Friday, May 27, 2011

"Oh, Henry"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Over the years in my humble and frequently fur-flown household, I have been surrounded by women: one wife, two daughters and various animals. The pet population has included a dog, four cats, two frogs, approximately 147 goldfish, half a dozen hamsters and too many gerbils to count because, face it, gerbils can’t do math.

Of these many fine, furry and finny friends, only one (to my knowledge) has been a guy. His name was Henry, one of our quartet of felines, son of Kitty, brother of Bernice, no relation to Ramona. He thought Lizzie, the dog, was his mother.

Henry was a mama’s boy because he loved Lizzie and loved my wife, Sue, even more. He liked his real mother, Kitty, but he had little use for me, his surrogate daddy and the only other male in the house, perhaps because he saw me as competition for female affection but more likely because I would get rid of the scores of eviscerated creatures (birds, rabbits, mice, squirrels, practically everything but the mailman) he left at the back door or, worse, wanted to bring inside.

Henry was a paradox: He was the most ruthlessly efficient killer I have ever known (not that I hang around with murderers, in case the police are reading this), but he also was the biggest wimp in the world.

And he was, indeed, big. I conservatively estimate he weighed 200 pounds, give or take 180. He was like a small mountain lion.

Most of it was fur. His rich black and white coat was so long that sometimes you couldn’t see his feet, which were armed with razor-sharp claws that left a scar on my left wrist from the time Sue and I attempted to put flea powder on him. It worked because I haven’t had fleas since.

I’d say Henry was a Maine Coon except he wasn’t from Maine and raccoons were about the only fellow beasts he didn’t count among his trophies. As a result, our yard -- and, by extension, the entire neighborhood -- was devoid of vermin. Not including me.

On the other hand (or, rather, paw), Henry was afraid of his own considerable shadow. We had him for 12 years, but just about every time he saw me or any other human besides Sue, he would cower and run away. I always treated him well. I fed him, I brushed him, I tried to do the male bonding thing.

“It’s just you and me, Henry,” I would say.

“Meow!” he’d shriek. Then he would make a beeline upstairs.

That was another thing about Henry: He sounded like Frankie Valli.

“What’s the matter, Henry,” I would ask, “is your underwear too tight?”


Then again, he purred with love for Sue. He followed her around so much I was tempted to get a restraining order against him. If I fed Henry, he’d eat only a little bit and wait for Sue to give him more.

“He wants me to feed him,” Sue would explain.

“Suppose you weren’t around for a few days,” I’d respond. “What’s he going to do, go on a hunger strike?”

Between his critter diet and his regular cat food, Henry looked like he missed very few meals.

One thing he did miss, however, was Lizzie. They were inseparable. Henry loved to sleep right next to Lizzie, often with his head on her hind leg. He even took on the canine characteristic of giving the paw whenever he wanted something.

Henry hadn’t been the same since Lizzie passed away last year.

Now he’s gone, too. The house is a little quieter and, considering his size, a lot emptier. Sue misses him terribly. So do I. And although he wasn’t a typical guy, a man’s man with whom I could bond and goof off and do paw bumps and watch sports on TV, I have to say that, all things considered, Henry was the cat’s meow.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Cool in the Shades"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I have never been mistaken for Jack Nicholson, the eternally cool Hollywood legend who wears sunglasses everywhere -- even, I bet, in the bathroom -- but I can imagine starring in this dramatic scene with my wife, Sue.

Me (yelling from the bathroom): “Hon, we’re out of toilet paper!”

Sue: “There’s a new roll on the vanity.”

Me: “I can’t see it.”

Sue: “You’re hopeless. And that’s the truth.”

Me: “You can’t handle the truth!”

Sue: “The roll’s right in front of you. Take off your sunglasses.”

Me (after removing shades): “Got it. Thanks.”

Still, I felt like Jack recently when I went shopping for a new pair of shades. I wanted to look cool for the upcoming summer season, something I couldn’t do in my previous sunglasses, which were old, scratched and misshapen. Then again, it could have been my head.

So I drove to a nearby mall and walked up to a kiosk store called the Sunglass Hut, where I was greeted by a very nice sales associate named Nicollette.

“May I help you?” she asked pleasantly.

“Yes,” I replied. “I want to look cool. You know, like Jack Nicholson.”

Possibly because she was about 20 years old, Nicollette didn’t know Jack. But she did know sunglasses. “What do you want them for?” she asked.

“This may sound crazy,” I replied, “but I want them to keep the sun out of my eyes.”

Nicollette patiently explained that some people wear sunglasses only for certain activities, such as driving. “If you want to wear them to the beach, don’t get Guccis,” Nicollette suggested.

“Why?” I inquired.

“You don’t want sand to scratch them,” Nicollette answered. “They’re $300.”

I gulped. Then I tried on a less expensive pair. “They’re Pradas,” Nicollette said.

“How much?”

“Two hundred and ninety dollars.”

The devil wears Prada, so I thanked Nicollette and went around the corner to the NYS Collection kiosk, where Dan, a baby boomer who has heard of Jack Nicholson, told me that the sunglasses average $15 a pair.

“Will they make me look cool?” I asked.

“I think we can find a pair that will do the trick,” said Dan, adding: “I haven’t looked cool in 20 years.”

Of course, he wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but he has three pairs, all of which, he said, are fashionable.

“And inexpensive,” said Dan, who used to work at the Sunglass Hut. “They’re made of polycarbon, which is the same material in Guccis and Pradas. You’re not paying for the name.”

“Cool,” I said.

As I reached for a pair, my arm hit a box that tumbled to the floor, spilling a stash of stylish shades.

“They’re also very durable,” Dan commented as he picked them up.

“So if I fall, my face might break but my sunglasses won’t?” I wondered.

“Right,” said Dan, adding that most guys buy sunglasses primarily to look cool. “One young guy was here recently with his girlfriend,” he recalled. “Apparently he was paying too much attention to other women when he was trying on sunglasses. I guess he thought he was cool. He and his girlfriend got into a big fight and left. They came back the next day and the same thing happened, but I sold him a pair of shades before another fight started.”

Though Sue wasn’t with me, I didn’t pay attention to any other women as I tried on several pairs of sunglasses. One pair, with bright yellow reflective lenses, made me look like a giant bug in one of those 1950s sci-fi movies.

Then Dan showed me wraparounds, one with a blue tint, the other gray. I was coolness personified.

“They’re you,” Dan said after I chose the grays.

At home, I showed Sue my new shades. Her one-word reaction: “Cool.”

Just like Jack Nicholson. Now all I have to do is remember not to wear them in the bathroom.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Stupid Crook Tricks: Global Dumbing"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Time now for another exciting episode of Stupid Crook Tricks, the hard-hitting series that presents actual cases of bumbling incompetence by some of the most inept criminal masterminds in America.

All of these stories are true. The names have been eliminated to protect the dumb, de-dumb-dumb, dumb, de-dumb-dumb-duuuumb.

Today, we here at CSI (Criminal Stupidity Investigations) go overseas to track down crooks whose idiocy knows no boundaries.

We begin in Italy with some legal advice for prospective criminals: When in Rome, don’t do as this Roman did. Hunger got the best of a convicted drug trafficker who had eluded Italian police by hiding out in Belgium. He was nabbed when he came back home for a plate of his wife’s lasagna. Acting on a tip, as well as the aroma of simmering tomato sauce, cops burst into the house at lunchtime and arrested the dumb diner, who was definitely out to lunch.

Another lesson for crooks to chew on: Never sleep on the job. That’s what happened in Malaysia, where a bungling burglar broke into an empty house and pocketed several hundred dollars in cash before taking a nap. He woke up the next morning when the homeowner returned and called police. The drowsy dope went from being under a rest to under arrest.

The last tip for international idiots: Always go to the bathroom before leaving the house. That’s what a bank robber in Denmark failed to do prior to hiding in a bank vault. He got locked in and had to wait until the bank opened the next morning to get out. Meanwhile, he had to answer the call of nature, so he relieved himself in a box before escaping with jewelry and $500,000 in cash. Cops got the whiz kid’s DNA and later arrested him. Needless to say, it wasn’t a safe deposit.

These three cases are overwhelming evidence of global dumbing. As a proud American, however, I can say with utter confidence that crooks in the United States still lead the world in stupidity.

Exhibit A: The guy who robbed a convenience store in South Carolina, got in his truck and started going the wrong way. The truck broke down, so the genius hailed a cab and asked the driver to take him to a town that the driver had never heard of. When they came upon the store that had just been robbed, the crook told the cabbie to ask a cop for directions. The cop recognized the idiotic passenger from a surveillance tape and arrested him. For once a man asked for directions and look what happened.

Exhibit B: The moronic motorist in Ohio who led police on a high-speed chase before abandoning his car and jumping a fence -- directly into a prison yard. It was a women’s prison, so he had to be transferred to a men’s facility. At least he didn’t need to ask for directions.

Exhibit C: This one stands for Connecticut, my home state, which has no shortage of stupid crooks, like the guy in Old Saybrook who burglarized three condos and then called the cops to report that his getaway car had been stolen. When the police pulled up, they saw the felonious fool with a pillowcase full of loot and arrested him.

Then there was the pothead in Farmington who called 911 to ask how much trouble he could get into for growing a marijuana plant. He soon found out. Maybe his case will be tried in a high court.

Finally, there was the idiot in New Canaan who called police to report that his car had been rear-ended by some other dummies who had allegedly robbed him of his marijuana. And the governor wants to decriminalize small amounts of the stuff.

I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I do know this: When it comes to stupid crooks, it’s a small world after all.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima