Letterpress List No. 9: Getting Ink Done

Shop Boy should have it tattooed on his forehead: Think Before You Ink!

There we were again late last night, trying to clear black ink off the big C&P. Mary and Shop Boy. A two-person bucket brigade. Be glad you weren’t there. Shop Boy sure wished he wasn’t.

Typecast Press was doing a run of menus for a new Baltimore restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. The chef/owner, Spike Gjerde, is doing the whole sustainable-resources thing … local veggies and meats produced in an environmentally responsible manner. WK’s in this great area, Clipper Mill, that literally rose from the ashes. The restaurant’s filled with great old details — machine parts and the like — and has a cool bar and a balcony for more private (or illicit … just saying) dining. With Spike, the food’s always great. We’ve torn through the rockfish, the pork, shrimp. And we may never go to another movie without stopping by for the buttered/sea salted popcorn. (Shop Boy’s not above begging for a to-go bag.)

OK, Shop Boy’s channeling Mary’s mom, who once got so carried away over the food that she yelled to the waiters at a French-only cafe in Quebec: “Tell the chef … Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

So back to our regularly scheduled program. (Spike’s paying us for the menus, not a plug. Besides, this is about Shop Boy.)

Anyhow, Mary designed the Woodberry Kitchen logo with large wood type, then we scanned it and had polymer plates made so we can change the logo’s size. Spike insisted on using a song lyric from the late Joe Strummer (of the Clash and the Mescaleros fame) on the menu: “If you’re after getting the honey/ Then you don’t go killing all the bees.”


We were using soy ink, which is said to be better for the environment but is funky under the best conditions. It’s absolute poison in Shop Boy’s hands.

“Really, Mary, it was so little ink.”

She was unconvinced.

“Look, Shop Boy, we’ve been through this. If you see that it’s printing too heavy, don’t just hope it corrects itself. Do something.”

See, here’s where Mary and Shop Boy differ: She’s such a perfectionist that she looks for reasons to stop the press and tweak. Shop Boy looks for reasons to keep it churning. Simple denial will do in a pinch. “This one might be garbage, but the next impression will be the magic. I just know it.” You can run through a lot of paper in the printshop this way. Or in Las Vegas, come to think of it.

So there were Joe Strummer’s words … somewhere under all the black goop. And there we were stripping ink off the press. Now, Shop Boy can laugh at his goof-ups later, but it’s really embarrassing to have to ask Mary to bail me out when I’m up to my knees in black soy ink — enough to kill all the bees in Maryland — after she’d just told me I should be subtle when reapplying it. And saying, “Well, you shouldn’t have left the room,” doesn’t really cut it at that point.

Sigh. Shop Boy stewed as he ran off an extra 350 or so fresh menus.

“That’s enough, Shop Boy,” Mary said finally.

“You mean stop printing them?” Shop Boy asked glumly.

“No, I mean knock it off.”

Sniff … she always knows just what to say.


OK, time for about an hour of shop-approved music. But first, about two minutes of preaching:

Maryland and the Washington, D.C., metro area have a tremendous problem with aggressive driving, dangerous antisocial behavior. People die. Your metro area likely has the same woe. So police, in cars and helicopters, using satellite imaging and radar, have begun to crack down, they say, on the reckless weaving, dodging and speeding that many folks favor on their commutes.

Dr. P.M. Forni of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project here in Baltimore found that Americans consider aggressive driving the second-rudest thing someone can do. Discrimination was the only thing more rude. Yikes.

But now hear this from a TV ad: In the new class of Mercedes Benz, the handling stiffens automatically to help stabilize the vehicle during aggressive driving. Oh, and it’s fast enough for the Autobahn. “Why? Because we promised you a Mercedes Benz.”

Holy cow. Maybe the cops should attack aggressive driving at its source. First bust is a Benzie exec.

End of sermon.

Letterpress List No. 9: Songs to “Drive Gently” By

If you slow down a bit, you’ll get to hear more of these songs on your way to work. Not all of them promote safe driving, so follow close to your heart, not the bumper of the car in front of you. (“OK, knock it off, Shop Boy.”) If you don’t own these songs, why not? Check for them on iTunes and Napster.

Dirt Track DateSouthern Culture on the Skids (Got a designated driver?)
Money Ain’t a ThangJermaine Dupri/Jay-Z (Great song, bad driving.)
Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadLucinda Williams (Painting a picture you can feel.)
Long Walk Back to San AntoneJunior Brown (Taken for a ride.)
Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the WheelBarenaked Ladies (The last thing on his mind or the furthest thing from his mind? Hmm.)
Uneasy Rider — Charlie Daniels Band (Hippie. Mississippi. Flat tire. Bad news.)
Runnin’ Down a Dream — Tom Petty (This’ll blow back your hair with the windows closed.)
Little Deuce CoupeBeach Boys (Not being from California, Shop Boy once thought the “pink slip” gave him more time to drive his favorite car because he was fired from work. It’s the deed! Duh.)
Heading Out to the HighwayJudas Priest (Nothing to lose.)
One Headlightthe Wallflowers (An order of melancholy. Put wheels on it.)
PanamaVan Halen (Pistons poppin’, ain’t no stopping nnnnnnnnoooooooowwwwwwwwww!)
Rollin’Limp Bizkit (Back up!)
Drive Away
Halfcocked (Fuzzy dice sway to the time you’re making.)
Satan Is My MotorCake (Maybe that’s the problem.)
MaybellineChuck Berry (Honk if you love rock and roll.)

And just to wish Spike and Amy Gjerde and Nelson Carey a smooth stretch of highway as they begin their new venture:
Johnny AppleseedJoe Strummer

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One Response to “Letterpress List No. 9: Getting Ink Done”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Love the list, but I know for a fact that Mary behind the wheel of a Mercedes would be like handing Jesse James a loaded gun in a bar full of lawmen. Fortunately, I don’t live in Baltimore and when I am in Baltimore Mary is nearly always driving….or I am sorting lead type.

    Sign me: Married to the Machine Whisperer

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