Sunday, April 5, 2020

"The Great American Grandfather"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Dan Patrick
Lieutenant Governor
Austin, Texas

Dear Lt. Gov. Patrick:

I’m Jerry Zezima, a fellow grandfather who has five grandchildren ranging in age from 7 years to 9 months, all of whom are more mature than I am.

I’m writing in response to your suggestion that grandparents sacrifice themselves in the wake of this terrible pandemic to get the economy going again.

I want you to know that I am a proud American who loves this country more than anything except — you guessed it — my grandchildren.

Still, I am willing to do my part to help the economy. It’s something I have always done. Look at the facts: I have been in excellent health my whole life, especially in the past 30 years, a stretch in which the economy has boomed more than at any time in our nation’s history.

Coincidence? I think not.

As my doctor will tell you, I had a bad cold in 2008 and look what happened. That’s right: the Great Recession. Now I admit that this virus is far worse than a case of the sniffles. And how a recession could be called great is beyond my addled geezer brain to understand.

But you need to understand that if I sacrificed myself, in a foolhardy move that would undoubtedly be known as Zexit, the economic structure of the United States, and possibly the entire world, would collapse like a grandfather chasing a toddler.

Speaking of the little ones, what would become of them if we grandparents violated the code of social distancing and started sneezing on each other, leading to our inevitable demise? Aside from the fact that their parents (our children) wouldn’t have to care for us in our old age, which in my case, according to my daughters, arrived years ago, they would be devastated.

People who are willing to talk to me, which narrows the field considerably, have often asked if I spoil my grandchildren.

“No,” I tell them. “That’s my wife’s job. My job is to corrupt them.”

And if I may be permitted to brag a bit, I do it better than any grandfather in this great country of ours. No offense, Lt. Gov. Patrick, but that includes you.

Here are some examples of how the corruption of my grandchildren has made them happy, healthy young people who will grow up to be productive citizens — the kind of driven, hardworking Americans who will follow my selfless lead in creating a robust economy.

In an outstanding patriotic gesture, I took my eldest grandchild, Chloe, who was 2 years old at the time, to the White House Easter Egg Roll. It was during the administration of the previous president, which probably doesn’t score points with you, but I stood in line longer than it takes Congress to pass an economic stimulus bill just so Chloe could meet not the commander-in-chief, but her hero, Peppa Pig.

If memory serves (I’d like it to serve me a beer right now), the stock market zoomed the next day.

I took my grandson Xavier to the Smithsonian. I’m surprised I wasn’t put on exhibit, but it was another patriotic gesture that benefited a great American institution.

I’ve taken the kids bowling. We’ve gone to the zoo. I’ve bought them ice cream and doughnuts. All of these outings have pumped money into the economy.

And don’t forget my wife, Sue, the children’s grandmother. She has spent the fortune I’ll never have on clothes and toys. It’s helped the economy more than any stimulus bill ever could.

I trust that you understand why it would be a bad idea for me to sacrifice myself, Lt. Gov. Patrick. If you want to do it, go right ahead. Just give me the names of your grandchildren, who I am sure will miss you, and I will corrupt them, too.

Jerry Zezima

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"Diary of a Mad House Couple"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
At the risk of being shot on sight, which is a possibility for me even under normal conditions, I am confined to my house with my lovely wife, Sue, who is beginning to wonder what would be worse: getting sick or being quarantined with me.

If you think you are bored out of your skull while confined to your house, too, read this diary.

Monday: Day one of the official hunkering down begins when Sue, a teacher’s assistant, learns that school has been canceled indefinitely.

“My job has been canceled forever,” I tell her.

“You’re retired,” she points out.

“That’s why,” I respond.

“What do you want to do?” Sue asks.

I wiggle my eyebrows. She rolls her eyeballs.

“Is that all you can think about?” she huffs.

“Of course not,” I say. “Sometimes I think about hockey.”

“My God,” Sue sighs. “This is going to be hell.”

Tuesday: We turn on the television to see medical experts (none of whom is a politician) tell us to wash our hands.

I go into the bathroom and follow orders. I lose count of the number of times I have lathered up, which works me into a lather because the total must exceed the entire population of Luxembourg.

“We could have our own soap opera,” I tell Sue.

She shakes her head sadly.

I paraphrase the Stealers Wheel song: “You’re stuck in the house with me.”

Sue goes to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day.

Wednesday: Sue says she has to go to the store for essentials.

“Beer and wine?” I ask.

“Soap and sanitizer,” she replies.

“Buy some lotion, too,” I say. “The skin on my hands is starting to peel off.”

“The store may be out of it,” Sue says.

“I hope not,” I say. “At this rate, I’ll bleed to death.”

Sue takes wipes and gloves with her.

“Be careful,” I say. “And don’t breathe until you get back home.”

Thursday: The situation is, of course, very serious. Tens of thousands are infected and many have already died. But I am starting to get really annoyed at newscasters and politicians who urge me to follow strict guidelines “out of an abundance of caution.”

“As opposed to what?” I ask Sue. “A minimum of it?”

I also have noticed that everyone in the United States — except me — now has a medical degree. They’re all experts in what I should or shouldn’t do and do not hesitate to say that whatever I have been doing to stay safe is totally wrong.

I hope the real doctors find a vaccine soon.

Friday: It has been five days since Sue and I have been quarantined. While we have been happily married for almost 42 years, we are starting to get on each other’s nerves.

“Togetherness is nice,” she says, “but there is such a thing as too much of it.”

“Just wait until you’re retired,” I say.

“If this is what retirement will be like,” Sue tells me, “I may have to get a part-time job.”

“Get one in a liquor store,” I say. “We’re almost out of wine.”

Saturday: I go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The pharmacist is wearing a mask.

“Are you robbing the place?” I ask her.

She smiles (I think) and says, “No. This is out of an abundance of caution.”

I stifle a scream, pay for the medicine and make a beeline out of there.

Sunday: I tell Sue that we can’t go to church.

“We haven’t gone in years,” she reminds me.

Instead, we give each other the sign of peace and share a kiss.

“We’re pretty lucky,” I say.

“Yes, we are,” Sue replies sweetly. “Now wash your hands.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 15, 2020

"Little Shoppers Give Me Food for Thought"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Whenever I go to the grocery store, I am the designated driver for my wife, Sue, who likes to say, after I get lost in the beer aisle, that I put the cart before the horse’s aft.

So I was grateful to get a food shopping demonstration from my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, each of whom was recently a “customer in training.”

That’s what it said on the sign above their little carts, which are designed to let youngsters shop with their parents and grandparents and stock up on ice cream, cookies and other goodies that they would consume exclusively if only their parents and grandparents would let them.

In addition to Chloe, who is about to turn 7, and Lilly, who’s 3, the supermarket expedition featured me, Sue and our daughter Lauren, the girls’ mommy.

Everyone had a cart except yours truly because, I am sure, they were afraid I would stock up on beer, munchies and other goodies that I would consume exclusively if only my wife would let me.

One thing I noticed about the kiddie carts was that they each had four wheels that all went in the same direction. This is never the case with regular carts, which have wheels that go north, south, east and west all at the same time.

If cars were like that, you’d have a fender bender every day and your insurance rates would go up so much that the only mode of transportation you could afford would be, of course, a shopping cart.

As we navigated the store, an older gentleman came around the corner with his cart and said to Chloe, “If I had known you were going to be here, I’d ask you to do my shopping, too.”

Chloe, whose cart was already half-full with items that included cereal and oranges, which Lauren put in there instead of ice cream and cookies, smiled and replied, “I’m shopping with Mommy.”

I said to the guy, “She’s a customer in training.”

“She could teach me a thing or two,” he said, adding: “Where’s your cart?”

“I’m a bad driver,” I explained. “Training wouldn’t help.”

Lilly, meanwhile, started to load up her cart with sweets.

“She’s trying to sneak them in,” Lauren told me. Then she said to Lilly, “Put them back.”

Lilly grumbled and handed them to me so I could restock the shelf.

A nice lady passed me in the aisle and said, “You’re doing a good job. Maybe you could work here.”

“It would get me out of the house,” I said. “But I’d get fired for eating the profits.”

The store was filled with so many customers and their carts that it looked like rush hour in a construction zone. I was afraid tempers would flare so much that there would be a drive-by shouting.

But everyone was very nice and accommodating for the girls, who routinely cut off other shoppers in an effort to keep up with Lauren and Sue. I tried to play traffic cop, though even if I had a whistle, it wouldn’t have done any good.

Finally, we got to the checkout area, where the girls brought their carts so the contents could be rung up.

“You’re a good shopper,” a cashier named Ann told Chloe.

“Thank you,” Chloe said as she handed Ann several items for scanning.

“Are you going to pay for them?” Ann asked.

“No,” said Chloe. “Mommy is.”

Lilly went with Sue to another cashier, a young man named Eric, who said she did a good job.

“I know,” Lilly told him.

On the way out, Sue said to me, “The girls are better food shoppers than you are.”

“You’re right,” I admitted. “They even made sure I didn’t get lost in the beer aisle.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 1, 2020

"An Old Goof Has a New Roof"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
For years, people have said I am all wet, even during droughts, so I wasn’t surprised that until recently, my house was all wet, too.

That’s because there was water, water everywhere and, since I ran out of beer, not a drop to drink.

Water was coming in through the ceiling, through a skylight and even through a kitchen cabinet. It was enough to make me go through the roof, which not only would have made the situation worse but might have given me a concussion, not that anyone could tell the difference.

So my wife, Sue, told me to call the insurance company.

“I hope we have an umbrella policy,” I said.

Sue ignored the remark and said, “I want to see if the roof is covered.”

“It’s not covered,” I replied. “That’s why we have a water problem.”

“You’re going to have a problem,” said Sue, who specifically mentioned how she could benefit from cashing in my life insurance policy.

Two days later, an adjuster named Doug came over to survey the damage.

“Do you think the value of the house would increase if I had an indoor swimming pool?” I asked.

“It might,” Doug said. “You could bring in some sand and beach chairs.”

“Would the insurance company pay for it?” I wondered.

“No,” said Doug, adding that he has seen far worse situations. “In one case, the entire first floor was under water,” he recalled. “Cars have driven through houses. We’ve covered the damage. There was even a lady who spilled bleach on her carpet. We replaced it.”

“If I want a new carpet,” I said, “should I spill bleach on it?”

“You can try,” said Doug, “but I won’t be your adjuster.”

He did, however, send us a check and suggested we call a general contractor.

Anthony Amini, owner of Performance Roofing and Siding of Long Island, New York, was the man for the job.

“He was a great war hero,” I told Anthony. “Killed at Gettysburg.”

“Who?” Anthony asked.

“General Contractor,” I said.

Anthony saluted and sized up the situation.

“Your roof is old,” he said. “It’s outdated and worn out.”

“Sounds like me,” I responded.

“My roof was the same,” said Anthony. “I had a leaky skylight, just like you. When it rained, I had to put a bucket underneath it.”

“My wife wanted me to put a new roof on my bucket list,” I said.

“So did mine,” Anthony told me. “She said, ‘You do two or three roofs a week. Do this one.’ I said, ‘OK, babe.’ Now we have a brand-new roof.”

“I bet you know a good roofer,” I said.

“I do,” said Anthony. “He’s a very nice guy and a very handsome guy. And he did a great job.”

It was the same kind of job he did on our roof. And, with a hardworking crew of eight guys, it was done in one day.

“You had some issues in the valleys,” Anthony told me.

“How about the mountains?” I asked.

“There, too,” he said, adding that he gave me new boots.

“I could have worn them when the ceiling leaked,” I said.

“You also got new gooseneck vents,” Anthony said. “One of the old ones had a hairline fracture.”

“I should have called a doctor,” I said.

“It wouldn’t have been covered under your medical plan,” said Anthony, who also put in new ice and water shields and replaced the skylight in the family room.

“Things are looking up,” I said, looking up at my beautiful new roof.

“It’s guaranteed for 20 years,” Anthony said, “but it should last for 30 or 40.”

“I probably won’t be around then,” I said. “But since the ceiling doesn’t leak anymore, I can kick the bucket now.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 16, 2020

"This Cold Was Something to Sneeze At"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to being sick, men are babies. I know this because there are six children in my family (five grandkids and yours truly) and I was sicker than any of them over a period of five months, which is how long it took me to recover from an illness that so baffled medical science that it was impervious to prescription medication and was finally eradicated with a self-prescribed dose of blackberry brandy.

It all started after my twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn, were born. Before my wife, Sue, and I took a trip to meet them, I had a flu shot. The pharmacist who gave it to me said I was very brave considering that many men are — you guessed it — babies when it comes to needles.

“Some of them have even fainted,” she said.

“Wimps,” I replied as I rolled up my sleeve. “I’m ready for my shot now.”

“I just gave it to you,” the pharmacist said as she put a Band-Aid on my arm. “Stay healthy!”

I wish I could say I did, but I came down with something I thought was either the flu or a sinus infection or black lung disease. So I walked in to a walk-in clinic to make sure I wasn’t contagious.

“You’re not,” said a physician, who took a throat culture with a swab that was attached to a stick approximately the length of a javelin.

“Do I have a pulse?” I inquired.

“Yes,” he reported. “You are, technically, still alive. And the culture shows that you don’t have strep throat.”

“I get most of my culture from yogurt,” I said.

The doctor looked like he was about to get sick. “I am not going to prescribe antibiotics,” he said. “Just take some over-the-counter cold medicine and you should be fine.”

The day after Sue and I met the twins, I developed a dry cough, probably because it wasn’t raining. (Now you know why I never went to med school.)

The symptoms persisted after we got home, where I also started to sneeze. Sue, who didn’t want to catch anything, told me not to come near her.

“Do you want me to go to a room with achoo?” I asked.

Sue rolled her eyes, which were heavy, indicating that she was getting sick, too.

She recovered quickly, which is more than I could say for myself, so I went back to the clinic, where another physician asked if I had allergies.

“I’m only allergic to myself,” I answered.

“As you get older,” she said, sizing me up as older, “you can develop allergies.”

She prescribed a nasal spray.

“With the size of my nose, will I need a hose?” I asked, noting that my question rhymed.

“No,” the doctor said. “You won’t have to call the fire department.”

On a return visit to see the twins, I found that Quinn was sick. So was big brother Xavier. Zoe was starting to come down with something, too.

When I got home, I learned that my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly also were sick.

All the kids got well, but my postnasal drip, or pre-nasal drip, or neo-nasal drip, or whatever the hell I had, was hanging on. I returned to the clinic, where I should have my own parking space, and was given a different spray.

“If this one doesn’t work,” said a third doctor, “take some antibiotics.”

My illness persisted. Finally, after I had run out of medicine, I opened a bottle of blackberry brandy and had a shot.

The following day, I was cured.

“The next time I get sick,” I told Sue, “I’m going to take this stuff first.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"Baking Lesson Really Pans Out"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I never thought baking was a piece of cake, mainly because I’m half-baked. But I recently learned that I could have my cake and eat it, too, after getting a baking lesson from my grandson.

Xavier, who will be 3 in March, is hot stuff when it comes to the culinary arts. I, on the other hand, which should have sported a pot-holder, have always believed that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Contrary to this brilliant advice, which has prevented me from burning the house down, I got into the kitchen to watch Xavier help his daddy, Dave, prepare a fish dinner. He also helped make pizza. But the piece de resistance, a French phrase meaning “resist a piece of anything I have made,” was the cake Xavier baked with my wife, Sue, without whom I would have starved to death long ago.

While Xavier never got close to a hot stove and didn’t have access to sharp implements, he did climb up on his step stool to help wash or mix ingredients for various dishes and pour them into pots, pans and bowls in the preparation of everything from entrees to desserts.

“If I’m in the kitchen, Xavier has to be there, too,” said Dave, adding that his father, Bob, is a great guy but not exactly a culinary artist.

My late father, the original Jerry Zezima, was also a great guy and made the world’s best salad, but he couldn’t match the cooking skills of my mother, Rosina, a kitchen magician who should have her own Food Network show, or my sisters, Susan (who recently showed me how to make chicken that could wow anyone except, of course, a chicken) and Elizabeth (who once had to show me how to make a grilled cheese sandwich).

My one culinary triumph came about 20 years ago, when I was first runner-up in the pasta sauce division of the Newman’s Own and Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest for a dish I called Zezima’s Zesty Ziti Zinger. Paul Newman himself polished off a bowl of the stuff and raved about it. That the legendary actor is, at the present time, deceased is purely coincidental.

Because my next-best creation is microwave popcorn, I was in awe of Xavier’s budding talent.

Among his toys is the Melissa & Doug Prepare & Serve Pasta Set, which I should borrow for another batch of ziti. But his favorite is the Melissa & Doug Baking Play Set, which includes a baking tin, measuring cups, a whisk, a spatula, a rolling pin and an oven mitt, which he wore when he and Sue baked a cake.

The ingredients were Betty Crocker Super Moist Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Pillsbury Confetti Funfetti Vanilla Flavored Frosting.

As I watched, Xavier handed Sue two eggs, which he wouldn’t break.

“If you did,” I told him, “the yolk would be on you.”

“Can’t you find something else to do?” Sue asked.

“Not at the moment,” I answered as Xavier stood on his step stool next to a bowl on the counter and poured milk over the eggs and cake mix. Then he used a spatula to create a creamy batter.

“Batter up!” I exclaimed.

Xavier smiled. Sue didn’t.

They both poured the mixture into a pan, which Sue placed in the oven. When the cake was done, Xavier spread on the frosting, which he topped with rainbow sprinkles.

The cake was a masterpiece. And it tasted even better than it looked.

“This is delicious, Xavier!” I said, licking sprinkles out of my mustache.

The little boy beamed.

“I hope you learned something,” Sue said to me.

“I did,” I replied. “Getting a baking lesson from our grandson was the icing on the cake.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 19, 2020

"A Real Wake-up Call"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I am not easily alarmed, except when I look in the mirror to shave, but my house is. That’s because the alarm keeps blaring. According to Judy, who works for the alarm company, the reason is simple:

The house is haunted.

“What other explanation can there be?” Judy asked after she called me at 1 a.m. on a stormy night. The call woke me out of a sound sleep in which I dreamed that the alarm was blaring.

Actually, it was, as Judy helpfully pointed out when I picked up the phone.

“I can’t hear you,” I told her. “The alarm is blaring.”

“Turn it off,” Judy politely instructed me.

“What?” I said.

“TURN IT OFF!” yelled Judy, whose ears must have been ringing even more than mine.

I went to the keypad in the kitchen and punched in the security code, which in my semiconscious state I temporarily forgot (when you have 147 different passwords for various things, it’s tough to keep track).

After the alarm stopped blaring and my hearing was restored, I told Judy about the storm.

“Do you have a lot of wind?” she asked.

“I did after dinner,” I responded, “but I’m feeling much better now.”

“The problem is coming from Zone 12,” Judy reported.

“I’m usually in the Twilight Zone,” I said.

“Is that where you are now?” Judy asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the family room.”

“Check the slider,” she said.

“We have French doors,” I told her. “And I don’t even speak French.”

“Is the door ajar?” Judy inquired.

It was all I could do to keep from making another stupid joke, so I checked it and said, “Yes.”

“Do you want me to call the police?” Judy asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to go back to prison.”

“You were in prison?” Judy spluttered.

“Yes,” I replied honestly. “Rikers Island.”

“For how long?” she wanted to know.

“About six hours,” I responded, explaining that I was there several years ago to talk about writing to young detainees who were in school at the maximum-security facility. “My columns are criminal,” I added, “but I was paroled anyway. I must have been a bad influence on the inmates.”

“If nobody forced the door open,” Judy theorized, “it was probably the wind.”

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened,” I said. “We’ve gotten calls from the alarm company about the motion sensor in the living room.”

“That’s Zone 10,” Judy said. “Did anybody break in?”

“No,” I said. “The person who called the last time said it could have been the plants on the windowsill. It was during the day and I was out, so I had to rush home to see what was going on.”

“What was going on?” Judy wondered.

“I guess the plants were having a party,” I said.

“Maybe they needed to be watered,” Judy guessed.

“They were probably headed for the liquor cabinet in the dining room,” I said.

“That’s Zone 8,” Judy told me.

“Why does this keep happening?” I asked.

“There’s only one logical explanation,” Judy said. “Your house is haunted.”

“That would explain the spirits in the liquor cabinet,” I noted.

“Or,” Judy said, “your sensor in very sensitive.”

“It must have heard the bad things I’ve called it after the alarm has gone off so many times,” I said.

“Make sure all your doors and windows are tightly closed,” Judy said.

“Thank you,” I said. “You’ve been very helpful. I’m sorry you have to work so late, but I’m glad you’re alert.”

“That’s my job,” said Judy. “Have a good rest of the night.”

“You, too,” I said.

“Now,” Judy said, “you can sleep easier.”

“I will,” I said with a yawn. “Unless the alarm starts blaring again.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima