Naomi Wilzig was more than a year into her quest when the proprietor of a store in St. Petersburg, Florida, approached her and asked what she was after. Still self-conscious about being “Mrs. Wilzig, the banker’s wife,” she answered by listing her respectable quarry. Just before she stopped speaking, she spit out, “And erotic art.”
The owner shrank back. He glowered at his young assistant. “Did you tell her that we have it?”
“No,” the young man responded, “you must have told her.”
“I didn’t tell her, you . . .”
Offended accusations shot back and forth between the two men until Naomi interrupted the squabbling. “Gentleman,” she said, “stop arguing and tell me what it is that you have!”
“Go get it,” the owner ordered his assistant. The young man walked to the back of the store and emerged with a seven-foot ladder. He leaned it against a tall breakfront. After climbing as high up as he could, he reached behind the molding and descended clutching something to his chest. The owner of the store took it and carefully presented a Japanese shunga, or pillow book, to Naomi. “It was amazingly beautiful. I had never seen anything like it. I knew it was old and rare, and I felt a rush. Don’t let this get away from you, I told myself,” Naomi said.