Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Nothing but the Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
If I were a lawyer — which I always thought I should be because I have been admitted to the bar many times — I’d have a retainer.

I’m not a lawyer — because I have been thrown out of the bar many times, too — but I have a retainer anyway.

I refer not to the advance fee a lawyer gets so he or she can pay the bar tab, but to the device that holds your teeth in place so you will have a nice smile when addressing a jury or, in my case (the People v. Zezima), pleading not guilty to Larceny, Chicanery and Mopery, attorneys at law, for failing to pay the bar tab.

“You need a new retainer,” said Dr. Ammar Alsamawi, a third-year resident at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York. “If I give you one, you could be my lawyer.”

“If you want me to be your lawyer,” I said, “I’d advise you to plead insanity.”

Dr. Alsamawi, 29, who was born and raised in Iraq and immigrated to the United States almost nine years ago, is a third-year resident at Stony Brook, where I had undergone a lengthy but happily successful treatment to straighten two teeth that had been knocked out of alignment by the foot that’s usually in my mouth.

When the treatment concluded a few years ago, I got retainers. Unfortunately, the top retainer recently cracked and one of the teeth, a lateral incisor, was beginning to turn back out of alignment.

“I have to rotate it,” Dr. Alsamawi said.

“You mean like a mechanic rotates tires?” I asked. “Will you have to put me on a lift in a garage?”

“No, you can stay in the chair,” the good doctor replied. “And I won’t even give you an oil change.”

But he did make impressions of all my teeth, top and bottom, and said he would see me the following week to apply my new retainers.

When I went back, I greeted Dr. Alsamawi by pronouncing his last name correctly.

“I’ve been practicing all week,” I said.

“Wow,” he replied. “That’s a real skill. Most of my colleagues still can’t pronounce my name. But I’m impressed that you practiced. You have too much time on your hands.”

“On my feet, too,” I said as I propped them up on the chair and leaned back so Dr. Alsamawi, which I couldn’t pronounce this time because my mouth was wide open, could fit the new retainers over my baby grand piano keys.

“Did I make a good impression?” I inquired after he snapped them into place.

“You mean did I make a good impression?” said Dr. Alsamawi, adding that he made the clear retainers in a small laboratory at the school.

“They fit like a glove,” I noted.

“That’s because I was wearing gloves when I made them,” said Dr. Alsamawi, whose own teeth are perfectly straight.

“Did you ever have braces?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “I just got done with my treatment a year ago.”

Like me, Dr. Alsamawi had Invisalign, the brand name for what are commonly known as invisible braces.

“You know the worst thing about them?” I said.

“What?” he replied.

“You can’t find them.”


“Because,” I said triumphantly, “they’re invisible.”

Dr. Alsamawi flashed a Hollywood smile.

“You could be a movie star,” I said.

His handsome visage blushed as he said modestly, “I’m no movie star.”

“If this orthodontic gig doesn’t work out,” I suggested, “you should get an agent.”

“You don’t want me to leave before your incisor is straightened out, do you?” he said.

“No!” I exclaimed. “You’re going to get me on the straight and narrow. Or, in the case of my mouth, the straight and wide.”

Dr. Alsamawi explained that incisors are the “meanest, most annoying teeth” because they have “a mind of their own.”

“That’s more than I can say for myself,” I said.

“Keep the retainers on about 18 hours a day for six weeks,” Dr. Alsamawi said. “By then, your incisor will have taken a good turn.”

“As your lawyer,” I told him, “I can say without fear of prosecution that one good turn deserves another.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, June 14, 2018

"Mr. Sunshine"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
Of our planet’s many great meteorological mysteries — including why, since I am full of hot air, no hurricane in the past 30 years has been named after me — this one is the most baffling of all: What the hell is the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy?

I never knew the answer because, with my limited comprehension of weather patterns, I get very few brainstorms. As I have sadly come to realize, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.

But I now have a much clearer understanding of weather forecasting, which explains why it rains every time I wash my car, thanks to my favorite TV meteorologist, Lonnie Quinn.

I recently visited Lonnie, the lead weather anchor for WCBS-TV, at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York, the City That Never Sleets.

I had watched Lonnie’s forecast the night before and, based on his prediction of a shower, which I took before I left the house, brought an umbrella. As usual, Lonnie was spot-on, mainly because the showers were spotty.

“Most people think I’m all wet, even during droughts,” I told him, “but today you helped me avoid being a real drip.”

“That’s my job,” said Lonnie, who has a sunny disposition, even on rainy days.

Since he’s famous for rolling up his sleeves, I asked him if I could roll up mine, too.

“Go for it, big boy!” said Lonnie, who believes in the right to bare forearms.

On a roll, he said he was born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, about 50 miles from my hometown of Stamford.

“My brother Jeff was born in our house on Jan. 11,” said Lonnie, who’s 54.

“That’s my birthday!” I said. “The only other person I know of who was born on that date was Alexander Hamilton, which means I will either have a hit Broadway show or be killed in a duel.”

“You deserve a show,” said Lonnie.

“Not as much as I deserve to be shot,” I replied.

Too nice to argue the point, Lonnie said Jeff was born during a blizzard.

“Me, too,” I said. “I’ve been perpetrating snow jobs ever since.”

“But this storm was so bad that my mother couldn’t get out to go to the hospital,” Lonnie said. “My father delivered the baby upstairs and tied off the umbilical cord with a shoelace. Not long afterward, a cop arrived on a snowmobile. The next day, there was a story in the local paper. The headline said, ‘Hero cop delivers baby.’ That was the family’s first big weather event.”

“So how come your brother isn’t a meteorologist?” I asked.

“He’s smart,” Lonnie answered. “He went into finance.”

Lonnie, a multiple Emmy Award winner and a former soap opera actor, said his mother is smart, too, but she doesn’t always watch his weather forecasts.

“I’ll say, ‘Mom, did you see me on TV last night?’ and she’ll say, ‘Oh, honey, the news is so depressing, so I didn’t watch.’ Of course,” Lonnie said, “I know she watches regularly. And I know she’s proud of me.”

So is his 5-year-old daughter, Lily, one of his three children, the others being son Nate, 20, and younger daughter Savy, 3. Lonnie’s wife, Sharon, is director of international communications for the National Basketball Association.

Said Lonnie: “When I take Lily out for ice cream, she’ll say to the person behind the counter, ‘My daddy is a weatherman.’ When the person says, ‘That’s nice,’ Lily will say, ‘He’s on TV!’ And when the person asks what channel, Lily will say, ‘I don’t know.’ But I know she’s proud of me, too.”

And I was proud of Lonnie for educating me on meteorological terms such as “partly sunny” and “partly cloudy.”

“What do you think the difference is?” Lonnie asked.

I thought for a moment and said, “The spelling.”

“I didn’t see that one coming!” Lonnie exclaimed as he gave me a high five. Then he said, “When it’s partly cloudy, only part of the sky has clouds and there is more sun. And when it’s partly sunny, only part of the sky has sun and there are more clouds.”

“I often have my head in the clouds,” I admitted, “but now you have cleared them up for me.”

“Glad I could let a little sunshine in,” Lonnie said with a bright smile.

“When it comes to TV meteorologists,” I told him, “you rain supreme.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima