Are you tired of the word love? Worn down by all the mawkish purposes that lay claim to it? Does Valentine’s Day give you a headache that lasts until Guy Fawkes Day? All those simpering red hearts (e.g. I heart New York)! Do they set you to chanting: “Remember, remember the fifth of November/ Gunpowder, treason and plot.” Do you refuse to buy any postage stamp with the L-word on it? Does the greeting card rack in your local Rite Aid give you a runny nose?
The only thing worse than a red heart is one with a white dove on it. It would take an acid bath to dissolve the treacle that clings to the loathly thing. Stamps, though, are the least of it. Syrup is everywhere. If you are allergic to all things gooey and vapid, it is especially painful to shop for cards. Or has been until now.
Meet Zeichen Press. Two women, thousands of pounds of letterpress equipment and a gorgeous old Heidelberg are the marrow of this graphically lovely, oddball stationery. The tactile quality of centuries-old letterpress is seductive all by itself. Add the mordant sensibilities of the printers and you have . . . . I am not sure how to express it. What effect might crystal meth have on talented, sweet-tempered women with the grit to keep business and family running at the same time? The answer is somewhere in their inventory.
One of them—which?—channels Raymond Chandler. The hard-boiled spirit of Philip Marlowe chaperones the one-liners. Zeichen knows what we hate to admit: even our best beloveds are not always likable. Neither are we. Next Valentine’s Day, scrap the hearts and roses. Send something bloody-minded for a change:
Do you get bored at long dinners with nice people who keep conversation away from troublesome topics—anything that is really worth the talk? Write your bread-and-butter note on this:
Zeichen keeps a wicked eye on our private Achilles’ heels. It recognizes just how petty our prayers can be. God, how we ache to be noticed:
Our friends are good to us. They hold our hands, give us counsel, feed the cat when we are away, and listen to our gripes. The list is long. Every so often a grateful word is due. But nothing soppy, please:
Then there is that candied American invention, Mother’s Day. This is probably not what Anna Jarvis had in mind back in 1908:
Guilt is good. Irish Catholics know better than anybody that there can never be enough of it. A fallen world needs all it can get. The trick is to induce it under the radar so that no one sees it coming:
In case you are wondering, no, I do not know either of the women who created Zeichen Press. They are somewhere in Minnesota. I have never been out that way and probably never will be. But if you ever get a card from me, it will very likely be from Zeichen.