Posts Tagged ‘woodberry kitchen’

The Cookie Crumbles

May 18, 2017


A friend on another floor of our building says he can tell when Shop Boy’s working alone at night at Typecast Press. It’s not the sound of the paper cutter, because Mary uses that too. There IS the familiar ring of the Heidelberg Windmill doing its thing … except it goes on for a very long time.

Mary’s Windmill jobs are generally short, tweaky and full of the thinking and measuring and factoring and “dialing in” that produce her truly fine work in mini-bursts. Then Shop Boy steps up, stretches a bit and begins a four-hour run of two-color menu shells for Woodberry Kitchen. They’re designed to be a little rough. Owner Spike Gjerde likes them that way. Shop Boy aims to please. I print a week’s worth at a time. It’s a popular restaurant. Good, too. You should try it.

So there’s the Windmill.

But what really (and loudly) tips our friend off that I’m on site is my listening choices. In summer it’s often baseball. You don’t care who I root for, but it’s the Rockies and Red Sox. Otherwise it’s stuff Mary would never agree to listen to, and she runs the radio when we’re working together. When Shop Boy’s alone, hilarity ensues. Which we’ll get to, but first let’s talk about the radio. My choice is a station that mixes funny music with funny people, think Jonathan Coulton (so many zombies) with Jim Gaffigan (so many bacon jokes). Anyway, the same songs and jokes tend to cycle through, including this one stand-up comedian riffing on the idea of cars that “sense the road” to brake or steer on their own to save you (and others) from yourself when you can’t be bothered to pay attention to, you know, driving.

The slogan, he says, should be: ” ‘Ford … FOCUS!’ ”

I laugh every time because it’s true. Do a head count next time you are stuck in traffic or simply stopped at a red light. Check the rear-view mirror. How many cars approaching you from behind will feature a driver actually looking at your vehicle? You could drive all day in Baltimore and not get to 10. Ooh. (Yes, Shop Boy DOES safely pull over to the side of the road to answer the phone or text, by the way, mostly because I KNOW that I can’t drive and do anything else.)

So … cookies. They’re up top in the headline so they must refer to something, right?

We know some folks who are vegan, and this is fine, so we work to accommodate that when refreshments are called for. We go to a local market (chain) that is helpful in this regard. Something we’ve noticed about followers of a vegan lifestyle: Y’all like your snacks. Yes, this is America. But I mean, the snack section goes on forever. It can’t be good for you. But whatever. Not my call.

Vegan baked goods are not something Shop Boy has ever had a fondness for. One night, though, dinner had been skipped out of necessity and there I was in the shop. Was it the Heidelberg Windmill press or my stomach making all that noise? Mary had left some cookies for me that she’d bought for a meeting featuring a vegan guest. Mary’s southern by birthright, and so she had bought way, way too many cookies and offered as how, in a pinch, I might let these particular cookies surprise me with their goodness.

This was just such a pinch and, boy, was Shop Boy ever surprised.

The Windmill seemed to have the job momentarily under control and so, seasoned pressman that I am, Shop Boy partook. They were chocolate brownie cookies, and so soft.

Too soft?

As Shop Boy turned his head to check on the press (mid-bite), a bit of cookie became unhooked from the rest and flew into the air. I did say I was hungry, didn’t I? Ravenous, apparently.

You know how this printing press works, right? The unprinted paper is stacked on one side and you set the suction level so that one sheet is pulled into the impression area at a time. Printed, it then drops gently into the “out” pile. You can adjust this based upon the thickness of the paper. There’s no setting, alas, for “plus cookie chunk.”

If you do know how a Heidelberg Windmill works, you surely know the rest. Here goes anyway: The weight of the cookie morsel made the next sheet in line fall out of the grippers. Well, the “intense black” ink had to go somewhere, and so now it was all over the tympan. Shop Boy had to get it completely off lest it mark the back of every single menu to come, and that was going to take some time and effort.

It could have been worse: Shop Boy could have grabbed for the flying cookie and gotten mauled by the machine.

It could have been better: Mary was really, really mad when I fessed up (because it was going to come out anyway, either right then or here in the blog).

Was Shop Boy crazy? Had I gotten complacent? Don’t EVER eat and run the press! STOP, EAT, and only THEN run the press.

Heidelberg … FOCUS!

Anyway, I rescued the cookie chunk and ate 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).

a_ice cream

Our sign didn’t need to be anything 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.


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.



A Little Off the Top

May 24, 2010

Paper is difficult to ship. There’s no getting around that. It bruises easy. Get careless and drop a box of, say, 26- by 40-inch paper on its corner and you might ruin four square inches of every stinking sheet in the stack. That’s wasteful, expensive and, most importantly, it really bums Shop Boy out.

And that’s a darn shame.

See, Mary — and most professional printers, I’m guessing — can do the basic geometry with a calculator and a ruler on how to best cut around the damage for the least amount waste. So could Shop Boy, I imagine, if I wanted to.

I do not.

Nope. Shop Boy wants to slide the sheets from the big box onto our trusty little cart, wheel them over to the cutter, set the guide and chop away.

Which is why the new brand of menu paper that we’re using for Woodberry Kitchen has been making me smile. Mary found it online while looking for ways to bring the per-unit cost of the menus way down, for the restaurant and for Typecast Press. And it is cheaper. Bonus points: Better for the environment, as it is 100 percent post-consumer. Double bonus points: It shows up in pristine condition. The name of the paper? Shop Boy’s secret, lest someone grab it all and force us back to the old brand.

Anyway, maybe this stuff is sturdier. Or maybe the manufacturer packs it a little better. Or maybe the new delivery guy — Derrick, Mary informs me dreamily — has simply learned how to better deliver paper than most.

Me? I’m not asking questions.

I’m not doing the math.

I’m cutting.

I’m also jinxing it, of course. Let’s all knock on wood pulp.

Hero Complex

May 4, 2010

Grand Cayman is a little speck below Cuba on the world map. Shop Boy knows nothing about the island, but they tell me it’s paradise.

My nephew Vinny I do know a few things about, which is why we’re headed to the tropical island this weekend. He’s a fine young man who met his bride-to-be Natasha, a fine young woman, at Virginia Military Institute. Say what you will about the practice of war and the existence of military schools, but VMI turned out a couple of good ones here. And Vinny introduced me to the movie Happy Gilmore. You owe somebody like that, am I right?

“Wedding invitations? Our gift to you. Destination wedding, huh? Where, you say? Sounds expensive. Um, OK, we’ll be there.”

And Shop Boy knew right then what would happen next. The time and space continuum becomes  a funnel, grabbing the responsibilities and realities of life, the deadlines and the drama, which begin pouring slowly, inexorably down toward the little circle over the departure date.

Translation: We’re scrambling. Again.

Mary’s got a couple of big, tweaky projects closing this week even as  new ones launch, with bids to be written, paper and ink to order,  interns to organize, postmortem reports on her MICA class to file,  phone calls and e-mails to handle … Oh, and as we were driving to  the Shop the other morning, smoke began billowing from under the hood  of Mary’s car as the air conditioner (we think) burned up. So she’s  got a ton on her mind.

Shop Boy’s mind? One thing (roughly maximum capacity):

Yes, menus. Millions and millions of them. OK, thousands. Just like us to pick the best and most popular restaurant in Baltimore as a client.

More exactly, it’s just like us to get so busy printing menus for the
best and most popular restaurant in Charm City that there’s been no time to learn the machine that could do them for us.

And the busier Woodberry Kitchen gets, the more menus it needs. And with so much flying around behind the scenes there, they sometimes forget to tell us that they’re low on — or out of — menus till they begin prepping for that night’s rush.

Which is kind of, um, all right by me. I mean, what guy wouldn’t want to arrive at Woodberry Kitchen to the cheers of the very lovely managers Lucie and Nancy? “Shop Boy! You saved us!”

Shop Boy (in a superhero voice): “Heh-heh. All in a day’s work. To Infinity and be-OUCH!”

That sound you just heard was the slap of Mary’s open hand on the back of my head. Ahem.

So, anyway, with us leaving the country for a few days, well, let’s just say that once the new paper order arrives, Shop Boy had better find his inner hero, because a mighty, mighty high stack of menus is going to have to be produced to hold the restaurant until we return. I’ll be seeing menus in my dreams.

Then again, there might not be time for sleep.

Letterpress List No. 61: Surf and Turf

November 17, 2008

Oh, now, this really takes the cake.

It totally frosts my cookies.

Shop Boy’s persona — yes, all of the wonder that is me — has been officially subsumed beneath the Cult of Mary.

True story: Liz Brooke, the supervisor of Shop Boy’s alter ego in Washington, announced that she would be having dinner in Baltimore at Woodberry Kitchen, which — as you probably know — Typecast Press does printing work for. Well, Shop Boy decided to surprise Liz (a really neat lady who might be reading this right now and very likely disapproving of my grammar and sentence structure) and her party with free desserts.

So one day, as Shop Boy delivered menus and other paper products to Woodberry, I approached owner Amy Gjerde about setting up the freebies. She said she’d put a note on the reservation. Now, Amy’s fairly unforgettable. In fact, the first time he saw her, at a little breakfast outpost she and hubby-to-be and co-owner Spike had set up in our neighborhood, Shop Boy could no longer remember how to say the word “pumpkin.” When I returned home with a very odd order, Mary just laughed and said, “Oh, you must mean Amy.”

And if you’ve ever met Mary … well, just let every single person at Woodberry tell you: “Hi, Mary! Great to see you!” “Mary! Staying for dinner?” “Ma-reeeee!” Etc., etc. It’s kind of gross, actually.

Shop Boy? Not quite so memorable. The note put on the reservation apparently read something like: “Free desserts courtesy of the cheery but awkward fellow who delivers stuff from Typecast Press and can’t pronounce easy words … Mr. Mashburn.”

What am I, chopped liver, brick-oven roasted in a cider glaze; sauvignon-marinated, carmelized onions; pickled local beet and endive garni; and buckwheat polenta in a corn emulsion, or what?


Loudspeaker: “Paging Steve Mashburn, Mr. Steve Mashburn.”

Oh, he’s unavailable. Probably hanging 10 someplace.

I mean, Steve Mashburn: total surfer dude name, right?



Letterpress List No. 61

OK, I’m not really upset. Liz Brooke got a kick out of it. And besides, maybe Shop Boy should have changed his name when he and Mary were hitched. One day, my sister Rosemary brought home free pens that advertised her place of employment and asked if I’d like one. Sure, I said, proceeding to sign my name on a little notepad. “That is how you sign your name?” my mom shrieked. “We gave you that beautiful name and that’s how you sign it?”

Anyway, how about an hour’s worth of music to practice your penmanship — and maybe your pronunciation skills — by? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great video links courtesy of YouTube.

My Name Is Eminem (Oh, dear.)
I Make the Dough, You Get the GloryKathleen Edwards ( ;-) )
You Don’t Know MeWillie Nelson (Sad about it.)
U Don’t Know MeT.I. (Mad about it.)
Scarborough FairSimon & Garfunkel (Parsley, sage, Rosemary … and a scolding from Mom.)
Last Ride InGreen Day (Great, laid-back surfing or, OK, skateboarding song.)
Mr. IncognitoA Tribe Called Quest (Don’t know where this Q-Tip guy got that voice. He could read the phone book and it’d be hip-hop cool. Just ask the Beastie Boys. Oh, and bonus Shop Boy points: If you listen to that “Get It Together” clip and substitute the name Don Ho when you hear John Holmes, you’ll have the lyrics Mary sang one day at the printshop. I nearly wet my pants.)
Mystery ManGnarls Barkley (And where did Cee-Lo Green get that voice?)
Mistachuck Chuck D (That’s “Mr.” to you.)
Catch a WaveBeach Boys ( “Get away from the shady turf and, baby, go catch some rays on the sunny surf.” Steve Mashburn is so there.)
Come as You Are
Nirvana (Can’t remember you anyway.)
Brian WilsonBarenaked Ladies (He didn’t know his own name for a while.)
The Delivery ManElvis Costello ( “In a certain light, he looked like Elvis” … um, mature version.)
You Ain’t Seen Nothing YetBachman Turner Overdrive (Have a little fun at a stutterer’s expense, create a classic.)
Wipeoutthe Surfaris (Also has held up surprisingly well.)
Looking for a StrangerPat Benatar (For Eleanor Lewis, who has let it be known she is furious that her girl was shunned by Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. OK, you can’t win when you put one of these lists together, but please. Iggy Pop and Tom Waits — ! — are there, but Tori Amos is not? )
Smells Like Teen SpiritTori Amos (So there.)

Letterpress List No. 59: Vote Yes on No

November 3, 2008

“Free” is a tricky concept. It’s sort of like a “part-time” job: 50 hours later, you’re wondering where all that free time went.

Still, when Mary decided it’d be fun and cute to donate a couple of hundred coasters for an election-night party at Woodberry Kitchen (one color, no sweat), Shop Boy was in. Mary had designed the clever little invite for the event. Ahem, check it out:

And the old-time, copper, Donkey vs. Elephant plate that inspired it is really pretty fab.

Shop Boy nailed the set-up in a jiffy — oh, thank you … you’re too kind — and quicker than you can say, um, the Declaration of Independence, we had a stack of 200 coasters. Elephant boxing Donkey on the front, Typecast Press credit on the back. (We’re trying to be less shy about that.) Next!

Earlier, Shop Boy had suggested that maybe a border above and below the image might finish it out a touch, but Mary said no. Too tight an image for that. And too quick a turnaround to get complementary polymer plates made. In brief, just go with the boxers.

Except now Mary was looking at the the things sorta sideways.

Mary: “Do these look too plain?”

Shop Boy: “No. What do you mean?”

Mary: “Look right here …”

(The Donkey is, ahem, taller than the Elephant — it’s kind of eerie, you know?)

Mary: “We could put some different-color stars there. I mean, we can’t do all blue or all red, but maybe gold … what’s wrong? It’s only one color change.”

Shop Boy (placing his foot in his mouth): “What? Why would we do that? Ink up and then clean the press an extra time for stars. Junking up the design? That’s crazy. Jeez!”

Now, what Shop Boy should have said (and later — after the apparent Halloween-candy sugar rage wore off — did say): “These are so cool just the way they are. Woodberry loves its menus and coasters simple. Old school. These are awesome! We nailed it.”

Mary put a check mark in the “OK: Forgiven” box. Whew.

Mary: “That’s all I wanted you to say in the first place.”

Shop Boy: “Actually, I’m thinking of becoming a mute.”

She told me to simply stop talking like an idiot.

Fair enough.


Letterpress List No. 59

OK, here we go. Shop Boy’s not going to tell you how to vote … just get your fanny out there. Meanwhile, how about an hour’s worth of music to turn from “undecided” to “decided” — OK, 45 minutes, but it really shouldn’t take that long, eh? — or just wait in line to pull the lever or push the button by? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great video links are to YouTube.

Moneythe Flying Lizards/Beatles (The best things in life are free. Hah.)
Freedom Isn’t Freefrom the movie Team America: World Police (Blowing sacred cows, donkeys and elephants to smithereens. )
The Politics of DancingRe-Flex (Flashback!)
Too ShyKajagoogoo (Ditto.)
Say What You SayEminem (Don’t spray it.)
Power to the PeopleJohn Lennon (Get out there.)
Bulls on ParadeRage Against the Machine (Might want to switch to decaf.)
SugarSystem of a Down (Insane.)
NovocaineGreen Day (Drop the Halloween candy … or else.)
Elected Alice Cooper (Vote for me!)
American Boy Juliette and the Licks (Ms. Lewis ain’t no politician.)
Add It Upthe Violent Femmes (Long day of counting ahead.)
Fight the Power Public Enemy (And every single vote counts.)

Letterpress List No. 53: Heat Index

September 23, 2008

We were being boarded by a buccaneer:

Mick T. Pirate was rapping at the door.

And I mean rapping. Mick arrived in a burst of words, bandanna flying as he brushed past Shop Boy for an impromptu meeting with Mary. Jolly Roger indeed.

Now, Shop Boy had heard of this dude and his Whiskey Island Pirate Shop a knot or so southeast of Typecast Press in Baltimore. (You can spy it from the crow’s nest.) But wow. There’s a character. Former Hollywood stunt man turned spice king.

Anyway, Mick’s the driving force — good word there — behind the hot sauces about to be launched at Woodberry Kitchen. We’re printing letterpress labels. All local ingredients, which is Woodberry owner/chef Spike Gjerde’s “thing.” We tried the red sauce last night. Whew! Good stuff, matey.

True story: We were entertaining out-of-town guests from Boise, Amy Stahl and her then boyfriend and now husband Kevin Learned. They said they were up for something ethnic, so we hauled them over to Thai Landing on Charles Street, one of our favorites. Unassuming place, most nights presided over by “Charlie” — certainly not his real name, much as “Pirate” is not Mick’s surname. Charlie’s a kidder. So as he quizzed our guests about the preferred, ahem, temperature of their Thai food choices, he turned to Shop Boy and said, “Now, I know you … you like hot-hot. Maybe I bring your friends ‘Idaho hot.’ ”

We giggled. (It should be noted here that Mary likes it even spicier than Shop Boy does.)

But you know how macho guys can be, right? Well, Mr. Idaho Hot wanted the dish however it was customarily served. “OK,” Charlie said, winking.

Shop Boy has this new favorite quote. Not to talk baseball or anything, but it feels right:

“There are two kinds of players in this game — those that are humbled, and those that are about to be.” Clint Hurdle, manager, Colorado Rockies

Well, um, “Man overboard!” The stuff that Charlie brought had our motley crew diving into the water.

All except Mary, of course. She and Charlie had a good laugh. And Kevin was a very good sport, picking up the tab if I remember correctly.

Anyway, Spike’s not sure when the Woodberry sauce might be available on his tables or for sale, but it won’t be long. Meanwhile, the ingredients in the jars will keep commingling and getting hotter. Maybe not Thai Landing hot, but maybe we should add a skull and crossbones to the label to warn any swashbuckling diners out there not to bite off more than they can chew.

Letterpress List No. 53

Is your tongue singing from sampling the local cuisine? How about an hour’s worth of music to suck ice cubes by? (Man, that stings.) Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Hot and spicy video links are to YouTube.

Feeling Yourself DisintegrateThe Flaming Lips (Making faces and reaching for coolant.)
La TorturaShakira (Colombia hot.)
My Own Private Idahothe B-52s (Never been there, but Boise seems cool enough.)
Stomach vs. HeartBarenaked Ladies (From the album Born on a Pirate Ship, natch.)
Come Sail AwayStyx (The pirate way.)
Rocky Mountain WayJoe Walsh (Good Mexican food there.)
Rapper’s Delightthe Sugar Hill Gang (This is not a test.)
I Don’t Need No DoctorHumble Pie (Wait an hour or two.)
Live WireMotley Crue (Forget putting the sauce on food. They’d put it in a syringe.)
Message in a Bottlethe Police (Warning!)
Red RainPeter Gabriel (A couple of drops is all it takes.)
Fire Down BelowBob Seger (And it’s spreading.)
Locomotive BreathJethro Tull (Stand back.)
No Diggity Blackstreet (No doubt it’s hot. Tell ’em, Dre.)
The Heat Is OnGlenn Frey (Sizzle fo shizzle. OK, stop it, Shop Boy.)
Peace Sells (But Who’s Buying?)Megadeth (Whaddaya mean it’s too hot to eat? I eat it all the time.)
Fire Woman the Cult (Twitchin’ like a cat on a hot tin shack. Lord have mercy.)
Skull and CrossbonesStormwitch (Poor man’s Iron Maiden, or tries to be.)
Rattlin’ BonesKasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson (Too mellow for Kasey, in Shop Boy’s humble opinion, but it’s good to hear her any old time.)

Flawed Gems

January 25, 2008

If our type could talk, it would probably sound something like this:

“Ouch! Easy on the impression there, Tarzan. Ever heard of a ‘kiss,’ kids?”

But even without the gift of speech — and attitude (you have to remember that this ancient stuff has hung around in some pretty rough places in its day) — old type tells its story loud and clear.

Lead F, 36-point Bodoni bold: “Remember the time when the kerning needed tightening and the brute used a file to shave away part of my, uh, lower half? Well, that ain’t gonna grow back, my friend.”

Wood G, 54-point Gothic: “Yeah, or the day that numbskull apprentice dropped the ink can. My scar still shows after all these years.”

Ah, what characters. You can call them damaged. At Typecast Press, we call them distinctive, one-of-a-kind. We encourage the flaws in the type — whether created by wear and tear, carelessness or necessity — to make their presence felt. Take the logo Mary did for Woodberry Kitchen that can now be seen on menus, business cards, in magazine ads and, ahem, on the signage made by immensely cool architectural designer and sculptor John Gutierrez.

Anyway, the way we physically created it is, Shop Boy thinks, about as cool as the logo itself. See, we used incredibly old technology, mixed in a little new tech and the big bang theory. (“Ouch! You animals!”) And it was a fun break from our ongoing pursuit of the “perfect” impression.

First, you take a set of wood type, say 48-point Whatsitsface. In a complete set you’ll probably have a few of each letter, more if they’re key characters like E, A or O. Arrange them on the bed of a Vandercook proof press; ours is a No. 3. Add the appropriate wooden spacers and furniture, then lock the whole form into place so it won’t shift during printing. Get your brayer (a roller with a handle) and begin spreading the ink across the glass plate to get it warmed up — today’s color is black and soy-based.

Next, brayer the ink evenly onto the letters. Already, you can see that the impression won’t be uniform. Some letters have blemishes, scrapes or other flaws. Excellent. So now Mary ups the ante, getting all Jackson Pollock with a bit of scrap paper, randomly chopping at and blotting the ink. Once another, thicker sheet (for a bigger “hit”) is locked into the guides, just crank away and presto: a happy accident. We generally do five or so this way, then pick the example with the best lived-in look and feel. Remember to check your spelling and punctuation, students.

Great. So you’ve got a sheet of paper with 48-point letters on it. Fit that on a business card.

OK, we will. After the ink dries a bit, we slide the chosen sheet onto the scanner, then import it into the computer as an image file that can be shrunken or enlarged at will. And here’s the neatest part: The flaws remain perfectly consistent at any size. One set of old wooden letters has become five or six.

Next, turn the logo, now a series of files sized for various uses, into polymer plates. Start printing.

I know. Those in the letterpress printing business at this point are thinking: “Duh. What am I even reading this for?” Our eureka moment was theirs so 10 years ago or whatever. That’s fine. Typecast Press didn’t invent this method, but maybe someone will stumble upon this blog who hadn’t thought of it. We sure hadn’t. We’re already thinking of other ways to mesh old and new that might not be unique to us either, so there. Besides, anything that keeps these old cases of type together and alive — word is that wood type is being bought up, jumbled together and poured willy-nilly into hollow glass forms to make decorative coffee tables, among other things — is positively revolutionary at this point.

If our letters could talk they’d probably say:


Letterpress List No. 9: Getting Ink Done

November 6, 2007

Shop Boy should have it tattooed on his forehead: Think Before You Ink!

There we were again late last night, trying to clear black ink off the big C&P. Mary and Shop Boy. A two-person bucket brigade. Be glad you weren’t there. Shop Boy sure wished he wasn’t.

Typecast Press was doing a run of menus for a new Baltimore restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. The chef/owner, Spike Gjerde, is doing the whole sustainable-resources thing … local veggies and meats produced in an environmentally responsible manner. WK’s in this great area, Clipper Mill, that literally rose from the ashes. The restaurant’s filled with great old details — machine parts and the like — and has a cool bar and a balcony for more private (or illicit … just saying) dining. With Spike, the food’s always great. We’ve torn through the rockfish, the pork, shrimp. And we may never go to another movie without stopping by for the buttered/sea salted popcorn. (Shop Boy’s not above begging for a to-go bag.)

OK, Shop Boy’s channeling Mary’s mom, who once got so carried away over the food that she yelled to the waiters at a French-only cafe in Quebec: “Tell the chef … Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

So back to our regularly scheduled program. (Spike’s paying us for the menus, not a plug. Besides, this is about Shop Boy.)

Anyhow, Mary designed the Woodberry Kitchen logo with large wood type, then we scanned it and had polymer plates made so we can change the logo’s size. Spike insisted on using a song lyric from the late Joe Strummer (of the Clash and the Mescaleros fame) on the menu: “If you’re after getting the honey/ Then you don’t go killing all the bees.”


We were using soy ink, which is said to be better for the environment but is funky under the best conditions. It’s absolute poison in Shop Boy’s hands.

“Really, Mary, it was so little ink.”

She was unconvinced.

“Look, Shop Boy, we’ve been through this. If you see that it’s printing too heavy, don’t just hope it corrects itself. Do something.”

See, here’s where Mary and Shop Boy differ: She’s such a perfectionist that she looks for reasons to stop the press and tweak. Shop Boy looks for reasons to keep it churning. Simple denial will do in a pinch. “This one might be garbage, but the next impression will be the magic. I just know it.” You can run through a lot of paper in the printshop this way. Or in Las Vegas, come to think of it.

So there were Joe Strummer’s words … somewhere under all the black goop. And there we were stripping ink off the press. Now, Shop Boy can laugh at his goof-ups later, but it’s really embarrassing to have to ask Mary to bail me out when I’m up to my knees in black soy ink — enough to kill all the bees in Maryland — after she’d just told me I should be subtle when reapplying it. And saying, “Well, you shouldn’t have left the room,” doesn’t really cut it at that point.

Sigh. Shop Boy stewed as he ran off an extra 350 or so fresh menus.

“That’s enough, Shop Boy,” Mary said finally.

“You mean stop printing them?” Shop Boy asked glumly.

“No, I mean knock it off.”

Sniff … she always knows just what to say.


OK, time for about an hour of shop-approved music. But first, about two minutes of preaching:

Maryland and the Washington, D.C., metro area have a tremendous problem with aggressive driving, dangerous antisocial behavior. People die. Your metro area likely has the same woe. So police, in cars and helicopters, using satellite imaging and radar, have begun to crack down, they say, on the reckless weaving, dodging and speeding that many folks favor on their commutes.

Dr. P.M. Forni of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project here in Baltimore found that Americans consider aggressive driving the second-rudest thing someone can do. Discrimination was the only thing more rude. Yikes.

But now hear this from a TV ad: In the new class of Mercedes Benz, the handling stiffens automatically to help stabilize the vehicle during aggressive driving. Oh, and it’s fast enough for the Autobahn. “Why? Because we promised you a Mercedes Benz.”

Holy cow. Maybe the cops should attack aggressive driving at its source. First bust is a Benzie exec.

End of sermon.

Letterpress List No. 9: Songs to “Drive Gently” By

If you slow down a bit, you’ll get to hear more of these songs on your way to work. Not all of them promote safe driving, so follow close to your heart, not the bumper of the car in front of you. (“OK, knock it off, Shop Boy.”) If you don’t own these songs, why not? Check for them on iTunes and Napster.

Dirt Track DateSouthern Culture on the Skids (Got a designated driver?)
Money Ain’t a ThangJermaine Dupri/Jay-Z (Great song, bad driving.)
Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadLucinda Williams (Painting a picture you can feel.)
Long Walk Back to San AntoneJunior Brown (Taken for a ride.)
Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the WheelBarenaked Ladies (The last thing on his mind or the furthest thing from his mind? Hmm.)
Uneasy Rider — Charlie Daniels Band (Hippie. Mississippi. Flat tire. Bad news.)
Runnin’ Down a Dream — Tom Petty (This’ll blow back your hair with the windows closed.)
Little Deuce CoupeBeach Boys (Not being from California, Shop Boy once thought the “pink slip” gave him more time to drive his favorite car because he was fired from work. It’s the deed! Duh.)
Heading Out to the HighwayJudas Priest (Nothing to lose.)
One Headlightthe Wallflowers (An order of melancholy. Put wheels on it.)
PanamaVan Halen (Pistons poppin’, ain’t no stopping nnnnnnnnoooooooowwwwwwwwww!)
Rollin’Limp Bizkit (Back up!)
Drive Away
Halfcocked (Fuzzy dice sway to the time you’re making.)
Satan Is My MotorCake (Maybe that’s the problem.)
MaybellineChuck Berry (Honk if you love rock and roll.)

And just to wish Spike and Amy Gjerde and Nelson Carey a smooth stretch of highway as they begin their new venture:
Johnny AppleseedJoe Strummer