Sunday, March 28, 2021

"I Really Don't Remember These At All"...

Italian cookies for St. Joseph's Day...

Good "where have all the cookies gone" Monday Morning, y'all.

I remember that Saturday was one of those days of unfulfilled expectations. I remember telling myself to sleep in the lounge chair to avoid any pain trying to wake up and get out of bed.

That didn't work out so good, and it set the tone for most of the day.

Undaunted, I got out of my sweats and put on some ragged old shorts with plans to spend a good portion of the day painting. I put on one of my youth favorite tunes by Bert Kaempfert entitled, "That Happy Feeling."
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF2gCg0FDCg )

It was a song that I always got ridiculed by my rock n' roll snobs for liking something so, so, so Lawrence Welk like. But, the song was shared by me and my dad back when I would ride with him on errands listening the WSMB radio. The song was something we really had in common.

I didn't realize it then, but the thing that struck me as new and innovative was Kaempfert's use of the bass guitar as a lead instrument. I never heard that before and forever fell in love with Rn'R bass guitarists like Carol King, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and Motown's, James Jameson!

I played the song over and over again as I created another award winning fruit compoty for my wife. It even made my back pain tolerable. With the morning chores completed, I decided to get out of my ragged shorts and shirt, change into something a bit more presentable and took off for sanctuary of a fresh cup of French roast at Giddy Up.

Two hours and two cups later, I came home and changed back into my "studio rags." I spent the next two hours setting up the easel to continue on a painting I started six months ago. One hour into actually painting, my back was acting up, regardless of whether I stood up or sat down, so I decided to take a walk with the dog and Therese.

Well, checking the mailbox, which is almost a football field away is always a good excuse to get Tee out of her chair and walking.

Oh man... What a delight it was to open the mailbox. Along with love from Spectrum Cable and the electric company was a small package. Immediately, my outlook changed. My perspective of all that is good and pain free is suddenly redrawn. My posture took a whole new stance when I read the return address.

"Oh my goodness, Therese, she sent it and it has arrived already," I said.

"What? What is it?"she asked in anticipation of something wonderful.

"It's those fig cookies that the Zellars make this time of year. I think they're called, "cuccidatis".

"You gonna open them now?

"Well, of course. Sustenance for our walk, ya know? I replied.

Ripping open the Priority Mail ( bless the post office! ) we dove into the ziplock bag. As I took three of the fig cookie delights and gave two to Therese, she took one bite and asked, "You really don't remember getting these from Patty?"

"I really don't ever remember getting these. Though as good as they are I don't know how I could ever forget them."

"God, these are so good! Kinda reminds me of your Aunt Josie's "cocoons!"

"Yeh, she said, don't remind me!"

"Okay, I promise not to eat them all like I did to her cocoons!"

Stories about deadlines, Christmas tins full of Aunt Jo's cookies, and the late night munchies are stuff of Bensen/ LaPorte legends!

This morning, I had my last two cookies and left Tee with the balance next to her morning fruit extravaganza.

I'm now off to Giddy Up before I have a change of heart!

First cup!

Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Monday, March 15, 2021

"I Thought You Were Some Kind Of Weirdo!"

A Giddy Up coffeehouse regular...


Good "Lecherous" Monday morning, all bodies.

With a first cup here at Giddy Up, I started one of my "Matchbox Hole" posts when I came upon Larry who was sitting alone chewing the fat on his cellphone.
Having done a sketch of him from a photo I took a few weeks ago, it seemed we were doomed to never coordinate my gift to him. I wasn't really sure it was something he'd even want being the lecherous "badass" some women labeled him as. A sign of the times, I guess.
This time the stars were aligned.
I intercepted him as he hung up his phone and moseyed pass me to the back door.
"Larry, Larry, I yelled, I got something I want you to see."
"Well, hey there, youngster... How ya doing?
"Doing great", I said as I showed him the sketchbook drawing I created.
"You did this? Of me? Aw, this is great... Looks just like me and you even got me with my blue mask!"
I didn't want to assume that he liked it enough to ask for it, so I didn't offer it to him.
"Wait till me wife sees this," he says. "Can I take a picture of this?"
From that point on he tells me why he can only come over to GiddyUp on the days that a nurse comes to sit with his wife. Apparently, she's been suffering with Parkinson's Disease for quite some time.
He told me how abusive she becomes when the sun goes down.
"The things she says, she really doesn't mean, ya know?
"It's the Parkinson's Disease," he says.
"Aw, Larry, I'm sorry 'bout all that," I said, thinking of a way to offer the sketch to him.
"Larry, you don't have to take a photo of it for your wife," I said as I ripped the portrait from the sketchbook.
" I drew it for you, anyway, man!"
"Maybe, showing it to your wife during one of her rants will help change the subject," I laughed.
After expressing his gratitude and elation at receiving the gift, he leaned over close to me and said, "When you first asked me to pose for a picture or two, I wasn't too sure!"
"I thought you were some kind of weirdo!"
Second cup, now!

Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Friday, March 12, 2021

"I'm Not Here Right Now, So"...

A weema wop...


About a week ago, after a couple of months with my new iPhone, I realized that I was not getting any voicemails. After further investigation, I was told that AT&T locks you out after a certain amount of time of not setting the parameters for one’s voicemail.


So, after being shuffled from one tech nerd to another, I landed on one that was willing to tackle the problem. Earlier, I was asked to, time after time, record a new message to see if the voicemail would work. I was running out of serious messages to try.


After AT&T technoid named Mike requested for the umpteenth time to say something worthwhile to record, I sang, “Round, round, get around, I get around, yeh…” Nothing happened. After pushing more buttons on his side, he asked again to say something. 


“Okay,” I said. “I’m getting bugged driving up and down this iPhone town… I need some better reception for me to “Get Around!”


Mike laughed. And, after he requested another try, I sang,” Help Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda… Help me Rhonda, girl, get my voicemail to work!”


“Have you ever sang any karaoke,” Mike asked. 


“Actually, I laughed, I’ve never tried to!”


“You’d be great at it. I’m amazed!”


“Well thanks, man. If I have another life, I’ll give it a go!”


“I’m kinda old for that stuff, ya know?”


“Old? You sound great even over the phone,” he replied. How old ARE you?


“Uh, I’m 71”.


“You don’t sound that old at all,” he said in a meaningful and complimentary way!”


“Thanks, man,” I said. “How are we doing with the voicemail?”


“I think we’ve got it solved!”


“Well, if we need to test it from your side, you have to karaoke me a message!”


A few more buttons pushed, he suggested we give it a go. So, I hung up the phone and waited for Mike to call and leave me a voicemail.


And, he did, in his best falsetto… “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight!” A weema wop, a weema wop, a weema wop, a weema wop!


BUT WAIT… that’s not all.


The next morning my friend, Carol, tried to leave a message only to hear on the voicemail… 

A weema wop, a weema wop, a weema wop, a weema wop!


First cup!


Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

"A Wholesome Folsom!"

 

A revised sketch...

Had a great day with my artist friends in NOLA visiting my exhibit and cruising the hospital for other tidbits of art. More on that tomorrow, I guess.

Frank at GiddyUp ask me about two or three weeks ago to present to him my solution to a fence that covers the ugliness of a trash bin for the coffeehouse. I had the privilege of seeing two other solutions. So, I went in a different direction though I must admit it is a bit grandiose for his needs.
Anyway, when he saw my sketch, he asked me for a "color scheme" with a few additions. I gave him one color scheme with three different type treatments.
I'll just share one of these...


Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Arrgh..."

Me Matey Mcmillin...


This little 9x12 goodie is for a friend of mine. It is entitled,"Me Matey Mcmillin." I hope he likes it. I've been back in the studio trying to find easy, fun things to paint. I've got four large paintings I started before Therese became ill and since then, I just haven't had the need or the energy to spend any more time in the studio than I had to. Just don't have the heart for it, right now.

But, in the last week or so, I took some advice, indirectly, from an illustrator turned fine artist, Craig Nelson, who was also an instructor I had at Art Center. It has helped put things in perspective... a bit!

Anyway, I painted a few pieces and tried to not get myself to attached until I accidentally ran into this photo. It looked to be lots of fun and with the exceptions of a few details, it was.

Hey Craig, I had planned to give this to you with many thanks, Monday, but Sunday, photographing it, I noticed two important details to fix. I apologize... I'm a nitpicker!

I wonder if anyone can spot the one important adjustment I made and the other two minor changes from the FB cover art I posted the other day?

For sure, Craig, let's meet today because a little birdie told me that today, Wednesday, February 24th is your birthday! What a coincidence!




Got together over a coffee with birthday boy, Craig Mcmillin, at GiddyUp yesterday to deliver the painting. He was touched, which is pretty cool to me. I apologized for not bringing the coffee mug Craig made for me a month or so ago. It was in the dishwasher. Craig forgave me for the ill timed decision.

We kicked around a bunch of subjects including solutions to my "painters version" of writer's block. Always enjoy our coffee conversations no matter where we are.

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III






Thursday, February 18, 2021

"If You Got An Aunt, You Probably Need An Uncle!"

How I remember Uncle George...

It's gray, it's windy, it's cold, it's wet. Forecast for tonight and tomorrow night is another hard freeze, but we will see some sun all week long. Yeh, right!

Well, in order to close the books on my Aunt June I thought I'd mention the other half. Last I checked, if you're gonna have an Aunt you probably will need an Uncle. Strangely enough, I've not as many Uncles as I do Aunts, but Uncle George stands far an away the most interesting of the bunch.
Much to the dismay of his wife!
At Aunt June's funeral, my brother, who it seems is perpetually late for everything, brought with him as a gift a six pack of Barq's root beer. He gave it to Debbie, Aunt June's daughter, to the delight of her and all that knew the story. It was a rather strange thing to do, but that's my brother... The Doctor!
He has a penchant for presenting the deceased or their survivors with appropriate but still strange gifts. He'll quote some ancient pagan, Mayan, Aztec or Egyptian tradition of taking "toys" to the after life. One "gift" he delivered nine years ago was a classic:
Uncle George was a rather gregarious guy who during the War worked for the Merchant Marine. He had a lot of friends including my parents. Uncle George, on occasion, would join my father's company softball games just so he could join in on the after game festivities.
He and dad grew up together. So, we were always invited to join him at his home in Gentilly and sometimes, we'd get to go. But, whenever the drinks were past around, Uncle George would take us into the kitchen and offer us a "Barq"s", but it was ALWAYS watered down. He seemed to take pride in it. I complained once and got my mom's stern Marine stare.
No words needed to be said.
Anyway, it became a thing with Uncle George and the six of us kids. We never learned to enjoy it, but it was just Uncle George.
Uncle George also, having hung around sailors most of his career could really sling some salty language in the course of a conversation. My dad excused him because "He grew up in an orphanage" and my mother would always try to assuage Aunt June's dismay, by playfully running interference on George's next sentence and offering to give George "such a punch!"
Whether the party was over or still running at full steam, when George would quietly disappear we all knew it was time to go. If we didn't, he would appear in his pajamas and slippers and, in so many words... ahem, tell everyone it was time to go.
Poor Aunt June!

Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Monday, February 15, 2021

"My "True Man Compoty" Collection of Fruit Plates"...

My Valentine to my wife, yesterday!

 For the last couple of weeks or so, I started preparing a fruit salad/compote for my wife. Since her pancreatic cancer, she's had to restrict her diet. But, she can tolerate fruit quite well, so after a while, say a few months or so, I started designing her fruit salads and calling it "Fun With Fruit" and a bit later, my "True Man Compoty"fruit extravaganza.

Obviously, I am having a ball with this concept and my wife loves not only eating it, but trying to guess each ones silly titles. So, I decided to use a collection of my fruity fun as my cover art on Facebook. Got a lot of great response from friends and art directors... ha!

Here's one of a collection, No two plates are alike:


Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III
 

Monday, February 8, 2021

"The Comfort of Those Little Cherished Prayer Books"

Cherished mini memories...

Little aged, fragile, egg shell ladies arrive early to find their special place in the row of pews leading to the altar. It's always best to arrive before the crowd where someone might scurry by as through they see no one.
Dressed respectably, there will be no dainty, ironed kerchief atop their gray to white hair. Hats, demure and unassuming is the order of the day. They arrive early not only for sanctuary, but to open up their purse and pull out their prayer book.
Long, spindly, well manicured hands now cover the scars of many jobs and the many years of motherhood. Washboard hands that no manicure could possibly disguise, she pulls out a tiny, leather bound prayer book. The book is no bigger than two and a half inches wide by three and three quarters long. The two hundred sixteen, gold leaf pages are locked together with a delicately decorated but very functional metal clasp.
With the handles of her purse wrapped around her forearm, her arthritic fingers deftly dances through the delicate, gold rimmed pages searching the Table of Contents for the section "Prayers Before Mass."
She always misplaces it.
There it is somewhere between the Table of Feasts, Fasts and Abstinence Days and the Morning Prayers.
Just in Time before the Mass...
"Oh merciful Father, who didst love the world so as to give up for our redemption Thy beloved Son"...
She finishes all the prayers needed to prepare for Mass and just in the nick of time.
Throughout the service, her hands caress the tiny missal almost hovering over it, protecting it, turning each exquisite china cup page as if it was the actual word of God.
All the world, at least until after the "low Mass" Salve Regina is recited, is at peace. Until the next time...
I remember those days. I remember those ladies. I remember those tiny books of yesteryear.
I once had a small white prayer book that, like my sister's, was received at my First Holy Communion. We all wore white on that day, but my outfit had a few donut stains from giving into temptation from the very onset.
I trust with all the varied prayers being recited out from these tiny manuals over the years by many tiny church gong ladies, that I've somehow been absolved!
These beautiful three prayer books, imprimatur in 1896, and in 1925, are a treasure. They truly are from another time and another world. I do not know which family the two came from as I found them in a small cardboard jewelry box along with my older sister's book. Apparently, she made her first communion in April, 1955 to receive her very first "Manual of Prayers and Instruction!"
1955... that's a long time to be a Catholic!

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, January 30, 2021

"Puzzles and the "County Fair"...

 




Good "gray, potentially wet" Saturday Morning, y'all.

There's a song by Joe Walsh called, "County Fair." It's not one of those knock down, kick ass, get your blood moving type of songs he is known for. It's a song about puzzles that don't get finished. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvJuiaR7qZ0

I have quite a few friends that enjoy solving puzzles and do it rather successfully. I'm impressed. I am impressed because I can no longer sit that long to complete one.
Yesterday, I was posting back and forth to a friend that I've never met about someone we both knew and worked with all through the late eighties and nineties. I got into it enough to pull down my Daily Planner from those years in an attempt to ascertain times, places and names.
It was a trip to read and reminisce just like it was when I found those dainty prayer books the other day. It kinda sends you to another place, ya know? I mustah had ten books out on the table trying to sort out the pieces of my life and oh, so many others.
Puzzles...
I never did find when we last worked on a presentation but the planner's telephone directory in the back of the book no longer had his contact information under the letter "B." in 1993. Although I had the pleasure of "reeling in those years" tying one job after another smiling at all the "peripherals" I eventually gave up any further research and had to let those old pieces remain unsolved.
Gone, in a way, yet not forgotten... We do remember the good times, don't we?
Later in the evening, I found out that another high school alum had passed away. That's three gone in less than one month. In a way, those pieces will never fit. I will probably never attempt to make them fit...
First introspective cup!

Copyright 2011/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Just A Four Hour Sketch"...

A four hour sketch...

Good "wacko" Wednesday, all bodies.
Finishing my first cup to the mellow sounds of "Mitch Miller Does Joe Walsh" while waiting for the ax to fall in Washington, D.C.
I might need a stiff brandy for a third cup.
Last night, my Vietnam vet artist friend called from the San Francisco area to see how I'm doing with Therese, Covid and government. I told him that he's no more discombobulated than anyone else and I proved it by trying to explain Facebook's photo inset policy... which is counter intuitive. Had about a hour's worth of hilarity.
I think he'll be okay.
My SoCal pal will be calling soon and I hope I don't have to talk him off the precipice... ha!
Yesterday afternoon, with the help of a scotch on the rocks and a whole lotta James Gang played over and over again, I decided to go "Craig Nelson" on myself by trying to paint a picture in sixty or so minutes.
Craig, one of my teachers at Art Center, does a demo in oil every Friday afternoon around 1pm CST. When I remember to check him out I always learn something.
Anyway, I barely got the drawing done in that time, but undaunted, I dove right back into the oils. I actually forgot how intense Cad Red Light is... Whoa!
Well, one hour passed, then another, and then another... Okay, okay, screw Craig 'cuz this is getting to be too much like work.
I found myself cutting lines with a straight edge even though that's not the idea. Once I paint a straight line, everything else will have to tighten up and it will take me four days instead of what was getting close to four hours.
Maybe the subject matter might have been a bit too intense for a quick study that I'll probably never go back into with changes.
Regardless how it looked, four hours was my limit. I walked out, turned out the light, had one more libation to watch Disney's "Cinderella."

Included with the painting is the original sketch I created from the Helen Guillet concert...

And, a photo I took which I used to make some additions.


Time to flip over to the B side of "Mitch Miller Does Joe Walsh"...

... and have another Cup 'O Courage!

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III