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Monday, March 1, 2021

"Weekend Trash Troopers!"

Trash Trooper...

Many thanks to St. Tammany Parish's "Keep St.Tammany Beautiful", all the great folks at Giddy Up Folsom https://www.giddyupfolsom.com/, David Campbell, and Little River Bluffs for presenting the opportunity to clean up the country side yesterday.

Jose and I teamed up to cruise and cleanup Hwy.#40 South from Gene's Tire Center all the way up to the Donut Stop. (I was tempted by the fragrance of apple fritters, but I was strong! I had a job to do!)
Jose and I started small with cigarette filters but quickly went into the heavier stuff. Although some of it was paper, the majority of what I picked up was plastic... Plastic bottles, bags and containers. So sad.
I'm not sure any environment can continue handling plastic!
Jose found a gold mine inside a roadside storm drain. That kept him busy for awhile while I went sifting through the shrubbery around the local bank. Talk about an identity theft motherload of bank and ATM receipts, it sure was there and available amongst the Gatorade, Pepsi and Sprite debris. Also, someone had to pixilate himself to check on his balance. Fifths of vodka, Jack and Scotch, were extricated from the thorny shrubs along the drive-in. I didn't take me long to learn how to enter the bushes with the tongs closed in order to avoid the briar patches.
Heading south it didn't take me and Jose long to drop off the first bags and start anew. There's was plenty of time to think.
Attempting to have faith in my fellow man, I wondered how many people actually just throw trash out of their car windows. One of the big culprits is truck beds. Somehow, folks seem to think trash thats thrown there won't go anywhere. But, then, there's those like the small pickup I found in the Main's parking lot with two half drunken sodas just discarded outside the passenger side door. Makes little sense when the grocery store has two plastic containers for trash as your approach the door.
Besides being careless and inconsiderate of others, those actions indirectly steal a part of one's own soul... piece by piece.
I picked up a Slim Jim wrapper and it immediately took me back to a discussion I had with my son. For a while, I'd take Brian to college in Hammond on Monday mornings. He was having a nutritious start of the week gnawing at a Slim Jim.
When he finished it, he opened the window and threw the wrapper out of it...
"What was that?" I asked.
"What!" he replied.
"Since when have we started to trash the highways, man?"
"I'm sorry, he said. You wanna turn back and I'll pick it up?"
"No Brian." I want you to remember how you not only disrespect nature, but everyone living in it." I want you to THINK about it how you got to this point."
"Telling me that you're sorry means very little to me, man!"
"You've never ever done that in SoCal and you know what you'd get if you did... Right?"
"So why do that here in Louisiana, man!"
"Besides, it ain't about the punishment, Brian... It's about one's personal integrity. Like trust, once you lose it, it becomes harder and harder to get it back and to love oneself."
"A hundred ground balls, Brian... One hundred ground balls, man!"
"I know. I wasn't thinking... I'm sorry!"
Silence reigned the rest of the ride to school.
Hanging around after about two hours on the road adding to a second bag, I was glad the weather was conducive to such an event.
Standing in the hamburger line, one guy mentioned the small amount of surgical gloves and masks. I said that I was surprised to not find any condoms. As we all chuckled about it, one guy yells from back of the line...
"I found one... just one!

Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, February 28, 2021

"You Know, I Usually Charge Large Fees For The Use Of This Face!"


Larry preferred his badass look...

Good Thursday Morning, all bodies.

Over the past year or so, there's a rather elderly and verbose man who, sits by himself with his iPhone and a cup of coffee. At times, when there doesn't seem to be many folks his age to converse with, he comes to sit across the coffee table from me at GiddyUp.
His name is Larry. He's 77 years old and when he softly speaks one can notice that he has a slight lisp. I believe he may be missing his upper teeth but that surely doesn't impede his gregariousness.
Larry has spent quite some time in the Dakotas which is where he started collecting cowboy hats, but he was actually born in Madisonville in what is now the police station. The building which was many things over time from a bank, and a barroom to a hotel to a hospital, of sorts, was built in 1906.
"I don't know why I was born there. I suppose my mother didn't have enough time to get to a regular hospital," he smiled and said.
I had surreptitiously attempted to sketch him from time to time, but just the other day I caught him adjusting cargo in the bed of his truck. So, I asked him if I could take a picture to sketch him by. I didn't mention my many attempts.
"Sure... what'chu want it for?"
"No particular reason, man. I like your hats," I said.
That set off a fifteen minute discussion about his younger days in the Dakotas. And then...
"You know my momma had a restaurant right there across from the..." He referenced a place that I was not familiar with, but played along.
... "She wanted me to take over the business, but the thought of getting up at 4:30 every morning to make biscuits was something I did not want to do!"
"Of course, he continued, I took a job with this oil company and had to get up at 3:30 every morning to get to work. I did that for thirty-five years!"
"Go figure!"
After taking two pics to draw from and heading for the car, he asks, "Am I gonna get to see this portrait?"
He seemed to prefer the "badass" pose I shot of him, and if he wants to keep it when I finish the drawing, I will give it to him. But actually, the one sketch I did of him a while back, though not a great likeness of him, does better capture his personality.
"You know, I usually charge large fees for the use of this face," he chuckled.
First cup!

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, February 8, 2021

"Just Checkin' On Ya!"

Thumbs Up!

 Good "aftermath" Monday Morning, y'all.

Congrats to Tom Terrific and gang... no sour grapes!

Well, I didn't think I left that late for a meeting at Oshcner's yesterday, but I mustah. In order to get out of the house and for believing that I could still make it on time, I decided to forego the phone call until I got on the road.

Well, that was a big mistake because I never got a red stop light to pull out the iPhone to make a call. I don't like using the phone on the road anyway, but by the time I got halfway on the Causeway, I was already late.

So, I pulled over into one of the turnarounds to find a Causeway cruiser sitting over on the far side of the turnaround. I guess the patrolman in the car noticed me fumbling around my briefcase rather nervously. I was looking for the phone number I was sure I entered into the iPhone directory, but could not find.

He started up the patrol car and drove over to my driver's side window. Frustrated and feeling a bit perturbed, I was in no mood to appease or assuage a cop. But, without saying a word or even rolling down the window to speak, he just signaled a thumbs up sign with a questioning smile.

With a sigh I responded without rolling down my window to flash the "O.K." sign. He nodded in affirmation and returned to his original parking spot to continue monitoring traffic flow going in the opposite direction.

To protect and serve... I like it.

Copyright 2021/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"Passing A Good Covid Time Sketching!"

Sketching Away the Boredom...

 Spending a bit more time than I expected here at Honda of Covington. 100,000 mile service on Tee’s Honda Fit. It’s the longest two hour stint I can ever remember.

Glad I brought my sketchbook. With a styrofoam cup of coffee, a Covid mask, and a Pilot Razor Point pen, I decided to sketch a $40,000.00 Civic Type R.

Really? A spiff it up, version of the ubiquitous Honda Civic!

I lost track of time except for the timely visit of, what looked like, a car mechanic in a full white jumpsuit. Every time he'd drop by, I had added some more lines to the piece, and every time he dropped by he'd half to compliment me on my progress.

"Damn, that looks great," he quipped once.

Later, he'd pass by to say, "I wish I could draw like that!" I'm lucky I know how to even use a pencil like that!"

Well naturally, the car took longer to finish than just two hours and after about two or three more visits to comment, he brought with him three other "mechanics?" to approve of my last few lines.

One guy asked me, "how long did it take you to do that?"

With a smile, I replied as I was being summoned to pick up my car and pay the bill, "Oh, about forty years!"

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, January 22, 2021

" His Canvas Rolls!"

A 1946 Plymouth pickup truck...

Yesterday, on the way back from my doctor's appointment, I stopped by my mechanic friend's garage. Initially, I dropped by in order to sketch this 1946 Plymouth pickup that James McClain was joyfully "reconstituting", but I didn't know that he already had my Honda Odyssey on the rack.

I had a slight "front fender faux pas" a few months back and he was helping to repair it.

"James, I didn't come here to check on your progress with my car," I said. I actually came to do a sketch of your "hotrod" Plymouth."

"That's okay," he replied as he rolled another studio chair my way. "Have a seat!"

We spent the first ten minutes discussing the damage I'd done and the next half hour talking about everything except politics.

"I can't believe all the spare parts and tools you have accrued over the years. I've got an artist friend who is now retired but spent most of his career creating these incredible paper sculpture illustrations for print."

"They are so detailed and meticulous, but his studio is such a mess," I continued.

"I could never work in a space like that, I said scanning the walls packed to the rafters with auto parts. This garage is a lot like my friend's studio."

This garage is thirty-five years full of stuff," he replied. I'm thinking about making another shelf to store more parts."

James excused himself when the phone in the office rang which gave me some time to sketch out his hotrod. I had planned to do a basic pencil sketch and then, time permitting, ink in the details. Doing a quick walkaround I noticed the use of many vice grips holding one part to another.

Twenty minutes later, when he came back out from the office, I commented on his brilliant and varied use of that tool.

"Tell me James, just how many vice grips do you own?"

Since we were having a great time engaged in conversation, I decided to continue the drawing at home in the studio.

For now, this pencil study will have to do. I probably will move on to something else over time. But just for the record, James is welding a '46 truck body on top of a 2002 Chevy S-10 frame and after many adjustments expects to make his debut with the "rod" sometime this summer.

Passionate and inspired works of art come in all shapes and sizes. Some even roll!

Copyright 2021/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Just A Pinch 'Tween Your Cheek And Gums!"

An old sketch...

Good Monday Morning, y'all.

Earlier last week, my next door neighbor bought a fifteen foot culvert pipe to replace an old ceramic one that had collapsed underneath her driveway.
The next morning, two rather pot bellied, chaw chewing, surveyors showed up with their tripod and measuring tools and one yellow backhoe.
Since they tore up a part of my lawn with their toy, I felt a need to snoop around and ask questions. It kinda went something like this:
"Hi there. Wassup?'
Backhoe driver, with a spit of chaw, asks, "You know the woman who lives here?"
"Not well, but I do know her. Why?"
"The woman, (spit!) ordered this culvert about a month ago and we're here to see that it gets put in, now that she's paid for it!"
I explained about as much as I thought they needed to know in order to get on with the project.
"Who are you?" the hard hatted surveyor holding a measuring pole asked.
I introduced myself and ask the driver if he has any plans to straighten out the ditch from my driveway to Ann's driveway.
"And, if you are gonna pull out the pine tree stump that has everything a mess between the two driveways!" It really makes it hard to maintain!"
"Hell, the driver said. You ain't maintain this (spit!) area here in years. Don't tell me that!"
"Okay?" I replied.
I calmly corrected him and pointed out how hard it is to get my lawn tractor in there without getting stuck even when the area is pretty dry. Everything there has to be weed whacked.
"Well, (spit!) Mr. Ben, we'll see what we can do. You retired or something? Got the day off? What?"

"Why don't you go on back inside and watch your Fox... and (spit!) Friends, said the surveyor guy still holding the pole!
"I'm an artist, man. I'll probably never retire," I replied to the driver.
"Sheet, you ain't no artist". Paint in the French Quarter?"
"No, man. I've never painted in the French Quarter and I don't watch Fox News!"
My momma was an artist. She painted landscapes and portraits... and (spit!) dawgs!" he said with a bit of melancholy.
"She don't do that anymore. She's getting old, I guess. She used to give her paintings away to friends and relatives!"
"I don't give my art away. I make a living that way" I said, rather pointedly.
"Is you mother still with us here on earth... How old was she?" I continued.
"Nah, he said. She's (spit!) still alive. Lives in Madisonville... She's seventy!"
I almost gagged on that statement because these two guys looked like every bit of sixty years old or older. I didn't tell them my age because I'm not sure how they would've handled it.
Well, after we talked about my accent which he thought was not from Gentilly, his mother, her art, Madisonville in the olden days, and my moving back from Los Angeles, he moseyed on over to the backhoe, climbed up in the cab and started her up.
"That machine looks brand new. It still has a plastic covering on the seat. Is it yours?" I asked.
"Well, it's mine to take care of, but it belongs to the Parish!"
As he started back up the engine, I yelled out, "Look, you guys show up again tomorrow to finish up and I'll do you a sketch of your machine!"
"You ain't (spit!) gotta do that, sir. I was just (spit!) messing 'wit cha!"
"Well, we'll see about all of that, I said. It's gotta be fun because I don't do deadlines anymore!"
I had no intention of proving my abilities to these guys especially since I knew I already had a backhoe drawn. I sketched a whole series of construction equipment years ago when I rode my bike to numerous construction sites around North Factory Road and the Folsom countryside.
I would've given the sketch to him if he had shown up the next day, but he didn't.
First cup...

Friday, January 1, 2021

"Passing A Covid Year"...


Checking vitals/ A charcoal drawing!

I spent most of the year with too many interruptions to concentrate on paint. Sketching and writing about the subject matter was more rewarding and flexible and fun. Check it out, please...https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10221527394527230&type=3

Some of these are sketches from my two week plus stay at St. Tammany Parish Hospital and The Tom Benson Cancer center in New Orleans. It really has been a voyage that tested our resolve. The two times Tee had to be admitted during Lockdown had me worried. I worried it would be the last time I'd ever see her again. When I was allowed back to visit, I stayed with her for 8 or 10 hours and the boredom set in. I started sketching to quell the boring time, but later my sketches became more than just a way to pass the time! Hope you enjoy the ride!

Copyright Ben Bensen III/2021