Archive for January, 2009

Letterpress List No. 71: Downhill from Here

January 27, 2009

Can’t say I wasn’t warned …

About the dark side of owning a pickup truck.

And women.

I mean, it feels good to be helpful. And Shop Boy likes being nice.

True story: Shop Boy was walking across a blocked intersection in Washington, D.C., the other day. You know how it is. Drivers! Can’t stand the thought of being inconvenienced for a single minute. So they inconvenience all the rest of us for four or five minutes by “blocking the box” — driving through the yellow/red light even though there’s no room for their cars on the other side. They get stuck, blocking the traffic that now has the green light and, yes, making the crosswalk unusable. And they look at pedestrians like we’re the jerks for shimmying between the bumpers to get to the other side.

Anyway, Shop Boy began across the street, approaching a suitable gap. A woman on the other side was headed to the same bumper gap. Though Shop Boy would have reached it first, I noticed her and did the gentlemanly thing, stopping to let her pass through first. A tiny gesture, really.

That’s when I heard it:

“Well done, honey. You were raised right.”

A woman behind me had been watching and, having seen the usual rude dance once too often, I guess, was moved to speak up.

Shop Boy was moved to blush uncontrollably. And to be so courteous to everyone I crossed paths with afterward that soon I was blocking traffic.

My mom did raise me right that way. I like being gentle and polite. It’s nice. Sue me.

So who is Shop Boy to say no to a damsel in distress who needs a piece of furniture moved in a jiffy because the owner’s leaving town and the buyers (the aforementioned damsel, Edit Barry, and her spouse, John) are headed on a ski trip? Would Shop Boy and the truck be available?

I mean, when a woman asks you that nicely — OK, Mary would tell you Edit is also quite, um, attractive … Shop Boy had not noticed — of course I said yes.

I did not say this: “How heavy is it?”

Oh, my. It was an armoire. Huge, and built of oak or cherry or … whatever. Even in two large pieces, the sucker weighed a ton. And there were no good places to really grip the thing. Just hang on, brace it with your face — honest — and pray.

Another question I’ll ask next time: “Where is it?”

What’s that you say? A skinny, rickety Baltimore rowhouse with a low ceiling, narrow doorways and metal back steps made slick with rain? (Did I mention the weather?) All that was missing was a vicious dog.

It took two trips. Shop Boy and Edit — she’s an editor … isn’t that cool? — rode up front; John — a writer — sat in the bed of the truck. (Every time I started feeling bad for myself, I shot a look in the rearview mirror. Poor guy.)

At one point, as I counted the steps out loud — couldn’t see them with my face pressed against the wood — to keep track of my footing as we went up Edit and John’s porch, I lost my grip a little bit, the armoire section tilted and I panicked, throwing my bare arm between the furniture and the door frame. It did the trick … the armoire was unscratched.

Shop Boy’s arm? Oh, it’ll grow back. The most important thing is I did not drop it.

Another true story: Our friends Tim Smith and Robert Leininger are huge, huge, huge film fans. Well, the mammoth TV in their home theater was on the fritz. They’d decided to haul this old one to the repair shop, get it fixed, maybe sell it or give it to someone needing, like, a 68-inch screen or something. Meanwhile, they’d buy a bigger one.

Shop Boy did not hesitate to say yes when the idea of hauling the TV out of their house and onto my truck came up. But I nearly had a heart attack when the entertainment system was pulled away to expose the TV’s full size. You know: If it’s 68 inches across, it’s at least that deep as well. And so heavy that the parts of the plastic base that you could grab became like razor blades in your hands.

It was quickly clear: Robert and Shop Boy could not carry this bad boy. So I started thinking … the room had rugs. The hallway and stairs were carpeted. Maybe we could turn the TV on its head and simply slide it down the stairs to the foyer. Shop Boy even volunteered to stand beneath this monster and, um, break its fall.

Look, Shop Boy once moved an ancient refrigerator down four flights of stairs — solo — using this method. If it’ll slide, why lift it.

So, in two seconds flat, the TV was in the foyer. Now all we had to do was, gulp, somehow lug it out the door, down the path and then a long set of cement stairs, across the sidewalk and to my truck.

No way.

Ah, but Shop Boy, flush with the success of the slide method, had a brainstorm. If the TV slid down the carpet, surely it would slide down the lush green hillside beside the steps.


Except that I lost my footing or something and the load got loose, tearing a toupee out of Robert’s beautiful lawn and, before we could corral it — crack — brushing the cement stairs, destroying the TV screen. No good … to nobody … no more.

Suddenly Shop Boy felt as though he’d swallowed a thousand sharp objects. Which is why, ever since, I say a silent prayer and then lift, don’t think. And I knock on wood, in the case of the armoire with my facial features.

And, as we hefted the top half one more time onto the base and slid the armoire into position in Edit and John’s home, all the grunting, sweat, fustration, fear, exhaustion and pain just … disappeared.


About two weeks later, Shop Boy was crossing Union Station on the way home from work when I saw a woman wave. It was Edit. She and John were back from vacation and doing … something in D.C. I really didn’t ask what, because John spoke first:

“We’re not sure we like the armoire where it is. Will you be around …?”

“Nice to see you. Keep in touch,” Shop Boy said, walking quickly past Edit and John.

I’m polite, not crazy.


Letterpress List No. 71

For the record, Edit and John were incredibly appreciative. And it is an amazing piece of furniture … that is lovely right where it is. On that note, how about an hour’s worth of music to sit idly, drink a beer, or just be nice by. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Weird or wacky videos are from YouTube.

Stop!Jane’s Addiction (No … Go!)
Nice Guys Finish Last Green Day (We’ll see about that.)
Goody Two ShoesAdam Ant (Nyah.)
Across the Avenue Freedy Johnston (Pedestrian on the wrong end of a bumper.)
I’m Finding It Harder to Be a GentlemanWhite Stripes (But I’m trying …)
Block Rockin’ BeatsChemical Brothers (Dancing across the intersection.)
Roll Away the Stone Mott the Hoople (Two-ton TVs: a Sisyphean task.)
City Womenthe Grass Roots (The lawn grew back. My self-confidence will never be the same.)
On the Dark SideJohn Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (Springsteen ripoffs who weren’t half bad.)
The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
Missy Elliott (Why today?)
Fall on Me R.E.M. (Timber!)
Slip Slidin’ Away Paul Simon (So near, so far.)
Long Line of Cars Cake (All because of you.)
Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for SnacksPanic! At the Disco (Oh, please … after you.)
Landslide Smashing Pumpkins (Anybody need a massive, slightly used TV … as is?)
Drive AwayHalfcocked (Great even while going nowhere.)
Crosstown TrafficJimi Hendrix (Inconvenient.)
My Name is Mud Primus (“6-foot-2 and rude as hell” — stepping on the wrong guy’s shiny shoes.)

Letterpress List No. 70: A New Day

January 21, 2009

So you didn’t really expect Shop Boy to file a blog yesterday, what with all that other speechifying going on, did you?

I mean, even Shop Boy knows when to sit there and shut up. (Here’s where we pause to let everyone get the Dick Cheney jokes out of our system. Better? Good. Let’s proceed.)

Nice day. Great speech by President Barack Obama. Would have been cool if he’d included a bit about letterpress printers as the future of our nation, but that’s OK. Not everyone was disappointed. Mary? Had to pry her off the ceiling afterward. Really. And why not? It was her day.

Shop Boy should mention here that Mary always worries about me getting too loose with the lips. We could maybe turn off a less liberal client. To which Shop Boy says: Look, if you don’t see Mary as one of the smartest, most open-minded, funny, silly, talented socialists in the Western Hemisphere, or can’t tell that this is so simply by talking to her, so be it. Actually, Mary’s just a military brat who’s seen a bit too much of what the world can do to the voiceless. Still, she believes in and — mostly — loves this nation as too few do.

Shop Boy? I’d vote for her. What can I say?

Wait a minute … wasn’t this all about me? Yes, thank you very much, fellow Americans. For you see, Shop Boy has discovered that his words do not merely befuddle the average brain. Nope. They move people.

Check it out. So the Mobtown Shank — a blog/website that IS Baltimore, by our own Benn Ray — recognized Shop Boy’s singular genius, letting me make the call on the top 10 blogs of 2008. (So then I got paved over and pushed to the bottom about four hours later for top movies or fashion or books or some culturally significant thing or another. Whatever.)

Top that, Mr. President.

Oh, OK. Well done.

Still … it’s pretty cool. Have a look. And God Bless America:

Shop Boy’s Top 10 Blogs of 2008

1. NEATORAMA — — A non-walking compendium of the crazy news and images of the day from “out there.”

2. CUBEECRAFT — — Offers free, funny, fold-it-yourself paper figurines. Pick one, print one, own one. Hellboy! Stay Puft marshmallow man! Michael Myers! Resistance is futile.

3. MODERN DRUNKARD — — A boozy assortment of tips for the tipsy, frothy frivolity and warped features like a fictional drink-off of history’s greatest boozers. Oooh. Smell the gutter!

4. LASERPANTS —– Profane commentary on the news of the day (some days, anyway), with photo flotsam and even a little shopping advice. By our very own Geoff Brown.

5. BLOG OF HILARITY — — Bitter commentary on wacky news, a staggeringly negative take on celebrities and even the occasional ogling of underage actresses. To paraphrase Ms. Bankhead, blogging’s only dirty if you’re doing it right.

6. MIXWIT — http:// Make your own online mix tapes by browsing an assortment of music sites, decorate the cassette covers and post them on a blog or share them with friends. Oh, and it’s free. EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s also now defunct.

7. MR. PEACOCK — http://mrpeacockstyle.blogspot.comAn apparently tireless dandy’s daily blend of fashion, home decor, food and stories of his beloved mom. It’s a site even a supporter of Proposition 8 could love.

8. OH, IT’S THOSE GIRLS — Who knew Minnesota Twins fans could be so funny? Apparently, what doesn’t kill you makes you funnier. Orioles fans should take a lesson from these two sarcastic, besmitten baseball nuts.

9. BUGS & CRANKS http://http://www.bugsandcranks.comNews, notes, witticism and whining about the twists and turns of the baseball season, now 12 months long. Includes Orioles coverage by local wiseacre Patrick Smith (that’s Smitty to you, pal).

10. IMPRESSIONS OF A SHOP BOY — A storytelling blog (ahem, mine) that’s a little bit about letterpress printing and a lot about laughing at the world … and yourself.

Letterpress List No. 70

When it comes to music knowledge — especially local — Shop Boy ain’t no Benn Ray (who I’ve met but do not know, by the way). Still, we shall try to find an hour or so of non-local listening worth your time. Shop Boy considers it his duty to America. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great video links are to YouTube.

My President Young Jeezy featuring Nas (Shop Boy wasn’t sure whether to scream or salute when I saw this — it’s something else.)
A Change Would Do You Good Sheryl Crow (Funny how Miss Crow was once stuck as a backup singer to Michael Jackson when she has so much stinking talent of her own. Maybe somebody found out she voted Democrat.)
If I Ruled the WorldNas featuring Lauryn Hill (A Mary favorite. It really does rule.)
The House That Jack BuiltMetallica (Camelot II? Oh why not? Let’s dream a little. Besides, Mary says Mrs. Obama’s the new Jackie O.)
Dream a Little Dream of Me
Louis Armstrong (Had to slip Mary a sedative, of course.)
Come Togetherthe Beatles (Let’s, shall we?)
ElectedAlice Cooper (From a dude who, in the interest of bipartisanship, long ago traded in his cynicism and makeup for custom-designed pitching wedge.)
Eat the RichAerosmith (Shop Boy, as a representative of Typecast Press, feels perfectly safe in listing this song.)
America the BeautifulRay Charles (Hold back the tears today. I dare you.)
Ah MaryGrace Potter and the Nocturnals (Shhh. Listen closely.)
Pride in the Name of Love U2 (Funny, but Shop Boy’s never been a big fan of Bono and Co. Jingly, jangly guitars, song after song, just get a bit tired after a while, you know? But the boys’ hearts are in the right place, I guess.)
Sweet Home Chicago Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express (2:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. She killed. Shop Boy’s first after-hours blues club. Afterward, felt sort of like this video looks and have not been the same since.)
Accentuate the PositiveWillie Nelson (Go for it.)
People Get Ready the Blind Boys of Alabama (Yeah, there are many versions. But this one will get you.)
Today Smashing Pumpkins (A bit cold for ice cream, but cool.)
Walking in Memphis Marc Cohn (Nice …)

Letterpress List No. 69: Sensory Overload

January 13, 2009

Besides humor, Shop Boy pondered one day (because that’s what he does), which is the most important sense to a printer?

Sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell?

What kicked off this navel-gazing was Mary suggesting that the ink on the big C&P was getting a bit thin. She was across the room, with her back turned to the press, busy with another project.

But she was absolutely right. Shop Boy took another look through the stack and the five menus on top were a lighter shade than the rest.  I stopped and added ink.

Shop Boy: “How did you know that?”

Mary: “The sound.”

Shop Boy: “Huh?”

Mary: “Listen. Hear that particular ‘squish-squish?’ If you don’t, add ink.”

Well, I’ll be … and with the radio on, no less.

So OK, even those of us who, ahem, don’t listen very well can probably get by. And Mary and Shop Boy have known some very gifted deaf printers. We’ll cross that sense off first.


I am happy to report that Mary has yet to dip her finger into the ink, touch it to her tongue and pronounce it a bit shy of cyan or magenta. That would just max out the weird meter. (We’ve been in the red zone a few times, believe me.)

Of course, as even old Charlie the Tuna might one day admit, good taste is a very helpful attribute. But rely too much on taste? Not so great an idea.

True story: Shop Boy was a skinny, skinny little boy. The size of boy that bullies just love. Well, after one particularly bruising run-in, I decided that Billy Smith would never pick on me again. Little Shop Boy would bulk up.

The training regimen was awesome: Twinkies, Yodels, Suzie Q’s, Devil Dogs, Ding Dongs and all the pasta my mom could cook up.

But it worked a little too well.

One day, Shop Boy was walking, alone, across the local athletic fields when the sound of running feet came from behind me. I turned to see a half-dozen guys, a little older, fury in their eyes, storming toward me. With nowhere to go, I froze. This was going to hurt.

And just that quickly, they stopped running, looked at each other and then started walking away.

“You’re lucky you turned around, kid,” one of them shouted to me. “From behind, you look just like Billy Smith.”

Suddenly, I didn’t want to be him-size anymore.

Nowadays, I keep a picture around of little Shop Boy taken at the Galilee, R.I., tuna tournament. Behind me is a several-hundred-pound fish hanging by its tail. In the photo, and in my mind still today, I’m much wider than that fish ever got to be.

Call it a fat dose of karmic revenge.

In a previous copy editing job, Shop Boy once made light of Elizabeth Taylor’s weight problems. The actress said she felt bad for herself, so she binged until she was huge … and nearly dead. My headline:

“Consumed By Self-Pity,
Taylor Ate Herself Thick.”


What would Old Purple Eyes have to say about me?

Now, lord knows Shop Boy’s not the first printer ever to have a little extra, um, lead in his bottom. But what better time than the new year to say, “Yikes. Dust off the running shoes.”

In a filing cabinet, Shop Boy keeps a clipping of an ad from a defunct all-sports newspaper called The National. It’s defunct, I believe, because management threw a ton of money at the “talent” — meaning big-name writers — and apparently precious little at, oh, copy editors. (Typical.) It made for ragged reading. And the scores were wrong as often as right. What a mess. Anyway, the old sneaker ad features a guy jogging along a bridge. The copy reads something like: “There’s a guy just a few steps behind me. He’s wearing the same clothes. He looks just like me, but he’s a lot heavier. And if I slow down, I’m afraid he’ll catch me.”

Nasty, right? But it always hits me where I live. As the old sitcom line goes: “My body is a temple …”

Yeah, the Temple of Doom!”

Mary: “God, Shop Boy, you’re such an anorexic.”

Shop Boy: “Yeah, but don’t worry. I’m apparently a pretty lousy one.”


Too much information? Too bad. My blog.

But all right. We’ll cross off taste and move on.

Smell is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, Mary smells nice and all that. But the main job of smell in our printshop is to remind Mary to remind Shop Boy that it’s time once again to take out the trash. Or to “Turn on That Exhaust Fan Before You Kill Us Both!”

I could live without that one, then.

Sight’s pretty key, even though we’d been able to struggle through with crummy lighting in our big space. During the daytime, at least, we could walk out onto the sunlit loading dock for a color and straightness check. Today, with three brand-new banks of energy-efficient fluorescent lights, it’s like the sun’s moved indoors.

Gonna have to get me one of those green plastic visors. And warn the roommate.

But maybe touch is THE sense. Heck, we’re letterpress printers. We want the plates to touch the paper. Often hard.

And when things go very wrong, as they have and will on occasion, there’s the reassuring touch, like a long hug from Mary after Shop Boy has had his bell rung and his psyche dented — again — by getting my big, fat head stuck behind a set of shelves that we’re moving, and releasing a stream of negativity often referencing my size and intellect.

Mary: “Oh, Shop Boy, you’re not fat and stupid … just a little slow sometimes.”

Nice touch.


Letterpress List No. 68

Sorry to get heavy on you, folks. Believe me. How about an hour’s worth of music to lighten up by or just pass the time on the treadmill? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

Eat to the BeatBlondie (A sweet tooth.)
Touch Too MuchAC/DC (The scale don’t lie.)
Party Out of Bounds B-52’s (Time to pump the brakes.)
What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)Jerry Lee Lewis (My, oh my.)
Take It Off the Donnas (I’ll do my best, then mess up again.)
Worrisome HeartMelody Gardot (The doctor’s going to insist on a few, um, lifestyle changes.)
Too Little Too LateBarenaked Ladies (“One day, this embarrassment will fade behind me. And that day, I can think of things that won’t remind me.”)
Somebody’s Gotta Feel ThisKid Rock (Eww. Take Shop Boy’s word for it.)
Look SharpJoe Jackson (Got a date with my tailor … who’s going to be hauling extra cloth.)
LithiumNirvana (Breaking the mirror.)
Running Up That HillKate Bush (With a chubby doppleganger in hot pursuit.)
Tough Enoughthe Fabulous T-Birds (Yoo can doo eet, Shop Boy.)
Baby Got BackSir Mix-a-Lot (We’re not judging others … just Shop Boy.)
My HumpsBlack Eyed Peas (And Alanis, too!)
Back That Thang UpJuvenile (What’s your plan?)
My Love Don’t Cost a ThingJ.Lo featuring Fat Joe (There’s some back for you. Spent a little too much cheddar together.)
TushZZ Top (Ain’t asking for much.)
Symphony of DestructionMegadeth (For whom the dinner bell tolls.)
Hunger StrikeTemple of the Dog (Or not.)
We’re All Gonna Die Someday Kasey Chambers (“It hurts down here cuz we’re runnin’ out of beer.” No gut, no glory.)
Get Right With GodLucinda Williams (Amen.)

Quiet on the Set

January 11, 2009

It’s a Hallmark Card of a movie … that’s what “Seven Pounds” is.

All the mush with none of the crush.

Did it push Shop Boy’s tear-duct button? Sure. But what’s the challenge there, eh? Manipulative? You bet. Great film? No. But it was better than a sharp poke in the ribs.

Mary and Shop Boy saw the film Friday night at a theater near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Very cool, modern moviehouse, with faux leather bucket seats and arm rests that fold up for easy, um, dating or whatever. The theater is steeply banked, so nobody’s big hair can block your view of the screen. This is a big deal in Baltimore.

OK, quickie “Seven Pounds” synopsis: An IRS agent with a secret and a briefcase full of guilt (Will Smith) uses inside knowledge to find seven individuals most worthy of his help. It becomes his life mission to save them. So, there’s this one lovely young woman (Rosario Dawson) who needs a heart transplant but can’t find a match or the money to pay for it, seeing that she’s already tens of thousands in debt to the IRS. Turns out her heart makes her too weak to run a manual printing press — a C&P, looking radiant as well — and the Heidelberg Windmill’s heart’s given out as well.

Oh, our gaunt (at least until he takes his shirt off) hero also hopes to help a battered mom, a kid with cancer, a coach who needs a kidney and a blind guy, among others. Good for him.

But mostly it’s about the hot girl with the heart of gold that’s about to stop beating. Can’t blame the dude — or the filmmakers — for keying on that bit.

All right, most important, did “Seven Pounds” get letterpress right?

Mary and Shop Boy didn’t let our expectations get too high, but … Hollywood, we gotta talk.

At one point, Rosario shows Will her printshop, demonstrating the ancient C&P by pumping the foot treadle a few times and exhaustedly handing old Will the finished product of one pass of the rollers.

A four-color, airy fairy greeting card.

And Mary whacked Shop Boy in the ribs. (Dang. Should have lowered that arm rest.)

A four-color job in one pass on a press that’s clearly been idle for months? Hey, it’s Hollywood, so whatever. But it seems the director took all of the grand advice of a highly regarded letterpress consultant on dialogue and printing history, mashed it between the platen and bed of the press and said, “Here, this fits better.”

When did Hollywood get the idea that all talk is bad?

I mean, who better than Ms. Dawson’s lovely lips to give a succinct tutorial on modern letterpress printers’ reasons for turning away from the traditional “kiss” impression? Perfect. But how much time would it have taken from the story for her to simply add something like, “This is what I was working on when my ticker went bad. I don’t want to ink the press and then have to clean it. But I’ll give this card a little punch so you can feel what I’m talking about.”

Would have saved Shop Boy a few bruised ribs.

And … roll ’em

January 9, 2009

Back in Colorado, Mary and Shop Boy were members of the Denver International Film Society, which, ahem, gave us free passes to see highbrow foreign things like, oh, “Pelle the Conquerer” and also, um, less sophisticated stuff like — dun-dun-dunnnn, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.” We didn’t ask questions. We just grabbed the passes from the mailbox and went to two to three movies a week.

Thus was born the “popcorn dinner.”

Shop Boy (calling from work): “What do you want to do for dinner? … That again? Yay!”

Well guess what’s for dinner tonight, folks.

Mary and Shop Boy are going to the movies. With all that’s been going on in the real world holiday- and work-wise, we haven’t had time for a date night in a good long while. What’ll we see? What else?

“Seven Pounds,” baby.

Hey, we’re letterpress printers — gotta see how those presses do in their co-starring roles with Rosario Dawson and Will Smith. Supposed to be a bit of a weeper, always an issue with Shop Boy around. But don’t worry. The popcorn’s usually gone before the opening credits, so it won’t get wet.

I’m not sure what it is, but Shop Boy gets so involved in these stories that I feel the cold, wet, gray landscape (“Pelle” … brrr) and cringe at the loss of a womanizer’s best friend (“Pelle” … guys, turn away …) or an impending impalement (“Hand”).

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out … once I stop sobbing, I mean.

Letterpress List No. 68: Seeking Treatment

January 6, 2009

Generally, Shop Boy is a bit timid about returning purchased items to stores. Something about embarrassment over inconveniencing people and a fear of not having the proper receipt and all that. You know, the usual “own your personal space” thing that so irks Mary.

But I’ll make an exception for shag.

Mary had her mind set in home-decorator mode, but somehow spun her inspiration dial a bit too far backward, like to the 1960s. The goal was a sprucing-up of the latest industrial space Typecast Press took over. We tidied up the room a bit for the holiday party, but soon few of those guests will be able to recognize the place. Mary has a plan.

See, there are two 10-foot by 10-foot windows in the big room, the old, rusted steel frames still doing a pretty good job of holding in the glass panes but doing a lousy job of being pretty. Add some crazy chicken wire over the whole things and …

We went looking for window treatments. Where?

Let Shop Boy just say right here that a couple of consecutive Swedish meatball breakfasts will stick to a lot more of you than just the ribs. (Yes, Shop Boy is feeling the holiday excesses. You know, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year usually dumps certain of us into the worst. That’s a topic for another day.)

But IKEA — not to drop names — has a bunch of cool, cheap, funky and, OK, lost-in-translation furniture and stuff.

The first time we visited the store, about 10 or so years back, was on a hunt for a shower curtain that would allow us to retrofit a little upstairs bathtub. Mary’s dad, Wayne, is a really tall dude, and this was to become the guest bathroom.

Well, IKEA was still a bit new to American soil, and tastes, in those days, so Mary had to poke Shop Boy a few times as I goofed and giggled my way across the showroom over … the rat motifs. Apparently, the Scandinavian folks long ago formed a sort of “well, they ain’t going anywhere” detente with the Norway rat that now borders on a love-in.

The store had “happy rat” scenes on children’s blankets and sheets. Swear. And they were all over the shower curtains, too. (Mary and Shop Boy canceled their Stockholm vacation plans on the way home.)

On our latest visit, we found a few anatomically impossible stuffed animals — what do the Swedes know? I mean, the rats ate all the giraffes there, right? On the whole, the store now seems a bit more … American. And we stumbled upon perfectly long cotton-ish curtains right off. But mostly what we found was shag.

At first, Shop Boy thought Mary was just having a little fun with me, but then there they were going through the checkout line: two 6-foot by 8-foot black shag rugs. (All right, they were probably 77 inches by 94 inches, but that’s just another part of the IKEA magic.)

We hauled the things over to the studio, scoffed a bit when we noticed the “made in China” tag (!) and unrolled one of them. “Ooh, that’s ugly,” Mary’s mom said helpfully, saving Shop Boy a little breath and a mean look from Mary.

“I don’t know,” Mary said after walking around and over the rug a few times. “There’s just something … wrong about them. I think we should have gotten the orange shag.”

Rats! Back to IKEA.

Anybody up for meatballs?


Letterpress List No. 68

Actually, folks, once Mary got a look at the orange shag laid out in the store — a field of rough, tangerine, sub-arctic tundra — she went instead for a pair of gray/black, reversible, even-textured, wool-ish rugs. Shop Boy didn’t even have to beg.

You also might have noticed that the posts have been less frequent here. New year, new job. Shop Boy’s first office, with a view of bricks! But busy. To celebrate, how about an hour’s worth of music to work, shop, blog — or to, um, shag — by? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great video links are from YouTube. Look for more posts soon.

AM RadioEverclear (Mary embraces shag but cringes at Art Alexakis, the lead singer. My world is upside-down.)
Thick as a Brick Jethro Tull (A view is a view.)
Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, BabeBarry White (Shag on, dude.)
You Owe Me Nothing in Return Alanis Morissette (From the album Under Rug Swept. ;-) )
Holding Back the YearsSimply Red (Can’t turn back time … and that feels like a really long time ago, doesn’t it?)
Hey GoldmemberBeyonce (From the Austin Powers sequel. Yeah, baby.)
WaterlooAbba (Sweden’s own.)
Somewhere in TimeIron Maiden (Always feels right. OK, maybe that’s just me.)
Magic Carpet Ride Steppenwolf (Far out, man.)
Lay It DownRatt (Seeing is believing.)
It Wasn’t MeShaggy (No good.)
You Know That I’m No GoodAmy Winehouse (Carpet burns.)
The Rain, the Park and Other Things — the Cowsills (Time warp.)
Another Brick in the WallPink Floyd (Lovely.)
A View to a Kill — Duran Duran (No Rear Window stuff yet, thankfully.)