Why Draw Pictures?
Only two people have ever gotten angry when I drew their pictures: a Moroccan religious fundamentalist and a New York City cop.
I was 19 when I sat sketching in Fez’s Old City. I came to Morocco with a hallucinogen-chomping writer and an orientalist streak as deep as Fez’s open sewers. I abandoned both by the end of the trip. Besides motorbikes and street harassment, Fez’s main sounds were those of tour groups clomping toward their guide’s carpet shop. I didn’t want to be like them.
Tour groups took photos. They’d jam cameras into someone’s face. Before their subject could respond, they’d run off, happy to have proof that they’d stood somewhere quaint.
I’d curl up on filthy steps with my sketch pad. Street kids watched. Drawing was a monkey dance to prove that despite my dopey American face, there was still a skill I could rock. I’d draw the street kids. They’d scamper away with my sketches.
The man who didn’t like my drawings had the long gray beard of the religiously devout. One morning he ripped my drawing from my hands and shredded it with a satisfied grunt. Dopey-American-style, I burst into tears.
A decade later, I sat next to journalist Matt Taibbi in a New York misdemeanor court, watching a judge pressure brown men into plea bargains for walking their bikes on the sidewalk. I drew the cop who was guarding the courtroom. He looked as pink and shiny as a boil. The cop stormed over. “What are you doing?” he hissed.
"Drawing. It’s allowed."