Archive for October, 2011

They Might Be Clients

October 25, 2011

So, Spike Gjerde loves his music lyrics. Anyone who’s eaten at Woodberry Kitchen and seen the — ta-da! — Shop Boy-printed menu knows this.

“If you’re after getting the honey, then you don’t go killing all the bees.”

It’s a lyric by Joe Strummer, once of the Clash, then of the Mescaleros, and now sadly R.I.P. That lyric is from a song called “Johnny Appleseed,” which Spike loves and whose nature-respecting theme his restaurant sweats to uphold.

Anyway … Spike’s apparently got a musical soundtrack running through his mind 24/7. Turns out he’s also a fan of They Might Be Giants, a sometime rock, sometime kiddie-music band with a huge cult following. He tells the story of, in the way-old days, peppering the band’s manager with faxes (lol!) pleading for the boys to stop into Spike & Charlie’s, his first restaurant, when They were in town. Lo and behold, They — John Flansburgh and John Linnell, et al. — walked through the door one night, ate well (no surprise) and invited Spike to a Baltimore concert, giving him a shout-out from the stage. Fandom cemented.

They Might Be Unisex

Woodberry Kitchen had inherited some fairly so-so restroom accommodations at its inauguration a few years back. Not horrible or anything. Just not … special. Well, it wasn’t long before Woodberry was so special that it needed to expand, and it was decided that the restrooms should be spiffed up big time while the whole kitchen expansion/remodeling deal was underway. And that the restrooms should be for both men and women. Equality. No waiting. Cool, right? (Shop Boy wonders if they wondered whether maybe the guys’d be shamed into keeping a place they shared with women a bit tidier. Couldn’t hurt. Shop Boy had four older sisters, one younger sister. I learned quickly. Painfully.)

And so it was that Woodberry came to have three unisex restrooms. With fancy sinks, soaps and, tra-la-la, cloth hand towels. The three doors were given a distressed-wood look, smoked-glass panels and the walls around them painted a nice gray. Classy. But what of the signage? How to alert a newcomer that, yes, whether you were a man or woman, boy or girl, this was the place?

How about this:

OK, so-so photo, but you get the picture: The title of one of Spike’s favorite They Might Be Giants songs, “Women and Men,” on each of the windows and the lyrics applied to the surrounding walls by a real, old-school sign painter. The story of Mary’s hunt for the right painter is one for another day (guy named Bill Pickett, out of Richmond — a find), but for today we can just skip to the happy ending. It’s a gorgeous sight in real life. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go see it.

Cuts Both Ways

October 21, 2011

Bone folders make me shiver. And not just because it’s Halloween season, and skeletons and all that. I know it’s because whenever one of them shows up, it means a standard score won’t work on the designated printing press, for any number of reasons, and Shop Boy is going to have to finish the job by hand. Usually into the darkest hours of the night.

Which is why I was somewhat less than friendly to the dude selling the hand-carved bone folders at the book sale portion of the American Printing History Association conference that Mary and Shop Boy attended at the University of California-San Diego. Nothing personal. But his wares were giving me the willies. I didn’t mind telling him so.

Trouble is, Mary heard me too. “Oh, he’s so good with a bone folder,” she told the craftsman, Al Rodriguez ( “We had a contest: The winner got to finish the job.”

And has gotten to do every bone-folding job since. Guess who “won.” Total set-up.

She made me buy one of his bone folders. A real beauty, if you’re into such things. Sleek. Whittled out of an incredibly light bamboo, it looked like it’d be perfect … for keeping me up all hours of the night. I cursed under my breath and handed the dude 10 bucks. Figured I’d, um, lose the sucker in our luggage on the way back to Baltimore. Worth 10 bucks to dodge the next folding session, you know?

Then came this:

Don’t let the color fool you — it’s an orange. A California orange. Swiped, ahem, from a “lime” tree on the grounds of the impossibly landscaped Estancia La Jolla. (Travel tip: Stay an extra couple of days and the rate plummets. Shhhh! Just do it. Awesome getaway. Swear to god … go there. I’ve said too much.) OK, we’re easterners. The “lime” trees with the lime-green fruit are actually a disease-resistant lemon tree. And the identical-looking other trees with the lime-green fruit are orange trees.

I didn’t ask questions. Mary doesn’t like the taste of most tap water. Shop Boy needed to doctor it. “Lime” sounded perfect. Only problem was, there was no knife in the room. A request for a corkscrew — which usually means a gadget with a blade for cutting the foil that seals the bottle — brought only a plastic handle with the corkscrew part. Didn’t cut it. Literally. So now Shop Boy faced a quandary. Go down to the front desk and say that I didn’t need the corkscrew-corkscrew but rather a blade to slice up the fruit I’d stolen from the Estancia’s beautiful grounds. They’d have strung me up, and Shop Boy wouldn’t have blamed them, to tell you the truth. (Picture it: Mary sneaking a wooden bone folder in a cake past the metal detector at the prison so that I could — over the course of 20 years of late nights — tunnel my way out.)

Or, I could fake up a cutting tool.


Bludgeoned the fruit a bit as I jabbed it with the bone folder, slicing a jagged circle around and then through the orange, which soon enough bared its guts. I bled it dry into our water glasses.

Looked a bit like a Jack O’ Lantern at Veterans Day when I was done. Sad.

But Mary was happy.

And I think I’ve got my Halloween costume all picked out for this year:

Hockey mask.

Bone folder.

Kinda gives you the willies, admit it.