In the late '70s I was, for reasons I still don't understand, invited to participate in a book project with the tennis legend, Billie Jean King, and the equally legendary cartoonist/philosopher, Charles M Schulz. The book would be called Tennis Love and Mr. Schulz would contribute 50 original Snoopy illustrations.
For the next year or so, I met regularly with Billie Jean and periodically with Mr. Schulz and we ended up with a manuscript and over four dozen brilliant drawings of Snoopy. (At our first meeting, Mr. Schulz, who was and is one of the nicest people I have ever met, told me to call him by his nickname, "Sparky.")
One fall morning, an eternity after the manuscript and artwork had been shipped off to MacMillan, I was wandering the aisles of a small bookstore a few blocks from my San Mateo, CA hovel when the spine of a book on a shelf in the sports section caught my eye. The title sounded vaguely familiar, probably because it was the title of the book I had worked on for so long. I snatched the book off the shelf and saw, for the first time, the wonderful front cover - a photograph of Billie Jean clad in her work togs, standing next to Snoopy on one of the grass courts at Forest Hills. I also couldn't help but notice my name on the cover. I bought the book.
Flash forward about a year. I accompanied Sparky and his lovely wife to a women's tennis match at the Oakland Coliseum, which is now called something like the WD 40/Burger King/Bud Light/iPlace. During a break in the match, I handed Sparky my copy of the book and asked if he'd autograph it for me. He said he would, took a pen out of his pocket, opened the book and set to work. Fully three or four minutes later he closed the book, handed it to me and re-pocketed his pen. As much as I wanted to see what had taken him so long to write, I didn't look at the inscription until I got home later that night. When I finally did see it, I was stunned. It was only a few words long: "To Greg with friendship - Sparky."
Turns out that what had taken him so much time was the large drawing of a pigeon-pawed Snoopy, swinging a tennis racquet.
I treasure that book. And I treasure the memories of the conversations I had with Sparky.