Archive for June, 2008

Letterpress List No. 41: Blade Runner

June 30, 2008

When I say that there are days when Shop Boy wishes things were a bit more dull around the printshop, I do not mean the cutter blade.

Trust me on that one.

To me, the hydraulic paper cutter, a Chandler & Price with about a 30-inch bite, is kind of like the vicious dog that lives next door. Great to have around, so long as someone else takes main responsibility for it. So ornery and loud he scares bad guys away from your house, too. But then the neighbors go away for the weekend and ask you to go next door and, um, feed their beloved pet. Gulp.

True story: My friend Janet Simmons loves dogs. BIG dogs. Rottweilers, Dobermans and beasts like a notoriously antisocial chow (is there any other kind?) named Bear. It’s been a surprise to Shop Boy, who’d never seen Jan with a dog before he was met one day by her crew. Sheesh.

Now, Shop Boy is generally very good with dogs, if a bit lenient — let Mary tell you about the time I promised to “protect” her from a gargantuan Newfoundland at a dinner party. The pup, about horse high and the length of a football field, took one look at Shop Boy, heard me exclaim “Oh, what a beautiful dog!” and decided I was no challenge. (“Now the scared one over there. How can I make her love me? I know, I’ll smother her with affection.”) There was no stopping this guy. He just shook me off his back.

Or the time I baby-sat Buddy, the big, funky-looking canine next door in Denver. During one famous walk to the park, Shop Boy pleaded helplessly with Buddy not to:

A. Poop on the neighbor’s freshly pruned hedge — right on top! Never seen a physical accomplishment quite like it. Not sure what that neighbor had done to make Buddy mad, but yikes.

B. Drag Shop Boy into oncoming traffic.

C. Take a flying leap into the creek, getting both of us soaked in the process.

“What happened to you two?” Mary asked as we arrived on the front porch.

I pointed at Buddy. Mary shook her head. Buddy just wagged his long, ugly tail.

He was a funny dog. That night, Mary and Shop Boy watched a movie, and Buddy curled up at Shop Boy’s feet as I reached down and petted him. At one point, the film got intense and I straightened up in my chair, my hand leaving Buddy’s head for a moment.

Buddy gently closed his teeth around my hand and pulled it back down.

See, though we don’t have any pets at the moment, I love dogs. But walking up to Jan’s front door in the Boston ‘burbs a few years back and seeing the overstimulated, toothy pack on the other side of the screen …

“Just don’t be afraid,” Jan said. Then she laughed as they raced toward me.

All except Bear. He was roaring and tearing at the other side of the locked door to the basement. “He’ll eat you,” Jan explained helpfully, handing me some dog treats so I could earn the others’ trust — by letting them take the biscuits from my hand!

Well, in an hour or two, we were all pals. Shop Boy called Mary to let her know I’d gotten there safely, informing her that I was speaking from between the jaws of Hershey the Rottweiler, who’d found my chin irresistibly lickable. Then there was Bear, eventually released from the basement and now curled at my feet, Shop Boy’s hand gently petting the chow’s head. (FYI: Until the end of the visit, the hand never broke contact with the dog’s fur. Not sure Bear would have been as subtle as Buddy was.)

Yeah, dogs tend to love me back. The guillotine paper cutter? Let’s not push it.

The cutter does a super job. Loud as heck. Nobody bothers us at the Typecast Press studio while this thing’s running. Sounds like a torture chamber in there, minus the screams …

Until Shop Boy’s got to change the blade, that is.

There we were, Mary convinced that the 34-inch steel blade (it hangs over a bit on each end) needed sharpening and Shop Boy in a flop sweat and full denial mode. “It can’t be dull. We just got the thing and the guy said he sharpened it.”

Typecast Press uses a loft of thick, soft paper, as well as chipboard atop and below the pile to prevent the cutter’s clamp from leaving indentations in that paper. The combination tends to dull a blade more quickly. No use fighting it.

“C’mon, Shop Boy. Don’t be afraid. We can do this,” Mary demanded.

For those unfamiliar, doing this, or changing a guillotine cutter’s blade, involves fully lowering the blade mechanism, loosening and removing the bolts that hold the blade in place, then lifting the carriage away. Finishing the blade removal requires a method Shop Boy prefers to call “grab and pray,” though “pray and grab” seems equally effective — so far — in Shop Boy’s experience. Let me be clear: “Dull,” in the sense of a guillotine cutter, simply means “less razor sharp.” Drop the blade and a piece of you will go away.

Ahem.

The cutter could smell my fear: Just to show which of us was the alpha male, it released a slick of motor oil onto the part of the blade I’d have to lift by. Nice.

But the blade was much lighter than I’d expected, and after a seriously uncomfortable moment or two it was sitting harmlessly in its case, ready for the trip to the sharpener. The guy who’d sold us the cutter had been kind enough to leave behind two extra blades, one sharp and one dull. In the sharp one went, Shop Boy nervously coaxing the blade back and forth and Mary lowering and raising the carriage until the holes for the bolts at last lined up. Funny — there were seven bolt holes on the machine and only six on the blade. Not so funny — the bolts didn’t fit. The seller had accidentally dropped off a blade for a different machine, a Challenge cutter. Ugh.

Anyway, you often realize the best way to do something after you’ve already done it the hard way. For example, if we’d simply used a china marker to map out where the dull blade had fit, swapping in the next blade would have been much easier. (We would have almost certainly noticed right away that we had the wrong blade.) And it wouldn’t have been so tough to put the original blade back in.

Now we faced a tricky cut with an imperfect blade on three sets of business cards that were due.

Oh, well. We’d just have to fudge it and hope for the best. Hey, we’re printers, right? That’s what we do. Besides, Mary’s got a gift for gaming the system.

Meanwhile, the correct backup blade went off to the sharpener.

After a ridiculously brief turnaround — maybe too quick — the sharpened blade was back. Shop Boy summoned his courage once more, then dutifully marked the outline of the exiting blade. We lowered the carriage, removed the bolts, raised the carriage, slid the dull blade out, slid the fresh blade into position, lowered the carriage, tightened the blots and … bang.

“OK, Shop Boy,” Mary said. “Fetch the paper.”

Good boy.

***
Letterpress List No. 41

How about an hour’s worth of music to soothe the savage beast by. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

Silent All These YearsTori Amos (Her dog won’t bite if you sit real still.)
I Want CandyBow Wow Wow (Doggie treat, anyone?)
Drop It Like It’s HotSnoop Dogg (For Mary.)
Snoopy Vs. the Red Baronthe Royal Guardsmen (Oh, my.)
West End GirlsPet Shop Boys (Built to last.)
Who Let the Dogs Out?Baha Men (Football games would never be the same again.)
Don’t Get Mad, Get Even — Aerosmith (Waking up with fleas.)
UnderdogLisa Loeb (Puppy love.)
The Last of MeBree Sharp (Might not wake up at all, if Ms. Sharp has anything to say about it.)
Gonna Buy Me a Dogthe Monkees (Old dog, new tricks.)
The First Cut Is the Deepest Sheryl Crow (Had no idea this was a Cat Stevens song. Thought Rod Stewart owned it.)
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Down, boy.)
The Day I Tried to Live
Soundgarden (Drop the blade and watch the rolling, um, heads. Hey, is that oil on there?)
What a Good Boy Barenaked Ladies (Newfoundland at 10 o’clock.)
Freak on a Leash Korn (“No, Buddy. C’mon man, don’t poop there!“)
Bite MeElectric Six (Speaking of freaks …)
Bark at the Moon Ozzy Osbourne (He’ll eat you.)
Move It on OverGeorge Thorogood (A crowded doghouse.)
Paper Cut Linkin Park (Ouch.)
Razor Foo Fighters (Day after day, cutting away.)
Cut to the ChaseRush (Back to work!)


To the Shopmobile!

June 26, 2008

Batman has his ride, Shop Boy’s got his.

Both are black.

Just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

And Mary’s often spoken of buying Shop Boy a utilikilt, which I assume is just like Batman’s utility belt, right? Except it’s got, like, built-in bagpipes or something. Hey, if it’s good enough for Batman, it’s good enough for …

(Cue the bagpipers.)

Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, SHOP BOY!

Pow! Wham! Bop! Oof!

Sorry, just tripped over a stack of job trays. Curses! What villain stuck those there? Me? Really? Oh, um, whew. Almost tore my apron.

Excuse me? Like you don’t wear an apron? Shop Boy’ll let you in on a little secret, tough guy: If you wear it backwards, an apron becomes a cape.

I’m just saying …

So, there we were one night after a sweaty press run, just Mary and Shop Boy, chilling and checking e-mail, when Mary saw a coupon. If you ordered stuff personalized with labels, logos and such for Typecast Press, you got a second set of whatever you ordered for free. It seemed to me a great deal, being that we are called Typecast Press and all. (What are the odds?)

We started by, ahem, putting Shop Boy’s name on a pen. And we put Shop Boy’s name on a pad. And we put Shop Boy’s name on …

What?

Then we saw the magnetic logo shields designed to stick to car doors.

Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na! The Shopmobile was born. Quite a fine rig, I gotta tell you. 2000 Ford Ranger. Five-speed stick. Small, sporty thing with a body that curves like feminine hips around the back tires. And the best part? It and all of its extra features — the beer cap remover, mini purple flashlight, Geico gecko tire gauge, aquamarine bungee cord, reflective rain poncho … superhero-type gear — are paid for. It’s got some miles on it: 18,000. Oh, I know. But that IS a lot of miles if you’re walking. And Shop Boy was walking until he talked Mary into letting him buy the pickup. Besides, I do take it for occasional road trips to blow some carbon deposits out of the engine. To crime-fighting conventions in, um, Cooperstown, N.Y., for instance. (Studying the fiendish impact of steroids on baseball, natch. Don’t do ’em, kids.)

The dirt? Hmmph! It’s not like Shop Boy has Alfred or Robin standing by for a wash and wax like you-know-who does.

Anyway, next time there’s an emergency printing mission — like I get a frantic call on the train home from Washington that I need to get to the printshop pronto (about once a week) — don’t be surprised if you see Shop Boy streaking across Charm City, fuzzy dice tumbling, following a Typecast Press logo in the sky.

Oh, we don’t have the sky signal beam like Batman yet.

But I bet we can get a sweet deal on the second one if we buy two.

Letterpress List No. 40: Dear God

June 23, 2008

Today’s reading is from a letter from St. Angelo to the Letterpressians.

Mary sometimes ribs Shop Boy for being a bit, um, elliptical in some of my longer posts. She says I’m channeling the Rev. Roger Gench, our cool former pastor, who’d start a sermon on the tiniest thread of an idea, ramble off through a tangle of tangents and then, just as we began to wonder where the heck he was going with this, he’d deliver his zinger ending that put a lovely bow on top of the whole perfect mess.

And this is an insult?

Now, Shop Boy is not much of a religious guy. If you are, that’s great. God created room for us all.

Shop Boy’s mom, unfortunately, believed that her son was altar boy material. Every Sunday, she’d push me out the door for the 30-minute walk to St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Cranston, R.I. You can’t imagine how often I took the Lord’s name in vain during these marches, knowing that my five exempt sisters were still in bed. Oooh. And if I ever tried to pull a fast one, “oversleeping” and missing the service, my mom would remind me that there was a 5 p.m. mass over at St. Mark’s, an even longer walk.

Anyway, Shop Boy mostly made up a phony list of, ahem, lesser sins to confess to the priest, daydreamed through the mass, then walked home. Except when Monsignor Brennan was running the thing. Oh, boy, this dude’s funny cadence and accent! Even as a native Rhode Island kid, I couldn’t helping cracking up: “Take this, alla yous … and eat it.” Yous sounded like “yizz,” by the way. Then he’d chug the blood of Christ like a sailor on shore leave. And his sermons … my heavens! That Shop Boy didn’t wet his pants was the true miracle.

Altar boy? Hah! Besides, Shawn was an altar boy. ‘Nuff said.

Church makes me laugh. I can’t help it. Maybe it’s the discomfort at the very idea of death and forever and hell and all that. I just get wound up so tight and then … the littlest thing sets me off.

Like at my grandfather’s wake. Believe me, I loved the old guy, an Italian immigrant and big band trumpeter who opened his own general store after his “lip went.” A dear, gentle fellow. I also love my dad, who was losing a parent for the first time. Still, when my brother-in-law Barry Rappoport, during an innocent discussion of life and death, whispered, “It’s like you’re there one minute, then … arriva-derch!” — Archie Bunker style — a laugh began welling in my gut. It was unstoppable. The more mortified and desperate I became to control the giggles, the more I shook and squeaked. My eyes were bursting with tears.

And then Shop Boy saw Dad and Uncle Jimmy.

“Look at this guy,” Jimmy said.

“Too many years of playing football without a helmet,” my dad sneered, looking back toward his father in the coffin.

For about 30 years, the moment ate away at my soul. Finally, sitting at a bar somewhere, just two guys, I explained what happened — not Barry’s fault — and begged Dad’s forgiveness. He didn’t even remember it. We had a good laugh at my expense. And he gave me a big hug when I left for home.

Or how about that time when a friend of Mary and Shop Boy, Rachel Cunningham, brought her young son Evan to church on the day when the Rev. Andrew Foster Connors decided to do a special service with chairs arranged in a tight circle? You could have heard a pin drop as the minister began his opening prayer “Dear God …”

You could also have heard this echo, courtesy of Evan, from a block away: “DEAR GOD!”

Each time Andrew would collect himself and start over, Evan would enthusiastically holler the response. Shop Boy was quietly hysterical.

And maybe one of the funniest things of all was the pre-Christmas party where Shop Boy “helped” a local minister write her holiday homily.

DEAR GOD!

Now where was I going with that?

Oh, I know: Shop Boy writes this blog to make Mary laugh, to release the common frustrations of starting a business from scratch, and also just to tell stories that one more crack to the noggin in the printshop might some day erase. But folks have given Typecast Press some very nice feedback, and even some business, based on this blog. And as we’ve been crazy busy the past few months — yes! somebody’s watching over us! — and my posts have at times decreased in frequency — if not length! fuggedaboutit! — some of you have kept coming back.

It’s something Shop Boy is grateful for, especially after I’ve now gone on for 80-some posts and 40 music lists over 10-plus months. (What, you expected some kind of normal, sensible, round-numbered milestone celebration? If you did, you just haven’t been paying close enough attention here.) Anyway, thanks for reading.

Now, keep checking in with Shop Boy or you’ll burn for eternity.

Amen.

Oh, and arriva-derch!

***

Letterpress List No. 40

How about an hour’s worth — actually a little more than that this week (divine inspiration, I guess) — of music to ponder life’s great questions by — like “What the heck are you talking about, Shop Boy?” — or to simply be thankful for? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Great and goofy links are to YouTube.

Round and RoundRatt (Elliptical … hmmphh!)
The Long and Winding Roadthe Beatles (Ditto.)
Go With the FlowQueens of the Stone Age (Stay with me, people.)
FaithGeorge Michael (Love this song. Limp Bizkit’s, um, alternate version, too.)
SuperheroAni DiFranco (Found religion in the greeting card aisle.)
SanctifiedNine Inch Nails (Touring the nicest parts of hell.)
ShineCollective Soul (Soaking it in.)
TestifyDaniela Cotton (She does that.)
Dear God XTC (Sort of a love-it-or-hate-it song.)
Tears in HeavenEric Clapton (Another one: Mary hates this. Shop Boy cries.)
Spaceball RicochetT. Rex (On Shop Boy’s album version, apparently recorded in Rhode Island, the minister of weird lyrics sings that he’s “got a house in his heart that can hold just about alla yous.” Ha!)
Craig Stephen Lynch (Watch for lightning strikes.)
Lightning CrashesLive (Told you.)
Southern CrossCrosby, Stills & Nash (A warm embrace.)
Chocolate JesusTom Waits (To each His own.)
Under the Milky Waythe Church (Midnight mass?)
Steel Guitar Heaven Ry Cooder (Brand new! OK, for this, we’ll forgive him his sins.)
Crucify Tori Amos (Where are those angels when you need them?)
Don’t Kill Hamell on Trial (“Thou” means “you.”)
My ImmortalEvanescence (Fallen.)
HeavenTalking Heads (The big picnic in the sky.)
Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire Jimi Hendrix (Getting warm in here.)
Hot Hot HotBuster Poindexter (This must be the place.)
Wayward AngelKasey Chambers (Sorry, Mom.)
HellSquirrel Nut Zippers (Serious strife.)
Ha Ha You’re DeadGreen Day (Gulp!)

Letterpress List No. 39: All Clammy

June 17, 2008

My brother-in-law told me to stick it.

Oh, he had his reasons, I suppose. My oldest sister, Margaret, was visiting with husband Dante Laorenza II (ahem) and we needed to get the show on the road. A local restaurant had called. Our client had just noticed that it needed menus and coasters, like, now.

Is there an echo in here?

Great. So we piled Margaret and Dan into the car and dashed over to Typecast Press. There, they had to sit and watch while we sweated through a menu run. Letterpress as a spectator sport? Not so much.

Shop Boy wanted to give Dan a shot at running the hand-fed, 12X18 Chandler & Price — who doesn’t want to get their hands on/in these old machines, right? Instead, I just had to crash the menus out. Black first. Print and set aside. Clean press. Sweat buckets. Red next. Stack, print, stack, package, run to the restaurant. Dash back. Clean press. Sweat more.

Did Shop Boy mention that he was on vacation? Oh, don’t get me started.

We talked the restaurant into waiting a day for coasters, which was cool because then I could let Dan try out the press feeding … left-handed, of course.

But only if we could get the stinking adhesive backing of the polymer coaster plate to, um, adhere. This had been an issue during the winter, and we chalked it up then to the cold.

Guess not. Because it was at least 85 degrees in the shop as we waited for the A/C to cool things down. And the sucker was not sticking to the Boxcar base — the chunk of steel that makes polymer plates type high. Again we ended up simply taping the plate to the base as best we could. Shop Boy ran a few practice coasters, then called in the ringer. Dan’s a printer by trade — modern offset stuff. (Margaret’s a personal trainer.) He hadn’t run a C&P in about 30 years, but he was game.

True story: It was Dan who helped get me my favorite — if craziest — high school job at the chowder hall of the now defunct Rocky Point amusement park in Warwick, R.I. Dan supplied many of the old photos for and appears in a documentary they made about the place, You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park. I haven’t seen it yet, but can’t wait. At the Shore Dinner Hall, we washed tureens that had been filled with and mostly emptied of red clam chowder and plates that had held clamcakes (for any southerners out here, think hush puppies with tons of pepper and a few clam bits) and watermelon. We also unloaded produce trucks and did general food prep.

CHOWDAH DOWNSTAIRS, BOYS!

This was the cue for us to come to the kitchen, where we’d grab a huge, heavy, steaming metal pot of chowder and carry it down the steep, curving, concrete steps to the takeout window at street level. That was a challenge, man. And Mike and Shop Boy were always the first to come running. (The girls at the takeout window — wow.) Anyway, Mike was extremely tall and Shop Boy was and ever shall be less than vertically gifted. So imagine the two of us, like Laurel and Hardy, each hanging onto one handle, negotiating this staircase without tipping the pot and scalding ourselves. Hah. Just let it out — owwwwwwwwww! — and keep moving. Flirting with the girls was the perfect balm, and even (almost) worth this:

BATTAH DOWNSTAIRS, BOYS!

Clamcake batter (hey, it’s Rhode Island — aka Ro Dylin), heavy as lead. Same drill. At least it didn’t burn.

The boss, Conrad Sr., was a madman. His son, on the wrong day, was flat scary. Shop Boy kind of knew he was in trouble with old crankypants when one day we were peeling sack after sack of onions and I thought it would be funny to make up really sad stories. Well, soon were all crying our eyes out — oh, the onions! — wailing and laughing ourselves silly.

Conrad walked in just as we began hyperventilating and went all Vince Lombardi on us. He was a jerk, but he wasn’t stupid, and Conrad pretty quickly figured out who was behind the nonsense.

“You. I don’t think I like you very much,” he snapped at Shop Boy.

Oops.

Another ominous sign: Shop Boy biked a pretty long distance to work, but arrived early enough to change out of the sweaty clothes and into work gear. Conrad was waiting one morning. “What the hell you doing showing up at my place like this?” As I tried to explain my routine, he pulled me sweaty clothes and all into the kitchen, opened the door to the cooler and ordered me inside. I’d cut a shipment of watermelon the previous evening, neatly stacked the pieces six to a plate and set them in the cooler. (Dan’s dad, the original Dante and a really nice man, taught me to cut the melons rapid fire with a machete. And I worry about being maimed by presses. Hah.) Well, a third of the plates were now empty and watermelon rinds were all over the place. The wait staff, grazing as usual.

“You clean this up,” Conrad spat at me, sticking his finger in my face, “and you stand in here and you tell anybody who comes in here to eat my watermelon don’t come in here and eat my watermelon.”

Then there was the day I called in sick — not, amazingly, from standing in the cooler.

“What kinda sick you got?” Conrad demanded. (Shop Boy clearly was not convincing enough.) “You call me tomorrow and I tell you if I need you anymore.”

He didn’t.

Shop Boy felt crummy — not so much about being fired because I was leaving for college soon anyway, but for letting down Dan and his dad, Dante Laorenza I.

D.L. II has never give me a hard time about it. And he’s been great about sharing cross-platform printing tips.

“Did you ever try a different kind of backing for these plates? Like Sticky Back?” he asked as Shop Boy desperately held the plate against the metal base, arms stuck in the mouth of the C&P, while Mary grabbed the tape. Turns out the adhesive backing we’ve been using is not the only type available. It came with our first plates and we just kept on with it. Having worked a long time in the business, Dan is sure he can find something that will do the trick. Just in case, he took a couple of our old plates to do some experimenting with.

Filled with gratitude, Shop Boy did what anyone would do in the situation. I put Dan to work.

Well, offset schmoffset. Once he stopped his right hand from involuntarily feeding the coasters on the wrong side of the guides — Mary! — the 30 years melted away. In no time flat, Shop Boy was dropping off the finished coasters and breathing a sigh of relief.

And Dan was getting a taste of our local bit of seafood weirdness, the crabcake.

His take?

Sticking with clamcakes.

***

Letterpress List No. 39

How about an hour’s worth of music to take your mind off a bad boss or, heck, just to eat watermelon by. Pass the machete. Most of these tunes should be available at the usual places. Great and goofy video links are to YouTube.

Echo — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (There may have been a girl … at the takeout window … but there never was a kiss.)
Vacationthe Go-Gos (All I ever wanted.)
Bicycle RaceQueen (Saving on a change of clothes.)
Sweating BulletsMegadeth (A misfit’s way of life.)
ClocksColdplay (I was in the cooler for about two hours. Number of waiters/waitresses stopped from eating watermelon: 0)
Too Cool to Be ForgottenLucinda Williams (Hey-hey.)
I’m Chillin’Kurtis Blow (Old school.)
Stone Cold Rainbow (Seemed cool at the time.)
Girls in Their Summer ClothesBruce Springsteen (The Boss.)
Summertime GirlsY&T (Can’t help yourself when you’re 18.)
Peelin’ TatersJunior Brown (Doing dumb things to cool music.)
Fired Ben Folds (Never get sick of it.)
Can I Get Get Get Junior Senior — (All shapes and sizes.)
Walk This Way — Aerosmith (A wonder they could walk at all.)
Rhode Island Is Famous for You — Erin McKeown (The old Blossom Dearie tune.)
Wait and Bleed Slipknot (Oddly decipherable for these guys.)
The Hand That FeedsNine Inch Nails (Welcome back, Dan. Letterpress has missed you.)
BreatheNickelback (When these guys rock, they rock. Other times? Ewww.)

And this thingy is called … the whatchamacallit

June 5, 2008

Show-and-tell was going poorly.

Oh, not for Mary. She had a tour group of 16 students from a summer letterpress course at the Maryland Institute College of Art eating out of her hand. Kid’s got the gift of gab.

Shop Boy? He spent most of the visit hiding out in the secondary studio, organizing flat file drawers or something — anything rather than face a crowd of bright young artist types. Then came the knock at the door.

See, Typecast Press is actually two large studio spaces down the hall from one another in the Fox Industries Building — known to locals of a certain vintage as “the Noxema Building,” as it was the birthplace of the stuff. One of our spaces was the office of the president of Noxema. Chris Hartlove’s half of the studio was the secretary’s office. Our side houses the Vandercooks, a Chandler & Price 8×12, an imposing stone, tray cases, the platemaker and the computer. It’s the nerve center of our little slice of what buddy Bruce Baggan of North American Millwright likes to call the “Wacky Subculture of Letterpress.”

The secondary space is a big lug of a room that houses, you guessed it, the big lugs of our press corps — the Miehle Vertical, the Heidelberg windmill, the hydraulic paper cutter, an antique, hand-cranked guillotine (ooof!) and the old C&P 12×18. By the way, not only were we lucky to know Chris Hartlove and painter/illustrator Andy Snair (previous tenant of the Lug Room), but we were very lucky to have landed on the side of the factory built atop concrete. Otherwise, with all this tonnage, we’d be in the basement by now.

OK. So when Kyle Van Horn of MICA and his 16 students arrived at the secondary space, there was no place for Shop Boy to hide. Oh, I’m getting better at the public speaking thing, but let’s just say there’s room to grow. Not in the crowded secondary space, unfortunately, which left Mary on one side of the student group and Shop Boy on the other. Mary thought it’d be fun to let the visitors hear the difference between the C&P 8×12 in the other room — a creampuff, let me tell you — and its lumbering big brother on this side of the hall. Shop Boy turned “Big Boy” on and the old 12×18 graciously did its thing, geezing and wheezing, clanking and clattering through its paces. No music list today, but to quote Bruce Springsteen: “You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re all right.”

Now for some real noise, Shop Boy decided to fire up the cutter, a Chandler & Price dynamo that has sliced a ton of time off Typecast Press’ paper-chopping duties. But not only does running it require the high-pitched whine and hum of a three-phase electricity converter, but the cutter’s no shy flower itself. Shop Boy popped the switch and decided to give an impromptu demonstration.

The cutter decided not to.

Like a stubborn mule, it stood there while Shop Boy sweated and stammered. By the time I’d coaxed a full cut out of the stinker, most of the crowd had moved on, better entertained by Mary’s stories of great and/or crazy old-time printers.

In Shop Boy’s defense, the cutter really is Mary’s baby. But you’d think I’d have picked up something by osmosis as I held the ends of all those big paper sheets. Clutch right, lever down. Like that’s so hard?

Shop Boy was still muttering as the class filed out. I waved glumly and wished them luck.

Afterward, Mary said that the tour had gone well, that the students seemed to have gotten something out of it, which you hope and pray for, after all. She agreed that maybe the cutter thing hadn’t been seamless and offered that maybe it and I should spend a little more quality time together. Hmmph.

Then she said that Shop Boy should take a greater role in these tours. (We’ve done several — there are lots of art and printmaking students in Baltimore. And who doesn’t love letterpress?!?!) It should be clear by now that we consider having a fun space to work and hang out a pretty key part of the Typecast Press experience. Anyway, Mary’s decided that future tours will include Shop Boy taking the lead in the Lug Room.

The lines are forming right now, eh?

Oh, I know the stuff: The ages — and weights … ugh! — of the presses, how they work, what they were mainly used for and how we came to own them. So do you if you, ahem, follow this blog. It’s just that, sometimes under pressure, the knowledge won’t drop from Shop Boy’s brain to his mouth. Like the cutter’s blade, you know?

Anyway, tour groups are nothing: Mary’s also talking about Shop Boy as a letterpress INSTRUCTOR.

Hey!

Wait!

Come back …

Letterpress List No. 38: Stand in Awe

June 3, 2008

In one moment of glory, all the bumbling that had preceded it was forgotten.

Shop Boy could be talking about Manny Ramirez’s 500th home run on Saturday here in Baltimore, which left all of the Boston fans dancing and cheering. (They flood the stadium whenever the Sox are in town, which is possible because Baltimore’s own fans never show up. Well? Am I right?) Anyway, as Manny stood and appreciated his majestic shot, the two fly balls that he clumsily misplayed earlier in the game suddenly didn’t matter. Amazing.

Geez. Talk about channeling Shop Boy.

See, about a week ago, Typecast Press reached its own historic milestone: Art on the walls.

We’ll pause here while the applause dies down a bit.

Yeah, what he said. (This, by the way, is a lousy photo of really cool card Typecast Press created for Stacey Mink and Geoff Brown — wood type and an old magnesium plate — to show their appreciation for those who’d helped turn Baltimore’s Night of 100 Elvises into their personal wedding rehearsal dinner.)

Oh, we’d decorated the studio some. You know … the requisite printshop girlie calender and such. But now that we’d finished with all the painting and arranging of the studio, it became obvious that something was missing.

Like this, for instance:

This illustration of creepy/cool Baltimore filmmaker John Waters, by off-kilter/cool local artist Greg Houston, has long been one of Shop Boy’s favorites. I bought the original after it appeared in the Baltimore Sun and it had been sitting in an art drawer ever since.

This image joins works by locals Andy Snair, Jess Pegorsch of Tilt Studio, Jordan Faye Block and Chris Hartlove on the studio walls or at the framer’s shop. (Not to drop names or anything.) Oh, and if you’ve never bought anything from illustrator Lynda J. Barry then you have no idea of how whimsical and fun gift wrapping can be.

Mary is, by the way, no slouch in that department either.

Of course, it’s never simply a matter of having art and the space to hang it. Oh, that’s good enough for Shop Boy — “Hey, that’d look great here.” Bang. Done. — but not Mary. She needs to see the art in every potential spot and in any number of combinations before deciding. This can leave Shop Boy perhaps leaning awkwardly across the back of a printing press and standing on one foot holding, say, three pieces of art against the wall while Mary ponders.

Mary: “A little higher on the left picture and lower on the right one. Can you put the big one where the small one is?”

Shop Boy: “Ugh … OK.”

Mary: “Whoa, whoa! Micro moves, Shop Boy … not macro moves.”

Shop Boy: “C’mon. My arms are getting tired. They look great. Let’s hang them.”

Mary: “What do you think?”

Shop Boy: “I can’t see them. I’m upside-down over here.”

Mary: “Oh, just let me do it. Don’t be so impatient. Why are you in such a bad mood?”

Ooooh …

Wasn’t …

Am now.

But we breathe and move on to the next wall. And the next.

And when all the art’s up, Shop Boy puts his arms around Mary and we admire the place. You might call it a masterpiece.

Shop Boy: “You’re a genius, Mary.”

Mary: “No, you’re a genius, Shop Boy.”

Eat your heart out, Manny.

***

Letterpress List No. 38

How about an hour’s worth of music to curse out Boston Red Sox fans by?

Now we’re not here to talk about baseball, but …

True story: Geoff Brown, an Orioles fan who does show up, had invited me to the game despite my own, um, baseball loyalties. Anyway, Shop Boy is a bit directionally challenged sometimes. So after purchasing refreshments, I suddenly found myself in the middle of an aisle, completely unable to recognize any landmarks. After standing and looking around like a complete nimrod for what seemed like a half-hour, I hear Geoff — a quiet man in general — screaming his lungs out to me from a section over. Had to be mortifying. Good thing I was carrying beer. Ah, just Shop Boy being Shop Boy.

(Sorry, Red Sox insider joke.)

Oh, I mentioned that Geoff is an outwardly mellow type of dude. What I left out is that, if you happen to be a pack of beefy Sox fans dressed all in team colors and slowly, smugly and defiantly strolling across the street in front of his vehicle on the way home, you’re gonna hear a different side of the man:“@%$#@&* +&%%$##, Boston scum!”

Of course, when we then got stuck at a red light 15 feet up the street from the targets of his abuse, Geoff half whispered, “Uh, geez, I was kind a hoping this light could maybe, um, change?” Oh, man. Shop Boy just about fell out of the truck. For a quiet guy, Geoff’s a scream. (Here’s his blog.)

Cue the music! Most of these tunes should be available at the usual places. Great and goofy video links are to YouTube.

Sweet MemoryMelody Gardot (Sweet for a Sox fan, anyway.)
Barroom HeroDropkick Murphys (Damn Boston punks.)
On the Way Out — Freedy Johnston (Stealing away.)
All Fired UpInterpol (International incident avoided.)
The Pedestrian Foxboro Hot Tubs, aka Green Day & Pals ( ;-) .)
Beat Box — Art of Noise (More peds!)
Picture ThisBlondie (Many a young man did.)
Walk Like a ManDivine (John Waters’ wacky diva.)
Minstrel in the GalleryJethro Tull (An artist admiring his own work? Manny, Manny, Manny …)
Draw the LineAerosmith (Jagged edges.)
Portrait (He Knew) Kansas (Obvious one, but a Shop Boy favorite.)
Framed Cheech & Chong (First, second and third degree.)
Hang Firethe Rolling Stones (What the hell.)
Beer RunGeorge Jones/Garth Brooks (We’re in.)
You Get Me LostFreedy Johnston (Shop Boy once wandered around Dodger Stadium for 45 minutes seeking his seat. Never found it. Went home.)
Nice Guys Finish LastGreen Day (Not always, despite this song from the album … Nimrod.)
The Boys Are Back in TownThin Lizzy (Red Sox fans’ invasion stalled temporarily by a river of invective.)