Letterpress List No. 4: Wax and Wane

When you’re a kid, you don’t always “get” what some of your favorite songs are trying to say. You’ve never heard some of the words. You wouldn’t know a single entendre, never mind a double. And yesterday’s technology means zip to you–quite literally. (Go ask your teen to grab the Zip drive from the attic. Who knows what the kid will bring back.) Now, how about a Victrola? AM radio? An 8-track tape? Please.

The Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” was a current hit when I grew up. Like Tom Waits, the Stones took about 30 years to grow on me, but I always liked this song. One part threw me, though.

Your mother who neglected you owes a million dollars tax,
And your father’s still perfecting ways of making ceiling wax …

That’s how I heard it, anyway. I remember wondering whether the British had a miracle product for fixing cracks in the plaster. We had some cracks. Hadn’t my dad heard of this stuff? We didn’t have the Internet back then, or maybe I’d have stopped … and looked around.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia at, like, age 35, that I realized what the lyric was about. Sealing wax. Ohhhhhh. They used it on envelopes before they invented lick-and-stick envelope flaps. It held the letter closed so only the recipient could see it, or be able to tell that someone had snuck a peek.

Wow, so the dude the Stones were going on about was an anachronism, tilting at windmills, not realizing that time had passed him by, ignoring his child as he tried to perfect the outmoded Zip drive.

Working in a letterpress printshop makes you feel a bit like that guy sometimes. Case in point: Typecast Press is still perfecting ways of using sealing wax.

It started with our first big project, a wedding invitation. Mary thought it’d be cool if the pieces — the invite, r.s.v.p. card, return envelope, map, etc. — were wrapped in a “belly band” of handmade paper. We’d fold the band over the finished invites, drip liquid wax on the pile, then press a stamp of the happy couple’s initials into it. Shop Boy stopped … and looked around.

Shop Boy: “Are you crazy?”

Mary: “It’ll look awesome.”

S.B.: “It’s their wedding invitation. What if we wreck them all?”

Mary: “Stop worrying. We can do it. Besides, they’ve volunteered to help.”

S.B. “Oh, this should be good. Standing by as a bride- and groom-to-be turn prized, sweated-over invitations to their wedding into something that looks like an invite to a voodoo ritual. Maybe we can add some chicken feathers.”

Actually, I didn’t say that last thing, but I sure thought it. Of course, Mary was right. Shop Boy was wrong. (Is there an echo in here?) The invitations were great. The bride and groom loved them. We got tons of compliments and Typecast Press was in business to do business.

Cut to her latest brainstorm: Drip sealing wax onto favor boxes I’d just spent hours making out of art paper, then press a stamp of an acorn onto the puddle as an accent.

Shop Boy: “Are you crazy?”

Mary: “It’ll look awesome.”

OK, she was right again, my 20th nervous breakdown notwithstanding.

And you know what? This stuff would be perfect for fixing cracks in plaster.


Letterpress List No. 4

It’s Tuesday! The Colorado Rockies are going to the playoffs! And Shop Boy is offering — unsolicited — another hour’s worth of music for your shop, most of which you can find at iTunes. This week’s theme: Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing?

Bad Habit Dresden Dolls (“And you might say it’s self-destructive.” Might?)
Sweating BulletsMegadeth (Shop Boy once sang/devil-spoke this to Mary — subbing in the words to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Made her nuts. By the way, this video sets the record for Most Hair in a Single Frame.)
Bombs Over Baghdad — OutKast (Verbal amphetamines.)
Jane SaysJane’s Addiction (Verbal barbiturates.)
KommienezuspadtTom Waits (Good heavens.)
President DeadMarilyn Manson (Stained-glass skulls. Cool. OK, maybe not.)
Jailbait Ted Nugent (Hunting minors. Ted, Ted, Ted.)
Doll Parts — Hole (The girl with the most cake wins.)
Billion Dollar BabiesAlice Cooper (Hide your Barbies.)
F*** the Pain Away — Peaches (Um, thanks anyway.)
DigMudvayne (Suicidal or homicidal? Or both?)
Feuer Frie!Rammstein (I’m singing along, and I don’t speak German. LOL. I think they’re saying, “All Americans must die … Bang-bang!”)
Get It TogetherBeastie Boys (Included only because Mary, rapping along innocently, thought a lewd reference was to “Don Ho,” not “John Holmes.” Ho-ho-ho!)

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