The Alphabet Julen: C

Calico Fish Press

In 1993, the Calico Fish Press was founded in the basement of Hillyer Hall at Smith College. It was about 10:30 at night, and I was surrounded by some truly great women, a lot of type, and a lots of ink. I had to come up with a name for the press so I could set it and run the title pages for the book I was producing on those lovely big printing presses. I went for years without a press and so - as a result - the Calico Fish Press produced only digital ephemera for years.

A few years ago, I got a fantastic deal on a little Kelsey Exclesior, a lot of type, and all sorts of goodies from a hobbyist's type shop. I drove 5 hours to pick up that press, and another five tocome home, giddy. I've bought, sold, and donated a few other small Kelseys in that time, and I've also made myself a bottle jack press for small bits of ephemera. My last few jobs left me little time for printing or print-making sadly, and although I missed it, I ended up donating my type, ornaments, printers, furniture, and more to the Virginia Center for the Book where people could use it productively

Capen Annex

Some women went abroad for their junior year; I spent mine in Capen Annex. I didn't intend to spend both my junior and senior years as editor of the college paper, but there I was, learning all sorts of life lessons. Here are a few:


My home for two years, while I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carrboro was such an interesting place to live - a liberal oasis in the midst of a state who can rightfully claim they make the best BBQ in the country. (Oh, come at me. I'm not saying your BBQ is terrible, I'm just saying it is not as good as NC BBQ.) I spent a lot of time on the J and C buses, sharking for parking (a term I coined that totally failed to catch on) at the university, and working increasing amounts of time in Research Triangle Park.


Ours is a cat family, despite the fact that - so far - all my male Morbeck cousins married dog women. There is no greater honor than being inducted into the Morbeck Cat (now Pet) Hall of Fame. You can tell this by the politicking and bribing and trash-talking that goes on. Cats make everything better, except when they are peeing in your luggage, puking on the floor, or using you as a launching pad. I digress. The cats of my childhood - Hop on Pop, Sir Thomas Tuddenham (named in honor of one my ancestor's pals who got beheaded pretty much because of said ancestor), and Maximillian (overly fluffy grey cat) were succeeded by the legendary Griselda who lived to be 21. A better cat this family has never seen.

More recently, our indoor cats have included the tenacious Fancy Pants (who used to live with my brother and sister-in-law before they moved to an island idyll), and the estimable Hedy, who was totally named in honor of Hedy Lamar. Last summer, after a few catless months, we found Symbol and Alphabet at the SPCA - that's Bella and Aly to their friends, and if you have treats, you are their friend.

Then there's Nero, our semi-feral outdoors gadabout, born under the shed 15 years ago, and almost certainly mooching off at least one other neighbor. Her mother, Agrippina, also shows up once in a blue moon. Agrippina tried to teach Nero to not trust humans, but it only sorta took. Nero shares the yard with Mongo and Hedley, who we think were dumped as kittens at a nearby abandoned house.

Paul Cezanne

Sometimes, you come across a piece of art that pings something deep within you. So much of Cezanne's work - more than any other artist - rings that bell for me. I respond deeply to his palette, his brushstrokes, his composition, how he builds the image. It makes sense to me, it inspires me, it is so often relevatory. There are other artists whom I adore, whose work delights me, whose abilities astound, but Cezanne has an unique effect on me. I tried to capture that (however superficially) in my long-gone youth with Connecting with Cezanne


What I really like about Charlotte is that there's a fountain on every block uptown in almost every possible configuration. It's just so nice to walk out on a Spring evening and hear the sounds of water. It was one of the few perks of the Project from Hell. Of course, the gerbil tubes that connect the northern part of downtown give it that cool and scary future-world sense of existing. And on the rare occasion of icing, it's delightful to not have to go outside. But really: the best thing about Charlotte are the people who live nearby.


I grew up outside of Charlottesville (see below) and worked at UVA from high school through college vacations. I found the web in those jobs, became involved in the initial efforts to digitally connect Charlottesville and began Charlottesville On-Line as a temporary stop-gap before the Monticello Avenue Virtual Village was founded. I ended up moving back to the area the first time I retire. So if you think you've seen me skulking around town ... yep, that was probably me.

When I was a teenager, we'd always head into Charlottesville for our entertainment (we had amazing parking karma at the late, lamented Vinegar Hill. We did not appreciate it enough); as an adult, most of my entertainment and social life happens outside town -- or over the mountain.


If I had to choose one kind of food to eat for the rest of my life, I'm pretty sure I'd choose cheese.


I have spent a goodly amount of time in Chicago, mostly for work, and I always like it. Central Time makes sense, and the Chicago sensibility resounds. It doesn't hurt that at it's a truly cosmopolitan town while still feeling homey - an impressive combination for a big city. Its chock-a-block with museums and food and all sorts of interesting corners and people. I like it all.

A Christmas Story

The best christmas movie. Ever. I've loved Jean Shepard ever since I was very small and visiting my grandparents; I could hear his voice booming out from my grandfather's radio as they slept; later, I'd spin the dial looking for him to pop up on whatever NYC radio station was temporarily employing him. Shep was a master storyteller who'd suck you in with his style and stories and his point of view. There's a wealth of his recordings online and in podcast form; his semi-autobiographical writings are wonderful.


I've never been much of one for beer, so it's a good thing I live in an area in the midst of a cider renaissance. I have standards. First of all, the country cider should not be pasteurized. It kills the living goodness, reduces the depth of flavor, and adds a distinct symphony of blandness. A good hand-pressed cider (and Henley's usually has the best) is something to long for during the warm(ing) months. As for the hard cider ... a good, crisp, gorgeous, well-made cider will ruin you for any of those national mass-produced brands. Trust me.

Colophon and Copyright

The hows and wherefores of the site, the exquisite details of ownership, and a bit of history. Plus I harp on the fact that it's mine, mine, mine.

A Confluence of Birds

I was driving home one day, and I saw something beautiful in the sky above me. So I wrote about it.

Cooking Club

For several years there, before life interrupted, we had a string of excellent Cooking Club meals. Part potluck, part contest, part fun times, our core group and assorted friends who come up with a host, a theme, an a lot of delicious food. Our themes ranged from color to shape to ingredient to cookbook author (Shoutout, Julia Child! I still regret not winning that one).


I grew up and now live in (or just outside, depending on who you talk to) a small Southern town built on the back of a whistlestop that served the orchards spreading out. Named for the engineer who tunneled through the mountains for the railroads, this small self-sufficient town chugged along just fine until about 20 years ago. That is when the county thought it should be the next growth area, the perfect bedroom community for Charlottesville. And yes, they thought the idea of a bedroom community was a positive.

Their master plan increases the population by tens of thousands without improving the road infrastructure, including a narrow bridge under the railroad that splits the town, windy 19th century roads, and a four way stop nobody who has moved here in the last 20 years can seem to master. Even with the bloat and the know-it-alls who move here, I still have a deep fondness for a town that has held onto itself even as the County wants to introduce new urbanism to a town that new urbanism tries to capture. It is the home of my new, bigger local library, the best ice cream in central Virginia, an awesome new Czech Bakery, and features so many of the perks of small town life, plus what was unthinkable when I was a kid: the ability to carry out Chinese food and have it still be warm when I get home.

Curious George

My favorite childhood book. I even had a Curious George doll; you could pull his string and a scratchy voice would say "I want to play!" and "Will you be my friend?" Like most children, I thrilled to George's adventures and mischevious ways. The books shaped my world view. Now that I'm an adult, I have learned that the books are the primo gift for kids around the age of three. I gave it to my little cousin for Christmas in 1997, and he literally abandoned the other toys, climbed up and over his father so he could have his face as close to the book as possible.


Words I Like

Browse the Alphabet