Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Inn Crowd"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
If I can afford to retire when I am eligible in five years I took a vow of poverty when I went into journalism, so I may be working posthumously I’d like to be an innkeeper.

My wife, Sue, who is a teacher, thinks it’s a great idea that I retire, not that I continue to work even after I am dead because she’d like to quit, too.

Then we can be like Bob Newhart and Mary Frann, who played the husband-and-wife owners of a Vermont bed and breakfast that was frequented by kooky characters on the old TV sitcom “Newhart.”

To B&B or not to B&B that is the question Sue and I have been asking ourselves. To find the answer, I spoke with Neil Carr, 83, a lovable character who owns the Sea Beach Inn in Hyannis, Mass., where Sue and I stayed when we spent a very pleasant weekend on Cape Cod recently.

“I love people — that’s why I am in this place,” Neil told me. “You have to have a positive outlook.”

“Do you ever get any kooky characters here?” I asked.

“You mean like you?” Neil responded.

“Yes,” I said.

Neil chuckled and said, “You’re not kooky. In fact, you’re normal compared to some of the guests I’ve had. One of them is here right now.”

He was referring to an exceedingly fussy woman who had traveled from Missouri to watch her daughter play in a field hockey tournament.

“She’s a pain in the butt,” Neil explained. “She wants bacon and eggs every morning. I told her that we serve only a continental breakfast. She said, ‘Is that all I’m getting?’ I said, ‘That’s it, honey.’ She’s also been driving the cleaning girls crazy. One of them came down and said, ‘What’s going on in Room 2?’ I said, ‘She’s here for six days. It’s good money. Humor her.’ That lady has been avoiding me and I’ve been avoiding her. And where’s her poor husband? Back home. He’s probably been drunk since she left.”

Neil has also had his share of crazy adventures since he and his late wife, Elizabeth, bought the Sea Beach Inn in 1987.

“About 10 years ago I decided to add a prefabricated garage with a room on top,” Neil recalled. “I had a spot cleared off and the footings put in. Then I got a call from a guy on Route 6 who said he had this building in a big dump truck. Part of the building brought a wire down, so now I had the cops on my hands. This guy was a terrible driver. He had to turn the truck around in a parking lot and come down the street, and there was traffic piling up behind him as far as you could see, and it looked like he was going to wreck the lawn of the people across the street. The woman who owned the house used to own the inn. She sold it to me. So now she wanted to kill me. She said, ‘Now you can look down into my living room.’ I said, ‘Who’d want to look at you anyway?’ She moved into a condo, but I hear she’s still alive. She must be 98. She used to pop out from behind trees. She could have been in a cartoon.”

“Or,” I added, “a sitcom.”

“This is just the place for one,” said Neil.

“Would you ever sell the inn?” I inquired.

“One couple recently asked me that,” Neil replied. “They followed me around. The wife said, ‘This must be a wonderful life for you. We’d like to get a B&B.’ I said, ‘Really? I’ll tell you what. I’ll call the bank and find out what I still owe them. You go upstairs and get your checkbook. Pay me for what I still owe on the place, add two dollars to it and I’ll be out by 5 o’clock this afternoon.’ ”

“Maybe my wife and I will buy it in five years,” I said. “Until then, we’ll come back as guests.”

“You and your wife are always welcome,” Neil said. “I could talk to you until the cows come home. We don’t have any cows, but two horses used to live here. They could have been in the sitcom, too.”

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Rocky Mountain Guy"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I have long been told, by people too numerous to mention, including members of my own family, to take a hike. But because of the rarefied air between my ears, I waited until a recent trip to the Rocky Mountains to take them up way up on their suggestion.

My initial ascent of a slope high enough to let me see what flight attendants were serving on passing airplanes was made during a long weekend in Granby, Colo., a picturesque town that is about 8,000 feet above sea level. Considering I am 6 feet tall and live close to the shore, it is 7,994 feet higher than what I am used to.

Accompanying me on this exhausting excursion were my wife, Sue; our daughters, Katie and Lauren; Katie’s husband, Dave; and our niece Ashley. All are in better shape than I am. So are some dead people, but I didn’t want to join them by falling off a cliff or being eaten by a mountain lion.

The first hikers we encountered on the trail were three young children, two women who apparently were their mothers and a white-haired lady whose age, I would estimate, was 112. She had a walking stick.

“Good morning!” she chirped as we tramped by. “Are you enjoying your hike?”

“This is my first one,” I told her.

The lady looked at my ratty sneakers, worn sweatpants, “I Love Garlic” T-shirt and bloodshot eyes and said, “I hope you don’t have trouble with the altitude.”

“I’m naturally lightheaded,” I replied, “so it doesn’t bother me.”

What did bother me was the prospect of being attacked by any number of ferocious fauna, including but not limited to Bigfoot.

“What happens if we encounter a bear?” Sue asked.

“It would be pretty grizzly,” I said.

To which Ashley responded, “Good one!”

Then there were beavers, which came to my boggled mind when we passed a stream that had been dammed by the industrious rodents.

“Last year,” I recalled, “a fisherman in Europe was killed by a berserk beaver.”

Dave saw the bright side when he pointed to the sparkling water and said, “Every delicious ounce of Coors Light starts right here.”

I could have used a beer because I was hot on the trail (of what, I wasn’t sure), but all I had was a bottle of water, and it was warm.

As we made our way up the steep grade (I was expecting my grade to be F, which would have stood for “fainted”), I actually felt invigorated.

“You’re doing very well,” Katie said with a touch of astonishment.

“I thought you would have keeled over by now,” Lauren added optimistically.

Aside from a couple of brief rest stops, we made a beeline (and did not, fortunately, get stung by bees) to the top of the trail, where I beheld two wondrous sights: a waterfall and a lawyer.

The former was not exactly Niagara Falls, though I did approach it step by step, inch by inch, but the latter was exactly what I didn’t expect to see.

“You think you can get away from us,” said Patrick Fitz-Gerald, an attorney from Denver. “But we’re everywhere.”

He was hiking with his wife, Katie; their daughter, Larkin, 3; and their golden retriever, Buddy, 7, who Patrick said is on the cover of the paperback edition of the best-selling Garth Stein novel, “Racing in the Rain.”

When Patrick told me that he used to be a journalist but quit to become a lawyer, I said, “You finally found honest work.”

“If you get hurt on the trail and need representation,” Patrick said, “call me.”

Except for a scratch on my middle finger, which I was too polite to show him, I didn’t get hurt at all. On the way down, which admittedly was a lot easier than going up, I told our merry band that I had a terrific time on my first hike.

“I guess,” said Lauren, speaking for everyone, “you’re not over the hill after all.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima