Sunday, June 23, 2019

"The Height of Folly"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Because I suffer from acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head, I would rather have a root canal while listening to a telemarketer than get up on the roof of my house, a two-story Colonial that could give a mountain goat nosebleeds.

But I got up there recently with a fearless young man who came over to give me an estimate for a new roof.

“I never realized I was petrified of heights until we bought this house and I had to clean the gutters every fall,” I told Anthony Amini, who owns the company that my wife, Sue, and I were considering for the job. “Even the word ‘fall’ makes me nervous.”

“You should have gotten gutter guards,” Anthony said.

“I did,” I replied. “Now I don’t have to get up on the roof anymore.”

“Except for today,” said Anthony, who agreed to my frankly stupid request to accompany him on a trip atop the Mount Everest of houses.

As Anthony put a ladder against the family room extension, which at one story has the lowest of our three roofs, I asked, “Are you afraid of heights?”

“No,” Anthony responded.

“Have you ever fallen off a roof?” I wanted to know.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” he said.

“What’s your secret?” I inquired.

“Don’t look down,” Anthony answered.

I didn’t even want to look up. But I had to as I began my ascent, which took so long that it could have been timed with a sundial.

“This isn’t so bad, is it?” Anthony said as I stood, knees shaking, next to our leaky skylight, which he said needed to be replaced.

“Skylights are great on sunny days,” I told him, “but otherwise, they’re floods waiting to happen.”

Even though we were only about 10 feet up, Anthony complimented me on my bravery after I was back on terra firma, a Latin term meaning “the place where you will be buried if you fall off the roof.”

But the coward in me came out, in pathetic whimpers, when I had to climb to the top of the house.

Remembering Anthony’s admonition not to look down, I stared into a second-story window and saw my reflection, which bore a frightening resemblance to the Edvard Munch painting “The Scream,” except with a mustache.

When I had reached the summit and surveyed my kingdom, which costs a king’s ransom in property taxes, I exclaimed, “Look, it’s the Great Wall of China!”

“That’s your fence,” Anthony noted.

He said our altitude was about 30 feet. It seemed like 30,000 feet. A plane flew past. I waved to the pilot.

“You’re doing great,” Anthony said as I stood stock-still, my feet straddling the crown of the roof, afraid to move. “You can join my crew. I’ll have you carry up shingles.”

“I may have to be carried down,” I stammered.

Then I noticed that my right sneaker was untied. Anthony bent down to lace it up, making a double knot.

“I’ve done it for my kids,” he said.

I slowly made my way back to the ladder and climbed down, only to climb up again, this time to the roof above the garage, kitchen and laundry room, a mere 18 feet high.

As he did on the other parts of the roof, Anthony took measurements and showed me what needed to be done.

Later, as Sue and I sat with Anthony in the kitchen, where he gave us a reasonable estimate, I said, “I just renewed my life insurance policy.”

“Looks like I’ll have to wait to collect,” said Sue.

“Your husband is very courageous,” Anthony told her.

“Coming from you,” I said with a sigh of relief, “that’s high praise.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 9, 2019

"Come and Meet Those Dancing Feet"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to dancing, I have two left feet, which makes it extremely difficult to buy shoes. If I were on “Dancing With the Stars,” the judges would all give me perfect scores — of zero. Len Goodman would add insult to injury by saying that only an injury could improve my dancing.

But take it from me, Dread Astaire: I know a winning performance when I see one. And I just happened to see one recently when I attended a dance recital starring my granddaughters, Chloe and Lilly.

They weren’t technically the stars because they were among a cast of dozens in a show whose theme was “The Wizard of Oz.” But they did stand out because they executed their routines perfectly.

Their grandfather, after his routine, would have been executed.

When I was a kid, I took dancing lessons at the Phil Jones School of Dance in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, but I was so bad that: (a) none of the girls wanted to be my partner and (b) the school closed.

My wife, Sue, and I took dancing lessons before the wedding of our older daughter, Katie, and her husband, Dave, but like cramming for a geometry test, I forgot everything as soon as the lessons were over. At the wedding, Sue and I did basic geometry by dancing in circles.

We didn’t even bother with dancing lessons before the wedding of our younger daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Guillaume, who are Chloe and Lilly’s mommy and daddy.

At the recital, which drew a large crowd, the girls wore colorful tutus.

I didn’t wear a tutu, which would have been tutu much for my family to bear. Besides, my outfit would have been ruined in the rain because I had to drop off Sue at the door and leave the car about half a mile away.

“I guess they don’t have ballet parking,” I said when we took our seats.

Everyone ignored me. And for good reason: The show was about to begin!

Shortly after the curtain went up, the little kids, including Lilly, who is 2 and a half, pranced out and formed a line. Lilly, dressed in blue with a bright red bow in her hair, was last but not least. She wiggled and sashayed, earning appreciative chuckles from the audience.

To the strains of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” the group exited stage left. Lilly clapped for herself. The crowd clapped back.

Not long afterward, another group, including Chloe, 6, came out. Each girl was carrying a giant peppermint lollipop. Chloe’s was as tall as she is. In her black and red outfit, she danced to the beat of — you guessed it — “Lollipop.”

“Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolli, lolli, lolli, lollipop!” went the piped-in lyrics, over and over, filling my normally empty head.

Chloe and the other girls put their right feet out, then their left, bent over and jumped. It was all perfectly timed.

Applause filled the auditorium. It did so again as the troupe exited to “We’re Off the See the Wizard.” Chloe waved to the crowd. Everybody waved in return.

“That was great!” I gushed when the 90-minute show was over. “And Chloe and Lilly were fantastic.”

Befitting their new status as theater celebrities, the girls got flowers backstage and posed for pictures. The only thing they didn’t do was sign autographs, probably because nobody thought to bring crayons.

I can see them in a Broadway musical or the Joffrey Ballet. They might even be on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Or they could open their own school of dance. Their grandfather will be the first one to take lessons.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima