Letterpress List No. 69: Sensory Overload

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.

Taste?

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.”

Uh-oh.

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.”

What?

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.)

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