Friday, January 20, 2012

"Snow Way We'll Get a Blizzard"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

As a man who has been perpetrating snow jobs for more than half a century, I can say with authority that there is a simple reason why the Northeast has not yet been hit with a blizzard this winter: I had my snow blower tuned up.

Because I have brain freeze when it comes to preparing for the white stuff, I appreciated the reminder I got in the mail recently from Carl’s Equipment and Supply in Patchogue, N.Y., where my parents bought the snow blower for me almost 10 years ago.

On the card was this convincing line: “He who hesitates shovels!”

That’s exactly what I had to do two days before Christmas in 2009, when 2 feet of snow fell on my driveway. When it comes to snow removal, I am a wuss, which stands for “wait until spring starts.” But my younger daughter, Lauren, and her then-fiance (and now husband), Guillaume, had to fly to France for the holiday. Their flight was still on, but their limo driver wimped out, which meant they needed a ride to the airport from Dad’s Livery and Onion Service (“Driving You Crazy Since 1980”).

I tried to use the Little Snow Blower That Couldn’t, but it gasped when it saw the winter wonderland and said, “I think I can’t, I think I can’t.” Then it coughed, wheezed and breathed its last.

So I had to risk myocardial infarction, which is even worse than what it sounds like, by digging out with a plastic shovel only slightly bigger than the spoon I use to eat my morning cereal. Thankfully, my neighbor Ron came over with his snow blower and cleared the rest of the driveway so Lauren and Guillaume could make their flight.

The same thing happened -- minus the airport trip -- the day after Christmas in 2010, when we were hit with Snowmageddon.

After the freak October snowstorm of 2011, which spared my part of Long Island but socked my home state of Connecticut, I decided to get my snow blower fixed before the planet, contrary to evidence of global warming, was gripped by another ice age.

“Climate change could depend on you,” said Dawn, the service manager at Carl’s. “It’s a good thing you brought your snow blower in.”

That’s more than she could say for some other customers, like the guy who stuck his hand in a snow blower after he started it to see if it was working.

“He came back with bloody fingers,” Dawn recalled. “He said, ‘I thought I could do that.’ I said, ‘Duh! No, you can’t.’ Some people just shouldn’t own equipment.”

“Even I’m not that stupid,” I said. “Of course, my snow blower can’t hurt me because it won’t start.”

“We’ll fix that,” Dawn promised.

Sure enough, the following week, my snow blower was running like new.

“We rebuilt the carburetor, put in a new fuel filter and replaced the spark plug,” said Dawn, who showed me the proper way to start my snow blower. “Make sure you put it on choke,” she advised.

“When it wouldn’t start, I wanted to choke it,” I replied.

This time, it started right away.

“You’re good to go,” Dawn said. “This guarantees we won’t get another Snowmageddon. And you can take all the credit.”

I realize I am violating my own rule of meteorological journalism (“Never write about the weather unless it’s for the next day’s paper -- and even then you’re likely to be wrong”), so we could be hit with a blizzard right around the time this column runs. Still, I like to think I have done my part to make this a good winter so far.

And just to make sure we don’t have any floods this summer, I’ll get my lawn mower tuned up.

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Let's Get Physical"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Even though I was recently edged out by Hollywood hunk Bradley Cooper as People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, I am proud to say that, for a guy with an AARP card, I still have a boyish figure. So I wasn’t surprised when a personal trainer said that I have more fat in my head than I do on my body.

Del Davis, who also has a boyish figure, as well as an AARP card, made the calculation during my complimentary four-day membership at Eastern Athletic, a health club in Melville, N.Y.

Aside from adhering to a strict regimen of 12-ounce curls, I hadn’t worked out in decades. I may not be flabby, but I’m often winded just from getting up at night to go to the bathroom. Del had the unenviable task of whipping me back into shape without prompting People to name me Sexiest Man Deceased.

Del, who has been a personal trainer for 25 years, has amazing abs, bulging biceps, tremendous triceps and other massive muscles. He also has youth on his side because he’s 10 days younger than I am.

“You’re just a kid,” I told him before my first workout. “No wonder you look so good.”

“I am going to make you look good, too,” said Del, who has won several bodybuilding championships in the United States and Canada, including the coveted title of Mr. Apollo.

“In college,” I said, “I was known as Mr. Heineken.”

For that reason alone, I should have keeled over 30 seconds after Del put me on a treadmill. Surprisingly, I survived the initial one-hour session, which included stints on a stretching machine and a pull-up machine. I also lifted weights.

“It’s appropriate that I’m using dumbbells,” I said, “because I am one.”

“Not at all,” Del replied. “I’m very impressed. If I didn’t know you haven’t exercised in years, I’d say you have been working out.”

Fat chance. Which is why I was stunned at the beginning of my next session, a week later, to find out that I am a lean, mean geezer machine. Del took my height (6 feet) and weight (170 pounds) and programmed the information into a small device that measures fat content. After I held it up in front of me, Del said that I have only 19 percent fat.

“I have 18 percent, so your fat percentage is great,” said Del, adding that the average person has about 25 percent.

“Most of the fat must be in my head,” I said.

“Definitely,” Del replied.

The rest of the session was spent on an ab machine, a leg press and a back machine. I didn’t even break a sweat, though I was wearing sweatpants.

“Muscles have memory,” said Del.

“Mine are too old to remember anything,” I noted.

“Nonsense,” he said. “Your muscles are bouncing back.”

They were crying out in pain the following week, when Del stepped it up by making me step up on a machine called the versatile climber.

“Be like Spider-Man,” he said.

“Spidey never needed CPR,” I responded, huffing and puffing and almost blowing the gym down.

The rest of the session, which included a stint on a rowing machine (“I’m not going anywhere,” I said) and a workout with a medicine ball (“I’m going to need medicine after this”), was equally intense.

“You did well,” Del said afterward. “I didn’t even have to call an ambulance.”

The last of the four sessions was, by comparison, a breeze. I got back on the versatile climber, did pushups, pumped iron and did bench dips. But the workout was more invigorating than tiring.

When it was all over, Del gave me an evaluation. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, I scored as follows: stamina, 10; agility, 8; strength, 9; fat percentage, 10; pushups, 9; dips, 10.

“And you don’t even do anything,” Del said. “I’m shocked. If you worked out regularly, you’d be off the charts. Overall, you’re a perfect 10.”

Take that, Bradley Cooper.

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima