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