Friday, February 28, 2014

"The Lord of the Rungs"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I have never climbed the corporate ladder because I have acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head.

But business must be booming for millions of guys who aren’t afraid of climbing to the tops of houses like mine, a two-story Colonial that could give a mountain goat nosebleeds, because I have noticed that most of the trucks and vans on the road these days have ladders on them.

The economy may be down, but ladder sales seem to be up. My buddy Tim Lovelette has a theory about the rise of the ladder industry.

“Everyone has at least one ladder, which lasts for eternity, and everyone dies,” Tim explained. “At the point of death, these ladders need to find their way to new owners. That’s one of the big reasons for yard sales. Yet, hardware stores worldwide continue to sell new ladders. There has to be a point in time where ladders will outnumber people.”

Tim suggested that the world is “ladder happy” and said we must be approaching the point where we can’t even give ladders away.

“Considering that we have more ladders than are needed, there must be some sort of secret ladder subsidy buried in legislation somewhere that supports the manufacture of new ladders,” Tim said. “Perhaps it’s coupled with our foreign aid programs. Are we dumping ladders on Third World countries simply to support new ladder manufacture here? If that’s the case, we’re really headed for trouble. In a global ladder race, the Chinese will beat us every time. We’ll have developing nations full of starving people and ladders.”

Tim acknowledged that he has a philosophical bent because he majored in philosophy at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., where he and I were in the notorious class of 1975. He also said that, like me, he has a great fear of heights.

“I think that’s the reason I didn’t attain the lofty distinction of graduating magna cum ladder,” Tim said. “I was a step down at cum ladder.”

The last time Tim was on a ladder, he said, was in 1974.

“Jane and I were just married and living for the summer in a rental house on Cape Cod,” said Tim, a Massachusetts native who married his high school sweetheart in junior year of college. “A friend of mine gave me a television antenna. Yep, it was the Dark Ages: No cable. In any event, I got to this little ranch-style house, set up the ladder and installed the antenna on the roof. Now comes the good part: I couldn’t get off the roof. I was on that roof for well over two hours before I could muster the courage to get back on the ladder. I could have jumped off the roof and not injured myself, it was that low. It was at that point that I gave up my lifelong ambition to be Batman.”

Tim added that he doesn’t know where he got the ladder.

“Outside of a stepladder, I don’t own one,” he said. “But don’t mention that to anyone. I’m afraid people will find out and start dumping their excess ladders on me.”

That would be the second-worst thing that could happen to Tim, or to me, or to anyone with a fear of heights.

The worst thing, according to Tim, would be a home improvement Armageddon.

“I had been satisfied with thinking about how the world will end,” Tim said. “It was the old question: Will it end by fire or ice? I guess the answer was right in front of my face and I was blind to it. I’ll be a son of a gun if God didn’t orchestrate the whole thing back when the universe was created. The world will end in ladders.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Mighty Jerry Has Struck Out"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
If you don’t see me in spring training, hitting baseballs over the fence and signing autographs for adoring fans, it will be because I was recently on steroids, which unfortunately did nothing to help me hit baseballs over the fence and explains why nobody wants my autograph.

My dream of making it to the big leagues began when a sore throat put me on the disabled list. So I went to Stat-Health, a walk-in clinic in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and sat down with enough people to fill the bleachers at a spring training game. All that was missing was a guy selling beer, which would have helped my throat considerably.

Instead, I saw the next best person, Dr. Richard Goldstein, who looked at my throat and said, “It’s really inflamed. I am going to give you a strep test.”

“Strip?” I asked, indicating that my ears were affected, too. “You mean I have to take my clothes off?”

“No,” said Dr. Goldstein. “I am going to take a culture.”

“The only culture I have comes from yogurt,” I informed him, adding that my throat was so sore that I almost couldn’t talk, gratifying my family and friends.

“You don’t have strep,” Dr. Goldstein said when the test results came back a few minutes later.

“I guess it’s true that when it comes to being sick, men are babies,” I said.

“Yes, we are,” Dr. Goldstein acknowledged. “But don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. It’s part of our doctor-patient confidentiality. Still, I want to get rid of the inflammation in your throat, so I am going to prescribe steroids.”

“There goes my baseball career,” I told Dr. Goldstein, who also prescribed antibiotics, which I had to take after I finished the steroids.

I was on steroids for six days. I didn’t feel any stronger, maybe because my idea of weightlifting is doing 12-ounce curls, but I wondered if the steroids could help me hit a baseball, something I hadn’t done with any regularity since Little League. And even then, half a century ago, I was terrible.

To find out, I went to Matt Guiliano’s Play Like a Pro, an indoor hitting and pitching facility in Hauppauge, N.Y.

One of the staffers, Chris Ingram, 20, who has played college ball as a pitcher and an outfielder at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and hopes to make it to the big leagues, led me to a batting cage.

“I don’t think the steroids you’re taking are the same ones that guys like Alex Rodriguez have used,” said Ingram, who added that he has never taken them and never would.

“Cheaters shouldn’t prosper, which is why I don’t want to be like A-Rod,” I said, noting that I would be known as J-Zez. “But I wouldn’t mind having his bank account.”

After I picked out a bat and put on a helmet, Ingram asked, “Do you want me to set the pitching machine on fast, medium or slow?”

“What’s slow?” I replied.

“Forty-five miles per hour,” said Ingram, pointing out that the speed is about half of what the average major-league pitcher throws.

“Let’s go slow,” I said, stepping up to the plate and waiting for the first pitch, which whizzed past me before I was even halfway through my swing.

Except for a couple of foul balls, I hit only one of 16 pitches. And it wouldn’t have come close to being a home run.

“Maybe a grounder to short,” Ingram said.

For the next batch of pitches, I tried batting from the left side. I had a more natural swing, Ingram said, but it didn’t help because I whiffed on all but one, which I fouled off.

“The steroids didn’t work,” I said afterward.

“How’s your throat?” Ingram asked.

“Much better,” I replied. “The soreness is gone.”

“Then they did work,” he said.

“Now I can go to spring training,” I said. “If I can afford a ticket, I’ll sit in the bleachers.”

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima