It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

An envelope from the bank arrived in yesterday’s mail.

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Photo Collage by Ellen Shapiro

Inside that envelope, three checks I’d deposited more than a week ago, plus slips stating that my account was debited $12 for “each deposited item returned unpaid.”

Oh, no. What did I do wrong?

Nothing. I did nothing wrong. My longest-running client stopped payment. Unbelievable. I’d already been notified that they’d filed for bankruptcy protection on March 10 and that payments for past due balances would be determined by the settlement, which could mean 10 cents on the dollar. They owe me nearly $5000. For some reason I assumed that the three checks totaling $1600 I’d already deposited were safe. Nope. There they were, returned, marked STOP PAYMENT.

How could they?

This morning I woke up from one of those super-realistic dreams: my baby-blue Olympia portable typewriter was stolen from a motel room where I’d been staying, a room that had been stripped of all its furnishings.

I haven’t seen that typewriter, or thought about it, in many years. It was the one I used in high school and college to bang out term papers and arts-and-culture stories for the Daily Bruin. I suppose it appeared in my dream because it symbolizes the end of another phase of my writing career. And the bare motel room? Perhaps it speaks to the impermanence of things I’d thought were permanent. The image was surely dredged up from the Law and Order Criminal Intent rerun in which the perps inject wealthy victims with drugs, strip their homes, and kill them.

The client company owns (or owned; they’re apparently up for sale to highest bidder) a number of printed and online magazine titles, including Writer’s Digest, HOW and Print, to which I’ve been contributing for more than 25 years.

My first article for Print magazine was in the May/June 1991 issue, under the legendary editor Marty Fox. It was about “the threat to design quality posed by so-called desktop publishers.” By 2003 I was listed on the masthead as a Contributing Editor, and my then-current article was “The Mystical Artists of Tzfat,” illustrated with black-and-white photographs of Israeli micro-calligraphers and their work, which I shot on Plus-X film.

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Photo collage by Ellen Shapiro. Background image by Bruno Glätsch/Pixabay,

Until it ceased publication in 2017, I’d written three dozen lengthy, footnoted articles for Print, and until last week, written, photographed and put together 116 posts — according to my Wordpress dashboard — on, with several more in the planning and draft stages. My “beat” was covering the design world: I photographed and reported on book fairs and signings in New York; design conferences in China and Brazil; museum exhibitions in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and Singapore. I discovered and wrote about cool 3-D public signage on Chicago bike racks; how a guy in the Mexican Caribbean designed and lives on a floating island made of soda bottles; the abstract printing press on display in SFO airport, and the Mandela Poster exhibitions in South Africa. When I didn’t discover something while traveling, I reported on trends and happenings via Skype and email conversations.

It’s all over now, baby blue.

Ahh, the baby-blue typewriter. Sometimes those crazy dreams do make sense. And now I have to put it all behind me and start looking for new gigs.

Boo-hoo, quit feeling sorry for yourself, one part of me keeps saying. The other part is really, really angry.

Wish me luck.

My career is designing and writing about design. Here, I can write about lots of things. My short fiction attempts to capture and evoke past moments in time.

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