Saturday, December 24, 2016

The only record left of Santa Viking's existence.
Good Christmas Eve Saturday, y'all.
I am happy to report that I survived my ordeal yesterday with Mother Nature. I was afraid I would do something stupid and wreck Christmas, but, after about six hours of yard work, I am pleasantly surprised. 
Speaking about Christmas, this is my Santa Viking pic from yesteryear. When our family had young kids to celebrate Christmas, we'd ship our gifts to them from SoCal. My two brothers started a bogus Christmas company call "Dudenheimer Productions". Tee, Brian and I would look with much anticipation for all the zany silliness my brothers could conjure up.
It was always a fun time under the tree!
In retaliation, I started sending our gifts from "Santa Viking" who'd ravage and pillage and plunder... and blunder his way into the hearts of many a little Bensen! Many Polaroids later, this is the only record of Santa Viking's existence.
Enjoy... I think!
In case I forget, let me wish you all a wonderful Christmas. My Facebook and Google friends are the best...

Copyright 2016/Ben Bensen III

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Come All Ye Faithful..."

Holy Trinity Cathedral
"When we get there, I don't think we need to stay too long," my wife said. I thought to myself well what's the big deal. It's kinda rude just to show your face and then, run!

"Okay, whatever," I acquiesced.

When we arrived at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Orleans, which I later found out was first Greek Orthodox Church in North or South America, the parking lot was almost full.

About two Saturdays ago, I moseyed over for a cup of coffee and some abuse from the gang at Gus's restaurant, but there was no one or cars to be found as is usual. There was an envelope taped to the locked door of the restaurant. I wasn't sealed so I decided to open it up and see what was the reason for everyone's Saturday no show.

Written on a torn, half sheet of yellow ledger paper by a local landscape gardener, Steve Smith, was his condolences to the owner, Gus Michailakis. The first thing that crossed my mind was that Gus had complications from his inner ear surgery and passed away. 

I was not the only friend who shared that concern.

Sketchy information from close friends who spoke to witnesses said that on Friday night, with little or no warning, the eldest son, George, left the kitchen where he was working and went into the men's bathroom to end it all. George was the eldest son with a history of mental illness. One shot was all that was heard. 

Naturally, chaos ensued. The restaurant wasn't crowded at that time, but patrons poured out of the door into the parking lot. The local police showed as did the ambulance. Out of respect for the family, none of the patrons asked and little information was divulged. At this point, one week later, the details of his death don't seem so important.

Waiting our turn to see George in repose, I noticed in front of me, the neighborhood friend Therese and I ran into as we walked to the church. She stood in front of the casket with tears in her eyes. I looked around to see how precious friendships really are and what a simple neighborhood eatery means to a community. If only George could have understood the important part of his being alive and the out pouring of love that was shown at the crowded church.

I turned my head back towards the casket to notice that, our friend, Debra, touched George's hand which was surrounded by a crystal rosary. Her doing so reminded me of seeing our son in his casket and touching his hand. A hand, though still rather childlike, was a talented hand. Little hands that we had to hold so he wouldn't scratch himself from the many food allergies that plagued him most of his life. Soft hands that could easily grasped a double play ball or tap an errand throw of a football back into his arms. Talented hands that could build and paint model aircraft as well as create marker and charcoal and pastel art. 

The same hands that later would nervously pat me on the head as he passed by never knowing quite how I would receive it, were now cold and gray. It has always stuck with me. As our turn came up to pay our respects, I could tell Therese was beginning to have a hard time coping, for George was Brian and Brian was now, George. But when she met Pam Michailakis, in the receiving line, both mothers hugged and fell into desperate tears. I really don't know what was said or commiserated. I'll never know what it means to share one mother's heartbreak with another mother, but I could tell Tee was already exhausted.

We sat in a pew for a moment or two trying to regain some composure, then we walked back to the car. Starting it up, I slipped a Christmas cd into the player. The first song to play was,"Oh Come All Ye Faithful... It was then that I realized the "twenty minutes" was probably more than enough!

Copyright 2016/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"The Courthouse Wedding Sketch.. A FollowUp!"

The happy framer, couple and artist!
This is just a follow up to the preceding blog story:  

We, the framer, the couple and me, finally were able to meet at Pineapple Gallery in Mandeville, yesterday. 

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I was really concerned that they wouldn't love it. Maybe, it had to do with only having a few minutes to complete it! I sometimes wonder what the hell is wrong with me! 

But, they both were ecstatic about the framing as well as the artwork. Whew!

Copyright 2016/Ben Bensen III

Monday, December 5, 2016

"A Sketch Artist, A Court Room And... A Wedding!"

Really a cool concept...
I received my courtroom/ wedding sketch nicely framed by the Pineapple Gallery when I visited Carol Hallock and Tanya Firmin Dischler's art show. I am hoping to set up a photo thing with the wedded couple, me, the Hamilton's, and, of course, the artwork, but coordinating everyone for these photo sessions most times just isn't logistically possible.

Well, it all started about a month ago. A young couple arrived at my booth at the Three Rivers Art Festival  and ask if I had any experience as a courtroom reporter. When I told them that I did and could send them samples of my work, they immediately recruited me to illustrate their wedding like a reporter would, as a keepsake. After explaining that they didn't want to lose control of their wedding to either side of the family, they decided since the groom was a budding divorce lawyer, that taking their vows and exchanging the rings in front of a judge in the local court house would be a pretty novel idea.

I did too, but I had no idea what was expected of me on their wedding day. To a certain degree, I should have taken more control of the proceedings. I was not aware of exactly where the judge and the couple had to be to make the best use of the scene. Unbeknownst to me, traditionally the bride is to stand or kneel on the left side of the groom. Had I known that ahead of time I would've place myself on the other side of the judge's stand. I wanted to position myself where I could get the bride's face and gown and leave the groom, who was visually easier to draw sporting a straw hat and a well groomed beard, in profile. 

I should have explained my concern and asked for their patience in order to transport my easel and supplies to the other side of the judge's stand, but I just didn't want to impose myself upon the couple in that way. I am positive that they wouldn't have had a problem with my request even though they seemed a bit nervous about the whole idea and now, just wanted to get it done.

The ceremony was to start at 2pm, but the couple was twenty minutes late. While waiting for their arrival, I spent some time conversing with the judge.

"Sir, I asked, just how long does the vows and ring exchange usually take before you announce a couple man and wife?"

"Oh, probably not more than two minutes or so," he blithely commented.

"Two minutes? You're kidding?" I asked. "Man, I'm a pretty good artist, but I can't draw that fast!"

"Well, maybe we can pose for you, a bit!"

If the vows took five minutes, I'd have been surprised. When the ceremony was over, the couple turned to me and asked to see what I had completed. I showed them what I had and begged for a few minutes more. The three granted my request. As I continued to struggle within that time frame on what I considered a botched drawing, many of those in the wedding party including the guards came behind me looking over my shoulder complimenting my every move. I seemed to feel better about the sketch with every passing minute.    

Although I had him sketched to my satisfaction, it didn't take long for the groom to get fidgety... about ten minutes. I hastily laid in some tone with the side of my Prismacolor pencil and declared the sketch complete and as the party raced toward the door, the groom turned back towards me and said,"It looks great!" "Can you get it framed for us?"

Copyright 2016/Ben Bensen III