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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ben Johnson lookin' Still Alive and Well

Yesterday was a fun day for my wife Heather and I as our mid-afternoon breakfast (don't U sleep in on Saturday??) was highlighted by the arrival of Ben Johnson and his lady friend who sat at the table right next to us!

We were driving out to a semi-rural car lot in Richmond Hill to look at a 2005 GMC Safari van that had only 55,000 km on it and was supposed to be available for $13,888. As that price seemed about $2,000 too low, I was anxious to see the condition of it, and maybe make plans to buy it.

On the way there I wanted Heather to enjoy the really good breakfasts available at a place I had recently brekkied at with my friend Steve (bassist from punk band Sudden Impact and fellow record collector / crate digger). We were settling in there nicely when about 10 minutes after we arrived Ben and his gal came in and sat right next to us. I nodded acknowledgement a couple of times but generally wanted the man to be able to eat and converse in peace... then after we had all been eating for awhile a local came up and blurted "you look like Ben Johnson, are you..?" to which Ben nodded and the guy stuck out his hand and exclaimed honourably "Very pleased to meet you!"

Ben smiled and gave him a firm handshake and the gent went back to his table, having met a man who was formerly the fastest on the planet. I once met Donovan Bailey at his photographer's place when I was picking up some proofs for Salome Bey, so Ben was about to be the second speedster I had met. We finished our breakfast before they did and as we were getting up to leave I mentioned to Ben and his lady that "on the night you won the gold, I was at Lulu's in Kitchener watching you with several thousand other people."

Both Ben and his friend mentioned they remembered the club, I introduced myself, and then was about to introduce my wife when I noticed she was already out the door of the restaurant (I hadn't told her in advance that I was about to stop and talk with Ben, but as she's painfully shy, she didn't mind), so I just said "Oh, looks like I better get going, it was nice meeting you" and headed out the door myself.

Ben looked in really great shape which was good to see; I'm sure he's still faster than 99% of men out there.

Anyways, after that we drove to the used car / van lot, which turned out to have a variety of Astro's and Safari's with more km on them, but the pristine beast with just 55,000km on her was nowhere to be found. The guy told us it sold "about a week and a half ago" but the way he asked "did u see it? did u see it?" two times when I first mentioned that van made me believe it was a plant, a lure, a shiny piece of candy that never existed.

Still, I was glad to have checked it because whether it ever existed or not, it wasn't available now so I had to cross it off my list and not even use it as any type of reference point, as it seemed a bit too good to be true in the first place. And, I met Ben Johnson, whose legacy is greater than many understand (every single runner who competed against him in the Olympic finals dash was later found to also have been on steroids).

Still looking for a Chevrolet Astro or GMC Safari made between 2003 and 2005. I have a 1997 Astro now but would like one made in the final 3 years of production, as there were a couple of enhancements on those models that improved handling, and these wonderfully versatile vehicles are no longer made.

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