Live From the Moon! (Part 1)

[First of a two-part post.]

Studio1050_CITD 1Had it not been for a class assignment—the final project, in fact, of Lakewood Community College’s Communications Technology program—it wouldn’t have occurred to me at all.

You see, most of my classmates were designing and printing letterheads, envelopes, and business cards—the sort of things Ray Bohn, our program instructor, had suggested they create for a final project.

I’d gotten it into my head to write, edit, design and print … an encyclopedia.

Not any old encyclopedia, mind you—The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities.


On Dec. 26, 1980, in an 8¼ x 6-7/8 narrow-ruled notebook labeled “The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities,” I’d written: “She’s the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry, still you don’t regret a single day…”

Out at the farm in Minnetrista, I celebrated the holidays with the Family Project. Apparently I’d just seen my high school girlfriend Kim and wrote: “Tonight, these words rang with a pain, simple and clear and beautifully. ‘She loves(ed) you, yeah, yeah, yeah…’ John, Paul, George and Ringo. I left something, no…I stomped callously on something I left behind a long time ago. Please, take me to the Green House…

Three weeks before that entry I was living in White Bear Lake and renting the back bedroom of a house owned by a widow named Mrs. Weisbrod.

I went to bed before midnight on Monday, Dec. 8. I always listened to the radio then—usually classical music to lull me to sleep. While flipping over to KSJN’s “Music Through the Night,” I heard a news flash: “John Lennon has been shot in New York City…”

An update confirmed that Lennon was dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

Then they played “A Day in the Life.”

I rolled over in bed, sobbing.


I’d just turned 21.

The day after the news about Lennon, I took the final exam for my Lithography class at 10:15 a.m. Two days later fall quarter ended, and I was home for the holidays.

Winter 1980 turned into early spring ’81. The Encyclopedia notebook also served as an ersatz journal. On Thursday, March 26: “With nothing to say, and no one to say it to… if I’m not home, I’m at school, if I’m not at school, I may be at home. I am a yo-yo doing nothing in particular…”

The final project deadline was looming at the end of spring quarter. But somehow I’d decided that I wanted to teach English in Norway over the summer, so I applied for scholarships through the Sons of Norway. On Tuesday, April 7, I wrote: “Land a job, complete text for the Encyclopedia, do as much as possible concerning Norway, and conservatively buy groceries to last a week and a half.”

Text for this “Encyclopedia”? Well, what was it going to be? Topics flooded out:

Ad Se Ipsum
Amateur Night
Definition of Atrocity
Gallows Humor
Ginger Bread Man
History of Art
History of Nails
Mister RightEncylcoToo2
Tip of the Iceberg
Visitation Rights…

Ideally The Encyclopedia would include at least one letter of the alphabet. But that devolved into whatever topic interested me, mostly from books, magazines, newspapers, TV and movies, and listening to music. Drafts were penned in the notebook, images unearthed, and illustrated drop caps completed the design.

By May 1981, I’d finished writing. After typesetting on the college’s massive Compugraphic typesetter, strips of formatted type rolled out, were waxed and keylined to my layout boards.

Ray Bohn probably walked by, scratching his head.

In my notebook for Monday, May 18: “Corrections to be made for typeset copy…final typesetting!” I was imagining a second edition, even before a first edition had even landed on one of the Lakewood College’s AB Dick presses.


My Lakewood artist cohorts, Pat Ciernia, Mark Luebker, and Greg Johnson, were forging ahead with “Studio 1050…”—Luebker and Johnson’s apartment atop a record store in Stillwater, Minn.—by writing and illustrating comics. And throwing amazing parties.

The Logue, our college newspaper, the student senate, and members of “Studio 1050…” often went to Jethro’s Pub and Char-House after school to blow off steam. Spring quarter was ending. We were taking final exams and wrapping up class projects.

JethrosOur poisons of choice were pitchers of cheap beer, bottles of Michelob, or—fast favorites—margaritas and Tequila Sunrises. While I didn’t own a car, I usually caught a ride with someone heading out toward Mahtomedi. Belching up Razorback burgers with bacon and cheese, and boozed to the gills, we probably packed into somebody’s Toyota.

However, that May Lakewood provided me with a part-time internship keylining ads for the West St. Paul Voice newspaper. I commuted to the gig in the old family car, the Dartillac, since Mom had just bought a used Audi. My calendar notebook shows a 2:00 p.m. start time, alternating weeks on Wednesday and Thursday, then Monday and Tuesday through May 1981.

Meanwhile I was finishing darkroom work on The Encyclopedia (halftones, keylined layout negatives that I needed to litho-strip for burning to plate) and scheduling press time for the week of May 25th.

So what exactly was going in this encyclopedia?

Well, one of the entries was titled “Gizmo.” I described it in the notebook: “A young suburban family’s tragedy. A television set, blaring away. ‘I just want to say how very sad it is…’”

Tragedy. Atrocities were mounting.

And John Lennon was dead.


~ by completelyinthedark on October 3, 2014.

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