16 December 2006

Benjamin Bong

The corner store in my dope dream of a childhood neighbourhood was run by Benjamin Bong. He was from China someplace. No one asked him where in China, mostly people just asked him for cigarettes. The matches were free.

My buddy Phil asked Bong how a guy from China got named Benjamin. Bong told Phil, "What the fuck you care? Skinny white kid smoke too much. My daddy name me after Benjamin Franklin because he burn a whole lot of Benjamins at Bong Acres racetrack just before I born. Now buy something or get out my store."

Bong's store sold way more shit than corner stores do these days. That is because the big supermarkets were not open late or on Sundays. Bong made a killing on Sundays selling cans of beans and bread for twice what you could get them for at a big store. Come to think of it the big stores were not even very big then.

Bong sold a lot of pornography too. The good porn in those days did not have to be kept behind the counter in cardboard and plastic cum proof wrappers. Bong did not mind if you sneaked a peek at his porn either just so long as you bought a mag every once in a while. "Hey kid. Put down dirty book. You never buy. And fingers dirty. Get out my store."

Bong's store was where I first started reading the local and international rock press. I met Lester Bangs on the bottom shelf of the magazine stand. In the local rock press I was introduced to classified ads for sexual practices the porn mags did not have the guts to publish. "Why you read that kid? Very dirty."

Bong also sold High Times and stocked about twenty different kinds of rollie papers. When he asked us, "What you smoke in rollies kid?" we always answered the same way. "Weed, man. You got any?" We were some kind of stoned rocker motherfuckers. Bong knew more about the neighbourhood teenagers than all the parents rolled together.

Bong was single a very long time until one day a bride joined him from the old country. She was very pretty and quiet. She started putting the porn behind the counter but never asked anyone's age if they wanted to buy some.

I ran into Bong at the racetrack many years after I left the old neighbourhood. I asked him, "Where's Mrs. Bong Benny?" He looked as lost as the last horse he bet on. "She took me to the cleaners. Who like in the next race?"

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