m wood pen

i like to draw


this morning, when i was trolling the internet for some appropriate fonts for a fast-paced thespian-themed project for a fabulous client, i was suddenly tossed back into the past.

years ago, when i was still putting around in my little cottage industry, i was handed a prize assignment.  the signed contract compelled me to keep my work shrouded in secrecy.  feeling very 007, i was given orders, passed information to an anonymous fax number (homeland ‘burn’ cells come to mind, but this was back in the world before all of that fancy stuff), and gathered intel in order to carry out my mission.

the boys and men around me were agog with this plumb project, which i could only compare to how i would feel if the same work was to be done at the home of barbra streisand or doris day or carly simon…sorry, the client just wasn’t on my list of demigods…but based on the shaking anticipation and excitement displayed by my grade school son and his pals (who promised to keep the secret…which i believe they all have), i knew that, sort of, this was a big deal.

so what was it that i was hired to do?

hand paint a logo, et al, on the center court of michael jordan’s home basketball court.

see what i mean?

so, this font business this morning reminded me: michael needed to pick the font that i was going to festoon his backyard playground with.  easy, right?

as i learned in graduate school, studying the faceted world of design and architecture, you need to assess the needs of your client, as well as try to punctuate their personality and anticipate their taste.

again, working sorta with a blindfold on, as i wasn’t really a fan.

but, watching a few bits of sports on the television as my research, i collected about a dozen “J”‘s that i thought might fit the bill, and sent along the fax to the said top secret facsimile number.

miraculously, not long after my machine finished squawking that tell-all ear-splitting siren signal, the phone rang and a receipt fax was humming through.  the keepsake?  here somewhere in a ‘safe place’, was one big J that was circled.

that part finished, the next was to approach the actual painting thing.  panic struck: how on earth would i do this?

growing up with chores, lots of handy country work thrown at us weekly, on top of that design degree, gave me a macgiver-sort of ability to figure this out.  some geometry ghosts floated back to me and i remembered how to draw a circle from the radius.  grabbing a big long piece of twine, i tied a pencil to it and voila: scientifically had my tool to layout the work to be.  then called my dad and asked him what kind of paint he used to, annually, touch up the white lines of our tennis court.


driving a bit east to the former manse of the basketball star, his wife and their three children, i pulled up to an enormous set of wrought iron gates, fashioned, yes, with a ginormous 23 in a basketball-worthy font. i knew at least that much, number-wise, that i’d found the right place.

pulling in, i wandered over to the outdoor basketball court and was greeted by a lovely, friendly gal named juanita. yes, we know who that is.  she finalized the up to then up in the air conundrum of what exactly was to be painted on the court, and where. earlier, talk had suggested that each child’s name would be painted at the corners, but that would leave one corner empty: a pickle!

the mrs. told me that they’d decided to have the boys names painted in arcs, flanking the great big J. cool. easy. i did my best bluff, showed absolute confidence, confirmed the spelling of the fellows, and sent her back to their mediterranean-styled, all white, cubist house.

why did i notice the house?  well, architecture student, but also sent with begging pleas from son, his pals, and my then brother-in-law, to mentally record everything about this mecca, to report back once i returned.  my memory enabled me to sketch, once home, a pretty fine facsimile of the spread, including the plethora of cars standing at attention in half a dozen individual garages, steps from the playground fit for a public school population.

but enough gawking, i had a project to do, and knowing that my client, indeed, could see what i was doing (i spotted him driving home in a black suv), i wanted to appear knowledgable and professional!

1. find center court (wish i’d watched more basketball as a child)

2. take out home-made compass and draw circles within circles

3. pencil trace, by hand, each boys name

4. draw that big J

5. paint

6. deep breath, steady hand

7. pack up my goodies and drive away

and that was that.  the applause, rather than heard from the attendants hand-washing the priceless motor imports, or from the client, his wife, or the minions tending the vast gardens, came from my gaggle of little children who thronged my car as i pulled back into the driveway, returning, clearly, a mega-star among them.

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