Philly Fanatic

You know, it’d probably be easier and a whole lot cheaper at this point if we just moved Typecast Press to Philadelphia.

I mean, what in the name of Benjamin Franklin (yes, that’s him as a young printer) were we doing bouncing down Broad Street toward Philadelphia’s University of the Arts yesterday?


Of course I know that we were there to pick up a Vandercook SP-15 we had purchased. What I mean is:

What in the name of the Liberty Bell were we doing buying another Vandercook from Philadelphia?

Baltimore was for years a hotbed of letterpress printing. Mary can’t find any printing presses here? (Oh, yeah … that’s right, five and counting.) But this one, she insisted, was so sweet and well maintained, it could be brought online immediately … assuming, naturally, that we could rent a 16-foot truck, drive the two hours to Philly, load the press aboard, drive it back home to Baltimore and somehow boost the 700-pound press onto a loading dock too high for standard delivery trucks to reach. Then, we’d need to get the Vandercook No. 4 (bought and transported from Virginia … geez … up on dollies and wheeled very carefully through the studio and across the hall to a storage space. Once that was settled into position, the SP-15 could take its rightful spot.

Wait … did she just say it could be brought online immediately? Only 700 pounds? Heck, most of our presses, the No. 4 included, are twice that.


A great addition to Typecast Press. Or so I kept telling myself as we sat and steamed, quite literally, at the weigh station. Not even out of Maryland yet, and Shop Boy was doubling up on the expletives.

Now, Shop Boy’s fear of scales is well documented, but this was a topper. Two long lanes of 18-wheelers, and us, crawling toward the main inspection building. Neither of us had ever been through a weigh station before — have you ever even seen one open? What did this mean? Did they think we were drug smugglers, or hauling human cargo? Hazmats?!?! We’re going to jail!

Mary, not wanting her parents subjected to the dulcet tones of my ranting, told them she’d call them back and got to the job of calming me down by questioning why in the world I had pulled off in the first place.

Shop Boy: “Because when the state cop tells you to get over there in line, and when you motion ‘Me? What for?’ and he points at your grill and exaggeratedly waves you — yes, you! — into the weigh station lane, you do it.”

Mary: “Oh, god. You’re so law-abiding. If you hadn’t been so worried about being in the right lane for the toll, he wouldn’t have even seen us. Besides, he couldn’t have meant you. He didn’t wave any other small trucks … oh wait, there’s a van. Whatever. I told you to stop worrying about special lanes at the toll booth. See? They charged us the car rate there, Mr. Big Rig.”

She was right. And wrong. The next bridge toll was triple for us, as a truck. And I made a huge point of smugly making Mary take more money out of my wallet for the lady. That’ll show her to be all smartypants.

Back at the weigh station, it was finally our turn. Our weight was fine. (We’d skipped breakfast.) And soon we were free, bouncing back down I-95.

Literally bouncing. This truck was a menace. It was hopping so much atop the span across the Susquehanna River that  Shop Boy thought we were going into the drink. Forget texting while driving. I was ready to distract myself from all that troublesome staying-in-your-lane  and maintaining-your-speed business by praying with the rosary beads … a text message to god, as it were.

Mary got word by this point from Perry Tymeson that he’d fulfilled his end of the bargain in Philly. The press was on the sidewalk waiting. And so it still was an hour later as we blew past Perry and Laurel Schwass-Drew, the printer/instructor in charge of getting the university’s press placed in a good home. The school has its eye on a more expensive machine, and Typecast Press was providing the down payment.

It turns out Laurel is, ahem, a fairly regular reader of this blog, which Mary found out to her dismay when they met on Mary and Perry’s advance scouting trip to check out the press. Dismay is too strong a word, but Mary can get a littled bugged when she does all the work and Shop Boy gets the glory. I just blush — then in a fake deep voice announce: “Yes, I’m worldwide … heh-heh.”

Anyhow, Laurel, Perry and Shop Boy boosted the press onto the lift gate and Mary carefully guided us aloft and into the truck the Vandercook rolled. That was a snap. Perry strapped the press to the side rails, we ran to grab a quick bite, got a promise from Laurel that she’d stop in for a visit if she’s ever in Baltimore, and soon we were bouncing back toward the freeway. (It didn’t help that Shop Boy cheated on a couple — or three — turns on the way out of the city and hopped the curb.)

Long story short: We made it back to Baltimore at 4:05 p.m. Fox Industries, which owns our building, locks up the forklift at 4.

Well, poo!

There were now two possible outcomes: We could rig up a ramp and somehow shove the press up about a two-foot incline onto the loading dock. Or, we could wait until the forklift was available the next morning, paying a second full day’s rental for a truck that had nearly shaken loose all our teeth.

No …

Stinking …


So with Option 2 off the table, Shop Boy decided to simply play the two aces in his hand in Perry and Kyle Van Horn of the Maryland Institute College of Art, who’d arrived just in time. (We’re sheltering his dream Vandercook as it awaits a ton or two of TLC.)

Shop Boy might not have put money on us either, but quicker than Mary could say “I can’t watch,” Perry had turned a pallet, a couple of two-by-fours and a few thin metal plates into a ramp. (Guy’s good.) And with Perry steering and tugging from the loading dock while Kyle and Shop Boy shoved from below … bingo. Two seconds flat. Where do you want it, lady?

It was almost a letdown. I mean, after all that? What could Shop Boy whine about now?

How about Perry going on about the new press the University of the Arts was purchasing? Seems there was a guy near Philly who had a jones for printing and the wherewithal to assemble a printshop from nothing but the best. Now his stuff, in pristine condition, had begun to come onto the market.

Shop Boy could hear the gears turning in Mary’s head.

Now what in the name of cheesesteaks did he have to tell her that for?

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