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