Category Archives: Transitions

Be of Good Cheer

Here it is: Our Copperman’s Day print for 2020. We are both slightly late (Copperman’s Day was a week ago Monday) and it’s also been a while since we last printed one of these annual prints. This time of year can be a little rough on me. My dad had his stroke on MLK, Jr. Day in 2017, and the last Copperman’s Day print I made, which was that year, conveyed the words Wes Hel: an older version of Wassail, the old drinking toast that essentially means Be of Good Health. My small way of helping to insure Dad’s good health. A year later––a year after Dad’s passing––I began setting type for Copperman’s Day, 2018. But I didn’t quite have it in me to print it. Same in 2019. But here we are today, in January 2020. I worked on Copperman’s Day resetting that same type I had begun to set two years ago, finished setting it a day later, and each night after I printed a different color by hand on the Vandercook 4 in our shop. By Friday I was done. I guess you could say this print took three years to make. I like it very much, and I feel like my father approves of it, too, and wants us all to take its advice to heart, and to Be of Good Cheer.

Copperman’s Day falls on the Monday after Epiphany each January. It’s an old Dutch printer’s holiday celebrated mainly by the apprentices, who would have the day off to print whatever they wanted. The resulting prints would be sold for a copper. We sell ours for 300 coppers (3 bucks), but, you know, paper and ink don’t cost what they did centuries ago, and a week’s worth of labor doesn’t cost what it did back then, either. 300 coppers is a real bargain, if you ask me. And we have an additional special running, too: order three or more of any of our letterpress mini prints––all of our Copperman’s Day prints to date, our B Mine Valentines, and our famous Keep Lake Worth Quirky prints––and we’ll take $5 off your domestic order. This, to help balance out our flat rate $8.50 shipping charge, because even though a flat rate shipping charge of $8.50 is pretty damn good, we know it’s not such a bargain if you’re buying just a few small flat paper items. If you’re doing some Valentine shopping, though, or picking up a few other things, we do, as usual, offer free domestic shipping when you spend $50 or more. (Folks in Canada and Mexico and elsewhere on the planet, write us at mail@conviviobookworks.com and we’ll figure something out for you, too.)

Over the course of a week of printing nights, I was accompanied by a sleepy cat always nearby and some pretty wonderful music: Valse de Noël: An Acadian-Cajun Christmas Revels, and Elizabeth Mitchell and friends singing and playing on The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook. Copperman’s Day is very much an extension of the Yuletide season for me, tied as it is to Epiphany, and for a couple of guys who just decorated their tree on Christmas night, well… we are subscribing this year to the old tradition of keeping the greenery up until Candlemas. Our tree is still glowing on this cold Lake Worth night, and all here remains calm and bright. The cat is asleep on a wool sweater, and here I am, connecting with all of you. We are, most definitely, of good cheer.

 

The Last of the Famous International Playboys

Two unlikely things have happened in the last two weeks, both of which make me think of my father, and just in time for his 93rd birthday, which would be tomorrow, on the 18th. First of all, I bought my first pair of boxing gloves. If you’d have suggested just a month ago that I’d be wearing boxing gloves, let alone owning a pair, I’d have laughed at you. But Seth and I keep active and our trainer of many years up and left a few months ago on a whim, moving on to New York or L.A. or lord knows where. We were left floundering about for a few weeks, making some half hearted attempts at going to a regular gym mixed with periods of sitting home eating popcorn and binge watching Project Runway. But we have of late gotten involved in another training situation and it’s good, it’s varied… and we’ve been finding ourselves in group fitness classes with names like Fight Camp and Kickboxing Camp and well, one thing has lead to another and now we both own boxing gloves. I think of my dad every time I wrap my hands and struggle to get the gloves on. I’m not sure if he’d be impressed or if he’d be laughing at me. His son is about the unlikeliest boxer you’ll ever meet, and he knew that and eventually (I think) came to be at peace with the fact that, despite his best efforts, I could never quite connect bat to ball or figure out left hook from right or understand how to get that blasted oil filter wrench going in the right direction. (I would more often than not be under the car tightening the filter even more while he was explaining to me––well… yelling, swearing––from above how to loosen it.)

But anyway, here I am these days: in boxing gloves, hitting punching bags hanging from chains, bags that are probably heavier than I am. I couldn’t wait for the hour of my first Fight Camp to end because no one had shown me how to wrap my hands properly and so I did it my way––the way a bookbinder would wrap a leather bound book he’s just covered––and wrapped them so tight, I soon couldn’t feel my fingers. I kept hitting things even though I really wanted to just stop and cry, it was so painful. But I mustered on (another trait I inherited from my dad) and did a lot of swearing under my breath instead, and every now and then stepped outside for a breath of air and to shake out my gloved hands. The second time, our trainer showed me how to wrap my hands properly. That made a big difference, and I was beginning to think I was getting a grip on this boxing thing.

The third time, Seth and I were late for Fight Camp, so we ended up being the only two people to show up for Kickboxing Camp, which was scheduled after. It was a Friday night––last Friday night––at 7 PM. I had a feeling that if it wasn’t for us, the trainer might probably be off on a Friday night date, but instead José, who looks like he is no stranger to the ring, was stuck with two goofs in boxing gloves. What ensued was, I could only surmise, punishment. We stretched, we ran two laps carrying dumbbells, and when we got back, José set us on our path for the night: 10 jabs to the big bag, 10 hooks left and right, 10 knees, 10 kicks, then down for 10 push-ups, then 30 seconds of intense cardio. No rest. And then up the ladder: 20 jabs, 20 hooks, 20 knees, 20 kicks, 20 push-ups. Then 30. Then 40. And finally, 50. If you’ve ever done 50 push-ups in boxing gloves, let’s talk. José pushed us and pushed us. Come 8:00, when our session was done, José was gone, nowhere to be seen, and Seth and I emerged near broken, but triumphant.

Which brings me to the second of the two unlikely things that have happened that make me think of my father. My triumph from Kickboxing Camp carried through that night and the next day until about 1:30. I couldn’t decide if my biceps were sore or if it was my triceps, but it was Saturday––Cleaning Day––and I was cleaning house and I was pushing through the soreness just fine. I cleaned the bathrooms, I got out the vacuum, but then I thought I’d change the cat’s litter before doing the floors. I emptied the old litter, cleaned the box, replaced it with fresh litter––such a satisfying thing. When I went to set the litter box in its place, I could feel a little twinge in my lower back, just the slightest thing, but you know, I do have that Dad trait of mustering on, and so I did muster on, and it was right there, in that process of mustering, that the twinge escalated into something more like twisting dagger. I found myself on the floor and spent a good part of the day there. Seth gave me my lunch there on the floor (I was still hungry, after all) and I had a devil of a time getting up off the floor but eventually I did. Since then, ice packs, massage, and acupuncture, all have been helping. On Sunday we went to the family’s for Mother’s Day dinner and when I walked in using a broomstick to help me walk, Mom said, “Here, use this.” It was my dad’s cane. He never used it, because he was amazingly stubborn about things like that, but my cousins in Chicago sent it to him, with the best intentions, when he began having trouble walking. It’s pretty fancy: sturdy black wood with a crystal knob. It’s made in Italy. When I use it, I feel like Fred Astaire, like I should have a top hat. It’s not quite my style, but it’s so much better than the broomstick I was using, and it, too, like the boxing gloves, reminds me of Dad. Which is perhaps just right as we approach his birthday. It’s the third one we are marking since he’s been gone. But in the past couple of weeks, I have all these reminders of Dad, and they make me happy, in spite of the pain. I wouldn’t trade them if I could.

 

For those of you wonder if physical fitness is bad for us, well, you may be right: the week before buying my boxing gloves Seth and I were in a regular, non-punching bootcamp class. One of the stations involved slamming a medicine ball to the ground. I picked up the wrong kind of ball. Medicine balls land with a thud on the ground, but mine did not. It bounced. It was a 20 pound ball, and I slammed it good and hard to the ground, from up over my head, and was completely dismayed when it bounced up and hit me square in the jaw. I did, in fact, see stars. I was impressed with myself for not passing out. I thought of my dad then, too, and could picture him shaking his head and laughing at me. After Friday night’s Kickboxing Camp, before José ran off, I told him that story. He laughed. “Oh, I’m definitely checking the security cameras for that,” he said.

 

Hearts, & Your February Book of Days

The 8th of February and here, finally, comes your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month! It is, as usual, a PDF document, printable on standard US Letter size paper. Half the red letter days of the month have already passed, I’m afraid, and what’s next is Valentine’s Day… and just so you know, we have so many delightfully odd Valentine gift ideas for you in our Convivio Book of Days Catalog. If you see something you like, order today or this weekend and you’ll have it in time for the big day. We ship via US Priority Mail, which takes two days to most destinations in the States. Spend $50 and we’ll even pay your shipping on domestic orders.

All that being said, you have my apologies for the belatedness. It’s been busy as all get out, mostly with things at work––markets, workshops, gallery concerts––and admittedly all things of my own doing. As a result, not only is the month’s calendar late, but I’ve also missed writing to you about St. Blaise’s Day, when throats are blessed, and St. Agatha’s Day, when we eat cream filled pastries that make us blush a bit, for they are meant to evoke a certain aspect of the female anatomy and it is hard to see them and to eat them, remembering that it was the chaste nuns of Sicily who first began making these delicacies centuries ago. And I missed writing to you about the Year of the Pig, this new year in the Chinese Lunar New Year cycle, although last night we celebrated––my mom and sister and Seth and me––at the beckoning of Joy, of Joy Noodles in West Palm Beach. We had her New Year dumplings and I had a pork soup that was Joy’s grandmother’s recipe, and we finished our meal with custard buns made of rice flour that looked like round little pigs. All this and yet February is not one of my favorite months. I have a lot to learn, I think, if I am to come to love it again. I keep busy busy busy and yet in the back of my mind I remember things like the 7th was the night two years ago that Seth and I sat in a box at the Kravis Center with friends listening to Rachmaninoff and Berlioz, even though my thoughts were elsewhere, with my dad in his hospital room. It was the night I first thought that maybe he would not make it through this ordeal. And today, the 8th, I will have to keep thoughts at bay that remind me that this is the night two years ago that I last spoke to him; the night we all kissed him goodnight and told him we loved him, and who knew then that that would be our last time to say these things?

I look back and I’m glad we did say them. We are not, by and large, a family that does. We are mostly loud (not me, so much… but these are my people) and a bit rough around the edges and not terribly emotional, at least not in obvious ways. We express our emotions through the kitchen and the table and we yell across the house at each other, just in conversation, and we often sound mad even when we are not. I would most likely never tell my family that I am thinking the things I think––keeping track in my mind of where I was on this date or another in Dad’s journey––but they’ll read it here, of course, and they, I imagine, will understand. I don’t need to tell them these things face to face. They know I ponder things a lot and turn thoughts over in my head and that I don’t talk much. Still, they love me as I am. They understand me, and I understand them. We are a terribly loyal bunch. We all miss Dad a lot. And we all continue doing what we do as best we can. This is what this time of year brings for me, and for them, too, I know, and perhaps for some of you, as well, for your own reasons––for the people that you miss, too. Which is all amazingly ok. We always have been and always will be well.

The cut and sewn paper hearts illustrating this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar are by Merike Van Zanten.