Sing, “EEE-AAAWWW!” [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Drive across the country with Kerri and one thing is certain to happen: the moment she sees a donkey, she bursts into a rousing chorus of “EEE-AAAWW-EEE-AAAWWW!” She loves donkeys. She wants one. Or two. “They’re like big dogs,” she assures me. I have my doubts but I confess to picking up her quirk. Now, if I spot a donkey before she does, I point and launch a festive “EEE-AAAWW!”

Bill and Linda have two donkeys. We arrived after dark so had to wait until morning to go to the barn for a donkey-confab. She wiggled all night with excitement. “Smack-dab material,” I thought. I’ll be drawing cartoon donkeys soon. I can’t wait to figure out how to make the Kerri-cartoon character wiggle in anticipation.

Linda knows of Kerri’s donkey-love so she had donkey treats ready. I stood back and watched. “This is my future,” I thought. “Can I have another?” Kerri asked and Linda smiled, handing over the plastic container of orange donkey-cookies. Those lucky donkeys hit the cookie lotto.

Donkey cookies. Who knew! There’s more amazing wonders in this world than any of us can comprehend. Stand outside of anyone’s world, peer in at their passions, and you’ll have to try hard not to drop your jaw in fascination. From inside their world, the quirk seems boringly normal. I try to remember that when people stand agog at something in my world that seems normal-to-boring. “What’s the big deal,” I think.

People are great at reducing the magic in their lives to seem insignificant. I’m a “people” so, like all people, am guilty of my own diminishment. Beware of the word, “normal.”

Bill and I bumped fists. We are brothers-in-quirk. While Kerri and Linda stuffed the donkeys with cookies, Bill and I talked about the-things-that-come-out-of-our-mouths that get us into trouble. We think they are obvious. Ordinary. But, the response to our commentary indicates otherwise. He just retired from a board position and, his peers, in their farewell speech, described him in two words, both beginning with the letter “o”: outspoken and opinionated. All laughed. “It’s true!” he said, “And I’m proud of that,” and added, “No one wants to be a rubber stamp.”

What a perfect summation. EEE-AAAWWW-EEE-AAAWWW. Donkey cookies! Magic-in-the-ordinary. No one wants to be a rubber stamp.

read Kerri’s blog post about DONKEYS!

Deny and Arrive [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Kerri often has a difficult time sleeping which means that I, too, have a difficult time sleeping. Left to my own devices, I am a champion sleeper.

I don’t mind, though. Some of our best conversations happen in the dead of night. There’s nothing like a sleepless wife and a midnight snack to bring up the real stuff. I delight when, in the quiet of a slumbering world, we talk of dreams and disappointments, hopes and heartaches. Nothing is solved. Everything is revealed. The gift of the night is to clear the clutter.

I confess that I sometimes meet her, “Are you up?” with an intentional show of snoring or a delayed response, staged mumbling or, “What, huh…” There is a necessary transition zone from champion sleeper through denial to the arrive at the acceptance that sleepless for one is sleepless for both.

And, then, the great conversations begin.

read Kerri’s blog post on saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Enjoy A Cuppajava [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The night is still and it’s hot. I suppose that’s why we’re having trouble sleeping though, if you read our smack-dabs, you’ll already know that sleepless nights make a regular appearance in our life and, therefore, our cartoon.

Sleepless nights and coffee. You might suspect that the coffee causes the sleepless nights but the opposite is true. Sleepless nights contribute to the giant mugs of coffee in our hands each morning so it also shows up in the hands of our cartoon selves. Puffy comic faces and never-enough-coffee. Sleep deprivation and coffee desperation make for good humor.

Coffee has always been central to our story. Before we met, the subject line of our daily emails was cuppajava. We wrote our cuppajava for months. Eventually, we called our combined catalogue of cuppajava The Roadtrip. With coffee in hand, we wrote truth-fests. Confessions. We asked questions and told secrets and laughed at foibles – all over a cup of coffee shared fifteen hundred miles apart. On my birthday, months before we met, a package arrived at my studio with a pound of Sumatra and a coffee mug stenciled with our shared middle-name (we have the same middle name). After months of correspondence, when we finally met, Kerri picked me up from the airport and had a cup of coffee waiting in the car.

Coffee is more than a casual player in our story. That’s especially true now that we are nearly a decade into our tale and have taken several actual road trips and written over a million words sitting side-by-side.

If we come to stay at your house, don’t be offended if we bring our own coffeemaker and coffee. We are coffee snobs, it’s true, but there’s more to our quirk than meets the eye. My old studio coffeemaker, the one that brewed my cuppajava, goes everywhere with us. It’s raspy and gasps the entire time that it’s brewing, but, somehow, all these years later, it continues to deliver coffee for our chats. Like us, it’s not pretty but it perseveres.

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE

Dump The Mystic [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Years ago a woman broke up with me because, “Dating a mystic was too hard.” What she really meant but-was-too-polite-to-say was that I was broke and artistic and the stuff that came out of my mouth was not normal. I’m just not good at cocktail parties where office politics and investments drive the dialogue. I spend my time wondering why I – and now we – were invited. That, and I can’t help but ask questions that go beneath the blather-layer. I am an artist with a weak-inner-editor. I want to know what makes people tick. You’d be amazed – or not – at how frightened people become when asked what passions lurk behind their portfolio. It’s a conversation stopper every time.

It was a great relief in my life the day I met Kerri. We were at O’Hare airport. I locked fingers with this woman I’d never met and, together, we skipped out of the airport. Our hearts were singing so skipping seemed natural and appropriate. Apparently adults are not supposed to skip through airports. People took cover. They scowled and stared. She didn’t care either. We laughed. We skipped.

It’s probably among the reasons we don’t have a portfolio (well, not the financial type). But, at the end of my days, when weighing my choices, I’ll be most grateful that I skipped. We skipped. And laughed. And asked real questions at polite parties. And climbed through the window onto the roof to have a glass of wine – because, for us, that is normal. I will also be grateful for learning – after a lifetime of introspection – to simply give voice to the real stuff BECAUSE it always comes to my mind.

read Kerri’s blog post about NOT NORMAL

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Reinvent [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

As we’ve been told, Kerri and I are simpatico. Yet, at this time of year, the vast differences in our past lives come to the surface. For instance, she’s lived in this house – now our house – for 32 years. She raised her children here. I did not have children and was mostly – until I met her – a wanderer. For Kerri, the holidays are rich with memories and traditions, meal prep for the masses, all things that she now misses. Covid has served to amplify her longing.

I’ve always had to improvise during the holidays and, were I to do an accounting of my experiences, I’d wager that I’ve spent more holidays away from rather than with family. I do not suffer the loss and yearning that Kerri suffers. My holiday memories are not fond or tradition-filled.

It was cold on Thursday but we walked a trail anyway. We held hands and talked of reinventing or rituals. It seems so much of past two years has been an exercise in disruption and loss, letting go of what-was and making space for what-will-be. The holidays in our future need not be populated with the ghosts of holidays past.

We read an article that flipped on-its-head the usual Thanksgiving question. Rather than ask, “What are you thankful for?” the article suggested we ask of ourselves, “What will you do to help others be thankful?”

It’s a good question and a great seed to plant for the ghost-of-our-holiday-future.

read Kerri’s smack-dab. blog post

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Appreciate It [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Hays, Kansas. The ‘Welcome Center’ on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. The curb in front of the BMO Harris Bank. And, of course, our driveway. What do these locations have in common? They are the thunk sites, the places where our driving machines expressed sudden discord and then ceased all forms of forward motion.

We’ve been fortunate. Our machines go “Thunk” in convenient places. Coasting into the ‘Welcome Center,’ dashboard lights ablaze, has to be my favorite. Had the “Thunk” arrived 5 minutes later we’d have been roadside in the middle of nowhere. Instead, the nice people at the Welcome Center chatted with us while we awaited our tow truck. DogDog had a designated place to walk. There was coffee had we desired to have a cup.

Our vehicles are old but they are considerate. They’ve taken good care of us and we, in turn, take good care of them. Kerri has musicians ears and she is constantly tuned into the sounds they make, the creaks and groans, the usual rattling. Sometimes she asks, “Did you hear that?” I never hear the subtle noises, much to Kerri’s chagrin. “Nooooo,” I reply and she sighs. Our cars must know about my limited-hearing-band-width because, when it’s time for a hiatus, they choose a nice spot and make it obvious enough for me to hear.

They’re good that way. Considerate. And, I mostly appreciate it.

read Kerri’s blog post about THUNK

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Obsess [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I’d never heard of Munchos until I met Kerri. I’d never pulled all of chip bags off the shelf at a store in search of Munchos until I met Kerri. I’d never been escorted out of a store by the police because of a Muncho search until I met Kerri. And, to make this fun, only two of the last three statements is actually true. Let me just add that the police were kind. Evidently, the officers that came that day appreciated Munchos as much as Kerri.

In reviewing the past several weeks of Smack-Dab, I see how snack-driven we really are. I’d have denied it outright before today. Dogga is completely food driven and you know what they say about people and their dogs. Dogga was in the car during our Munchos near-incarceration. He pretended that he didn’t know us though his deniability was questionable since he was in our car and had a collar with our phone number chiseled into it. The police were kind though. They cautioned him to keep a better eye on us and to forbid us from going back into the market. And then, they gave him a treat. Not a Muncho-treat. Those were nowhere to be found.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MUNCHOS!

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Improvise [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

This might not be funny to the under-50-crowd. Just wait. Humor is the only way you can successfully navigate the things that start happening to your body.

To those of us who’ve crossed the line into diminished returns and leaky pipes, I can only offer a knowing smile. Yes, I know. Age has a way of translating crisis into a comedy monologue. There’s only one non-truth in this comic strip: Kerri would not be caught dead in the bushes. It’s the single obstacle to her launching a through hike on the PCT: no indoor plumbing (but she’s working on it…). As for my relationship with bushes? Well, let’s just say, “Now, that’s a good story!”

read Kerri’s blog post about REST AREAS

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Refresh [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It’s been true since we met. People stop us in airports and on the street, they give us thumbs up or take a faux paparazzi-photograph. They tell us that we are cute or “lookin’ good!” Once, a shopkeeper came out of his store to tell us that we made him smile. When we walk the neighborhood, we are often met with people who tell us that we make their day. It always takes us by surprise and it always makes us smile.

What are people seeing? We are older and link arms when we walk. We hold hands. Our clothes are unintentionally the same. Black on blue jeans. We walk slowly. We talk to each other. We stroll; a walk without a destination. We don’t know what inspires the comments but always appreciate them.

Kerri always coos when she sees a horse. In our imaginary life, she has horses, a donkey, and an old truck. We were walking on the trail in our flip flops (that always gets a raised eyebrow or two) when the cowboy came around the bend. “A horse!” Kerri whispered, and squeezed my arm. The cowboy sat up in his saddle, nodded as he rode passed, then said, “You look like you like each other.”

“We do.” I replied.

Perhaps it is that simple. We like each other.

We’re fortunate. Our work allows us to be together all day. Every day. That would, I’m sure, be the end of most relationships. We like it. When I need feedback on a painting, she is my best wise-eyes. “What do you see?” I ask. We read our posts to each other before we publish. We edit together. We cook together. We create together. Our list of joint projects is growing. Lately, our once-weekly-cartoon about…well…us, Smack-dab., is giving us tremendous energy. It is fun. We poke fun at ourselves. We capture the ridiculous and the poignant. We pay attention to the marvels of simple relationship.

Picasso said that, “Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” He also said that, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Those thoughts, placed side-by-side, I believe, holds the reason a cowboy sat up in his saddle and a shopkeeper ran into the street. We are refreshed. We practice the elimination of the unnecessary – on canvas, at the piano, and in life.

We didn’t try to make 24/7 togetherness. There was no rule or expectation. It’s what we wanted. It’s what we want.

I am on jury duty this week and was at the courthouse most of the day. When she came to fetch me I got in the car and we said at the same time, “That was weird!”

“Tell me everything!” she said.

“No. You first! What did you and Dogga do?” Our conversation took us deep into the night. There’s so much life and so little time. Perhaps that’s it. We know this day is precious and fleeting and act accordingly. It must show.

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU MUST LIKE EACH OTHER

Soothe The Storm [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

My favorite early Chicken Marsala sketch was of an angel delivering Chicken to his new assignment on earth. The angel says, “Get in there, champ! You can do it!” And a very resistant Chicken cries in desperation, “But they are BOTH artists!” Kerri and I are artists with all that term implies. Passionate opinions. Quirky (okay…volatile). Often in need of a perspective-giver. What Chicken didn’t know is that the two artists in his assignment, namely Kerri and me, are great soothers of each other’s storms. We have the gift of never ranting at the same time. When one of us becomes a rocket, the other becomes grounded earth. There is a beautiful equal-and-opposite equation, too. When one of us enters into a creative high, it pulls the other up.

Chicken had a great assignment and just needed to look beyond the wrapper. That angel knew what she was doing.

read Kerri’s blog post about RANTS

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com