Many years ago, before I discovered a classier way to earn some extra Christmas money, I painted signs and Santa Clauses on store windows. It was seasonal of course, and on the first of December, your hands froze on the glass windows, but lots of people stopped and passed the time of day with me, and you’ll have to admit, it was easy and fun.
One morning a woman stood watching me and then said she was writing a children’s book and wondered if I was interested in illustrating it. Wow! would I!
The story was about a little Eskimo boy named Nootka of the North. (Not too original,but it could always be changed.)
Her parents had been missionaries in Barrow, Alaska, and she brought old photo albums of their life to our house that evening. It looked like the main excitement of their village was being tossed high into the air off a sealskin blanket, or perhaps a share in a little seal meat if the hunters got lucky.
I returned the albums to her a few days later after making a few drawings I thought she might like. She lived on a boat in the Redwood City marina, which was just across the bridge. When I found her small boat, nearly hidden among larger and more posh ones, she called out to “come aboard”!
As soon as I stepped into the small cabin, a loud voice shouted “Fuck you! Go home!” There in the middle of the cabin sat a very large cage containing the largest and ugliest parrot I had ever seen. She told me she had bought him from a bartender in Anchorage, Alaska, and since she lived alone, he was her “watch bird”. It made a lot of sense, but I asked her if she would kindly cover him with a blanket while I was there, since he so obviously did not like me.
I made another couple of visits to her when the book got going, and we were both filled with hope that she could sell it to a publisher.
Time went by, and it became apparent that the book was going nowhere, so I thanked her very much for the opportunity. The only payment I got was a few glasses of cheap wine, and the chance to be abused by a very loathsome parrot. But hey, it’s a great memory!