Roomie With a View

Is that a Miehle vertical in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Now Shop Boy has known a few thieves in his life, but only one person who could probably hide a printing press in his jacket. That would be John, a bright, streetwise smart aleck and my college roommate during our freshman and sophomore years. Funny dude. But we couldn’t go anywhere without him, um, snatching a souvenir. Health club? “I’m gonna ice me a racquet, Jack!” When Shop Boy protested, John would flash the special hand signal: “Don’t be a big (wimp).”

One day, John strutted out of a sporting goods store in his baby blue velour track suit with the handle of a purloined racquetball racket sticking out of his pants — the tag dangling over his butt, swear to god — and nobody batted an eye. When it comes to stealing, some people just “have it.”

After two years, though, Shop Boy’d “had it.” Oh, I don’t know. The rubbing alcohol-fueled bonfire in our room one night might have been the clincher on that deal. But I switched majors … and dorms. With no one left to torment, John dropped out of college shortly afterward.

And Shop Boy went to the opposite extreme: Kevin, for whom Shop Boy would be a bit of a drain. He preferred jogging and studying to a cold beer before the first class of the morning. Pop-Tarts and a brewski? Not Kevin: Orange juice and an open book.

He thus graduated early, leaving my side of the suite open to the freshman little brother — they hated each other, but mom insisted — of the guy who played electric guitar so badly next door. “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin. Six months of it. Oh man. Guy was no Jimmy Page. More Beavis and Butt-head:

Da … da … da … dadada … dadadadada … da … dadada …

See what Mary missed?

Mary didn’t have a roommate in college. Shop Boy was — gasp! — her first roommate other than her younger sister. But between four older sisters (five total) and the aforementioned roommates, I’d been house trained by then.

So Mary has barely an inkling of what a cool roommate Chris Hartlove is. Our photographer suitemate is the guy who opened his doors to our first little 1,200-pound bundle of joy. Who sacrificed half of his space so Typecast Press could be born. Who has let us monopolize his studio with our spillover during the many rehab projects. Who has now offered more of his space for stray letterpress stuff and to let our idea for a lounge(!) move forward. And who, fyi, would be all over the Pop-Tarts and brewski for breakfast idea.

But even snug in the cubbyhole that used to be his darkroom, with a dedicated work table his only demand for the rest of his studio, Chris has boundaries. On the day the Heidelberg windmill showed up, he looked at Shop Boy. “That’s your last press, right?” Chris asked, adding sternly: “I ain’t leaving.”

Point taken.

Mary: “I don’t know why Chris feels like we’re trying to crowd him out.”

I mean, she even bought him a Typecast Press lab coat so he’d feel like part of the team.

And she was really taken aback when, as we returned from a trip to Virginia to look over yet another press, Chris greeted us with: “OK, how big is this one?”

Shop Boy patted him on the shoulder and reassured him. “It’s OK, we got outbid.”

“I ain’t leaving,” he said.

Shop Boy got him a beer and decided he should tell Mary about a couple of guys he once knew …

And to lay in some Pop-Tarts.

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