Tripping

There was a time when Shop Boy didn’t hesitate to drive home to Rhode Island from New Jersey for dinner on a whim, or two hours to meet Mary for morning coffee and a bagel in NYC. There was the circumnavigation of Colorado — and that is one big square — taking Mary to various conferences. Shop Boy once drove across the country for about 14 hours a day to stay ahead of a giant snowstorm and even commuted for a couple of years to the middle of Long Island from Brooklyn.

So what’s up with this?

Mary says we’re driving to Philadelphia to pick up a tray case and a 3-foot-tall, foot-pedal-powered, cast-iron stapler (if you know Shop Boy, you know you’ll be hearing more about that baby) and Shop Boy goes all Eeyore. It’s a long way. It’s sure to snow. The machines will be shaken to bits by the crappy highways. People are crazy out there. And, of course, there’s no room for more stuff in the shop.

Then there’s Shop Boy’s admittedly ignorant view of the Keystone State:

You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania … and you’d better find him quick.

True story: On one trip through western Pennsylvania, Mary and Shop Boy happened to stop in this quaint little town … oh, let’s call it Murderville. Charming on the outside. But where were the people? It literally was like the horror movies where the houses’ closed curtains move just a little bit as you pass. Like someone is watching you. We stopped at a diner for coffee, all the heads turned … and Shop Boy immediately went to the men’s room to take his earring out (FYI: he no longer wears one). Let’s just say the curtains were moving again as we beat a hasty retreat — from the wind we created as we broke the sound barrier.

Pure dread.

Kind of like the feeling Mary gets when she’s about to walk into a Kinko’s. You’ve been there, right? All the heads in the place turn — in the other direction — when you walk in. Nobody knows how to work the machines or how to find someone who does. Too many times I’ve had to drag Mary out of there for the safety of the “help.”

She’s determined never to need Kinko’s again.

Shop Boy’s determined to keep her out of the slammer on an assault-and-battery rap, so … an industrial stapler’s price tag seems a small one to pay.

Anyway, there we were in my little pickup tooling up I-95 on a sunny Saturday morning, headed for Swarthmore, just outside of Philly. College town. A dry college town. Mercy, what a dude could probably get for a six-pack … but we won’t go there.

We were meeting the seller, Tricia Treacy, a fellow letterpress printer and teacher at the University of Delaware. Fashionably late, we still got a tour of the studio Tricia’s fixing up in her garage. I could hear Mary’s heart start pounding and hear her mind spinning when she saw the Vandercook Universal 1, the Holy Grail. Or maybe it was the cat named Miehle (just kidding … the purring was deafening). Tricia’s also got a C&P clamshell press in the corner that’s, uh, gonna take a little work. (What’s with these people?)

We chatted with Tricia as her husband and little boy played in the leaves of the front yard. Neighbors stopped by to chat. There was a yard sale going on across the street. (No, Mary, no.) Not a single closed curtain or turned head. Just a beautiful old neighborhood of stone houses with a cute as heck downtown and a totally cool train station. We were about ready to buy a house there.

As off we drove off, Shop Boy was thinking that maybe he ought to change his perception of Pennsylvania. And that maybe we did have room for this stuff after all.

And that maybe Mary shouldn’t be so negative about these road trips.

Sheesh.

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