Monday, December 30, 2013

"So Much A Part Of Our Lives…In So Many Ways!"

Another special waitress in our lives who was a part of our lives in South Pasadena.
A friend sent me your article on Maggie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything you said about her was right on. I loved your comment.

"We tend to commemorate the glamorous and spectacular in Los Angeles, and we celebrate those who beat long odds. But maybe we too often overlook the people who toil in anonymity, bringing dignity and pride to their work, and going out of their way to touch lives and give meaning to our daily routines."

I was a student at Art Center College of Design in the mid seventies and when the college moved to Pasadena, we students found a late night place to drink coffee, have a knosh, and converse about art. Back then, the Salt Shaker was the only place that was opened past midnight.

As it happened, once I graduated and started working, I bought a place in South Pasadena, not too far from the restaurant. Maggie was still there, serving it up! She loved watching our son, Brian, grow up. We'd sit and draw pictures and she'd get a kick out of his scribbles.  And yes, she knew my favorite dish for so many years, "The Great Eggs Incognito" with extra chili and an English muffin, well done.

My little story is a mind blower. In 2001, after living and working in South Pasadena, we returned back to the bayou north of New Orleans, which is our original home. Occasionally, since we left, I'd return to  South Pas, and have my favorite dish for old times sake. Margaret was on another shift, I guess, because if I saw her, I, like others, would have requested a table where she was working.

But last time I was in town, around Christmas, I saw Margaret and requested one of her tables. Though I'd been to the Shakers, as it then, became known, I hadn't seen her in, at least,eight or ten years or so. After some holiday greetings and a brief chit chat, she asked me what I wanted for breakfast and before I could get the words out, she giggled and ordered my regular. 

"Maggie, I said, there are many things I miss having move back to Louisiana, and you are definitely one on the top of my list!"

Guess I will be missing her for a long time, now.

This is my response to the LA Times reporter who wrote this article, Steve Lopez.

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Sometimes, Ya Gotta Do What'cha Gotta Do… A Follow Up!"

Mom better not find out her name was misspelled… 
Some friends mentioned wanting to see my mother's picture in two of the local newspapers. What's the big deal about that?

Well, I composed a blog the afternoon I returned home with my mom, who was just as "happy as spiked punch" with the reception she received about the Santa's baseball cap I gave her to wear earlier that morning. I didn't think it was a big deal and actually had to sell her the idea of wearing such a "chapeaux." I never thought it would be a highlight of the season here in Mandeville, LA. There's no need to rewrite that story, which explains the "high drama" hilarity. You can read about, at:

Santa's baseball cap was a hit… with the "paparazzi" as well as the media, and here's the proof!

Ho, Ho, Ha…

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Christmas Will Never Be The Same Without You"...

A Christmas promo a few years back…

Brian, you know that I am a Christmas freak. I love this time of year whether here in Louisiana or your hometown, South Pasadena. There's no heart for trimming the house with lights, Christmas trees, mistletoe or stockings hung from the chimney mantlepiece, but your mom and I will still celebrate His birth and Santa's special gifts. Christmas is always great, but it will never be the same without you. It's just that we'll miss you so much…

We'll toast you at dinner man… So much!


Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas!"… And Other Great Seasonal Vibes!

The gift that kept on giving until it is left on the car's dashboard.

There was a time when cassettes were all the rage. Maybe, to understand it, is to remember the convenience of having ninety minutes of uninterrupted music at your disposal. No album to flip over or replay. You could cram both sides of three entire albums on one tape. You could design your own play list, overdub, overlap, fade in, fade out, make poignant statements politically, socially, musically, emotionally, comically… whatever.

It all seems so silly and insignificant nowadays, but...

There was a time, I'd take my date to a movie and afterward, have dinner at the hippest hamburger joint in New Orleans, The Ground Patti. It was so cool to snuggle in your "CPO" next to a roaring fire and listen to uninterrupted tunes on a reel to reel tape machine. And, as a twenty year old, eating there was a definite upgrade from Burger King!

Ah, the simple pleasures…

Years later, much to the disdain of many of my musically sophisticated friends who just hated Christmas music, save one or two songs from their childhood, I made cassettes of Christmas music. I made them with all kinds of music from the baroque to ultimate classics like Nat King Cole's, "Christmas Song," which has to be in my top twenty five songs ever.

Eugene Rappolo's version of Judy Garland's," Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," is also one of my favorite tunes. "Stax/Volt's" collection of risqué and raunchy, tunes like"Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'"and the country corn tear jerkers like "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas!"were just a sample of the kind of tunes I'd record to tape.

As a part of the fun of giving these thank you gifts to my clients, was creating, along with the discography, the artwork for the cassette holders. I enjoyed creating them for my collection whether it was a cassette of Beatles hits or a Christmas concept of all "Silent Night" tunes. I made a Cajun Christmas cover, a Country Christmas with Santa's tip of the hat, and a Black and White Christmas, which had "white" Christmas tunes on one side and soulful, rhythm and blues and doo wop tunes on the other side. I thought juxtaposing Bing's, "White Christmas" with the Drifter's version was pretty illuminating, as well as, entertaining.

Some disagreed. They didn't appreciate the visual of a split Christmas tree, black on one side and white on the other. C'est la vie!

There was a time, I feared that I'd run out of Christmas material, but after a dozen years of gift giving, the technology changed and beat me to the need to find new ideas. In a way, I sort of, lost interest.

Also, by that time, the culture and how we connected and worked together had changed. The computer made it unnecessary to physically be in the agency interacting with creatives like art directors, production people, account execs and designers. It was time to move on...

But, I still have my original cassettes and, here's a picture of some of the artwork I created in those crazy, conceptual, cassette days.

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

*Some folks asked me for the url to the title of this blog, so here it is: Quick get out the hankies!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Sometimes Ya Gotta Do What'cha Gotta Do!"

This is a sketch I did this time last year while enjoying a SoCal Christmas...
But this Holiday Season, the sketch is not the story… Santa's baseball cap is. As it so often happens, the holidays create all kinds of personal deadlines, misinformation, confusion and panic! When it is not about me, but involves me, I can get a bit irritated.

For weeks, I knew my mother's Christmas bash at the senior center was on December 11th. That was then, and this is now and this is,

"Oh crap…that is, today?" This morning? What time?

"Okay," I say. "Let's find something festive that is, hopefully, in red and green!"

The day before we argued rather vehemently over my mom's insistence that she didn't need a bath. After cooling off, she went in hiding, and I had a glass of merlot to forgot about the argument... and, everything else pertaining to my mom. Then, Sonya, our CNA and old folks/farts psychologist and, part time bar tender, came by to smooth out the rough edges and bathed my mom. She is a definite godsend, in so many ways!

So, as I am clothing my mom quickly and rather haphazardly so we wouldn't be late, I'm thinking about a broach or pin or something I could attached to her that would make her feel more festive when she walked into the senior center.

You know how most women are, at any age… grand entrances and all.

Though I don't like rummaging through my wife's jewelry and such, to find something appropriate, I did. I promised myself that later I would put everything back to where it belonged. Going through my wife's stuff always bothers me and I try not to do it unless I really, really, really have to. It goes back to my childhood when I'd see my father occasionally rummage through my mother's purse looking for money to buy milk, bread or gas.

It's sacred ground to me. It's kinda like reading someone's diary without them knowing it. It's a violation of a person's space and it makes me always feel uncomfortable.

But, this was an emergency and so I dove in to scrounge anything I could find, but I couldn't. I could not find anything that was seasonal except a gold pendant of a reindeer that I purchased for my wife years ago. There was no way that I was gonna pin that on mom. I liked it too much, and I'd be really angry if my mom somehow lost it. I'd probably be more angry than my wife would be.

Then, all of a sudden, like Santa hit me in the head with a snowball, I remembered my Santa baseball cap. Yeh, that's the ticket! Most of the time, my family begs me to not wear it on Christmas day. I guess they are embarrassed by my attempt to be so festive! But, this is different, and so what, if it isn't very feminine. My mom always tells anyone, who is a captured audience, about her days pretending to be a boy and playing ball. Or, the time she showed a nun her athletic prowess and superiority by hitting a home run to "win the game."

Not just once, but twice, in the same time at bat.

The story is, as told by my mother, entertaining, and a classic bag of baloney because she's told it so many times that the story has taken on it's own life. C'est la vie!

In the end, it all worked out. I was able to just barely convince mom that the combination of Christmas and baseball was sure to be "a hit."I was able to remind her fleeting mind that she could use the combination to tell everyone all her childhood baseball stories. I even provided her a mirror so she could see herself with the cap on and make the necessary adjustments to her satisfaction. Fuzzy pom pom to the left, fuzzy pom pom to the right! She went for it, but all the way from Folsom to the Mandeville Community Center, which is about a twenty mile drive, she primped, hopefully assuring my assertions that she'd be the belle of the ball… base-ball, cap and all!

Well, not only was she the subject of many a paparazzi, but two "community section" newspaper photographers snapped away happily as my mom ham-ed it up. And, of course, she made sure that they spelled her complete name completely correct. That is, Mimi ( not Miriam ) Fortier Bensen!

See ya in the papers, y'all… and thanks, Santa!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Another Nixon Galloway Watercolor"… Number Fourteen!"

A tri-motor minus two engines?
In 1925, Stout brought out the 2-AT Pullman, a high wing conventional gear monoplane. The aircraft featured decorated side panels, padded seats, semi-circular opening windows, and a bathroom.  The all metal airframe was covered with that distinctive corrugated metal skin apparently to prevent rust and corrosion. It was the first all-metal aircraft certified in America and was one of the first single engine aircrafts to commercially carry more passengers. It was eventually redesigned to accommodate three engines, becoming the Stout 3-AT Tri-motor, and later was redesigned to become the more well-known Ford Tri-Motor. 

Development hastened with the infusion of resources from Ford. The rugged Stout could carry up to 10 passengers including the pilot. It could also carry a huge load of freight and mail. Its 400 hp engine enabled the Stout to cruise at 116 mph. This aircraft is responsible for the start of the multi engine airliner, the Ford Tri-Motor which was essentially a three engine version of the Stout 2-AT Pullman.

I thought it was pretty cool of Nick to keep that cool aluminum feel to the watercolor realizing that it was, at the time, the first successful all metal transport. I don't know if he did this purposefully, but I like to think so!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III