Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Painter's Helper Is Off the Wall"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
According to a cherished old adage, which I know is true because I just made it up, if you can’t stand the kitchen, turn up the heat.

That’s what my wife, Sue, recently did because she wanted me to take down the wallpaper that had adorned the kitchen for the past dozen years.

“It’s practically new,” I told her.

“It’s old,” Sue countered. “And ugly. I want it down.”

The last time I tried to remove wallpaper, in an upstairs bedroom when Sue and I moved into our house 20 years ago, it came off in pieces the size of lollipop wrappers. It took me three days. I could have saved a lot of time by using a flamethrower.

Thanks to those haunting flashbacks, I convinced Sue to hire Mike the Paint Guy.

Mike, otherwise known as Michael Beck of Island Luxor Painting, turned out to be a good worker who was having a bad week.

The day he was supposed to start, he had to take his father to the hospital. Then he had a flat tire. Worst of all, he had a calcium deposit in his shoulder that required surgery.

“The doctor said I have the body of a 64-year-old man,” said Michael, who is 32.

“I’m 64,” I told him. “My body is nothing to write home about, and neither is my head, but at least I don’t need surgery.”

“Maybe,” Michael said, “you can help me take down the wallpaper.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m off the wall myself, so I’d be happy to assist.”

As Michael prepped the walls with a solution to make the paper come off easily, he asked, “What solution did you use when you took down the wallpaper upstairs?”

My response: “Beer.”

“Wallpaper is tricky,” Michael said. “Nobody uses it anymore. I’ve taken a lot of wallpaper down, but I haven’t put any up.”

When he got it down in the kitchen, he said, “Now I have to spackle. It will cover up the holes.”

“Spackle is also good for covering up wrinkles,” I noted. “I put it on my face before I go to bed.”

“You do look young,” Michael said, “so I guess it works.”

Next, he revved up an electric sander to smooth out the walls.

“May I try?” I asked.

“Help yourself,” Michael said as he handed me the whirring disc.

“This thing could give me a close shave,” I said.

“Yes,” said Michael, “but then you’d need more spackle to cover up the nicks and cuts.”

On one of the walls was a phone number. It was for a woman named Bernice, which also was the name of one of our deceased cats. I called, but the number was out of service.

“It’s dead, too,” I told Michael.

Now it was time to paint. Michael’s shoulder was bothering him, so I said, “You’ll have a brush with disaster. Let me help.”

As I did one of the walls, I remarked, “I’m on a roll!”

It caused Michael even more pain. But he worked through it and, almost single-handedly over the course of a week, and despite my feeble assistance, did a fantastic job.

“I love it!” Sue exclaimed. “Now I want the hallway painted.”

“You’ll have to wait until Michael is out of surgery,” I said.

“Then you can do the prep work,” she said.

“OK,” I replied. “Buy some spackle and an electric sander. And don’t forget the beer.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Out to Lunch at Victoria's Secret"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media
As a thoroughly modern man with a partially feminine side, which I always sit on when I eat lunch, I am not embarrassed to say that if it weren’t for Victoria’s Secret, I would go hungry every day.

That’s because my wife, Sue, a thoroughly modern woman with no masculine side, and a longtime customer of the clothing and beauty chain, packs my lunch in a Victoria’s Secret bag.

My second meal of the day is the hit of the office, where colleagues routinely ask what I have for lunch, to which I reply, “I can’t tell you. It’s a Secret.”

When my pink striped bag recently started to sag under the weight of the incredible edibles packed within, it was time to go to Victoria’s Secret to buy Sue a little something. Then I could get a new bag and avoid not only starving each weekday but depriving my office mates the pleasure of asking if my ham sandwich was wrapped in something frilly.

“May I help you?” sales associate Elana Litsakis asked as Sue and I perused the merchandise.

“I’m looking for a lunch bag,” I replied.

Elana, 29, who said she has “heard it all” from shoppers of the male persuasion, added that this was the first time a guy was more interested in lunch than lingerie.

“I appreciate intimate apparel,” I explained. “After all, sometimes a boy just likes to feel pretty. But the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And I need something to carry my lunch in.”

“Does that mean you’re looking for something to wear?” Elana asked Sue, who nodded and replied, “I’d like to see some leggings.”

“How about armings?” I wondered.

“They haven’t come in yet,” said Elana, who showed Sue the selection and directed her to the fitting room while I stood next to the thongs, which Elana was marking, pricing and, somehow, folding.

“I don’t suppose you have anything in my size,” I said.

“Of course we do,” Elana responded with a smile. “What color would you like?”

“Pink,” I said. “It’ll match my new bag.”

“My grandpa likes our bags,” Elana told me. “For his 80th birthday, we got him a camera that we put in one of them. He said, ‘Is there a girl in there, too?’ ”

“You don’t seem to have anything for guys,” I said.

“We have cologne,” Elana countered. “There’s Very Sexy for Him and Very Sexy for Him Platinum.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“One is Platinum,” Elana said. “The other isn’t.”

“I think I’ll stick with Eau de Budweiser,” I told her.

When Sue emerged from the fitting room, she said she didn’t want the leggings but would buy two sweatshirts instead.

“You get a free panty,” Elana said.

“Wow,” said Sue.

I agreed.

We thanked Elana for her help and, in my case, her unlimited patience and headed to the checkout, where I told Alexis, the cashier, about my lunchtime cravings.

“You must be very popular in the office,” she said as she rang up Sue’s purchase. “It comes to $70,” Alexis added. “If you want a bag, it will be an extra 5 cents.”

“I’ll buy you two bags,” Sue said sweetly, signing a bill for $70.10.

“You spare no expense for me,” I said gratefully. “By the way, what’s for lunch tomorrow?”

“After this,” Sue said, “you can make it yourself.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"Dot's the Car for Poppie"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media

If a car dealership is looking for someone to star in its TV commercials, a funny, smart, trusted spokesperson who is an expert in style and the best color for your new vehicle, I have the perfect candidate.

I refer, of course, to my 5-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.

Chloe, who has a lifetime of experience with crayons, has two favorite colors: blue and pink. Those are my favorite colors, too, because Chloe has told me they are.

So when I called her recently to say I was going to look for a new car, I asked what color I should get.

“Get blue, Poppie,” Chloe advised.

“How about pink?” I wondered.

“No,” Chloe said. “Get blue. With pink polka dots.”

That afternoon, my wife, Sue, and I went to Hyundai 112 and saw James Boyd, a super salesman who is starring in a TV commercial for the Long Island dealership.

“You’re a celebrity,” I told him.

“I haven’t seen the commercial yet,” said James, who asked what I was looking for in a new car.

“Brakes,” I replied. “They’re pretty important. And wheels. An engine would help, too.”

“I can do that,” he said. “I can also get you all the bells and whistles.”

“If I wanted bells and whistles,” I said, “I’d buy a train.”

James said I could trade in my 2014 Santa Fe for a 2019 Santa Fe, but that it wouldn’t be keyless.

“Even keyless cars need keys,” I pointed out.

“That’s a key point,” James responded with a straight face. “But the car doesn’t come with seat warmers.”

“I already have them,” I said. “They’re called pants.”

When Sue and I returned from a test drive, James asked how we liked the car.

I shrugged and replied, “The cop said the accident wasn’t my fault.”

He blanched. Sue shook her head and said, “Ignore him.”

But James, 39, a charming guy who has been in the business for 18 years, couldn’t ignore the fact that we wanted to buy the car. He got us an excellent deal.

After checking out my old white car, James said, “You have the best vanity plates I have ever seen.”

The plates — JZEE — were Sue’s idea.

“It took me months to get them,” she told James.

“What do you think the real Jay-Z would say?” James wondered.

“I’m the real one,” I said. “I’m older than he is and I had the name first. And my wife is even more beautiful than his.”

Sue blushed. Then she said, “We have to pick a color.”

“Our granddaughter wants me to get blue,” I told James.

“I can do that,” he said.

“With pink polka dots,” I added.

“Anything for you, JZEE,” he promised. “But you may have to buy a paintball gun.”

James said that the available shade of blue was called Stormy Sea.

“Better than Stormy Daniels,” I noted.

Sue agreed.

When the transaction was done, I asked the celebrity salesman for his autograph. James took out a pen and, on a sheet of paper, signed, “To JZEE: Best wishes. Drive safely!! James T. Boyd”

“Now I want yours,” he said.

“I already gave you about 47 autographs on the paperwork,” I said.

After we all shook hands, Sue and I drove home, where I called Chloe.

“I got a new car,” I told her.

“Wow!” she said. “What color?”


“With pink polka dots?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You have to get pink polka dots, Poppie.”

James was right: I may have to buy a paintball gun.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Cute Cousin Combo"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
When two of your three grandchildren are siblings and the third one is not, that makes all of them cousins, even though the first two are not cousins of each other but only of the third, who is a cousin of the first two but not of himself.

That makes the cuckoo who concocted this cockamamie cousin conundrum a grandfather twice removed, which means he should have been removed from a family get-together twice already but, to the consternation of everyone else, keeps coming back.

It happened recently when my wife, Sue, and I were visited by our three grandchildren: Chloe, who is 5 and a half; her little sister, Lilly, who is almost 2; and their cousin, Xavier, who’s a year and a half.

We are fortunate to see Chloe and Lilly frequently because they live about 25 miles away, but it’s not often that we see Xavier because he lives almost 300 miles away. So when there is a chance for all of them to get together, we jump at the opportunity, Sue gracefully with a perfect landing, me clumsily with a stubbed toe and a score that would have gotten me thrown out of the Olympics.

And it takes an Olympian effort to keep up with all of them because they are full of energy, while I am full of, well, diapers, which I have never minded changing for any of them and still do for the youngest two.

Now that I have come clean about it, I should add that the kids have distinct personalities. Chloe relishes her role as big sister and big cousin and takes an almost maternal approach to Lilly and Xavier, showering them with love. Chloe also has a great sense of humor. At dinner during a visit by my mother, Rosina, known to her great-grandchildren as Gigi, Chloe told jokes.

“Knock, knock,” she told the assemblage, which included my nephew Blair and my niece Whitney.

“Who’s there?” we all inquired.


“Boo who?”

“Don’t cry,” Chloe responded with perfect timing. “It’s just a joke.”

When the line got a big laugh, she beamed. Then she told more jokes.

Lilly is the pistol of the trio. She doesn’t tell jokes, but she gets laughs anyway.

“Nini! Poppie! Nini! Poppie!” she chatters to Sue and me. She’ll go up to our Amazon Echo and shout, “Alexa!” When the device activates, Lilly says, “Moana! Moon!” Then she’ll break into a spontaneous dance when a song from the soundtrack to one of her favorite movies, such as “Moana” or “Sing,” starts playing.

Lilly also eats more than Chloe and Xavier combined but is still a peanut who’s about five pounds lighter than Xavier, even though she’s five months older than he is.

Xavier is a sweet, quiet boy with a perennial smile and an infectious giggle, which I love to trigger with silly sounds and funny faces, which I ordinarily make anyway. Unlike Chloe and Lilly, who love Sue but are more attached to me, Xavier loves me but is more attached to Sue, who exulted at finally being the favorite grandparent by hoisting him into her arms, no easy feat since he’s a big boy, and doing a victory lap around the family room.

Xavier also loves Chloe and called for her after she went home. When she and Lilly returned a couple of days later, Xavier hugged Chloe. He and Lilly are more competitive, vying for the same toys, but they get along well, too.

That was evident when the three of them romped in the backyard, splashing in the kiddie pool, running under the sprinkler and drawing on the patio with chalk.

Chloe drew hopscotch squares, then counted in French as she hopped.

“I love doing hopscotch in French!” she exclaimed.

“Magnifique, Chloe!” I said.

“Merci, Poppie!” she replied.

Lilly and Xavier added their artistry, not only to the patio but to our outdoor furniture. The Louvre would have loved it.

But not as much as Sue and I love our grandchildren. It was great to have them together, which doesn’t happen too often. We can’t wait for the next time.

Till then, I’ll keep trying to figure out that cockamamie cousin conundrum. Maybe when all the kids come back, they can explain it to me.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Goodbye, Maggie May"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
There is nothing grander than being a grandparent, especially if your grandchildren are as grand as mine.

That is true of Chloe, Lilly and Xavier, who run, walk and toddle about on two legs.

It also was true of Maggie, who scampered about on four legs, balanced by a tail on one end and an eating machine on the other.

Our younger daughter, Lauren, who is Chloe and Lilly’s mommy, was Maggie’s mommy, too. My wife, Sue, and I were Maggie’s grandparents.

Now our family is a lot less fun and much quieter because Maggie, a whippet mix with a big personality and a voice to match, died recently at the age of 13.

The first thing Lauren did when she moved out of the house, officially making Sue and me empty nesters, was to get a dog. She chose a 7-month-old black and white bundle of energy she named Maggie May, after the Rod Stewart song, though Sue also called her Margaret, or Marge, or Margie, or Madge, or Mags, or some variation thereof.

Whatever the moniker, Maggie was Lauren’s first baby.

When Lauren met her future husband, Guillaume, Maggie accepted him right away, which said volumes because Maggie wasn’t overly fond of guys of the human species, though I was an exception, too, because Maggie instinctively knew, don’t ask me how, that her grandfather was an easy touch.

One of the reasons Lauren and Guillaume were such a great match was that, as Lauren later said, “I couldn’t marry somebody my dog didn’t like.”

When Lauren was expecting Chloe, we all worried how Maggie would accept the baby. She could be territorial and jealous, but she was nothing but loving and protective when Chloe arrived. They were pals from the start, a big sister who barked and a little sister who giggled. It was play time all the time.

Due to complicated circumstances involving a house rental, Maggie lived with Sue and me the past two years, though she often saw Lauren, Chloe, Lilly and Guillaume and loved every minute of being with all of us. She especially loved Lauren and knew she was, after all, still her mommy’s dog.

And she loved Sue and the girls, who loved her right back.

It may be true that every dog has its day, but not a day went by that I didn’t think there was no dog with a bigger appetite for life, as well as food of all kinds, than Maggie.

Joey Chestnut, the human vacuum cleaner who sucks down scores of wieners each year in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, eats like a bird compared to Maggie.

We could have fed Maggie an ox and she would have wolfed it down in about two minutes. But if Sue and I sat down to dinner immediately thereafter, Maggie would stand at the table, still hungry and begging for more.

She ate so much that I feared she would explode like a canine Hindenburg, prompting me to exclaim, “Oh, the animality!”

Nonetheless, she was fussy. She would eat dry dog food only if every other source of nourishment on the planet shriveled up. She liked the treats and hearty meals that Sue gave to her on what seemed like an hourly basis. But Maggie, who was plump but not fat, sometimes got tired of one thing, which forced Sue to switch to something else. I thought Maggie should have gone to the supermarket with Sue so she could pick out what she wanted to eat that week.

Naturally, Sue would have to buy the groceries because Maggie didn’t have a paying job. But she did earn her keep by being our auxiliary alarm system. That’s because Maggie liked to bark. And she did, often relentlessly, if someone came to the door, or a repairman entered the house, or a squirrel scampered by, or a leaf blew past the window.

It made me wonder why dogs never get laryngitis.

But Sue and I felt secure with Maggie around.

As she got older, she had her physical challenges. We are indebted to the good folks at Jefferson Animal Hospital for taking such wonderful care of her.

The end came suddenly. Now there is a void in our house and in our hearts.

Rest well, good girl. Eat well, too. In doggy heaven, you’ll never go hungry.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima