This summer is still bookmarked in the annals of Ralphie, the intrepid. It was during one of my infrequent wilder periods, when I was into sex and booze and rock-and-roll. Of course, Ralphie was a bit younger then, than he is today. I was involved with this honey called Nadine. My attraction to her was not based exclusively on her lively personality, if you catch my drift. I was quite fit then, due to lots of exercise of the reclining variety. Mmmm…. Ralphie! Snap out of it! We turned many a head, when we strolled down Main Street hand in hand, she in her tight-fitting mini skirt and yours truly dressed to the nines. There seemed to be an epidemic of drooling males and envious females around that time, I do declare!
Around the same time, I had become involved with a colourful character called Joe, who used to sell articles on our weekly market of the, what I shall charitably call, artistic variety. This man was a true salesperson, born and bred, who could sell snow to the Inuit. Every week he would have the same kind of paintings for sale, namely of the four seasons. They were the kind that looked as if they had just rolled off some production line, but that had actually been painted by some human being, who’d had to forsake art for its own sake, to make a crust.
One day I was listening to his sales pitch and almost cracked some ribs from holding in the laughter, but he sold! You see, for some reason, he only had three of the required four seasons, but he laconically stated that it had not snowed that winter and therefore number four was missing. The buyers nodded their wise heads in mournful understanding and even remarked that indeed they remembered that particular winter. It’s indeed easy to part a fool and his money. I insisted on buying him a drink, to celebrate this feat of salesmanship afterwards.
I almost fell over backwards, when he showed me some of his own work. He was an excellent draughtsman with pen and ink and had sold a lot of his work , prior to becoming a “marketeer”. He’d even contrived to receive a subsidy from the municipality for an almanac, which sported all the local historical monuments and buildings. He knew that I was a fellow artist and asked if I would consider working with him, to supplement our income. I was unemployed at the time and therefore immediately accepted. No need to tell the unemployment office of our added income though! This money would come in handy to treat our respective women folk in the style to which they had trained us of treating them. As pure coincidence would have it, both ladies worked in an institution(for the mentally challenged or some such cute thing), where we could both fit in nicely, but only visited to pick up our sweethearts.
I’d never really worked with this technique before, but after a demonstration from Joe, I quickly took to it and even outdid my teacher after a short while. This was fortunate because this way Joe could concentrate on the selling and myself on the production, which I did, ensconced in his makeshift studio in the kitchen of his apartment. He very sensibly made sure that the fridge was never lacking in beer. The method was simple: he would take a Polaroid picture of the façade of a restaurant or café, make a coloured enlargement and then I would first draw it in pencil and then complete it in pen and ink. After that we went back to the copier to make miniatures to use as business cards, menus and the like. It worked like a charm, but for one thing: Joe told everyone that their pen drawing would be included in the next municipal calendar, but he had neglected to inform the mayor and his deputies of this, as you do. Probably just an oversight! We did have to leave town in a hurry about a year later though.
We had us some magnificable times that summer, with impromptu barbecues and the partays all over the place. As ever though, all good things must come to an end. My turn came with a visit from the Inland Revenue, around the same time that Nadine had left me for another woman. Now, that was a first for me! Ralphie moved on to greener pastures in another part of the country and was never seen or heard of again in our town. I do have itchy feet!