Sunday, February 21, 2021

"A Shot in the Dark"

By Jerry Zezima

After weeks of trying to get the coronavirus vaccine, during which my wife, Sue, and I spent almost all of our waking hours online, on the phone or on edge, I am happy and utterly flabbergasted to announce that our efforts were worth a shot, even though we haven’t gotten it yet.

That’s because we finally got appointments for our initial injections. And we owe it all to our daughters, Katie and Lauren, who had been needling us (sorry, but it’s true) to keep at it. Ultimately, after realizing their parents were either unlucky or incompetent, they signed us up themselves.

The real reason we were unable to get appointments for so long is because we live in New York, a state that had been a global hot spot for the virus and then became a model for how to deal with it, but which now, in arranging vaccine distribution, is a total shot show.

Sue and I began our interminable search for an appointment when we registered on the state’s COVID-19 website. Because we don’t have any underlying conditions (we soon developed overlying conditions that included raging headaches, jittery nerves and intestinal spasms that could be calmed only with over-the-counter medications such as wine), we were not in the first group of people eligible for the vaccine.

We were classified as 1b, which initially included people 75 and older but which was lowered for those 65 and up.

“1b or not 1b? That is the question,” I told Sue.

“Here’s the answer,” she said. “We’re both 67, so we qualify.”

We thus embarked on our long day’s journey into night, getting up with the chickens (the only ones we have are in the freezer) and staying up to the witching hour (or something that rhymes with it) just to see if we could get appointments on the state website.

We also called the “special” hotline number, which turned out to be a cold line because Sue once got a person who said, essentially, that it would be a cold day in hell before we got vaccinated.

“Good luck!” the woman said before hanging up.

The rest of the time, we were directed to the state website, where we had to reinsert our registration information only to find out that no appointments were available at any of the sites in our area.

The only two places in New York State where appointments were available were hundreds of miles away, both near the Canadian border.

“It might be easier to renew our passports and get vaccinated in Canada, eh!” I said with a horrible French-Canadian accent.

Sue shook her head. That was my reaction, too, when I cleverly figured out that even if we got appointments at one of those upstate sites, they might not be on the same day, which would involve two long round trips, and we’d have to go back for our second shots, which would involve two more.

So we registered with two national pharmacy chains where, of course, no appointments were available because they didn’t even have vaccines.

In the meantime, Katie and Lauren kept telling us to go back on the state and pharmacy websites every day, all day, stopping only to eat or go to the bathroom, and constantly click, even after seeing that no appointments were available, in case something opened up.

Two things became disturbingly clear: (a) we were in grave danger of getting carpal tunnel syndrome and (b) the pandemic would be over before we got vaccinated.

Then, miraculously, on the same day, Katie and Lauren, who had been searching, too, got appointments for us. They are right around the corner at Stony Brook University.

Sue and I are grateful to our daughters for helping us get our first shots, which will be given soon.

Until then, we are celebrating with shots of our own: blackberry brandy for me, cinnamon whisky for Sue.

And we don’t even need an appointment.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"Eggings Over Easy"

By Jerry Zezima

I have always been considered a good egg, even though most of my jokes are rotten. That’s why I squawked when I found out that chicken-hearted punks had recently egged a bunch of cars in my neighborhood.

One of those vehicles belongs to my son-in-law, who had parked it in my driveway. Feathers ruffled, I called the local police precinct and was connected to a cop whose puns are as criminal as mine.

Officer Vasilecozzo, who works in dispatch, took my complaint over the phone.

“Can you crack the case?” I asked.

“I think so,” he replied, presumably with a straight face, “but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket.”

“These miscreants have obviously run a-fowl of the law,” I told him.

“I’ll have to scramble to catch them,” Officer V said.

“What if they’re poachers?” I wondered.

“Then they’re on the run,” he responded.

“You sound like a hard-boiled detective,” I said.

“You’re just egging me on,” said Officer V.

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to henpeck you.”

“Let’s end this game of chicken,” he said.

“OK,” I said. “The beak stops here.”

“Good,” said Officer V, who began peppering me with questions. “Do you have a ring camera?” he asked.

“Why,” I wanted to know, “are we dealing with a crime ring?”

“If you don’t cut this out,” he said, “I’m coming over there to wring a confession out of you. Now what else can you tell me?”

Risking incarceration, I said, “There are spent shells in my driveway. And the back of my son-in-law’s car is covered in sticky residue. It looks like the work of hardened criminals.”

“Or,” Officer V said, “they could just be kids on bikes.”

I told him that my wife, a fan of TV cop shows, had done some investigating of her own and discovered on her daily walks that only red vehicles had been targeted.

“A red car up the street was egged,” I said. “And a red truck around the corner was also hit.”

“What color is your son-in-law’s car?” Officer V asked.

“Red,” I said.

“He must be seeing red,” the cop quipped.

“He’s blue in the face,” I remarked.

Officer V said he would file a report and asked me to get back to him if anything else happened.

That night, my son-in-law’s car was egged again. The next day, I called the precinct and spoke with Officer V.

“You must be shellshocked,” he said.

“I’m walking on eggshells,” I told him. “I’d like to see these guys fry.”

“That would never pan out,” he assured me.

“The eggs stink,” I said. “If this were a cop show, it would be ‘Law & Odor.’ ”

Officer V said his favorite cop show is “Lucifer.”

“I haven’t seen that one,” I said.

“It’s really good,” he told me. “But so far, none of the episodes have been about egg throwers.”

“What are you going to do about the ones in my neighborhood?” I asked.

“We’ll send out a patrol car,” Officer V promised. “Maybe the police presence will be enough to deter them from continuing their messy activities.”

“Will you let me know if you make any arrests?” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “If we catch these guys, the yolk will be on them.”

Officer V’s plan seems to have worked because there haven’t been any further eggings.

When I called back to thank him, Officer V declined to take credit and said a coordinated effort between police and the community is what helps stem such quality-of-life crimes.

“Don’t be so modest,” I told him. “This is really a feather in your cap.”

“I appreciate it,” said Officer V. “But more than likely, these guys just chickened out.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"They Do an Ice Job"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to shoveling snow, I am a wuss, which stands for “wait until spring starts.”

Unfortunately, I have never been able to convince my wife, Sue, of this brilliant philosophy in the two-plus decades we have lived in our house.

Sue knows I have been perpetrating snow jobs my whole life. In fact, I was born during a blizzard. So whenever we’ve had a winter storm, or a nor’easter, or a “snow event,” as meteorologists like to say, I have bundled up like I was going on an Arctic expedition and dug out the cars, cleared the front walk and shoveled the driveway without collapsing into a snowdrift and being found frozen stiff the next morning like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

I used to have a small snow blower that turned out to be the Little Engine That Couldn’t. My former neighbor Ron would often come over to help me with his large snow blower and kindly gave it to me when he moved, but it, too, has gone to the Great Snowy Beyond.

So I’ve had to rely on my trusty shovel, which is a glorified soup spoon. I used it to get rid of the eight inches of wet, heavy snow we got during a pre-Christmas storm. After having a shot of blackberry brandy to stave off coronary thrombosis, I finally decided to hire someone to plow the driveway so I could stay inside and get plowed myself.

That brave someone is Justin Felix, 19, the wunderkind operator of North Coram Snow Removal on Long Island, New York.

Justin proved to be a lifesaver (wintergreen, of course) because we recently got 15 inches of snow that could have stopped a polar bear in its tracks.

Assisting Justin were his father, Nick, 48, a banker who co-founded the side business with Justin several years ago, and Justin’s girlfriend, Kate Stevens, 18, who worked just as hard and efficiently as the guys.

In fact, Kate wielded a shovel with lightning speed, clearing the front walk in less time than it takes me to put my boots on.

“What’s your secret?” I asked.

“I just lift and go,” Kate responded.

“If I tried that,” I told her, “I’d have to be lifted into an ambulance so I could go to the hospital.”

Justin and Nick, meanwhile, each manned a three-stage snow blower that, said Nick, “can cut through ice.”

“The ice isn’t as thick as my skull, which would probably break the machine,” I noted.

Justin smiled and fired up his snow blower, which blew snow (hence, the name) directly into my face when I was stupid enough to stand in the way.

“I have brain freeze,” I explained.

Justin, an enterprising young man who also is an investor and works for an affiliate marketing company, started in snow removal when he was 15.

“I wanted to help neighbors and make a little bit of money, too,” Justin said.

“When I was that age,” I told him, “I didn’t even help around the house.”

That probably makes me the laziest of North Coram’s dozen or so customers, some of whom are fellow geezers who have thrown their backs out while trying to throw snow.

“I’ve also heard some cursing when snowplows leave huge piles at the end of their driveways,” Justin said.

I didn’t curse, which I have been known to do in such extreme situations, but I did help by moving the cars so the terrific trio could finish clearing my driveway.

“Fantastic job!” I gushed as I paid Justin a very reasonable amount of cold cash. “You just saved me from having a heart attack.”

“Next time there’s a storm,” he promised, “we’ll be back.”

“Take it from a real flake,” I said. “There’s no business like your snow business.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 31, 2021

"The Poppie Show"

By Jerry Zezima

If there’s one good thing that can be said about the pandemic (the bad things can’t be repeated here), it’s that it has kept me off the streets.

That means, unfortunately, that I can’t get out to see my grandchildren. So I have stayed home and become a TV star.

“The Poppie Show,” named for me because all five kids call me Poppie (adults call me things that also can’t be repeated here), airs regularly on FaceTime. It’s an interactive, on-demand program that allows me and the children to see each other, something we haven’t done in person, in the case of the youngest three, for more than a year.

What’s worse is that the youngest two are twins who are a year and a half old, so it will give you some idea of what I have been missing.

The same goes for my wife, Sue, whom the kids call Nini. She’s sometimes a guest on “The Poppie Show.” It helps boost the ratings.

One recent episode began when I got a call from our older daughter, Katie, who said that Zoe, one of the twins, was saying “Poppie” and wanted to see me.

Zoe popped up on the phone screen with a big smile.

“Hi, Zoe!” I gushed, smiling back at her. “It’s Poppie!”

Katie held up a family photo collage and asked Zoe, “Where’s Poppie?”

Zoe pointed to my picture and said, “Poppie!”

Her younger (by 25 minutes) brother, Quinn, also popped up on the screen, flashing a big smile. He said my name, too.

“They’ve joined the Cult of Poppie,” said Katie, whose son Xavier has been a member for all of his nearly 4 years.

Xavier recently sent me an original artwork for my birthday. Before that, he sent me another watercolor he made all by himself. It’s modern art, so I don’t know exactly what is depicted, but both pieces are beautiful. Since I don’t have enough postage to donate them to the Louvre, I taped them to the wall in my office at home.

Naturally, the drawings were featured on “The Poppie Show.”

“He wanted to send them to you,” said Katie, who, in an earlier episode, told me to watch the mail.

“For you, Poppie,” Xavier said.

It was the highlight of the show, which is billed as a comedy (the laughs are at my expense since I’m less mature than the children), but there is some drama, too, because Sue and I see how much the kids, especially Zoe and Quinn, have grown but sadly can’t be there to toddle along with them.

The last time we saw them in person, right after New Year’s of 2020, Xavier was toddling and the twins were infants.

Our oldest grandchild, Chloe, who’s almost 8, and her sister, Lilly, 4, are frequent guests on “The Poppie Show.” In fact, they call me all the time so we can sing, dance and be silly, which adds considerably to the entertainment value of the program.

Our younger daughter, Lauren, sometimes makes a cameo appearance, usually in the background while she cooks dinner or cleans the house.

Sue and I have visited the girls a couple of times in recent months, since they live a lot closer to us than Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, whom we have to get on an airplane to visit. We stay outside, we keep a safe social distance and we all wear masks. But most of the time, we see each other on the small screen.

One of these days, everyone will be vaccinated, the pandemic will be over and I can see, hug, kiss, sing, dance and be silly with my grandchildren in person.

Then “The Poppie Show” will be canceled, which will be all right with me. Being a hands-on grandfather beats being a TV star any day.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 24, 2021

"The Bucks Stop Here"

By Jerry Zezima

A major American bank where I don’t have any money because, unfortunately, I don’t have any money has hired Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson, major American actors who have a lot more money than I do, to ask me this important financial question:

“What’s in your wallet?”

The answer, Jennifer and Samuel L., is $3.

But at least it is tucked into a brand-new wallet I just bought because my old wallet was falling apart despite the lamentable fact that there was never much money in it.

My wife, Sue, who manages the money in our house, where we still live because she pays the mortgage every month, took me shopping at a store that specializes in handbags, luggage and accessories such as wallets that really ought to hold more than $3.

“Is there any money in here?” I asked the very nice, witty and helpful store manager, Laurabeth Collins, as I peeked inside one of the wallets on display.

“No, I took it out,” Laurabeth replied. “You should have come this morning.”

“I may buy it anyway because I need a new one,” I said, taking out my old wallet to show Laurabeth.

“I’ve seen worse,” she told me.

“The problem,” I said, “is that it’s too thick, like my skull, but it hurts the opposite end when I sit down.”

Laurabeth nodded and said, “If you don’t have any money in there, what’s making it so thick?”

“Cards,” I answered. “Credit cards, insurance cards, Medicare cards, appointment cards, everything except playing cards, which would make the wallet even thicker except I’m not playing with a full deck.”

Laurabeth nodded again and said, “I can save you some money and solve your card problem at the same time.”

“How?” I asked eagerly.

“With a wallet set, which costs less than just this one wallet,” she said, showing me a box with a wallet, a card insert and a keychain. “You can carry the card insert separately,” Laurabeth noted, “so your opposite end won’t hurt when you sit down.”

“That would be good for the bottom line,” I said.

Sue and Laurabeth exchanged glances.

“Or,” said Laurabeth, “maybe you’d like a sling bag.”

“What’s it for,” I asked, “a slingshot?”

“No,” Laurabeth said. “It’s for guys who have too much stuff. My husband is always saying to me, ‘Put this in your bag, put that in your bag.’ I told him, ‘Get your own!’ ”

“You mean it’s like a pocketbook for men?” I asked.

“It’s more like a small backpack,” Laurabeth said as she showed me some. “Then there are man bags, which are bigger.”

“What do women carry credit cards in?” I inquired.

“Zip-around wallets,” Sue answered. “I love mine.”

“Me, too!” Laurabeth said in a wifely bonding. “I also keep my membership cards in there.”

“I don’t belong anywhere,” I admitted.

“Poor guy,” Laurabeth said sympathetically.

“No, I mean I belong at home,” I said, looking at Sue for assurance, “but I don’t belong to a health club or any other place that would have to lower its standards to accept me.”

“That means your card insert won’t be too thick,” said Sue, who suggested I get the wallet set. “And if you don’t use the keychain, I’ll take it.”

“Sold!” I told Laurabeth, who also sold me a shaving kit at a big discount.

“This is your lucky day,” she said. “You got a wallet set and a shaving kit and you saved a lot of money.”

“And I still have $3 left over,” I said.

“What are you going to spend it on?” Laurabeth asked.

“Lottery tickets,” I answered. “I want to have a good answer the next time Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson ask me what’s in my wallet.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to mad scientists, there was no one madder than the Invisible Man, whose Hollywood smile couldn’t be seen because, of course, he was wearing invisible braces.

I have a Hollywood smile because I have been wearing invisible braces for several years. So when one of my two retainers recently cracked, which was probably the result of a wisecrack, I watched as Dr. Max Sanacore, who isn’t a mad scientist (otherwise, he’d be known as Mad Max) but does work in a laboratory, made me a new one.

Actually, Dr. Max is in his last year at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, where he is the latest in a string of student orthodontists who have made sure that my pearly whites stay on the straight and narrow.

The root (see: wisecrack, above) of the problem was that my right upper lateral incisor began to rotate like the tires on my car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to a mechanic. To compound matters, my left central lower incisor started to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the key difference being that tourists couldn’t see it because I always had my foot in my mouth.

I went to Stony Brook and got invisible braces, a pair of clear plastic devices that slowly but effectively straightened my two wayward teeth. It was a lot better than getting the metal kind, which look like miniature railroad tracks and put beer drinkers like me in danger of being hit by flying refrigerator magnets.

After the bottom retainer split, without so much as a goodbye note, I went back to Stony Brook and saw Dr. Max.

“First,” he said as I settled into the chair, “I have to make an impression.”

“I think you’re very impressive,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Now please open your mouth.”

Peering into the oral equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Dr. Max filled a metal tray with alginate, a gooey substance that contains seaweed, which made me want to cry for kelp, and pressed it over my bottom teeth.

“Can you breathe?” he asked.

“Ong, ong, ong,” I responded affirmatively.

For a full minute, I drooled with the force of Niagara Falls, which at my age happens with alarming frequency.

When the molar eclipse was over, Dr. Max took me into a back room that looked like a laboratory where a mad scientist might conduct a hideous experiment on an unsuspecting patient whose brain would be transplanted into the head of a gorilla.

Fortunately for apes everywhere, I don’t have the kind of gray matter that could possibly do them any good. In fact, the gray matter that would become my new bottom retainer was being molded and heated by Dr. Max.

“You could train a monkey to do this,” he said.

“Not with my brain,” I replied.

Dr. Max, who has more than a smattering of smarts, originally studied engineering.

“On my last day of college, I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be an engineer. I want to be a dentist.’ So I came here,” said Dr. Max, who’s 30 and will graduate in June. “Then I’ll have to get a real job,” he added.

For now, he’s doing great work, the most important being the creation of my new bottom retainer. He showed me how to pour the alginate, put it in a vibrating machine to get the air bubbles out and heat it up in another machine so, he said, “it’s nice and malleable.” Then he trimmed it into shape.

Later that afternoon, the retainer was ready. I snapped it onto my bottom teeth.

“Perfect!” I exclaimed.

“Now you can keep your Hollywood smile,” said Dr. Max.

“Thanks,” I said. “The Invisible Man would be jealous.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"To Have and Have Knocks"

By Jerry Zezima

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Jerry who?

Jerry Christmas and happy New Year!

OK, so I just made up this lame attempt at humor, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in the next edition of “Knock, Knock! The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever,” which my wife, Sue, and I gave to our granddaughter Chloe for holiday ho, ho, hos.

Since then, Chloe, who’s 7 and a half and loves to laugh, which not only is true but also rhymes, has been calling me with knock, knock jokes.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said in her most recent call.

“Who’s there?” I answered.

“Weirdo,” said Chloe.

“Weirdo who?” I replied, convinced she was talking about me.

“Weirdo you think you’re going?”

“Ha ha!” we laughed in unison.

Chloe and her little sister, Lilly, who’s 4 and is a real pistol, with a sassy sense of humor and a mischievous grin, not only love to tell me jokes but routinely invite me to parties on FaceTime, which is the closest we get to seeing each other — without face masks and social distancing — in this age of viral quarantine.

“Poppie?” Lilly said on the screen while dressed like a fairy princess.

“Yes, honey?” I replied while attired in my pajamas.

“What’s Pinocchio’s name when he tells a joke?”



All three of us laughed at the witticism, which Lilly obviously made up all by herself. I was so proud of her!

People often ask me if I spoil my grandchildren.

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

I must admit, with all due modesty, that I have succeeded splendidly.

That was evident at our latest virtual party.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?” I replied.


“Owl who?”

“Owl be seeing you!”

More giggling.

“We’re having a picnic,” Lilly announced.

“What can I bring?” I asked.

“You can bring the telephone,” Lilly instructed.

Chloe, who like me was still in her pajamas, except hers were adorned with a castle while mine sported coffee stains, was eating a small bag of pita chips. So was Lilly. I had a bag of Bambas.

“Here, Lilly,” I said, pretending to feed her one of the peanut snacks through the screen.

“It’s in my head!” Lilly squealed.

Chloe and I chortled.

Lilly was on a roll, which didn’t surprise me because I had heard from my younger daughter, Lauren, who happens to be the girls’ mother, that when Lauren scolded Lilly for making a mess in the house, Lilly retorted: “You’re fired!”

“Lilly,” I said. “Did you fire Mommy?”

“Yes,” she responded, very seriously, without explanation.

I burst out laughing. Chloe laughed, too. Lilly kept a straight face for a few seconds. Then came that mischievous grin. She looked into the camera and said, “Poppie?”

“Yes, Lilly?”

“You’re a knucklehead!”

We all roared. At least I wasn’t fired.

While all this frivolity was going on, I was sipping coffee out of the mug the girls gave me for Christmas. It says: “Dad Jokes: Served fresh daily.”

But the jokes were on me.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?”


“Boo who?”

“Don’t cry, it’s just a joke.”

I laughed.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said again.

“Who’s there?”


“Olive who?”

Chloe smiled and said, “Olive you.”

I smiled back and said, “Olive you, too.”

Olive both girls, who have inherited Poppie’s propensity for jokes, silliness and just plain fun.

Someday, when this pandemic is over, we’ll get together and have a real party. Then we’ll open the book and tell each other jokes.

Take it from a goofy grandfather who graduated, magna cum laughter, from the School of Funny Knocks.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima