Sunday, November 28, 2021

"That's Using Your Shed"

By Jerry Zezima


If I had a sledgehammer, I’d sledgehammer in the morning, I’d sledgehammer in the evening, all over my land.


I won’t sing the rest of it because: (a) the neighbors would call the cops and (b) I don’t have a sledgehammer.


But I got to wield one when a crew of strong-armed guys came over to dismantle our old shed and put up a new one, where I keep all kinds of tools except — you guessed it — a screwdriver.


No, I mean a sledgehammer. I keep screwdrivers in the liquor cabinet.


Actually, I have gotten rid of so many tools, which are useless in my clumsy hands anyway, that I don’t know why I even have a shed.


I used to have a lawn mower, a snow blower and a power washer, but since I don’t cut the grass, clear the driveway or wash the house anymore, I dumped them on younger, more competent homeowners.


The rest of the shed was taken up by patio furniture, gardening supplies and kiddie pools.


Tools included two rakes, a spade, a hoe, a trowel, a shovel, a pair of hedge clippers and something that resembled a scythe. Whenever I used it to cut weeds, which grew back the next day, I looked like the Grim Geezer.


I also kept a hammock in the loft, but it was eaten by mice (the hammock, not the loft, though that was probably next).


In fact, the shed was in such deplorable condition that if I had sneezed on it, the whole rickety structure would have collapsed in a pile of kindling. So my wife, Sue, and I decided to buy a new one.


We went to a place called Wood Kingdom and bought a shed made of, yes, wood. Unfortunately, it came unassembled.


“I am the least handy man in America,” I told Maureen Schnapp, the owner. “I won’t have to put it together myself, will I?”


“No,” said Maureen, adding that the various parts — floor, walls, doors, roof, etc. — are made by an Amish company in Ohio.


“Will they deliver the materials by horse and buggy and have a shed-raising in my backyard?” I wondered.


“They’re too busy for that,” Maureen said. “They will get the parts to us. Then we’ll send our guys over to tear down your old shed, cart it away and put up the new one.”


The guys were Jorge, 46, the supervisor, and his assistants, Juan, 40, and Jose, 36.


When I saw Jose whacking the walls of the empty old shed with a sledgehammer, I walked up to him — being careful not to get hit in the head, in which case I’d have to buy the company a new sledgehammer — and asked, “May I try?”


“Sure,” Jose replied. “But don’t hurt yourself.”


I grabbed the handle, lifted the sledgehammer with a jerk (me) and almost ruptured a vital organ.


“How much does this thing weigh?” I inquired.


“About 40 pounds,” Jose answered. “It’s heavy.”


“I’m old, but I’m strong,” I assured him. “I keep in shape by bench-pressing six-packs.”


Jose instructed me to stand inside the shed and hit the bottom of the Dutch roof, just above the top of the wall.


I reared back and slammed the metal hammerhead against the wood.


Nothing.


“Try it again,” Jose said.


I did. Still nothing. On my third swing, the wood began to crack.


“Nice,” said Jose. “Keep going.”


By this time, I was flailing away like one of the Property Brothers. I kept it up until the bottom of the roof had become separated from the wall. I also took a whack at one of the doors. I was amazed, not just at my terrific performance, but at the fact that I didn’t go into cardiac arrest.


“You did a good job,” said Jorge, who told me that he has a shed at home. “I keep tools in it. I also have the kids’ pools. You can always use a shed. It’s better than leaving stuff outside.”


Thanks to the great work he, Jose and Juan did, I don’t have to leave stuff outside.


Now all my tools are inside a brand-new shed. I may even buy a sledgehammer. The Property Brothers will be impressed.


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 21, 2021

"Pillow Talk"

By Jerry Zezima


I am not a man to rest on my laurels, mainly because I don’t have any. But I am a guy who can’t help but rest on a burgeoning collection of popular items that are taking over not only the American home, but possibly the planet itself:


Pillows.


You can’t go into any room in my house — except the bathroom, which could use something comfortable to sit on — without plopping on a packed pile of perfectly puffy pillows.


Thanks to my wife, Sue, the domestic diva here at the Zezimanse, there are, at last count, 33 pillows scattered about the premises.


A recent inventory revealed these startling numbers:


Seven on the bed in the master bedroom.


Six on the bed in another bedroom.


Two on the bed in a third bedroom.


Eight on the couch in the living room.


Two on a chair in the living room.


Six on the couch in the family room.


One on a chair in the family room.


One on another chair in the family room.


Grand total: 33 pillows.


There isn’t a flat surface in the entire place — with the exception of my head — that isn’t littered with pillows.


“Pillows make a house a home,” Sue explained.


“If we had any more pillows,” I said, “we’d need a second house to accommodate them all.”


But it turns out that Sue and I don’t have to apply for another mortgage because our good friends Hank and Angela Richert have even more pillows than we do.


“We’re up to 55,” Angela told me over the phone.


“Hold on,” Hank added. “I have to get a pillow off my head.”


In what could become the Pillow Podcast, or an HGTV show called “Pillow Pals,” we gave each other a FaceTime tour of our respective houses.


The first stop in Hank and Angela’s beautiful home, which Sue and I haven’t seen in person, was the master bedroom.


“We have eight pillows on the bed,” Angela said.


“They breed like rabbits,” Hank noted.


“Well,” I pointed out, “they do spend a lot of time in bed.”


“I’m still trying to train Hank to put them on the bed the right way,” Angela said. “I made them to match the valances. The pillows have to be going the same way as the pattern on the valance. Hank puts them on the bed the wrong way.”


“It’s a pain when you go to bed at night because you have to take all the pillows off the bed,” Hank said. “The question is: Where do you put them?”


“Baskets,” Angela answered.


“We husbands will end up being basket cases,” I said.


“We already are,” said Hank.


“It’s not just having pillows,” Angela said. “It’s how you dress your pillows. I have pillows dressed by season: spring, summer, fall and winter. There also are holiday pillows for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And pillows with messages like, ‘Nothing is more wonderful than family.’ It’s my mission to educate guys on pillow etiquette.”


“I hope there’s not a test,” Hank said. “I’d flunk for sure.”


“Hank refuses to fall in line,” Angela said. “It’s his way of protesting the pillows.”


I must say that all the pillows in Hank and Angela’s house are lovely, including those in the guest room.


“When you and Sue come to visit, that’s where you’ll stay,” said Angela. “You can relax on the pillows.”


“You can have some of ours, too,” Hank said.


“This is what happens when you’re retired,” said Angela. “You get to argue about pillows.”


There was no arguing that the Richerts have the Zezimas beat for pure pillow proficiency.


“This is our bed,” I said while showing it on my phone camera. “We have only seven pillows.”


“You’re falling down on the job,” Hank said.


“At least I’ll land on a pillow,” I responded.


The rest of the tour wasn’t nearly as impressive as what I saw at Hank and Angela’s house, which is a veritable pillow palace.


“You guys are the champs,” I acknowledged.


“Thanks,” said Hank. “But all this pillow talk is putting me to sleep.”


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 14, 2021

"Skate Expectations"

By Jerry Zezima


Because I have always thought that a double axel is something in my car and that ice is best used in cocktails, I’ve never been a big fan of figure skating.


But now I can’t get enough of it, especially after taking a lesson from two of the best figures in skating.


I refer to my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, who had never skated before but managed to show me how to glide, slide and land on my hide.


I hadn’t been on ice skates since the Ice Age, which I am old enough to remember. That’s why I was hoping to put on a mammoth performance for Chloe and Lilly, who begged me to take them skating when my wife, Sue, and I were at an event sponsored by the Southold Mothers’ Club, of which the girls’ mother, Lauren, who also is our younger daughter, is a member.


While Lauren, a talented photographer, was on a photo shoot at the farm where the festivities were taking place, Sue and I watched Chloe, 8, and Lilly, 5, who spent most of the afternoon outside with their friends, sipping hot chocolate and frolicking in bouncy houses — though not, of course, simultaneously.


As the day was winding down, the girls asked to go to the outdoor ice rink.


Sue said it was time to leave, so the girls turned to their old soft touch.


“Please, Poppie?” they pleaded.


Two minutes later, we were lacing on skates.


“This is the first time I have ever been ice skating!” Chloe told the attendant.


“Me, too!” Lilly chimed in.


“And you, sir?” the attendant asked me.


“I used to skate back in the day,” I replied. “Unfortunately, the day was Nov. 5, 1969.”


“It’s like riding a bike,” he said.


“That means I won’t forget how to fall on my keister,” I assured him.


The rink wasn’t quite like the one in Rockefeller Center, chiefly because it didn’t have real ice.


“It’s some sort of plastic that looks and feels like ice,” the attendant explained. “But these are real ice skates.”


The only one not wearing them was Sue, who was given a pair of foot covers that resembled shower caps and went over her sneakers.


As soon as I hit the ice, or whatever it was, the ice, or whatever it was, hit me.


Down I went. Luckily, I didn’t land on my head, which would have broken the rink. Instead, I had to take the humiliation sitting down.


When I struggled to my feet, Chloe said, “Hold my hand, Poppie.”


Lilly came over and held my other hand.


“We won’t let you fall again,” she promised.


The novices were giving the old-timer a lesson.


“Let’s do a figure 8,” I suggested.


“What’s that?” Chloe asked.


When I explained the basic ice skating move, Lilly said, “We can do two figure 8s.”


“That would be a figure 16,” said Chloe, who, unlike her grandfather, is a whiz at math.


Pushing my luck, I tried to do a camel spin, which sounds like a smelly form of desert transportation, and did a perfectly executed belly flop.


“Poppie, you need more practice,” Chloe said sympathetically while helping me up.


As a hockey fan, I imagined I was lifting the Stanley Cup — with assistance from the girls, of course.


Then, because I somehow managed remain vertical, I recalled sportscaster Al Michaels’ famous call when the United States shocked the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”


The girls and I spent the rest of the session performing moves that would have impressed Olympic judges if they had been members of the mothers’ club.


I even danced with one of the plastic penguins that were supposed to aid shaky skaters like yours truly.


Finally, it was time to go.


“You did OK, Poppie,” Chloe said as we took off our skates.


“For an old guy,” Lilly added.


“Thank you, girls,” I said. “I had fun, but my knees are a little sore.”


“Maybe,” Chloe said, “you should put some ice on them.”


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 7, 2021

"Hold the Phone, It's the Cops"

By Jerry Zezima


The call came in at 1:54 p.m.


“We are at the location,” I reported. “Request backup.”


“Who is this?” the police dispatcher asked.


It was me, plainclothes officer Jerry Zezima, star of the new real-life cop show “CSI: Columnist Stakeout Idiocy.”


The premiere episode began a few nights before when my partner, Sue Zezima, who also happens to be my wife, lost her cellphone.


Thanks to some brilliant detective work, for which I must modestly take credit, it was determined that the item in question was stolen at the gym, where Sue had gone for the kind of rigorous training that not only cops must go through but also wives who routinely battle cumbersome vacuum cleaners, heavy soup pots and, worst of all, lazy husbands.


After calling the service provider to disable the phone, which contained such valuable information as shopping coupons and photos of our grandchildren, we traced it to an address about half an hour away.


Our next move was to go to our local police precinct and report the theft.


“We put a trace on the phone,” Sue told the desk sergeant.


“Where is it?” he asked.


When Sue gave him the location, the cop said, “Oh, shoot.”


Except he didn’t say “shoot.”


“That’s a rough neighborhood,” he informed us.


“What should we do?” I asked.


“Go to the location,” the desk sergeant said.


“I thought you said it was a rough neighborhood,” I stammered.


“It is,” he replied. “Go there, park down the street from the address and call us. We’ll send a car.”


“Will there be any cops in the car?” I wondered.


“Yes,” the sergeant assured me. “Good luck.”


The next day, Sue and I got ready for our first stakeout.


I wore black, the preferred color of those in special operations. I just hoped I wouldn’t need a special operation for gunshot wounds. I also wore shades, which didn’t help much because it was raining.


Sue wore a gray hoodie.


“You’re a girl in the hood,” I said.


“And you’re impossible,” she responded.


“Copy that,” I said before starting the motor of our unmarked vehicle. “Let’s roll.”


We drove to the location, parked a block away and called the cops. Half an hour later, a car showed up. Officers Gallagher and O’Leary got out and walked over. I rolled down the window.


“What’s going on?” Officer Gallagher inquired.


“We’re here to nab a perpetrator,” I responded.


“Huh?” Officer O’Leary said.


I explained the situation.


“It’s our first stakeout,” I said. “We’re rookies.”


“I can see that,” said Officer Gallagher.


“This is my partner,” I told the cops, pointing to Sue.


“And it was your phone that was stolen?” Officer O’Leary asked.


“Yes,” Sue replied. “It’s red.”


“You were at the gym, right?” Officer O’Leary said.


“Yes,” said Sue. “I was in a hurry to get home because I didn’t want to miss ‘Chicago Fire.’ ”


“Of course,” I added with a wink, “our favorite is ‘Chicago P.D.’ ”


“Of course,” Officer O’Leary said.


“We’re going to the address to check things out,” Officer Gallagher said. “You stay here.”


“10-4,” I said.


The officers got back in their squad car, drove down the street and parked in front of the house where the alleged thief resided. They knocked on the door, but I couldn’t see what was happening.


“I hope they crack the case,” I told Sue.


We waited for about 15 minutes. Finally, the cops drove back to our car.


“Did you get the phone?” I asked.


“No,” Officer Gallagher answered. “A nice couple lives there. They seemed like normal people. But we did scare the pants off them. The man even called his son, who wasn’t home. The son said, ‘Why would I go out of town to steal a phone?’ There wasn’t much more we could do.”


“I guess this is now a cold case,” I said.


“I guess so,” said Officer O’Leary, who handed us a report.


“I’ll call your precinct and put in a good word for you,” I said. “Maybe you’ll get a promotion to sergeant or admiral or something.”


“Thanks,” said Officer Gallagher, adding that he and Officer O’Leary see cases like ours every day.


“How come you don’t have your own cop show?” I asked.


“It would be pretty boring,” Officer Gallagher said.


With that, the men in blue drove away. Sue and I did the same.


The first and last episode of “CSI: Columnist Stakeout Idiocy” had come to an end.


“At least,” I said with a shrug, “I didn’t get arrested for impersonating an officer.”


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, October 31, 2021

"The Pajama Game"

By Jerry Zezima


Every day, no matter what time I get up, I look like I just rolled out of bed. And nobody sees me, not even my wife, Sue, who either is still sleeping peacefully or is secretly awake and waiting for me to get up and make the coffee.


But on a recent morning, several astonished people saw my disheveled self because I ran errands in the pajamas I bought from my granddaughters’ school fundraiser.


Chloe, who is in third grade, and Lilly, who is in kindergarten, were selling such fantastic and indispensable items as wrapping paper, which Sue bought, and nuts, which I am, so I shelled out (sorry) some money for a jar of them.


Also in the brochure were pajamas, which I had never seen when the girls’ mother, Lauren, who also happens to be our younger daughter, brought home school fundraisers.


She and her older sister, Katie, almost succeeded in bankrupting Sue and me with sales pitches for magazines, toys, games and other things we didn’t need or even want but bought anyway because we feared being known as the cheapest parents in town.


Instead, we ended up being the poorest.


When Katie and Lauren reached high school, they not only were still selling stuff but went to class every day wearing plaid flannel pajama bottoms, the hot style of the time.


Because the girls thought I was the most uncool man in America, I decided to prove them wrong. So one day, I wore pajamas to work.


Before I got there, however, Sue sent me out on some errands.


Everywhere I went — the bank, the post office and the newsroom — flummoxed onlookers thought I was off my rocker. But Katie and Lauren, for the only time in their lives, said I was a dude of a dad.


The memories flooded what little remains of my mind when I saw the pajamas being sold in the fundraiser that Chloe and Lilly brought home.


I purchased a pair, which featured plaid bottoms with the school logo, and a blue, long-sleeved top, also with the school logo.


When they arrived, I put them on, hit the sack and slept like a baby, or a log, or a grandfather who can no longer stay awake for the 11 o’clock news.


The next morning, I rolled out of bed — bright-tailed and bushy-eyed — and ran some errands.


My first stop was the gas station, where Chris, who manned the cash register, said my PJs were very stylish.


“They look comfy,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have kids and has never bought anything from a school fundraiser. “But you’re not the only guy I have seen pumping gas in pajamas. A lot of people do it, mainly at night. But yours are definitely the nicest.”


Next I went to the store to buy a birthday card for Sue and saw Christina, a shift manager who said, “You look good. I like the colors. You’re very fashionable.”


Christina said she has bought items from many school fundraisers.


“You can’t say no,” she told me.


“Have you ever bought pajamas?” I asked.


“Yes,” Christina answered. “In fact, my husband wore fundraiser pajamas last night.”


From there I went to the post office for a book of stamps and saw Renata, a friendly clerk who said, “You look good.”


“Do I have your stamp of approval?” I wondered.


“Yes,” replied Renata, who said she once bought pajamas from her daughter’s school fundraiser. “They’re hanging up. I don’t wear them much — especially out in public.”


My last stop was the bank, where a nice officer named Sharon said my pajamas looked terrific.


“When my daughter was in elementary school, I bought magazines, candy and — my favorite — cookies,” Sharon said. “There were sweatshirts in the fundraisers, but no pajamas. I like yours. And I like that you wore them to the bank. Your granddaughters will be proud of you.”


When I got home, I told Sue about my PJ adventure.


“I got a lot of compliments,” I reported. “And I didn’t get arrested.”


“That’s always a good thing,” she replied.


When I asked when the nuts would arrive, Sue looked at me and said, “The biggest one is already here.”


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, October 24, 2021

"High School Reunion: The Big 5-Oh!"

By Jerry Zezima


There is a saying among people of a certain age (67, which is the new 47) that we’re like fine wine: We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.


This adage was proven beyond a reasonable doubt — even though there is doubt that I have ever been reasonable — at my 50th high school reunion, where I drank some mighty fine wine and my wife, Sue, won two bottles of the stuff.


Sue and I attended Stamford Catholic High School, Class of 1971, where Sue was the epitome of class and I was the class clown.


So when it came time to get together with fellow classmates to mark half a century since we graduated, we headed to our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, for a weekend of fun, frolic and — with apologies to Marcel Proust, an author I was supposed to read in high school but never did — remembrance of things past.


The reunion committee, headed by Vivian Vitale, did a tremendous job of coordinating the event, which drew about 100 people. They included Hank Richert, who was my college roommate for three years and was the best man at my wedding to Sue, as I was at Hank’s wedding to his wife, Angela, who didn’t go to Catholic High but, as Hank’s guest, added wit and elegance to the proceedings. They are dear friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.


Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, Sue and Angela looked beautiful. Hank and I looked almost respectable. Everyone else looked good, too. And this wasn’t astigmatism talking. Or even the wine.


“It’s a shame that our kids are getting older but we’re not,” I told one classmate. “I feel sorry for them, but what are you going to do?”


The reason I couldn’t identify him was that, at first, I didn’t know who he was. That’s because, the evening before the reunion, we attended a meet-and-greet at Zody’s 19th Hole, a great restaurant where, unfortunately, there were no name tags for us to identify other attendees.


“You don’t know who I am,” a second guy said to me.


“Do you know who you are?” I asked.


“Yes,” he replied.


“Prove it,” I said.


He pulled out his wallet and showed me his police badge (he’s a retired cop), which had his name.


“You’re Bob Shawinsky,” I told him.


“That’s right!” he said.


“See?” I announced triumphantly. “I do know who you are.”


I’m lucky he didn’t arrest me. But we did have some laughs, a sure sign of our arrested development.


Another guy, Don Sabia, gave me his business card, which contained his alleged occupation: “Consigliere.”


I kissed his ring.


It was a fantastic evening, but the best was yet to come.


The following night, we had the reunion at the Stamford Yacht Club, which went all out for us with dining, dancing and, yes, name tags.


“Zez!” more than one person exclaimed, using my most popular nickname (and the only one that can be repeated here). “What have you been up to?”


“No good,” I replied each time.


It didn’t surprise anybody because, 50 years ago, I spent so much time in the principal’s office that the administration could have charged me rent.


“I was on the dishonor roll,” I told a classmate.


“You graduated anyway,” she pointed out.


“They couldn’t wait to get rid of me,” I said.


“You look great,” another classmate said. “What’s your secret?”


“Spackle,” I replied. “It hides the wrinkles.”


Bridget Ormond Kopek, who was on the reunion committee, announced that we were going to have an “organ recital” before the formal festivities.


“You can discuss your organs, backs, eyes and any other medical problems,” she explained.


One guy called himself the “bionic man” because he has had knee and hip replacements and lots of other surgeries.


“There isn’t too much of the original me left,” he said.


Another classmate complained of constant soreness.


“What do you do for joint trouble?” he asked.


“Move to a new joint,” I suggested.


Many of the conversations centered on grandchildren. Sue and I have five — the most, as far as I know, of anyone there.


“And,” I told a group standing next to the bar, “they’re all more mature than I am.”


Retirement also was a big topic of conversation.


“I don’t know how I could have stopped working when I never really started,” I said to a couple of classmates.


“Do you get in your wife’s hair?” I was asked.


“Yes,” I responded. “Shampoo doesn’t help.”


After dinner, it was time to hit the dance floor.


“Do you have your dancing shoes on?” a woman asked.


“I sure do,” I said. “And they still fit my two left feet.”


Sue and I boogied to “My Girl,” which was appropriate because she has been mine for 43 years.


“You missed our wedding song,” Sue said, referring to “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”


“Sorry,” I said. “I was in the bathroom swapping funny stories with a few of the guys.”


We stayed out on the floor for several more oldies until the raffle, which was held to defray expenses.


Among the items on the list were three copies of my latest book, “Every Day Is Saturday.”


“I’ll sign them,” I promised, “which will reduce their value even more.”


The most coveted items were bottles of wine.


When the number on one of Sue’s tickets was called, she shrieked, “That’s me! I won! I never win anything!”


Lightning — actually, cabernet — struck twice when Sue won again.


“This is your lucky night,” I told her.


It was a lucky night for everyone because the reunion couldn’t have been better.


To all our classmates of 50 years, a toast of wine and rousing cheers!


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima