Saturday, June 15, 2019

"Sisters"...

From a high school yearbook... years ago!
Good "reunion" Throwback Thursday, y'all.
Later today, my two sisters will fly in for a get together for the weekend. Looking forward to it. Although my little sister returns every year or so, I haven't seen my middle sister in about four or five years.
I sometimes think all this misogyny in the world would be lessened if more men had sisters in their lives. It's a rather naive thing to embrace, but I'm sticking to it.
I grew up with three sisters and feel very fortunate to have two of them still around. In a round about way, they give me balance.
My older sister, Adele, (better known as Mickey!) was almost three years older than me. She was the feminine one who loved to practice her feminine ways on her little brother. At the time, I guess I was about ten or so, I didn't know how to handle her "come ons!"
My best memories as a kid were of her dancing with the door knob when I didn't want to play along. She was a big Elvis, Sam Cooke and Irma Thomas fan. She locked herself in her room for days when she heard that Sam Cooke was killed. She was the emotional one.
My little sister, Betsy, who is about twelve years younger than me was my little Ramette. After each football game, I return home to have her get a running start to jump into my exhausted arms to celebrate our win... or loss. I don't think, at the time, it mattered.
Betsy made me her hero and I made sure that I kept it that way for her. She cried when we left home for Southern California. I guess she understood the ramifications of that move better than I did.
But, for many years, my middle sister and I were the closest if only because we were just two years apart. We did everything together. Ride bikes, climb trees, go to "the Beach" and spend the day in the pool. She was a tomboy's tomboy.
Becky was the first to take music lessons and beg mom for a guitar. In high school, she was one of the band's first clarinetist even though every one thought she should perform as a "Ramette!" Although the band director understood the situation, he needed her as a musician and not a drum majorette. I think Becky was glad a decision was made for her.
She was a pretty good jock as tomboys go. I don't believe I ever spent the time to show her how to throw a baseball. She did not throw like a girl. She loved playing football too.
Although I'm proud of all of my sister's accomplishments, I'm posting this photo of Rebecca, as she now wants to be called, as a sophomore sweetheart to illustrate a point. It's about watching a girl go through the many changes that slowly and sometimes abruptly happen in the "wonder years!"
After a few good tackles one year, Becky came to me teary eyed to tell me she could no longer play with us because it hurt too much to get hit in the chest. I knew it was a tough decision to make because a year or so earlier, I had to grow up and decide to stop playing army with my friends when I made the high school varsity team.
The thought of being found out would be just too embarrassing, though I really did not want to let go of those good times saving the world from oppression and fascism in the form of 'dem Japs and Krauts.
I wish that I could find a photograph I took of Becky in jeans and a sweatshirt with one of those plastic football helmets that was really more decoration than protection. In the photo, with the football neatly tucked under her arm, she jumped over my cousin, the would be tackler, to gain a few more extra yards for a touchdown.
Gotta love that!
One year later, she is voted as the Sophomore Sweetheart for 1968. I just know she did not know how to handle all the attention that she received as a "woman" or how to deal with all the male suitors that soon wanted her attention.
I learned a lot being the little brother as well as the big brother with my sisters. It made me a better person. A better lover. A better father. A better husband and a better son.
The world would be a better place, I think, with a healthier understanding of the human condition, if every brother had a sister... or two!
First early morning cup!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

"What'dya Mean!"

No Donuts...

Good "Sorry, We're Closed" TGF Friday Day, all bodies!

So funny. As a continuation of my last donut story, you know the one about styrofoam and cinnamon rolls, I got a twitch to have an apple fritter last Sunday.

I was feeling unappreciated, put upon, and uninspired. I blame it all on my mother who probably felt the same way while I was in her womb and did something about it.

She ate donuts.

Now, every now and then, when I'm in a funk, my fat cells cry out for a donut. Donuts and me go way back. I've got lots of stories of my donut dalliances. But those are stories for another time.

Taking a small apple with me before I headed out to run errands that I didn't want any part of, I decided to stop by Folsom's one and only donut shoppe. An apple fritter would be a nice addition to help me get on with life. But, it was not to be.

As I drove up to the bakery, though the "Open" sign was blinking on and off enticing down and out folks like me to imbibe, the store looked dark. Upon further "007" investigation, I noticed a letter size sign taped to the door. On it in quickly scribbled letters read, "We are closed. We ran out of donuts!"

You WHAT?

How can a donut store run out of the very thing they are in business to provide? I mean, what? You ran out of pink icing? You ran out of silly colored sprinkles? Your bag of dough done stopped doughing? The donut machine bellied up? What?

How could a donut shoppe run out of donuts and not know it until it was too late?

Oh, I could gone on for days going Sherlock Holmes on this caper. Now what... Little Debbies? Fake Hubig pies?

I can tell you that Sunday was not a pretty sight trying to calm down and explain to my whiny ass fat cells what was going on.

"Shutup," I said..."Here, have an apple!"

First cup!
Copyright 2019/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, January 19, 2019

"The Brown Thrasher Debacle"

The infamous Brown Thrasher

"And, so, I told mom that I really wasn't planning on doing that today,"she said.

"And then, you know what she told me?"

"No, what?" I said, rather nonchalantly.

"She told me that..."

"Whoa, look at that," I said, " A brown thrasher!"

"What?" What's a brown thrasher?" she asked.

And, she asked in a rather aggravated and kinda hurt way...

It's one of those things we learn in our dating days. At that time in our relationship, we were pretty much checking each other out. But, having grown up with three sisters, I should've known better. It could be said that her indignant reaction and annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment is just a female thing, but at parties I certainly have had quite a few conversations ripped right out of my heart and soul by callous, uninterested friends.

Changing the subject in the middle of one's story is not an endearing way to impress your girl friend. Of course, I had a very good reason for interrupting. When you have an intimate relationship with something you've never really seen in real life, well it is exciting.

The first time I actually saw a WWII bomber parked at a Long Beach airport, I was so impressed that I had to get off the 405 freeway and drive to the airport to get a closer look. I had read so many books and made so many plastic models of that bomber for myself and for friends who never had to patience or the courage to build the model themselves, that actually seeing the real thing in the "flesh" was mind blowing.

Unfortunately, it was the same scene with my then girlfriend. As a kid, my mom suggested that I draw and paint birds instead of always illustrating war scenes with airplanes bombing everything I could put on an 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper. Mockingbirds. sparrows, blue jays and maybe an occasional woodpecker was all I could see to draw from in life. All other birds I drew were birds I saw in a trail guide or birding book.

Having a romantic picnic under the oak trees at City Park presented all kinds of flying distractions. From that time on, even to this day, 46 years later, the event is recognized as "The Brown Thrasher Debacle!"

Copyright 2019/ Ben Bensen III












Thursday, January 3, 2019

"S'why I Love Toasters!"

Outlasted Sears...

Good "if it ain't broke..." Thursday, y'all.
In a way, this is a TBT post because this rather simple machine was a wedding gift 46 years ago. It is function is to make bread into toast.
It's called, oddly enough, a TOASTER!
It doesn't require a replacement bulb. It doesn't need to be upgraded every other month or have it's operating system changed so you have to purchase all new bread to have it operate efficiently.
It doesn't run out of ink... or anything, for that matter.
It requires no gas or oil or hydraulic fluid or a pulley, starter switch or a remote control. You don't have to insert a coin to make it work. It won't bite you either unless you decide to pry out burnt toast with a knife.
It doesn't come with an insurance plan or need a license to operate it.
It doesn't need batteries to operate and it is, to my knowledge, though I've lost the instruction sheet years ago, it is environmentally safe... Wow!
And, and... the best part about it is that when you want to incorporate its services, it actually works.
Me likes toasters...

Copyright 2019/ Ben Bensen III


Sunday, December 23, 2018

"It Was Like Christmas"...


"Hey Winston," the little Dutch girl pleads..

In a moment of melancholy and in the time it takes to down a cup of hot coffee, Jenny told me a wonderful story about her days after World War II. Jen is a real piece of work, that's for sure. Sometime last year, I did some sketches of her from afar and posted a comment about my impression of this modern day Annie Oakley. ( Please checkout my article at:
http://graphicgumbo3.blogspot.com/2011/04/until-now.html... for a little background on Jenny )

Since that time, she still comes into Gus's restaurant like John Wayne enters a western bar, yelling about her triumphs of the morn, storming directly to the coffee pot. If there isn't coffee enough to pour herself a fresh cup, she proceeds to starting a new pot. Jenna, as some natives call her, apparently has carte blanche at Gus's. Every now and then, she will pull up a seat and vent her frustrations to me about some novice hired hand or a misguided owner who thinks they know more than her sixty plus years have taught her. And being a novice myself,  I have learned a lot about the equine business from her stories of how it is and how it use to be.

Jenny is one of about five women I have befriended over the years that are professional riders or caretakers of the equine. And it comes as no surprise that Jenny is the most eccentric, but this time around she drifted from her stable talk to a time when she was a little Dutch girl, wooden shoes and all, on her Daddy's farm just outside Rotterdam. As I recall, she was only six years old when the Nazis were driven out of town and aid was being airlifted to the populace.

Little Jenny recalls the villagers crying to the skies for food and medical supplies and tools to rebuild what was destroyed in the war.

"Winston," they called out as the transport planes flew by, "drop us medicine... drop us bandages!" Hey Winston, drop us can goods, drop us clean water to drink!" And the airplanes would belch out tons of supplies in parachute form. Jen remembers in wonderment how incredible this all was.

The villagers would ask the sky and the planes would drop via parachute what was needed.

"Mr. Churchill, send us more bread and milk and canned beans," they cried and the next day or so down floated life's necessities. "It was like snowflakes from heaven," she recalled.

Now, it just so happens that Jen somehow lost, at a very early age, I think she said at the age of three, her wooden wheel barrel that she used to help her grandfather clean the horse stalls. She didn't recall how it got misplaced whether it was destroyed or stolen by the Nazis, or if it was taken by a neighbor to help with the reconstruction of their village. All she remembered was that the little red barrel with one wooden wheel disappeared and she could no longer be with her grandfather and her beloved horses. So between 1945 and 1946, whenever the planes would now fly by to visit and unload their heavenly gifts, Jen run out to chase the aircraft to call out...

"Hey Mr. Winston, drop me a new wheel barrel! Drop me a new red wheel barrel, Mr. Winston!" Jenny said she figured everything came from Winston and the big airplanes, so why not ask for what she wanted.

"It couldn't hurt to ask, she said, but nothing ever happened."

With what seemed a moist eye and a softened demeanor, Jenny continued. "One day, my grandfather instructed, as my job for the day, to go the trees near the regular drop zone and wait for the planes to, once again, fly by. By now, I was pretty dejected having been ignored for so many times, but I always obeyed my elders and so I went off to wait for the big planes from Winston. Of course, when I got there, there was tied to a white parachute hanging neatly from the trees, a little, brand new red, wheel barrel.

"I could not believe such good luck. "It was like Christmas with Winston Churchill as Santa Claus!" "Life after the war was pretty tough and I was expected to carry my own weight, but having the little wagon to carry off the manure made my chore much easier."

"And how old were you, I asked, when Winston made the special delivery!"

"About six years old", she said as she stiffened back up and took a long last gulp of coffee,"I sure hauled a lot of manure with that little wheel barrel... I mean, a lot!"

"And", she added, as she got up from her chair and tucked her blondish white hair back under her baseball cap, "it never occur to me until much later that my grandfather set the whole scene up for me! He even created a note and attached it to the wheel barrel that said, "Your wheel barrel, ma'am," Sincerely, Mr. Winston Churchill.

Making no more eye contact with me, she turned and walked out the restaurant door with the same aplomb as she had entered yelling goodbyes to all who waved her farewell...

Till next time!

Copyright 2012/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Santa’s Gonna Come In A Stagecoach"…

A foggy celebration...

“It’s getting late and I think we should go,” my little brother said. “The river’s looking kinda foggy already.”

Twenty minutes later after shutting the campsite down, my brother escorted me out from the rain soaked dirt road that wound around one side of the Little Black River to the main road. We decided to take I-59 back to our homes, but when I checked my gas meter, it was pretty low. So I double blinked my brother to signal to him that I was gonna stop for gas.

I decided to take the more direct route home to Folsom. I took my brother’s advice in the morning getting to his campsite, but I did it accidentally. With the tank full, a fresh coffee in hand, and a half eaten apple fritter, I popped in a cd and took off south for home.

“Well, I been sorta worried about Santa Claus this year!”

It was the last day of the Thanksgiving holiday where many folks put up their Christmas decorations before the work week starts up again. I decided to bring along one of my patented Christmas cds that I duped from cassette tapes years ago.

“Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stagecoach instead of his trusty sleigh,” sang Buck Owens as I drove off from the gas station. The route was almost as straight as an arrow driving south from Lumberton, to Poplarville, then Bogalusa, Franklinton and finally Folsom. I figured it would take me a little over ninety minutes to get home in time for Sunday night football.

Little did I know it would take me a lot longer than that.

It was almost dark by the time I made it into Lumberton. Off to the side of the road in a culvert on the other side of the two lane highway were three cars. Lights were blinking red and blue but it wasn’t from a newly set up front yard Christmas display. Apparently, someone took a curve too fast and slid into the culvert. A tow truck was pulling the car out as a local patrol car was overlooking the operation.

As I recall, the morning trip did have quite a few curves along the way with warning signs of suggested speed limits but with some patchy fog settling in maybe the driver didn’t see what was ahead of him.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay”… Oh, tidings of comfort and joy” I sang to Chet Atkins’s instrumental version of the song as I drove away from the accidental mess.

I came up to what I perceived to be downtown, or the main drag of Lumberton. The drive was decorated by what appeared to be the city’s humble light show. It was short and sweet, but very cute.

Driving further south I saw in the distance a whirling light high above the pines. As I approached further, it was obvious the beacon light from the local airport and not a star from Bing Crosby’s, “Do You See What I See!”

Funny, because I never noticed it at all before. The beacon cast a strange light across nature’s trees and man’s square metal hangars.

It seemed the further south I drove the thicker the fog got. It was still in patches along the road and not so solid, but the visibility was getting worse. Although I thought the rain had passed during the day, it was now raining off and on, forcing me to turn on the wipers and then, turn them off again which seemed to blur the windshield even more.

It was until I almost ran over, possibly, a possum that I realized my vision could be significantly improved by having the defroster on instead of off. It certainly made a difference with wet, winding roads and oncoming pickup trucks sporting only one working headlight. 

So many times, I thought what was a motorcycle was instead a small truck. Yes, the defroster most certainly helped, but the fog was getting heavier and even though the rains had stopped, I was nowhere near Poplarville which should have been just seven or eight songs away on the Christmas cd.

Something was just not right. It seemed so simple to do. Just take Hwy# 13 south to Franklinton and then, Hwy# 10 to Hwy# 25 south.

All along the route, rural farms and home’s Christmas decorations had shown me the way through the rain and the thickening fog.

I was becoming a bit nervous and pissed off. I pulled out the, by now, stale apple fritter and attacked it occasionally washing it down with luke warm coffee. 

“Everybody helps to make the season bright, 
The houses turn on their Christmas lights at night…

“It’s worth the wait the whole year through,
Just to make happy someone like you. 
And, I’ll never outgrow the thrill of Christmas Day!”

I always loved that Beach Boys song sung by Beach Boy, Al Jardine. It kinda calmed me down as I sped up the van to find out where the hell I was. It didn’t take long…

Christmas beamed brightly on this Thanksgiving Sunday in Columbia, Mississippi especially downtown. I couldn’t believe it when I stopped in a McDonald’s to use my iPad and have another cup of coffee. 

Columbia, Mississippi?

Looking at the map, I found that somehow, some way, I had replaced 13 south with highway 13 north and was about forty miles and who knows how many songs away from where I was supposed to be.

“It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees,
They're putting up reindeer, and singing songs of joy and peace,
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on…”

It was the Linda Ronstadt version of Joni Mitchell’s song,“River” that came up as turned on the ignition and headed back south.

By now, the fog was just thick. It felt like a blanket that attempts to smother you in your dreams. As much as I wanted to speed up to make up for lost time, the fog was just too thick. Off in the distance were faint red tail lights that I decided I should follow to ascertain where the next turn would be.

Eventually closing in on him, I noticed it was a red, late model Ford Mustang. He was taking his time with me close on his tail. Ten minutes of this was making me crazy. It reminded me of my Los Angeles days having to tolerate slow, distracted drivers, but as I was gonna take a chance on passing him, he slowed down even more to find his house and driveway.

“Just a little bobsled we call it old Saint Nick,
But she'll walk a toboggan with a four speed stick.
She's candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel,
And when Santa hits the gas, man, just watch her peel.

It's the little Saint Nick, Ooooo, little Saint Nick…

In time, I could once again see the Lumberton airport beacon which barely cut through low clouds and fog. It was almost like starting all over again! Driving through “downtown” Lumberton, I realized my big mistake where highway# 13 splits in two different directions. In the dense fog, I never saw the sign directing me to turn left to continue south.

Within no time, Poplarville, not Popularville, as I once thought it was pronounced, was in my sights… fog and wet streets notwithstanding! 

“Got laid off down at the factory,
And there time is not the greatest in the world.
Heaven knows I been workin' hard,
Wanted Christmas to be right for daddy's girl.”

“If we make it through December, we’ll be fine!”

Yeh Merle, and I’ll be fine whenever I get home. Now that we got our directional act together, it’s on to Bogalusa. Approaching that town, you can actually smell it before you see the welcome sign. There’s a paper mill in the center of town and it contributes heavily to the city’s olfactory mystique.

On the southern end of town, a skunk moseyed across the highway. Lucky for all involved, the fog was not so bad and I was able to see him in time. Perish the thought of a dead skunk in the middle of Bogalusa’s already pungent aroma.

