Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Back, ohhhh, something like 23 years ago, I was doing graphic design the old-fashioned way – paste-up and layout – using a statcam, waxing strips of type and cutting things with X-acto blades for a little-known TV guide magazine in Portland, Oregon. I'd already done that kind of work for a few years, so usually finished my jobs quickly and had plenty of time to annoy my BFF, Nancy, whose layout table was directly behind mine. She also had a much more complicated job and was overworked to say the least, so it was rare for her to have idle hands, and rarer still an idle mouth – like mine.
Nancy had a strange attraction to Catholic iconography back then (still does, actually), and often drug me along to a hole-in-the-wall shop, deep in Southeast Portland, to buy little trinkets, medallions and prayer candles. I got a kick out of seeing how she displayed everything later – windowsill alters with tiny plastic nuns holding rubber pigs; prayer beads draped across picture frames; a crucifix magnet holding a Sex Pistols postcard to the fridge . . . her creativity knew no bounds.
So it wasn't too much of a stretch to find something, not only to amuse myself, but potentially get a giggle out of Nancy while I sat twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my boards to be proofread late one afternoon. I had been shooting a bright red paperclip across the room with a rubber band. I know, it sounds like something a 12 year old would do, but I never claimed to be mature – especially back then! My coworkers, including Nancy, were starting to get pretty annoyed with me.
I'm not sure who actually said it, but someone had a little slip of the tongue when throwing the paperclip back at me (with gusto), "Here's your stupid papel clip!"
Well that was all I needed.
"Papel clip!? Haa haa!! The Pope on a paperclip . . . I love it . . . a papalclip!! I'm makin' one!"
"Whatever keeps you quiet!" Nancy grumbled from behind her mounds of type.
I'm digging in my purse for a thin-line drawing pen, putting a new blade in my X-acto knife, scrounging through the wastebasket for the right weight of paper . . . and being anything but quiet.
"Hey, what do Popes wear anyway!? Purple? Red? White? They wear those funny hats don't they?"
"SHUT UP!!" It was a choir of voices.
"Sheesh. OK. Fine. I just can't picture what a pope looks like. I was raised baptist, not catholic," mutter mutter.
Now remember, 23 years ago you couldn't instantly google "pope photo" and scroll through thousands of images, so I just started sketching a tiny guy in a long white robe. It was primitive to say the least, but when I'd finished, I thought it aptly conveyed the joke. I carefully cut him out and taped him to the red paperclip.
When Nancy got up to go check on something in the other room, I ran over to her desk and clipped the top bundle of papers together with a little note: "papalclip." It was nearly time to go home.
"Hmm heh heh heh. Papalclip. It's perfect." Nancy quietly chortled.
"It's yours! You get the first ever papalclip!! I'm gonna make more!"
And I did. And I even sold a bunch in a local hipster gift shop. And a year or two later, I filed them away and forgot about them.
Love you Gweeb. Thanks for being so patient with me ;-)