Thursday, July 8, 2010

Birds You Can Hug

A Few Stories of My Visit with Family in Central Florida:

1. The Fourth of July Barbecue:

Unnamed Relative (I will call him U.R.) put a massive amount of chicken on the barbecue and closed the hood. He then went inside the house.

I was left outside with the kids, my nieces and nephew among them. As the the Responsible Adult, I sat at the picnic table examining U.R's new Droid cell phone. It was cool. I turned on an app and was trying to figure out how to turn it off, but couldn't for the life of me. I heard the children talking in worried tones. How cute.

"Is the barbecue supposed to be smoking like that?" one asked.
"Of course it is," said another.
"I've never seen so much smoke before," said a third.
"He knows what he's doing," came the response.

With a sigh I looked up from the Droid. Smoke was billowing from the barbecue.

As the Responsible Adult, I reluctantly laid the Droid down and walked to the barbecue and opened the hood. Flames the length and breadth of the barbecue whipped four feet into the air. All of the chicken was on fire!

I was at a loss. Turning off the burner might have been a good idea, but this has only just occurred to me now, during this writing. In college we all took turns riding a Moped. I got on, asked how to make it go, turned the handles all the way back and proceeded full speed towards a pedestrian and a car. At that time I forgot how to slow down and realized I had no idea how to stop, did not notice the hand brakes in front of me, and held onto the handle bars tight in full speed position. The pedestrian jumped out of the way just in time. Then the car passed by an instant before I crossed the road. Then came the tree and my abrupt stop.

This was like that.

At this point U.R. rushed passed me at a brisk walk and pronounced, "Don't worry. Everything's under control." At which point, oblivious of the flames, he began picking chicken off of the grill with tongs. The tongs would disappear into the orange flames and emerge with charred chicken.

"Is there anything I can do?" I asked.
"Well a little water might be helpful," he said.

I went inside U.R.'s kitchen and hurriedly looked inside some cabinets. I grabbed a large glass and filled it with water. Whatever I do I will not grab a small glass, I thought, pushing back a childhood memory.

I brought the large glass to U.R. U.R. laughed and said, "That's no good - I need a sprayer! It's like the time you tried to put out the fire with the paper cup!"

Suppressed childhood memory 40 years later brought to the surface by one of the few that knew. Family. When I was about 10 years old a fire had been set in our yard by a vandal and I ran inside the house, filled one of those small bathroom paper cups with water and ran to the fire in my effort to put it out. They will never forget.

Emergencies just aren't my thing. Never have been.

"Anyway," U.R. said, "I have it under control." And he did. After some "tweaking", the chicken emerged delicious.

And my 11-year-old niece, Emma, told me how to turn off the app.

2. The Fireworks:

The fireworks had already begun but U.R. enthusiastically insisted that we march to the perfect spot in the middle of the huge bridge to watch them. So we marched at a brisk pace, and we marched, and we marched, as fireworks crackled and splashed overhead, and before we reached the middle of the bridge the grand finale' boomed and exploded above, so we turned around and marched, and marched, and marched all of the way back.

Best exercise I've had in ages.

3. Ossorio Bakery and Cafe:

I strategically chose my best sketching seat at Ossorio, a quaint and comfortable cafe' in Cocoa Village that serves pastries, homemade ice cream, wood oven pizzas and sandwiches. Then I learned that we had to go to the counter to order. I lost my seat. But I could turn to the side just so to get the vantage point I wanted. Then another Unnamed Relative said, "You are always sketching - be with us for a change." So I got my homemade ice cream and I sulked. Then when I complained out loud, I was granted a tiny window of time to sketch and very quickly cranked out the sketch above, finishing to tune of "Are you done yet?". The sketch is more like a dream of Ossorio, only Ossorio is such a special place that it is Ossorio that is the dream. I colored most of this during the drive home with a waterbrush, then finished it with some regular brushes as well.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and a delight to be with the people I love.

Follow Up to My Last Post:

During my family visit, Ingrid of the Free Quark wrote a wonderful post here referring to this blog. She is the photographer whose pelican I drew. I overheard some ladies speaking today about pets. One woman said she needed dogs because you can hug dogs, but not cats, and certainly not birds. "You cannot hug a bird", she said definitively.

She was wrong, of course.


  1. Enjoyed the story Dan =) As always.
    Love your sketch too, especially the colors and the liveliness.

  2. Great sketch, Dan. I'm glad the family let you squeeze a little art time into your vacation.

    Your story CRACKED ME UP! Nope, family will never let you forget. I think God put them here to keep us humble.

    My son had a parakeet. That bird would sit on my son's shoulder and preen his hair every day after his shower. He loved that boy, and that boy loved him. BTW, I hug cats all the time. I would hug dogs but they stink. :-) At least, that's what I would have told that lady.


  3. I'm cracking up reading these stories. Loved the well done chicken one, I could picture it happening, and the fireworks exercise, funny stuff.

  4. Sounds like you had an eventful time, but at least you got a little time to do a sketch, it's difficult when you are in company. I always warn people first what I'm going to do, but they still get bored..I can tell!
    I hug my cats and dogs, but the dogs definately smell more.

  5. Ah've made me laugh right out loud this morning. I'm always trying to distance myself from those who know embarrassing things about me. LOL Love the little sketch and am wishing I could see that counter in person. Is that fabric in the front lower portion of the case? Or is it painted? Plastic? Reminds me of Hawaii...or Florida (go figure).

  6. Ha...I had a Droid and ended up giving it to my husband, too complicated and sensitive for me so I went back to my trusty Blackberry.

    U.R. sounds fondly's not a barbecue if there isn't a fire!

    I love July 4th family stories. Thanks for sharing...and your painting is lovely. You painted this in the car? Wow.

  7. Oh Dan, what a super post - and what super things families are!

  8. OMG, I wasn't able to finish reading that without the tears running down my face. I was laughing so hard; tried to explain why it was so funny to my husband but he just looked at me like I was crazy! Your picture turned out great! And I do family does the same when I'm sketching. Some of the extended family even act like their embarrassed by my 'bad manners'.

    BTW...yes that was our book on my desk! I'm working on that now. And I'm going to have to check out the laptop desk from Ikea. I just use a piece of birch-faced plywood that I cut down and sanded!

  9. Forgot to mention: At least you didn't throw dirty rain water onto the grill, food and all! My dad did that one not too long ago. And we ate the meat anyway, since it was expensive cuts!

  10. Me again! :D Just went and read the mention she made of you in the creative commons!! So cool!

  11. Dan- Where to start?! Your sketch is beautiful! So full of detail with great composition and color. I'm so impressed. It's wonderful.
    The post by Ingrid put me in tears. So beautiful.
    And your stories- I was laughing out loud and crying too. Man- that's some funny stuff!!! You are such a lovable, likable guy Dan Kent and I'll just bet your family gets the biggest kick out of you. The marching story has me cracking up still. You need to write a book.

  12. Dan, you have been one busy guy. I'm missed a lot. Thanks for dropping round the new blog and you kind comment.

  13. I like people who enjoy telling embarrassing stories about themselves--you do it well. You can sit on my front porch anytime. Bring your sketchbook--and we'll hug some birds.

  14. LOL! You are the new Dave Barry! lol lol--still laffin. sooooo funny. It took me back to how much my brother would tease me about my ineptitude. He was the one who remembered all my many dippy things..he arrived in Heaven in to have one of those awful things dredged up again would actually be pretty cool. I guess I am saying I envy you that. haha. You are a very good writer and the sketch is so good! is your family aware that you are able to talk and sketch at the same time?? Gawd..what would they have said to Toulouse LeTrec? Don't sketch now--visit with us! Brother! Next time tell them that you are "on assignment". P. S. Cats are very huggable..I smmooch em all the time.

  15. Haaa... yeah it was quite unbelievable, I was really expecting some serious modification work on that Young Jesus project.
    First I contacted the publisher to see if I could get my sketch of Breaux Bridge printed(that's still on hold after so many months...yeah, that's the speed I have to cope with). So they asked me if I was interested in working on the illustrations of book projects they have, I had nothing much to do, while doing online job application, so I just agreed and there ya go. =) The job is not permanent of course, it could be my part-time job.
    So you see, I got the job actually because of EDM.

  16. It's a good thing that you were the "Responsible Adult" or else that could have been quite the catastrophe!

    That sketch looks great! It is quite the achievement considering you were rushed!:)

  17. Thanks so much for your comments - I'm glad I made you laugh!

    Autumn - the hibiscuses (hibisci?) were painted or printed in bright colors on the lower part of the ice cream case on a white background. It was beautifully done - I didn't really do it justice. No idea what it was made of.

    Raena - I am nervous about you picking up that book, given what you've been doing lately. I hope I'm up to the task! I know you'll stretch me though, and that's the idea. I love the story about your dad and the dirty rain water!

    Celeste - I love that you compared me to Dave Barry and Toulouse LeTrec in one post. Where on earth can I go from here? Given what LeTrec sketched, though, I don't think he had his family with him.

    Alex - So neat. Thanks for letting me know. It is amazing what happens when you step out of the box.

    And Pauline, and everyone, I am here anytime you need a Responsible Adult.

  18. Dear Responsible Adult

    Loved your blog post and accompanying watercolour(?) I honestly don't know enough about art to know what to call it, but I do know what I like! Judging from the post, I'd say it will be a great shame if you don't one day write and illustrate a story of your own!

  19. Oh dear, I had a comment here and then didn't click right. Ah well, I just wanted to tell you this is a great story and picture too. And next time your family gives you a hard time because you are not good in these emergencies just remind them that you are AN ARTIST and they should immediately understand. That might be a stereotypical statement but people fall for stereotypes all the time (which is what half of comedy is, isn't it?)

  20. You are extraodinarily funny and I can identify with so much of that. I am not sure why families make you feel so klutsy but they do..
    I also love the artwork :)

  21. What a fun post - and now I feel much better about my recent irresponsible behavior. I love your sketches, and they seem to be getting better all the time.

  22. Wonderful sketch and great post!