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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Jam Up and Jelly Tight!"

Where's the blackberry jam WITH seeds?
A tisket a tasket, I remember seeing this little basket!

A few months ago, a favorite restaurant was destroyed by an electrical fire that burned the classic house restaurant from the attic down to the dining area. As I drove by the old site, there was a banner spanning a portion of the parking lot encouraging patrons to share breakfast at another local restaurant. Apparently, the "Bear Cafe" was helping out until the Sunrise at Second became the Sunrise at Robert Street. Don't know how the helpful hand was worked out, but Sunrise's patrons were happy to be the beneficiaries.

The Sunrise omelet was as delicious as it ever was and along with the entree was their familiar wicker basket full of jams and jellies. In the classic Southern style, along with a couple of cups of coffee, and the morning newspaper, I decided to pull out the sketchbook and challenge myself to the folds, the weaves and the cane unravellings of the little wicker basket.

Maybe, I got a little carried away...

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Gus's Ode To A Farmtool!"

A horse drawn harvester?
A friend requested that I, one day, sketch the interior of Gus's restaurant, which is the local Greek Parthenon, or forum here in Folsom, LA where everybody's got an opinion on practically everything. I have done sketches of people in the restaurant eating, chewing the fat, hanging out, and just about hanging all over. But, as some sort of ode to the farm world, the good natured, laconic Greek, has a couple of old rusted plowboy "objects d'art" situated as accent pieces around the premises, which are generally ignored.

I drew this sketch, seated in my car in the restaurant parking lot... just before the lunch crowd blasted in. I believe it to be a horse drawn harvester, of sorts. I've seen it a couple of times, and investigated how it basically works, but if my investigations are correct, it seems like a very ineffectual way of gathering anything.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Washateria Thoughts Watching The Clothes Go Round... And Round!"

Just like old times!
Yesterday, I decided to try and save a big, green pillow that my mother used to sit up in bed to read or watch television. The pillow had a pretty stiff back with arm rests on the left and right sides of the pillow. It was not soiled enough to discard, so I decided to wash it to see if it could be salvaged and return it to my mother, who is now in a nursing center.

Yeh, yeh, yeh... I know! I'm a wonderful son...

But, this isn't about mom, pillows or care taking. It is about laundrymats, or as we used to call it, "wash-a-terias!" In New Orleans, we seem to have a word for everything that shows somehow that we come from another planet. But, that's a story for another time.

Nothing makes a person so privileged as having your own washer and dryer. Sitting here, blowing a perfectly good Saturday, watching that now heavy, wet pillow go "round and round" in a local wash-a-teria brings back so many memories. Not necessarily great memories, but memories.

One is normally introduced to the joys of such a place when one goes away to college unless one was a rich kid and brought dirty laundry home for mom to attend to while one spends the weekend partying with those "so-called friends!" College wash-a-terias were considered a great place to meet girls because they also had to wash their clothes. Sadly though, if you never hung out at the local college beer joint because you had to save up to get your clothes washed over the weekend, then, using that excuse to meet girls is a pretty lame excuse.

Believe me, I know!

But, the campus experience is only one of the many experiences you can have at a wash-a-teria because there are such a wide variety to choose from. The clientele, in real world wash-a-terias, vary from roust-a-bouts returning from some Gulf oil spill, and hookers washing their tutus and fairy outfits in the wee hours in Hollywood, to a soccer mom washing the uniforms of an entire family of screaming and unruly ballplayers.

The odor of these places regardless of the clientele are a strange combination of bleach, sweat, mold, and musty, dryer lint balls. And, you might think twice before putting your cleaned and dried clothes that you spent a fortune to get cleaned and dried, on one of those tables to fold.

Since most women are usually stuck with the task of cleaning clothes, they are the ones who demand a decent facility to perform the dirty job. When we were newlyweds, and bounced around from one apartment to another in a variety of towns, the main criteria seemed to be, for my wife, having a residence that had it's own washroom.

Today, while doing this drawing, I was having a chuckle or two thinking about all the apartment complexes I believed were really great that my wife wanted nothing to do with. After dropping five dollars worth of quarters in a large dryer trying to get that fat pillow dried, I'd have to agree with my better half.

Home Sweet Home, ain't... if it doesn't include a washer and a dryer, ha!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Discussing The Trombone, Kid Ory and Tailgating... Dixieland Style!"

Playin' dat old tailgate...
Once again, what I had in mind did not come to fruition with this sketch. I didn't feel the need to capture this trombone player's portrait, but sketching him on site as he played was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Just drawing the trombone itself was harder than I thought it should ever be even though it seems a very basic instrument. The trombonist was one of four musicians entertaining the crowd at the annual Southeast Louisiana Land Grant polo fundraiser. Two years ago, I designed and illustrated a poster for the fundraiser, which you can find at:


The musician and I had a wonderful discussion about his career and his life as a musician. He hailed from Indiana, I believe, and went to school on a music scholarship in Chicago. I am not sure how one can fall in love with such an instrument as the trombone, but he did. He played classical music until he heard some Kid Ory records and decided to move to New Orleans and immerse himself in that "tailgate" style of Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band. Although the trombone is less often heard as a solo instrument, many legendary performers have left distinctive marks on the history of jazz. Kid Ory's aggressive style of playing long slide notes up or down between the cornet and clarinet solos, created a sound that was distinctly up front and out there. 

The term "tailgating" was probably best used to describe Kid Ory's use of slurred notes, growls and rumbles, but actually tailgating trombones was more of a practical space saving device. The band, usually consisting of a trombonist, cornetist, clarinetist, bass instrument ( a tuba or double bass), chordal instrument ( a banjo or piano), and a drummer, would advertise their dance or party by marching in parades or playing in a wagon pulled around the street of New Orleans. The trombonist, in order to have enough room to maneuver his slide, would sit at the back of the wagon, giving the name "tailgate trombone" to this style.

Anyway, this trombone player knew his history and had me completely sold on the instrument. I told him I'd do a sketch of the band with him in the lead, ( it was not his band! ) but this sketch is all I had to show him at the end of the day...

And, I did not show him!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III