Archive for August, 2008

X-Actly Wrong

August 27, 2008

Pretty packaging can make clients fall in love with your work before they even open the box.

(They, ahem, of course fall in love with it all over again when they do open it.)

So it’s great that Mary’s got a knack for taking the simplest of boxes and dressing it to the nines with double-stick tape, pretty handmade paper, a cutting board and …

Oh, geez, the X-Acto.

“She’s got a knife!”

Shop Boy shouts this, Hawaii 5-0 like, each time Mary picks up a sharp object, whether in the kitchen or the printshop. See, Mary’s brain works at 500 times the speed of light. OK, maybe a little quicker than that. As a result, she has sometimes moved on mentally before she’s finished with a task at, um, hand.

Harsh reminders can follow. Oh, not from Shop Boy. She just waves me off (often forgetting that the blade is in her hand — Shop Boy’s careful to remain beyond the circle of danger). Nope. These reminders are ones she gives to herself. The latest went about halfway through her thumb.


Thank heavens for Powerpuff Girls and Hot Wheels bandages. What, your printshop doesn’t have either? Get them. Nothing promotes faster healing than sticking a picture of a muscle car on the boo-boo. Just saying.

Now Mary’s got a painful wound that’s going to take forever to close up. That’ll learn her.

Not that Shop Boy’s that much of one to talk.

True story: One day, Shop Boy was wrestling with a package of steak knives we’d bought. You know how they wrap things like this these days, between hard plastic, molded forms melted together at the seams? Nearly impenetrable. Well, when scissors wouldn’t cut though the packaging, Shop Boy figured — in the interest of safety — that it would best to close the scissors and use the point to simply poke a hole in the plastic and go in from there. Didn’t want to muscle up, yank from both sides and have the package suddenly fly apart. Steak knives are sharp, you know.

Did I mention the plastic packaging is also slippery.

Now, I don’t know how to begin to spell or punctuate the sound that was coming from my mouth. But Mary came running to the top of the stairs and called out, “Are you OK?”

“Oh, Mary … I did something …”

She came running down the stairs to find me at the sink, scissors stuck almost all the way through my left hand. Yes, that stings.

“Pull it out,” Mary said.

“I’m afraid to,” Shop Boy whimpered. But I did. Then we both just sort of started laughing. (OK, we’re weird.)

Dr. Love was pretty unimpressed. (Yes, that was her name. As a Kiss fan — be quiet! — I thought the only thing cooler would have been if I had arrived at the clinic spitting blood.) But she patched me up, gave me antibiotics to prevent infection in the bone I’d stabbed, and told me to be smarter next time.

And Shop Boy’s learned. Believe me. Now, when I come across similar packaging, Shop Boy plays it extra safe. I hold the plastic package in one hand and a .38 revolver in the other, and …

Just kidding.

Anyway, you’d think Mary would be a little more careful with tools that can cut after her latest brush with a bleed-out.

So there she was a day or two later, screwdriver in one hand, tub of black ink in the other. She was using the screwdriver to try to pop off the lid. But rather than use the twist-slide, twist-slide method to slowly loosen the lid by working all the way around it, she was trying to force the lid off in one movement with pure pressure. And, naturally, the screwdriver slipped and just missed puncturing the wrist of her opposite hand.

Shop Boy: “Mary! Come on!”

Mary: “I do it this way all the time. Besides, I didn’t cut myself.”

Shop Boy (taking the tool): “Next time you might. And you’ll die, alone, on this floor — which I haven’t vacuumed, by the way. … Look, just place the flat edge of the screwdriver beneath the lid’s edge, turn it, then slide it a little and turn it again.”

Mary: “See? It’s not working … oh.”

The lid popped off.

Mary: “That takes too long.”

Calling Dr. Love … calling Dr. Love.

Letterpress List No. 49: Bats in the Belfry

August 25, 2008

Our roommate walked in and screamed.

Not to worry. He does this whenever we accidentally leave the overhead fluorescent lights on in the part of the studio space that we share and which serves as the Typecast Press/Chris Hartlove Lounge. The screaming’s partly in fun, partly to send an unsubtle reminder that he’d prefer the room a bit dimmer. He’s a photographer with eyes that are keenly sensitive to light. But we need to work in that space — maybe just to get a better look at a color match — sometimes, too.

“OK, we get it. Sorry,” Mary will say, hitting the light switch, and Chris will say his hellos and retire to his darkroom turned office, which, naturally, features low lighting.

Mary loves her spaces bright. She’s a lamp nut. Our main studio has lights that hang from the ceiling, two small table lamps, “light box art” (an architectural photo printed on acetate and mounted on a long, vertically hung, fluorescent light fixture), a bank of spotlights above the C&P 8×12 and plans for more, more, more.

Shop Boy, like Chris, can see in the dark. Mary? She sees freaks.

“Bats! I’m surrounded by bats!”

True story: Mary and Shop Boy were enjoying the end of a sunset in our Denver back yard when we heard an odd sound. We looked along the roofline of our cute little bungalow for the source, agreeing that it seemed to be coming from the chimney. Before Shop Boy could even shift into denial mode — weird sounds mean home repairs … not my, um, thing — a little black object flew past our heads.

“Bird,” Shop Boy said.

“You sure?” Mary asked.

“Sure,” Shop Boy lied, as another bat took to the skies. “OK, maybe not.”

Within minutes, it was fairly obvious that we did not merely have bats in the chimney. We had ourselves a rookery. We ducked inside, away from the swarm, and immediately began debating a course of action.

Smoke ’em out? Nope, we were told: “They’ll come right through the wall, into the house.”

Poison? Forget it. Think of the stink of a chimney full of little corpses! Plus, bats are good to have around, eating their weight in mosquitoes and the like. You just don’t want them inside your cave, you know?

Mary went on the hunt for a humane exterminator, finding, as luck would have it, a young gentleman so handsome that his girlfriend followed him from job to job to dissuade his sharing of more than a gander at that buff body with his customers. The girlfriend didn’t know from bats, but she knew from human nature.

Hercules’ plan? Get most of the bats out — by hand! — then build a cage around the chimney that would let any stragglers out that night but wouldn’t let them back in. And up the ladder he went. In his bare hand would go, out a sleepy bat would come. Tossed one by one into the air, they flew desperately for cover from the midday sun. (Shop Boy wore wraparound sunglasses pretty much full time in Denver. Yeow.) One bat was so disoriented at suddenly being airborne that it flew sideways … right at the girlfriend, who squealed and tumbled heels over head with a loud crash into the thin metal doors of our little storage shed.

And when the eviction papers had been fully served, the exterminator dude placed the cage on the chimney — and another over a spot at the roofline that looked suspiciously like a place where homeless bats could roost. And that was that.


Mary (later that night): “Do you hear something?”

Shop Boy: “Nope. Probably just the wind.”

Mary (the next morning): “What are all these little holes in the screens?”

Shop Boy: “Them? Uh, those have been there a while.”

I’d pay for my denial.

One day, Mary was chatting with a visitor who’d also dealt with a bat infestation. “Oh, it was horrible,” the friend said. “For several nights, we’d hear them tearing at the screens, trying to get in every window.”

And a little light went on.

Had to run and get my shades to protect me from Mary’s glare.


Letterpress List No. 49

Hey, how about an hour’s worth of music to pick live bats from a chimney by or simply to dull the pain of that light-induced migraine? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

Bats in the BelfrySmokescreen (“I think they’re coming from the neighbor’s chimney.”)
When You Wish Upon a StarGene Simmons (This is known as denial.)
Seen the LightSupergrass (Not that Shop Boy or Chris needed it.)
CreepTLC (Dude’s chances of catting around? Exterminated.)
Bright Light FrightAerosmith (Denver’s 5,280 feet closer to the sun. Feels it.)
Bat Out of HellMeat Loaf (A rude awakening.)
Falling or FlyingGrace Potter & the Nocturnals (Falling … for Grace.)
Learn to FlyFoo Fighters (Up and away.)
Limelight Rush (Mary hates this band … maybe more than flying rodents.)
Coming HomeScorpions (Sorry, not tonight, my little friends.)
Over the MountainOzzy Osbourne (Dude’s batty.)
Fell on Black DaysSoundgarden (Again, not in Colorado.)
Mosquito SongQueens of the Stone Age (Go get ’em.)
The Midnight Special Creedence Clearwater Revival (Shine an ever-lovin’ light on me.)
Who Can It Be Now?Men at Work (Just the wind.)
You Want In, I Want OutJoan Jett (Black-hearted little monsters.)
Screaming for VengeanceJudas Priest (They wanted in.)
Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)Pat Travers Band (Just love the song.)
Overture to Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss II (“The Bat” … get it? Shop Boy is sooooo cultured.)

Maximum Protection

August 20, 2008

Guys tend to buy them a size — or two — too big. They slip on nice and easy. But unfortunately, when you’re just getting busy, the loose fit can cause the latex to overstretch in some spots and rub against the skin in others, increasing the friction and often causing breakage. Now you’ve got a real mess.

What? Did I say something funny?

Shop Boy’s talking about gloves. Oh, you thought …

Let’s keep our minds on letterpress printing, shall we, people?

Anyway, you know what they say about men — big hands, big … um, personality or something. There’s a reason XXL clothing is so popular with dudes. And it isn’t just that we’re all trending toward tubby. When a woman looks in our general direction, we want one word to pop into her mind: Jumbo.


So, Shop Boy has been burning through a lot of latex gloves lately and washing buckets of ink from my hands and scraping a bunch more from beneath my fingernails. We purchased a big batch of latex gloves that just don’t quite fit. So they tear easily, and the ink finds every hole.

And where usually you’d be able to put a pair of latex gloves on to set the greasy impression counter and ink up the press, then pull them off and set them aside for later use … nope. One and done. It’s getting to be like a medical office, where the doctor puts on a fresh set of gloves, you hope, every time he enters a room. In a printshop it’s wasteful, not healthful.

And there’s an even larger problem with the heavy-duty gloves — for dealing with the final press/roller/ink plate washdown with a little bit of solvent. Shop Boy is most comfortable in the big gloves, except when I actually have to use them to clean with. The grip is so clumsy and the rag flops around so much that I’ve got to work twice as hard, cleaning all the extra spots on the press that I’ve smeared ink onto.

The smaller, tighter gloves are great for cleaning but make my hands sweat and are so difficult to remove that I have to pull one off, then use my bare hand to remove the other, solvent-coated one. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?

We’ve tried different sizes and brands, but the perfect fit has been elusive. Shop Boy’s a ‘tweener, you might say. (And don’t you dare snicker when you say it.)

Anyway, there’s a ton of latex left to get through before we can try a new size. So what are you going to do? Complaining won’t change the size of anything.

Besides, you work with what you’ve got, right, fellas?

Letterpress List No. 48: Death or Taxes

August 18, 2008

“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

That’s the Incredible Hulk, who turns from mild-mannered geek to gargantuan green ball of vengeance if you happen to step on his shoes in the subway or something. Later, he can’t imagine what he’s done.

Or it could be Mary speaking.

She does the bulk of the prep on our taxes each year, including some pretty tricky deals involving sales tax and the like. Her accountant — who shall remain nameless — handles the forms and makes it all legit. This year, Mary asked her to file an extension, which she promptly did.

Then the accountant disappeared. Like Bermuda Triangle type stuff, you know? Unreachable by phone, e-mail, anything. It was no big deal until August rolled around and we figured it was time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, as going to jail for nonpayment of taxes has never had much appeal.

True story: The first five years we were married, Mary insisted that since she actually did the taxes, her name should appear on top of all the forms. Shop Boy was cool with that. If she didn’t want my last name, great. Her name carried a better credit rating. Uncle Sam? Not so cool. Well, when the federal documents threatening prison time arrived, and Shop Boy the delinquent fell to the floor and assumed the fetal position, Mary went ballistic. And the IRS dude who answered the phone got a quick, loud lesson in equal rights.

It turns out that the good old boys of the IRS had never read past the first line of the form, as the husband was traditionally the top filer. So Shop Boy hadn’t officially paid taxes in five years! Hey, whoever heard of a husband playing second fiddle to some girl. (Men are pigs.)

Ooooooooh, Mary was steaming. It was still coming out of her ears as she helped a trembling Shop Boy up off the floor and assured me that the IRS bogeyman wasn’t going to get me.

Oh, she still puts her name first on the forms, but apparently the tax MAN got the message. And spread the word.

All right, so by last weekend, Mary was tired of waiting. Typecast Press was at stake here, for heaven’s sake.

See, at first, Mary was worried. She fretted that something terrible had happened to the accountant (depression, illness, death or something) and began sending increasingly concerned e-mails. Then, she was a bit irked at the lack of response to any of them. Now she’d discovered — and believe me … don’t try to hide anything from Mary — that a woman by the same name, fitting the same description, at the same home address had received a variance a few months before to open a dog-grooming salon in the same general area.


Hulk … I mean, um, Mary decided it was time to go knock on (or down) a door. We drove out to the lady’s home and Mary hopped out of the truck. “You be my muscle. Look intimidating,” she told Shop Boy.

You’re laughing, right?

Mary marched up the little path toward the front door, peeking around shrubs and flowers and into windows for signs of life. Then she looked back at the intimidating presence of Shop Boy, shrugged and rang the doorbell. The guy who came to the door was impressed neither by Mary, her, um, attack dog nor her impassioned tale of tracking down a missing accountant.

So when he gave our very concerned but aggrieved Mary the “Whatever, weirdo” brush-off …

“Let’s go,” she fumed as she jumped into the truck. “Just go! Turn right at that next street.”

“Um, where are we going?” Shop Boy asked.

Mary’s mouth said: “To a dog-grooming salon. She’s a dog groomer! She wasn’t even going to tell me?”

Her eyes said: “OK, my accountant’s not dead … yet.”

We parked just outside the front door. “I’ll stay here,” Shop Boy said. (I didn’t want to get blood on a favorite shirt — and we’ve already discussed my aversion to prison.)

“And I’ll wait for you while you’re in the slammer!” I called cheerfully.

“Hmmph!” Mary grunted as she turned the knob to the salon door.

Shop Boy sat and waited. And waited. And waited. This was bad. Shop Boy’s been on the sharp end of a few talking-to’s by our Mary Mashburn. She gets into a groove and — ouch! This lady must be getting pounded in there. Maybe I should go in.

I gave her two more minutes. She emerged at 1:59, laughing. Whew!

Shop Boy: “So, is everything OK?”

Mary: “Yes. She was a little stunned that I’d hunted her down. I mean, kind of shocked to see me.”

Shop Boy: “Guess she doesn’t know you very well.”

Mary: “That, Mr. Smarty … and that tax aren’t due until October. They recently extended the deadline.”

Shop Boy: “And she wasn’t going to tell you that either?”

Mary said the accountant explained that she was planning to call once she got back from vacation in a couple of weeks. Can you imagine? Mary would have been climbing the walls! Now, the accountant didn’t say where she was taking this vacation, but Mary’d have found her. Imagine that seaside surprise.

Afterward, even Mary was stunned by her, um, intestinal fortitude:

“I stalked her. I actually stalked her.”

Hey, she was angry.


Letterpress Lost. No. 48

How about an hour’s worth of music to sleuth, to steam or maybe just do your taxes (filing by April 15 is so outdated) by. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great links are to YouTube.

One Way Or AnotherBlondie (She’ll getcha.)
When Will I See You Again?the Three Degrees (Sooner than you think.)
Taxmanthe Beatles (Boys will be boys.)
The Waiting Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (It’s the hardest part.)
OperatorJim Croce (Dropping the dime.)
You May Be RightBilly Joel (Madness … in small doses.)
Dog Eat DogTed Nugent (That’s a mess you wouldn’t want to clean up.)
Death & TaxesBreakin’ the Breakdown (Yeah, they’ll make you scream sometimes.)
Watching the DetectivesElvis Costello (Too many TV police shows.)
Tiptoe Thru’ the Tulips With MeTiny Tim (Ukulele is Hawaiian for “jumping flea.” Fleas are killed by this sound.)
Right Place, Wrong TimeDr. John (Suddenly, there was a knock.)
Little Pig, Little PigGreen Jello (Cartoonish anger.)
Break StuffLimp Bizkit (Just one of those days.)
Gimme Three StepsLynyrd Skynyrd (Excuse me?)
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems The Notorious BIG (Having issues.)
The Final CountdownEurope (Things get hairy.)
Mr. ColumbusGrace Potter and the Nocturnals (See you in October.)

Outward Bound

August 14, 2008

There’s one little problem with those “have-a-heart” mousetraps.

It’s that those who buy the things tend to, indeed, have one. So as the little rodent thrashed around inside his cell, Shop Boy’s insides twisted. The mouse was miserable, and it was cute. And you tend to forget that the little buggers are vicious cannibals, given the opportunity or need.

Aren’t we all?

Anyway, Mary’s not cool at all with having furry little roommates, so … the have-a-heart traps come out. Seen these things before? They’re metal boxes with a hole/tunnel through the center, a spring mechanism at one end and a ventilated but escape-proof little room at the other. Mice, usually preferring smallish passageways to the perils of the open floor, skitter into the tunnel, trip the spring and are unceremoniously thrown into the clink to sleep it off.

Now, a misadventure like this would very likely give Shop Boy a heart attack. And I saw on some nature program that mice often die from heart failure rather than predators. Not this fellow. By the looks of the cell, we’d certainly scared the poop out of him.

But he was chock-full of life.

That’s a Baltimore mouse for you. Bad hearts? Nope, we’ve got Olympians.

Mary one day found a British article offering advice on ridding your place of a mouse. It involved putting peanut butter on one end of a toilet paper roller and setting it on the counter so that the peanut butter end hangs over the edge. The mouse walks in to get him a little PB action and, essentially, walks the plank, plunging into a deep bucket you’ve set up below. Not a great way to go, but …

True story: Shop Boy had enjoyed such a great adventure lazily rafting on the Delaware River that he wanted to share a little of the whole floating downriver experience with Mary, who had to miss the Delaware trip at the last minute. There’s a little creek near where we lived in New York called the Esopus. People rent tubes, climb in a bus up the creek and bingo — fun in the sun. Off we went.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we could have picked a better day than the one that featured a major water release from the Ashokan Reservoir — to churn up the water for a kayak race! Swear to god. We were dunked about five times before we even got aboard the tubes, but didn’t think to turn back. There were little kids having a great time of it. So we were off. And how! Just ripping along.

Well, we’d just about steadied ourselves when we hit a big turn in the creek and got separated in the rapids. As I looked toward where Mary was tipping over, Shop Boy somehow failed to notice a huge tree that had fallen into the river. Torn off my tube, I was shoved, dazed, toward the creekbed by the rushing water. And my foot got stuck in the rocks. I knew what that meant.

“That’s it, then,” I thought. “I’m drowning. Can’t get to Mary. Can’t breathe. I’m dead.”

As Shop Boy resigned himself to not being alive in a moment or two, a couple of funny things happened. First, a sense of peacefulness. Complete calm. I looked up toward the surface of the water, where the sunlight and the green and red of the leaves formed a kaleidoscope. It was beautiful. I relaxed, let my arms drift above my head and …


“Hello there!”

A six-tube flotilla (plus floating keg) had seen Shop Boy go down and not come up. I was face to face with a large, smiling woman wearing Viking horns. Look, I don’t know how long I was submerged or how addled I was from hitting the tree, but that’s what I remember: an angel in a helmet, like in an opera or something. (Mary says it’s true.) I thanked and thanked Brunhild as her roaring flotilla mates toasted the rescue effort.

“Where’s Mary?” Oh my gosh. There she was. Thrown from the tube, she had held on to the rope, stopping herself by dragging her bare legs along the rocky creekbed. She was standing in the shallows, really shaken up. My great idea had left her shins bloodied. And Shop Boy felt like a heel. Maybe the Vikings should have let me go.

And we were still only five minutes into what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride. Let’s just say it was a long walk downstream.

You should have seen the concerned looks on the faces of those waiting in line at the start for their tubes as we came tumbling out of the woods to hand ours off. We probably changed a few plans that morning.

But where were we? Oh, OK, so one night a mouse craving a midnight snack walks into the toilet paper roller and takes a dive. We arrive the next morning to find him paddling like mad.

Mary: “What do we do now?”

Shop Boy: “His heart’s probably giving out. They have bad hearts. I saw that on a TV show.”

Just our luck. He was Michael Phelps with a tail and whiskers. We couldn’t let him go or he’d breed more super-rodents. Build a better mouse, as it were. There would be no Brunhild to rescue this one, even if he’d managed to keep his head above water for hours and hours. Sort of an accident? Sure. But killing stinks. (Yes, Shop Boy’s a bit of a softie.) And right there we chucked the peanut butter trick in favor of have-a-hearts.

So our new little iron-hearted captive didn’t know it — he was wigging out as Shop Boy picked up the trap — but he was getting out of this one alive.

We drove out the requisite 5 miles or so (they can find their way back otherwise) to a park.

Mary: “Put on your heavy gloves, Shop Boy.”

Shop Boy: “Geez. Do I have to? They’re going to think I’m dumping anthrax or something.”

I walked to the edge of some deep grass, tipped the trap, slid the lid back with a heavily gloved hand and whoosh! City mouse to country mouse. If he has friends back home, we’ll bring them around later. It’s the least we can do for our suburban neighbors.


Oh, one more thing about these traps: They’ll keep catching mice until the spring winds down. So if you think you’ve got several mice or a full-on infestation, check the holding tank every day, or you could have a full house pretty quickly.

And, heartlessly, they’ll eat each other.

Cute, huh?

Letterpress List No. 47: New Tricks

August 12, 2008

One person’s trash is another’s make-ready.

This became readily apparent to Shop Boy when, seeking a little sliver of something … anything … to bring up the impression on one side of a coaster, he resorted to dumpster diving.

OK, it was the trash can. But you get the idea.

Anyway, you know Shop Boy ain’t — no chance, no how — venturing into the large dumpster behind the Fox Industries Building that houses our studio. First off, it’s for heavy industrial waste — might come out of there glowing green or something. (Other tenants use it for whatever garbage we create, food waste and stuff. I have no doubt that some of that is more toxic than Fox Industries’ powders and polymers.) Plus, there are potentially rabid creatures of the night sometimes milling about back there. Rats. Cats. Bats. Rabbits. Raccoons. Coyotes. And yes, sometimes even hookers. Do I look like Marlon Perkins … or, ahem, Hugh Grant … to you?

True story: Shop Boy was new to Baltimore, but not exactly wet behind the ears, when — after a particularly rough go in the newsroom — I happened upon a smiling young person on my way out of the building. “It looks like you had a real bad day,” she said. Shop Boy just kind of sighed, responded “Hi, uh, you don’t know the half of it” or something and walked toward my car. “You want to talk about it, honey?” She was apparently headed the same direction.

Now in those days, the Baltimore Sun had a bunch of pressman who — you boys! — apparently had a thing for the “ladies.” Shop Boy simply (duh!) hadn’t noticed the daily parade. Mostly transvestites, it was said.

Now, I’m not sure if my new friend was male or female. All I knew was here was a nice person walking along chattily on the sidewalk. About 25 feet from my car, the topic changed. Can’t remember the exact words, but they were unsubtle enough that even Shop Boy got the picture. Oh, boy …

“Nice talking with you, miss. Sorry. Um, have a nice day.”

“You sure, baby?”

Oh, 100 percent. You should have heard Mary laugh (with Shop Boy, not at Shop Boy — we do not laugh at the ones we love) when I got home and told her about my, um, slowness on the uptake.

All right. So there I was at Typecast Press, desperate for something that would “goose” the final three words of a line of type that sat beneath a larger solid area on the plate. Now, Mary’s really good at this stuff. She’s got a special cigar box to hold bits of this and that just for the purpose and a full drawer in the flat files exclusively for red boards, acetates and soft paper sheets for general impression adjustment. And speaking of tricks, Mary’s got a neat one in which she puts make-ready off to the side of an underperforming bit of the design — rather than underneath it — to change the way the whole plate makes contact with the tympan/platen. I don’t know exactly why it works, but it does.

Shop Boy’s much less experienced. (Hush!) I didn’t want to bother Mary, who was running a tighter-deadline job in the other part of the studio. So Shop Boy was going to need to make the subtle adjustment himself. (Could something thinner than acetate be unsubtle? You’d be surprised.) I needed a small piece of tissue paper roughly the shape of the state of Maine, which I’d seen somewhere just a few minutes before. Not in the cigar box, which needed some serious restocking. Oh, of course …

Shop Boy had thrown a dirty rag on top of it in the trash can. Geez.

So I reached in, dug it out and, yes, there was grease on it. Seems Shop Boy was going to have to live with the state of Pennsylvania. Well, to make a long story just a little shorter, in a few hours, Shop Boy had banged out enough coasters on the old C&P to stretch end to end from Baltimore to Harrisburg. It wasn’t easy, and it was hot, but with a few make-ready tweaks along the way the coasters ended up looking consistently good.

Mary walked in toward the end of the run. She was headed home to take care of some financial stuff and asked if I’d be up for cleaning both presses when I was done. Hey, if she pays the bills, I’ll do whatever she wants. Call that what you will.

“You sure, baby?”

One hundred percent.

And the little scrap of tissue paper? You kidding? I put it in the make-ready box. It’s Connecticut by now, but I might need it again sometime. This old dog has learned his lesson.


Letterpress List No. 47

How about an hour’s worth of music to help you, um, let off a little steam after a difficult day of work? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

Ready or Notthe Fugees (Found.)
AliceMott the Hoople (Too many johns.)
Industrial DiseaseDire Straits (Bette Davis knees?)
TrashJimmie’s Chicken Shack (A hatchet to the family tree.)
Fried Chicken and GasolineSouthern Culture on the Skids (Dumpster chow.)
Hard Day’s Nightthe Beatles (But feeling all right.)
AnimalsNickelback (Illicit automobile activity.)
Little CreaturesTalking Heads (They can follow such activity.)
Roxannethe Police (Just say no.)
Walk on the Wild SideLou Reed (Doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo …)
Desperadothe Eagles (He/she can help you out with that.)
Street Life the Crusaders (Excuse me? What was that again?)
Suddenly I SeeKT Tunstall (Left hanging on a word.)
Paper Dollthe Mills Brothers (Great old stuff.)
Throw It AwayJoe Jackson (Never again.)
Lola the Kinks (Walked like a woman, talked like a man.)
Tricky Run-D.M.C. (No doubt.)
Ziggy StardustDavid Bowie (Androgyny.)
What Do You Do For Money Honey?AC/DC (Shop Boy can be bought.)

The Old College Cry

August 7, 2008

Typecast Press isn’t forever.

We know that — though Mary and Shop Boy hope to keep at this printing thing for many more years.

Nope, one day, we’ll hang up our ink-stained, monkey-adorned aprons and pass all this great old machinery and printer stuff on to the next generation …

Whereupon someone will rename the business something high-falutin’ like Lord Fauntleroy Fine Stationers, Inc.

Oh, the big C&P will still cough and wheeze, the Miehle Vertical will still gush oil and mystery crud will occasionally fall from somewhere deep within the guillotine cutter onto your expensive paper. But somehow, it won’t be the same.

Sigh. You think of things like this when you pass certain milestones as a business owner. At least Shop Boy does. The latest is the departure of our longest-serving intern (and I mean 10 hours her first day, 11 her last), Katrina Miller — from Villa Julie College in Stevenson, Md.

Oh, wait a minute. That’s Stevenson University to you. Well, la-dee-stinkin’-da. They recently changed the name to make the school sound more important and … of course … to attract guys hesitant to attend a school named Julie. True, Shop Boy’s pals Tim Smith and Robert Leininger — fans of old movies featuring dead people — did nickname the place Villa Julie Newmar. Smart-alecks.

But don’t get Katrina going on this. Not when she’s holding an X-acto. Remember the scene in Fatal Attraction where the murderous Glenn Close is slicing the knife into her own flesh as she explains why everybody has to die? Pretty much Katrina talking about the name change.

Anyway, Villa Julie Stevenson is about to turn out a good one in Katrina, who enters her final year any day now. She came highly recommended, and leaves the same way. From cranking out coasters to scrubbing trays to teaching us a very slick method for lining envelopes with fancy paper — value added! — Katrina was great to have around. Funny. Dependable as heck. Eager to work. She even said that she likes Shop Boy’s collections of music.


Too bad Katrina’s got to go. Mary could learn a lot from her.

Letterpress List No. 46: Drop in the Bucket

August 5, 2008

My father’s a pretty good amateur painter, but he’s sort of funny about his art.

One day Shop Boy was home for a visit, for instance, and all of Dad’s paintings — watercolors — were piled up in a corner behind a door, mostly images of sailboats, lighthouses, rural landscapes.

Dad could’ve made a killing in Baltimore, home of the painted screen. Never heard of that? Dad, neither, or we’d have had one in Cranston, R.I. Sadly, you don’t seen many painted screens even around Baltimore anymore, except perhaps as yuppie kitsch. The screens served several purposes, from adding color to the gritty urban landscape with an idealized view of suburbia to preventing unwanted visitors from seeing inside. An occupant could stand behind the painted screen sticking out his tongue at a vacuum cleaner salesman, for instance, and the dude would go away thinking no one was home. Fun, right?

Well, Wally St. Angelo would have been the king of the screen painters. Of course, Shop Boy’d have grown up thinking a “paramour” is “what you use to cut the grass, hon.”

As it is, Dad chucks his work in a corner. So Shop Boy steals it when he can. And years from now, when an authentic Wally St. Angelo is selling for a cool million bucks or so, who’s going to own that market?

Shop Boy! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

It’s like I tell Mary: Don’t hide your light under a bushel … or under the top of an old dim sum steamer.

OK, it’s an oddly cool old hand-painted metal thing that we found for 20 bucks at a local junk shop. One man’s trash is another woman’s, um, samples receptacle. Yep, all my favorites are in there: There’s the zombie/woodlands wedding invitation; colorful party invites; the most intricate and lovely, hand-fed, “buy 8, get 1 free” coffee card ever printed (two colors one side, three on the other); the baby announcements; off-kilter “neighborhood napkins”; coasters; business cards … in a big pile. I tend to go on about Mary, but she really is quite talented, and Typecast Press has been cranking out a good number of cool projects.

When you’re busy, who’s got time to actually create a lovely samples book that we can whip out to impress visiting clients? Put it on the to-do list, you know? (Like updating our website’s photos.)

In the meantime, at least we know where all of our samples are. In that funny-looking thing over there.

Just lift the lid. But be careful. It’s, ahem, pretty bright under there.


Letterpress List No. 46

Searchin’the Coasters (It’s there. Keep digging.)
When I Grow UpGarbage ( … I’ll have a samples book.)
CoconutHarry Nilsson (Mix it all up.)
By the WayRed Hot Chili Peppers (Heavy glow beneath the marquee.)
Been Caught StealingJane’s Addiction (Just helping Dad keep the house clean.)
Where It’s AtBeck (Red pot. Gold-painted dragons. Can’t miss it.)
Moments in LoveArt of Noise (Skating by with what we’ve got.)
Big ShotBilly Joel (Putting on a show.)
IfBread (Paint-by-numbers schmaltz, but the girls used to dig it.)
The Long Way HomeSupertramp (Part of the scenery.)
Who Can It Be Now?Men at Work (The big sell.)
UninvitedAlanis Morissette (Talk to the screen.)
Nobody’s HomeKansas (Hiding in plain sight.)
Light My Firethe Doors (No shrinking violet.)
Rockin’ the SuburbsBen Folds (Maybe a bit too much.)
Band-Girls-Money Tsar (Or none of the above, I guess.)
You’re a Star Josie and the Pussycats (And the bushel is lifted …)