Sunday, September 10, 2017


Benny's good friend
Way back in my senior year in high school about when Washington crossed the Delaware there was a guy by the name of Benny Galliano aka Benny Da Buffer, (not his real name to protect his sister) who was transferred from a Brooklyn High School to Bellport High School because he was always in trouble. He belonged to a gang in Brooklyn, and often "Jitterbugged" as they say meaning street gang warfare. The reason Bellport was selected was that he had an uncle who owned a factory making clothing in the Bellport area, and his parents figured as far away from Brooklyn as possible was good.

Benny could be a bad influence on the Pope, let alone Bellport High. He had a heart as big as the great outdoors, but sometimes the brains of a fish. Benny's sense of humor was tremendous, and could also improvise Elvis at a moment's notice, and people, for the most part, liked him once you got to know him. He stood about 5" 9" and was slightly overweight, maybe 50 pounds of slight. He had a fat nose and a face for radio (He knew this because his Mother told him so). His eyes were set very close together, penetrating and it made him look like a thug.

I met Benny after a few weeks of school that September and it started as he was transferred from Brooklyn to Bellport. He just gravitated to me and we became friends. I think it was because my shop teacher Mr. Walker assigned him to be under my wing and we got along great because of some similarities (Brooklyn, Italian.) Benny just could not retain anything. Soon he was coming to me for help in English, Math and Science classes for home work and soon we were spending afternoons doing a review of the class work for that day. He begged me to do it because if he failed, he would be thrown out of the house, sent to work in his uncle's factory, and they would take away his shiny new fuel injected Bonneville which he hoped to add an additional carburetor so he could keep all the neighborhoods he frequented, awake and on their toes at 2:00 am. Benny loved to be noticed. Almost every day we reviewed, going over the same things again and again and it started to come together! Benny was learning, Benny's brain was now the size of a whale, and because of the constant review, I was not getting my homework done like I used to. I would have a job after dinner, and when work was finished, I had to stay up late for my written homework to be completed.

June finally rolled along and I check the board in the hall wall next to the Principles office to see who was graduating. As I go I see Benny walking in the opposite direction with tears streaming down his mug. I rush to the board look for my name then look for his. There it stood Benjamin Galliano! "What the hell???" What's wrong with Benny? I go looking for him and find him on the pay phone talking to his father. I go up to Benny and overhear him saying that maybe they made a mistake and forgot to put his name on the list! "Benny, what the hell are you talking about?" I yell. He turns around and says "Joe man, I can't talk right now" I said "Dumb ass, your name IS on the board" And as I say it, I'm starting to smile, and he says to me "Man don't mess with my head" I grab the phone and talk to his dad to tell him that I saw the name. I drag Benny down to the wall, and point to his name, he looks at me and plants a kiss right on my forehead. He was so scared of not graduating, he was blind to the idea of his name on that list!

After the graduation ceremony, I went over to where he was standing with his family. There among his family is this little Italian lady, who grabs him by both cheeks and says: "You sonnamabitcher, you graduate!"


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