Friday, December 23, 2011

"That's All, Volts"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Whenever people admire my thick head of wild and crazy hair and ask how I keep it looking that way, I tell them I stick my tongue in an electrical outlet. That’s why I was shocked recently when a fuse blew on what turned out to be a bad hair day.

This time, however, the electrical problem was caused by my wife, Sue, whose hair is much nicer and more manageable than mine, primarily because she irons it. Just so you don’t think she puts her head on an ironing board and presses her beautiful tresses the way she presses her beautiful dresses, Sue uses a flatiron to straighten her naturally curly hair.

One morning, Sue was using the flatiron in our bathroom, which is the house’s flatiron district, when she blew a fuse. Not only did the lights in the bathroom go out, so did the lights, the clock radio and the ceiling fan in our bedroom, as well as the lights and the ceiling fan in an adjacent bedroom. We tried to restore power by flicking the circuit breakers in the fuse box, but nothing worked.

I didn’t want to be kept in the dark any more than I usually am, so I called Shawn, who owns Luminaire Electric in Yaphank, N.Y. Shawn sent over his top man, Jose, who had done excellent work for us before and even showed me how to change a light bulb.

This job was a bit more complicated because it entailed working with wires that, if crossed, could have electrocuted me, though my hair would have looked nice.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” said Jose, who knew I didn’t. He added that even an experienced electrician can get the shock of his life if he isn’t careful. That’s what happened to a co-worker who was splicing wires.

“I saw him shaking,” Jose recalled. “I thought he was joking because he has a good sense of humor and is always kidding around. Then he went backward and fell over, like a piece of wood. He was lying on the floor with his hands and feet sticking up in the air. He looked like a table that was upside down. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ He was all right, but he was really stunned. Since that day, he doesn’t joke around anymore.”

Jose wasn’t joking when he told me that our problem was potentially hazardous because of faulty wiring. He traced the trouble to the next bedroom, not the bathroom, and said the wires were old. He fixed them in the bathroom and both bedrooms and suggested that we eventually update our entire electrical system.

He also suggested we go easy with the flatiron and the hair dryer.

“They use a lot of power,” said Jose, adding that his wife, like Sue, uses a flatiron to straighten her naturally curly hair. “Women spend too much money on their hair,” he said.

When I admitted that I sometimes use a hair dryer, Jose said, “My father-in-law uses one, too. I always say to him, ‘You mean you can’t even go out without blow-drying your hair?’ He says no. I don’t understand it.”

Jose, who has a full head of thick brown hair, doesn’t use a flatiron or a hair dryer.

“I use glue,” he said, removing his cap to show off his spiked hairdo. “It’s like a gel but stronger. In the summer, when I sweat, it drips into my eyes. Sometimes I don’t even want to have hair.”

“Maybe that’s the answer to preventing blown fuses,” I said.

“Our wives wouldn’t like it,” Jose replied. “That’s why the electric bill is so high.”

“Tell me about it,” I said. “It’s enough to make your hair stand on end.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Christmas Letter 2011"

By Jerry Zezima

The 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 childriarchs; and Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch. Happy reading!

Dear friend(s):

It sure has been an exciting 2011 for the Zezimas! The highlight of the year was when Lauren and Guillaume got married. Twice.

The first (and official) wedding was in France on April 30, the day after Prince William and Kate Middleton got hitched in England. It was nice of the royal couple to be the opening act for Lauren and Guillaume, who had what was referred to in the press (or at least in Jerry’s column) as the Wedding of the Century.

The trip to France was magnificent (magnifique) and memorable (memorable) because Jerry mastered the entire French language on the plane ride over and remembered enough curse words to use them effectively when his and Sue’s luggage got lost. It showed up one day before the wedding.

Still, the hospitality of Guillaume’s wonderful (merveilleux) family and the beautiful (beau or belle, take your pick) ceremony made everything perfect.

The second event, for the people from here who couldn’t make it there, was held on Long Island, N.Y., on June 5. It gave Lauren and Guillaume one more wedding than William and Kate had. This prompted Jerry to write the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a letter to thank them for playing second fiddle to the real royal couple. William and Kate wrote back (actually, it was their secretary, Mrs. Claudia Holloway, but close enough) to extend their best wishes to Lauren and Guillaume. The letter will be framed and hung in a prominent place (though not over the throne) in the House of Zezima.

Speaking of travels, Katie and Dave went back to college. They moved from Boston, where they went to college the first time, to Ann Arbor, Mich., where Katie got a fellowship to the University of Michigan. Not only don’t they have to take tests, but they get to travel to places like South America and Turkey. Best of all: No tuition payments for Sue and Jerry!

And speaking of school, Sue and Jerry attended their 40th high school reunion. They laughed, danced and reminisced with old friends. Everyone looked great, especially Sue. Jerry recalled his days as the class clown, except this time he wasn’t sent to the principal’s office.

On the financial front, Sue, Jerry and Lauren had a tag sale. Though they had plenty of liquid assets (Bloody Marys), they actually lost money. And the garage is still full of stuff. Next time, they are going to give cocktails to the customers.

On the medical front, Jerry has been waging a yearlong battle with kidney stones. One was removed, but another one remains. This, too, shall pass. That’s more than the doctor can say for the rocks in Jerry’s head.

On a sad note, Jerry’s dad, the original and best Jerry Zezima, passed away at age 93. He was beloved by everyone in the family and is missed every day. He was Jerry’s hero, not just because he was a great guy, but because he introduced Jerry to such lasting influences as Looney Tunes, Laurel and Hardy and “The Honeymooners.” The applehead didn’t fall far from the tree.

Well, that’s the news from here. Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, November 25, 2011

"The Price Isn't Right"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Get-rich-quick schemes are a dime a dozen, which means you’d have to have dozens of them to get rich.

But my wife, Sue, and I recently came up with a get-poor-quick scheme: We had a tag sale. There were plenty of tags but not many sales. To make matters worse, we actually lost money. And our garage is still full of stuff.

To run a tag sale, you need two things: stuff and Bloody Marys. We had a lot more stuff than we had Bloody Marys, but the Bloody Marys went faster than the stuff.

Joining us in this disastrous venture was our younger daughter, Lauren, who had a lot of her own stuff in our garage and brought over even more stuff from her apartment. Lauren’s husband, Guillaume, wisely spent most of the day inside, going through a baseball card collection that is probably worth more than all of our stuff combined.

Among the items we put out in the driveway and on the front lawn were: two pairs of crutches ($5 and $10), the Bubble Mate Foot Bubbler ($10), a wok ($5), a dog cage ($20), a pair of ice skates ($5), two artificial Christmas trees ($10 and $20) and a painting of two barns in a field ($15), plus lots of clothes (reasonably priced) and costume jewelry (ditto).

The sale began at 10 a.m. Sue, Lauren and I sat on chairs in the driveway with a cash box (empty) and glasses of Bloody Marys (full), ready to do a brisk business.

At 11 a.m., a guy named Marty came by. “Times must be tough if you’re having a tag sale,” he said.

“Not at all,” I replied. “I’m dependently wealthy.”

“What do you mean?” Marty asked.

“I’m depending on you to make me wealthy,” I said.

Marty left without buying anything.

“You’re driving customers away,” Sue told me.

“We’ll have to sell you,” Lauren chimed in.

“And take a loss,” Sue said.

“Who loses money at their own tag sale?” Lauren wondered.

“We do,” Sue noted.

“It’s pathetic,” said Lauren, adding, “Who wants another Bloody Mary?”

At 11:30, we made our first sale. A woman named Rosa admired the watercolor of the barns. “I painted it myself,” I said.

“Really?” Rosa chirped.

“No,” I admitted.

“Ten dollars,” she offered. It was five bucks less than the price on the tag. I drive a hard bargain, so I said, “Sold!”

A man named J.R. drove up with his children, Ana, 5, and James, 3, who wanted Lauren’s art set. I played hide-and-seek with the kids as J.R. handed Lauren $10, which she put in the cash box.

“Bye, Jerry!” the kids shouted from the car as J.R. drove away.

A woman who stopped with her adult daughter told us that she had recently been in a car accident. “If you get into another one,” I said helpfully, “we have crutches.”

No sale.

A young guy showed up to look at the jewelry. “I made it when I was in prison,” I told him.

“You did a nice job,” he said.

“I had a lot of time,” I replied.

“Prisoners generally do,” said the guy, who bought $12 worth of rings and earrings for his wife.

By 3 p.m., the official end of the sale, there was $55 in the cash box. We lugged most of the unsold stuff back into the garage and sent out for dinner, which came to $67.

“Next time we have a tag sale,” Lauren said, “we should give Bloody Marys to the customers. Maybe then we’ll make a profit.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Royal Response"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

On behalf of Prince William, an heir to the throne of the House of Windsor, which is in Buckingham Palace, and myself, an heir to the throne of the House of Zezima, which is in an upstairs bathroom, I am happy to announce that the centuries-old feud between our two families is finally over.

It was all a misunderstanding, as I explained in a letter I wrote earlier this year to William and his lovely bride, Kate, who were married in England the day before my younger daughter, Lauren, and her handsome groom, Guillaume, were married in France.

The letter read, in part, as follows:

“Dear William and Kate:

“I am writing somewhat belatedly to congratulate the two of you on your nuptials and to welcome you back from your honeymoon in the Seychelles....

“You must know that the Zezimas and the Windsors have had a chilly relationship since the Revolution, when an ancestor of mine, John Quincy Zezima, a columnist for the Colonial Advocate, wrote an investigative piece exposing King George’s war plans, thus leading to the Empire’s defeat.

“The fact that my parents were not invited to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth or that my wife, Sue, and I were not on the guest list for the wedding of Charles and Diana is further proof of the chasm between our two families.

“Naturally, I was hurt when Sue and I weren’t invited to your wedding, but then I realized that you knew we would be otherwise engaged with the big event for Lauren and Guillaume. And since we knew the two of you were getting married the day before, we didn’t send you, Charles, the Queen or anyone else in your family an invitation, though I admit the courtesy would have been nice. For that, I apologize.”

I went on to describe the wonderful time we had at Lauren and Guillaume’s wedding and concluded:

Now that we are back to our normal lives, I just want to say that Sue and I wish the two of you nothing but the best. I am sure your family wishes the same for Lauren and Guillaume.

“I hope this letter helps thaw the relationship between the Zezimas and the Windsors and that someday we can all get together to exchange wedding pictures. In the meantime, keep a stiff upper lip and give our best to the Queen.”

I sent the letter to William and Kate, hoping but not really expecting to hear back. Imagine my surprise and delight when the following letter arrived in the mail recently.

“St. James’s Palace

“From: The Office of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Henry of Wales

“Private and Confidential

“25th October, 2011

“Dear Mr. Zezima,

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have asked me to thank you for your letter of 15th July.

“Their Royal Highnesses are grateful to you for taking the trouble to write as you did and were touched by your kind words of support.

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have asked me to send you their warmest thanks together with their belated congratulations to Lauren and Guillaume.


“Mrs. Claudia Holloway”

In case you are wondering, Mrs. Holloway, who signed the letter with a distinctive flourish in royal blue ink, is head of correspondence for the royal family, which receives about 30,000 letters a year.

I don’t know how Mrs. Holloway can still feed herself, much less sign all those letters, but I appreciate her response and the warm wishes extended by the Duke and Duchess.

Of course, we will have the letter framed and hung in a prominent place in our home, although it won’t go above the throne because, God help us, it would be kind of tacky.

Now that the Zezimas and the Windsors are back on good terms, we can’t wait until Prince Harry gets married. I’m sure an invitation will be in the mail.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Confessions of a Class Clown"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

If life begins at 40, I am 17 years old, which was exactly my age when I graduated from high school 40 years ago.

This was the belated math lesson I learned recently when my wife, Sue, and I attended our 40th high school reunion.

We are both proud members of the Stamford Catholic High School Class of 1971. I was the class clown, even though, still crazy after all these years, I have no class.

My goal in life was to be silly and irresponsible and actually get paid for it, which is why I went into journalism. My decision could be encapsulated in one word: algebra.

Here, as I dimly recall, which is how I recall most things these days, is the typical algebra problem:

The Smiths are leaving New York for Boston at 9 a.m., averaging 55 mph. The Joneses are leaving Boston for New York at 10 a.m., averaging 50 mph.

Question: At what point in the 200-mile journey will they pass each other?

Answer: Who cares?

This was my attitude toward high school algebra, which explains why I got a D, which stood, of course, for Dumb.

I always did better in classes where I really didn’t have to know the answers. I was especially good on essay tests because I could bluff my way through them. If high schools gave BS degrees, I would have graduated magna cum laude.

In an English class, each of us was assigned to write an essay on the same topic (I forget what it was) and get up in front of the class to read it. Nobody wanted to do this -- except me. Everybody took it seriously -- except me.

I wrote the silliest, stupidest, craziest, funniest stuff I could think of. When it was my turn, I got up in front of the class, read my essay and got big laughs. I thought: Maybe I could do this for a living.

All the teachers at Catholic High were extremely supportive. Even though they were too kind to say so, they strongly implied that I was spectacularly unqualified to do anything else.

One teacher, a very smart, decent and patient guy, wore an obvious toupee. I’d often go up to him and say, “What’s on your mind?”

Yes, it was sophomoric. Then again, I had his class in sophomore year.

Another teacher, also a terrific guy, caught me playing floor hockey in home room. He told me to go home that night and write, 100 times, on lined paper and in my best handwriting, “I will not play floor hockey in class,” and bring the paper back to him the next morning.

“Very good, Mr. Zezima,” the teacher said when he saw I had completed my punishment. “I hope you have learned your lesson.” Then he gave the paper back to me.

Instead of throwing it out, I put it in my notebook. The following week, I was caught playing floor hockey again. The teacher once more assigned me to write, 100 times, “I will not play floor hockey in class.”

I went home that night and watched TV. The next morning, I handed the teacher my original paper. “Very good, Mr. Zezima,” he said. “I hope you have learned your lesson.”

I did, indeed. From this teacher, I learned creativity and ingenuity. In fact, I learned a lot at Catholic High and had a good time in the process.

The best thing that happened to me in high school was that I met Sue, who at the time was dating someone else. On the advice of my attorney, I can’t say who or where he is, but he didn’t show up at the reunion, which was a lot of fun.

Sue and I laughed, danced and reminisced with old friends. And everyone looked great, especially Sue.

I did, however, resist the urge to play floor hockey. Maybe, if I can find my notebook, I’ll do it at our 50th.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Branching Out"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

For centuries, nature lovers and people with too much time on their hands have asked a perplexing and frankly ridiculous question: If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, will there be a sound? For weeks, I had asked an even dumber question: If a tree falls in my backyard, and I am there to hear it, will it land on my head?

I got the answer recently when a tree did fall in my backyard. It landed on the ground and did, indeed, make a sound, which wasn’t nearly as loud as it would have been if the tree had landed on my head.

A few years ago, a large oak on the edge of my property fell on the house next door. My neighbors got the firewood, which I happily gave to them, not just because they were so nice and understanding (insurance paid for the damage), but because it would have been extremely dangerous to use the wood to start a fire in my house for the simple reason that I don’t have a fireplace.

This year, my wife, Sue, and I worried about falling trees every time a violent storm was forecast. We also worried about the skylight in the family room. Skylights are nice when the sun is out, but essentially they are floods waiting to happen. And our skylight would leak during a drought.

“If a tree fell on our house, and we were there to collect the insurance money, would we get a new roof and skylight?” I asked Sue.

“What a ridiculous question,” she replied, adding: “Although it worked next door.”

Storm after storm raged, we lost power, we lost food, we lost patience, but no trees fell. Then, one day, Sue noticed that a slender oak was leaning precariously, its branches almost touching the power lines and its roots coming up from the soggy ground.

“It’s going to fall on the lines,” she predicted. “You better call the power company.”

Two days later, a couple of beefy guys came over to size up the situation.

“The company isn’t going to send anyone to take the tree down,” one of them said.

“Maybe you can take it down yourself,” the other one suggested. “Do you have a chainsaw?”

“No,” I said. “Just a handsaw.”

“Get a rope, tie it around the tree, tie the other end of the rope around this other tree,” the first guy said, referring to a larger oak several feet away, “and start cutting.”

By this time I was at the end of my rope and was about to make a cutting remark when the second guy, who looked like Paul Bunyan, suggested all three of us try to push the tree over.

I felt like Paul’s pal, Babe the Blue Ox, not because I am strong but because I am dumb as an ox, which I proved by saying, “Good idea!”

It actually turned out to be brilliant. We huffed and we puffed and we pushed the tree down. It landed far from my head. The sound, which we all heard, wasn’t deafening.

“Now you’re a lumberjack,” said the guy who looked like Paul Bunyan.

“Or a lumberjerk,” I noted.

After the men left, I got my trusty handsaw and, with the help of WD-40 and beer, started seeing that the sawing was easier than I thought. By the end of the afternoon, I had cut off all the branches, cut up the trunk and dragged the whole kit and caboodle to the curb.

The next morning I could barely get out of bed.

If another tree looks like it is going to fall, and I am there to cut it down with a handsaw but am afraid it will land on my head, will I say the hell with it and call a professional tree service?

What a ridiculous question.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 30, 2011

"The Wrong Stuff"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I had always thought that my garage was the stuff of legend because it’s stuffed with stuff, most of which isn’t my stuff but my daughters’ stuff. It has been accumulating since they left the nest, which supposedly is empty because they don’t live at home anymore but really isn’t because a lot of their stuff is still here.

Then I talked with my college buddy and longtime friend Tim Lovelette, who not only has a garage full of his kids’ stuff but a basement full of it, too, which makes both places the stuff of legend.

“If our kids’ stuff had any value, they wouldn’t trust us with it. They’d be using it,” Tim told me. “Why have we got it? Because they don’t want it. This is nefarious, no question about it. Somehow, a whole generation has gotten together and conspired to fill our homes with worthless stuff.”

Tim has more stuff than I do because he and his wife, Jane, have three kids, Marshall, 32, Amy, 30, and Brendan, 28, while my wife, Sue, and I have two, Katie, 31, and Lauren, 28. They’re all great kids, even though they aren’t, technically, kids anymore. Still, when you get to be my age (old enough to know better), practically everyone else is a kid. So here’s looking at you, kids. And all your stuff.

“I think somebody’s got a key to the house and brings stuff in,” Tim theorized. “I change the locks and it still goes on.”

This means the reverse robber is leaving stuff not only in Tim’s garage but in his basement, a problem I don’t have because I don’t have a basement.

“You’re not qualified to have adult children if you don’t have a basement,” Tim said. “Where are they going to put their stuff?”

“In the garage,” I replied.

“You wouldn’t appreciate anything until you’ve seen my garage,” Tim said. “How many bicycles can you accumulate in a lifetime? I don’t even like bicycles.”

Another thing Tim has in his garage is the snow blower he bought for Marshall.

“I bought it for him for Christmas three or four years ago,” Tim recalled, adding that Marshall’s wife, Sara, said she would buy Marshall a shed for his birthday so he could put the snow blower in it. “But she never bought the shed,” Tim said. “Now I have two snow blowers in my garage. Sara and Marshall have a basement, but there can’t be anything in it, including the snow blower. I don’t think it’s ever been started, but it’s there, ready to go, in my garage.”

Then there are all those skis and ice skates.

“How many pairs of skis can you accumulate?” Tim wondered. “Just go to my garage and count them and figure it out. And I have all their ice skates. My kids haven’t ice-skated in 15 years. If they had to use this stuff, which is all out of date, they’d go out and buy new ones and leave the old ones in my house.”

“What about the basement?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Tim replied. “It’s filled with He-Man toys. You wouldn’t know about them because you have girls, but these toys go back 20 or 30 years. This whole thing must go back to prehistoric times. I can envision caves, with Neanderthal-type people, caves filled with stuff, and the kids are saying, ‘No, you can’t throw away my bones.’ It’s been going on for centuries.”

“What can we do about it?” I said.

“Pack up their stuff in a moving van and have it delivered to them,” Tim answered. “Or have a yard sale. If you have ever gone to a yard sale, you’d see that there’s always a free table. All the stuff you have that belongs to your kids should go on the free table. Just tell them, ‘I’m giving your stuff away.’ What can they do? They can’t hit us.”

“Then we’d have the last laugh,” I said.

“Not really,” said Tim. “There’s a final resolution to all of this: When we die, our kids will have a houseful of stuff -- not just their stuff but our stuff. They’ll say, ‘What are we going to do with Dad’s stuff?’ Answer: They’ll have a yard sale. Our stuff will go on the free table.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 16, 2011

"How Now Waxed Brow"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I am not a highbrow kind of guy because, unfortunately, I am afraid of heights. So today I am going to wax poetic, nostalgic and, most important, analgesic about being lowbrow. That’s because I recently, for the first time, got my eyebrow waxed.

Before undergoing this increasingly common masculine procedure, which women get all the time, I had, indeed, only one eyebrow. It was what is known in tonsorial parlance (a highbrow way of saying barber talk) as a unibrow, a strip of hair not unlike roadkill that extended from above the corner of my left eye to above the corner of my right eye. The left and right brows were linked by a hairy bridge that did not take E-ZPass. The result was one long eyebrow.

To achieve the desired effect of hair today, gone tomorrow (I told you I’m lowbrow), I went to see my barber, Maria Santos, who owns Charmed Salon and Spa in Miller Place, N.Y.

“More men are getting waxed these days,” said Maria, referring not just to eyebrows but to legs, chests and backs. It hurt just thinking about it. The imagined pain was excruciating when Maria described Brazilian waxes.

“They’re like bikini waxes,” she said.

“Guys don’t wear bikinis,” I replied.

“No,” Maria said, “but some wear Speedos.”

I got the idea, then started squirming in my chair.

“Don’t worry,” Maria said. “We don’t do those here.”

That was good to hear. Speaking of hearing, Maria told me about the guy who inadvertently got his ear hair waxed.

“He’s a customer of mine, but he was on a business trip in California and needed a haircut, so he went to a barber who told him that he had a lot of hair growing out of his ears and asked if he wanted it waxed,” Maria said. “The barber spoke with an accent and the guy didn’t understand and said yes, go ahead and remove it. So the barber waxed his ear hair. The guy said it was the most painful experience of his life.”

After hearing that, I was afraid to ask about nose hair. But I wasn’t too skittish to ask for a brow treatment. Maria took me to a small room in the back of the salon and introduced me to Carla, a very pleasant and reassuring aesthetician who waxed rhapsodic about her job.

“I have been doing this for 30 years and I love it because I meet a lot of nice people, like you,” said Carla, who asked me to lie back on a cushioned table while she got her tools, which did not, I am happy to report, include pruning shears or a Weed Whacker.

“I use tweezers, snippers and a comb,” Carla said. Then she inspected my unibrow, which she said was “bushy but not unusual for a guy,” and applied some analgesic soothing cream to soften the skin from which the middle part of my eyebrow grew. Next she got an adhesive muslin strip and pressed it to that spot.

“Ready?” Carla asked.

“Let ’er rip!” I exclaimed, instantly regretting my choice of words.

A second later, it was over. I listened carefully but did not hear a piercing scream emanate from my throat. In fact, I didn’t feel a thing. Carla showed me the strip, on which was stuck a tuft of hair.

She then combed and clipped my now separate eyebrows, applied lotion to the newly bare area and handed me a mirror. I no longer resembled either Groucho Marx or Joan Crawford in her “Mommie Dearest” period.

“What do you think?” Carla inquired.

“Beautiful,” I responded happily.

Now that I’m the very model of the modern man, maybe a figure of me will go on exhibit at Madame Tussauds wax museum. I bet that’ll raise some eyebrows.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Best Seat in the House"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I am not one to couch my comments, so I will come right out and say that I would be a couch potato if my wife, Sue, let me eat potatoes on the couch. Sadly, I can no longer eat, sleep, drink beer, watch football, get thrown up on by our kids or do anything else on the best couch we ever had because it has gone to what I assume is, appropriately, its eternal rest.

This couch had great sentimental value because it was our first major piece of furniture, a brown, beige and gold work of upholstered craftsmanship dating back to 1978, when Sue and I got married.

The couch was also called the sofa because I’d relax on it while I should have been doing household chores and would say to Sue, “Sofa, so good,” to which she would reply, “Maybe you’d like to sleep on it tonight.”

It was almost as comfortable as our bed, though with slightly less legroom. It also was durable enough to withstand the worst kind of abuse, such as spills (beer, soda, baby formula) and soils (from our daughters, Katie and Lauren, before they were potty trained). The messes were easily wiped away because the couch was made of some super-resistant, possibly bulletproof material that did not, unfortunately, repel cat and dog hair.

The couch was a repository for food — pretzels, popcorn and, of course, potato chips — that had been dropped between the cushions. A yearly cleaning could have produced enough nourishment to feed Luxembourg.

I often munched away on the couch because it was my ringside seat for televised sporting events. I parked myself there for Super Bowl clashes, World Series showdowns, Stanley Cup contests and March Madness matchups. When a big game wasn’t on, I would watch something intellectual, like the Three Stooges.

The couch will go down in posterity, if not prosperity, as the site of an infamous photo taken one Halloween when I dressed up as Groucho Marx and our next-door neighbor, Frank, dressed up as a lady of the evening, complete with a wig, lipstick, stockings and a padded dress. I must say, he looked pretty good. We sat next to each other on the couch as Sue took our picture. If it ever turns up, I could lose thousands of dollars in blackmail money.

The best couch photo of all time did turn up recently when Katie’s husband, Dave, posted an old shot of the girls on Facebook. Katie, who was about 3 years old, was sitting on the couch with two Strawberry Shortcake dolls and a box of Cheerios; Lauren, who was 1, was leaning against the couch, sucking her thumb. Under the photo was the announcement that, since Katie and Dave were moving, the couch was for sale.

Katie had taken possession of it nine years ago, when she graduated from college and had moved into the apartment that she and Dave were now vacating.

Sue and I would have taken back the couch, which no one bought, but we are empty nesters in the sense that our kids may have moved out, but a lot of their stuff is still with us, which means the nest isn’t empty at all.

We recently spent the weekend with Katie and Dave as they got ready to move. For two nights, Sue slept on the couch. “I had two of the best nights’ sleep of my life on that dumb couch,” she said.

That morning, Dave and I carried it to the curb, where it was claimed by the garbageman. Maybe he took it home, but more likely it went to the dump and was crushed to kindling.

Farewell, old couch. Rest in pieces.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Put on a Hairy Face"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

As runner-up in the 2010 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Contest -- a defeat I took with grace, humility and, of course, a stiff upper lip -- I know what it’s like to lose by a whisker.

So it was with a sense of deja fu manchu that I recently got involved in another hairy situation when I attended the launch party for the new reality TV series “Whisker Wars.”

IFC, the cable station on which “Whisker Wars” airs Fridays at 11 p.m., hosted the bash at the Blind Barber, a New York City establishment that is part barbershop and part bar. According to the bartender, however, it does not serve gin and hair tonic.

The nice folks at the Blind Barber let me come in, though I have no hair on my chinny chin chin. I couldn’t say that for the bearded boys of “Whisker Wars,” a program devoted to what is described in an IFC press release as “the fascinating and hair-raising world of competitive facial-hair growing.”

Yes, raising a beard, or a mustache, or a goatee -- which is much less expensive than raising a child, because you don’t have to put a beard through college -- is now a sport. I felt right at home.

“You have a very nice mustache,” said Phil Olsen, the founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA and one of the stars of “Whisker Wars.” Olsen not only has a mustache himself but a thick, luxurious and extremely impressive footlong beard.

“I get compliments on my beard every day,” said Olsen, 62, a semiretired lawyer and a settlement conference judge in Nevada. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it. I’m sure some people don’t like it, but they can keep their opinions to themselves or I’ll send them to jail.”

“I like your beard,” I said.

“Thank you,” Olsen replied. “You are free to go.”

And go I did, straight to the mustache competition, which was being judged by three other “Whisker Wars” stars: Alex LaRoche, Jack Passion and Myk O’Connor.

In a strong field that featured a variety of lip growths, I made it to the semifinals: a hairy half-dozen composed of five men and one woman.

Unfortunately, my chevron mustache, which was so successful last year, didn’t make the cut.

That wasn’t the case with Wendi Gueorguiev, an artist from Queens, N.Y., who made it to the three-person finals despite wearing a faux manchu.

“Sorry,” O’Connor told me, “but she has better qualifications.”

They weren’t enough to put her over the top. Still, Gueorguiev was pleased to be the runner-up, especially since, technically speaking, she cheated.

“There’s a photo booth in the back of the bar,” she explained. “I was trying on hats, mustaches and beards. I decided to keep the mustache. I don’t know what came over me. I made my way out front to the contest. I was surprised I finished second. I felt honored.”

Gueorguiev, who declined to give her age but said she is “old enough to grow a mustache,” commented favorably on mine. “It’s pretty formidable,” she said. “It’s thick, nice and lush, a little more masculine than the Dali-esque mustache that won.”

But the winner was masculine, indeed.

“Hello, Dali,” I said to him.

“Hello, Jerry,” replied Max Baehr, a 25-year-old Web producer from Brooklyn, N.Y. The champ said he was inspired by his father, Tim, who isn’t so much a Salvador Daddy as he is a whisker warrior.

“He has a beard,” said Baehr, who waxed poetic about his waxed handlebar mustache. “My lady friend likes it,” said Baehr, adding that he likes my mustache. “It looks great,” he said.

It wasn’t good enough to win the contest, but maybe, if I borrow one of the Blind Barber’s fake beards, I could still be a star on “Whisker Wars.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima