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Thursday, December 19, 2013

"My Name's Georgia… I Guess I Got The South Pretty Well Covered!"

A pencil sketch I did from my clamshell cell phone!
About one year ago, my wife and I had a nice experience with a waitress at a local Cracker Barrel. So often, waiters and waitresses just go through the motions with their customers rarely looking them in the eye as the serve. I guess it is a defense mechanism in the school of hard knocks, meager tips, and a management attitude of get 'em in, serve 'em and get 'em out.

But, that's not me!

I like to linger after a meal, be it breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. When I go out to eat, expensive as it is now getting, I want the whole experience which includes a thousand cups of coffee and conversing with… well, just about anyone. Unlike many New Orleanians who won't tolerate medicare grub, I will… as long as the coffee is flowing and I'm not eating with plastic ware.

"You are amazing," my sister once told me. "You'll speak to anyone!"

My wife, who is not one to linger for too long after eating, and would prefer to go shop while I suck my teeth, and bump my gums with people, concurs. But, she's learn to make the adjustment. Sometimes, she'll get in the car and go drive to shop, occasionally calling me on the cellphone to see if I'm finished… "eating".

And if I have my sketchbook, it is a "linger-a-thon,"which brings me back to this diminutive, white haired waitress with a quick, endearing smile that simultaneously hints at the mischievous. She doesn't stop moving, but is always ready to converse as she attends to your needs. On many visits, with my mom or my wife, I have attempted to capture the ever moving server with pen or pencil in hand, but not with any useful success.

Anyway, about a year ago, while being served, I asked about her name which is written across her apron. I suppose if you are employed at the Cracker Barrel for more than a few months, you get one of these personalized aprons. I assume youngsters working there don't stay long enough to earn one.

"Georgia," I say, as I read it from the apron…"That's a pretty name, is that where you're from?"

In a southern and mumbled drawl that is reminiscent of the Tex Avery cartoon character, "Droopy," she fills my coffee cup, peers over the top of her thick rimmed glasses with an impish grin and replies…

"I was born in Mississippi, went to school in Alabama, live and work in Louisiana, vacation in Florida and my name is Georgia. I guess I got the South pretty well covered!"

The other day, after my fasting mother had some blood tests taken, I took her to the Cracker Barrel and requested Georgia. As the meal when on, I inquired more about her life. Her full name is Georgia Wood and she graduated from the University of Alabama ( she would not tell me what year, which would have given me an idea of her age, and she's not sure Nick Saban is gonna stay, but Roll Tide! )

Georgia came to Louisiana to take care of her aging mother and just decided to stay. She told me where she vacations in Florida, probably to visit her children, but I forgot where that was. She's been employed there at the Cracker Barrel in Covington, LA for over three years.

"Hey Georgia, tell my mom about your background," I asked, trying to keep my mom engaged and entertained.

Georgia proudly repeats like it was her own personal "elevator speech,"

And, it is…

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Making Her Poinsettia Point!...

Making a poinsettia statement...
Well, when all the eggnog is consumed and the spinach dip is dead and the conversation has turned to "Obamacare," then maybe, it is time to pull out the old, trusty sketchbook, hide, and find something to entertain myself with.

"What are you drawing?" she asked.

"That poinsettia over there," I replied.

"I guess you don't like people looking over your shoulders, huh?"

"No ma'am", I said. "I just don't like backseat drivers!"

There's was a minute or two of silence as I tried to concentrate in an conspicuous inconspicuous way. I understand that pulling out a sketchbook in any crowded space is like walking into a room with a professional camera or a guitar. It's pretty obvious what that person's intentions are.

I was trying to hide.

"Can I ask you a question?"she said.

"Sure," I replied, thinking she'd inquire about my talent, her inability to draw a straight line or, talk about a relative she has that is such a good artist, but no.

She continues,"Why are you drawing a plant, when there's so many beautiful women around here you could be drawing?"

Did I mention, I was trying to hide to avoid conversations about politics?

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Just Another Comment From The Senior Center!"

And, she said, "What?"

On any given day at the Mandeville Senior Center, one can enter grumpy and escape laughing, hysterically. They say that kids say the darnedest things, but you haven't been as entertained as I have with the things my mother, and other octogenarians spurt out, mumble to themselves out loud, and comment to one another.

Today, as I was trying to say my goodbyes, not only to my mother, but to twenty or more of elderly folks, one diminutive oriental lady waved to me to come close. This kind of thing happens every day, so I have to allow about twenty or more minutes to my schedule, just to be on time for where ever I need to go!

I walked over to the lady as she invited me to get a little closer as if to whisper to me some deep, dark, and confidential secret. I leaned over to hear her say, shyly, and in broken English…

"Mr. Bensen, your mother funny! On her birthday, last day, I asked her, how old?"

"Oh yeh! What did she say this time?"I asked, never knowing what but simultaneously fearing what she just might blurt out.

"We just love your mother! The things she say, so funny!"

"She real comedian," the lady continued.

I'm thinking," Oh God, what did she say and who did she lambast, this time!

"I ask, how old, and she say, "I don't know… I have to ask MY MOTHER!"

"She real comedian. Bring joy to everyone!" she said.

Strangely enough, sometimes, my mom will ask me, in her dementia, when we drive up to the center, why are we going here? Sometimes, she just refuses to get out of the car until I tell her this.

And it works, every time...

"C'mon mom, you gotta go. You gotta go make everyone happy and put a smile on everyone's face!"

Twenty-three skidoo… and with a spring in her step, reminiscent of Jackie Gleason, as he exited stage right…

"On-n-n-n-n, with the Show!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Mandy's Psychedelic Fish Maitre 'd…."

The papier mâche maitre' d that resembles Ed Volker…

So, what does these pictures have to do with a "toof cleaning sketch," you may ask. A few weeks ago, I posted this sketch on my blog.

My interpretation...

A couple of friends from SoCal thought, jokingly, that I was hallucinating since I normally don't sketch fantasy or science fiction subject matter and this "fish" is rather "out there." So, in order to prove that what I was sketching was real, I thought I would provide my skeptical friends with some hard pictorial evidence. Here's  an excerpt from that original blog spot at: 


… It is a large brightly colored fish that resembles one of the members of the now retired bar band, The Radiators. Probably, at the time this seven foot sculpture was created, the band's writer and piano player, Ed Voelker, wore a gray, slightly tattered beret on his balding dome. If you are at all familiar with the band and Ed's facial features, you cannot deny that the sculptor was inspired to create this "fish head" maitre'd with Ed in mind. Having finished my lunch, while sipping another loving cup of Mandy's strong coffee, I sketched the monster.

It is not one of my better pieces, but I was still feeling sorry for myself. It really should be sketched in vibrant, almost psychedelic colors, which I did not bring with me. If you are ever in the area, check out their menu for breakfast or lunch and be greeted by a very imposing, colorful fish head.

By the way, another clue to my theory of its origin is that the restauranteur is Frank Bua, the Radiators' long time drummer!
Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III