Monday, February 26, 2018

"Portrait of the Artist As a Wine Man"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
As a painter specializing in bathrooms, bedrooms and cats, who used to get splattered when I was painting the first two, I will never be mistaken for van Gogh (when I go for a haircut, I still get both ears lowered) or Picasso (my wife would kill me if I painted a nude model instead of the hallway). I can’t even draw a good salary.

But I recently exchanged walls and fur for a canvas of glass when I took a Paint & Sip class at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, New York.

It was the first time I had ever painted wineglasses, but I was assured by the very nice and very talented instructor, Maggie Carine, that my artwork would be worth toasting.

“It may not end up in the Louvre,” said Maggie, 22, a steward at Martha Clara and a graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, “but it will hang proudly on your wine rack at home.”

Each attendee in the 30-person class, which cost $35 for wine club members such as yours truly, was treated to a glass of either Solstice Blanc or, my preference, Syrah, because red wine is not only good for the heart but, as Maggie noted, “good for the art.”

She also gave me several kisses (of the Hershey’s variety) to add to the palate, if not the palette.

As I took my seat at one of the tables, I noticed that everybody was given two wineglasses to paint.

“If you mess up,” Maggie told the class, “you have an extra chance.”

Also in front of each attendee was a clear plastic plate with dollops of red, pink, purple and white paint, as well as two paintbrushes, one small for delicate work, the other large in case I got carried away and, fueled by wine, painted the entire vineyard.

In addition, we each had two sets of stencils with the shapes of lips, hearts and the letters XO, all of which signified love. We also were given foam-tipped stampers so we could festoon our glasses with polka dots.

“Tape the stencils to the inside of your glasses and trace around them on the outside,” Maggie instructed us. “Then color in the shapes. Be creative!”

That was all I needed to hear. Like van Gogh, I painted a self-portrait on my first glass. Using my stamper, I dotted two white eyeballs. I dabbed my small brush in red paint and made the eyes bloodshot. For the finishing touch, I painted a pair of purple pupils, which isn’t easy to say when you’ve been drinking wine.

Then I stamped a big red nose under the eyes. Under the nose I drew a purple mustache. Under that, I traced white lips. I topped it all off with purple eyebrows.

“That’s genius!” exclaimed Dianne Sykes, who sat at my table with her sister, Cat, and their mother, Suzanne, all of whom got into the spirit of things with creative paintings of their own.

Cat, for example, wrote “Girls rule, boys drool” on one of her glasses.

“How much wine have we had?” she asked, to which Dianne and Suzanne answered in unison: “Not enough!”

Maggie also was impressed with my artistic creation.

“Awesome!” she declared.

Thus inspired, I finished my first glass with a red heart, a pink XO and a series of multicolored polka dots. I used my stamper and small brush to create a dotted and striped base.

On my second glass, I flipped the letters and drew a pink, red, white and purple OX. “I’m as dumb as one,” I explained to the ladies, who politely disagreed. I also drew a red heart with an arrow through it, stamped some dots, painted the base red with my big brush and, with my small brush, put the finishing touch near the top of the glass by autographing it with a red “Jerry.”

“You did great,” Maggie told me when the class was over.

“Thank you,” I replied modestly. “As Picasso might have said, I’ll drink to that.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"This Caveman Is a Cool Guy"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
People who know me and are willing to admit it (which narrows the field considerably) will gladly tell you that I have frequent bouts of brain freeze and that everything I say should be taken with a million grains of salt.

Aside from margaritas, which I like because they’re cold and salty, and have been known to reduce my brain cells to practically zero, never has this sensational combination been more welcome than when I recently spent time in a salt cave and later was flash-frozen in a cryotherapy chamber.

The place to enjoy these invigorating experiences (not including margaritas) is Port Jeff Salt Cave in Port Jefferson, New York. Billed as “an integrative wellness center,” it’s owned by the husband-and-wife team of Rich and Marcy Guzman, both of whom are nurses who know that laughter is the best medicine.

As Marcy told me before I sat in a group session in the cave, “Salt doesn’t cure anything but ham.”

“I’m a ham,” I replied.

“Then you’ll be cured,” she said.

Inhaling salt air can decrease inflammation (good news for my big head), detox the blood (I’m not type O, but I do occasionally have a typo) and send nutrients to my organs (too bad I don’t play the piano).

I joined seven other people, ranging in age from 12 to 84, in the salt cave, which looks just like — you guessed it — a hockey arena.

No, actually, it looks like a cave. It also looks like a beach because it contains 10 beach chairs, arranged in a circle, but instead of sand, the floor is covered with salt crystals. The room is dimly lit with twinkling ceiling lights that resemble the night sky. There also are vents that release salt air and a sound system that pipes in a soothing recording by Marcy.

At the beginning of the 45-minute session, which costs $45 per person, Marcy said the salt air would open our sinuses.

“My sinuses are already open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays,” I said.

The other customers shifted nervously in their beach chairs.

But everyone relaxed when Marcy closed the door and started the recording, which took us vicariously on a nature walk, over the river and through the woods, where we bypassed Grandmother’s house and encountered several creatures that evidently had escaped from either a zoo or “The Jungle Book” but proved to be good omens that led us back to where we started, safe, sound and satisfied.

“How do you feel?” Marcy asked afterward.

“Salty,” I responded. “And peppery. It was wonderful. I have an inner warmth.”

I had an outer cold when I went back a week later for my own version of the movie “Frozen.”

I was greeted by Rich, who asked me to strip to my skivvies and don a pair of socks and gloves before entering the small, cylindrical chamber, where the temperature would drop to 265 degrees below zero.

“I’ll end up being like a Mrs. Paul’s fish stick,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Rich replied. “Your wife can thaw you out in the microwave.”

He added that during the three-minute session, which costs $40, I’d be enveloped by a nitrogen vapor that would, among other benefits, help my body release endorphins, kill fat cells and block pain.

“The first minute is refreshing,” Rich told me as I stood in the one-person chamber with my hands at my side and my head peering over the closed door. “The second minute is invigorating. And the third minute is ‘talk me through this.’ Ready?”

I gulped and nodded. Rich turned on the machine. Vapor started to rise and caress my skin, invading my pores and turning my body into what seemed like a block of dry ice. I felt, as Rich promised, refreshed and invigorated.

“Talk me through this,” I said as he counted down the last minute.

“No need,” he said. “You’re doing great.”

When it was over, I stepped out of the chamber, the coolest guy on earth.

“Between the two sessions,” I told Rich and Marcy after I got dressed, “I feel like a new man.”

“The salt air and the cold air really help,” Marcy noted.

“The only thing cryotherapy couldn’t help is my brain,” I said. “It’s already frozen.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima