Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Miles to Go Before It Sleeps"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Any motorist knows that the best way to ensure longevity is to regularly check your parts, monitor your fluids and make sure your undercarriage is clean.

You should do the same for your car.

That’s why I am happy but not surprised that my sport utility vehicle recently hit 200,000 miles. Full credit for the fact that it is still running smoothly, which is more than I can say for myself most days, goes to Mary Husson, service manager at Hyundai 112 in Medford, N.Y.

“Oil is the lifeblood of the car,” Mary said when I brought mine in for an oil change.

“You mean extra virgin olive oil?” I wondered.

“That could be the lifeblood of you,” said Mary, who has been my car’s primary care physician since I bought it in 2004. “It’s also important to rotate your tires,” she added.

“Don’t I do that every time I drive?” I asked.

“Now I know why you don’t work here,” said Mary, who has three cars: a 2013 Hyundai Sonata, a 2011 Hyundai Elantra and, her pride and joy, a 1999 Ford Mustang convertible that has only 63,000 miles on it.

“I keep the Mustang in the garage for six months,” Mary said. “When the weather gets nice, I drive it with the top down.”

“Can’t you get arrested for doing that?” I inquired.

“Yes,” Mary replied. “But at least I don’t waste gas by using the air-conditioning.”

Then Mary showed me cellphone photos of her adorable little granddaughter, Sophia, who’s 1. Not to be outdone, I showed Mary cellphone photos of my adorable little granddaughter, Chloe, who’s the same age.

“Chloe has her own little car at home,” I said. “She loves when I push her around the house in it. Now that the weather’s nice, we go outside.”

“Does the car have 200,000 miles on it?” Mary asked.

“No,” I said. “But sometimes it feels like my feet do.”

“Going over 200,000 miles is not really a big deal,” said Mary. “If you take good care of your vehicle, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t last longer. I knew a guy whose car had 275,000 miles on it. You could even hit 300,000.”

Technician Anthony Busone agreed.

“It looks like you take pretty good care of it,” he said as we stood under the vehicle, which was on a lift in the garage. “Some people don’t.”

Like the guy who never changed the brakes on his car.

“He got all the way down to the metal backings,” Anthony recalled. “The rotors were worn away. He heard this thumping noise but didn’t do anything about it. Miraculously, the car still stopped. I don’t know what he would have said if it didn’t.”

“Those are the brakes,” I offered.

Anthony, 22, who has been a technician for three years, has a 1992 Honda Civic with 243,000 miles on it.

“You must change the oil regularly,” I said.

“Yes,” Anthony replied. “I’ve also changed the motor. Most people can’t do that.”

“I’d have an easier time transcribing the Dead Sea Scrolls than telling you what’s under the hood of my car,” I noted.

“You don’t have to,” said Anthony. “That’s my job.”

And he does it well. Fortunately, my car, a Hyundai Santa Fe, didn’t need open-hood surgery.

“You do need a new air filter,” Anthony said. “And your rear brakes are getting low. Don’t be like that guy. We’ll change them next time you’re in. Other than that, it looks pretty good.”

On the way out, I thanked Mary and said I’d see her in 3,000 miles for another oil change.

“Fluids are important,” she emphasized.

“I know,” I said. “Especially when you have the kind of mileage I do.”

“If you want to keep going,” Mary said, “drink a lot of Gatorade.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Par for the Course"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As a guy who has always loved Mark Twain’s definition of golf as “a good walk spoiled,” I had never aspired to be the next Tiger Woods, either on or off the course, which is why I’m not rich but am, fortunately, still married.

But lately, at the ripe old age of 60, I have had a hankering to take up the sport, which is more sensible than tennis because in golf you don’t have to run after the ball. In fact, you can use a cart, which is fine on a golf course but would be kind of clunky on a tennis court.

So I went to the Bergen Point Golf Course, a beautiful waterside public course in West Babylon, N.Y., for a lesson with instructor Kevin Lisi.

“You’ve never played golf before?” asked Kevin, who is 23 and has been playing since he was a kid, which to me he still is.

“No,” I replied. “But if Tiger Woods could win the Masters at 21, and Jordan Spieth could almost win this year at 20, the opposite could happen and a geezer like me could win. Then I could sign my AARP card and get a green jacket.”

“Show me how you think a golf club should be held,” said Kevin, who handed me a pitching wedge on the driving range, where I was among about a dozen people in the group lesson.

“I’m guessing this isn’t the right way,” I said as I grabbed the club by the head.

“You really are new at this,” said Kevin, who nonetheless was impressed when I wrapped my fingers around the handle and, with a little guidance, held the club correctly. After showing me how to plant my feet, bend my back and knees, and angle the head of the club, Kevin said, “Now take a practice swing.”

I raised the club parallel to the ground and lifted the head a bit higher, then brought it back down and followed through beautifully, a fluid motion that would have impressed Ben Hogan had the legendary golf champion, known for his perfect swing, not been currently deceased.

“Very good,” Kevin said. “Now let’s see if you can hit a ball.”

I lined up the little white sphere and drove it about 90 yards.

“Are you sure you’ve never played golf before?” asked Kevin.

“Just miniature golf,” I replied. “My kids beat me.”

I drove my second shot the same distance.

“Do you think I can win the Masters?” I asked.

“You’re just getting started,” Kevin cautioned. “Golf’s addictive, but it’s a tough game.”

He wasn’t kidding, because those two shots were my best of the day. I steadily regressed, with some of my worst shots dribbling off the mat. Kevin was wonderful, treating me with kid gloves (or, rather, golf gloves) and trying to get me back in my original groove when he wasn’t giving pointers to the other newbies.

When the hourlong lesson was over, Kevin said, “You’re not bad. You just need to practice.”

Later, in the pro shop, head pro Paul Rollo, who saw me on the driving range, said, “The basic principle is to move the ball forward. If it moves in the direction you want it to go, you’re doing OK.”

Pro shop employee Ken Klevitz added, “If you see water in front of you, forget it.”

Bob Miller, director of the Bergen Point Golf Course, ambled in with his dog, a 5-year-old black Lab named Lucas.

“Are you a dogleg right?” I asked Lucas.

“He’s a scratch golfer,” said Kevin.

“He does a lot of scratching,” Bob noted. “And he scares away the geese.”

“I’d be good at that,” I said. “Maybe I could do it at the Masters.”

“Sure,” said Paul. “But if you want a green jacket, you may have to buy it yourself.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima