Friday, April 17, 2009

"Beating Around the Bush"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

In "Duck Soup," the Marx Brothers’ 1933 war satire, Groucho is reading an important document when he says to Zeppo, "A 4-year-old child could understand this." Zeppo nods in agreement, at which point Groucho adds, "Run out and find me a 4-year-old child. I can’t make head or tail out of it."

That’s the way I felt recently when I went to war with a butterfly bush that threatened to attack the house and I needed the help of a 4-year-old child to defeat it.

The tyke was Brian Heidrich Jr., son of my landscaper, who came over with his crew to clean my yard and to slay the floral monster that made Audrey II, the man-eating plant in "Little Shop of Horrors," look like a petunia.

As Brian Sr. knows from his annual cleanups, my green thumb is really a fungus. That’s why, under my tender care, the lawn looks like it was manicured with a flamethrower. In fact, the whole place has gone to seed, so this year I asked Brian Sr. to drop some seed, as well as fertilizer (which I usually spread around pretty well myself) and lime, though not the kind that goes well with a gin and tonic, which I like to have in the summer after I have mown what little grass remains.

But the main job was getting rid of that butterfly bush, which was big enough to swallow a man (in this case, me) whole. It also drew so many winged creatures that our property often looked like something out of "The Birds." I was the birdbrain because every plant, flower and blade of grass I touched died except, of course, for the butterfly bush.

Recently, my wife, Sue, who has grown several normal-size butterfly bushes around the yard, asked me to get rid of the big one so she would have room for a garden. It was a frightening task because the thing was about 12 feet tall and couldn’t be transplanted. Its branches, which were more like tentacles, extended across the side yard and were within striking distance of the laundry room door.

At first I tried hedge clippers. The bush just laughed at me, although it could have been the wind. Then I got an electric trimmer. It was like using a plastic knife on a giant sequoia.

Finally, I called Heidrich Landscaping of Coram, N.Y. A few days later, a truck pulled up, followed by a car, out of which stepped the two Brians. I’m pretty sure Brian Sr. was driving.

"This is Mr. Zezima," Brian said to his son, who was clearly unimpressed. But being a little gentleman, he shook my hand. Then he said to his father, "I want to help."

Brian Sr. called over one of his workers, Luke Martinez, and asked him to give the young man something to do.

"Is he your assistant?" I asked Luke, who patted little Brian on the head and said, "He’s my boss."

"Are you Luke’s boss?" I asked little Brian. He smiled and nodded.

As head of the operation, little Brian supervised while Luke used an ax to chop down the butterfly bush. "Is Luke doing a good job?" I asked little Brian, who chirped, "Yep!"

To show he is not too important to get his hands dirty, little Brian helped cart away the branches, most of which dwarfed him. Still, he managed to drag a few of them to the truck. He also brought over a rake so Luke could smooth out the area where the bush had stood.

"If the bush hadn’t been taken down, it would have gone through the door," Brian Sr. said. "You could have had it arrested for breaking and entering."

Thanks to little Brian’s expert supervision, there was no need to call the police. "You did a good job," I said to little Brian. He grinned proudly and replied, "I know."

Before the Brians left, Brian Sr. gave me a few yard-care pointers, like keeping the flower beds clean and making sure the lawn gets enough water.

"A 4-year-old child could do it," I said. "And if I need help, I know just where to find one."

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Show Me the Money"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

In these challenging economic times, when a middle-class guy like myself can’t get a federal bailout or an AIG bonus, even though my tax dollars are helping to pay for it all, it’s nice to know that there are some people who are willing to give me lots of money.

I refer to the kind folks who have been sending me e-mails from all over the world with an offer I can’t, they hope, refuse: In exchange for my assistance in transferring huge sums of cash to the United States, which would entail giving them vital personal information, these generous individuals will give me a significant percentage of the millions of dollars in their foreign bank accounts.

They include Dr. Bakary Sawadogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa; Mr. Zuma Camara, who is from Liberia but now lives in the United Arab Emirates; Mr. Egor Fillipenko, who works for a large oil company in Moscow, Russia; Sgt. Joey Jones, who is stationed with the U.S. Army in Iraq; Mr. Ken Ahia, an attorney representing a late relative of mine somewhere in the Middle East; and Miss Jessica Yao, a desperate young woman who lives in the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, formerly known as the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

To all of these people I responded with the following message: "Show me the money."

You can imagine my surprise and delight when I actually heard back from some of them. Here is the reply I got from Mr. Ahia:

"Dear Zezima,

"I am Barrister Ken Ahia, a solicitor at law. I am the personal attorney to the late Mr. Ali Zezima, who bears the same last name with you, a national of your country.

"See my attached message.

"Best regards,

"Barrister Ken Ahia"

Naturally, the attached message contained a plea to help Mr. Ahia transfer a large sum of money to the United States through my bank account. Here is my reply:

"Dear Barrister Ahia:

"Cousin Ali is dead? I am desolated beyond words at this terrible news! Is it true he died in a tragic bungee jumping accident? Or that he was bitten in a sensitive area by a poisonous spider? Or that he was caught in flagrante delicto (Flagrante Delicto is a popular resort where cousin Ali often went to escape his legal troubles) by the husband of the wealthy woman with whom he was having a torrid affair?

"Please write back to fill me in on the scandalous details and to arrange to send all of his money to my bank account here in the United States.

"Best regards,

"Jerry Zezima"

Strangely, I have not had further contact with Mr. Ahia. But I did hear from Miss Jessica Yao, an orphaned college student who has been targeted for murder by the thugs who killed her father, a wealthy cocoa merchant. They want to get their bloody hands on her father’s fortune, which is why she wishes to transfer the money, through me, to the United States. Miss Yao wrote to me, in part, as follows:

"My Dear,

"Thanks for your prompt responds and my heartily greetings to you this day. I am glad for your interest in helping me with the funds transfer and investments in your country. Please promise me that you will not betray me when my inheritance is transferred into your account. ... God bless you.

"Best wishes with love,

"Yours sincerely,

"Miss Jessica Yao"

Here is my reply:

"Dearest Jessica:

"It grieves me to read of your troubles, which have touched my heart. I was already touched in the head. You probably think I am an easy touch, which is why you have written to me.

"I am a newspaper columnist who had to take a vow of poverty when I went into journalism, so I could use the money. Your story will be of great interest to readers around the world, including, I am sure, the authorities.

"Please respond quickly, dear one, for I desire to transact with you. It will be chaste, unless you are chased, by the police, who may want to arrest you for fraud, in which case I will have the funds to bail you out. At the very least, I’ll send you a postcard from the new vacation home your money will enable me to buy. God bless you.

"Best wishes with love,

"Yours sincerely,

"Jerry Zezima"

Unfortunately, I have not had further correspondence with Miss Yao or any of the other nice people who wanted to make me rich. But I am not giving up. Maybe, with the help of our elected officials, I can get some money from AIG.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima