Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Idiot... You're on Vacation...

The other morning, while returning from the local cafe, a dually, Ford 250, was hauling up my back, then passed me at about the speed of sound on little state highway 40. I chuckled to myself, "He must be in a hurry!" It reminded me of a time when I was visiting friends in Los Angeles sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway. After living in LA for almost thirty years, one understands that there is no good time to take that freeway. Leaving one friend's home in West LA for a two o'clock luncheon at Van Nuys airport with an aviation bud of mine, Mike Machat, I left in what I remembered to be plenty enough time. But, I sat in traffic to get to the freeway and then, crawled up the hill and slogged my way back down into the valley.

I was gonna be late. I didn't even have an recollection of how to get the restaurant. Now, I'll have to call Mike and beg his forgiveness, geez! Five lanes going downhill to the north, everyone jockeying for position, cutting in front of me, cutting in front of anyone, just to sit and slog. At least, I'm driving a rental car with an automatic transmission, I thought impatiently to myself. I finally get off the freeway with five minutes to spare only to sit in another traffic jam on the boulevard. When I discovered the traffic light was out, I lost it!

I JUST LOST IT..."What the f*&@!!k", I yelled, "Let's get going... What IS the ^%^&$# problem?, I said, foaming at the mouth, veins busting out of my head, eyes bulging, pounding on the steering wheel. After about thirty seconds into choking the life out of my steering wheel, I realized, "Wait, wait, I don't live here anymore... I'm on vacation!" There's no deadline, there's no, "You'll never work in this town again". I don't have to dive into an ad agency just in the nick of time, worrying that they just might not like it!"

You idiot! You're on vacation!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kinda Freaks Me Out...

 I sent this to my good friend and great paper sculptor, Leo Monahan. Here's what I sent to him: I am sitting in a local library and found two wonderful posters for a client, BWI booksellers. The one poster is of a knight in shining armor with his jousting lance atop a armored steed all in aluminum foiled paper and set atop a black background. It must be yours. Then, as I crane my neck around the door I see another beautiful paper sculpture set atop a black background. Same client in a similar frame, but this one has a fiery yet very colorful dragon complete with mouth breathing flames and gorgeously set with with that splat technique on the colored scales. I am amazed and freaked out as I say to myself, "Wow, that's a Leo Monahan!" And I know him. He is a dear and close friend and colleague. It must be nice to be nationwide with your work. A chill races up arm as I think to myself, I will never get to that pinnacle of success. Thirty-five years in this business and nothing that we outlive me, I say, as I get up from the my seat, pull up my slacks and flush the toilet. "I can't even make it on the walls of a Louisiana library men's room!." C’est la vie!

Monday, June 21, 2010

"C'est la vie," say the old folks,"Goes to Show, You Never Can Tell."

Well, it all started in October, 2008 when I decided to rearrange my studio to make it more efficient. Like everything else in this world, things must be adjusted to accommodate new ways of thinking, working, and living. Without realizing the implications of my actions, I pulled the plug on my four month old 20"Mac monitor while the Mac G5 was asleep. At the time, I was more involved in placing it in its new environment to see how ergonomically it would meet my needs... and my aching back! Two days later, when I had everything in its place right down to the sharpened pencils, I turned on the computer and there was no picture. What! What's gone wrong now? Hey man, this thing is brand new... hardly used... touted by the trades as one of the five best monitors of 2008. What duh, uh!

You'd think the obvious solution would be to bring the monitor back while it was still under the one year warranty, but that would have been way too easy. I replaced the new monitor with the old monitor that was supposed to be replaced... by the new kid on the block.

The Ilyama 1600 was the pride of the class of 1995 and I loved that monitor. It just continuously performed, seldom needed color correction, and had survived the move from South Pasadena to Folsom in 2001. It was the old cathode ray style monitor that actually dared you to pick it up and move it. It weighed a ton, so until the final move to Louisiana, that puppy stayed right where I originally put it... for years! If you were gonna rearrange the studio, you adjusted everything around the position of the Ilyama. Now, with the new monitor disabled, I dragged the behemoth back into place in front of the Mac monitor and hooked it up once again to the computer. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, the Sugar Bowl, the Super Bowl, King's Day, St. Joseph's Day, St. Patrick's, Fat Tuesday, all partied down in a town that can find any reason to party. Heck, New Orleanians would party about there being no reason to party. Oh, the concept of it all!

Anyway, it was that time of the season, here in south Louisiana, where the cold air meets the warm, moist, spring time breeze wafting through from the Gulf of Mexico and "BAM" without a warning all your peripherals are fried! Amongst the smelly debris, which phone men and insurance investigators swear they can detect permanent damage with their nose, was my "double monitors." Phones, modems, three printers, one UPS unit that didn't work and a Wacom tablet, a keyboard, and a host of USB hubs, were all fried including our $500.00 Australian Fisher/Pickel washing machine. The lightning strike, which was made worse by the disconnection of our house ground plug outside near the utility box, also fried the computer motherboard inside the washer. Luckily, the insurance plan covered just about everything including the Mac monitor, which the investigator assured me, was a victim.

Well, who am I to tell him any different?

Nine months later, an associate to the investigator, dropped off equipment I had long written off as junk including the Mac monitor. It was discovered that the Mac still didn't work, but was not destroyed by the lightning strike, so they returned it to me packed like it was brand new. Oh boy!

Fast forward to just a month ago, when I decided to clean the garage in preparation for two large 3"x4" paneled canvases I was gonna paint for a client, and in the process, throw away a lot of stuff that we no longer needed or was in disrepair. On a whim, I decided to check out the monitor, just to see if it worked. It didn't... dead, gone, kaput! Good riddance!

Only, it sat in the car for two weeks... aggravating me, eating at my guilt, Catholic and otherwise, a brushed aluminum albatross creating drag from the trunk of my car as well as my psyche. Okay, okay, there's probably a million Chinese starving to have a chance to just see if it was repairable. So, I made a reservation at the local Genius Bar last Saturday just to ease my mind. Whatever it is, if it cost me money to fix, well then, the Chinese can have it.

I told the Apple rep my whole story, much to his displeasure and then told me it would cost $300.00 just for the labor. I winced and whined and tried to cajole him into, at least, looking to see if he could make it work first before I committed it to the junk pile. So, he opened the box that it originally came in and saw the monitor just as beautiful and pristine as ever, lovingly repackaged with even the original tape that held the white cover sheet over the "glass". "Wow," he said, "It really looks like you barely used it! When was the purchase date?" I rolled the box over to show him the shipping date of 8/22/08.

He walked back behind the big, white door and returned to hook up the monitor to see if indeed it could be fixed or not. As he wiggled and swiggled and USB'ed his way into the connections, he told me to hope that the monitor would not fire up. With restless anticipation, we both waited for the little white MacBook to boot up and switch the monitor on. Thirty seconds after the Apple chime, which always sounded to me like the opening chord of the Beatles' "A Hard Days Night", the monitor sat quiet, motionless, and dark.

"Mr. Bensen, my manager said we will fix the monitor free of charge since it is obvious to us that it was barely used and would ordinarily have been covered for one year after purchase." "How does that sound?" Smiling, while trying to hold back the tears of joy, I replied that that,"sounds fair!" "Sir, please fill out this form and we will deliver the monitor to your studio in seven to ten days." I thanked him as calmly as I could as he walked off with my monitor and I, with my empty, well kept and original box.

It just goes to show you that sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger and sometimes you're the ball and as the old folks say,"You never can tell!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ain't It Always the Way...

What is it about life that just when you find the right bolt to fit, you can't find the nut. Or, you got the left shoe, but the right shoe is under the bed just far enough away from your reach that you can't get to it even though you can clearly see it. Hollywood has made these "Murphy's Law" exasperations a staple in those horror films, where the monster is coming to do you some serious hurt and you can't get to the gun just out of reach...until the last moment. And, how many times does the car not start when some ghoulie is trying to rearrange your vin number. Yes, we've all suffered through this kind of thing from time to time. Sometimes, you can deal with it and sometimes... well, you make a spectacle of yourself.

In my effort to save money, be "green" and make the best use of my trips into town, I loaded newspapers and plastic bags in the trunk of the car, took my dry cleaning with me to drop off and then, went to a chamber of commerce meeting, where I was to report on the local "artist at events" agenda. After the meeting was over and everyone completed their parking lot conversations and drove off, I remembered that I had, the other day, purchased two Dole pineapples at the grocery store with one gone horribly "wrong." If I could find the receipt, well, then I would be able to return it, exchange it or get reimbursed for wayward fruit and really win the "Green Award" for the day. It all felt so right, so I opened the trunk and dove into the myriad of plastic bags, hoping to find the receipt.

I found receipts for the laundry, receipts for other groceries, receipts for fast food, receipts for hardware, receipts for office supplies, receipts for this, receipts for that, but no pineapple receipts for $2.89. Of course, by now, I have plundered, ripped and trashed what seemed to be scores of plastic bags and they are starting to scatter all around my car and with a little breeeze, all over the Chamber's parking lot. "Come on Ben, this just isn't worth the price of admission," I said to myself, but I just couldn't stop now after having gone through, at least, a hundred plastic bags. Well, damn! Now, it is about the principle of the thing. I just knew that pineapple receipt was in one of those bags somewhere in this car and I was not going to let these plastic bags "rip me off", or deter me.

Just then, the president of the chamber drives up in her very uptown wheels, gets out of the car and asks,"Ben, are you okay?" Sweaty, red faced and flustered, I replied, not wanting to let on that this plastic bag massacre was about saving $2.89,"Oh, I am fine... How's it going at the chamber?" Grateful that she didn't ask me if I was gonna clean up the parking lot, she turned toward the front door, and continued walking and mumbling.

Well, now you've done it. You've embarrassed yourself, made a mess of the car and the parking lot and you have only one more plastic bag stuffed with more plastic bags to search. "Gawd, what an idiot you are!" This is ridiculous. Yeh? "Well, guess what?" I said to myself," I'm gonna continue this foray until I am totally satisfied that it is not here and never ever was." No, you're not, I thought to myself. Oh yes, I am! C'mon Ben, give it up, man! You are... not... gonna....... find........ it...

HERE IT IS! I told you. I told you I'd find it. You see, persistence pays off, I told you. Two pineapples at $2.89 a piece. Yes!

Vindicated at last and feeling quite the hero, I cleaned up the parking lot, stuffed all the plastic bags back into the trunk and drove off victorious. It was only when I stopped at the first traffic light did it all dawn on me. "Damn, Murphy wins again!" Why did it have to be in the very last bundle of plastic bags? The very last. Hundreds of bags. It could have been in the first bag or the thirtieth bag or surely in the seventy-fifth bag, but no. No, no it had to be in the very last one. Geez, what a loser!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Come Uppance...Is that one word or two?

Well, you just knew it was gonna happen. Late last week, in the early morning dew, while I am putting out garbage for a pick up, I heard very familiar and intense barking. First thing I thought was, there goes Pierre harassing those box turtles as they try to mosey their way into the morning sun. The walk from the front of the house to the back is about 75 or 80 yards, so there was a lot of barking going on before I got back to the house. Suddenly, the next sound I hear is a yelp and then silence. I had a private chuckle and walked over to see what was the matter. Pierre kinda pawed the front of his face and sneezed a time or two. Ten feet behind him, scrape ploppin' its way toward the front pond was a rather large turtle. I could tell from the shape of its shell Pierre tangled with a "snapper". I got closer to check the turtle out and it gave me a big hiss!

"Well, okay, be like that," I said and turned back to see if any real harm came to the pup! Though I saw no sign of nasal damage, Therese later said she saw a little chunk taken out from Pierre's sniffer. A couple of days later, I took the dog for a "pull" following him following his nose, when he came to a stop. Now, with slack in the leash, I notice Pierre was very cautiously sniffing at a small granite rock that was just the size and shape of that green attacker. He never got really close to what he obviously perceived to be another snapper and I think for the first time ever, doubted the effectiveness of the nose. "Hey Pierre," I laughed, "It's just a rock, dude. Guess you got your comeuppance!"