Back from Avalon

Kate, Lydia, and I are back in West Chester after a week on 15th Street in Avalon, New Jersey. Our friends Jonathan and Francine had the house next door with their two daughters, who Lydia describes as HER BEST FRIENDS IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

We had a wonderful, restful week. Highlights: trips to Storybook Land, where we saw an outdoor North Pole actually made of ice, and some ILLEGAL HIGH-PERFORMANCE SURREY RACING:

One Gear. No Mercy. AVALON DRIFT
One Gear. No Mercy. AVALON DRIFT

Surrey Racing Team
Kate’s brother Matt and I were TOTALLY in the lead with the yellow surrey. So far, in fact, that we decided to get out, stretch elaborately, and take a nap by the side of the road, at which point the mommies pedaling the girls came up from behind totally unexpectedly and passed us. Man, were we surprised and angry about that! I think Matt may even have taken off his captain’s hat and beat me with it, before we climbed back into the yellow surrey and pedaled as fast as we could to catch up.

Except that for some reason, our pedals kept reversing, leaving us puffing and blowing as our frantic efforts got us nowhere. Man, I tell you what, I absolutely do not understand how we lost that race to the mommies. It just defies explanation.

I’ve only got a little bit of the post-vacation blues to deal with. We had a really nice time.

Back from Avalon

The Guerilla Drive-In on the CBS Evening News

Jack Renaud, the producer for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, called me this afternoon to let me know that the piece he put together on Guerilla Drive-Ins was probably going to air tonight. That was really nice of him; I didn’t know that Big Powerful TV News Producers did that. I suspect they usually don’t, and that Jack is just particularly friendly. Anyhow, thanks to him, I was able to get the word out, and TiVo the story! Here it is:

Hurrah, we’re all rich and famous now!

The Guerilla Drive-In on the CBS Evening News

How Kate’s Iron Hill bags are turning out: AWESOME

You might remember that when we wandered into Iron Hill a few days ago to watch Larry and Jean pour barley into the enormous copper “Mash tun”, Kate spotted a big pile of woven plastic grain sacks used to bring specialty grains over: “Munich Malt, Type 1”, they say in bold, no-nonsense sans-serif fonts. “Brau-,Röst- und Caramelmalzfabrik, gegründet 1879”. In some cases, these bags are marked with numbers identifying the farm the barley came from.

Kate wanted to try cutting up the strong plastic and stitching it into a bag. Which she did. And I think it turned out GREAT:

Barley sack! Kate with Muntons Bag

I think this idea has legs — the bags are strong, the graphics are big, bold, and interesting, and the whole thing is locally sourced. The material is number five plastic. Jean and Larry would have recycled them, but now they get to be bags, and THEN get recycled. Plus, THEY SMELL REALLY GOOD, believe it or not, with a kind of a grain-y smell from the malted barley they held.

So what’s the next step? Why, a WEB STORE, of course! Kate came up with the name “Last Call Bags“, which will be a web store with a big, beautiful picture and a “buy now” button.

And where do you go in West Chester when you need a big, beautiful picture? To Harold Ross, who uses a “painting with light” technique that is just the thing for capturing the wrinkly texture of a grain sack. Harold sets up the shot, then plunges his whole studio into darkness, then opens a shutter and waves a fiber-optic wand over the subject while a metronome goes “BEEP BEEP BEEP” in the background, allowing him to count how much light he’s putting where.

Composition Harold Composing the Image

Harold takes a bunch of different exposures — some straightforward, some with hard side light to bring out texture, some with just the background illuminated so he can “punch” the subject off the background later without nine hours of bezier-tool craziness — then he assembles them all on a Cintiq tablet, sandwiching all the exposures and “painting” masks to bring one layer up and another down. Making edges crisper here, and smoother there, and generally polishing the image until it looks hyper-real, but not quite like CG.

Here’s how the photo of the bags turned out!

Photo (before cropping)

Kate’s friend Ericka is on board, and they now have a formidable pile of awesome bags from cool corners of the beer-brewing world. In addition to the great big Weyermann logo, my favorites are “Thos. Fawcett & Sons Ltd: MALTSTERS”, and the big stamped word “CHOCOLATE MALT”. Kate and Ericka are prototyping the bags. I want to pester them for a motorcycle-helmet bag and some BMW hard-case liners, but I think I should leave them alone to perfect the tote bag first.

UPDATE: The store is now open, hurrah! You can buy a bag for $12.00 at!

How Kate’s Iron Hill bags are turning out: AWESOME