Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Downsizing Christmas?"

A gift from a old friend, Judy Walker.
Well, I really don't know why I was worried. For years, my wife has been trying to downsize our Christmas. It has always been her way to not make such a fuss over anything, choosing to stay behind the scenes and in control. It is pretty much how she was raised, whereas I, being raised by a couple who were always competing with each other for everyone's attention, am just the opposite.

Each Christmas, Therese, Brian and I would make a pilgrimage to purchase one ornament for the tree. Brian and I would compete over which decoration was the best for the year. Inevitably, we wound up at Stats, in Pasadena. We would settle on one, write some cosmic note, add the date, and, each year, hang it on a larger and larger Christmas tree to accommodate all our ornaments. We now have tons of Christmas ornaments, Nativity scenes, stockings, greetings, nutcrackers, stuff animals, snow globes, and other seasonal paraphernalia.

To my wife, it was becoming over the top, eccentric, and extreme to the point of being obscene. To me, that was just the point... it's Christmas!

Well, last year we didn't celebrate Christmas at home choosing to spend time with our friends in Southern California. This year, we almost did the same. But, there is so much personal business we really have to address, that, two days before Christmas, we decided to decorate the house and buy a tree with the stipulation that we would discard, sell or give away half of our Christmas booty. Sadly, I acquiesced.

On a very gray and wet day, Therese decides this is the time to get rid of some things. I would imagine in most households, it is the male who is "Bah Humbug" about such things, and would gladly dump Christmas entirely.

But, that's not me!

Listening to appropriately enough, Merle Haggard's, "If We Make It Through December", I walk into a ornament filled kitchen, offer my female Grinch an eggnog, all the while thinking about spiking it enough to bring her back to her Christmas senses.

Merle Haggard's, "If We Make It Through December"

"Ben, look at this cute little clock. It has tiny mice sitting on the second, minute and hour hand. Isn't it just too cute?" she asks.

"Yes, it is, but I thought it was broken. The minute hand snapped off years ago, didn't it?"

"Yes, but I remembered where I put the minute hand and super glued it back together again," she boasted.

"It's a keeper!"

It is one of the beautiful things God gave us... women who can't help loving cute... any and all things tiny and cute. I can relate to that!

I don't think Brian or I have anything to worry about. Eat your heart out Salvation Army, maybe next year!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, December 25, 2014

" Three Wiseman, Three Tenors, and Three Goofballs!"

Merry Christmas, from 'da Bayou!
This Mr. Bingle is about 25 or more years old. I thought my brother bought it for us, but my wife tells me we bought it at the Maison Blanche in Lakeside Shopping Center one time when we came home for Christmas. Mr. Bingle, was a promotional puppet for a local and large department store. In the late fifties and early sixties,"Bingle" had his own half an hour program for the kids between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He became a cult hero for my generation...

Who knows why?

This our second Christmas without our son, who passed away a year and a half ago. Last year, we didn't have the heart to decorate or even purchase a tree for the celebration. Instead, we left for two weeks to visit old friends in Southern California, where we lived for almost thirty years.

This year, we decided to stay at home and celebrate our son in a different way. And, one of those ways was to pull out all of his favorite stuffed dolls that only come out during the holidays and place them on top of the mantlepiece, the piano bench and end tables. As it is with any keepsake, every stuffed doll or animal presents a rush of great, yet not depressing moments, we three shared. Amazingly, showing the little white snow-coned promotional elf on Facebook, sparked an incredible response from friends and locals spread all over the United States inquiring about where they could actually purchase the little stuffed icon. Nostalgia's like that, I guess...

What's old is again, new... who knew!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Santa's now,"Shreddin' In His Sled!"

Santa really didn't need one...
Well, Santa went and bought himself a guitar amplifier. It's a solid state Fender combo amp. I figured Santa needed a new impetus to stay on his gluten free diet. He's trying to use the excuse that all this weight he's losing will force him to pay a pretty price in alteration fees. Santa finds so many excuses around this time of year. He also figured it would give him a better reason to play and keep his fingers limber from that dreaded party crasher, ARTHUR RITUS! He figured, also, that it would be lightweight and easy to move around. Santa ain't getting any younger. He plans to take full advantage of those video lessons that really wasn't available to him when he was young and stealing chords from Handel, and his Christmas music books.

Okay, I think he's just jealous of the easy way to learn how to play all those great Christmas riffs, now. The kids, nowadays, really got it easy, he says. They don't have to earn it, like in those dark, frigid, North Pole days of long ago. Walking in the snow for miles just like, Good King Wencelas, to learn the difference between an augmented fifth and a suspended fourth.

He really didn't need another amp. He has a perfectly good, classic, tubed, pre-CBS, 1965 Fender Bandmaster, but, Santa tells me, it is a stacked monster that just is immovable without a roadie's help. The reindeer just don't care or understand, and the elves just can't budge the beast. to and fro, like they used to.

Personally, I think Santa just wanted a new toy with all new bells and whistles to help him "shred in his sled," ya know?

That's really what I think... Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Okay, Okay, Carol, I Get Your Drift... Let's Get To It"...

Big Branch Marsh...
Well, it all didn't start out all that great a few mornings ago. I knocked over the coffee grounds that were set up for a new brew. I couldn't have just spilled it atop the kitchen counter. No, that would have made too much sense. Coffee grounds all over me, the counter top and the floor. Okay, it was no big deal. It's something can occur to anyone at anytime. The worse that could happen was that my first cup of CDM coffee would be delayed.

Later that morning, knowing I was gonna have to use my sunglasses, which kept sliding off my face, I grabbed two needle-nosed pliers and started to make the necessary adjustments when the left lense on my regular glasses fell out of the frame. Oh boy, this isn't looking good.

Of course, nothing looks good through one lens. So...

After pouring myself another cup of coffee, I went to my top dresser drawer where I have always stored that plastic case of six little screwdrivers for just such an occasion, but it wasn't there. Spending the next twenty minutes looking for that set of screwdrivers and then wasting another thirty  minutes finding another pair of reading glasses so I could fix my original glasses so I could finish adjusting my sunglasses before they fall off my head and end up in the lake, was gonna make me late for my appointment with the dermatologist.

I was a half an hour late, but the doctor managed to sneak me by the front desk and check me out. He seemed really happy with his efforts to do some minor surgery on a melanoma I had on my left forearm. He asked me if there was anything else he needed to check. I complained about a patch of seborrhea on my face and a swollen red patch on my left calve.

"Didn't we give Mr. Ben some topical medication for those concerns?" he asked the nurse. She nodded in the affirmative.

"Well, the doc asked, "Did you use those meds?"

"Uh... I didn't know that that was what it was for," I replied, feeling like a total idiot!

"It won't work, if you don't use it," he said with a rather sarcastic giggle.

Feeling like a complete idiot and not sure I wanted to inflict myself or anyone else with my discombobulated day, I called my friend Carol Hallock and attempted to cancel our afternoon painting date. The weather was foggy and cloudy most of the morning and Carol was hedging against  going at all. We had been planning this trip in a rather informal way back in early October, and it didn't seem like it was gonna happen at all. So, I called her.

"Hey Carol", I said,  I'm thinking about bowing out of this thing. My whole morning was a mess and it is still overcast here... What'dya think?"

"Well, I got the boat all packed and ready to go, so let's do it, she replied.

By the time I got to LaCombe, where Carol lives, the weather was nicer and really warm for a boat trip in December. For those who are unfamiliar with Carol's work here locally, most know that occasionally she takes her paints out to the bayou in a kayak to capture the moment from a different point of view.

Baby steps...

For now, we loaded my easel and paints in the boat and shoved off for the "high seas" and some vitamin D. About halfway to the point, where the river meets up with Lake Ponchartrain, Carol started having problems with the outboard motor. Naturally, the first thing I thought was my rotten morning luck was rubbing off on Carol. We drifted with a stalled engine for about five minutes until Carol figured out the problem and got that engine running smoothly again... Something about this switch she said as I breathed a big sigh of relief.

We landed on a small beach that separated the lake from the expansive marsh grass, and sat on our lounge chairs talking art, music, life and making a living as artists for about an hour while waiting for the clouds to clear out. Being the impatient kind, she pops up out of her chair, (and our conversation!) and declares that times a-wastin' and quips...

"A lot of people don't like cloudy days to paint, but I don't mind. I kinda like the moodiness!"

Reluctantly, I arise...
A head start...
"Okay, okay, Carol, I get your drift... Let's get to it."

I set up about forty yards south of Carol and when I returned to take a few photos to capture the sunlight that bounced in and out of the clouds, Carol had already set up her palette for the day and was painting. I took a few pics and she took one of me and then we went about our separate ways interpreting the light, the clouds, the water and the marsh grass.

From where I painted...
I must have changed the sky four or five times by the end of the day. We started our paintings around 1:30 and called it a day around 4:30. I must admit that after three hours I had very little accomplished to my satisfaction. Carol had two 8"x 10"s completed. We packed up the plantation, and headed back home, and as the sunset illuminated the entire sky and bayou, we lamented not being with our easels capturing the moment. We arrived at Carol's dock almost at dusk, unloaded the plantation, and decided to celebrate the end of the day Mexican style at a local LaCombe restaurant.

Before we did that, Carol pulled out her paints and, in the kitchen, she started adding, smearing, pushing and cajoling the oil paint around to her liking. I am always flattered when she asked for my opinion, as she often does when we work together. And, though we both took our paintings home, we each put in a bit more work, just refining what was already there. Of course, I'm sure I spent more time noodling my refinements over the past weekend than Carol did.

Chowing down our Mexican feast, smelling of oil paint, sea salt and suntan lotion, I hoisted my second margarita and toasted to our success saying...

"I'm glad we finally got to do this!" I've enjoyed every drop of these two margaritas and every moment painting with you!"

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Painting Some Veteran's Day Conversations"...

The phantom Phantom...
Well, I've been driving by a static display of a Navy F4 Phantom that, about one year ago, just popped up along the southern side of Interstate 12 between Hammond, LA and Denham Springs, LA. Someone or some group, did an incredible job of restoring this Vietnam era aircraft and yesterday, to celebrate Veterans Day, I'm got my easel and paints and put it to canvas... En Plein AIR Style.

So, to speak...

And here's where I am at, so far. Lots of vets stopped by to talk and checkout my progress. Cars and trucks were tooting as they pass by. It was kinda cool!

It's a bit amazing how things have changed. Now, more people stop and say thank you for your service. I think a lot of it has to do with the communications now available. Many are understanding that the guys at the tip of the spear don't give the orders, but just follow them. The sixties and early seventies was such a strange time. 

Not ever being a veteran of any war, I'll never know the sacrifices.There are so many unbelievable stories these warriors can tell. Truly, amazing. All the precautions you have to check and sometimes endure just to be up in the air in the first place. Something as simple as choking on your own vomit if you cannot "jettison" your own oxygen mask. Forget about being shot at!

When I wasn't listening to all the stories, I was painting. Sometimes, in order to meet my own deadline, I did both. I certainly am learning what not to do when painting details in oil, En Plein Air style. I put in five hours in between visits by about a dozen vets. I think I'll have to put in another five hours or so, but the next few days 'da Bayou will be wet and cold. So, I won't be out on location painting this bird, but it will give me time to think about my next move to complete this piece.

To all veterans, who go above and beyond the call of duty... Happy Veteran's Day!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Hey Mary Poppins, Where's Your Umbrella?"

Can always count on Mary to be "Spit, Spot!"
Tee and I went to dinner last night and were, between bites, laughing quite heartily. Okay, we actually were laughing our asses off, at some of the second grader hijinks that occurred in her class yesterday. She asked me if I knew how to edit film on the computer. 
"Uh... yeh, I guess so. Why?"
"Cuz I bought some Disney animal adventure videos and everyone of them has animals either eating each other or fornicating... or both!"
She said," For Halloween, I showed this video about "Hootie Owls" and it opens up on a giant owl killing a rabbit!" As she continues, I'm practically in tears.
"Awwww," Mrs. Bensen, what happened to the little bunny?" 
"And before I could finish my explanation, the commentator started talking about procreation... And, and, and... I couldn't jump fast enough to hit the pause button!"
"Then, Therese says,"Then, Sarah, a pixie little ginger haired, girl blurts out, "Oh, Mrs. Bensen, I know all about that and how it works!"
"I usually screen these shows before I present them to the kids, but who would've thought a cute, Halloween Hootie Owl, vid would be... would be... be so full of SEX and VIOLENCE!"
After almost spitting out a bite of trout, laughing, I asked her, knowing that tomorrow was Friday and the class would be celebrating "Character Book Day," what reading or video were you gonna show to the kids?
"MARY POPPINS!" she yells out..."That's pretty safe, I'm sure!"
So, this morning, as the sun is coming over the trees and I prepare to do a bit more of my painting of the back paddock, I asked Therese as she's starting to drive out...
"Hey Mary, hope you didn't forget your umbrella!"
"Oh, she says, "That's a great idea!"

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Any Excuse To Have A Breakfast At Russell's...

Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby!
Well, I'm in New Orleans at Russell's Marina Grill... doing breakfast. I had to have an excuse to go, so I asked my wife what she wanted for her upcoming birthday. The conversation went something like this:

"What do you want to do for your birthday?"

"I don't know," she replied.

"Well, I ain't gonna buy you no clothes, for sure... You've got enough of that stuff you don't never, ever wear," I said.

Noticing the obvious and copious use of double negatives, she said," No, don't get me anything to wear, OKAY?"

"Okay," I said... how about some flash drives?" You always seem to lose 'em!"

Not appreciating my sarcastic compliment, she said," I don't want you to spend any money on that school stuff... and don't get me any more socks either!"

"Okay, okay!" Just let me know if you think of something, okay?"

Five minutes or a few batters from the KC vs SF game, Therese voted to have our home carpets cleaned.

"I'm not paying for the carpets to be cleaned, FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY!" 

"That's just crazy," I said.

"Well, we haven't had them cleaned since Brian left," she replied in a rather subdued way.

"No way, no way! Thinking twice, I said, "Has it really been that long?"

"Geez, I guess I better check the AC filters, huh? It's really been THAT long, I inquired... rather sheepishly.

"I got it, I got it," she blurted out. 

"The PHANTOM"... let's go see it again! It's at the Saenger coming soon, I think," she said.

"Cool," I said, "I'll get 'em at the box office tomorrow!

And, that's why...well, I'm in New Orleans at Russell's Marina Grill... doing breakfast.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"The Young Rascals, The Realtor and Good Lovin'..."

My acoustic guitar and my 1966 Fender Bandmaster.

I picked up the guitar last night before I went to sleep while my wife laid in bed with her computer, writing lesson plans. Without going into details, I stumbled through, a Merle Haggard song, "If We Make It Through December", The Beatles, "This Boy", and "Slow Down!"
It's not like riding a bike!
I remember spending practically half our holiday vacation with our SoCal friends, a few years back, working on that specific song. My friend bought his daughter a really nice, cherry red, Fender Strat, which eventually disinterested her. Personally, I think he bought it for himself, but that's another story for another time. I had that song down pat, including all the heart felt inflections Merle put into it.
Last night, I could barely remember the intro.
Why am I mentioning all this? Well, that morning I met a real estate agent to discuss the sale of a small corner lot in LaCombe, LA. It was time to get serious about the property which had been for sale for about seven months or so. We planned to meet at a local Starbucks. 
I was late. She was even later.
Over a venti dark roast, we exchanged profiles and niceties. We talked about the property and she gave me the big sell complete with her credentials. When I inquired for more details about her past, just to get a better feel for her expertise, she tells me all about her musician days; what she did, who she performed with, traveling the world with her Gibby L-3 acoustic guitar which her dad gave to her at the age of thirteen.
Well, that was all I needed to know to hire her. 
"Okay, okay, enough of this business stuff," I said. "Tell me more about the kind of music you once played and how you survived as a woman playing music, soloing from one gig to another in a time when only "folksies" allowed females to play like that!"
We spent the next hour, sipping coffee and telling tales of gigs gone by, musicianship, favorite guitars to play, and lots of backstage shenanigans. We talked about crazy stuff, like creating your own vibrato in songs like "Anyway, You Want It!" We both cracked up when she asked me if I ever sang some guitar parts instead of playing them. 
"Oh yeh,' I said with a little bit of embarrassment."Like the song byThe Young Rascals called,"Good Lovin", I said."It's impossible to play that instrumental part without a band behind you because it sounds so thin." 
"You use to play that song?"she asked. "I loved that group!"
So, here we are, two fifty or sixty plus year olds, just playing and laughing like ten year old kids. I loved every minute of it. I asked her if she still played gigs anymore, and she told me of a restaurant called, "Cosmos," where she and her husband currently play every third Wednesday night of the month. She and her husband are looking for a good, solid bass guitarist "that knows all the tunes."
We had a ball that morning and left vowing to keep in touch. We sealed the deal with a C#maj7... smooth!
That Friday evening, it was late, but Tee was still up correcting papers and writing lesson plans on her laptop. I was restless as could be. I was exhausted from the day, but not at all sleepy. I thought about checking the scores, or reading a book on the B-24 bomber. Then, I stared at my guitar and thought about my conversation with the realtor. My Guild, D-55, which I bought back in 1978, stared back at me like it always does, and has since 2001. The closest I come to playing it, is dusting it. It is an icon to a past I'd just soon forget. 
My 1966 Fender Bandmaster amp, big and beautiful, but not as powerful as it looks, stands proud and shiny, just begging me to flip on the red light. The last time I used it was for a disastrous Christmas gathering with my family way back in 2004. I stunk. My hands hurt. I couldn't remember some of the words or the chords to even the simplest Christmas tunes. I must have been wasted on eggnog! It was clear to me, I would never again be that bad in front of anybody.
Moving on from Merle, I jumped from one guitar ride to another kinda free associating one lick for another and timidly singing...  no, mumbling the words to "Brown Eyed Girl", "Honey Don't", "Born to Run,""Born On A Bayou," and "I Feel A Whole Lot Better," I played for about an hour, "skipping' and a jumping'" until my uncalloused fingers hurt.
My wife, who once sang and played a ukelele in a family girls group said, "You never do finish an entire song anymore, do you?"
It sent me back to a time when we were first married driving up and down Acadiana singing, "If I Fell." I sang it straight while she sang the counter part that Lennon sang in that song. She was always in tune.
"I know,"I said, putting my baby back on it's' stand."I really don't know what that is." 
I, then, turned off the light, rolled away from her computer's blue glow, and fell to sleep.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Hurricane Katrina, Sun Studios, And The German Elvis Fans!"

"Let's Git Reel Go-an!"
Today is the ninth year anniversary of the visit from "Lady Katrina." There will be tons of memorials and pictures of the incredible devastation and confusion her visit to my hometown created. If you are a native, you were affected in some way. My mom's rebuilt home in the Gentilly area was destroyed not by the hurricane, but by the flood that came a day later. I could expatiate further on those sad coincidences.

Living sixty miles north in a town called Folsom, we were also touched by this lady. We lost over sixty two trees of various sizes and shapes and had to have my roof completely replaced. But given what others went through, for weeks on end, we did alright.

Katrina was a very big storm and she covered a wide swath of devastation. Having said all that, once our neighbors helped cut eleven sixty and eighty foot pines into smaller pieces on Tuesday, the day after the storm, my mom, son, wife and I split for anywhere where an air conditioner was working. We drove north up I-55, stopping only for gas, if we could find a station that could sell us some. Brookhaven, McComb, Jackson were all picking up the pieces. We didn't find electricity until we hit Southaven, MS, which is just across the river from Memphis.

When we arrived at a Hampton Inn, we found many displaced New Orleanians, seated and watching on CNN, horrified at what was occuring in our hometown. It was the first time I ever used Google maps/ earth to actually find my mother's house... eight feet under water.

But, New Orleanians, being a hardy and party bunch, it didn't take much time to realize life goes on within you or without you. We decided to embrace all that Memphis had to offer, and Memphis went out of their way to make every "refugee" feel welcomed. With discounted prices, if you could prove you were displaced, we enjoy strolling Beale Street, eating soul food, and fried chicken dinners, visiting Elvis's "Graceland" and finally, my favorite, Sun Studios.

I never was an Elvis fan in the way that many fans were. But, reading the book, "Mystery Train" made me want to visit what many consider the birth of rock 'n roll, Sun Studios. I won't go into the history of Sam Phillips and his foursome of seminal talent, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash... amongst others. You can look it all up at: , or read the book.

I will say, the place had a dusty, eerie feeling of past ghosts with memorabilia, stories and really basic recording equipment. The high point of the very low key tour was the studio where rock'n roll history was made. It was pretty sparse, but if you've ever heard the RCA re-release of the album, "Sun Sessions" you'd know that besides Elvis "reel go-an" voice there was only one lead guitar (Scotty Moore ), one standup bass ( Bill Black ), and Elvis rhythm guitar. There was no piano, no drums, no other instruments there... just an old fashion metal microphone that some German and British tourists had to embrace and sing a line or two from Elvis's early homespun catalogue. They sang into the mike rather timidly, and with very little hip shaking,  but with much awe and respect for this unique opportunity to be so close to the beginning of rock 'n roll... me too!

"That's all right mama, that's all right for you, That's all right, mama, anyway you do...

"That's all right!"

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Don't It Make My Blue Eyes, Brown!"

Reading War and Peace?
You know, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go! There's no need to expatiate on the in's and out's of that biological effect. It would certainly be "TMI," that is, "too much information!" But, honestly, when you're are standing in line inside the restroom and there are two "patrons" ahead of you awaiting one of the two stalls to clear to... uh, "Oo-Poo-Pah-Doo," well, it can get pretty scary!

Just for fun...compliments of Jesse Hill!

Apparently, it had gotten passed the point of looking elsewhere for these two characters too!

Stall "A" was inhabited when I arrived. It was still inhabited when I left. Needless to say, the mind reels. We were all looking for some sign of life, hoping to hear the toilet paper roll. A grunt, a groan, a sigh! When we thought we heard the rustle of newspapers, one "patron" mumbled," He'd make Leo Tolstoy proud!" I thought it was a very polite, and educated comment coming from a guy who had been waiting so long to go. I shouldn't have been too surprised,  after all, we were waiting our turn at a Barnes and Noble bookstore!

As one "patron" exited Stall "B," he loudly expressed his gratitude.

"Thanks man, I REALLY appreciate it. I was beginning to fear my blue eyes were turning brown!"

We all laughed, but still there's was no movement or sounds emanating from Stall"A" and as the second patron next in line bent over to see a pair of blue jeans crumpled over black dress shoes, I remembered how a few years back, we'd have a laugh at Barnes and Nobles expense.

I recall, how, whenever one would type a word in the search column, and sometimes, even if you'd just type something on your timeline, the bookstore popup would "pop up", reminding one that it had all one would need to find info on that topic. Naturally, though it was a rather juvenile thing to do, one could type in some pornographic term and sure enough, Barnes and Noble had all you could imagine on that topic.

Maybe, it was just the rebellious artist in me that made it so much fun... maybe!

Another nervous laugh came out as the toilet flushed in Stall"B" and the patron said,"I'm almost finished. I just got one more chapter to finish!"

Still, not a sound from Stall"A."

Desperate to distract my bowels, I thought about the time that there were a couple of women waiting at a restaurant restroom. Having the convenience of being a guy, I snickered as I entered the men's restroom, did my thing, and walked out only to see the short line of women waiting hadn't moved at all. Three women took my offer to stand outside and guard the men's room as they entered to relieved their worried minds! It was quite a rewarding feeling to have offered such a chivalrous thing. Now I know how good deeds done make a Boy Scout's day. I also, now, understand what it is like walking around in a woman's... uh, shoes!

As the second patron jumped into Stall "B," he mentioned the movie,"A Weekend With Bernie!" and said,"I think we got us a stiff seated on that toilet. Whadd'ya think?"

"I think I'm about ready to explode," I replied. Still, there was not a sound coming from Stall"A".


"Good luck, dude," he said to me as the first patron dried his hands and walked out of the door.

"Thanks," I said, as I contemplated the invasion of the women's restroom. "Maybe, we should call, 911?"

"Yeh, how would we explain that one?"said the voice from Stall"B".

A minute or two later, the sound of a flushing toilet interrupted my contemplating that eventuality.

"I'm done, I'm done," he said, "it's all yours!"

"Praise 'da Lord" I said, as I checked myself briefly in the mirror.

"Good, I thought, My eyes are still blue!"

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Friday, August 1, 2014

"The Tony Gwynn Winners, Baseball, And Me!"

My happy winners, Samantha and Keola LaGrimas...
 It was great fun.  One half an hour before Adobe started giving away their raffle prizes, I confidently marched over to one of the school administrators, Linda Sellheim, and requested that she announce my intention to raffle off the portrait. I had started painting the portrait a while after lunch, but was often distracted by the many visitors who, sort of, look over my shoulder as I struggled with Tony Gwynn's likeness and chit chat.

I'll always stop to talk baseball!

Linda graciously announced my intention to raffle off Tony. I was flattered as there was just as much excitement for the raffle as there was for Adobe's promo. Linda's a real promoter and was quite effusive with her praise of me and the portrait. The little dynamo and I go way back to Art Center days.

As the first no-show name was pulled I thought, "Oh great... no one's hung around for this!"  But, the second pick from the "hat", sprung forth Samantha and Keola LaGrimas from San Diego, the couple I had spent quite a bit of time talking baseball and our love for Tony Gwynn. Both are graphic designers who, like me, had a booth at the San Diego ArtExpo... who knew?

Their enthusiasm for winning really made me feel that the effort was well worth it.  We three posed for promo pics with their prize, and this is one of them. I would have loved to spend more time with Samantha and Keola, but I had a late night dinner appointment I was gonna be late for, if I had started talking baseball with the winners.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"San Diego ComiCon, The ArtExpo And The Tony Gwynn Extravaganza!"

San Diego's favorite son...
Had a great time at the ArtExpo here in San Diego, where nerdy "conventioneers" abound.  Being from New Orleans, one would think I'd understand the need to dress up, but I don't!  Certainly, I have no animosity or disdain for those that do, I just don't get the need to be something or someone else!  Kinda like wearing sports jerseys with your favorite player’s name on it.

Anyway, on the second day, in between guests strolling by my "booth,” I decided to paint San Diego's recently deceased favorite son, Tony Gwynn.  Originally, I had planned to demo my traditional marker style and talk about my slideshow, but the way the expo was situated, that wasn't possible.  But, I had planned to demo/paint a portrait or an aircraft.   Since the demographics of this venue would care less about a finished piece of aviation history, I decided to go for Tony. 

Funny though, I pressured myself with the final by offering to raffle it off at the end of the evening, even though I had little idea that it would turn out this nicely.   I even wrote a note stating that I'd raffle it off if it was worth raffling off.

The note got a lot of chuckles from people passing by.  It might have even encouraged some to add their name in the "hat!"

I had been working on it for about four hours when I decided to take a walk, grab a "cab" and stroll amongst beautifully costumed ladies and scary, one of a kind ghouls, witches, warlocks, Sherlocks and dead bolt locks!  (El Dia de los Muertos" continues to rule along with dark, forbidden icons from a religious past!) 

Of course, when I returned to my beloved baseball icon, it looked more like a "Picasso Armageddon!"  My deadline was 9 pm and I now had less than two hours to get Tony recognizable, or I'd have to announce to the crowd that I'd be too embarrassed to give it away!

If I have the courage to announce anything to the crowd.

I decided to share my progress with people putting their names in the hat, which really ratcheted up my enthusiasm.  About this time, some serious fans of Tony Gwynn came by to share their love of the ball player.  One woman said she cried for days when he passed away, and one couple said that they have such an abundance of Gwynn memorabilia that the collection has almost become an altar to Tony.

It was great fun.  One half an hour before Adobe started giving away their raffle prizes, I confidently marched over to one of the school administrators, Linda Sellheim, and requested that she announce my intention to raffle off the portrait.

Well, I didn't win one year's subscription to CC6 or a T-shirt or any other goodies from Adobe, but after the conclusion of their gift giving, Linda graciously announced my intention to raffle off Tony, and there was just as much excitement as there was for Adobe's promo.   Linda's a real promoter and was quite effusive with her praise of me and the portrait.   The little dynamo and I go way back to Art Center days... and, she’s still prone to hyperbole, ha!

As the first no-show name was pulled I thought, "Oh great... no one's hung around for this!"  But, the second pull sprung forth Samantha and Keola LaGrimas from San Diego, the couple I had spent quite a bit of time talking baseball and our love for Tony Gwynn.

Their enthusiasm for winning really made me feel that the effort was well worth it.  We three posed for promo pics with their prize, and luckily, for me, Therese took a few, too. 

We ended the day with a toast to a job well done, and then continued the night with a late dinner at the "Juniper and Ivy" restaurant in downtown San Diego, just Linda and her husband Mark, Tee, and me.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Love You, Miss You, And Keep On Practicing, But Don't Wait Up, Okay?"

We be jammin', he liked jammin' too!

  • Yesterday was the one year "anniversary" of our son's passing. He was gonna be thirty-four. Love him and miss him and sure wish he was here, but hard as he tried, he just couldn't beat his illness. I really don't give the after life much thought, but wherever he is, I hope he has found some peace and can focus on the really important things like what pitch to throw on a 0-2 count, and… how to tell a joke before laughing away the punch line. Also, how to set the hook on one of those beautiful California golden trout we never did learn how to catch." How to make a model airplane without losing the clear plastic canopy, or perfect your delicious fish taco that Mario taught you how to make, and, and… how to go Pete Townsend on your guitar without scrapping your knuckles!

    Oh, and lastly, how to introduce yourself to one of those pretty young angels, high up in those clouds!


    Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"This Guy's In Love With You"... And, The Purple Drugstore!

He thought it was "schmalzy, but so what...
It was 1969 at the Katz and Besthoff drug store on the corner of Broadway and St. Charles Avenue. It was across from Dominican College, where my then, girl friend, went to school and worked. There was a juke box inside. On her lunch break,  we'd occasionally have a malt and a burger and for a quarter, I believe, you could play three tunes. I'd always play BS&T's Blues Part II, Creedence's, "Susie Q", and "This Guy's In Love With You!"

For the record, on this date in history: June 22, 1968- "This Guy's In Love With You" by Herb Alpert hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and the record produced by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

It was not only Alpert's first No. 1 single, but it was also the first No. 1 single for his A&M record label. The song held the #1 position on the Hot 100 for 4 weeks, and also spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart. 
Herb Alpert's Singing Debut...

It was kind of a "schmalzy" song, and not all that well sung, but the song became one of Therese's and my favorites! I liked it enough to have Edgar Winter, my then, brother-in-law, show me how to play it on the piano...

And, I still remember how to play it... I'm such a sentimentalist!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"We Lost Most Of Our Pictures Of Dad In The Katrina Flood, But..."

Three Generations...
I don't have many pictures of my father since Hurricane Katrina flooded my parent's home, but damn, I can't find a better moment that depicts my relationship with my son, and my father than this...

Yeh, I had to bury my head into my wife's shoulders, and like a baby, I just came apart when he said,

"Hey Dad... wanna have a catch?"

 Happy Father's Day, y'all...

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"A Farm, Smack Dab In The Middle Of Suburbia!"

On location painting...
Late last fall, I found this citrus (Satsumas) farm, smack dab in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. I was struck by the orange barn that was all the more illuminated by the evening sun and the long fall shadows. I painted this on location in three sessions. Originally, I attempted painting the whole farm with trees full of the orange fruit, but soon realized it would be better suited for the studio. The painting has a stark, well defined, graphic look which I love, and is what attracted me originally. You can get a better look and maybe purchase a print at: 

Copyright 2014/ Ben BensenIII

Monday, May 26, 2014

"I Only Knew One Friend And I Found Him At The Vietnam War Memorial."

He was on the football team as a second string tackle, and that's pretty much how I knew him. Adrian was a soft spoken, shy, rather unassuming guy who seemed not quiet sure of his place in high school. He had a great sense of humor with a disarming smile. I wish I had known him better. I went to our Senior class yearbook to find his graduation photo, but, for whatever reason, it was not available. 

Classic Adrian? I really don't know. We were pretty much all about our selves back then, as most teenagers are, and I have, now, no way of knowing. I had to go to our junior year football roster pic to find the one posted.

I was in my first year of college when I heard Adrian joined the Marine Corps. I thought, he must have had a real need to prove himself to himself to do something that drastic at a time that was so dangerous. Why would he do such a thing? 

What seemed like six months later, the news spread that Adrian was killed in an ambush in Vietnam. I remember someone told me how it happened, but the passing of the many years has fogged my memory. I felt some sadness, then, but felt it was naive to think he could prove himself in such a way. I felt it was foolish of him to try. There had to be a better way.

Many years later, while attending a function at Andrews, AFB with the Air Force Art Program, I  decided to visit the newly completed Vietnam Memorial. The memorial had been negatively talked about for what seemed years before and after it was built. I had heard people would bring paper and a marker or pencil to rub or score the names of deceased friends and relatives onto the paper to remember and honor those who died protecting our freedom. I thought that was cool, even though I knew I would not need much paper.

I only knew one soldier.

I would walk and search the entire wall until I found him and when I did, I just began sobbing. I really didn't know why, I just did. It was very moving. More moving to me than I could ever realize. A distant school friend, a team mate, a graduate, a soldier… a Marine!

A piece of paper is now all I have left of him and it is stashed deep in my files, forever. Who knows if I will ever find it, but in my heart, Adrian will live forever. Though I have never been in the service, and therefore, no real right to say this, "Semper Fi," Adrian...

And thank you.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Be-boppin" Mom, Friends, And Some Horseplay"...

Some of today's polo horseplay...
We live about two miles from these polo grounds. Every now and then, as I drive my mom to and fro, she spots the polo players across the road, riding and slapping the ball around on the practice field. I thought it would be cool to take her to a real game. With the help of Debra Schilling Smith and Karen Babin, I was able to take mom to the Southeastern Louisiana Land Grant Polo Tournament today. Mom had a ball, grubbin' and watching the horseplay!

Like "cool Daddy-O!"
I also met a few patrons who somehow knew me, but I didn't know them. That's always a bit awkward, but I did find a few artists friends like Phil Shaw and sculptor/ ceramist Craig McMillin, who was nice enough to pose with me nine different times to get a decent picture. Our son Brian used to hang with Craig and occasionally help him in various ways at his shop.

Craig's work can be seen at:
As I mentioned, there were some folks who introduced themselves to me like I knew them. It was very flattering, but a little awkward. One man I did know was, Dr. Jay Addison, the president and administrator of the Southeastern Louisiana Land Grant. He came over to thank me for my limited edition poster I created two years ago for the polo event fund raiser. 

The story of creating the artwork for the poster is at: Limited edition print, "Bubbles"
I had not seen Jay since he lost his son in a bicycle accident around the same time we lost our son. We spoke about "chasing ghosts" for the last year or so, as he, as well as I, try to get on with our lives. He sent a large, beautiful floral array at Brian's funeral. It was awfully nice of him to seek me out being that this is basically his party and was so busy running it as well as, entertaining.

All in all it was a gorgeous Spring day to come out and watch the ponies play... and for a good cause!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Trying On Bathing Suits... And A Little Boy's Help!"

The Enemy...
I haven't bought a swim suit in twenty years.

It's not like I can't swim, I can. It is not like I don't like sitting "fashionably"sunning ( or burning ) myself around a hotel or gym pool.  I do.

Well, maybe not fashionably!

I do have a bathing suit that I've worn for many years in spite of the fact that it embarrasses the hell out of my wife whenever I am out in public wearing it. I just don't spend a lot of time that way. It is usually when I'm on a vacation that I acquiesce to trying on new bathing suits. I'm not at all as interested in clothes as I was as a youth. Maybe, it was all about the dating game... maybe.

Well, while spending a week in Southern California at a hotel that had a wonderful outdoor patio and pool, I decided to check out some "beach wear." I knew that I'd have to buy some suntan lotion eventually for the air show that I was gonna attend late that week, so why not...

Maybe, I'll purchase an entire beach assemble!

I didn't take long for an attitude change as I went from one store rack to another looking for something wearable. Suffice it to say, I was not in "bikini shape,"as each mirror in the fitting room cruelly reminded me. It was getting to the point where I really didn't want to walk out the door to crack another mirror. Oddly enough,  my timing was about the same as it was for this ten or twelve year old kid that shared the same mirror with me. I don't remember what he was trying on, but it seemed to me that he was also eyeing my sartorial disgust with the mirror. Three times I came out and three times he came out of his fitting room at the same time.

Wearing a suit that was more akin to a boxer's trunks, than it was a swimming suit, it was dark blue with lots of small light blue stars. Staring at a body that is twenty pounds over the limit and knowing I was really expecting a miracle to happen, the slender, dark haired, dark eyed boy looked over to me  smiled and said...

"That one really looks good on you!"

I smiled back, I'm sure, rather suspiciously, and said thanks. As he turned and reentered his changing room, I wondered what that was all about. Was he tired of seeing me so disgusted? Did he feel I needed some kind of approval struggling so with my mirrored image in trunks that made me look and feel like a sonar buoy? Why would he care? Maybe, he was just trying to relate on a manly level in a way that maybe he couldn't with his father. Maybe, he was my guardian angel in the form of a little boy helping me make a decision I wouldn't trust any guardian angel to make... just being in a guardian angel outfit. Maybe this, maybe that!

I stood there for a minute, twitching and blinking at myself in the mirror, dumbfounded.

"What the hell," I said to myself, "Maybe, he just really liked the way I looked in them."

So I bought them... and if anyone complains, especially my wife, I'll just say I'm keeping them because a California angel told me I look good in them.

Indeed, the mind is a terrible thing.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Added Spice From Jack Leynnwood"...

Jack's Added Spice...
Well, it is about time that I "fess up" to a few things. This is a painting that I completed at Art Center back in 1976 in one of Jack Leynnwood's rendering classes. If you know me, you know that I adored Jack. The reasons are many and have been explored in pretty explicit detail in earlier blog posts.

But this "Jug" illustration was one that when I showed Jack he felt it needed more "visual pizzaz." As is the case in so many of an early artist's education, once you've completed an assignment, collapsed in bed and awaken a few hours later, you see things you like and things you don't. At Art Center, critique stories abound. Some are really embellished to the point of absurdity, but you always wanted to meet the class deadline "spit spot, and spot on!" It was always better to catch a mistake before you went into a classroom critique.

But, not so with Jack.

We had to complete a product illustration or rendering of our choosing on a 15x30 surface. I really should have painted the Thunderbolt horizontally, but at the time, it never occurred to me to do so. If I had, I would not have had to paint that hole in the sky that just refused to be ignored. With a giggle that suggested no one should be ridiculed for making mistakes, Jack recommended that I lose "the donut in the sky." He, then, at my request, not only made some suggestions on how to make the scene more appealing, but he actually, pulled out the brush and quickly painted, or repainted the foreground runway with puddles from the rainstorm and some skid marks. He also suggested I add some wet spray coming off of the wheels which were shown retracting. 

I asked him to show me how he'd do it, so, he did.

I had that piece in "C print" form in my portfolio for years, but the original now belongs to the United States Air Force in their art collection. In hindsight, I am ashamed to say, I took the framed Ben Bensen III/ Jack Leynnwood painting that I, so dearly loved, off the wall and used it to secure my trip to the Air Force gala presentation at Andrews, AFB.

The painting I started for the show never got completed... and, I was a desperate artist in need of a vacation.  I must have been dizzy from late night deadlines and marker fumes to have done such a thing.

Did I mention that I owned two Jacks? No? Well, one day, when I find out where the hell I put the other matted and framed Leynnwood classroom demo, I tell the whole story...

But, don't hold your breath. 

It has been missing somewhere in my home since Hurricane Katrina!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III