Helen claims we always overdo things… like those 109
LIKE NORMAL TOURISTS, we have decals from each place visited on two trans-USA trips, plastered over the station-wagon’s windows. If ajays issued decals to tourists, we could fill four more windows.
We were a traveling convention last year, but with sleep occasionally. Or like a progressive dinner party, with the Segals the soup, the Holmans the fish, the Californians dessert, and a dozen tasty dishes between. Helen kept a diary of that second 60-day trip across the country. Happily, it contains mostly cheerful trivia, so in writing this we’re not unduly hampered by facts.
For easy motel living, we started out light – only five luggage pieces, two suitcases, one hatbox, diaper bag, cosmetic case, folding carriage, baby’s bag, baby food, three cameras and equipment bag, disposable diapers, books, play-pen bedding, blankets, odd shoes, last-minute department-store packages and miscellany. But we did accumulate a few things en route, so we had to ship ahead one luggage piece from Ohio, buy a footlocker in LA, then fill a carved wooden chest from Hong Kong. Yokohama Customs put on another man the day we landed.
We filibustered through Pennsylvania – jaw-wagging ajay and baby-raising with the Segals and Harlers. We stopped briefly to meet Ken Weiser, with whom we’ve had ajay feuds for 15 years. That should have been worth an hour’s gab. Instead, he invited us in to watch TV. We left.
Any dope can run out of gas the first night in a new car. We dried out on a hill leading down into Mahanoy City, rolled to an all-night beanery and frantically phoned Bob Holman – not knowing that we could have kept rolling to an all-night gas station, 300 yards around the next bend. An almost vertical stairway leads up to Bob’s eagle-nest printery, bibliophilery, study and odditorium. It was a wrench to leave at noon next day with so much unexamined and unsaid.
Here the diary contains jouncy notes on motels, boys (then 2 and 4½) ransacking luggage and “David has GIs.” SPW’s definition of a motel: “A little house without a kitchen.”
James Whitcomb Riley’s home is lovingly kept by a devoted women’s club; and they gave us a homey hour’s visit. But at Lincoln’s home in Springfield, the attendant languidly read love stories, and the “civil service attitude” dripped like icicles.
Ajays will wonder why we visited Wilson Bob Tucker, who is an addict of the Fantasy APA, a whodunit author. He’s one of Helen’s minor idols and is a bit mad like us ajays, and just as conversational. A sign on his front door read:
ALL FANS AND FAKE FANS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT
TRAVELERS TO THE ORIENT MAY PAUSE FOR TEA
We later found one of his books on a side-street newsstand in Hong Kong.
Crisis: Diaper supply exhausted. Druggist apologized that all stores cleaned out. Lady just had twins.
Helen’s book describes Milton Grady as a “Midwest edition of Burton Crane” – a compliment than whicher there isn’t. The boys pied some of his type. Then the convention was called to order, and never un-called until throat-rasp and general disintegration threatened in the tiny hours. In the cellar gloom around Grady’s shop, David was obsessed: “A witch! There’s a witch outside! Oooo, a witch!” acting impressively scared.
Hearing that we were heading for Gordon Rouze in Lincoln, Nebraska, SPW demanded to see “Lincoln in a basket.” We then detoured 400 miles to meet Dean Rea at a Kansas AF base, but missed him by a day.
By this time the boys had played “Pittsburg, Pa.” on 1500 miles of juke boxes, Never did like that town.
When Bob Price came to our motel in Pueblo, Col., Helen was caught in the bathroom with only her makeup on. “Will you hand me my clothes,” she hollered to SCW, “or are you charging him admission?” The early history of the AAPA got a nostalgic pawing-over from two of its leading lights.
Elaine Peck and Virginia Baker were our targets in Salt Lake City, for a midnight ajay and ice cream orgy.
The 6- and 8-point Wessons were delirious with joy when we stopped at Big Rock Candy Mountain. The song was repeated ad nauseam. But Sheldon was disappointed: No cigarette tree. The lemonade spring was scant consolation.
The children were blasé about the scenic wonders – Bryce Canyon, Zion Park, the Red Canyon, Grand Canyon – but the night game of deer-spotting, by the headlights reflected in their eyes, made the city boys ecstatic. Indian pueblo ruins, Painted Desert – they’re all on our color slides. But not every jerk tourist gets a car stuck for over half an hour in loose lava granules at Sunset Crater, miles from any possible aid.
When we had been in semi-arid country about four days, David learned to sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” And did, hours at a time.
This is not an ad. Our stay at Eaton’s Cottage Hotel in Arcadia, Cal., ranks with any scenic wonder on the trip, We could fall out of bed and be smothered in flowers or dunked in the pool. Even a baby-sitter, Barbara Ellis, and a NAPA ex-President, her poppa Harold, nearby.
The APC is bad enough at yak-yakking. But even a sturdy printer would quail to hear the evening’s talk thrown back at him. That’s what happened when the fantasy characters gathered with Helen at Edith and Fran Laney’s. They tape-recorded every word said and happily listened to the gibber all over again.
Look what’s idle at Laney’s: A 7 x 11 press, with two enclosed stands of type, furniture and a complete layout, bought from the Los Angeles Science-Fiction Society for fifteen dollars!
Helen’s notebook at this juncture reads, “Breakfast on Wes Porter.” We can’t recall now whether this entry refers to the check or to David’s flying oatmeal.
Hyman Bradofsky produced one of those gestures for which he is justly famous. He came 40 miles into LA and gave us a dinner at the Biltmore, at which all the ambulant ajays in the area were present: The Chet Whelans, the Porters, the Ellises and the Moores.
A wonderful crew – but they squirmed painfully when a wild-eyed character from the East said something about printing a paper, preferably all night.
At this happy juncture the bombshell dropped. A friend asked, “You’re sailing on the Pres. Wilson July ninth? You may be sailing, but she ain’t. Haven’t you heard about the strike?” We hadn’t. But we headed confidently for San Francisco.
Sheldon the smaller, with budding powers of observation, had noticed that the urinals along the way were mostly very different from the home-style all-purpose fixtures. At each stop he’d invent (if necessary – but seldom so) an excuse to visit the men’s room. The porcelain designer’s fancy always won his appreciation. But near Yosemite Park he was truly captivated by one model, and exclaimed in rapture, “Oh, Daddy, isn’t this a cute one?” Helen’s notebook comments: “Wait’ll he sees a Japanese benjo.”
The children, who had never lived above the ground floor, were delighted with the sixth floor hotel windows, in San Francisco. If you leaned out far enough – just a little more – you had a baby bird’s view of a cable-car turntable. They could have watched for hours, if they would have lasted that long, and if we hadn’t caught them the first time, and promptly tied the window down with clothesline. They next started looking down the stair-well, speculating whether the bannister went ’round and ’round down all six flights.
Our month in San Francisco brought us into the shops of some of the most devoted amateur printers in the hobby: F. F. Thomas, whose eyebrows dare the visitor to challenge his leisurely, “no-housekeeping” approach to amateur printing; Walter Held, who’d surprise no one if he had a numbered and indexed location for every sliver of metal in his hospital-neat shop; George Haney, who waves his arm over a superb layout and grins when he complains that he has too much printing to do; and Ted Freedman, whose attitude toward printing spells “artist.”
With Dora Moitoret, the atmosphere was both homey and firm. Discussions of ajay problems were accompanied by the deep furrowing of brow, Pleasant evenings were passed with Dorrie and with daughter Carol, the pint-sized gal with the gallon-sized grin.
At last, in desperation, we booked passage on a Swedish freighter, for only foreign boats were sailing. But to get that ship, we had to dash back to Los Angeles – only to hear, when we were halfway down, at Pismo Beach, that the American lines’ strike had ended. ’Frisco still would not guarantee that the Wilson would sail. So we continued on. The result of that decision was in many ways educational and interesting, but in other ways awful to recall. First we were delayed another week. Then David had a front tooth knocked out at the Long Beach amusement park.
The direct steamers run from the West Coast to Yokohama in about 11 days. On this ship we got the Grand Tour – 47 days. We had a handful of passengers for company, and two small boys tethered out on clothesline leashes, in case they should decide to sample the Pacific Ocean. A beneficent Fate made us overestimate and board ship with 100 cans of strained baby meat and, more essential, 27 boxes of diapers.
Helen sewed by hand 14 skirts – the Mme. Defarge of the Barranduna. Shep played several thousand games of gin rummy with a Filipino doctor, a Swiss steward and a British-Japanese priest. When Helen ran out of piece goods, pocket books and patience, boredom drove her to gin rummy, too. She promptly won the next 11 games, to the disgust of the experts.
The monotony of the 18 smooth days to Manila was broken by a lady passenger who first showed entertaining signs of nymphomania, then tried gin and threw D-T fits instead. This annoyed no one half as much as it did SCW, because the doctor had to get up and interrupt the gin rummy marathon all the time.
Our boys owned the ship. Their great joy was to visit “hatch park” – the No. 1 hatch cover – to use the play equipment provided expressly for them, but which the crew unimaginatively used to handle cargo. They “drove” the ship from the bridge and bridged the ship in droves. And when a pool was set up, the Skipper talked Sheldon into swimming alone without a tube for the first time.
In three days we saw all we wanted of Manila, and left wondering (albeit with sympathy) why so little had been done to rebuild the city.
Then came two weeks snaking around the Islands, visiting 14 towns, from the big port of Cebu to villages inland from saw-mill ports, which appear on few maps. We had time to explore each town, and to paddle about in outrigger canoes. Our boys, in shorts and straw hats, were a Rotary International, making friends with the small fry, without a common language.
In one pin-point town, the gin-rummy game fell apart, when the Swiss steward was murdered in a bar brawl. We last saw him alive singing loud love songs in four languages to the entire delighted population. Next morning… The funeral in the jungle was dim and tense. The crew were enraged anyhow, and the village’s fiesta air made them talk of tearing it apart.
By the time we reached Hong Kong, Helen was in a mood to bankrupt a Maharajah. There being none available, she made a moderate dent in her husband’s finances – moderate not because of restraint but because we only stayed three days. Where else can you get British goods cheaper than in Britain? Or Sunkist orange juice cheaper than in California?
Returning to Japan was strangely anti-climactic. We touched at Kobe, Osaka and Nagoya before coming to Yokohama. The same unreadable signs, the same quasi-modern (and dirty) streets, the same people.
To welcome us amateur printers they’d just issued a commemorative postal card with a printing press on the stamp. This went to all our ajay friends as an arrival notice. Then we were home.
Keep cool with Wesson in 195? or 196?… or thereabouts
Wesson for President
I HEREBY ANNOUNCE my candidacy for President of NAPA, the second year after I return to the USA, assuming I am elected Official Editor first. I shall run on the promise that I’ll be the first President in 80 years with enough guts to alter the convention dates.
In Standpipe 23 I protested that conventions held in big cities in July are ridiculously uncomfortable. Any place that’s cool in July is ridiculously expensive. At the Jackson convention and elsewhere similar rumblings have also been heard.
My program: (1) To extend or shorten my term of office to hold the convention in September or May; (2) to seek the election of Judges who will approve this “emergency” measure; (3) to shift the convention to a small hotel in a resort town, at off-season rates. That way we can have a year’s trial without the need of a constitutional amendment.
Result: “Dictator!” some will scream. “Tradition!” others will weep. But I’m sure most of us will holler, “More fun!” – and make the change permanent.
MEMO TO Alf’s Perpetual Popularity Poll, Ltd.: If you will stop worrying out loud about how many friends you have you’ll be happier. People often don’t cheer while their mouths hang agape at the sheer volume of your printing. Just the words Alf’s Cat 100 are a monument to your hobby achievements. All NAPA isn’t divided into two hostile camps, the pro-Alf and the anti-Alf. The biggest camp simply enjoys your printing, along with everyone else’s, and doesn’t give a damn about your feud with life.
A GENTLEMANLY banzai to the September National Amateur for tasteful printing and deft convention reports. But our printer resents A. Walrus’s implication that he is always out of order at conventions. He distinctly recalls being in order, and acclaimed as such, once upon moving adjournment for lunch; and once, after an all-night session in the Brodie printshop, upon moving adjournment for breakfast.
CONGRATULATIONS to Alan Harshaw for graduating from mimeo to two printed pages, then four, in three bundles. The Iowa Bulletin breathes pure enthusiasm. And for an example of what happens when ink and enthusiasm mix well, there’s Proofread 7.
We are a talkative family, as you know… a marathon
Quote & Unquote
DAW, 3: “What’s an ox?” SPW, 6: “A cow’s cousin.”
SC W: “Who’s in the bathroom?” David’s voice: “The Quangle Wangle Quee.” “Whatcha doing?” “Sitting on the Crumpetty Tree.”
SC W, as David jumps on his chest: “Now I know who this kid is. He’s the reincarnation of the Great Earthquake of 1923.”
SPW: “I think a little mouse named David has been at my paints.”
HVW: “How can they savor the full succulence of my personality if it is strained through SCW’s blue pencil?”… SCW: “The printer who sets this patched-up copy must be spared a day of hell-fire in purgatory.” HVW: “Why is it that we are wittiest at 2:30 in the morning?”
“Gee, I wish we could print that crack.”
PRINTERS! Do your feet hurt after long hours at the case? Me, too. So I got me foam-rubber zori, a new version of the Japanese footgear traditionally made of straw. They help a lot, I’ll cheerfully buy a pair for any amateur printer. Send me $2 and your shoe size.
Siamese Standpipe Number Twenty-four
To pass up Japan’s exquisite hand-made papers would be like ignoring Fuji. The catalogues make us pant. Those sheets just yearn for the kiss of type.
Collectors are getting a special cover on this number. Real maple leaves are laminated between sheets of rice paper – transparent tissue on top. This is combined with another rice paper, which gives it body and forms the inside cover. Other copies have another hand-made autumn-pattern cover.
The Christmas Standpipe, No. 25, also has a hand-made cover, with silver flecks dusted on by hand.
Leaves cut in linoleum by Helen.
Helen V. and Sheldon C Wesson
132-C Bluff, Yamate-cho