Friday, January 1, 2021

Friends Help Ease Into The New Year...

Good "New Year's Day" Friday, y'all.
I had a good day yesterday meeting, by chance, some friends I haven't seen in a while. One guy, Ricky McCubbin, singled me out as I walked out of The Fat Spoon in Covington. We were both covered with our masks on so I don't know how he recognized me. Ricky called me "Benny" so I knew he was from way back, but it wasn't until he told me who he was that I got it.
Naturally, we spent another half an hour catching up on the forty plus years that has passed us. The dude knows everyone in this town, I swear!
Shaking my head in disbelief, and with a full belly, I headed out to get some things accomplished. At the Mandeville Walmart I bumped into... actually, she bumped into me, Tanya Dischler. She looked too good and well dressed to be grocery shopping, so we talked instead.
We should've just put the baskets away and stopped by a Starbucks to continue our many topics. I don't believe I seen Tanya in over a year. Funny how we take such things for granted. When I had a gym membership at the Pelican Health Club, I'd see her just about every other day!
We joked about her sons concern and living alone with the pandemic. She said they suggested she wear one of those medical alert buttons on a necklace and the first thing I thought was, "it's gotta be fashionable!" Ha!
As we continued yapping and laughing away, clogging up shoppers in the produce center with those oversized grocery carts, in pops Kelly Fortier. I caught her zooming on by so I didn't say hello.
Twenty minutes later, she stops to say hello and then zooms by us with her booty amazed that Tanya and I were still partying in the produce section. We finally pulled ourselves away vowing to continue our conversation later... maybe next week.
Checking out of the store, a woman passed by me staring the whole time. There was, I'm sure a bright smile behind the mask because her bright blue eyes twinkled in a way that said I know you from somewhere.
As with my friend, Ricky, there's this momentary fog in your brain that just doesn't seem to comprehend what your eyes already know...
"Hey dummy, wake up... We know this person!"
And, we did, that is; my brain and my eyes did.
"Wait, she said, I think that I know you from... "
"Uh... yeh, but um... where?
I don't know if she was just being coy or too shy, but for sure, I felt like I needed a third cup!
"Your Ben and I'm...
But before she could say her name, I blurted out, "Julie Lemaire!"
From that point on we chatted for a few minutes reminiscing our times with our mothers at the Mandeville Senior Center. She was a retired nurse that came every Wednesday to take the vitals of every patron that passed through the doors.
My mom so enjoyed Julie's mom's companionship that when "Dot" died, I just had to paint a portrait of her for Julie. It sure doesn't feel like it was that long ago. She invited me to become one of her Facebook friends, so now it won't be so long between chats.
She was telling me that she's taking classes to be re-certified to help administer vaccines in the coming months. I think she's feeling good about that!
On my way back to Folsom, I stopped by an Office Depot to replace 2020 with 2021 though I'm not too thrilled about it.
Finally, a second cup!
Copyright Ben Bensen III/2021

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“Be A Doll And Be My Santa Claus"...

Santa Would Be Pleased...

 Good "cold, wet and gray" Wednesday, y'all.

"A winter's day, on a bleak and dark December!"
(Paul Simon)
I decided to clean out my night stand top drawer which had assorted balsa wing glider parts ever since my nephews dropped by to hang with our son. That event happened sometime in the summer 2009. Assuming that they had such a great time, I went and bought three more gliders…
But, they never returned.
I dumped the wire gears, the wheels, rubber band powered propellers, taped together fuselages and assorted wings into the garbage, but decided to keep the three cheapo Guillow flyers and deliver them to our local Marine “Toys for Tots” dropoff box. I had read a flyer at the coffeehouse that posted today as the last drop-off day which ended at 5pm.
I buzzed over to Star Physical Therapy in downtown Folsom to deliver my three balsa gliders, but decided that it was a pretty chinzy gift, so I told the secretary that I’d be back with some better gifts.
She reminded me that they would be closing the office at 5pm.
I hopped on down the street to the local Family Dollar Store which had some pretty nice toys on sale.
I grabbed a “Hot Wheels” collection for a boy and a Mattel “Frozen” makeup kit for a girl and waited my turn in line.
The cashier was a friendly type welcoming everyone as the entered the store and wished them Merry Christmas as they left. Her name was Myrtle. At least, that’s what it said on her name plate.
“How ya doin’ honey? Gettin’ a little something for a Kris Kringle party,” she inquired.
“Actually, I dropped off some balsa wood gliders that to Star Therapy next to Main’s grocery for the “Toys for Tots” donation box,” I said.
“Today’s the last day to donate and I didn’t feel good about just leaving those gliders as a gift… So, here I am purchasing a little more for Christmas!”
“Wait,” she said while putting my purchase in a plastic bag. “Today’s the last day?”
So, I explained the details of donation and the time frame and she said.”Honey, can you do me a big favor?”
I said “Sure” not having the slightest idea what she wanted me to do for her.
“Let me get someone to cover the register and I’ll meet you out back in a minute or two!”
A few minutes later, she arrives with a ciggie hanging from her lips and takes me to the back end of her minivan. When she opens the tailgate of the car there were stacks of games and toys strewn all over the place. Myrtle grabs a “Candy Land”, a “Chutes and Ladders,” a “Mr. Potato Head, a game of “Sorry” and three coloring books and stuffs them into a big Family Dollar grocery bag.
“Be a doll and be my Santa Claus! Deliver these to the donation box, could ya,” she asked.
“Myrtle, it would be my special privilege to play Santa Claus for you!”
I grabbed the goodies, hopped into my car and drove over to Star Therapy.
Dropping my gifts plus Myrtle’s, the woman at the front desk quipped, “Boy, you went all out this time, sir!”
“Sure did, ma’am, I said with a smile.
I decided not to explain the whole strange story, but waved goodbye wishing everyone including those on the therapy tables, a very Merry Christmas!
I think the real Santa would be pleased!
First cup!

Friday, November 27, 2020

Thanksgiving Thoughts...

Good "the Aftermath" Friday Morning, y'all.
I trust everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving Day whether you had leftovers alone or a big blowout with family. It's gonna be a wet Friday and probably all weekend too!
Our quiet little Thanksgiving yesterday, gave me time to think about all the other big family gatherings we've enjoyed. It's not unlike most huge family get togethers on Thanksgiving.
My uncle would bring the family over from MidCity around ten or so. I met my two cousins as they drove up and escorted them into the house to greet everyone. My maternal grandfather, known to everyone who knew or worked with him as "Pops", had already brought his sister, who we only knew as "Nanaan" over earlier that morning. Accompanying them was the all important, oyster shells.
After being courteous and pretending to be in the way so we could get shooed away, we took off for the playing field of my front lawn.
The front lawn, you'd swear, was a full 100 yards long... it was so hard to score a touchdown. In truth, it was only about twenty by thirty feet long. If we made a great play on defense we were the Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams or Ray Nitsche of the Green Bay Packers.
We were a host of great offensive players when we scored. Players like Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Frank Gifford, and Jimmy Taylor were some of our favorites to emulate.
Jimmy Taylor was a favorite because he played his college ball as a fullback at LSU!
Every now and then, we'd call a timeout to check in on the food festivities. My uncle, with a large cup of coffee, pretty much ignored the goings on in the kitchen preferring to sit with our portable television tuned into whatever game was playing. Back then, the Cotton Bowl was first to grace the tube.
In the kitchen, squabbles were always present with my mom trying to referee the correct procedures for the perfect meat pie. Her mother, a big boned German/Italian would always try to win the hearts and tummies over my rather diminutive French aunt.
My Nanaan would have none of her guff!
One meat pie just wasn't enough for this hungry crowd, and my grandmother always argued over who's pie was the better of the two. When it got to how to prepare the oyster patties, Pops would eventually step in. Luckily, the women deferred to his "expertise!"
My mother tried to persuade her brother to turn the channel to the Macy’s Parade which always seemed wedged between bowl games.
It seemed to settle the women folk!
My cousins, Mark and Glenn and I would snatch something tasty off the huge makeshift dining room table and return to the playing field.
Eventually, we'd get called in to wash up for dinner. As was expected, our neatly combed hair, our Thanksgiving attire and our manners were left behind. Everything tasted as good as it looked.
No one seemed to be overly concerned that the oyster patties maybe needed a bit more salt and that some of them were "burned" at the bottom. My aunt, had very little to say about my grandmother's delectable baked macaroni, or creamy mash potatoes. There was always a bottle of chilled red wine though no one except Pop's and my uncle imbibed.
My father, having alcoholic parents, was a teetotaler all of his life and my mom only took a sip or two just to be social.
Pop's always made a thing about extracting the cranberry from the can intact. I always looked forward to his entertaining act. Until I moved to California, I thought that that was the only way to serve cranberry.
Pop's handled the turkey carving as well as the gravy. It seemed safer that way although the persnickety of a Frenchman showed if someone carved across the grain or if, worse than that, the carving knife... ANY knife was not sharp. Could've sworn he brought along his wet stone to dinners.
As kids, we never paid much attention to the adult conversation. I just remember my mother Marine's glaring stare if her children did not hold their utensils correctly or misbehaved in front of the family. This is from a woman who actually years later, on two occasions, initiated a food fight between me, Mark and Glenn.
That's a story for another time!
I don't believe me and my cousins hung around for dessert, but I loved to wait around to see Pops carve the skin off of a navel orange in one piece. I thought it was SO cool.
As an adult, I never could get that right. I guess my knives were never sharp enough.
Unless his wife, Aunt Vee, complained, Tony Pie, (that was his family moniker, and I never knew why!) would sit and watch football. In his high school days, he was a drum major at St. Aloyisus and I think, in the Marine Corp. Turns out, he loved watching the halftime shows when marching bands, not the gratuitous halftime shows of today, entertained the crowds.
But, as is often the case, when a woman casually walks behind a man in the middle of a conversation and touches his shoulders, it is a sign that she's had enough...
Never did like that part!
All in all, from a kid's perspective, it was a great day of being together. I hated to see them go, but I knew we'd see each other again... probably, Christmas.
Besides, there on TV, the day was not over. It was still daytime when teams played against each other for the PAC-10 title in Pasadena. And, there was turkey left for a sandwich or two!
First cup!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"Scrapping Off The Fat"...


Good "Monkey" Monday, all bodies! 

That ole Matchbox hole needs some attention, y'all.

So many things, and I gotta long way to go...

Therese seemed a bit upset about the death of Alex Tribeck. She knew, like everyone else did, that he fought fourth stage pancreatic cancer for over a year. Tee is almost in her fourth year of surviving that cancer.

Some one wanted me to let her know if Therese high school letters were moved from their original spot on the kitchen table.

They have not!

I've got a dress shirt that is about five years old, but I get more compliments from women about the shirt when I wear it... Wish I knew why!

More and more, our pup is needing a boost to hop in and out of the car and unto the sofa though he is not at the point of giving up trying.

Man, the fat I scraped off of the chuck roast stew I cooked last night was disgusting. I pretended my spatula was an icebreaker ship breaking up the packed sea ice. Having fun where I can find it!

On the causeway last night headed to NOLA, my friend Carol was clicking off photo after photo from a glorious red and orange sunset. I told her I was gonna demand a location fee from her if she continued.

Oh yeh, if you follow my posts, you remember me talking about Monday morning lawn mower wars. That is, cutting the football field grass that doesn't need cutting. Well, this morning, they didn't show up.

They mustah over slept!

I offered this woman that I had not seen in over a year a seat with me when I realized she wasn't waiting for a friend. I think she was hoping that I'd ask her to join me. We had a great time catching up with each other. In jeans and a tank top that showed off her developed shoulders and arms, I complimented her on looks. She told me that she had started cross training and eating right. 

"Jeepers, Debbie, I said, isn't the rigors of being a farrier enough?"

Oh and by the way, I finally found my Spencer Davis Greatest Hits album on United Artists... so there!

Enough... first cup!

Copyright 2020/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, September 6, 2020

"It's Hard To Lose A Player That's The Same Generation As You..."

 Good "sad day" Thursday, y'all.

Heard last night one of my baseball heroes, though I wasn't a big Mets fan, Tom "Terrific" Seaver passed away. Of all the instructional videos and books I've studied, his book,"The Art of Pitching" was my "go to" favorite. His book sent me to another book called, "The Seven Minute Rotator Cuff Solution."

I put into practice his exercise regimen for myself and used the many techniques he espoused to teach the correct form for pitching and to maintain healthy shoulders. (I had a slight tear in my supraspinatus.)

As a coach, I realized that having the knowledge to teach does not mean having the ability to get the information over to a student, or in this case, a player who wanted to learn how to pitch. Tom Seaver's book helped me instruct to the player the mechanics of throwing... anything, not just a baseball.

I honestly cannot say the kid got it, but it wasn't for a lack of effort on his part or mine. I now have a healthy respect for what all teachers go through and the frustration that comes from not getting the information across to the student. I do know that Seaver's book became my baseball bible.

Unfortunately, amongst the many books I have on the art, my hardcover book is nowhere to be found.

I might have given it away with the rest of our son's equipment, but probably not. There's a good chance of me putting it away for safe keeping somewhere... never to be seen again.

Rest In Peace, Tom Seaver... and Thanks!

First "on the mound" cup, y'all...

Copyright 2020/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, July 19, 2020

"A Different Kind Of Comfort Food"...

Good "Ouch!" Sunday Morning, all bodies.
I woke up really stiff this morning. It was a chore just to walk around until I spent some time on the floor stretching. Feeling like I'd survive, but feeling rather depressed about things, I decided that I'd go for some coffee and an apple fritter at the Donut Stop.
"Man, Sundays are the worse," Janis Joplin replied on one of her live albums. Apparently, she was on stage in a town that had "blue laws", but when someone told her it was now Monday, (I assume it was a real late Sunday night gig!) she hoisted her Jack Daniels and exclaimed,"It's Monday? It's Monday." Man, if ever you need a drink, it's on a Sunday, man. They're the worse... Here's to you!"
Seems like a lot of folks needed some comfort food too because I waited, 6 feet apart, in line for 25 minutes waiting to order my fritter.
It brings to mind a story I saw on YouTube a few months ago about comfort food.
A P-47 pilot was asked out in the field by the mess hall cook if he would do the cook a big favor. The aircraft could hold 100 gallon plus external fuel tanks under the wing pylons on each wing. Some of the times, the aircraft utilized a British style drop tank made of papier mache which was used to carry 150 octane aircraft fuel that would last about three or four hours before disintegrating if not utilized by then.
The cook took one of those throwaway drop tanks and fill it with 70 pds. of powdered milk, 20 pds. of fruit cocktail, 25 pds. of sugar and 3 gallons Cavallo apple brandy with some other spices, mixed it up and then strapped it back under one of the wing pylons.
The cook told the pilot to take the plane up to where it really gets cold about 35,000 feet where the outside temperature was about 45 to 50º. The pilot swayed the aircraft back and forth and performed a couple of rolls to keep the ingredients mixed up pretty good.
When he landed the plane, with some assistance, the cook had the wing tank taken off the pylon, set on a table and cut up the papier mache tank with an axe and served everyone some "Tutti-Frutti" ice cream.
Now, that's some serious need for comfort food. And, another example of how great American ingenuity can be.
"Rock On, America!"
Third cup!

Copyright 2020/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"A Conversation About The Arts From A Nurse's Perspective!"

Last night, I fixed myself a great meal. It was a capellini style spaghetti with capers and anchovies, some fresh basil leaves, tomatoes and such. It was great. I finished off of half bottle of merlot which mellowed me out. I planned to watch the Broadway film version of Hamilton, but I never got that far.

When Disney asked for a password, I got pissed and cancelled the whole scene. Maybe tomorrow, or is that today?

Anyway, Sunday morning, I got up and took Pierre for a long morning walk before either of us had any breakfast. After our quarter mile walk around the bird sanctuary, I washed a batch of clothes, gave the dog his flea and tick med along with his food, then, fed the birds.

I made a pot of coffee and a, what I call, my "monkey salad." It consists of a quarter of a fresh cut pineapple, a mango, raisins and one banana. I usually add a few roasted peanuts, but I ate them all up watching a ballgame from the 2019 year, the other night. Once I start shucking and eating peanuts, the game has lost all meaning until I finish the bag.

Anyway, I set it all up in order to have breakfast with the program CBS Sunday Morning. I used to like the program with Charles Karult and late Charles Osgood. Nowadays, not so much.

I finished my breakfast and split for a piece of sanity at Giddity-Up. I had hoped to have a cup of coffee and read my new book, but as luck would have it, I met my clay throwing maniac, Craig Mcmillin. I knew him as a mentor to our son before I ever knew him for a ceramicist par excellence that he is. He was delivering some new mug designs for sale at the coffeehouse.

I'm happy to say that two of my SoCal friends brought one of his designs.

Among other topics of discussion, I asked him about his beginnings as an artist/ ceramicist and just how he arrived at the decision that this was gonna be his gift to humanity. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip into his past to share his trials and tribulations along the way. For me, it was a 20 ounce cup conversation.

Craig was quite forthcoming, and I tried to be!

He had to learn how to turn his passion into a business to make it work... I think he's succeeded.

I was motivated to inquire about his "salad days" when one is young and inexperienced because one of the many nurses I have met along the way from one hospital after another, made the jump from a fine artist to a registered nurse. It seemed such a big jump from one side of the brain to another... if you believe in that sort of thing.

Nicole had finished her BFA in fine arts, but had no idea where to go after graduating. She was a ceramicist and knew that it would take a big investment in her career before she ever made a name or a profit for herself.

Drifting around from one idea to another, Nicole went back home to collect her thoughts. It took a year or so to decide that the best way to make a living as an artist was to get a Master's Degree and teach.

Her parents tried to help her with some decision. Eventually, she figured that if she had to back to school, that she might as well go back and get a degree in something more practical... like the medical field. Unlike Craig, who was determined to make it as a ceramicist, Nicole could not find any logic that, as a teacher, she would just perpetuate that familiar conundrum.

"Wow," I said. "That's a really big jump to go from the right side of the brain to the extreme left... Extreme, in my mind," I reiterated.

"I loved the arts, but I couldn't see any way to make it work for me," she said. It would have been such a big investment with no guarantees!"

I asked Craig what his thoughts were about Nicole's decision. We both felt that we had little or no options, but were determined to make it work. Nicole, in her mind, did have options!

Funny, the things that make us who we are, or who we think we are.

As Therese and I had done at St.Tammany Hospital with nurses like Megan Thibodaux, we grew to know and become friends with people we may never, ever see again... like Nicole.

As I was to tell her about my conversation with Craig, she made an announcement that not even her aid knew about.

"I'm sorry to say that today will be my last day here with you, Mrs.Therese and at Ochsner's. My husband finished his residency here and is being transferred to Michigan." It will be great because I'll be closer to my family though I will miss all the friends here at the hospital."

"Ya see? Therese said. "Women want to be close to their family!"

It was at that moment that I decided to do a sketch of her before her day was done. I politely asked if I could snap a photo of her and her partner, Claire.

They both agreed that it was okay and gave me a quick pose. By quitting time, I had them both completed. Both done in Prismacolor and in gratitude for a job well done, and one, to celebrate the move and time we had together.

First cup...

Copyright 2020/Ben Bensen III