Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 15

As of 10:28AM this morning, the guts of this book are DONE.

Had to get up around 6:30 to avoid a parking ticket from the strange, arbitrarily-sanctioned "No Parking by Police Order" signs that seem to be systematically sweeping Whittier for no reason I can see. Probably looking for revenue from ticket fees? However it came about - the only parking to be found last night when I got home was on Grand, a verboten spot. Rose grumpily and got dressed and got out early because of it, though. Got an unhealthy breakfast in and went down to Amaya and Ian's in Seward.

Chatted with Amaya a bit before both of us had to get to work, if in slightly different rgards. Found out shortly after someone had set fire to my elementary school, where my Mom still works. She called me back after I sent her a worried phone call and text message - she was fine, but we were both deeply saddened by the apparent arson/vandalism. Tried to put it out of mind for printing and got rolling about 9:15.

I knew I could knock out the last two plates and a small run of plate 33, which I had accidentally run with too little paper, in what would feel like no time - and it did sort of breeze through. Even with a clear finish line ahead, with Maisie dialed in from 7 hours of printing the day previous, and with a lot of time to accomplish it today, I was sick with nerves. Stomach in knots, as if I had already run into horrible setbacks. Even as the last plate and run of a hundred-some replenishing sheets went through easily and the last sheet fed through to the ending chords of "Eating Paper" by Dave Bazan, I still felt horrible knots in my gut. They had a semi-happy tinge to them, but I can feel them still, reminding that the BOOK is not done YET.

Collated a copy of the guts to show Zak and Leigh at a stop down at the 'CAD (Leigh, who at first did not me notice whistling at her, then throwing the book on her desk, and then knocking on the damn desk, dutifully reminded me she had not seen me since before the beginning of April) and then went back to the task of collating. From that point on in the day, felt exhausted, hungry, sleepy and vaguely pre-illness. Which sometimes happens after a giant stress disappears - my body suddenly releases the illness I'd been too damn busy to have before.

Collated for a couple hours. Ate pizza and chatted with Ian, both worked on stuff in the garage 'till sundown.

So tired. Hard to feel accomplished yet, but let's see how I feel when I know I don't have to get up and print like a madwoman tomorrow.

The total from Monday.


The last three.

This mock-cover is as accurate about the content of the book as it was about my emotional state while making the book.

Leaning tower of French paper.

Total of Monday and Tuesday combined - now the counter is being put to use as I collate copies of the book together, but that process is going much, much, much slower.

Plus, Katara the weirdo.

Monday, April 29, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 14

Did 14 plates on day 14.

Cleaned/organized and swept the crap out of that garage on Sunday; spent seven and a half hours dirtying it back up today. Roughly two plates in an hour. Really goddamn nice weather.

Got interrupted by a neighbor dude who trounced into the garage as merrily as he pleased and then, of course, had to spend the next hour getting back into rhythm and back on my way. Almost pulped up the rollers. He kept insisting how "cool" it was. I would keep saying, "Yeah, it's cool, but it's not as easy or as fun as it might seem," especially with the machine off. Awkwardly then invited me to "come sit outside and relax in the sun while I do my homework," to which I had to offer a polite, "No, thanks - I gotta get back to this."

When really, I wanted to snap at him, "Take your tea party to the goddamn moon, asshole." And how old are you that you still have homework but think the woman across the street with her head almost stuck completely into a whirring machine wants to be awkwardly picked up in the middle of a run? But, eh. What can you do?

He also proceeded to sit on his back porch across the alleyway and do his homework, but always facing me. For the rest of the afternoon. Cripes.

2 and a half to go. Plus covers. Then a collating party and bind, bind, bind.

The total from Friday.

Only thought this crumpled up wad of paper was memorable because it wasn't part of an ocean of wadded up paper today.

Friday, April 26, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 12 + 13

Day 12, Thursday April 25th

Otherwise known as, "getting in the car and driving to Richfield"-day.

It was the first real beautiful day in Minneapolis - filthily sunny as evidenced by that picture and actually becoming warm. A real goddamn relief. A day that never dips below forty degrees means my window for working is expanded to whenever - which, at the beginning of April was about five hours long from noon to five in the afternoon, when the garage was warm enough not to freeze ink to the rollers. Not that I managed to avoid disaster or rookie screw-ups to print for more than four hours at that point (or still).

I'd just started shoveling some breakfast into my mouth at the Seward Co-op when I'd gotten a call from Claude, a pressman I'd heard lauded as a pretty darn good guy and a reliable source for parts. The day previous Zak (and sometimes-Krakken Floss) had come by to help me fix up the idiot mistake I'd made on the press and made a call to Claude about a new part.

That part? A latch pawl. Sonorous name, I know. An inch or so long, but yet another crucial linchpin to my sanity.

What did I do, you ask? My problem this time was not that I'd misaligned my feed, or needed some WD-40, or had flipped some lever I was unaware of its mechanism, but made a real idiot mistake. I'd started running the press on a really, really, really simple plate. Two words, mostly white plate. Very little ink needed. Should have been a snap. I inked up on low, left the fountain wide open, and got the feed lined up. Fed beautifully on the make-ready and switched to the good stock - and almost immediately it started scumming up bad in the middle. I was perplexed and, as I turned down the ink and wiped off the plate and the blanket before going again, increasingly enraged as the problem kept returning again and again.

Well, what I did was forget to engage the top fountain roller, which distributes fountain solution on the top oscillating ink roller and the back of the plate cylinder before it hits the rubber blanket. So absolutely nothing was washing the ink off the blank parts of the plate, and ink was accumulating and transferring to my stock. Simple. Had I simply looked up half an inch to where the fountain sat, just slightly above my nose, I'd have knocked it left into place with the heel of my palm, as I've done hundreds of times before, and I'd be done with this book at this very moment (possibly). Definitely wouldn't be out another couple hundred bucks.

As it happened, I instead assumed it was my ink fountain, which I'd loosened on plates past, which were full of lots of dark gray and black, to make sure enough could pass through. I took my screwdriver and tightened that inkwell as hard as I could against the ink roller. AS HARD AS I COULD.

Told you. Stupid.

The machine kept chugging away. Maisie didn't know any better to stop, but then I also cranked the ink up off of zero - at this point I STILL might have saved myself pain and sorrow - but nope. At which point the mechanism which automatically turns the ink roller in the well reached down, settled into the teeth of a gear, and tried to CRANK it back up. That moving part hit an unmovable object, and that energy had to go somewhere. The latch pawl caught, the solid-metal lever assembly it sat within warped to the right and up to try and relieve the pressure, but not enough. The latch pawl bent, fractured, and part of it flew, one assumes, right over my oblivious head and to the floor in what was probably a few seconds. And I missed all of it. I was soon bent over in tears and fury, bereft of another day of work. Three days of work, as it turned out to be.

Hard to see, I know, but the straight bar between those two gears holds the latch pawl. The latch pawl reaches back and rests on the smaller, left gear and uses downward pressure from a spring to catch the teeth - which is turned by the gear on the right to move the ink roller to the left. You can see it's not flush.

The new lever assembly - I really don't know that's the proper term, but that's sort of what Claude referred to it as - is the one on the left. The one I warped is on the right.

The story of Thursday is that I received a call from Claude at 9am, offering me a new latch pawl he'd found in his menagerie of AB Dick parts. I'd ordered one from Illinois on rush (in the desperate hope to get  printing in the next few days. As Amaya can tell you, I do weird things when I really need to work but I can't, like look for Japanese dinosaur dating sims for the iPad). The price on that one, minus the exorbitant shipping, was $99.90. Claude offered me one for $10, with the addendum, "I've got nine more of them!"

I ended up driving to Richfield, the first time, that morning to pick up that latch pawl. I got back to the garage and installed it, but still the ink roller and the mechanisms wouldn't run normally. It did, for a minute! Ian had been home early on lunch break and he'd come out to help me remove the old latch pawl, and for a second, she rotated, but soon lost tension and started sliding uselessly over the teeth again. I then thought it was the spring (I still hadn't figured out what the fuck had happened on Tuesday at this point). So I tried to wrestle it back into fighting shape - with absolutely no idea what that was, mind you - with two pliers and just my plucky, angry resolve.

The one I attempted to "fix" is the left. What that spring should look is the one on the right.

Had another crisis of faith in Amaya's living room, in the middle of which she pointed out, "Well, do you wish you didn't have the press?" And I immediately said, small but true, "No." She continued to say that, and with extreme accuracy, that had I not elected to print this book myself and shipped it off to a publisher, I would be in the same damn pits about how I should be trying to print it myself.

I then figured out my lever assembly was bent and surmised the real events of Tuesday. Called Claude back and described my problem - a second later he hummed and said, "Yeah, I've got that. Another $10 bucks." I told him, "I'm willing to pay anything at this point to get this machine back in running order." And again, into the car I clamored and rushed out into 35W in the thick of the rush-hour clog. I got to Claude's and he showed me around the garage a bit and explained he had an enormous stockpile of AB Dick parts that were too numerous to ever sell, so he felt no need to rake me over the coals for a latch pawl at a nine-time mark up. I wrote him a check for ten bucks and he graciously offered me a new spring for it and an old catalog of parts, which I was so happy to accept.

He also kept assuring me that part was often broken off, but I still have a hard time seeing how I didn't make a really dumb mistake that Tuesday afternoon. Now you all have to read this horribly long blog post instead of looking at a picture of me holding a printed book up. Bleh.

Claude was great. Gracious and patient and really willing to help me out. Because I also left my folder, holding my replacement-computer iPad and the comic I'd been working on since March, sitting in a patch of sun on his garage desk. I of course didn't realize this until safely navigating rush hour back to Seward. And for the third time, called Claude and clamored into that damn car and back into rush hour.

Also lost the ring clamps on that bar that connects the gear to the lever assembly as well, and mechanically-clever Ian improvised some for me. And figured out that damn spring and how to enact tension on the thing, which I'm sure I would still be wrangling with stupidly. 

"Same day service" is the damn truth. I'd still be grounded without Claude, which is good, because the back up plan I'd had for the book - Zak, also having graciously offered me to use his press to finish my plates if need be, called to let me know that his press had also gotten fucked up. He wished me luck with Maisie, now that I'd fixed it back up, and hoped everything would go well. I said, "Well, it kind of has to now..."

Day 13, Friday April 26th

The Day of No Fucking Crying

Got into the garage, after breakfasting in the Co-op again, around 9:30. Jogged and sorted paper to the new Ink Panthers episode, put them into the boxes from whence they came and labeled them. Finished around 11:30 - ran to shove some pasta into my mouth, having planned to print for as long as physically possible. Maisie was feeding without problems and the ink fountain was back in running order. Cranked some Arcade Fire and went to it.

The paper for the remaining odd plates - five of them, needing varying amounts of paper run through.

Ran the odds and was finished with half the book at roughly 1:30, 2. Plowed through onto the evens, or the back sides of these sheets, and did 4, 6, and 8 before I did something screwy to the feed side and started getting dog-earred sheets and interrupted feeding of sheets. Something was wrong with how I'd set the vaccuum settings, the buckle - something. Because it stopped feeding. And, in my attempt to fix it, around 4 or so, I'd thrown a sheet up into the ink rollers and it was pulped-up to shit. Quit for the minute, went to eat dinner, and came back at 5:15, ready to go again.

Still ran into the same feeding problem, but I was not going to stop. I'd already screwed up one perfectly good plate - and, considering I only have three extra blank ones left at this point, I wasn't going to quit in the middle of another one. Printed through the feeding problem, lost a couple sheets, dog-earred a bunch, but the ink/fountain balance was pretty goddamn beautiful. Also got image-quality loss from the accumulation of anti-offset powder on the rubber blanket from the previously printed sheets going through. But, at this point, I want books that are imperfect but exist, rather than the dream of a better-looking book. A really tough pill for my overwhelming perfectionist-streak to swallow, but...

You can't build a couch out of a blanket draped over a stack of dreams. And you don't have to check a dream with Canadian customs.

Printed 12, 14, 16, 18, before it hit 9:00 PM and a nine-hour run of printing. I seriously debated putting on plate 20, but I knew if I did I would have to commit to finishing it, no matter how badly things went. Or how long.

But my favorite Yo La Tengo record (and one of my favorites, period) Painful came on, and, taking the cue from the drowsy echo of "Big Day Coming," decided to put everything to bed.

I'm keeping that crumpled old Kinko's sleeve just for this, Sally.

A really gorgeous Minneapolis night. Nothing quite like it, especially with the products of a solid day's work covering all the flat surfaces.

A sheet that, having gotten stuck to the rubber blanket while I was crap-shooting the feed problem, that instead of flying up into the rollers or going flat-footed into the pile of good sheets, flew cleanly out back between the rubber blanket and plate cylinder like a paper airplane and straight into my open hand.

Tried to write this post last night around 11:30, but couldn't focus. Howl and I equally ready to conk out.

Until Monday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 11

Went south again after a pretty good day yesterday.

I hate it here in Fuck-Up City, population: this idiot.

Got other things done today, and one plate, and my recommended daily dose of wailing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 10

Bad night - couldn't get/remain asleep so overslept my goal of getting up early and cramming in two more hours of printing in the day. Another snowstorm on its way (and currently pouring down) and the abject terror that had my stomach in my shoes again didn't help either. Spent most of last night after work printing new plates. Met Alicia and her date for a minute at the studio while I did, too, and was definitely not prepared to have company. I.E., a stinking, bleary, scruffy mess.

First five plates of five-hundred were great this morning; ran into the same thing I had before. Troubleshot with Clint and figured out another stupid mistake I'd made. Fixed that and went fine again.

It is a fucking relief to know that I am wrong some days. This is definitely one of them.

Ran 11 plates in 5 hours. One to redo. Odd sides nearly finished.