Sunday, September 13, 2020

"A Coffee Maker's Brew Haha"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

I have reached the age (old enough to know better) where getting a good night’s sleep depletes me so much, especially if I dream about something exciting, like sleeping, that I need a liquid boost to start the day.

No, silly, not gin. I refer, of course, to coffee.

And it’s my dumb luck to make it better than my wife, Sue, which is why, on most mornings, I have to get up first to brew a pot of rich, dark, steaming hot java that gets the blood circulating and puts smiles on our faces, at least until the caffeine wears off.

Often I will detect, after getting up quietly to use the porcelain convenience, that Sue is awake on her side of the bed, pretending to be asleep so I will stay up, instead of climbing back in the sack, and make the coffee.

Down the stairs I thump, yawning and stretching, attorneys at law, and stumble into the kitchen, where I put a filter into the basket of the coffee maker and begin the meticulous process of measuring the exact amount of ground beans: nine even scoops, one bulging scoop and — this is the key — a pinch that would barely cover an ant, which you definitely don’t want in your kitchen, and especially in your coffee.

Then I fill the pot with precisely a dozen cups of faucet-fed water, flick the switch and — voila! — realize I haven’t plugged in the machine. Once I do, the percolation commences.

Ten minutes later, five beeps indicate that the coffee is done, at which time Sue enters the kitchen. I pour her a large cup of coffee and put in a splash of milk. She takes a sip, smiles and says, “Good! You make it better than I do.”

She’s right. I have had Sue’s coffee. It’s not so strong that it will take the paint off the wall (I’m off the wall, so I should know) or so weak that it will fail to awaken the aforementioned ant.

It’s just, well, not as good as mine.

Such is the curse of the man who never used to drink coffee. In fact, I had always considered coffee a stupid drink. It’s made from beans that are grown on mountains and brought down by mules so they can be ground into grounds, through which hot water is run.

I prefer a sensible drink. Like beer.

I once brewed my own brew, which I called Jerry’s Nasty Ale. It went down smooth and came back up the same way.

Actually, it wasn’t bad. It had an inadvertently smoky taste, which I couldn’t figure out since I didn’t put cigar ashes in it, and earned raves from Sue and a couple of neighbors, who did not, thank God, have to be hospitalized.

Another sensible drink is wine, which I have also made. The first time, I got grapes from a vineyard, brought them home, stomped on them in the bathtub like Lucille Ball did in “I Love Lucy,” bottled the concoction, let it ferment for a couple of weeks and brought it back to the vineyard, where the winemaker tried it and exclaimed, “It tastes like nail polish remover!”

I went back the following year to help him make the real thing, mainly by shoveling grape skins out of a vat and watching him do the rest. The resultant vintage was dubbed Merlot Jerry. It tickled the palate. Then I sneezed.

But it wasn’t nearly as good as my coffee, which I serve in two of the approximately 85 mugs that are crammed into a couple of our kitchen cabinets.

“Good!” Sue said this morning after taking her first sip.

“I’m glad,” I replied, waiting for the caffeine to kick in, “that you don’t have grounds for complaint.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 6, 2020

"Beach Blanket Birdbrain"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Whenever I go to the beach, which is about once a year, thus sparing regular beachgoers the horror of witnessing me in a bathing suit, running into the water and getting eaten by a shark, I imagine myself as Frankie Avalon, star of the “Beach Party” movies of the 1960s.

My wife, Sue, takes the Annette Funicello role, though she’s not very good in it because she doesn’t like to dance in the sand — unless, of course, she’s bitten by a crab.

So it was with very little fuss, and no rock and roll music, that we recently staked out a slice of shore, slathered on some sunscreen and plopped ourselves down in rickety chairs for what was probably the last beach day of the season.

For me, it was the first. And my unexpected presence must have excited a fine feathered flock of aquatic birds because they welcomed me with open wings, which they used to zoom over, past and around me. One of them squatted nearby, eyeing me with either friendly curiosity or, more likely, open hostility.

It was boy meets gull. We got into a staring contest. I looked over. The bird looked away. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye (though I don’t know how anything round can have a corner) and noticed her staring again.

I made a stupid face. She screeched, which prompted another gull to sit on the opposite side of me. I was surrounded.

I shifted in my chair and almost fell over. The birds flew off and came back moments later with reinforcements, some of which circled overhead before a couple of them dive-bombed me.

I felt like Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.”

The only place to escape was the water, but I didn’t want to go in because: (a) it looked dirty, (b) it looked cold and (c) it looked like just the place where Jaws would be waiting for me.

With apologies to John Williams, taking a dip would have been “dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb.”

So, while Sue snoozed and sunbathed, left mercifully alone by my avian adversaries, I got up and walked on the beach. I wore flip-flops to prevent the rocks that studded the shore from hurting my feet, which, even at size 11, are very delicate.

Speaking of studs, I noticed a couple of young women looking at me. At first I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger, muscles rippling and glistening in the sun, before I realized that with my physique, I would never be in the male version of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Instead, I’d be the cover boy for GQ (Geezers’ Quarterly).

I saw a guy with a fishing pole.

“What are you going for?” I asked.

“Porgy and bass,” he replied.

“A Gershwin classic,” I said, referring to the George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.”

For some strange reason, the guy didn’t get it. But he did say he also hoped to hook a bull shark, adding: “They’re dangerous.”

“That’s no bull,” I stated.

He didn’t get that joke, either, so I moseyed back to our little patch of sand, clumps of which became embedded under my nails and between my toes, and plopped down in my chair. I nearly tipped over again, which woke up Sue.

“Let’s go,” she said.

I struggled to fold the chairs, one of which, I was sure, would slice off a finger. We gathered everything and started to walk back to the parking lot when the birds began harassing me again.

I screeched. One of them whirled to fly away and nearly collided with another one.

I smiled with satisfaction, knowing I probably wouldn’t see them again until next year.

As they say at the beach, one bad tern deserves another.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima