Thursday, February 8, 2018

"This Caveman Is a Cool Guy"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
People who know me and are willing to admit it (which narrows the field considerably) will gladly tell you that I have frequent bouts of brain freeze and that everything I say should be taken with a million grains of salt.

Aside from margaritas, which I like because they’re cold and salty, and have been known to reduce my brain cells to practically zero, never has this sensational combination been more welcome than when I recently spent time in a salt cave and later was flash-frozen in a cryotherapy chamber.

The place to enjoy these invigorating experiences (not including margaritas) is Port Jeff Salt Cave in Port Jefferson, New York. Billed as “an integrative wellness center,” it’s owned by the husband-and-wife team of Rich and Marcy Guzman, both of whom are nurses who know that laughter is the best medicine.

As Marcy told me before I sat in a group session in the cave, “Salt doesn’t cure anything but ham.”

“I’m a ham,” I replied.

“Then you’ll be cured,” she said.

Inhaling salt air can decrease inflammation (good news for my big head), detox the blood (I’m not type O, but I do occasionally have a typo) and send nutrients to my organs (too bad I don’t play the piano).

I joined seven other people, ranging in age from 12 to 84, in the salt cave, which looks just like — you guessed it — a hockey arena.

No, actually, it looks like a cave. It also looks like a beach because it contains 10 beach chairs, arranged in a circle, but instead of sand, the floor is covered with salt crystals. The room is dimly lit with twinkling ceiling lights that resemble the night sky. There also are vents that release salt air and a sound system that pipes in a soothing recording by Marcy.

At the beginning of the 45-minute session, which costs $45 per person, Marcy said the salt air would open our sinuses.

“My sinuses are already open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays,” I said.

The other customers shifted nervously in their beach chairs.

But everyone relaxed when Marcy closed the door and started the recording, which took us vicariously on a nature walk, over the river and through the woods, where we bypassed Grandmother’s house and encountered several creatures that evidently had escaped from either a zoo or “The Jungle Book” but proved to be good omens that led us back to where we started, safe, sound and satisfied.

“How do you feel?” Marcy asked afterward.

“Salty,” I responded. “And peppery. It was wonderful. I have an inner warmth.”

I had an outer cold when I went back a week later for my own version of the movie “Frozen.”

I was greeted by Rich, who asked me to strip to my skivvies and don a pair of socks and gloves before entering the small, cylindrical chamber, where the temperature would drop to 265 degrees below zero.

“I’ll end up being like a Mrs. Paul’s fish stick,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Rich replied. “Your wife can thaw you out in the microwave.”

He added that during the three-minute session, which costs $40, I’d be enveloped by a nitrogen vapor that would, among other benefits, help my body release endorphins, kill fat cells and block pain.

“The first minute is refreshing,” Rich told me as I stood in the one-person chamber with my hands at my side and my head peering over the closed door. “The second minute is invigorating. And the third minute is ‘talk me through this.’ Ready?”

I gulped and nodded. Rich turned on the machine. Vapor started to rise and caress my skin, invading my pores and turning my body into what seemed like a block of dry ice. I felt, as Rich promised, refreshed and invigorated.

“Talk me through this,” I said as he counted down the last minute.

“No need,” he said. “You’re doing great.”

When it was over, I stepped out of the chamber, the coolest guy on earth.

“Between the two sessions,” I told Rich and Marcy after I got dressed, “I feel like a new man.”

“The salt air and the cold air really help,” Marcy noted.

“The only thing cryotherapy couldn’t help is my brain,” I said. “It’s already frozen.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"The Brew Crew"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
As a home brewer who once brewed beer in my own home without, miraculously, blowing the place up, I have great admiration for practitioners of the craft of creating craft products that go down smoothly without coming back up the same way.

That’s why I recently quenched my thirst for knowledge by taking a brewing tutorial with Paul Komsic, brewmaster at BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant in Patchogue, New York.

Paul, 32, started at BrickHouse as a customer and now, seven years later, is brewing the popular establishment’s many fine products, including the one we would be making, a nacho IPA that Paul planned to call Nacho Mama.

This gave me hope, as a BrickHouse customer myself, that I would eventually become the brewmaster, though it might take me twice as long because I am twice as old as Paul.

“How was the beer you brewed at home?” Paul asked.

“Surprisingly good,” I told him. “I called it Jerry’s Nasty Ale. I don’t know why, but it had a smoky taste. My wife and some neighbors tried it and nobody had to be hospitalized.”

“That’s always a good sign,” Paul commented.

“After that, I retired from brewing,” I said. “But I’m coming out of retirement today.”

Joining me in this class, which I hoped to graduate magna cum lager, were three guys who are home brewers and have no intention of retiring: Chris Cordano, 57, a tennis instructor, and the Homeyer brothers, Gregg, 59, an engineer, and Glenn, 52, an electrician.

Offering his able assistance was assistant brewer Brian Smith, 23, who, Paul said, “is me when I was that age.”

“Who were you?” I wondered.

“I was still me,” Paul answered, “but I wasn’t making beer. I was drinking it. Now I do both.”

The first thing we learned in the class, which started at 8 a.m., was that beer makes a fine breakfast treat. BrickHouse had kindly supplied bagels and coffee, but we got to sample small amounts of the brewery’s latest products as the tutorial went along.

The first order of business was learning the steps involved in making beer. Actually, there were three steps that led up to a platform, on either side of which was a mash tun and a kettle. Both are huge. The mash tun, for example, holds 1,100 pounds of grain.

I got to find out first hand, assisted by my second hand, when Paul asked me to dump in some of the 30 pounds of raw tortilla chips that were our brew’s key ingredient. Chris, Gregg and Glenn each got a turn as well.

Also important were Saaz hop pellets, which Paul said would, if you ate one, “set your mouth on fire.”

So I ate one. It set my mouth on fire. Fortunately, I had a glass of beer, which quickly doused the flames.

In went the rest of the pellets, along with other ingredients such as yeast, which Paul said eats the sugar that has been converted from grain to create alcohol.

Along the way, we learned that brewing goes back to the Middle Ages, when the process involved running beer through fish bladders.

“Now I know where the expression ‘drink like a fish’ comes from,” I said. “And we’re in our middle ages, so we’re carrying on a great tradition.”

We also got to glimpse the inside of the mash tun as Paul was cleaning out the grains that would be sent to feed cows at a nearby farm as part of the “Brew to Moo” program.

“Does the milk come out with a head on it?” I wondered.

“No, you can’t get beer from a cow,” Paul said as he removed the screen at the base of the tun, which is, on a much smaller scale, what my classmates do when they make beer at home.

“I have a false bottom,” Gregg said.

“How do you sit down?” I asked him.

The tutorial, which was fascinating and lots of fun, took about four hours, after which Gregg, Glenn, Chris and I had lunch: delicious burgers and, of course, beer, though not the nacho IPA, which wouldn’t be ready for another two weeks.

“I can’t wait to taste it,” I told Paul. “And when you retire, let me know. If BrickHouse needs another brewmaster, I’ll be available.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Color Me Beautiful"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. But my little piggies, instead of crying wee wee wee all the way home, said the hell with it and went for a pedicure.

My wife, Sue, who gets pedicures all the time and whose feet are beautiful, thinks mine aren’t. So, to convince her that a little pampering wouldn’t be like putting lipstick on a pig, I arranged to be beautiful, too, by having shiny red nail polish put on my piggies.

I put my best foot forward, followed by the other one, when my office was visited recently by Marianella Aguirre and Jennifer Yepez of Green Spa on the Go, a mobile spa and nail studio in Forest Hills, New York.

Employees could get manicures or pedicures. Even though this is a digital age, and my digits sometimes have hangnails, I decided not to put the man in manicure and instead wanted a trained professional to cure the two titanic tootsies that make me a biped.

That unenviable task fell to Jennifer, who is 28 and has been working at the spa for a year.

“I like your socks,” she said, pointing to hosiery embroidered with fish.

“I’m not wearing socks,” I replied. “The doctor says this rash should clear up in a couple of weeks.”

Jennifer looked stunned.

“I hope you don’t think my feet smell like fish,” I told her.

“No,” she said with a smile of relief as I removed my socks.

“Still,” I noted, “you should have worn a gas mask.”

“Your feet aren’t so bad,” said Marianella, 39, who owns Green Spa on the Go.

“My wife thinks I have the ugliest feet on earth,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Marianella responded. “Jennifer will make them beautiful.”

And she did. It took a lot of work, but Jennifer’s expert technique rubbed me the right way.

“Be careful,” I warned. “I’m ticklish.”

“OK,” she said, giggling along with me as she massaged my right foot, which she anointed with cream and oil after clipping my toenails and using a pusher to clean them.

“They’re too cuticle for words,” I declared.

They were doubly so after Jennifer performed the same wonderful routine on my left foot (not starring Daniel Day-Lewis).

As Jennifer worked her magic, Marianella told me that Green Spa on the Go has clients throughout the metropolitan area, including my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, and that some of her most notable customers have been former New York Knicks stars Kurt Thomas and J.R. Smith.

“Those guys are huge,” Marianella said. “Their feet are really challenging.”

“Bigger than mine?” I asked, adding that they are size 11.

“Yours are baby feet,” she assured me.

And, baby, did they feel good. Now all I needed was nail polish.

“Men are going with bright colors these days,” Marianella said. “How about red?”

“Why not?” I replied, choosing the shiniest shade, which Jennifer expertly applied to my nails.

“They glow!” I chirped, paying Marianella a bargain price of $20 and giving a nice tip to Jennifer, who in turn gave me a pair of banana yellow, open-toed pedicure slippers, which I had to wear until the polish dried.

When my colleagues saw my glossy hoofs, they could barely contain their excitement.

“Wow!” Kevin gushed.

“I love your toes!” Francesca enthused.

“You have nice feet for a guy!” Janelle exclaimed.

The person I really wanted to impress was Sue. When my shift was over, I put my socks and shoes back on and drove home, where I told her about my pedicure.

“Don’t tell me you got nail polish, too,” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Red.”

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Let me see.”

I took off my shoes and socks. Sue looked down.

“What can I say?” she did say. “They’re lovely.”

“Too bad it’s not summer,” I said. “Then the whole world would see that I no longer have the ugliest feet on earth.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"For Cold Times' Sake"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
On Jan. 11, 1954, a date which will live in infancy, I made my grand entrance into the world while a blizzard raged outside the maternity ward at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. I have been perpetrating snow jobs ever since.

So you might think that I like winter. Actually, of the four seasons, my favorite is Frankie Valli.

I forget the names of the other three guys, but seasonally speaking, winter comes behind spring, summer, fall, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

(Thank you, Simon and Garfunkel.)

Winter is the worst season not because of sleet, which God obviously created when He had a sinus infection, or even the windchill factor, which sadistic meteorologists devised to make us feel even more miserable.

No, winter leaves me cold because, simply, it’s too complicated.

Take gloves and car keys. You should because if you don’t take gloves, your fingers will freeze, making it impossible to hold your car keys. And if you don’t take them, the rest of you will freeze because you won’t be able to get into your car and will have to trudge through a sheet of sleet (see above) that is whipping horizontally into your nostrils and will soon turn you, gloves or no gloves, into a human Popsicle.

The question is: Where do you put this stuff?

Here’s where it is complicated. You might put your car keys in the front pocket of your pants (it’s a good idea to wear them, too), but then you’d have to lift up the bottom of your parka (ditto) to fish the keys out of your pocket, which you can’t do unless you first take off your gloves.

This, I am sure, is why keyless cars were invented, probably during the winter in a place where sleet is common.

Then there is your wallet, which you will have to fish out of your back pocket — after again taking off your gloves and lifting up the bottom of your parka — to pay by credit card or, naturally, cold cash to put gas in your car so you can drive to work.

So you figure you will outfox winter by putting everything — car keys, wallet, gloves, ski hat, scarf, employee ID card, lip balm, hand moisturizer, flask of brandy — in the pockets of your parka so you won’t have to lift it up to fish out any of those items from your pants.

Or you’ll buy a tote bag in which to put all that stuff.

The problem is that if you go to the cafeteria, you’ll remember that your wallet is at your desk, in either your parka or your tote bag, and not in the back pocket of your pants, where it should be.

Then there’s footwear, which might normally consist of dress shoes or, if you’re casual, a pair of sneakers. In winter, you have to wear boots and carry a shopping bag in which to put your shoes or sneakers so you can change into them when you get to the office. When the workday is over, you have to put your boots back on and head out to the car, where it dawns on you that you left your tote bag under your desk.

One possible solution is to bring a suitcase to work so you can stuff it with everything, including summer clothes because the heat in the office is likely to be cranked up so high that it feels like a sauna.

Speaking of which, it is not a good idea to wear only a towel unless you want to be escorted out of the building and into the arctic air, where you will, without gloves, pants and parka, freeze to death.

So until spring springs, weather winter as best you can. And don’t forget that flask of brandy.

Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, December 15, 2017

"The Zezimas' 2017 Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have once again decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the daughtersiarch; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch; and Chloe, Lilly and Xavier, the grandchildreniarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2017 for the Zezimas!

The year got off to a rocky start when Jerry had a kidney stone. He is sorry to have to number them like the Super Bowl, but it was Kidney Stone VI. Mercifully, this, too, did pass.

Also on the medical front, Jerry took a CPR class in which the instructor used him as a dummy. The other class members couldn’t tell the difference.

To keep in good physical condition, Jerry won a one-day gym membership. He didn’t exercise very strenuously, proving to be the biggest dumbbell there, but afterward he went to an adjacent bar and did 12-ounce curls.

Continuing to show his commitment to a healthy lifestyle, Jerry attended a Wine Stomp Party at a vineyard and, re-creating a famous “I Love Lucy” episode, climbed into a vat of grapes and stomped them with his bare feet. To ensure the health of the vineyard’s customers, the grapes were thrown away.

Jerry may not have made his own wine, but he and Chloe did make their own ice cream. They went to a shop where the owner, impressed by Chloe’s natural ability to pour in the ingredients but not by Jerry’s pathetic incompetence at measuring them, allowed the dynamic duo to make a batch of honey-cinnamon. It was delicious, prompting the owner to tell Chloe, “Now you can say you taught your grandfather how to make ice cream.”

Jerry, Sue and Lauren took Chloe and Lilly on their first visit to the zoo, where humans were the wildest creatures and Jerry, an acknowledged oldster, was carded by a flirtatious young woman while buying beer for the adults in the group. He roared louder than the lions.

One of the proudest moments of the year occurred when Chloe graduated, magna cum little, from preschool. She had a prominent role in the ceremony, which was attended by Jerry, Sue, Lauren, Guillaume and Lilly, and was tops in her class. Afterward, everyone had milk and cookies. Yale or Harvard couldn’t have done better.

A milestone was reached when Lilly celebrated her first birthday. Big sister Chloe, who’s 4, helped her blow out the candle on her cupcake and, as their little friends applauded, helped her eat the cupcake, too. Talk about sisterly love!

And there was an addition to the family: Xavier, Katie and Dave’s beautiful boy, made his grand entrance into the world. Sue and Jerry, aka Nini and Poppie, went on a road trip to meet him and Jerry quickly learned that changing diapers on a boy is a lot different from changing them on a girl. That’s because boys have an apparatus that is not unlike a water cannon or, considering the oscillation, an in-ground sprinkler system. It was a geyser on a geezer.

But Jerry didn’t mind because he got to do some male bonding. On a subsequent visit, Jerry introduced Xavier to the Three Stooges, making him giggle uncontrollably by doing Shemp imitations. The women, naturally, were thrilled.

Xavier met cousins Chloe and Lilly on a visit to Nini and Poppie’s house. The three adorable children had a ball, laughing, playing and, not surprisingly, proving to be more mature than Poppie.

We hope your year has been fun-filled, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, November 30, 2017

"The Benefits of the Doubt"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
When it comes to health care, the most important question facing the American people is this: Is the pain reliever you need to get rid of the headache caused by your employer’s open enrollment covered under medical insurance or do you have to spend thousands of dollars in deductibles before you can write off a bottle of aspirin?

That’s what I asked a very nice and very knowledgeable human resources coordinator named Luann, who recently helped me navigate the process because my 4-year-old granddaughter, who is more technologically advanced than I am, isn’t on the payroll and is already covered under her father’s plan.

“My niece is better on the computer than I am, although I’m an online shopper, so I’m really good at this,” said Luann, who had been on the job for only three weeks before the rollout.

“Too bad the company isn’t rolling out the barrel,” I said.

“That would help,” Luann replied as we sat at a monitor in the HR department and she showed me how to log on to the program.

There were four categories: benefits, health, money and protection.

“Is there a Powerball option?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Luann replied. “If there was, I wouldn’t be here.”

Then we hit the initials: HSA (health savings account), FSA (flexible spending account) and, the one that really stunned me, STD.

“Please tell me it doesn’t stand for what I think it does,” I spluttered.

“It stands for short-term disability,” Luann assured me. “Why?” she added with a smile. “What did you think it stands for?”

“Something that I’m sure isn’t covered,” I said.

I was already signed up for the company’s dental and vision plans, but for the past two years I have been on my wife’s medical plan because it’s less expensive.

“Her deductible isn’t as high as ours,” I explained. “But no matter what plan you’re on, with deductibles these days, you pretty much have to be in a train wreck for them to take effect.”

“There’s a simple solution,” Luann said. “Don’t take the train.”

“Good advice,” I said. “But if something happened, I’d have to pay out of my own pocket. And my pocket isn’t big enough to hold all that money.”

“So what’s the answer?” Luann asked.

I told her the absolutely true story of my three unsuccessful campaigns for vice president of the United States, in 1992, 1996 and 2000, when my running mate, media prankster Alan Abel, was the presidential candidate.

“He ran under the name of Porky,” I told Luann. “I used my nickname, Zez. We were the Gershwin-inspired ticket of Porky and Zez. We ran under the banner of the Cocktail Party. We came up with our health-care plan in New York City, so we called it Big Apple Coverage. Since an apple a day keeps the doctor away, we proposed a 10-cent co-pay on every apple. That way, everyone could afford medical care.”

“I would have voted for you,” Luann said.

“Some people did,” I told her. “They probably couldn’t afford their prescription medications.”

“So there still isn’t an answer to the health-care problem,” Luann said.

“Yes, there is,” I responded. “Porky and I had another proposal: Everybody in America becomes a member of Congress. That way, we’d have the same plan they do and we’re all covered. Either that or kick Congress off their plan and make them shop for insurance like the rest of us.”

“It’s too bad you didn’t run again last year,” Luann said.

“I’m old now, so if I ran, I’d sprain an ankle or blow out a knee,” I said. “And I wouldn’t meet the deductible.”

I thanked Luann for her help and good humor but said I was going to stick with my wife’s medical plan.

“Stay healthy,” Luann said, though after dealing with me, she no doubt needed a pain reliever. I hope it’s covered.

Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima