Sunday, December 23, 2018

"This Crew Gets a Pave Review"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I may not be a Rhodes Scholar, because I always thought it was spelled r-o-a-d-s, but I have been told to hit the road so many times that I know a true roads scholar when I see one. And recently, I saw two.

It happened when a road (of course) crew was repaving the road (ditto) in front of my house to prepare for the long, hard road (stop!) of winter.

“I’m happy to see you,” I told Chris Vecchia, president of Suffolk Asphalt Corp., which was doing the job. “This road has more holes than I have in my head.”

“We can fill the holes in your head when we’re finished with the road, but it may take a lot more asphalt,” said Chris, who’s 34. He thanked me for the neighborly welcome but noted that not everybody is happy to see road crews.

“People complain that their roads are in rough shape, but when we show up to fill in potholes or repave the street, they complain that we are inconveniencing them,” said Chris, adding that the worst offenders are drivers who don’t obey detour signs.

“One time this old lady drove right into a trench we were filling in,” Chris recalled. “We had the whole trench barricaded off and were directing one-way traffic when this Honda Accord went around us and landed in the trench. The car was driven by a woman who had to be in her late 70s. She had a cast on her arm and a leg brace from the knee down.”

“Did she tell you what happened to her?” I asked.

“No, but I’m guessing it was a car accident,” Chris replied. “We asked her why she disobeyed the detour and she said she was on her way to the doctor’s office and this was the only way she knew how to get there.”

“Did you get her car out of the trench?” I inquired.

“Yes, but it took a lot of effort,” said Chris. “The front was about a foot down with the back sticking up. We got the lady out. Then we got a bunch of guys, including Big Sal, and they lifted the car out. She got back in and drove off without even saying thank you.”

“You must have been pretty steamed,” I said.

But not as much as Chris’ esteemed colleague, Donna Bubla, also known as Mama Donna, who operates a steamroller.

“There aren’t many women in this job,” said Donna, who’s 59 and has been doing it for 30 years. “But it’s fun.”

And crazy.

“We were repaving a road when this woman came out of her house and said she didn’t want us to do it, so she sat down in the street,” Donna recalled.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“We went around her,” said Donna.

“Good thing,” I noted. “Otherwise, you would have left her flat.”

“Another time,” Donna related, “a guy who was going through a bitter divorce had this ugly pewter statue that his wife was supposed to get. He asked me to run it over. I couldn’t do it, but somebody else did. We gave him the pieces. I’m sure his wife was thrilled.”

I was thrilled with the great job that Chris, Donna and the rest of the crew did.

“Now that you see what we do, you really are a roads scholar,” said Chris, adding that they’d be back to do other streets in the neighborhood. “We’ll bring extra asphalt for the holes in your head,” he promised. “Looks like it’ll be a big job.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 9, 2018

"The Zezimas' 2018 Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the daughtersiarch; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch; and Chloe, Lilly and Xavier, the grandchildreniarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2018 for the Zezimas!

The year got off to a colorful start when Jerry got a pedicure and had his toenails painted bright red. Sue, a pedicure veteran, was both impressed and jealous. Fortunately, it was winter, so Jerry didn’t wear flip-flops and subject everyone else to the shocking sight of his glossy hoofs.

The fun continued when Jerry went to a brewery to make beer (it went down smooth and didn’t come back up the same way) and then went to a winery to take a paint and sip class (he festooned a wineglass with a portrait of himself, which drove his classmates to drink).

Jerry went back to the winery with Sue for a Wine 101 class. Jerry graduated with flying colors (red and white) despite telling the instructor that he wanted to “make America grape again.”

Jerry got a new cellphone (his old one was the Stegosaurus 4) and needed Chloe, who had just turned 5, to show him how to program it. Aside from telemarketers, she’s the only person who wants to talk with him.

Speaking of grandkids, Chloe’s little sister, Lilly, turned 2 and their cousin, Xavier, turned 1.

Sue and Jerry went to Washington, D.C., to see Katie and Dave and take Xavier to the Smithsonian. At the entrance, Jerry opened Xavier’s diaper bag and told the security guard, “At my age, it comes in handy.” She let him in anyway.

Lauren and Guillaume brought Chloe and Lilly to Sue and Jerry’s house when Katie and Dave visited so they could play with Xavier. The children had a blast, splashing in the kiddie pool, coloring the patio furniture with chalk and proving to be more mature than Jerry.

Jerry took Chloe to Dunkin’ Donuts so she could help make doughnuts, including her favorite, strawberry frosted with rainbow sprinkles. It was a sweet time.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Chloe lost her first tooth and was visited by the Tooth Fairy, who left her more money than Jerry typically has in his wallet.

Jerry could have used the money because he bought a new car. At Chloe’s request, it’s blue. She also wanted the car to have pink polka dots, which means Jerry has to buy a paintball gun.

Jerry published his fourth book, “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures: Grandkids, Wine Clubs, and Other Ways to Keep Having Fun.” Like his first three books, it’s a crime against literature. It also comes in handy for propping up wobbly table legs. If you suffer from insomnia, you might even want to read it.

The highlight of 2018 was Sue and Jerry’s 40th anniversary. They took the week off and celebrated in grand style: Jerry had his teeth cleaned and Sue had a root canal. It doesn’t get more romantic than that!

We hope you and your family had a great year, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Laughter Is a Nurse's Best Medicine"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Being a guy these days is nothing to sneeze at, especially since we are often needled about what wimps we are. This point was made recently by a nurse who tickled my funny bone while giving me a flu shot.

“Men really are babies,” said Cristina Donnelly, who has been a registered nurse for 20 years, during which time she has seen guys scream, cry and even faint at the sight of a needle.

“I promise not to do any of those things,” I said as I rolled up my sleeve. “I can withstand a lot of pain, as long as it’s somebody else’s.”

“You’re very brave,” said Cristina. “I can’t say that about most guys. The worst are the ones who are all tatted up. I’ve said to them, ‘Somebody used a needle to give you these tattoos. It must have taken a lot longer and hurt a lot more than a flu shot.’ I think the reason they don’t mind getting tattoos is that they’re drunk.”

“Does this mean I should have done shots before getting a shot?” I asked.

“No,” Cristina answered. “But you might want to consider it if you get a tattoo.”

“Never,” I said. “With my luck, there’d be a typo.”

“I’m also a baby delivery nurse,” said Cristina. “You wouldn’t believe the guys whose wives are giving birth. One time a cop almost passed out while his wife was in labor. We had to tell her to stop pushing while we gave him oxygen. It took us five minutes to resuscitate him.”

“When I had my first kidney stone, a nurse told me it’s the male equivalent of childbirth,” I said. “I told her that at least I wouldn’t have to put the stone through college.”

“I bet you needed a shot to ease the pain,” Cristina said.

“I sure did,” I replied. “And I didn’t faint.”

Cristina’s husband, Pearse, wouldn’t have fainted, either.

“He’s a paramedic,” she noted. “He’s a wimp at home, but on the job, he’s amazing.”

Cristina, 46, said older daughter Olivia, 16, wants to be a nurse and younger daughter Madison, 14, wants to be a psychologist.

“She can analyze guys who are afraid of shots,” I said.

“She’d make a fortune,” replied Cristina, who wanted to be in theater.

“As an actress?” I wondered. “You’d have to break a leg and you’d need a nurse to give you a shot.”

“No,” Cristina. “I was a production assistant intern for an Off-Broadway show called ‘Four Dogs and a Bone.’ I met Debra Messing before she became famous. She couldn’t have been nicer. Then I decided I wanted to be a nurse, so I went back to school. After I graduated, I worked at New York Presbyterian and saw celebrities like David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld.”

“Were they wimps?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Cristina said. “I didn’t give them shots. But like them, I’m a comedian on the job, although I’m funnier in Spanish.”

“What’s the secret of giving a flu shot?” I inquired.

“Distraction,” Cristina said. “And humor. I talk to people to put them at ease. Before they know it, I’ve given them the shot.”

“I’m ready for mine,” I said.

“Too late,” Cristina said with a smile. “I’ve already given it to you.”

“It didn’t hurt,” I said.

“And you didn’t scream, cry or faint,” Cristina said. “I’m proud of you.”

“When it comes to being a good nurse,” I told her, “you’re a real shot in the arm.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Painter's Helper Is Off the Wall"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
According to a cherished old adage, which I know is true because I just made it up, if you can’t stand the kitchen, turn up the heat.

That’s what my wife, Sue, recently did because she wanted me to take down the wallpaper that had adorned the kitchen for the past dozen years.

“It’s practically new,” I told her.

“It’s old,” Sue countered. “And ugly. I want it down.”

The last time I tried to remove wallpaper, in an upstairs bedroom when Sue and I moved into our house 20 years ago, it came off in pieces the size of lollipop wrappers. It took me three days. I could have saved a lot of time by using a flamethrower.

Thanks to those haunting flashbacks, I convinced Sue to hire Mike the Paint Guy.

Mike, otherwise known as Michael Beck of Island Luxor Painting, turned out to be a good worker who was having a bad week.

The day he was supposed to start, he had to take his father to the hospital. Then he had a flat tire. Worst of all, he had a calcium deposit in his shoulder that required surgery.

“The doctor said I have the body of a 64-year-old man,” said Michael, who is 32.

“I’m 64,” I told him. “My body is nothing to write home about, and neither is my head, but at least I don’t need surgery.”

“Maybe,” Michael said, “you can help me take down the wallpaper.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m off the wall myself, so I’d be happy to assist.”

As Michael prepped the walls with a solution to make the paper come off easily, he asked, “What solution did you use when you took down the wallpaper upstairs?”

My response: “Beer.”

“Wallpaper is tricky,” Michael said. “Nobody uses it anymore. I’ve taken a lot of wallpaper down, but I haven’t put any up.”

When he got it down in the kitchen, he said, “Now I have to spackle. It will cover up the holes.”

“Spackle is also good for covering up wrinkles,” I noted. “I put it on my face before I go to bed.”

“You do look young,” Michael said, “so I guess it works.”

Next, he revved up an electric sander to smooth out the walls.

“May I try?” I asked.

“Help yourself,” Michael said as he handed me the whirring disc.

“This thing could give me a close shave,” I said.

“Yes,” said Michael, “but then you’d need more spackle to cover up the nicks and cuts.”

On one of the walls was a phone number. It was for a woman named Bernice, which also was the name of one of our deceased cats. I called, but the number was out of service.

“It’s dead, too,” I told Michael.

Now it was time to paint. Michael’s shoulder was bothering him, so I said, “You’ll have a brush with disaster. Let me help.”

As I did one of the walls, I remarked, “I’m on a roll!”

It caused Michael even more pain. But he worked through it and, almost single-handedly over the course of a week, and despite my feeble assistance, did a fantastic job.

“I love it!” Sue exclaimed. “Now I want the hallway painted.”

“You’ll have to wait until Michael is out of surgery,” I said.

“Then you can do the prep work,” she said.

“OK,” I replied. “Buy some spackle and an electric sander. And don’t forget the beer.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Out to Lunch at Victoria's Secret"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media
As a thoroughly modern man with a partially feminine side, which I always sit on when I eat lunch, I am not embarrassed to say that if it weren’t for Victoria’s Secret, I would go hungry every day.

That’s because my wife, Sue, a thoroughly modern woman with no masculine side, and a longtime customer of the clothing and beauty chain, packs my lunch in a Victoria’s Secret bag.

My second meal of the day is the hit of the office, where colleagues routinely ask what I have for lunch, to which I reply, “I can’t tell you. It’s a Secret.”

When my pink striped bag recently started to sag under the weight of the incredible edibles packed within, it was time to go to Victoria’s Secret to buy Sue a little something. Then I could get a new bag and avoid not only starving each weekday but depriving my office mates the pleasure of asking if my ham sandwich was wrapped in something frilly.

“May I help you?” sales associate Elana Litsakis asked as Sue and I perused the merchandise.

“I’m looking for a lunch bag,” I replied.

Elana, 29, who said she has “heard it all” from shoppers of the male persuasion, added that this was the first time a guy was more interested in lunch than lingerie.

“I appreciate intimate apparel,” I explained. “After all, sometimes a boy just likes to feel pretty. But the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And I need something to carry my lunch in.”

“Does that mean you’re looking for something to wear?” Elana asked Sue, who nodded and replied, “I’d like to see some leggings.”

“How about armings?” I wondered.

“They haven’t come in yet,” said Elana, who showed Sue the selection and directed her to the fitting room while I stood next to the thongs, which Elana was marking, pricing and, somehow, folding.

“I don’t suppose you have anything in my size,” I said.

“Of course we do,” Elana responded with a smile. “What color would you like?”

“Pink,” I said. “It’ll match my new bag.”

“My grandpa likes our bags,” Elana told me. “For his 80th birthday, we got him a camera that we put in one of them. He said, ‘Is there a girl in there, too?’ ”

“You don’t seem to have anything for guys,” I said.

“We have cologne,” Elana countered. “There’s Very Sexy for Him and Very Sexy for Him Platinum.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“One is Platinum,” Elana said. “The other isn’t.”

“I think I’ll stick with Eau de Budweiser,” I told her.

When Sue emerged from the fitting room, she said she didn’t want the leggings but would buy two sweatshirts instead.

“You get a free panty,” Elana said.

“Wow,” said Sue.

I agreed.

We thanked Elana for her help and, in my case, her unlimited patience and headed to the checkout, where I told Alexis, the cashier, about my lunchtime cravings.

“You must be very popular in the office,” she said as she rang up Sue’s purchase. “It comes to $70,” Alexis added. “If you want a bag, it will be an extra 5 cents.”

“I’ll buy you two bags,” Sue said sweetly, signing a bill for $70.10.

“You spare no expense for me,” I said gratefully. “By the way, what’s for lunch tomorrow?”

“After this,” Sue said, “you can make it yourself.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"Dot's the Car for Poppie"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media

If a car dealership is looking for someone to star in its TV commercials, a funny, smart, trusted spokesperson who is an expert in style and the best color for your new vehicle, I have the perfect candidate.

I refer, of course, to my 5-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.

Chloe, who has a lifetime of experience with crayons, has two favorite colors: blue and pink. Those are my favorite colors, too, because Chloe has told me they are.

So when I called her recently to say I was going to look for a new car, I asked what color I should get.

“Get blue, Poppie,” Chloe advised.

“How about pink?” I wondered.

“No,” Chloe said. “Get blue. With pink polka dots.”

That afternoon, my wife, Sue, and I went to Hyundai 112 and saw James Boyd, a super salesman who is starring in a TV commercial for the Long Island dealership.

“You’re a celebrity,” I told him.

“I haven’t seen the commercial yet,” said James, who asked what I was looking for in a new car.

“Brakes,” I replied. “They’re pretty important. And wheels. An engine would help, too.”

“I can do that,” he said. “I can also get you all the bells and whistles.”

“If I wanted bells and whistles,” I said, “I’d buy a train.”

James said I could trade in my 2014 Santa Fe for a 2019 Santa Fe, but that it wouldn’t be keyless.

“Even keyless cars need keys,” I pointed out.

“That’s a key point,” James responded with a straight face. “But the car doesn’t come with seat warmers.”

“I already have them,” I said. “They’re called pants.”

When Sue and I returned from a test drive, James asked how we liked the car.

I shrugged and replied, “The cop said the accident wasn’t my fault.”

He blanched. Sue shook her head and said, “Ignore him.”

But James, 39, a charming guy who has been in the business for 18 years, couldn’t ignore the fact that we wanted to buy the car. He got us an excellent deal.

After checking out my old white car, James said, “You have the best vanity plates I have ever seen.”

The plates — JZEE — were Sue’s idea.

“It took me months to get them,” she told James.

“What do you think the real Jay-Z would say?” James wondered.

“I’m the real one,” I said. “I’m older than he is and I had the name first. And my wife is even more beautiful than his.”

Sue blushed. Then she said, “We have to pick a color.”

“Our granddaughter wants me to get blue,” I told James.

“I can do that,” he said.

“With pink polka dots,” I added.

“Anything for you, JZEE,” he promised. “But you may have to buy a paintball gun.”

James said that the available shade of blue was called Stormy Sea.

“Better than Stormy Daniels,” I noted.

Sue agreed.

When the transaction was done, I asked the celebrity salesman for his autograph. James took out a pen and, on a sheet of paper, signed, “To JZEE: Best wishes. Drive safely!! James T. Boyd”

“Now I want yours,” he said.

“I already gave you about 47 autographs on the paperwork,” I said.

After we all shook hands, Sue and I drove home, where I called Chloe.

“I got a new car,” I told her.

“Wow!” she said. “What color?”


“With pink polka dots?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You have to get pink polka dots, Poppie.”

James was right: I may have to buy a paintball gun.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima