Several days later another voice mail from Will is waiting on my machine. Clearly unhinged by my bout of self-sabotaging phone calls, he is making it clear that I’ve pressed too hard. “Listen man,” he cautions, “tell your lady friend to stop tearing down my signs all over the place, because that shit’s not cool!” Shit man, I think as I listen, how does he know that I’ve got a lady friend? Does he know that I’ve got a mother and brother as well? Who the hell is this guy, and how long has he been watching me? Then his conspiratorial threads begin to unravel as he speaks of DPW operatives and the cartel of jealous dog walkers conspiring with my lady friend to purge the city of his entrepreneurial presence. A bit of an offbeat take on the ordering of the universe, I assure myself, but not really one that would inspire a vengeful rampage against everything that I’ve ever loved. So I do what now comes natural: I put in another call.
This time Will answers and I take the opportunity to jump right in and explain that he’s got me confused with someone else. Hell, I tell him, I don’t even know any professional dog walkers. Not in the mood for talk, Will cuts me off. “I’m done with this,” he says, “you can pick up your drawings at the Peet’s Coffee on Van Ness.” And with that it’s over. I’m shut out and cut off, and whatever Will wants to throw my way is what I get for my money. The man has my name, my phone number and my money. He also has a vehicle filled with dogs that may or may not be eager to meet me. Needless to say, this has gone badly. No doubt, Will is in charge, and has been from the outset. Any thoughts I’d entertained of cultivating patronage, of commissioning endless ‘outsider’ masterpieces of my own dictation have been instantly exposed as pure hubris. And to top it all off, I can now add decrepit vehicles boasting ominous ‘Beware of Dog’ signs propped on the dash to my ever-expanding register of indelible phobias.
But I feel like I should end this on a semi-positive note. As promised, Will has delivered the final portraits along with the original photos, and after collecting them midday from a thoroughly confounded employee at the specified Peet’s, Charles and I have spent an evening staring at them spread atop the bend in a neighborhood bar. Tracings. Nothing but tracings:
“Wow,” Charles says, “I mean . . . wow.” Then he buys a round for my troubles.
For further reading and great posters from this infamous artist: