Archive for May, 2012

William Busta’s gallery was on Murray Hill Road in Cleveland’s Little Italy, so I know it was way back in the nineties when I walked in one day to check out his book show. It was there that I learned how to make this simple book out of a single sheet of paper. You print or photocopy on one side of a single sheet, then fold and cut just so until you get a little book.

That form has been a favorite of mine for years, mostly because of its simplicity. But I also like the economy of it, and how gracefully the modest format presents a simple idea: a short poem, or even a single sentence broken into phrases.

So when I learned to set type and started printing on the Vandercooks at Zygote Press, it wasn’t long before I went back to the little, single sheet structure to make little books.


I’ve refined the process quite a bit, and in June I’m offering a two-day class at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Education Foundation. Over the course of two days, each member of the class will work hands-on with type and printing blocks to make an edition of his or her own little book.

If you’ve used a letterpress machine before, you know that setting up type for a project like this would be a significant challenge, probably involving lots of trial and error. Each block of text has to be aligned to print in the right place on your sheet, so that once it’s folded and cut, everything is positioned properly on your pages.

I’ve created a “chase” to make this process a snap, and that idea is the central feature of this class: making your book project easy.

A “chase” is a metal frame used to lock type or printing blocks in place on a press. I’ve made a couple of these out of wood. They look like divided windows, and the spaces are measured precisely to lay out your words and pictures so that they print exactly in the right place to make one of these little books.

Do you have a favorite poem? A beautiful sentence you’d like to pass on to your friends? This is an elegant way to package a simple thought that anyone can carry in their pocket. The next little book I make in this format is going to echo the sentiment of this blog: A bicycle . . .  is a gyroscope . . . . that takes you places.

The class is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10 at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory & Educational Foundation, 1754 E. 47th Street, Cleveland, OH 44103. For information, call them at 216-361-9255. Or just sign up online by going to their website. I hope to see you!


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Life, death, and resurrection, expressed in red clay

“What’reyougonnado with all those bricks,” said the truck driver as I pulled my Honda up to the fence. It was 6:30 a.m. and very quiet outside what was left of the Detroit Theater in Lakewood. Demolition was almost complete. With permission from a guy on the crew, I was there to take another load of the red clay blocks back to my house.

“I’m gonna put them in the rut next to my driveway,” I told him, which is true. “I’ve got one of these skinny little Lakewood driveways, and my mother in law drives an F-150,” I said.

Because that’s also true, and I knew the truck driver would like that. He’d think it was funny, blaming the rut on my mother-in-law, and the fact that she drives a big Ford pick-up.

“Gotcha,” he said, tilting his head and smiling, nodding in that exaggerated way that’s supposed to tell me that he knows exactly what I’m talking about because  he’s got a mother in law, too. Well, I didn’t say anything, but my mother-in-law could take his mother-in law any day of the week.

But his whole demeanor changed when I told him about the rut next to my driveway. I could tell that it mattered to him that  I had a practical use for the bricks–not some froo-froo nostalgic attachment to the way the city used to be. This guy I was talking to, he was no pussy with the historic  streetcar bullcrap.

“I don’t get it,” he went on, “there’s these people here all day watching this come down like they don’t have anything else to do. I know it’s sad, and a lot of people went to the theater,  but it’s progress, man. And you know when there’s a McDonalds here they’ll be waiting in the drive through for a big mac.”

“Yeah, that’s true for some of them,” I said. “No matter how many of us talk about how we hate McDonalds, a whole bunch of us line up to buy their crappy food.”

“Well I just gotta swap out this dumpster and get out of here,” he said. “Remember to close the gate when you’re done. They get sticky about that.”

So I watched his hydraulic truck slide the 40 cubic yard dumpster up onto the bed like those tons of demolished theater debris were nothing, and then he drove away, leaving me to pick out a few dozen bricks to lay in my driveway rut.

I’m not posting pictures of the demolition. Most of the people reading this have probably seen it in person, or they’ve seen Jim O’Bryan’s copious photos and video put up on the Lakewood Observer. Or they’ve seen Colin McEwen’s reports and video on Patch. 

But grabbing those old bricks to use them again did make me think of this, which I wrote years ago. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Detroit, actually. It was inspired by a story my friend Paul told about a guy on the east side cleaning bricks to recycle them. Still, it seems to fit.  I hope you like poetry.

I had a practical use for the bricks, but I went back later to grab this ornate piece of streetcar-era, glazed white terra-cotta, just because it is beautiful, and because I am kind of a pussy for that historic preservation bullcrap.

Used bricks: Red clay 

pieces of the broken city:

cold blocks of high fired earth

quarried, cut, baked, and laid

and tumbled back down:

match sticks to ashes, bricks to dust. 

But first, A man with a hammer

sits in the brick yard

tapping them clean for another go.

Used bricks: intersection of ambition

and industrial decay:

life, death, and ressurection

expressed in red clay.

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The Detroit Avenue Demolition Derby is on. Have we ever seen so many buildings knocked down in such short order on the city’s main commercial street?

First the church at Detroit and Arthur . . . then this neglected commercial building at Detroit and Edwards. Soon we’ll see the old Detroit Theater come tumbling down.

These three buildings are a snapshot of the way business sees Lakewood’s commercial corridor. It’s a place to invest, to be sure. There’s money to be made here. We’ve got a lot of people packed in close together–about 10,000 per square mile.

But the businesses that can afford to build new buildings here seem to be national chains, especially drug stores and fast food. And that means except for low wage retail jobs, the money made in these establishments leaves the city. I’d love to see buildings inhabited by my neighbors’ enterprises, but I fear that large corporations have priced us out of our own market.

What business comes next to Detroit at Edwards remains to be seen. At least the CVS that replaced the church steeple just a few blocks away at Detroit and Arthur offers some hope that the Architectural Board of Review will maintain the aesthetic of the city. But the style of the building is only part of the picture.

The other, even more significant issue, is what kind of business will it be? Is there an investor who believes that Lakewood is a good place to sell something other than fast food and prescription drugs?

We’ll have to wait to find out. According to the city, no development plans have been submitted for the corner of Edwards and Detroit. The building was demolished for safety reasons, to ensure that no chunks of masonry fell on passers by.

We’re assured that the lot will be graded and planted with grass until some viable use is found.  That will be nice.

I’m rooting for the owner in his quest to find something complementary to the neighborhood. When it comes to development on my block, there’s just one thing I want more than interested parties to make money on thriving businesses: I want their businesses to respect the fact that they’re built just a few dozen feet from a whole lot of private homes.

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