John Boston | I’m Hooked on Bazooka Joe & Inner Healing

John Boston

So I bought some bubblegum the other day. Like, a lot. I was pushing my cart through one of Santa Clarita’s abundant mega discount box stores and happened to roll down The Gum Aisle. There, eye level, were 10-box packages of Bazooka Bubble Gum on sale for about 11 bucks. Each package held 10 individually wrapped pink wafers, making a purchase irresistible. That’s about a penny per piece, which is like 1950s pricing. 

I bought a case, figuring I can check off Item No. 1 to my Apocalypse Shopping List of ammo, water, Swedish stewardesses and one Costco 512,000-ounce can of Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew. 

I had forgotten how much I loved bubble gum. As a kid, like most young boys, I had to see just how many small pink bars I could fit in my mouth. I think once I got not quite 1,400 pieces in my mouth, blowing a bubble the size of a hot air balloon. I still feel guilty for when it finally burst — I inadvertently started Global Warming. 

Sorry about the planet-ending thing, you annoying greenies you. 

A few years ago, a little boy worked up the courage to walk up to me and ask, “Are you a cowboy?” I was wearing boots, the hat and my tea tray-sized belt buckle. I had to confess. “Son. The last few years, I’ve been more of a deskboy.” I know it doesn’t show, but I write a lot. I’m sitting at a huge desk in front of a big computer sometimes 14 hours a day. After morning’s first few cups of hot tea, then breakfast and lunch, there’s just no more room in my tummy for stress-relieving calories. Bubble gum is the perfect answer. 

A little gum history? While ancient Greeks didn’t have computers or deadlines, I’m betting they had stress. They chewed the resin from mastic trees while monkeying around with inventing algebra. Then, many weeks later, of all people, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who led Mexican forces in the defeat of the Texans at the Alamo, would later help invent modern regular chewing gum. 

In America. How about that. 

Bubble gum (which no human can say, real fast, 10 times) had been around for nearly a century, but the bubbles were too wet, sloppy, sticky and couldn’t hold form. In 1928, 23-year-old accountant Walter Diemer became obsessed with creating the ideal bubble gum. The very day he made that perfect batch, he lost the recipe and it took him another four months to rediscover it. Diemer took his invention to the Fleer Chewing Gum Co. They colored it pink and called it “Dubble Bubble.” Within months, sales topped $1 million. Diemer even taught Fleer sales staff how to blow bubbles. 

In 1930, Fleer wrapped a tiny comic called “Fleer Funnies,” with the protagonists, Bub and Dub, who would later be replaced by “Pud and his Pals.” To the end of World War II, America had just Fleer. Then, Bazooka Bubble Gum came along with their famed comic strip, Bazooka Joe. I’ve been reading Joe for eons. These microscopic three-panel cartoons are humorless, pointless and just don’t make sense. It’s like reading Democratic Voices, only blessedly shorter. 

But, the gum’s good. 

I know. I bought 100 pieces a couple days ago and I’ve already chewed through 70. I’m chewing some as I type. I’m chewing two dozen pieces of bubble gum — daily. Sick, huh? On the bright side, I’m not aware of being a sleepwalker so I’m probably not masticating the condiment while I snooze. 

Here’s something kind of related. Because zen devil monkeys rent space in my fetching little head and I’m somewhat creative, I have weird dreams. I love looking up the symbolism in the Internet’s various dream encyclopedias. It’s like $200-an-hour useless psychoanalysis, for free. There’s always a zillion interpretations, from “dreaming about bubble gum means you’re gay” to “you’re gay and you’re ugly.” One site noted: “Dreaming about bubblegum is about your attachment to others.” 

Is that because gum is — sticky

Another fakir opined: “Bubblegum is a symbol for transformation and healing. You feel restricted and can’t express your feelings freely. And, you’re gay, because bubblegum is pink.” 

I made that last sentence up. 

But, if I start having dreams about marrying Bazooka Joe, I’m swearing off gum. 

Speaking of inappropriate dreams, Wesley Morse, a World War I vet, drew hundreds of the Bazooka Joe comics. Morse also made a side living in the mid-20th century, secretly drawing what were called Tijuana bibles — underground pornographic comic books. 

Anyway. What the heck. Like I said, I’m in it for the gum. 

I suspect someone over at Bazooka has monkeyed with the latex recipe because I remember being a kid and being able to blow humongous, human-skull-sized bubbles. Can’t do that either during your wedding ceremony. The priest, the in-laws, your bride, they’d all give you — That Look. Like who’s the one here who’s really in the moment? You could pop a bubblegum balloon really loud with the earlier recipe. That’s another thing that’ll get you stink stares in church: snapping your gum. Or blowing a really big bubble and it bursts and gets all stuck in the little ring girl’s hair and she starts sobbing hysterically, the big baby. 

Personally? I’ve never done this myself but I have friends who have been victimized by caustic stares and hisses at funerals for blowing gum bubbles. And I can empathize with those gathered to pay final respects to the dearly departed. Except for an off-course gopher, I know no one’s probably going to see it, but it’s just not morally right to stick a gooey wad of bubble gum that’s lost its sugary flavor under the casket. 

Unless, of course, the enclosed is a Democrat.  

John Boston, alleged adult, is one of America’s top newspaper humorists. Yes. He DOES have a bookstore — Look for his latest title, the funniest dog book ever written: “37 of the World’s Most Inappropriate Dog Breeds.” Don’t even think of suing if a loved one dies laughing whilst reading…

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