Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
To say that the quarantine has been hair-raising would be the unkindest cut of all. I know this because I hadn’t had a haircut in a month and a half and was starting to look like Medusa, the mythical monster with snakes coming out of her head, so I risked shear hell and gave myself a trim.

On the plus side, I found out from my barber, Maria Santos, that my natural hair color is blond.

“Dirty blond,” Maria said when I called her for a consultation in which she advised against using a hedge trimmer on my unruly locks, which were starting to sprout more gray matter than I have on the inside of my head.

Maria is to dye for. That’s what she does when I go for a haircut. At my age (old enough to know better), I need a little touch-up to prevent me from looking like the geezer I really am.

The good news is that 66 is the new 46. The bad news is that I haven’t looked 46 since I was 36.

At that age, I sported an Afro. I looked like legendary musician Billy Preston, whose massive mane probably prevented him from fitting through doorways.

I also resembled legendary comedian Harpo Marx, who had dirty blond curls and didn’t speak, a characteristic that family, friends and even complete strangers wish I would adopt.

“If you are going to cut your own hair,” Maria said, “get a pair of professional hair-cutting scissors.”

The problem, she added, is that if I ordered them online, they might not be delivered for weeks, at which point I’d need a landscaper.

When I asked about an electric hair clipper, which I also would have to order, Maria said, “If you start buzzing and make your hair too short, it could be a disaster.”

“Then I’d look like Curly of the Three Stooges,” I said. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

“You could always wear a do-rag,” Maria suggested.

“All I have is a don’t-rag,” I replied.

I decided to use a pair of regular household scissors, which I didn’t tell Maria about because she had already warned me that in the wrong hands (mine), they also could cause trouble.

“Your hair is coarse,” she explained.

“Maybe I could sell the clippings to Brillo,” I said.

But I did tell her that I had bought a popular men’s hair color product that, in my case, should be renamed Just for Morons.

“What shade did you get?” Maria asked.

“Medium brown,” I answered.

“That’s too dark,” she said, adding that I should have gotten something lighter.

“I’ve always been lightheaded,” I told Maria.

“That’s because you’re a dirty blond,” she said.

“Do dirty blonds have more fun?” I wondered.

“Yes, but only if they don’t mess up the color,” said Maria, who added that leaving it in for five minutes, as recommended on the box, was excessive. “Men are impatient anyway,” she said. “And you still want a little gray to show through so you can look distinguished.”

I thanked Maria for her expertise and told her I’d make an appointment when it’s safe to come out again. Then I went upstairs to the bathroom and, scissors in hand, took a little off the sides and around the ears. Fortunately, I didn’t end up looking like Vincent van Gogh.

I applied the hair color to my head, mustache and eyebrows, waited three minutes and washed it out in the shower.

“Not bad,” said my wife, Sue.

“I should open my own salon, Mr. Jerry’s House of Style,” I said.

“Don’t even think about cutting my hair,” Sue said.

“I can’t wait until the quarantine is over,” I said. “It sure has been a hairy situation.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 19, 2020

"Love at the Landfill"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Love, as a newfangled saying goes, means never having to say you’re sorry for practicing social distancing.

My wife, Sue, and I, who have always believed in social togetherness, recently celebrated our 42nd anniversary in the most romantic way possible in this age of quarantine:

We got out of the house and took a trip to the dump.

Our passion burned intensely as we contemplated a pile of logs that would never burn intensely in our backyard fire pit.

So, after they were cut up from a tree that was struck by lightning, which did not create sparks between us, Sue and I decided to load the logs into my car for a scenic drive to a nearby landfill.

While Sue, wearing gloves and a scarf, was at the grocery store to buy our pre-made anniversary dinners (spaghetti and clams for me, calamari for her), I was in the yard, plopping wood into a wheelbarrow.

At the same time, three cable guys showed up to do fiberoptic work.

“You couldn’t have picked a better day,” I told them. “It’s my anniversary. And I’m celebrating by taking my wife to the landfill.”

“Are they open?” the crew chief asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “Just for me and my wife.”

“That’s so nice of them!” another guy exclaimed.

“Do they have champagne and strawberries for you?” a third one inquired.

“I hope so,” I said before asking the crew chief if he was married.

“Yes,” he said.

“Have you ever done anything this romantic with your wife?” I queried.

“No, you got me beat,” he said.

When I told one of the other guys that Sue gave me the wheelbarrow for our anniversary a few years ago, he said, “What did she get for you this year, a shovel?”

Just then, Sue arrived back home.

“Happy anniversary!” the guys said to her in unison.

“Thank you!” Sue gushed.

“Are you going to the dump now?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” said Sue.

“Do you have a picnic basket and a blanket?” the crew chief asked.

“That would have been a great idea — lunch at the landfill,” I said.

“Have fun, you lovebirds!” the crew chief said as he and the other guys again wished us a happy anniversary and headed for the yard next door.

Sue and I put roughly 17 tons of logs into the back of my car. As we buckled up in the front seat, I said, “You can’t say I’m a bump on a log today.”

Sue sighed and said, “Just drive.”

When we got to the dump, I told the lady in the booth about our special day.

“It’s our anniversary and we’re spending it here,” I said.

“Well,” she responded, “it’s a unique way to celebrate.”

After parking in the designated area for brush and wood, we met a nice guy named Anthony, who was unloading logs from his car, too.

“I don’t know if I would bring my wife to the dump for our anniversary,” he said, “but she does help me with yard work.”

Anthony helped Sue and me by taking a picture of us.

“It’ll be a keepsake,” he said. “You’ll always remember your anniversary at the landfill.”

Sue and I thanked Anthony and drove home. We had so much fun that we loaded the car with more logs and made a second trip to the dump, where I told another booth attendant about this landmark event.

“Happy anniversary!” she chirped.

It was happy indeed. After Sue and I got back home, we had a candlelight dinner and toasted each other with wine.

“I don’t know how we can top this next year,” I said.

“I do,” said Sue. “You can take me on a trip. And not to the dump.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 12, 2020

"What's the Good Word?"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
As a man of many words, not all of them repeatable in a quarantine, I will say that “quarantine” would be a great word to use if you were playing Scrabble.

That’s because it would be worth 19 points, most of them coming from the letter Q, which by itself is worth 10. And if you got a triple word score, it would be worth 57 points.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough of the right letters to spell “quarantine” during a game of Scrabble that my wife, Sue, and I played when it became sadly apparent that there was nothing else to do while we were quarantined.

You might think that because I’m a writer, I would be a great Scrabble player. Not so. Sue, a teacher’s assistant in a preschool, was an English major in college, where I, then a man of few words (“Another beer, bartender”), majored in stupidity.

My chances were slim (6 points) because I always lost when I played Sue’s late grandmother. (She was alive then, which gave her an unfair advantage.) I was even defeated by my daughters, Katie and Lauren, when they were adolescents.

This was embarrassing (17 points), which is why I hadn’t played Scrabble in years (8 points).

But on a rainy afternoon, after we got tired of watching HGTV (no points because acronyms and proper names aren’t allowed), Sue suggested we engage in a war of words.

“Let’s have some wine,” said Sue, who had a glass of white (11 points) while I had a glass of red (only 4 points).

We sat at the kitchen table with the board and tiles.

“You go first,” I told Sue, who replied, “You’re such a gentleman.”

“That would be worth 12 points,” I remarked.

Sue took a sip of wine and said, “This is going to be a long game.”

Her first word was “hand,” which was worth 8 points.

Mine was “ham,” which also was worth 8 points.

“It describes you,” Sue commented.

Back and forth we went, up and down the board, trying for big scores with letters such as X (8 points), which Sue used to spell “fix” (13 points), and Z (10 points), which I used to spell “zonk” (17 points).

“Don’t cheat by making up words,” Sue said when I came up with something that is not, technically, English.

After Sue spelled “harp” (9 points), I added an O to make “Harpo,” one of the Marx Brothers, but Sue immediately nixed it by saying it’s a proper name.

“Imagine the score I could have had with Zeppo,” I noted.

The game dragged on, with short, safe, low-impact words such as “mutt” (6 points), “dire” (5 points) and “gun” (4 points).

“Is ‘ya’ a word?” Sue asked.

“Ya,” I responded.

It garnered Sue a grand total of 5 points.

“I’m out of vowels,” she said.

“You can buy a vowel,” I told her.

“That’s on ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ not in Scrabble,” Sue reminded me. “Besides, who would get the money?”

“Who else is here?” I said.

“Forget it,” Sue said. “Your turn.”

The game continued. So did the wine. Our battle (8 points) lasted so long that we each had a second glass.

“This is the only way the words ‘Chardonnay’ and ‘Cabernet’ are allowed in Scrabble,” I said.

“Cheers,” Sue replied.

Words such as “wet” (6 points), “trim” (6 points) and “lob” (5 points) appeared on the board before we ran out of tiles and the game was over.

Final score: Jerry 266, Sue 222.

“You wouldn’t have won if my grandmother had been playing,” Sue said.

I nodded and said, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 5, 2020

"The Great American Grandfather"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Dan Patrick
Lieutenant Governor
Austin, Texas

Dear Lt. Gov. Patrick:

I’m Jerry Zezima, a fellow grandfather who has five grandchildren ranging in age from 7 years to 9 months, all of whom are more mature than I am.

I’m writing in response to your suggestion that grandparents sacrifice themselves in the wake of this terrible pandemic to get the economy going again.

I want you to know that I am a proud American who loves this country more than anything except — you guessed it — my grandchildren.

Still, I am willing to do my part to help the economy. It’s something I have always done. Look at the facts: I have been in excellent health my whole life, especially in the past 30 years, a stretch in which the economy has boomed more than at any time in our nation’s history.

Coincidence? I think not.

As my doctor will tell you, I had a bad cold in 2008 and look what happened. That’s right: the Great Recession. Now I admit that this virus is far worse than a case of the sniffles. And how a recession could be called great is beyond my addled geezer brain to understand.

But you need to understand that if I sacrificed myself, in a foolhardy move that would undoubtedly be known as Zexit, the economic structure of the United States, and possibly the entire world, would collapse like a grandfather chasing a toddler.

Speaking of the little ones, what would become of them if we grandparents violated the code of social distancing and started sneezing on each other, leading to our inevitable demise? Aside from the fact that their parents (our children) wouldn’t have to care for us in our old age, which in my case, according to my daughters, arrived years ago, they would be devastated.

People who are willing to talk to me, which narrows the field considerably, have often asked if I spoil my grandchildren.

“No,” I tell them. “That’s my wife’s job. My job is to corrupt them.”

And if I may be permitted to brag a bit, I do it better than any grandfather in this great country of ours. No offense, Lt. Gov. Patrick, but that includes you.

Here are some examples of how the corruption of my grandchildren has made them happy, healthy young people who will grow up to be productive citizens — the kind of driven, hardworking Americans who will follow my selfless lead in creating a robust economy.

In an outstanding patriotic gesture, I took my eldest grandchild, Chloe, who was 2 years old at the time, to the White House Easter Egg Roll. It was during the administration of the previous president, which probably doesn’t score points with you, but I stood in line longer than it takes Congress to pass an economic stimulus bill just so Chloe could meet not the commander-in-chief, but her hero, Peppa Pig.

If memory serves (I’d like it to serve me a beer right now), the stock market zoomed the next day.

I took my grandson Xavier to the Smithsonian. I’m surprised I wasn’t put on exhibit, but it was another patriotic gesture that benefited a great American institution.

I’ve taken the kids bowling. We’ve gone to the zoo. I’ve bought them ice cream and doughnuts. All of these outings have pumped money into the economy.

And don’t forget my wife, Sue, the children’s grandmother. She has spent the fortune I’ll never have on clothes and toys. It’s helped the economy more than any stimulus bill ever could.

I trust that you understand why it would be a bad idea for me to sacrifice myself, Lt. Gov. Patrick. If you want to do it, go right ahead. Just give me the names of your grandchildren, who I am sure will miss you, and I will corrupt them, too.

Jerry Zezima

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima