Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Isn't It Romantic?"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
When you’ve been married for 40 years, as my wife, Sue, and I have been, you want to celebrate your anniversary in a big way, by doing something wonderful and memorable during a week of fun and frolic, all while expressing your eternal devotion to your beloved spouse.

So I got my teeth cleaned and Sue had a root canal.

These were only two of the many romantic ways we marked this landmark event, which was so action-packed that we needed five full days to cram it all in.

It should be noted that we spent this time at home, not in some tropical resort with postcards, palm trees and swim-up bars, which only would have distracted us from doing such exciting things as shoveling snow and babysitting our granddaughters.

That’s exactly what we did on our anniversary, when Mother Nature spared no expense in gifting us with a spring storm that dumped six inches of snow on our driveway.

Instead of wearing a bathing suit and flip-flops, with a margarita in hand, I donned a parka and boots, with a shovel in hand, and headed out into the arctic air.

“Have fun!” Sue said as she blew me a kiss.

When I came back in, cold and tired, I found a waterfall — not like in Hawaii, where Sue and I honeymooned — that was cascading through the ceiling from an upstairs bathroom, where our son-in-law Guillaume had just taken a shower.

“Shall we call a plumber to help us celebrate our anniversary?” I asked Sue.

She declined when the leak stopped and said that she and our younger daughter, Lauren, were going shopping. Since Guillaume was going to work, I would be in charge of babysitting our granddaughters, Chloe, 5, and Lilly, a year and a half. It was the most fun I had all day.

Later, after everyone left and Sue and I were alone, we had a romantic candlelight dinner featuring leftovers.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” I said as Sue and I toasted each other with boxed wine.

“Happy anniversary, dear,” she replied sweetly.

The next day, which was Tuesday, I proved that I would do anything for my wife short of painting the hallway by driving her to the orthodontist’s office so she could have a root canal.

“Don’t worry,” I said reassuringly. “It won’t hurt.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Sue replied nervously.

“I know,” I told her. “That’s why I said it.”

As it turned out, I was right: It didn’t hurt at all. It didn’t hurt Sue, either. But it did knock her out, which is why she spent the afternoon napping while I made myself useful by having cocktails.

On Wednesday, I had an appointment with my dermatologist, who will turn 40 later this year.

“I’ve been married as long as you’ve been alive,” I said.

“I’ve been married for 12 years,” he responded, “but it feels like 40.”

By the afternoon, Sue was feeling much better, so we spent the rest of the day at the outlets, shopping for sneakers, shoes and, most important, a new pair of boots.

“In case,” I explained to Sue, “it snows again.”

On Thursday, the action continued when I got a haircut. After I told my barber, Maria, about my anniversary week, she said, “You’ll need another week to recover.”

That afternoon, Sue and I went to a travel agency to see if we could book a vacation to a warmer locale later in the year.

Lindsay, our travel consultant, said, “You’re having a busy week. You need to get away.”

Friday morning, I got my teeth cleaned. After I told Margaret, the hygienist, all about the exciting things Sue and I had done to celebrate our anniversary, she said, “All that’s missing is a colonoscopy.”

That night, Sue and I went out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Grana, where we were serenaded by Brett Chizever, a bartender who also has theater experience and once played Rooster Hannigan in a road version of “Annie.”

In a beautiful operatic voice, Brett, 30, sang us a Gershwin tune called “Love Is Here to Stay.”

His rendition earned a round of applause.

“Happy 40th anniversary, you two lovebirds,” Brett said.

“Thank you,” Sue replied with a wide smile.

“Believe me,” I added, “this is the most romantic thing that’s happened to us all week.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"Que Syrah, Syrah"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
When it comes to wine, I have a discriminating palate, so I know that whites go with lighter foods, such as Twinkies and Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks, and that reds pair well with meatier offerings, like hot dogs and Slim Jims.

But even I, a person whose prodigious proboscis has sniffed so much wine that I often need a decongestant, had a lot to learn when I met Jeff Saelens, a true oenophile who recently taught a Wine 101 class at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, New York.

Accompanying me was my wife, Sue, who is something of a wine connoisseur herself (she prefers a glass of chardonnay, out of a box, with one ice cube). The only other students were Brittany Rosen and Chase Smith, a very nice young couple who not only were delightful to talk and drink with, but who guaranteed that, unlike in high school or college, I would graduate no lower than fourth in my class.

Jeff, 78, a wise and witty wine wizard (say that five times fast after you’ve had a snootful of sauvignon), isn’t snooty or snotty even though he is sophisticated. He also is a retired business development expert who used to own a wine shop in Saratoga Springs, New York, and has a degree in neurochemistry from Harvard Medical School.

“Can I call you doctor?” I asked him as the class began.

“I’ve been called worse,” Jeff replied with a wry smile.

Then he handed out the course materials, including a map of France, which Sue and I visited in 2011 for our younger daughter’s wedding. In preparation for the trip, I learned such important French words as “bonjour,” “bon appetit” and, of course, “Bon Jovi.”

The map was divided into France’s premier wine regions, such as Loire Valley and Rhone Valley but not Silicon Valley, where California grapes, not to mention Apples, are grown.

In front of each student were two wineglasses, into which Jeff poured Tang instant breakfast drink.

No, actually, he poured wine, starting with reds, which I prefer, and finishing with whites, which Sue likes.

“First, we will try pinot noir and Syrah,” Jeff said as he gave us a small amount of each.

“The Syrah is drier and the pinot is sweeter,” Sue remarked, to which Brittany and Chase agreed.

Showing my impressive expertise, I noted, “They’re both better than Boone’s Farm.”

Jeff said the grapes for both wines grow better in “a cold, miserable climate,” adding that the best Syrah is from Rhone Valley and the best noir is from Burgundy.

“Syrah dates back 2,000 years,” Jeff said. “Pinot noir is even older: 3,000 years. Bordeaux, on the other hand, is only 200 to 300 years old. Still,” Jeff added dryly, “that’s even older than I am.”

Our education continued as Jeff talked about different kinds of grapes, as illustrated in our materials, as well as various types of soil, including the sandy loam of Long Island, where the maritime climate also contributes to what we all agreed is the excellence of Martha Clara’s wines.

Having sipped our way through the reds, which made my eyes the same color, we went to the whites, which I really liked even though I don’t normally drink them.

Jeff also discussed food pairings, the fermentation process and wine consumption by countries (France and Italy consume the most while the United States is near the bottom).

“Don’t blame me,” I told Jeff. “I’m doing my best to make America grape again.”

Jeff thanked me for my patriotic efforts and finished by saying that we all passed Wine 101 with flying colors.

“The colors are red and white, right?” I asked.

“Don’t make me revoke your diploma,” Jeff said.

Brittany, Chase, Sue and I didn’t get sheepskins, or even grape skins, but we did get a well-rounded education from a man I would nominate as teacher of the year.

“You’re a good student,” Jeff told me.

“Thank you,” I replied. “In Wine 101, I’m tops in my glass.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima