Friday, September 30, 2011

"The Wrong Stuff"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I had always thought that my garage was the stuff of legend because it’s stuffed with stuff, most of which isn’t my stuff but my daughters’ stuff. It has been accumulating since they left the nest, which supposedly is empty because they don’t live at home anymore but really isn’t because a lot of their stuff is still here.

Then I talked with my college buddy and longtime friend Tim Lovelette, who not only has a garage full of his kids’ stuff but a basement full of it, too, which makes both places the stuff of legend.

“If our kids’ stuff had any value, they wouldn’t trust us with it. They’d be using it,” Tim told me. “Why have we got it? Because they don’t want it. This is nefarious, no question about it. Somehow, a whole generation has gotten together and conspired to fill our homes with worthless stuff.”

Tim has more stuff than I do because he and his wife, Jane, have three kids, Marshall, 32, Amy, 30, and Brendan, 28, while my wife, Sue, and I have two, Katie, 31, and Lauren, 28. They’re all great kids, even though they aren’t, technically, kids anymore. Still, when you get to be my age (old enough to know better), practically everyone else is a kid. So here’s looking at you, kids. And all your stuff.

“I think somebody’s got a key to the house and brings stuff in,” Tim theorized. “I change the locks and it still goes on.”

This means the reverse robber is leaving stuff not only in Tim’s garage but in his basement, a problem I don’t have because I don’t have a basement.

“You’re not qualified to have adult children if you don’t have a basement,” Tim said. “Where are they going to put their stuff?”

“In the garage,” I replied.

“You wouldn’t appreciate anything until you’ve seen my garage,” Tim said. “How many bicycles can you accumulate in a lifetime? I don’t even like bicycles.”

Another thing Tim has in his garage is the snow blower he bought for Marshall.

“I bought it for him for Christmas three or four years ago,” Tim recalled, adding that Marshall’s wife, Sara, said she would buy Marshall a shed for his birthday so he could put the snow blower in it. “But she never bought the shed,” Tim said. “Now I have two snow blowers in my garage. Sara and Marshall have a basement, but there can’t be anything in it, including the snow blower. I don’t think it’s ever been started, but it’s there, ready to go, in my garage.”

Then there are all those skis and ice skates.

“How many pairs of skis can you accumulate?” Tim wondered. “Just go to my garage and count them and figure it out. And I have all their ice skates. My kids haven’t ice-skated in 15 years. If they had to use this stuff, which is all out of date, they’d go out and buy new ones and leave the old ones in my house.”

“What about the basement?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Tim replied. “It’s filled with He-Man toys. You wouldn’t know about them because you have girls, but these toys go back 20 or 30 years. This whole thing must go back to prehistoric times. I can envision caves, with Neanderthal-type people, caves filled with stuff, and the kids are saying, ‘No, you can’t throw away my bones.’ It’s been going on for centuries.”

“What can we do about it?” I said.

“Pack up their stuff in a moving van and have it delivered to them,” Tim answered. “Or have a yard sale. If you have ever gone to a yard sale, you’d see that there’s always a free table. All the stuff you have that belongs to your kids should go on the free table. Just tell them, ‘I’m giving your stuff away.’ What can they do? They can’t hit us.”

“Then we’d have the last laugh,” I said.

“Not really,” said Tim. “There’s a final resolution to all of this: When we die, our kids will have a houseful of stuff -- not just their stuff but our stuff. They’ll say, ‘What are we going to do with Dad’s stuff?’ Answer: They’ll have a yard sale. Our stuff will go on the free table.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 16, 2011

"How Now Waxed Brow"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I am not a highbrow kind of guy because, unfortunately, I am afraid of heights. So today I am going to wax poetic, nostalgic and, most important, analgesic about being lowbrow. That’s because I recently, for the first time, got my eyebrow waxed.

Before undergoing this increasingly common masculine procedure, which women get all the time, I had, indeed, only one eyebrow. It was what is known in tonsorial parlance (a highbrow way of saying barber talk) as a unibrow, a strip of hair not unlike roadkill that extended from above the corner of my left eye to above the corner of my right eye. The left and right brows were linked by a hairy bridge that did not take E-ZPass. The result was one long eyebrow.

To achieve the desired effect of hair today, gone tomorrow (I told you I’m lowbrow), I went to see my barber, Maria Santos, who owns Charmed Salon and Spa in Miller Place, N.Y.

“More men are getting waxed these days,” said Maria, referring not just to eyebrows but to legs, chests and backs. It hurt just thinking about it. The imagined pain was excruciating when Maria described Brazilian waxes.

“They’re like bikini waxes,” she said.

“Guys don’t wear bikinis,” I replied.

“No,” Maria said, “but some wear Speedos.”

I got the idea, then started squirming in my chair.

“Don’t worry,” Maria said. “We don’t do those here.”

That was good to hear. Speaking of hearing, Maria told me about the guy who inadvertently got his ear hair waxed.

“He’s a customer of mine, but he was on a business trip in California and needed a haircut, so he went to a barber who told him that he had a lot of hair growing out of his ears and asked if he wanted it waxed,” Maria said. “The barber spoke with an accent and the guy didn’t understand and said yes, go ahead and remove it. So the barber waxed his ear hair. The guy said it was the most painful experience of his life.”

After hearing that, I was afraid to ask about nose hair. But I wasn’t too skittish to ask for a brow treatment. Maria took me to a small room in the back of the salon and introduced me to Carla, a very pleasant and reassuring aesthetician who waxed rhapsodic about her job.

“I have been doing this for 30 years and I love it because I meet a lot of nice people, like you,” said Carla, who asked me to lie back on a cushioned table while she got her tools, which did not, I am happy to report, include pruning shears or a Weed Whacker.

“I use tweezers, snippers and a comb,” Carla said. Then she inspected my unibrow, which she said was “bushy but not unusual for a guy,” and applied some analgesic soothing cream to soften the skin from which the middle part of my eyebrow grew. Next she got an adhesive muslin strip and pressed it to that spot.

“Ready?” Carla asked.

“Let ’er rip!” I exclaimed, instantly regretting my choice of words.

A second later, it was over. I listened carefully but did not hear a piercing scream emanate from my throat. In fact, I didn’t feel a thing. Carla showed me the strip, on which was stuck a tuft of hair.

She then combed and clipped my now separate eyebrows, applied lotion to the newly bare area and handed me a mirror. I no longer resembled either Groucho Marx or Joan Crawford in her “Mommie Dearest” period.

“What do you think?” Carla inquired.

“Beautiful,” I responded happily.

Now that I’m the very model of the modern man, maybe a figure of me will go on exhibit at Madame Tussauds wax museum. I bet that’ll raise some eyebrows.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Best Seat in the House"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

I am not one to couch my comments, so I will come right out and say that I would be a couch potato if my wife, Sue, let me eat potatoes on the couch. Sadly, I can no longer eat, sleep, drink beer, watch football, get thrown up on by our kids or do anything else on the best couch we ever had because it has gone to what I assume is, appropriately, its eternal rest.

This couch had great sentimental value because it was our first major piece of furniture, a brown, beige and gold work of upholstered craftsmanship dating back to 1978, when Sue and I got married.

The couch was also called the sofa because I’d relax on it while I should have been doing household chores and would say to Sue, “Sofa, so good,” to which she would reply, “Maybe you’d like to sleep on it tonight.”

It was almost as comfortable as our bed, though with slightly less legroom. It also was durable enough to withstand the worst kind of abuse, such as spills (beer, soda, baby formula) and soils (from our daughters, Katie and Lauren, before they were potty trained). The messes were easily wiped away because the couch was made of some super-resistant, possibly bulletproof material that did not, unfortunately, repel cat and dog hair.

The couch was a repository for food — pretzels, popcorn and, of course, potato chips — that had been dropped between the cushions. A yearly cleaning could have produced enough nourishment to feed Luxembourg.

I often munched away on the couch because it was my ringside seat for televised sporting events. I parked myself there for Super Bowl clashes, World Series showdowns, Stanley Cup contests and March Madness matchups. When a big game wasn’t on, I would watch something intellectual, like the Three Stooges.

The couch will go down in posterity, if not prosperity, as the site of an infamous photo taken one Halloween when I dressed up as Groucho Marx and our next-door neighbor, Frank, dressed up as a lady of the evening, complete with a wig, lipstick, stockings and a padded dress. I must say, he looked pretty good. We sat next to each other on the couch as Sue took our picture. If it ever turns up, I could lose thousands of dollars in blackmail money.

The best couch photo of all time did turn up recently when Katie’s husband, Dave, posted an old shot of the girls on Facebook. Katie, who was about 3 years old, was sitting on the couch with two Strawberry Shortcake dolls and a box of Cheerios; Lauren, who was 1, was leaning against the couch, sucking her thumb. Under the photo was the announcement that, since Katie and Dave were moving, the couch was for sale.

Katie had taken possession of it nine years ago, when she graduated from college and had moved into the apartment that she and Dave were now vacating.

Sue and I would have taken back the couch, which no one bought, but we are empty nesters in the sense that our kids may have moved out, but a lot of their stuff is still with us, which means the nest isn’t empty at all.

We recently spent the weekend with Katie and Dave as they got ready to move. For two nights, Sue slept on the couch. “I had two of the best nights’ sleep of my life on that dumb couch,” she said.

That morning, Dave and I carried it to the curb, where it was claimed by the garbageman. Maybe he took it home, but more likely it went to the dump and was crushed to kindling.

Farewell, old couch. Rest in pieces.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima