Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Feuding With Fredo"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I am the proud father of two wonderful daughters who aren't Daddy's little girls anymore but who can still count on the Old Man to protect them from anyone who would bother or annoy them or otherwise make their lives miserable. This does not include me.

But my love and loyalty were put to the test recently when I was faced with the ultimate parental challenge: Would I have to rearrange the already disagreeable features of a punk who was harassing one of my girls?

That was the situation in which I found myself after my younger daughter, Lauren, who had moved into a nearby apartment complex, began having problems with the slimy little weasel (I apologize to any other vermin that may be reading this) who lived upstairs.

This loser looks like Fredo from "The Godfather," except that Fredo is a genius in comparison, even though he was murdered in the sequel, which gave me an idea I decided not to follow up on, but it's never too late, if you know what I mean.

Here, in a nutshell, was the problem: Lauren's mere existence irritated Fredo. I should explain that Fredo is divorced (what a surprise!) and that he lives alone (ditto) and that he is a middle-age man who seems to have trouble with women. Specifically, he appears to have it in for young, single women who, like Lauren, are smart, witty, lovable, talented and, of course, beautiful. In other words, everything Fredo isn't.

As soon as Lauren moved in last year, Fredo began complaining about the noise she was allegedly making. It seems Fredo has a job (I think it was outsourced from Neptune) that requires him to get up at 4 a.m. Apparently he needs his beauty sleep, although for it to have any real effect, he'd have to lapse into a coma. He also complained about Lauren's dog, a little whippet named Maggie, who Fredo said shouldn't be there. He failed to realize that if the complex banned animals, he wouldn't be there, either.

If Lauren did so much as breathe (an admittedly nasty habit she can't seem to break), Fredo would go ballistic, stomping on the floor, banging on the wall, cursing, screaming and otherwise making so much noise that he should have complained about himself. He also showed up at her door, peered in her window and left her menacing notes.

One night I got a phone call from Lauren, who was obviously scared. She begged me to come over and deal with Fredo. As a Three Stooges fan, I asked myself an important question: What would Moe do? I envisioned poking Fredo in the eyes, followed by a slap to the face, a punch to the stomach and a bop to the head. Then I would call him a lamebrain and threaten to tear his tonsils out. When I asked if he had learned his lesson, he would reply, "Soitenly!" and that would be that.

I arrived at Lauren's apartment and told her I would take care of Fredo. So I knocked on his door and waited. When he came down, I had all I could do to keep from laughing. He was this pathetic gnome for whom I would have felt some measure of sympathy except that he was belligerent. I glared at him, moved to within an inch of his homely mug (he had bad breath) and, as I towered over his scrawny figure, yelled at him to stop harassing my daughter. He immediately backed down. Lauren later told my wife, "Dad really got in his face."

Unfortunately, the truce didn't last long. Fredo went back to being the south end of a horse headed north.

One night recently, I got another call from Lauren. Fredo had lost it. When I arrived, I met Lauren's neighbors, a very nice young couple named Mike and Heather, who live upstairs next to Fredo and had come down to assist my daughter. They instantly became my friends for life. Then I banged on Fredo's door, but he had locked it and, like a sniveling coward, didn't have the guts to confront me. Instead, he called the cops.

A pleasant and thoroughly professional officer arrived and first went upstairs to take Fredo's statement (all lies) and then came down to talk with Lauren, who told him all about Fredo and his harassment. Mike and Heather backed up her every word. The officer put it all in his report, a copy of which is being sent to the complex's management. Calling the cops had backfired on Fredo. Lamebrain indeed!

Two nights later, he was at it again. He appeared at Lauren's front door, which was open, demanding to know why she was telling her dog to bark. Is this guy a nut job or what? Lauren slammed the door in his face, but he came back. So she called me again. She also called the police. The officer filled out another report that made Fredo look like a jerk. I hate to say it, but Fredo isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.

Fed up with this creep's antics and unwilling to go through the lengthy process of having him evicted, Lauren moved out, though not without another cop-related incident that backfired on Fredo. Tim, the building manager, a good guy who has been sympathetic to Lauren's plight, told her that a bigger and nicer apartment across the complex, overlooking the water, had just become available. Lauren snapped it up. The rent is higher, but it is well worth it to Lauren (and me) to be rid of Fredo.

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, April 6, 2007

"Disorder in the Court"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I have been admitted to many bars in my life (and I've been thrown out of a few, too), but because I didn't go to law school, I never took the bar exam to be a lawyer. That's why I have to plead nolo contendere (a legal term meaning "your fly is open") to being mistaken for an attorney when I accompanied my wife to traffic court recently.

Let the record show that my wife, Sue, also known as the defendant, Susan P. Zezima, represented by Jerry Zezima, Esquire, which is better than being known as Jerry Zezima, Newsweek, received a criminal summons to appear in Lake Grove Village Court on the charge of having an uninspected vehicle sticker on her car.

In this landmark case, People of the State of New York v. Susan P. Zezima, Case No. 06120082, the summons read: "Accusatory instruments filed with this court charge you with the charge(s) shown above. Therefore, you are ordered to appear in person before this Court for arraignment. Failure to appear on the arraignment date shown will result in a warrant for your arrest."

"I'm not a criminal!" the defendant screamed into the phone when she called the court after receiving the summons in the mail. That, of course, would be for the justice system to decide. And the evidence seemed overwhelming: The defendant had been given a ticket for failing to have her car inspected. Her defense: She did, indeed, have it inspected, albeit two days after getting the ticket, but had failed to notify the court of said inspection. Now she was a wanted woman.

It was up to me, in my first case, to clear her good name. This naturally made the defendant nervous because I'm lucky I'm not in jail myself.

Off the record, I showed up merely to offer moral support to my wife. In a calculated effort to sway the judge, I was nattily attired because Sue's original attorney, Natalie Attired, couldn't make it. I wore a crisp blue shirt along with a jacket and tie. I also wore pants because, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I don't own a pair of court briefs.

When Sue arrived at the courthouse, accompanied by yours truly, she had to register with a woman who was taking attendance. "Are you her lawyer?" the woman asked me. Before I could answer, Sue said, "He's my husband." The woman didn't see Sue's name on the docket, so she sent us to the court clerk's office. The clerk found Sue's name and said her case would be heard. Then he asked me, "Are you her lawyer?" Before Sue could answer, I said, "I'm her husband."

We sat among the 40 or so other alleged scofflaws who were waiting to have their cases heard. One of them, a man named Jeff, said to me, "Are you her lawyer?" Sue and I, in unison, identified me as her husband.

The district attorney and the assistant district attorney, both of whom were beautiful young women, just like on "Law & Order," asked, "Are you her lawyer?" I was going to say yes but figured I'd be charged with perjury or lying to a grand jury or some other offense and, as a result, be disbarred. So I said, "I'm the defendant's husband."

Everyone at the courthouse thought I was an attorney. I don't know who should have been more insulted, me or the legal profession.

"All rise!" the court clerk announced as the judge, the Honorable Scott D. Middleton, Village Justice, entered the courtroom. Sue looked scared, so I tried to put her at ease with the best legal advice I could think of: "Plead insanity."

In the disposition of the cases before him, Judge Middleton showed a good disposition. He was fair and, as his title implied, honorable. He did, however, go by the letter of the law, so when he fined Jeff $100 for a parking violation, I became concerned for my client.

When Sue's name was called, she rose and approached the bench. I rose, too. "Are you her lawyer?" Judge Middleton asked.

I replied, "I'm Exhibit Z, Your Honor."

"He's my husband," Sue explained.

The assistant DA motioned to me to sit down.

In a moment, it was all over. The judge dismissed Sue's case, meaning she didn't have to pay a fine and her record was clean. Justice was served.

If I do say so myself, Perry Mason couldn't have done better.

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima