Friday, February 18, 2011

"Open Letter"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Jamie Dimon

President and CEO

JPMorgan Chase

270 Park Ave.

New York, N.Y. 10017

Dear Mr. Dimon:

I’m Jerry Zezima. The name probably doesn’t mean much to you (it doesn’t mean much to me, either, although it is of great interest to my creditors), but I am a Chase customer who, like you, has been victimized by the bad housing market.

I am writing to tell you that I sympathize with your recent decision to sell your Chicago mansion for only $6.95 million, which is about half the original asking price of $13.5 million. My wife, Sue, and I had been trying to refinance our house, which is nice but certainly no mansion, and just found out that we have been denied by your bank.

It all started when we went to our local Chase branch and saw a very nice loan officer named Ernie. Let me say from the outset that you should give Ernie a raise. I’d give him one myself, but because of the denial, I don’t have the extra cash. Then again, you know the feeling.

Anyway, we wanted to refinance because our younger daughter is getting married and, as father of the bride, I figured we could use the money, which we otherwise would have blown on frivolous luxuries like food and, of course, shelter.

So we began the Application from Hell. Little did Sue and I know that the process would take almost six months. I am now convinced that the full name of your bank is Wild Goose Chase.

We had to produce enough paperwork to wipe out the Amazon rainforest, the North Woods of Maine and all the trees in our yard. Scientists may well blame Chase for climate change.

Practically every day I had to drop off copies of pay stubs, insurance forms, bank statements, income tax returns and so much other stuff I could barely carry it all. I’m surprised I wasn’t required to bring my high school transcript, which would have shown that I am so bad at math, I could get a job as an underwriter.

For the record, your underwriters not only are underhanded and overrated but also sadistic. They kept asking for personal information (I wear size 34 boxer shorts, by the way) but were never satisfied. So I had to produce even more evidence that Sue and I still live in our house, still have jobs and, perhaps most important, are still alive.

It got to the point where I was spending more time with Ernie than I was with Sue. People were starting to talk.

Then we had to shell out $400 for a house appraisal. It turned out that our house was acceptable but we weren’t. So our application was denied.

I don’t know what you are going to do about the hit you took on the sale of your Chicago house, but if you are thinking of recouping the money by refinancing your home in Westchester County, N.Y., I have two words of advice: Forget it!

Take it from me, Mr. Dimon: It will be the worst experience of your life.

I am telling you all this because I know you’re not a bad guy. In fact, The New York Times called you “America’s least hated banker.” You should put that on your business card.

Since you live fairly close to our place on Long Island, N.Y., Sue and I would like to invite you and your wife to the wedding. Maybe you can stop by the house, which I am sure you will like. You may even wonder why we weren’t able to refinance it.

In the meantime, Mr. Dimon, good luck. If you need to borrow a few bucks until payday, I’d be happy to help. And at a low interest rate. After all, in these tough times, we homeowners have to stick together.


Jerry Zezima

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Kidney Stone II: The Sequel"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

For the past 15 years, I had taken great pains to forget a terrible episode in which I hit rock bottom. A couple of weeks ago, another terrible episode made me acutely aware that the great pains were back. And so was the rock.

In what I fear will become a series with more sequels than “Rocky,” I had my second kidney stone.

The first -- now known as Kidney Stone I, designated with a Roman numeral to distinguish it from the recent one, Kidney Stone II -- struck in 1996. It happened in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., where I received great care and got the stone as a keepsake.

The latest episode started in Stamford, on a visit to my parents’ house, and continued after my wife, Sue, and I returned to our house on Long Island, N.Y.

As a man who has been known to withstand a hangnail without flinching, I thought I could tough it out. But as the pain in my left side intensified to the point where it felt like I was trying to pass a bocce ball, I said to Sue, “I think we should go to the emergency room.”

Sue drove me to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where two unsettling things happened: I noticed the word “memorial” on the sign outside the building and I was asked if I was on a “do not resuscitate” list.

Otherwise, I couldn’t have been in better hands. A nurse named Ron showed his skill as a mixologist by making me a cocktail that eliminated not only the pain but most of my already limited cognitive functions.

I told Tom, the radiologic technologist who gave me a CAT scan, that we have three cats. “Will I need three scans?” I wondered.

“Just one,” said Tom, adding, in answer to my next question, “No, we don’t have a DOG scan.”

A little later, Dr. Perry Shapiro announced I had a kidney stone.

“It’s pretty big,” he said, giving me a prescription that included Percocet. Because I was still a little groggy, I didn’t quite understand the rest of it, but I thought he said I could get the meds from a couple named Flo and Max.

Shapiro also gave me a paper strainer in the hope that this, too, would pass and the name of an excellent urologist named Dr. Albert Kim.

The next day, after I had an X-ray, Sue drove me to Kim’s office in -- how appropriate is this? -- Stony Brook. As I got out of the car, I noticed a small rock in the parking lot. I picked it up and put it in the strainer.

In the office, a medical assistant named Grace asked how I was feeling.

“I think I passed the stone,” I told her.

“That’s great,” she said. “Let’s see.”

I showed her the rock in the strainer. Grace’s eyes bugged out of her head. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “It’s huge.”

“Actually,” I admitted, “I found it in the parking lot.”

Grace laughed. Kim, who also was vastly amused, had already seen the X-ray. “We’ll have to blast,” he said.

“With dynamite?” I inquired fearfully.

“The Percocet is making you even dopier than usual,” Sue noted.

Kim, who assured me that he wouldn’t need explosives, scheduled the procedure in two days at a place called the Kidney Stone Center in East Setauket.

Meanwhile, I had to fill out so many forms that my hand hurt worse than my side.

On the day of the procedure, I was prepped by a very nice nurse named Gabrielle. Dr. Rick Melucci, the anesthesiologist, did everyone a favor by knocking me out. Kim then used shock waves on my kidney stone.

I’m not shocked that I am feeling much better. And I am grateful to everyone who took such good care of me, especially Sue.

Since these episodes seem to occur every 15 years, I won’t have to worry about Kidney Stone III until 2026. In the meantime, the only rocks I have will be in my head.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima