Letterpress List No. 73: Roll Models

There Shop Boy stood … stooped, actually, the carnival strongman sign taunting me. “Popeye, my left gluteus,” I was sure I heard it say. Or maybe that was Mary.

See, she was at the other end of the sign, which is 15 feet tall and deceptively heavy. And she wondered what the big deal was. Her end sat upon a dolly as she steered it much as the caboose guy steers the back end of the hook and ladder around tight corners on the way to a fire. Mary was doing a great job of steering. But it was still jammed tight where two stretches of hallway are separated by about a 4-foot turn. A real jam.

True story: Shop Boy needed a haircut. We happened to be at a Baltimore bar named for a couple of local guys’ efforts to build — in a backyard — a one-man spaceship to the stars. Seriously.

“So,” Mary asked the woman bartending at Rocket to Venus, “know anybody who cuts guys’ hair?”

We’d had a couple.

“Call this number,” the young woman said. “Ask for Bethany.”


Shop Boy made the appointment, showed up at the appointed time and then drove home.

“Your hair looks great,” Mary said, running her hands through the ‘do atop my head, gelled within an inch of its life. “How’s Bethany?”

“You mean Deathany,” Shop Boy answered.

“What?” Mary asked.

“Yeah. She’s in the roller derby. Wow! You should see the tats — and the piercings! And blond and orange hair to the ceiling. Deathany: No 666 in your program, No. 1 in your heart.”

“I don’t care if she’s Satan,” Mary said. “She’s cutting your hair from now on.”

Deathany might be reading this and might be holding a sharp pair of scissors near my throat any day now, so Shop Boy should add that she’s sweet and funny … and will put you on your keister. Her main role with the Charm City Roller Girls is as a blocker/jammer for the Speed Regime, one of four teams — strong kid. Solid skater. I’ve seen her in action. And I’ve seen her take off her helmet afterward. Boing! Hair snaps back into spiky, multicolored amazingness.

I ask Bethany once a month why she bothers to keep me as a client — dullest hairstyle to ever walk through the door. Oh, there are gray streaks, but that’s about as wild and colorful as Shop Boy gets. She just smiles. I think maybe she and Mary have a diabolical trick or two up their sleeves.

Anyway, we could have used Deathany and a few of her teammates in our corner to, um, help persuade the strongman sign to bend around this seemingly impossible turn — or to somehow embarrass Shop Boy into finding an extra Top Dog surge of strength.

Because we had only two choices: Shop Boy was going to lift this sucker into as vertical a position as he could to soften the angle — for as long as necessary — and we were going to muscle it through. Or we were going to have to put the sign back where it was, endlessly in the way in our to-be teaching studio.

Let’s see …

I grabbed the sign about two-thirds of the way to the top and slowly raised it toward the heating ducts, fully extending my arms above my head and standing on my tiptoes as the top of the sign scraped along the wall, inching toward the other hallway.

Mary: “This isn’t going to work.”


The sign had been outdoors a long time before it came to the Fox Industries building and became ours when the previous tenant left and had no way to store it elsewhere. Its wooden structure had rotted in spots and the orange paint was peeling. So each time it was turned ever so slightly it released a shower of debris. What a mess. But it just looked too darned groovy to give up … until now.

The sign turned. Luckily, Mary had thought to wrap a trash-bag condom over the end so we wouldn’t mess up the hallway. So Shop Boy was spared a wood shampoo. And he saw the final bit of inspiration he needed in the words now visible at the very bottom of the strongman sign: Sick Duck.


The momentum nearly carried us through the door to the Ladies Room, but Shop Boy caught his balance and stopped it just short. No Girlie Man here.

One more dead lift and the sign was propped against a wall in an unused room, awaiting the once-over from local artist David Hess, who has a huge barn where he creates his sculptures. He liked it enough to take it out of our lives. Mary said it went out of the building easy as pie.

The implication being that Shop Boy’s a Cream Puff.

Hell on wheels.


Letterpress List No. 73

Whew! Been a while without music, eh? Hope you missed it. How about an hour’s worth of music to flash around a track with the Speed Regime — or just let them do it and have a cheeseburger and a beer in the stands — by? FYI, the next bout for the Charm City Roller Girls is March 14 here in Baltimore. Doubleheader. Du Burns Arena. Check it out live. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great videos are from YouTube.

Venus — Bananarama (She’s got it. The rocket builders? Not so much.)
Helen WheelsWings (Goofy but fun.)
Rollin’ Limp Bizkit (Cream puffs too, it turns out.)
She’s Lost ControlJoy Division (Go see a bout. You’ll know why this is included.)
Lace and WhiskeyAlice Cooper (And Chickens?)
Hang FireRolling Stones (From Tattoo You.)
Take Your Mama Out Scissor Sisters (If she’s in the way on the track.)
Will It Go Round in CirclesBilly Preston (The bad guys win every once in a while.)
Rebel GirlBikini Kill (Don’t start none …)
Fight Song — Marilyn Manson (… won’t be none.)
Kick It OutHeart (Let’s roll.)
A World Without TearsLucinda Williams (Gotta be tough.)
Hit Me With Your Best ShotPat Benatar (OK, that was too easy. A great song that’s become a bit of a cliche.)
Making MoviesDire Straits (The roller girl song — love it.)
A Rhapsody in Black and BlueLouis Armstrong (Um …)

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