Tasting Flights

In a room full of VIPs — OK, two of them anyway — Mary was a rock star. It was beautiful.

She had gotten a call a few weeks earlier from Heidi, wife of Vincent I. Pullara Jr., about creating an invitation for the third-generation Baltimore printer’s surprise birthday party. No pressure there: designing and printing an invitation sure to be scrutinized by a family of printers. And her … a “girl printer,” of all things. Well, Mary adores Heidi and Vince, and would absolutely leave Shop Boy in a second for Vincent I. Pullara Sr., so she was in.

The event was to be held at a local Maryland winery, Boordy, and so Mary designed a wine bottle-themed invite with funny descriptions of the fictional wine … and of course, the real Vince … on the label: “Bold, assertive Italian flavor; sharp on the tongue, with a witty finish.” Vintage.

Two-color job. Burgundy and a silver-gold blend. No sweat. We’d been tweaking and tweaking the platen of the big Chandler and Price in recent weeks and had at long last finally gotten the printing press’ impression about as perfect as that of an old, worn machine can be. A couple of times through the  C&P on nice, soft cotton paper.

“Hey, that looks awesome,” Shop Boy said of the first pass. “It’s really gonna be cool.”

“Are you sure?” Mary asked. “This has to be awesome. A whole huge family of printers is going to get it.”

She was realizing the enormity of her assignment, and watching the clock tick.

“Don’t worry, you’re nailing it,” Shop Boy answered.

Mary sweated it all the way up until Heidi arrived for the invites. Heidi looked over the wording once more — Mary was at least not worried about that part, since VIP Jr.’s mom Betty had signed off — said she loved the invitation, hugged Mary and went off to begin addressing. Then Mary sweated some more.

Mary: “Do you think she liked them?”

Shop Boy: “Well, she did say she absolutely loved them, so that’s a pretty good sign.”

Mary: “Maybe she was just saying that because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.”

Oh, boy.

Well, the big day finally arrived, with Shop Boy about having to forklift Mary into the car. You can’t be late for a surprise party. And we were totally on Mary Standard Time.

I should explain Mary Standard Time. See, this is where you make all your calculations based upon how, if every single little detail works out in its absolute best-case scenario, and if the shoe doesn’t have a bad buckle (requiring a change in every article of clothing and a different handbag), and we make every traffic light, and if that stupid Hybrid in front of us on the one-lane road hits the gas,” we can make it to (event name here) almost on time.

We were due at Boordy at 6 p.m.

At 5:58, we were still a mile or two down the road, Mary shouting “duck down!” every time any vehicle that could possibly be carrying the birthday boy came into view.

“Um, I’m driving, Mary. You know,” I added helpfully, “people who are on time don’t need to duck down.”

At 6:03, we slid into place on the grassy parking lot and started running across the field toward the tasting room.

“You know,” I said helpfully mid-dash, “people who are on time don’t need to run.”

Mary’s response will remain between the two of us. You’ll thank me.

I like to joke sometimes that when we have left this earth, our friends and loved ones won’t need to refer to us as “the late Mary Mashburn and Shop Boy,” as that would be redundant.

Anyway … in we strode, looking for places to hide should VIP Jr. be right behind us. Heidi is a very nice person, but she’d have killed us on the spot if we blew the surprise. Lucky again. We made it. And when another couple slipped in at 6:08, Mary said, “See, Shop Boy? We had plenty of time.”


VIP Jr. arrived to much applause and laughter soon afterward, and it was time for a glass of wine and mingling. Mary naturally made a beeline for VIP Sr. This girl and her old-school printers, I’m telling you.

He greeted her warmly and, after, shaking my hand firmly, offered Mary the highest possible compliment on her invitation that could come from a printing lifer:

“I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.”

Honestly, all the other old printers in the room couldn’t quite believe Mary had done the thing. One by one, VIP Sr. paraded them over to our table to meet the person responsible for what everyone clearly agreed was a totally boss invite.

You did this?” one guy asked, looking her over.

“Not only that,” VIP Sr. said with a grin, “she did the design, too. I never did that. Well, maybe she got a little help from [Shop Boy].”

“Nope,” I chimed in, “I just watched.”

What I could have added was, “Are you kidding? Printing for a third-generation printing family? Not me.”

I might be a little late to the party, but I’m not crazy.

Public Citizen

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One Response to “Tasting Flights”

  1. Buffy Says:

    This made me LAUGH OUT LOUD– and I really needed to laugh. One of your best and funniest. And sweetest, too. Plus, your boss wife (I mean that in the “she’s so great she’s boss way, BTW) is dealing with Edward’s obit for me because I’ve decompensated today and I so very much appreciate it.

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