was too. We tested the CD changer when we got home and discovered that it didn’t detect that the magazine had been inserted. Still unsure on how to fix that. The bench test of the stereo went well, showing that it functioned perfectly.

That night in a marathon session of momentary vehicular madness I removed and reinstalled my dash, replacing the faulty servo and control head in addition to fitting and wiring the radio. It fit perfectly! Unfortunately there was a discrepancy between the wiring diagram and the wires present in the dash, so the radio remained silent much to my chagrin. Some tinkering the next day resolved the issue. More tinkering two days later (three days ago) by dad repaired the previously silent left stereo channel, though the two rear speakers still don’t work. Only the two forward 4×6 speakers function, but it’s better than nothing. The next day I went out & bought more supplies. Plywood, carpet, antifreeze, a spring compressor, an air filter, etc..

1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet dashboard
The process begins.
Car repair
Starting the rewiring process.

Once home and with more than ample assistance a trunk floor panel was measured, cut, fitted, carpeted, and installed. The spare was flipped right-side up and inflated from empty, in the process discovering that my car jack is unoriginal since it has ‘Ford’ stamped on it. I have no idea where I’m going to find the right one.

Typewriters in trunk
My trunk now has enough space to fit several typewriters comfortably.

A long-time joke with a coworker of mine from Kroger finally became a reality after I sat down with some paint and a brush for longer than I anticipated, but for the most part it looks good. This also saw the long – awaited removal of the irksome space-hogging subwoofer and its amplifier. Now my trunk is much more spacious and typewriter friendly.  There’s still more to do, however. My shock bushings are collapsed, my CV boots are torn, I need to check and top off my fluids, and the front-end needs to be aligned. The list of things to do to my car is steadily shrinking, and for that I’m grateful.

1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet
“Swag Cab” is now official.
Volkswagen stereo
My new stereo in its proper place.

As always, thank you for reading and have a good day!


3, 2, 1, Clear! A 2-Year Retrospective

September 2014

Last post on The Daily Clipper

October 2014

Antique Typewriter Collector’s Meeting

Speed Typing Competition

January 2015

First Concert


February 2015

Eagle Scout Rank; 18th Birthday

Twinkie with candles

May 2015

Graduated High School


July 2015

First Job

Subway Restaurant

September 2015

Walt Disney World

Portrait at Epcot

October 2015

Antique Typewriter Collector’s Meeting

Parking at Typewriter Event

November 2015

The domain name is purchased.

December 2015

Second Job

Kroger Food and Pharmacy

February 2016

First Car

Red 1985 VW Cabriolet

April 2016

First Breakdown

Car Towed

May 2016

Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons game

August 2016

First Traffic Ticket

Car in ditch

September 2016

Third Job

Encore Automatic Banjo

October 2016

Wisdom Teeth Removed; The Daily Clipper Returns

Stay tuned.

-T1peM0nkey, 2016