It was paradise. It was a Sunday morning after church, and we were in a store in Plainfield, New Jersey. I guess you could call it a stationery store cause they sold stuff in there like newspapers and magazines. But I didn’t give a flying crap about any of that. I was there for the candy. The wall of candy – more specifically, the gum. More specifically, the Bazooka. Not the Bazooka of today – the Bazooka of the mid -1970s.
This Bazooka was huge. Humongous. It was the size of my hand. Each piece had a baseball card-sized comic and it came in flavors, like grape. Standing in front of that wall of candy and gum was sensory overload. It was like standing in Willy Wonka’s candy garden trying to figure out where to fall face first, first. For some reason I always had a thing for gum. I knew there had to be a God because gum existed. This place had Bazooka, and hot dog gum, and that long stick of bubble gum that was as long as a ruler, and gum cigars, and wax lips, and gum cigarettes! Candy was for wussies. I wanted something that would rot my teeth with gusto. I kept thinking that if Willy Wonka could come up with an Everlasting Gobstopper made of gum, we’d really be making progress.
God Bless the inventor of gum. It’s glorious. I remember the white Good Humor truck coming down the street in Plainfield – the man in it sold a cellophane pack of Double Bubble gum. Why waste my taste buds on ice cream? Those squares of Double Bubble were frickin’ blissful. You can’t buy that flavor anymore. They sell boxes that say “original flavor” but it’s a big, fat, Madison Avenue lie.
Speaking of ice cream, another wonderment is a flavor no longer available. I remember getting it at the Acme in Plainfield. It was Adam’s gum flavored like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream. Why bother with eating ice cream when you can just cram eight sticks of gum in your mouth and make it neopolitan all by yourself?
And then I moved to Maryland. We went from an older New Jersey city that had department stores and corner stores to a new suburb. They had this odd place called a convenience store. It was called 7-Eleven. And it happened – I was exposed to a new era of gum: Bubble Yum. I had never had a soft loaf of gum. I still managed to fit two pieces into my big mouth at once. It was great. Soft wads of sugary mess frothing gooey splooge out of my mouth. Wow, I thought, this move to Maryland was gonna work out just fine.
(I have 12 crowns and I’ve had 6 root canals. Dentists dig me.)