Tomorrow, Dimitri Kadiev will be on his way. But not without a few words first … about the pineapple.
Dimitri is barefoot, sitting Indian-style on a pier on Upper Nemahbin Lake, a coffee cup clutched in his hand. Behind him is the mural - spanning an entire boathouse - that he completed painting just the day before.
Next to Kadiev is Sam Edwards, the owner of the boathouse. He’s barefoot, sitting Indian-style and drinking coffee too. He’s also listening along to Kadiev expound about how the pineapple is an “international symbol” of home. “It represents hospitality, warmth, friendship,” says Kadiev, his other hand held out, as if he just snatched each symbolic element from the air and now holds dearly onto them.
Somewhere in this mural behind him is a pineapple. But peering past Kadiev - as he continues on about how this deeper meaning of the fruit is “widely known” - it’s difficult to locate. The mural spreads across the boathouse like wildfire, with images engulfing images. It’s like some trippy album cover, or one of those 3-D stereograms where you have to relax the brain to see the actual picture inside. There seems something new to discover only when you’re ready to see it.
At the moment, a bicycle, a rabbit, a canoe, a “Power to the People” fist are what pops out.
Kadiev pauses, the coffee cup raised to his lips but left only lingering there, as if taking a sip could impede his train of thought. His eyes stare forward, maintaining their normal piercing clarity that generally leaves anyone in conversation with him feel they have a foggy intellect. Or in this case, a sad lack of curiosity for never once having considered the pineapple - and have nothing new to share.
Kadiev shakes his head, possibly feeling he’s exhausted the subject. He finally takes a sip. “Anyway” Kadiev says, “I’m surprised you don’t know this already.”
He then laughs, his normal big, raspy one, with vocal chords sounding raw and worn, as if his throat has been forever too narrow of an opening for the repeated bursts of gusto. It’s a laugh, rough and exuberant, that strikes up brass horns, gives you a Zorba-the-Greek slap on the shoulder and sweeps you up to dance.
It’s a laugh that - on this early Monday morning in late July - rolls across the calm lake like a weather pattern. Kadiev is wearing his usual garb: the clothes he slept in and a Herringbone newsboy cap. It’s a cap, absconded from a church lost-and-found, that is splattered with paint from the murals he’s done all over the U.S. - from Detroit, New Orleans, Pittsburgh - and the world - from India, Peru, Palestine.
The dark green spots just off the brim, he’ll indicate, are drippings from recently painting beneath a bridge in Mexico.
The 45-year-old Kadiev, a Los Angeles native, has an “annual life rhythm,” as he puts it, that keeps him wandering four months of the year. (He doesn’t own a car, incidentally. A cell phone either. Or a watch. One, most likely, has never graced his wrist). It was in New Mexico that Kadiev first met Edwards eight years ago. He was hitchhiking, and Edwards, who was living in Albuquerque at the time, picked him up. They’ve been close friends since.
Edwards, now a Summit resident, is a quiet, intelligent guy. He’s a husband and a father. A world traveler as well. An old-school explorer type, who wouldn’t look out of place in those photos of Thor Heyerdahl and his scholarly colleagues crossing the Pacific on the Kon-Tiki raft.
In fact, Edwards had just returned home from a North Pole expedition this past June when Kadiev arrived for a visit. Shortly, after days spent out on this pier - and countless bottles of red wine - the vision for the boathouse materialized and painting commenced.
Edwards calls Kadiev an “artist in residence”- who has slept in his basement for the past two months. But with the mural complete, Kadiev is back on the road tomorrow. He has a ride lined up. “Heading east,” he says only.
The destination is still uncertain. Still, Kadiev’s unshakable faith that there is one out there, waiting to welcome him, makes that pineapple - once elusive on this boathouse - at last come into view, appearing now as the absolute center of the mural, the foundation on which all else depends.