Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Poppie's Personal Trainer"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
At the advanced age of 61 (my age is advancing while the rest of me is regressing), I am happy to say that I don’t need to join a health club.

That’s because I have a personal trainer: my granddaughter, Chloe.

Chloe, whose age has advanced to 2 and a half in the blink of an eye (my other eye doesn’t work as well as it used to), keeps me in shape like no professional ever could.

That was exhaustingly evident during a recent trip to Safari Adventure, a children’s activity and entertainment center in Riverhead, New York.

For me, a child at heart, which got a strenuous workout and pumped enough blood to actually reach my brain, the place was a gym where I had a one-day membership.

Ordinarily, Chloe keeps me going with activities such as playing hide-and-seek; running around the dining room table; pushing her in her toy car (she honks the horn) or on her tricycle (she rings the bell); having foot races in the backyard; making her fly like Supergirl; doing bench presses with her; carrying her; catching her as she goes down the slide; helping her go up and down stairs; taking her to the park and pushing her on the swings; playing catch; playing soccer; frolicking with her in the kiddie pool; jumping in puddles; or simply walking hand-in-hand to and fro wherever we may be.

If these were Olympic sports, I would have set the world record for gold medals and you would have seen me (and Chloe) on boxes of Wheaties.

As it is, I have already gone through a pair of sneakers since Chloe started walking, even though I don’t see her every day, much to my chagrin because (a) I love her and (b) I could use the exercise.

I got plenty of it at Safari Adventure.

The first thing I had to do was take off my sneakers, which for once avoided wear and tear, even if my feet and the rest of me didn’t.

Then Chloe led me to a huge inflatable slide. I thought she wanted me to watch her go down, but she had a better idea: She wanted me to go with her.

Getting to the top entailed going through a rubber obstacle course. I couldn’t stand because I am too tall, so I had to crawl, which must have been a pathetic sight since I kept toppling over like I had been out on an all-night bender.

Chloe patiently waited for me as I caught up with her at the stairs, which she scampered up in a flash. It took me approximately the length of time it would have taken Chloe to read “War and Peace.”

Then whoosh! down the slide she went. I followed, slowly and clumsily, suffering rubber burns on my elbows and knees in the process.

“Again!” Chloe said when I reached the bottom.

This exercise was repeated about half a dozen times until Chloe took me by the hand and led me to the bouncy house, where my conditioning reached a whole new level. Actually, two levels: up and down.

It is safe to say, though not safe to do if you are a cardiac patient, that Chloe got the jump on me. This was the routine: bounce, bounce, bounce, plop! Every time she did it, I did, too, which made Chloe giggle with delight.

If I had a dollar for every time we bounced and plopped, I could have paid off my mortgage.

Then Chloe led me back to the slide, then to the bouncy house again, then to another, even taller slide. At least this one didn’t have an obstacle course.

After an hour and a half, Chloe was ready to go home. I was ready to go to the hospital. But it was invigorating, and fun, and I’d go back to Safari Adventure in a rapidly pounding, chest-exploding heartbeat.

Thanks to my little personal trainer, I’m in the best shape of any grandpa I know.

Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"When the Bough Breaks"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
When I bought my house, which the bank owns but kindly allows me to pay for, I was thrilled to have a big yard with lots of beautiful trees. Apparently, the trees don’t feel the same, which is why, after a recent storm, the oak was on me.

Not literally, of course, because if a tree fell on my head, it would be crushed to kindling, while my head would be slightly dented but otherwise unharmed.

This particular tree either was hit by lightning I was shocked, SHOCKED, that such a thing could happen or had its uppermost branches sheared off by what some meteorologists speculated was a tornado, not likely because I don’t live in Kansas, even though, according to the bank, there’s no place like home.

Fortunately, mine wasn’t hit by the tree, which nonetheless knocked out my power. It knocked out my house’s power, too, when a huge branch fell and came to rest on a power line in the backyard, threatening to plunge the entire neighborhood into darkness, especially at night.

Then again, the setting sun does the same thing all the time. Good thing I don’t have solar power.

Anyway, it took two weeks for the power company to come over and cut down the offending branch and another huge one that had almost entirely snapped off the trunk. That branch was resting against a neighbor’s tree on the property line and would have taken down the power line if it had fallen, too.

During those two weeks, the power was restored but went off twice more, both times when the sun, which also rises, was shining brightly and there was nary a breeze, save for my hot air.

When the crew from the power company finally arrived and felled the two big branches, my wife, Sue, was told they couldn’t be cut up and hauled away, but one guy said he could do it privately for a price that could have bankrupted Donald Trump.

So I got an estimate from Vinny, who works for O’Connell’s Landscaping, the company that cuts what little grass we have. The lawn looks like a stretch of Death Valley because the trees in the front and back yards are so shady.

“I’m kind of shady myself,” I told Vinny.

“Maybe I should cut you down,” he replied with a smile.

Vinny, 41, a Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf, said I was lucky the tree didn’t fall on my house.

“If it had,” I noted, “at least I’d have hardwood floors.”

“I’ve seen plenty of trees that fell on people’s roofs and into their pools,” said Vinny, adding that he slept through the storm. “It didn’t affect me, and I live only a few miles away. I guess the worst of it was in your neighborhood.”

Vinny surveyed my branch-littered backyard and gave me a reasonable price to cut up the wood and take it away.

“I’m a geezer with a handsaw,” I said. “I could never do it myself.”

“You don’t have to,” said Vinny, who, a few days later, sent over three of his best men: Efren, William and Mario.

“You have a lot of rot,” said Efren, the supervisor of the crew.

“I know,” I responded. “But what about the tree?”

“It has rot, too,” said Efren, who showed me and Sue the decaying wood in one of the branches.

“I used to like oaks,” I said. “Now I hate them. Never mind the acorns. It’s the brown gunk they drop in the spring that’s the worst. And they’re supposed to be the strongest trees, but every time a breeze blows through, the yard is littered with twigs. Now this.”

“And it could happen again,” Efren said as William and Mario finished the job.

“You know what they say,” I told him. “Everything happens in trees.”

Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima