If, upon leafing through this month’s edition of The Syncopated Times, you notice a few differences from how the paper has appeared in previous issues, there’s a reason for that.
From the time I took over The American Rag from Publisher Don Jones in 2016, I continued to use the same printer in Fresno, California. I was still blundering my way around with layout and other arcana of periodical publishing, having no idea how to proceed but persevering nonetheless.
Shoveling my way through a blizzard of postal forms and regulations, struggling to meet the requirements of the four-color web press, grappling with subscriptions and invoices, reinventing the (square) wheel through open source (i.e., free) word processing and desktop publishing programs, I had a precipitous learning curve. It could hardly be called a curve. I needed a Sherpa, though none here were willing to climb that rock face, either.
My personal Everest was made somewhat navigable with the invaluable aid of my Fresno printer, Terry Willems, and his staff. If the paper looked acceptable in those early months of publication, Terry and Jennifer Turk and the rest of the Willems crew deserve the credit. I was learning my craft on the job as the boss, which is the severest form of education. I had no option but to work for myself, even knowing myself as well as I do. My associate editor sees me clearly as Captain Queeg; I have to suspend that obvious knowledge from myself as I head out to batter my journalistic vessel on the next reef.
Despite myself, I have improved at this. My gratitude for the professional expertise of Willems Commercial Printing remains boundless; I would instantly recommend them to anyone needing a print job—in the area. Having gained (perhaps unfounded) confidence in my own abilities as the Pooh-Bah of The Syncopated Times, I have decided to spread my wings and fly homeward.
It has always felt exotic to lay out this paper and have it printed across the country from my Office of Publication. Fresno! What images that name evokes! If I may be candid, I have scarcely been west of the Mississippi—maybe by a few miles. Fresno might as well be Shangri-La. When my wife ultimately forces me into the car to tour The West, I may have to see Fresno. That is the womb whence The Syncopated Times sprung.
My wife has also suggested that, as a businessman, I am practically allergic to making money. So as I was getting an excellent product sent to me from Fresno every month, I hemorrhaged cash. The distance (2800 miles) was problematic, especially in terms of getting boxes of papers shipped here. My UPS fees have been staggering, but thanks to electronic invoicing I could have those bills paid in a couple of mouse clicks. It was easy! Having to take a pen in my gnarled hand to scrawl a figure on a check would have made me more conscious of my squander.
And there were problems of communication, which the distance exacerbated. One month, a check mailed to the Fresno post office never arrived, and I did not have the funds in my USPS account to send out my subscriber copies in a timely manner. I was not permitted to pay into my account by debit card or PayPal—only by another check mailed to the post office. The new check took a full week to arrive before that issue could be mailed out.
In late February, as we waited for our March issue to make the trek eastward over the Rocky Mountains, we began to seriously consider looking for a local print shop. Joe, my associate editor, had worked at a printing plant some years ago, and mentioned the name of the place. It turned out they had gone out of business. But, said the contact person who maintained the defunct business’ email address, why don’t you try the Rome Sentinel?
And so it has come to pass, after we made inquiries and stated what we needed to have done, that this issue of The Syncopated Times is being printed and mailed from Rome, New York. The Sentinel has been owned by the same family since the Civil War, and after the closure of another local printing plant, they took on contract printing for other publications. Initially, we thought we might try printing and mailing on both coasts; that would have entailed two separate editions of this paper, with color on different pages for each. (It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my monthly rants that I just barely manage to get one layout done per month. Sisyphus wishes he were twins.)
Ultimately, and thankfully, we opted to go full East-Coastal for printing and mailing. Rome is ten miles from my house as opposed to 2800; if a check does not arrive at the Rome post office, I can take one there in person within a half-hour; I can watch UPS stock prices decline as I pick up my extra papers directly from the Sentinel office soon after they are printed, and mail them to Canada and overseas the same day.
Above all, I delight in supporting a long-established local business that is willing to take a blockhead publisher and dilettante editor and explain things patiently and thoroughly to him. I couldn’t be happier, knowing that the printing of The Syncopated Times is in the best possible hands.
Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again.