By now the cd had once again rebooted itself and started replaying the festive vibes. The closer I got to Folsom the better the weather got. Now with Willie singing his original version of “Pretty Paper,” we were off to Franklinton. Continuing south the things that I could see, looked familiar to me. There was an antique 1940’s Chevy, I think, that was covered in decorations when I passed by it in the morning. Now, it was all lit up in sort of a haphazard way but nonetheless festive.

The colorful and sometimes blinking lights were a welcome sight. The fog, which was not so much a problem now, seemed to create a softer, kinda smeared kaleidoscope every where I looked.

In downtown Franklinton, the little Mexican restaurant across from the courthouse that we visited a year ago was no longer there. It didn’t look like anything replaced it. The courthouse was a real trip. My wife and I went there to have our passports renewed. Everyone there was so laid back and friendly. The office that we were there to see was closed for lunch. I think they left a bit too soon, but the attendant suggested a few places just down the block to have us some lunch too. The guards and the attendant apologized on behalf of their hungry employees and suggested we return around two o’clock.

Now, that’s my kinda of lunch break, ha!

Driving through downtown and crossing the Bogue Chitto River bridge, I was fog free and only a few more Christmas favorites to Folsom. 

Talk about “a Three Hour Tour!” 

One would ask why not use your GPS or let Siri guide you, and that would be a great question. But, I hate it when she burst into a favorite song to tell you to “Turn at the fork”… “Turn left at the fork!”

I must admit she did earn her eclairs in Europe, that’s for sure. But, this was such a simple drive. One that I completed earlier that morning with little problems… except when I missed the exit of I-59 and ended up at a Starbucks in Hattiesburg.

Well, turning off Hwy# 25 onto Hwy# 40 in Folsom, I was greeted with my two favorite holiday songs, Nat King Cole’s, “Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts”)… and the original song sung by Judy Garland from the movie, “Meet Me In St. Louis,”…

“Someday soon, we all will be together,
If the Fates allow…
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow,
So have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now!”

And, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, starting right now!

Copyright 2018/ Ben Bensen III














Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"Guess I'm A Button Down Kinda Guy"...

My momma taught me how to sew, so....
Ya know, there was a time when you could not find me in anything but a white tee shirt, jeans and Chuck Taylor Converse's. The Sixties came along and I can pretty much say that I made a fashion change, but only when I went out on a date.

Going to art school, I was pretty much back to the same teenage outfit always with the shirt tucked in. Only difference was the tee shirt, jeans and Converse's were usually covered in paint of one medium or another.

When I started making a living as an artist, the Perlis Shirt Company started a tongue in cheek response to the "uppity logo" of Ralph Lauren's polo player shirt by adding to their shirt a crawfish where the little polo player is located. I recall at one time Perlis advertised a polo shirt sporting an upside down roach.

Hilarious... I should have bought one. But, wearing the crawfish polo shirt to work or to deliver my presentation art to clients, I became known as the "Cajun Artist" though I'm not Cajun. It became a part of my"branding."

More than once, whether at home in South Pasadena or visiting back home in New Orleans, I was described as a "button down" type of guy. It was a moniker of sorts that I have always resented, quietly!

I knew the label was more about my personality than about the shirts that I wore. One friend knew me as the "Art Nazi" because I enjoyed aviation art. But eventually, when I began to wear glasses, I had to opt for shirts that had a chest pocket.

I got used to wearing shirts with collars.
I got used to wearing shirts that didn't require plastic inserts to prop up the collars.
I got used to wearing button down shirts in spite of my sensitivity to comments about my conservatism.

I'm a big boy now, I thought, and could give a care what people say or said.

The problem is that when one button pops off, which happens all too often, I have to sew on a replacement button, otherwise, you walk around with one side buttoned and the other loose like a "freak flag flying!" One side of your neck is conservative and buttoned down while the other side is liberally flying in the breeze. One side is red while the other is blue... if you know what I mean.

From my peripheral, I feel like I've been torpedoed and listing to one side. I feel off balance with things just not seeming right. Quite a distraction... all day long.

Safety pins, paper clips or staples only work temporarily and look cheap!

It's just one of those aggravating things to actually lose the button. If you do have a button jar like your mom used to have, you cannot find the right size button for the loop on your collar. I actually own dress shirts that provide you with extra buttons including that collar button. It is as if they know that eventually you will need to replace the button. It is like a pre-programmed defect... planned obsolescence!

It is like they know that it is time to thread a needle... or by another "button-down shirt"!

Copyright 2018/ Ben Bensen III