Friday, July 24, 2009

"Growing Pains"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Jerry, Jerry, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Not too badly considering I am more of a vegetable than anything I've planted this year.

Actually, the little patch of earth on the side of the house is the first garden I have ever had. My wife, Sue, who has a green thumb (she really ought to see a doctor), could grow tomatoes in Death Valley. I, on the other hand, which has a dirty thumb, am responsible for making parts of our property look like that famous desert.

So when the only plant I could not kill, a gigantic butterfly bush, was removed earlier this year, I decided to put in herbs (nobody named Herb was harmed during planting) and various veggies (not including broccoli and zucchini, which I will consume only at the point of a gun) and turn the place into a Garden of Eatin'.

I was inspired to get into agriculture, which is the only culture I have, by President Barack Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, who recently planted a White House garden that is approximately the size of Rhode Island.

Mine is somewhat smaller (83 by 64 inches, to be exact), but you have to start somewhere, and I didn't think the Secret Service would let me do so outside the Oval Office.

I went with Sue to one of those home-improvement warehouses to pick out what I wanted to plant.

"Do you like squash?" she asked as we walked through the garden department.

"I'd rather play tennis," I replied.

Sue ignored the remark and suggested we get vegetables I would actually eat, which narrowed the choices considerably. They included tomatoes, eggplants, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, string beans and cauliflowers. We also got parsley, as well as basil and rosemary. In fact, Basil, Rosemary and Herb are having a nice little menage a twine, which I am using to hold up the tomato plants.

The planting itself was pretty hard work. I was about to throw in the trowel when I realized I wouldn't see the fruits of my labors. And since tomatoes are also considered fruits, I wasn't taking any chances, even though they were tough rows to hoe.

Speaking of rows, I could have used a rowboat -- or maybe even an ark -- after we had what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights of rain, which nearly caused a flood of biblical proportions. Sue said it was God's way of telling me that I couldn't be trusted to water the garden.

I got the hint, however, and when the rain finally stopped, I began giving the garden a shower every evening. I give myself a shower every morning, but not outside.

To break up the monotony, I started talking to my tomato plants. But I stopped after I heard a report on the radio about how men can stunt the growth of their tomato plants when they talk to them. According to a study conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society in Surrey, England, tomato plants will respond to a woman's voice much better than they will to a man's and will grow up to an inch more when they hear soothing female sounds.

I thought only cauliflowers had ears, but I guess our world isn't called Mother Nature for nothing. When I told Sue about the study, she said, "Shall I go out to the garden and have a conversation with the tomato plants?"

She must have done so because we now have tomatoes the size of baseballs. (Imagine if it were basketball season.) I think the real reason the plants are doing so well, and haven't been affected by the current fungus that has ruined many tomato crops, is that I no longer tell them stupid jokes when I water the garden.

At any rate, because of my tender care, or perhaps despite it, my garden is growing just fine. We have had several delicious meals featuring string beans, jalapenos and parsley, and there will be plenty more when the tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and cauliflowers are ready to eat. Maybe then, if they're not too busy tending their own garden, we'll invite the Obamas over for dinner.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Color My World"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Because I have more gray matter on the outside of my head than I do on the inside, I am often asked why I don't dye my hair. "I do," I always respond. "I dye it gray so I'll seem more mature." To which people invariably say, "It's not working."

So when my barber, Maria Vieira, recently told me about a new kind of hair coloring treatment that covers enough of the gray to make you look younger but not enough so people will think you put shoe polish on your head, I decided to go for it. This wasn't just because my cranium resembled a snow-capped mountain peak, which could be why I frequently had brain freeze and was considered over the hill, but also because I wanted to see if anyone would notice that some of the snow melted.

As I sat in a chair at Charmed Salon & Spa in Miller Place, N.Y., Maria confirmed my theory that very few people, young or old, know what their original hair color was.

"They range from teenagers who have already dyed their hair a dozen times to seniors who went gray years ago," said Maria, who admitted that she can't remember exactly what color her hair used to be. It's now a rich brown with blond highlights and looks, if I do say so, beautiful. I was hoping she could make me look the same. Or at least young enough so Boy Scouts wouldn't start offering to help me cross the street.

But first, Katie McConnach, Maria's assistant, put color block along my hairline, my sideburns and the back of my neck. "We don't want to color your ears," said Katie, who then put some of the stuff around my mustache, which looked like a giant Brillo pad and also had to be dyed.

Next, Maria rubbed Menz Natural Hair Color Gel by Scruples into my curly locks, which she said were very thick. "So is my skull," I replied. Maria didn't disagree, although she did say that she was giving me a light ash brown color. "I know it's your natural shade because you still have brown in the back," she noted. "Besides, it will keep you lightheaded."

Then she got a paintbrush and applied the gel to my mustache and my eyebrows, after which she set a timer for five minutes. I felt like an egg.

Fortunately, the yolk wasn't on me. After the timer went off and the gel had been rinsed out, I looked in the mirror and saw a younger but not entirely different me. "Now you have more pepper in your salt," said Maria, adding: "Let's see if anyone notices."

The first test came when my wife, Sue, arrived home. It was a Friday afternoon and I helped her carry in some groceries, after which I talked with her in the kitchen. She looked right at me. "Wow," I thought, "she can't tell."

Later on, my older daughter, Katie, and her husband, Dave, who live in Boston, came down for the weekend. Neither one said anything about my hair.

The next day, we all saw my younger daughter, Lauren, for whom hair is a way of life. You'd need a calculator to figure out all the different shades of blond and brown she has colored it. She is very hair-aware, yet she failed to notice that I had colored mine.

On Sunday morning, before Katie and Dave left, I gathered them and Sue in the family room and asked if they noticed anything different about me. "You look thinner," Katie said. Sue and Dave were stumped. When I said I had colored my hair, Sue, who colors hers, said, "I've been married to you for 31 years and I didn't even notice." Katie, a journalist who colors her hair, said, "I feel terrible because it's my job to notice things." Dave, also a journalist (he doesn't color his hair), said, "I thought your mustache looked a little darker, but I didn't want to say anything."

That afternoon, I asked Lauren, who had come over with her friend Jen, if she noticed anything different about me. "I saw you in the sunlight before and thought your hair looked browner," she said. "Did you color it?" I said yes and added that it took her, a hair goddess, two days to catch on. Jen said, "It's very natural."

So now I look younger but still distinguished, if no more mature. It was an experience to dye for.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima