Friday, April 30, 2010

"Leaving on a Jet Plane"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

My bag was packed, I was ready to go, for the first time I was flying solo, I was leaving on a jet plane, and though I knew when I’d be back again, oh, baby, I hated to go.

As revised lyrics from the famous song played over and over in what little remained of my mind, my wife, Sue, drove me to LaGuardia Airport in New York recently for the first solo flight of my life. I felt like a little kid being dropped off at the bus stop for his first day of kindergarten.

“Bye, Mommy!” I said to Sue as I walked toward the terminal. I was headed to Dayton, Ohio, hometown of the Wright brothers, who at least had each other (and didn’t have to pay extra for their bags) when they flew for the first time more than a century ago.

My destination was the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, named for the great humorist who was born and raised in the Dayton area and didn’t wait until she was 56 to start accumulating frequent flier miles.

“This is my first time flying solo,” I told a nice woman named Meghan, who was reading The Stamford Advocate while waiting for her flight to Wilmington, N.C.

Meghan, who is originally from Stamford and now lives in New Canaan, said, “Maybe you’ll get a column out of it.”

I knew I would after I somehow managed to get on the right plane and overheard Tracy, our flight attendant, talking with a woman seated behind me. The woman wanted Tracy’s job. Tracy warned her about rude passengers, then got into a discussion about her love life and finished with a dissertation on Victoria’s Secret intimate apparel.

“Now,” said Clay, a businessman who sat next to me, “you know Tracy’s life story.”

Next came one of the great thrills of my life: Someone was actually waiting for me in the Dayton airport, holding a sign with my name on it.

“You’re not a federal agent, are you?” I asked.

“No,” said Molly, a pleasant, middle-age woman. “I’m here to get you a ride to the hotel.”

I felt like a VIP (Very Idiotic Passenger).

When I said I was flying solo for the first time, she said, “Tell your wife that Molly took over for her.”

Gary, my driver, gave me the grand tour, even taking a detour so I could see downtown Dayton. “It’ll take two or three minutes,” he said.

“You mean I’m going from the City That Never Sleeps to the City That Never Wakes?” I asked.

“Almost,” said Gary, a proud native Daytonian, as we passed the Wright Brothers Flyover Sculpture on Main Street.

The town was terrific. So was the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater, which hosted the biennial conference.

On the way home, I waged a protracted battle with a kiosk at the airport. A lovely couple named Anne and Doug, who live in Dayton and were headed to Florida, helped me figure it out.

“Sometimes you want to kick these things,” Doug noted. Anne invited me to stay with them the next time I’m in Dayton.

As I took off my shoes in the screening area, I told an employee named Tammy that I was flying solo for the first time. “Do you want an escort?” she asked.

Reva, a fellow passenger, said, “I’ll take care of you.”

My plane landed in Philadelphia and I got on the connecting flight to Islip (“Iceland?” someone wondered), where Sue picked me up.

“Mommy! Mommy!” I squealed.

“How was your trip?” Sue asked as she drove me home.

I told her about the fantastic conference and all the nice people I had met. Later, like a kindergartner home from his first day of school, I took a nap.

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"A Man for All Seasons"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I am a man for all seasons. Unfortunately, except for Frankie Valli, I often get the four seasons mixed up. That’s why I am doing my fall cleanup in the spring.

As a homeowner who doesn’t actually own my home (the bank does, although it kindly allows me to pay the mortgage), I have to rake leaves, cut grass, shovel snow and do other chores I can’t afford to pay someone else to do because I am paying the bank, which won’t send over a customer service specialist to do them for me.

Now I am in the middle of raking leaves that fell last fall, which is called fall because you will fall into the leaves that fell in the fall and will not feel fine after you have fallen.

It’s like the biblical story of the loaves and the fishes, except I call it the leaves and the flushes because after you rake up one pile of leaves, two more will miraculously appear, whereupon you will flush and fall into the leaves, possibly coming down with a nasty case of poison oak.

Speaking of oaks, I would like to poison the ones in my yard. As a Connecticut Yankee by birth and raising, I used to love these majestic trees, not just because of the story of the Charter Oak, in which the state constitution was hidden until it was eaten by squirrels, but because of the beauty of the leaves that fell into other people’s yards every fall.

Now that I have my own house, I hate oaks. According to statistics that must be true or I wouldn’t have made them up, one oak tree can drop 17 million acorns. I have half a dozen oaks on my property. When you do the math (17 million times six), this amounts to a hell of a lot of acorns.

Unfortunately, the squirrels can’t keep up, either because Henry, one of our three cats, likes to eat them (the squirrels, not the acorns) or because they (the squirrels, not the cats) are on a diet.

To compound matters, in the spring, oaks drop brown stuff that stains cars, clogs gutters and litters yards. This is Mother Nature’s way of saying that if you have somehow managed to get rid of the leaves and acorns in the fall, you are still not out of the woods because you will have to clean up in the spring, too.

Speaking of Mother Nature, she helped me out a couple of years ago by getting rid of one of our oaks. Unfortunately, she dropped it on the house of our next-door neighbors. At least they got free firewood.

The worst thing about oaks is that they are supposedly the strongest trees, but even after a mild breeze blows through, the yard is covered with twigs and branches that must be picked up before you can rake leaves or cut the grass.

And speaking of grass, it can’t be cut if it doesn’t grow. This is the case in our yard, which looks like I manicured it with a flamethrower. The secret to growing grass is to spread fertilizer. As readers of this column know, that is my specialty.

But I can’t do this until I get rid of the leaves and acorns from last fall. I am doing it myself because it will save me a lot of money I could spend on something more important, like beer.

In fact, I have come up with a foolproof system for yard work. The proof is that a fool came up with it: (a) buy beer, (b) drink it, (c) repeat until the job is done.

At this rate, I’ll have all those leaves and acorns cleaned up by next fall.

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Father-of-the-Bridal Registry"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Now that I am starring in my own sequel to “Father of the Bride,” I have decided to take advantage of a perk I didn’t know about the first time by opening a father-of-the-bridal registry.

I got the idea after talking with Bridget, who works at a bridal registry in a large department store.

“Men often feel excluded because the emphasis is, of course, on the bride, as well as the mother of the bride,” Bridget said. “So I always say that if it weren’t for the father of the bride, there would be no bride.”

“And then the whole wedding industry would collapse,” I noted. “So I guess we guys are pretty important.”

“Don’t tell your daughter or your wife,” Bridget said, “but we couldn’t do it without you.”

That’s what she told one father whose two daughters were getting married within six months of each other.

“He came in and I could tell he was stressed,” Bridget recalled. “So he just decided to buy all the china for both daughters. I said to him, ‘You are The Man!’ That seemed to please him. Then I said, ‘Let me make sure you get a free vegetable bowl.’ It made his day.”

Bridget, who said she loves working with her clients because they are there for a happy reason, especially likes fathers of the bride.

“A guy will walk in with his daughter and his wife and his daughter’s fiance,” Bridget said. “I can tell the father is a tagalong who was forced into coming. So I’ll extend my hand and say, ‘Congratulations. Now all I need is your checkbook.’ Then I’ll say, ‘What does it matter? It’s only money. Look at your beautiful daughter.’ That softens them. I like to make fathers feel involved. After all, they’re paying for everything.”

Still, many fathers, as well as their future sons-in-law, are often clueless when it comes to items in a bridal registry.

“Some guys have no idea,” Bridget said. “I have to tell them, ‘With flatware, you eat. With stemware, you drink.’ They don’t know.”

Since the emphasis is always on the bride, I asked, “Where can a guy go to open a registry?”

Bridget answered, “Home Depot.”

So I went to the nearest store and spoke with Larry, who has been father of the bride twice.

“Yes,” Larry said, “you can open a registry here.”

Instead of china, which the store doesn’t carry anyway, Larry suggested a cordless drill (“not for dentistry,” he said), a circular saw and a tool kit.

“They’ll make any guy feel special,” said Larry, adding that the items are less expensive than most things in a bridal registry.

“The drill and the saw together are only $99,” he said. “And the tool kit, which includes pliers, a hammer and a screwdriver, is only $22.”

As a practical joke on one of his daughters when she was getting married and had a registry at a department store, Larry said, “I told her to go in and ask for Doozy pots. The woman at the registry was Italian, like I am, and she told my daughter that ‘doozy’ means ‘crazy.’ My daughter came home and wanted to kill me.”

Both weddings were wonderful, Larry said, though he added that neither of his sons-in-law had a registry at Home Depot. “One is an electrician who already had plenty of tools,” Larry explained. “But it’s a good idea for a lot of guys.”

“What’s the most valuable tool a guy can have in his registry?” I asked.

“A screwdriver,” Larry said. “Of course, when the bills come in, you’ll need another kind of screwdriver. But we don’t sell those here.”

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima