Friday, December 20, 2013

"Breakfast at Zezima's"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Beer: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. But the greatest beverage in the history of mankind, which guys often use to hook up with womankind, is the perfect accompaniment to the first meal of the day.

I found this out after making a recipe for Scotch Egg, which I got from “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” the fabulous new culinary and libational bible by a guy with the best job on the planet, beer writer John Holl.

For strictly journalistic purposes, I decided to talk with Holl about his laudable purpose in life, which is to spread the gospel of beer. So I met him at Alewife, an estimable establishment in Long Island City, N.Y., that serves vast varieties of the aforementioned brew.

“Millions of guys would give their right arms to have your job,” I told Holl, adding that they’d then have to drink beer with their left hands.

“It’s not as glamorous as you might think,” he replied. “I don’t go out carousing. In fact, sometimes I’m in bed at 10 or 10:30 at night. In Seattle, on my book tour, I was sitting in a hotel room with the curtains closed, eating olives out of a box. Still,” Holl added with a smile, “it’s not a bad gig.”

The dedicated journalist showed that he has a nose for brews by sniffing a Riprap Baltic Porter and commenting on its nutty aroma. I proved to be a little nutty myself by emulating Holl and ending up with a schnoz full of foam.

Next we tried a Medula, an English Imperial IPA, which like the first beer is made by the Barrier Brewing Co. of Oceanside, N.Y.

“It smells like Juicy Fruit gum,” said Holl.

“Except you can’t chew it,” I noted.

What we could chew was dinner, which we ate at the bar. Holl ordered a salad (fewer calories, less filling) and I had a burger (just the opposite). Holl suggested another Barrier beer, Rembrandt Porter. Like the painter, it was a Dutch treat.

“It goes well with meat,” said Holl, who had a lighter brew with his salad.

“I once made my own beer,” I told him. “Jerry’s Nasty Ale.”

“How was it?” Holl asked.

“It didn’t kill me,” I replied proudly. “It had a smoky flavor. I don’t know why. I didn’t put cigar ashes in it. But it was pretty good.”

As responsible beer drinkers should always do, we paced ourselves and didn’t overindulge. At the end of the evening, I told Holl I had decided to make Scotch Egg, mainly because the recipe came from Half Full Brewery in my hometown of Stamford, Conn.

“Besides,” I added, “I’ve never had beer for breakfast before.”

“An Irish stout goes well with eggs,” said Holl, 33, a warm, funny guy who has tried all the recipes in the colorful, 343-page book and is anything but a beer snob. “Let me know how it turns out.”

A couple of days later, I bought a four-pack of Murphy’s, an Irish stout that is imported by United States Beverage, also in Stamford. The next morning, I opened “The American Craft Beer Cookbook” to page 10, laid it on the kitchen counter and commenced to make Scotch Egg.

“Please don’t burn the house down,” said my wife, Sue.

Easier said than done because somewhere around step 3, as I was heating oil in a deep fryer and had turned my attention to removing pork sausage from its casing and simultaneously boiling eggs, the smoke alarm went off.

The phone rang. It was a nice woman from the home security company, calling to ask if I had burned the house down.

“No,” I explained. “I’m just making breakfast. Want to come over for eggs and beer?”

“I’d love to,” she said, “but I have to work.”

Sue opened the windows to get the smoke out and I finished making breakfast. I put the spiced, sausage-wrapped eggs on a plate and dug in. They were delicious.

I washed them down with an Irish stout. After a cooking experience like that, I really needed it.

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Christmas Letter 2013"

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 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; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch, and Chloe, the granddaughteriarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2013 for the Zezimas!

Jerry has had a particularly active year. Because he is often compared to the back end of a horse, he covered a polo match and actually got to mount one of the ponies. A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. Except, of course, Jerry, who got an exclusive interview with the MVP (most valuable pony). Did the horse want to talk to Jerry? Nay.

Since Jerry has a feminine side, he tried out to be a roller derby queen. He didn’t make the team because that’s the side he frequently fell on.

Jerry took a class for kids on how to be a detective. He was guilty of arrested development. He also took a driver’s education refresher class that was taught by an instructor who has a speeding ticket on his record. For the record, Jerry has two. And Jerry took a class on how to make ravioli. He brought his culinary creations home and fed one to Sue. Fortunately, she didn’t have to be hospitalized.

Jerry also competed in a garlic-eating contest. He gobbled 13 cloves but didn’t win. When he got home and tried to kiss Sue, she raised quite a stink.

Speaking of stinking, Jerry published his second book, “The Empty Nest Chronicles,” an account of life in the Zezima household since Katie and Lauren left the nest but left a lot of their stuff behind. The book is, Jerry is proud to say, a crime against literature. It also comes in handy for propping up a wobbly table leg. You might even want to read it.

And because Jerry has been known to sleep on the job, he applied to be the new snooze director at Sleepy’s, the mattress company. Out of 70 applicants, Jerry was one of five finalists. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the position, which is horizontal.

He did, however, stay awake long enough to help paint a bedroom in Lauren and Guillaume’s house. Jerry, who told Sue years ago that he had hung up his paintbrush, didn’t bristle when asked to come out of retirement and assist Guillaume in painting the room pink.

They did it for a baby girl, which leads us to the best news of the year: the birth of Chloe, Sue and Jerry’s adorable first grandchild. Proud mommy Lauren and proud daddy Guillaume are wonderful parents. Katie and Dave were Chloe’s godparents at the christening and are a loving aunt and uncle to their little niece.

Jerry wrote a letter to Prince Charles to congratulate him on being a new grandfather, too, and received a postcard with a picture of the prince and his lovely wife Camilla. It will be hung above the throne in Sue and Jerry’s bathroom.

Jerry loves to play with Chloe, who not only is the most beautiful baby in the world but is already more mature than her Poppie. Whenever Jerry tells Chloe a joke, she smiles. The first time it happened, Lauren said, “Dad, that’s just gas.”

We hope your family has been similarly blessed and has had a memorable year, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I am a geezer who believes that being healthy is nothing to sneeze at. I also believe that preventive medicine can be a real shot in the arm. That’s why I recently got a flu vaccine.

Yes, it took a little needling, but it didn’t hurt at all. Full credit goes to Carol Nelson, who administered the vaccine. Not only is she a fellow baby boomer who went into nursing after a long corporate career, but she’s a brave soul who, on a separate occasion, gave herself a shot in the arm.

“I didn’t want to wait in a doctor’s office,” explained Nelson, a nurse educator for Horizon Wellness, a division of Horizon Healthcare. “So I just rolled up my sleeve and gave myself a shot.”

“Did it hurt?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Nelson replied. “I wasn’t even scared.”

That’s more than she could say for a lot of people, like the guy who insisted that a secretary in the office hold his hand while he got his flu shot.

“And he was a big man,” Nelson said. “He looked like a teddy bear.”

Then there was the guy who tried to back out.

“He said, ‘Never mind! Never mind!’ I could see the apprehension in him,” Nelson recalled. “I got him to calm down. Afterward, I asked him to stick around for a few minutes to make sure he was OK. Half an hour later, he poked his head back in the door and said, ‘I’m fine.’ ”

Men, it goes without saying, but Nelson said it anyway, are the biggest babies.

“They say they don’t like needles,” she said, “but when some of them roll up their sleeves, I see these elaborate tattoos. I’ll say, ‘A needle was used to make them, right?’ They’ll nod and wince and I’ll give them a shot. Then they’ll smile and admit that it didn’t hurt after all.”

One young man who wasn’t afraid of needles also wasn’t afraid to get friendly with Nelson.

“He was batting his eyelids and flirting with me,” she remembered. “I said he should know that I’m probably older than his mother.”

Nelson, who just turned 64 but looks a lot younger, is the mother of two grown children who, along with Nelson’s husband, were very supportive of her decision to go to nursing school after she retired from the corporate world.

“They said, ‘Go for it!’ I’m glad I did because I like to help people,” recalled Nelson, adding that a lot of math was involved in figuring out medicine doses. “I’m bad at math, but I got through it,” she said.

“I’m bad at math, too,” I said. “Could I be a nurse?”

“Go for it!” said Nelson. “You could even give yourself a flu shot.”

“I’m a guy,” I said. “And a big baby.”

So I let Nelson do it.

“Which arm would you like me to give you a shot in?” Nelson asked when I sat down in a small office at work, where employees got free vaccines.

“I have it narrowed down to two,” I said. “Good thing I’m not an octopus. Do you know why there are so many octopuses in the ocean?”

“Why?” Nelson responded.

“Because,” I said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Nelson chuckled, which came as a great relief since she was, after all, holding a syringe that could have pierced an elephant’s epidermis. Still, I thought it was best not to tell her any elephant jokes.

I extended my left arm. “I’m ready,” I said, wincing.

“It’s already over,” Nelson informed me.

“That didn’t hurt at all,” I said.

“Of course not,” she said. “When it comes to protecting yourself against the flu, a little needle is nothing to be afraid of.”

It was, of course, a point well taken.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Do the Right Bling"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As a guy whose only piece of jewelry is a wedding ring that I got 35 years ago and who thinks karats are what rabbits eat, I have never believed that it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling.

Now, however, I have a band of gold that even my wife would like.

Unfortunately, neither she nor anyone else can see it.

That’s because it’s in my mouth.

This exquisite piece is a fixed mandibular retainer, which was recently affixed to the back of my bottom teeth by Dr. Stephanie Shinmachi, an orthodontic resident at the Dental Care Center at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y.

I got it at the end of my five-year treatment at Stony Brook, where I had gone because two of my teeth — one on the top, the other on the bottom — had been pushed out of alignment. To straighten things out, I got braces.

This is not uncommon among baby boomers who, like me, did not have braces when they were young. How well I remember my unfortunate classmates who answered to the name “metal-mouth” and were warned, by sympathetic friends such as myself, to watch out for flying magnets.

I didn’t have to worry about such calamities because I got invisible braces, which go by the brand name Invisalign and are made of clear plastic, unlike traditional braces that look like tracks on Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road.

During my time at Stony Brook, I was in the capable and always gloved hands of three orthodontic residents: Dr. Ben Murray, Dr. Michael Sheinis and, of course, Dr. Shinmachi. All of them deserve to win the Nobel Prize, not just for being able to shut me up for extended periods, but also for being brave enough to work in a vast and forbidding place that resembles the Grand Canyon with molars.

Dr. Murray, who was originally assigned to my case, graduated after two years of working on me. He was replaced by Dr. Sheinis, who also graduated after a couple of years of treating me.

Dr. Shinmachi took over for the final year of my treatment and finished what turned out to be a beautiful job.

“I’m like the last runner in a relay race,” she told me during my final appointment. “Dr. Sheinis handed me the baton and I took it over the finish line.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t put the baton in my mouth,” I said. “There’s plenty of room for one.”

Dr. Shinmachi was far too kind to agree, so she smiled (showing off perfect teeth) and said, “I’m going to give you a retainer.”

“I’m not a lawyer,” I said, “but I’ve been admitted to many bars. And I could use the extra money.”

Dr. Shinmachi was talking about the clear, braces-like trays that would hold my teeth in place now that I was done with my Invisalign treatment.

“You can wear them at night while you’re sleeping,” she said.

“During the day I like to sleep at my desk,” I replied. “Can I wear them at work?”

“Sure,” said Dr. Shinmachi, adding that my other retainer, the mandibular one, will prevent my bottom teeth from relapsing.

“I call it gold bling,” she said.

“Should I go to a jewelry store to have it appraised?” I asked.

“You could,” she said. “Just don’t try to hock it.”

“Do you think my wife would like it?” I wondered.

“Yes,” Dr. Shinmachi answered. “But it’s not the kind of thing you’d want to get her for her birthday.”

“I’ll buy her a piece of jewelry that people can see,” I said with my nice new smile. “And I’ll put my money where my mouth is.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Princely Postcard"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

It would not be classic British understatement to say that Prince Charles and I have a lot in common.

For one thing, as my wife, Sue, would attest, we both spend an inordinate amount of time on the throne.

For another, Charles and I are first-time grandfathers.

And now, it seems, we are pen pals.

That is why I was not surprised recently to receive a reply to the missive I sent to Charles earlier this year to congratulate him on being a new grandpa.

I said, in part, that our families have some amazing similarities, including the fact that his older son, William, and daughter-in-law, Kate, were married in England the day before my younger daughter, Lauren, and son-in-law Guillaume were married in France in 2011. And that my granddaughter, Chloe, and his grandson, George, while not born on the same day, each arrived at exactly 4:24 p.m., which means they are likely destined for each other. I even envisioned a royal wedding. I closed by saying that Charles will enjoy being a grandfather as much as I do and that we should set up a play date for the kids.

Imagine my delight when I received an envelope by royal mail with a return address of Buckingham Palace.

I opened it to find a postcard with a photo of Charles and his lovely wife Camilla. The caption read: “The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall leaving St. Mary’s Hospital after meeting Prince George for the first time.”

The message, in serif italic typeface, read:

“The Prince of Wales was most touched that you took the trouble to write as you did on the birth of His Royal Highness’s first grandchild, Prince George.

“His Royal Highness appreciated your kind words and sends you his warmest thanks and best wishes.”

Frankly, I was a little disappointed. Since Charles and I are so close, I expected a handwritten note, or at least a personalized response, like the letter I received after I wrote to William and Kate to congratulate them on their wedding. The reply was written by Mrs. Claudia Holloway, head of correspondence for the royal family. She opened with “Dear Mr. Zezima,” and wrote, in part, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have asked me to send you their warmest thanks together with their belated congratulations to Lauren and Guillaume.” She signed the letter with a distinctive flourish in royal blue ink.

I was, to use Prince Charles’ words, most touched.

Not this time. I was, to put it mildly, most peeved.

But then I realized that the Prince of Wales must be too busy being a grandfather to send out handwritten notes or personalized responses.

If Charles is like me, he has been doing a lot of baby-sitting. This would entail holding his grandchild on his knee while watching sports (polo or cricket matches or maybe even soccer games) on TV. It would also entail the grand British tradition of doing your duty for God, country and, yes, baby. As I am sure Charles has found out, the changing of the guard takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a grandfather.

Then there are projects such as the one I undertook the other night. I may be the least handy man in America (I don’t imagine Charles is Mr. Fixit across the pond), but I did manage to put together a highchair without incident or bloodshed. I would advise Charles to follow the instructions carefully and not use language that would be considered a departure from the King’s English.

So, no, I am not miffed at the Prince of Wales. In fact, I understand his time constraints completely. Still, if he wants more advice on how to be a good grandfather, all he has to do is write me a letter.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Scents and Sensibility"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

For nearly three decades, my loyal, intelligent and, let’s face it, masochistic readers have said that I stink. This time, they’re right.

That’s because, in a display of gluttony that did not, unfortunately, take my breath away, I participated in a garlic-eating contest.

This pungent event was the highlight of the Long Island Garlic Festival, which was held recently at Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market in Riverhead, N.Y.

As about 100 people crammed into a tent to get a whiff of the competition, which should have put the smell of fear in them but instead produced an air redolent with excitement, I stood at a long table with seven other contestants, all of whom could sniff victory and, more important from a dollars-and-scents perspective, the $100 grand prize.

“Did you practice?” asked Vanessa Hagerbaumer, an event planner who was the MC for the contest.

“No,” I said. “I figured nobody would want to come near me. Then again, if I started training this morning, I might have won by default.”

“That would have been a good strategy,” said Vanessa, who introduced the contestants and explained the rules: We would have two minutes to chew and swallow as many cloves of garlic as we could stomach. We could drink water to wash down what we ate. No spitting out or regurgitating garlic during the competition. A clove in the mouth as time ran out would be counted. Garden of Eve would not be responsible if we repulsed loved ones when we got home.

“Ready?” Vanessa said.

The crowd was breathless.


For the last time that day, so was I.


I popped a clove of garlic in my mouth and started chomping. I decided not to waste time by peeling off the husk, part of which got stuck in my teeth. The rest, along with the masticated clove, went down my gullet.

A split second later, I felt like a fire extinguisher had been set off in my mouth. The intense sensation blasted out my nose, eyes and ears. Undeterred, I ate another clove. Then another.

The onlookers, who probably could have used gas masks, were going wild.

Suddenly, it was over. I had inhaled 13 cloves of garlic.

I didn’t even come close to winning. That honor went to defending champion Mark Lucas, a high school art teacher and drama director who gobbled 22 cloves. His secret: “I used the palm of my hand to smash them on the table, then I just swallowed them.”

“I bet your students will pay attention to you tomorrow,” I said.

“If they don’t go home sick,” Mark replied.

His victory last year was not without consequence.

“I went to a party afterward,” Mark said. “A pregnant woman got nauseous, so I had to leave.”

A similar fate awaited me when I got home.

“Whew!” my wife, Sue, exclaimed when I walked in the door. “I could smell you coming.”

She had anticipated my odoriferous condition and bought a lemon, which I sliced and sucked on.

“Any better?” I asked, exhaling toward Sue.

“No!” she cried. “It’s coming out your pores.”

I chewed on some mint from Sue’s garden.

“You still leave a backdraft when you walk by,” she said, fanning her nose with her hand.

Finally, I tried a tomato.

“Tomato juice is used on dogs when they get sprayed by skunks,” I noted.

“Even a skunk would smell better than you do,” said Sue.

The tomato didn’t do the trick, either. What might have helped was $100 worth of breath mints, but since I didn’t win, I couldn’t afford them.

My only consolation was that I got an “I Love Garlic” T-shirt. It was the only thing about me that didn’t stink.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Skate Expectations"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, whose fantastic writings did not, for some reason, include a story about roller derby, I am the lord of the rink.

Or I would have been if I had been able to stand on skates long enough to be a roller derby queen.

That was my goal when I went to World Gym in East Setauket, N.Y., to try out for the Strong Island Derby Revolution, a women’s flat-track roller derby league whose travel team competes against squads from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

I signed up for the recruiting session because, even though I am a guy and would not be eligible to play, I have a feminine side. Unfortunately, that’s the side I frequently landed on, a more compelling reason why I wasn’t eligible to play.

I should have known I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the women who tried out because I had never been on roller skates, I am old and I am pathetically out of shape.

That didn’t stop Kristi Altieri-Smith, the Revolution’s head of public relations and one of the league’s best players, from welcoming me to the tryout.

“We would love for you to attend,” Kristi wrote in an email, which she signed with her roller derby nickname: Bite-Size Brawler.

When I arrived at the rink, I picked my own roller derby nickname: Average-Size Geezer.

Julie Dekom, who co-founded the Revolution in 2011 and is known as Wreck’em Deck’em, liked my nickname so much that she wrote it on a piece of white tape that she stuck on my black helmet, part of the mandatory equipment that included knee and elbow pads and, of course, roller skates.

After putting on my size 11s, which were kindly provided by the league, I took one step and down I went. After several more spectacular spills, Diane White, also known as Doc Block, said, “You’re falling better.”

I replied, “I turned the other cheek.”

Diane admitted, “I’m not a real doctorI got my nickname from a character in ‘Grindhouse’but I play one in roller derby.”

She wasn’t skating because she recently needed the services of a real doctor for such foot problems as tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. She also once tore a rotator cuff. 

Julie sustained a trimalleolar fracture in 2011 but has fully recovered and is back in action. “They put some titanium screws in my ankle,” she said matter-of-factly.

Injuries are part of the game. But these roller derby players are real athletes, which is more than I can say for myself. That’s why I didn’t join the action in the center of the rink. I figured I would fall — this time on my faceand be run over by so many roller skate wheels that I would end up as flat as a pepperoni pizza, though not nearly as appetizing.

The women in the league ( pay a fee to play. Their bouts, which regularly draw hundreds of fans, have raised money for charitable causes such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And they come from all walks (or rolls) of life.

“We have doctors, lawyers, women from diverse backgrounds,” said Julie, who works as a processor for a financial group and has three children. “A lot of us are moms. We even have a couple of grandmothers.”

“I’m a new grandpa,” I said.

“Congratulations!” Julie said. “You’d fit right in.”

“Even though I can barely stand up?” I asked.

“You’re doing much better,” Julie noted. “A couple more days on skates and you’ll be a pro.”

“Call it feminine intuition,” I said, “but I’ll never be a roller derby queen.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Stubble, Stubble, Toil and Trouble"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

When I was in high school and was just starting to shave, which led to so much blood loss that I should have been honored by the Red Cross, I read “The Razor’s Edge,” the W. Somerset Maugham classic that was not, much to my amazement, because I was a stupid kid, about shaving.

Young men reading the book today would be similarly surprised, which is why many of them, unwilling to risk bleeding to death, barely shave at all.

Lately I have noticed that stubble is in style. Everywhere you look, there are guys with 5 o’clock shadow.

I don’t know what happens when the time changes and it’s either 6 o’clock or 4 o’clock (spring ahead, fall behind, cut yourself, wounds to bind), but I do know that women love this look on young guys but hate it on geezers like me.

One of them is my wife, Sue, to whom I cuddled up on a rare day when I didn’t shave.

“Stop it!” she shrieked when I nuzzled her with a face (mine, naturally) that looked and felt like sandpaper.

“Don’t you like the rugged look?” I asked.

“No!” she cried. “Go away!”

So I did. The next day, after I shaved, I went to the Art of Shaving, a New York City-based store with locations nationwide, including in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., as well as in Huntington Station, N.Y., where I went for wisdom in what has become the lost art of shaving.

Because I didn’t know where the store was in the mall, I violated the unwritten law that men should never ask other men for directions and asked Scott Molloy, who was manning the guest services desk, for directions.

Scott, 28, sported a three-day stubble.

“I’m not making a fashion statement,” he explained. “I just haven’t had the time to shave.”

“A lot of young guys don’t shave because they think women like the rugged look,” I said.

“I know,” Scott said. “They’re trying to be hip. But a real man wakes up every morning and shaves. Tomorrow I’ll get rid of this stubble.”

“I got rid of mine this morning,” I said.

“You’re a real man,” said Scott, who directed me to the Art of Shaving, where I spoke with manager Linda Wheeless.

“These young guys think they started the trend, but it originated with Crockett and Tubbs,” she said, referring to the characters played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas on the 1980s cop show “Miami Vice.”

“It wasn’t even cool then,” I said. “And it looks really dumb on these young guys today, especially the ones who get all dressed up but don’t shave.”

“It makes them look unkempt,” Linda said.

“I like to look kempt,” I replied. “My wife appreciates it, too.”

Linda, whose son shaves not just his face but his head and whose grandson is too young to shave, showed me a picture of her husband, Richard, a handsome guy with a beard.

“He keeps it neat,” she said. “No stubble. I wouldn’t like that.”

Then she showed me one of the most popular items in the store, a trimmer that can be set to help guys keep a perpetual stubble.

“Why don’t they just use it to shave?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Linda answered. “As long as they buy it, I don’t care.”

The next day, after I used my trusty twin-blade razor, I snuggled up to Sue again.

“How does that feel?” I asked.

“Much better,” she said. “Nice and smooth.”

It was, of course, a close shave.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, August 30, 2013

"How to Babysit a Grandpa"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Being a grandfather comes with many important responsibilities, such as making funny faces, engaging in baby talk and otherwise behaving like a child, which is pretty much how I acted even before I was a grandfather.

At the top of the list of grandfatherly duties is baby-sitting. But I never stopped to ask, because I am new at this, who is supposed to be baby-sitting whom?

I recently found out when I read “How to Babysit a Grandpa,” a New York Times best-seller by children’s author Jean Reagan.

The book, which features delightful illustrations by Lee Wildish, is for readers 5 to 8 years old, right in the middle of my intellectual age group.

“It’s also for readers in your physical age group,” Reagan told me when I called her to talk about the 32-page masterpiece. “After all, I couldn’t leave out the grandpas.”

“We appreciate it,” I responded, “especially since we are the ones who have to be baby-sat.”

My granddaughter, who was born in March, is a little too young to understand the lessons in the book (at the rate she’s developing, that won’t happen for another couple of weeks), but I feel better knowing that she will soon be able to look after me.

“She will love taking care of you because you sound like a lot of fun,” said Reagan, who based the grandpa in the book on her father.

“My dad is a very funny guy who has always been attentive to my kids,” Reagan said. “Of course, he did some things that I couldn’t put in the book, like showing my son, who was then 6 or 7, how to make a slingshot. That means every grandpa whose grandchild read the book would be asked to make a slingshot. I can picture a lot of broken windows.”

“I feel your pane,” I offered.

Speaking of which, the book opens with a clear view through the front window of the grandchild hiding when his grandpa rings the doorbell. After he greets his grandpa, and his parents drive away, the kid says, “When your mom and dad leave, pat your grandpa’s hand and say, ‘Don’t worry. They always come back.’ Then, right away, ask him if he’s hungry.”

“Snacks for Grandpa” are: “ice cream topped with cookies,” “olives served on fingertips,” “anything dipped in ketchup” and “cookies topped with ice cream.”

“After snacks,” the kid continues, “it’s time to take your grandpa for a walk. ... Remember to grab his hand when you cross the street and remind him to look both ways.”

Other parts include “What to Do on a Walk” (“If there’s a puddle or a sprinkler, show him what to do”), “How to Entertain a Grandpa” (“Somersault across the room”) and “How to Play With a Grandpa” (“Give him a kazoo”).

“When your grandpa says, ‘Naptime,’ it’s time for his nap,” the grandchild says. “The best way to put him to sleep is to have him read a looooooong book, over and over and over and ... zzzzzzz.”

After the grandpa wakes up, it’s time to clean up the messes he has made. When the parents return, the kid says, “See, Grandpa. They always come back.” Then he asks, “When can I baby-sit you again?”

“I wanted to be a little subversive and put a funny twist on things, but I also wanted to include lessons for kids,” said Reagan. “Most of all, I wanted them to laugh.”

The book is hilarious. And Reagan is working on another one that will be out next year.

“It’s for grandmas,” she said. “I’m not a grandma yet, but when I am, I want to be a fun one, like you’re a fun grandpa.”

“I’m sure my wife will love it,” I said. “But for now, as my granddaughter will soon find out, she has her hands full baby-sitting me.”

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Gone Fishing"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

If legendary composer George Gershwin had also been a fisherman, one of his greatest works might have been “Porgy and Bass.”

I couldn’t get the tune out of my otherwise empty head recently as I boarded the Osprey V, a charter boat out of Port Jefferson, N.Y., for an afternoon of fishing for — you guessed it — porgy and bass.

What wasn’t playing, in either my head or on board, was the theme from “Gilligan’s Island,” which would have been appropriate because the Osprey V is a 65-foot Gillikin.

“Sometimes we play it as people are boarding,” said Capt. Amanda Peterson, “although we’re not going out on a three-hour tour. It’s four hours. And we won’t strand you on an island.”

“If the island had palm trees, I wouldn’t mind,” I said.

“Neither would I,” said Capt. Amanda. “But we’re not going that far out.”

We were, in fact, going only a few miles, to the Stratford (Conn.) Shoal Light in the middle of Long Island Sound, prime grounds (or, rather, waters) for the aforementioned fish.

“If I catch a lot of them,” I told Capt. Amanda, “it would be a fluke.”

“We’re not going for fluke,” she responded. “But you might catch a bluefish.”

Capt. Amanda, whose father, Capt. Stew Cash, runs the business (, recently married Capt. James Peterson, who was officially piloting the boat on that day’s excursion.

“I’m along for the ride,” said Capt. Amanda. “And to help you catch some fish.”

I needed all the help I could get because it had been years since I last went fishing. I used to go with my father when I was a kid. Once, when I wasn’t with him, he came back with a 41-pound striped bass.

“That’s huge,” said Capt. James. “If you caught one that size today, you’d have a real fish story.”

Capt. James should know because he once caught an 873-pound tuna off the coast of Nantucket, Mass.

“It was dressed,” he said.

“In a bathing suit?” I inquired.

“No,” Capt. James replied. “I mean, the head and tail had been cut off. Originally, it weighed about 1,000 pounds.”

“That’s huge,” I said. “You have a real fish story.”

I hoped to have one, too, and got off to a great start. Capt. Amanda used clams to bait both hooks on my fishing pole. About 10 seconds after I cast out, I felt a tug.

“You have a fish!” Capt. Amanda exclaimed. As I reeled in, she added, “Two fish!”

On one hook was a porgy; on the other was a bass. The sea bass was puny, so Capt. Amanda threw it back, but the porgy, which measured 13 inches, three more than regulation size, was a keeper. So I kept it.

Good thing I did because I didn’t catch another fish all day. Still, I had a fabulous time. I watched as the youngest fisherman on board, Kristian Tabala, 4, with the help of his dad, Danny, reeled in a porgy that was bigger than mine.

“I’m gonna name him Bob,” Kristian said.

“He’s bobbing in the bucket, so it fits,” I said. “What are you going to name the next fish you catch?”

Kristian thought for a moment and replied, “Rob.”

The biggest catch of the day was a 2-foot-long bluefish, hauled in by Vietnam veteran Chris Martinez, 69, the oldest of the 26 passengers. I was standing about five feet away.

“It could have been you,” Chris said.

“On the hook?” I wondered.

“Then we would have had to cut off your head and tail,” said Capt. James.

As the Osprey V headed back, deck hand Travis MacRae did the same to my porgy. When he was finished, I had two nice fillets to share with my wife, Sue, for dinner. They were delicious.

If only I had been standing five feet to my left, in Chris Martinez’s spot, I’d be humming another Gershwin tune: “Rhapsody in Bluefish.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima