Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Floating

December 6, 2017

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To be a judge in a very local parade, you’ve got to be in the spirit, in the moment, or both. Being a little tipsy probably helps too.

Well, Shop Boy was none of these as he stepped up onto a platform to take his place with Mary and pal Kimry of Milagro, a shop on 36th Street, for the 45th-annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade. Every year, the bands, floats, politicians, steppers and Shriners (and balloons!) march, roll, or fly past Kimry’s—gotta say it—really cool shop of Mexico and South America and around-the-world folk art-themed and sourced jewelry, clothing, art and knickknacks. Kimry’s a gifted jewelry maker herself, an artist, and … it’s all so well curated. She’s an appropriate parade judge.

blog_milagroNot necessarily the case for all of us who would rule from on high while the parade started, stopped, and started again as it inchwormed through the heart of Baltimore’s Hampden, a few blocks from Typecast Press headquarters. OK, there was just one judge who was way out of his comfort zone. Old Shop Boy doesn’t necessarily care for calling attention to himself. Heck, I’ll tell stories on myself all day long and we can laugh or cry together. But my first reaction was to recoil when Kimry raised the notion of me and Mary filling in when a regular parade judge had a conflict. Up on a stage? At the big-finish line of the parade route?

Mary? Yes, of course. Shop Boy was all for it.

“I’m not doing it without you,” she told me.

You know how you can tell if you miss out on something you’ll always regret it? And then you miss out anyway? And you regret it? Dang it. Shop Boy wasn’t going to let Mary experience that on this. She’s a parade freak. I cannot imagine what the neighbors think as she squeals, shouts and stomps her way through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV every year, hollering her snarky commentary or childlike thrills downstairs to the kitchen as Shop Boy makes coffee or breakfast.

I was in.

Not as in “in the spirit.” Just in. Grudgingly, grittingly, grindingly in. And when we mutually agree to skip carrying a boozy flask along, well …

And perhaps it was only those lowered expectations. Maybe it was just the sunshine and 55-degree day. Maybe it was having a very funny friend like Kimry along. Perhaps it was the magic that was written all over Mary’s face. But Shop Boy’s cold heart was no match. The whole stinking event was charming as heck, rough around the edges as it was.

Shop Boy was specifically tasked with helping present trophies to cheerleaders/dancers and equestrian events. Did I mention the Lone Ranger was there? (He didn’t win, but cool!) And oh my, Baltimore and Hampden’s (and my fellow lily white judges’) embrace of some of the more diverse, gender-fluid marching band/dance troops was a heart-warming respite from a truly awful parade of days in an America we love and lose sleep over.

But that wasn’t what I was thinking “in the moment,” a place where Shop Boy hadn’t been in a while. And that moment, the Christmas Parade and its aftermath, was unquestionably good. We stuck around to drink a little wine, eat a little pizza and wander down to 34th Street and the Milagro/Miracle.

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Mary poked Shop Boy in the ribs. “See?”

Grudgingly, grittingly, grindingly, Shop Boy did see.

Both that and the judging gig might be one-offs. Or maybe we’ve given an old grinch some holiday bedrock to re-build on. I do try.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, I suppose it’s a good reminder that sometimes the best gift is just saying yes when “no” is where you live.

Move out of there if you can.

Shop Boy has stuck one tentative foot out the door. March with me.

Unphased

April 7, 2017

zapCall me a weenie. Shop Boy is OK with that. But I am also satisfied with whatever “normal” electric current flows through my body. You know, the type of current that can pop car locks at a near touch, that can create an arcing bolt of lightning between Mary’s nose and mine before a kiss. So I just figured it wasn’t my place to go try and unhook a possibly still-“hot” three-phase electric current converter from the old space. Enough energy inside me already, you know?

You know what’s not inside me? One idea of how to work with electricity.

But the converter is valuable!

What am I, chopped liver?

Mary suggested that either I’d do it or she would, and so …

True story: Shop Boy’s mom would have moments when she was up to here with seven kids bickering around the dinner table. By the time we started arguing over whose turn it was to remove the dishes from the table, she’d blow. “Clear this table or I will,” she’d growl, gripping two corners of the tablecloth and threatening to yank them. We usually jumped over each other to begin clearing.

One day, we didn’t.

Cleanup took a bit longer than usual that night, despite the fact that there were now fewer plates and glasses to wash. You didn’t call my mother’s bluff. And I wasn’t about to call Mary’s. Instead, Shop Boy stalled. The proper tools were over at the new space, after all. But eventually, it was time.

“Hold my feet, I’m going in,” Shop Boy only half joked. Hey, might as well go out together, right?

Mary at least decided to call in a long-distance ringer to offer guidance on which wires not to cross. (I suppose my dad could have been more helpful there as well back in the day.) Brother-in-law Tom had installed the three-phase contraption, which allows you to operate machines like the Heidelberg Windmill from more common current rather than run actual three-phase electricity into the building. The money savings can be phenomenal. But when you move, you need to unhook it and see to it that the wires do not become a hazard for, in this case, the workers coming to begin rebuilding (and rewiring) the old factory.

One problem: Tom’s in Massachusetts. We’re not.

Second problem: He needed to see the wires Shop Boy was touching. We could FaceTime on our iPhones, but we’d long since canceled the WiFi that FaceTime requires.

Now, Shop Boy wonders sometimes why Mary keeps him around. He never wonders why he keeps her. She began figuring out how to use my phone as a zombie/hotspot to channel wireless to her phone, something she’d heard about once. While she was doing that, Shop Boy trudged to the new shop (just down the street) to grab a few final tools, surely the instruments of his own doom.

I returned to find that the cavalry had arrived. On Mary’s phone, Shop Boy could see a white-bearded guru calmly dispensing the wisdom of the ages from his mountaintop lair. (Actually, it was Tom—a wiseguy for sure—from his living room. But the advice was no less sage for whence it emanated.)

On the factory floor, staring the three-phase converter in the eyes, was Jake Rivera of Baltimore’s Design & Integration. The firm does communications work, arena-sized (and less huge), amazing, one-of-a-kind, audio-visual gigs.

Jake, wife and business partner Tammy and their sons had been celebrating with us the end of an era at the building. Mary mentioned the converter, and Jake was curious. And wiring’s wiring, right?

Shop Boy’s brain: “Yes, Jake, it is. You go, young man!”

Before you could say, “Thank you,” Jake had disconnected the converter to much applause and explained how we should cap off and then seal up the loose wires. Even I could handle that. And as Shop Boy bravely turned the screw that sealed the wires behind a metal plate, Mary patted my head like the farty, old, loyal, afraid-of-lightning dog that I am.

Pride be damned.

… Or Die Tryin’

January 6, 2017

Take a remorseless Chandler and Price printing press, a pile of old school record album covers and a die-cutting form with metal blades in shapes representing phases of the moon. Now add Shop Boy, a pair of tweezers and a tight deadline.

What have you got? Bet you wouldn’t say “success story.”

Well, I’m lucky to be here to tell you that it was just that, somehow.

The job was for Baltimore’s own Anne Watts and her talented band Boister. It was Typecast Press’ second spin with designing and creating a Boister album cover. Mary’s idea this time was to make holes in the all-black cover that would create an illusion by exposing selected bits of a pre-printed inside sleeve.

It won’t blow the surprise (the album’s been out a while now) to tell you that the inside image is an eerie, artsy shot of eggs in a stream and that the die would cut phases of the moon into the cover, revealing a brighter, fuller “moon” as the egg shells and the cut-outs matched up at the apex.

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We’d cut the shapes all the way through the album, so the effect works on the back side too — revealing faces of the bandmates as they match up on a collage. Cool, right? Most of Mary’s concepts are. But always … reality.

Because of the size and variations in the precise thickness of each cover, the die-cutting would need to be done by hand-feeding on the old C&P rather than the self-feeding Heidelberg windmill. But since since there were only a few hundred to do, it figured to be a snap. Except … well, you know.

Each time the die passed through the album, it created two little bits of loose cardboard per phase of the moon. A lot of these fell inside the album to be retrieved and recycled later. All but two of the others fell to the floor, making a delightful mess. These two became lodged in the part of the die representing the skinniest crescent of moon. These cutting forms are built with internal cushions that help to repel such scraps, but this one was overmatched. Do two passes in a row and the die would no longer cut that part. Paper jam. Wasted album cover. So Shop Boy would run one cover, stop the machine, remove the jam with a pair of tweezers, load a new cover into the guides, turn on the machine, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Jeez, the first 20 albums took about an hour as I slowly figured out the best way to clear the bits without damaging the die.

That’s when inspiration struck. I told Mary I had it under control, and since this was in our old, multi-roomed studio, she soon got bored and went across the hall. And I did the only logical thing. I mean, the clock was ticking. So …

We feed these C&Ps left-handed (because Mary is of that persuasion). There I stood, then, tweezers in my right hand, album covers stacked where my left hand could reach them, and turned the machine on. It went like this: Pull lever to print mode; place album cover into guides; cut shapes; throw lever to trip mode; pull album cover and place on “out” pile; reach into jaws of C&P to deftly unstick the paper bits from the crescent; place new album; throw lever into print mode. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Now we were (dangerously) getting somewhere.

See, as printers know, any human parts left in the impression zone of a motorized printing press for one second too long become the property of that machine. Thank heavens Shop Boy can be a dexterous little idiot. But it was scary. Honestly, it’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve done since that time with the 10-foot ladder and that extremely heavy table top and the loft and, oh, we’ll just save that story for anther day.

Besides, I should probably tell you a little bit about how I adapted the madness … I mean method … for die-cutting the little CD jackets.

Little bits. Really, really little bits.

And that’s probably enough said about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Us a Sign

June 24, 2016

Mary’s been so busy making signs for other people’s businesses that she’s never gotten around to making a real one for Typecast. I mean, isn’t that what makes you a real, legitimate business? Instead of, “Oh, just go knock on those green double doors.”

Don’t get Shop Boy wrong here. Mary’s work has kept the lights on at the print shop (and at home, where she works through the night on the proper kerning of eight-foot letters, the proper blink rate of an ice cream arrow and such).

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Nothing flashy, just something that creates a feeling of permanence, if there ever were such a thing. Shop Boy ponders the question a lot: How long will we be doing this printing thing? Not to get all existential or anything, but Shop Boy left the “boy” section of life behind several decades ago. (I did have to outrun a mugger a few days ago, so it’s not all gone yet.) Wouldn’t it be fun some day to be that little old dude outside a print shop grinning by a sign that reads “established 1843” or whatever?

The inside of the shop will still scream “established by a 9-year-old princess,” but there you go.

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There’s a little plaque we had made a number of years back that announces Typecast as “The Old Printer’s Home and Museum of Mostly Useless Antiquities.” It’s a right-reading, copper-on-wood plate that we had made when we were roommates with Chris Hartlove, back when he was a photographer who actually used film negatives (and a darkroom … imagine!). It’s fun, but it’s not really a “sign sign.” We’ve had the letter magnets you can see on this blog’s homepage, but they get all crooked every time someone, ahem, slams the door.

Anyway, while Mary’s been behind the visual renaissance of Belvedere Square Market, the sign announcing The Dabney (a new DC eatery), ridiculously cool and gone-too-soon sign painting at Shoo-fly Diner (permanence? yikes) and more at the thriving Parts & Labor, Shop Boy has wondered what it’d be like to have an external sign—again, just a little one—announcing our presence to the general public. Well, our recent move to a new shop, Mary’s completion of her assignments (hah!) and the fate that would land us next door to a sign maker removed all excuses.

And there we are.

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One Shop Stopping

April 1, 2016

EmptyIt’s hard to find anything good to say about the act of paying rent on two printshops at once, yet there we were.

The new space wasn’t yet ready to take in even one more box of letterpress stuff; the old one wasn’t yet empty of the stuff that needed to come with us. Worse, another tenant was waiting on us to get the heck out. But you know how it is. Or perhaps you’re lucky enough not to know:

If you’re relocating to someplace 1,000 miles away, you do it in one terribly painful move.

If you’re relocating to someplace 1,000 feet away (as we were), you do it in 753 (Shop Boy counted) small, terribly painful moves.

So, when we set the vacuum cleaner down (and changed out its bag — no sense bringing old dust to the new space) for the final time in Studios 4 and 12 (with Mary in photo) of the Fox Industries Building, it was a momentous and, yes, moving occasion. With a flick of the light switches to the “off” position, the Typecast Press monthly rent total fell by nearly half. (Of course, we had to keep a little space over at Fox — Studio 3 — for stuff that needs a new home, because that’s how we roll.) That job done, we trudged the 1,000 feet to the new space and got busy making it ours for real.

And the next day, something amazing happened. Usually, Mary or Shop Boy would call ahead to ask at which shop space the other one happened to be. Instead, we woke up, had a cup of coffee and headed off in the same direction. Sweet.

Together, I’m sure we’ll think of some way to spend the extra money.

 

All Downhill From There

January 6, 2015
deer He of the nose knows not to mess with Monument Hill.

He of the nose knows not to mess with Monument Hill.

Why can’t we learn?

Most days of the year, Denver is about a 75-minute drive (at 75 mph!) from Colorado Springs on Interstate 25. In between the two cities, every day of the year, is Monument Hill. I’m guessing the pass was so named because a lot of monuments tend to be made of white marble, so think “white knuckles” and “white-outs.” On the wrong days, you need to get over the Monument Hill pass before both set in.

This, then, was the wrong day to make a snowy, last-minute dash for tacos just so we could get one more pile of Mexican food into our rounding post-holiday bellies before heading off to the Denver airport. “Denver-ish airport” is far more apt. When we lived in downtown Denver in the 1990s, Stapleton Airport was a 15-minute run. Stapleton was the best. The modern Denver International Airport is really not so very good at all in comparison. And it is a long, long way from downtown Denver. Very bad idea, but it did make some people a lot of money and of course that’s awesome.

As were the tacos, but c’mon, folks. Let’s go already.

Mary’s parents live in Colorado Springs, which is actually at a higher elevation than the Mile High City. It’s a strip-mally kind of existence, just vast expanses of big-box stores and gas stations and silly housing developments surrounded by the most breath-taking scenery. There’s a slightly religious feeling, for instance, to looking out the front door of Trader Joe’s at … the glory that is Pikes Peak. Honestly, it’s like going about your miserable little bingeing, burping, barfing life in a postcard. And soon you begin to take the surroundings for granted. Humans (yuck).

Anyway, Mary grabbed her laptop and checked the Monument Hill road cam: Clear as a summer day. She checked the Denver weather: Sunny, with light winds. So the snow falling like mad in the Springs was merely a lovely annoyance. The TV weatherman described it as a southern storm, with the Springs its northernmost edge. Once we’d reached the city limits, headed north to Denver, it would trouble us no more.

All those trips back and forth from Colorado Springs to Denver in the 1990s and on a bunch of visits ever since … and we believed this?

So, two hours of driving an unfamiliar car in the snowy ruts made by the vehicle just ahead, afraid to blink your eyes lest you end up plunging, doomed, into the lovely valley below, should not have come as a complete surprise.

At least we had all those tacos inside us to add a little weight to the vehicle.