Company’s Coming

In a bunch of years in the newspaper business, Shop Boy got an awful lot of phone calls from an awful lot of drunken people at loud bars wanting me — or the sports department if I was lucky — to help settle a wager. Nowadays, a simple Google search removes the middle man.

For instance, Shop Boy was himself at a bar the other day, the Mount Royal Tavern, with Mary and friends Jen and Martin, when the bartender approached.

Another? Sure … oh, that’s not what he came for.

“You know that narrator from The Big Lebowski, what’s his name? Used to do westerns. Guys down there are having an argument.”

I’d dealt with the film critics at the Baltimore Sun for a number of years, and I loved that crazy movie, but dang it if the name wasn’t gone from my pretty little head. (OK, my head is huge, but apparently I.T. was doing a reboot up there or something.)

We looked blankly at each other … then it came to me. Not the name, but the fact that I had an iPhone in my pocket. Google! Fifteen seconds later, we had our man. Bet settled: Sam Elliott, dude, who else?

No wonder Americans’ attention spans are shot.

Shop Boy’s as much as anybody’s.

See, 16 college art students are getting a pretty big dose of Mary these days. She’s teaching a class in letterpress at MICA. Six hours a session, one day a week, for 15 weeks. Sorry, folks, it’s sold out.

And I think she and Kyle Van Horn, who’s teaching with her, have gotten the young people’s attention. (If not, that pop quiz — shhhhhh! — should do the trick.)

Now, you should know that Mary was once told by a career counselor that she should stay away from teaching — unless it was to work with enormously gifted students. She can have patience issues with folks who are stubborn learners who need to be hit over the head with a concept to get it — like, oh … Shop Boy for instance (what was Mary thinking?).

Well, she’s working the kids — gifted art students as a rule — pretty hard.

Hence there was Shop Boy, arriving in Baltimore from D.C. one cold Wednesday night and walking from the train station and past the school print building only to see the lights burning and Mary’s class still going strong … after 10 p.m.

Standing in the snow like an idiot — shhhhhh! — I sort of felt like throwing stones at the second-story window, like, “Hey, what about Shop Boy?”

Instead, I wandered home. All of about 100 yards from the MICA printshop building. Yeah, Shop Boy’s commuting two hours each way and Mary’s commuting 100 yards and I’m home first. Hmph!

You want impatient?

So the students at MICA tend to be pretty quick studies at the Vandercook deal. The school has a fleet of them, and Kyle keeps the presses shipshape. (He’s also a whiz at color registration on the stinking things — but he’s kind of our competitor, so again … shhhhhh!)

What MICA doesn’t really have is the platen presses — the Pilots, Kelseys, Heidelbergs and C&Ps — that Typecast Press has tended to accumulate.

Nyah!

It’s not that the Vandercooks can’t do all the same stuff. But to concentrate on only Vandercooks is to miss out on a huge chunk of the rich history of letterpress printing. And that is what Mary is all about.

She decided a tour — a walk through history, as it were — was in order, so Wednesday, the students, Kyle and Mary saddled up and rode over to the Typecast Press studios. Shop Boy showed up toward the end at Mary’s request, just so, you know, the students wouldn’t be frightened when a weird stranger showed up to help with … the actual class Mary will be teaching at our shop in a couple of weeks.

Excuse me? A couple of weeks?

I might have failed to mention that the depth we have in platen presses involves mostly the layers of dirt and grime. Shop Boy hasn’t stopped sweating since Mary mentioned the MICA coaster-printing session.

Yes, I know. Shop Boy should have gotten ahead of the game, cleaning and tuning up the presses as soon as they found their way to the shop. I mean, you know something’s going to come up and you’ll have to scramble to get presses and rollers prepped. Why not do it now, do it right, and then relax when your partner nonchalantly informs you that 16 people — platen rookies — will need all machines on deck for a coaster project?

A stubborn learner.

Or maybe you missed that part.

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