Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Where There's a Grill, There's a Way"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to grilling, I am usually cooking with gas. Unfortunately, I couldn’t cook on our new grill for a month after we bought it. And even with the gas off, I almost blew my top.

The hot-button issue began when my wife, Sue, and I went to a home improvement store for a new grill to replace our old one, a pathetic contraption we had for several years, during which time it charred countless hamburgers, hot dogs, spareribs and (yuck!) vegetables. Eventually, rust and grease were the words.

So Sue and I got a new grill that would be delivered already assembled. A good thing, too, because I put together the first grill we ever had. It took me a week. When I finally got the stupid thing assembled, there were about a dozen parts left over.

Like a mobster who makes his wife start his car every morning, I told Sue that if she wanted me to cook on the grill, she’d have to light it.

Luckily, we didn’t have a blowup. All the grills we’ve had since then have come pre-assembled.

That included this latest one, which was delivered about two weeks after we bought it. The problem was that, unlike the others, it wouldn’t start. At first I thought it was the tank, so I bought a new one with, of course, fresh gas, which is frequently the result of my cooking.

I stood on the patio, put my finger on the ignition and said, “Gentleman, start your grill.” Not even a spark. So I called, paradoxically, the hot line and spoke with a very nice customer service representative named Savanna.

“I’m not a griller,” admitted Savanna, who had been on the job for only four months. “I’ve never tried. I didn’t know that gas tanks expired until I started working here. I’ve learned so much.”

One of the things she learned was the bubble test.

“Get a spray bottle with soap and water and spray the hose and regulator to see if there’s a gas leak,” Savanna said.

“I’ve never even taken a bubble bath,” I said while doing as instructed. No bubbles, bubbles, but there was toil and trouble, which entailed lighting a match and trying, futilely, to start the grill that way.

“Apparently, there’s not a leak, but we’ll send you a free replacement hose and regulator anyway,” said Savanna, who got the apparatus to me in about week.

When it arrived, I fetched a wrench and, while removing the original hose and regulator, gashed my middle finger. It was appropriate.

After stanching a Niagara-like torrent of blood, I got the new thingamajig attached. Then I tried to start the grill.

It was still the mechanical equivalent of a mime. I wanted to hit it with the wrench but feared it would erupt like the Hindenburg, causing Sue to exclaim, “Oh, the stupidity!”

The next day, I called the hot line again and this time spoke with an equally nice representative named Nipa, who is a vegetarian and, like Savanna, doesn’t grill.

I gave her the whole sad story. Nipa listened patiently and said, “Remove the ignition button.” I did. Then she said, “Is there a battery in there?”

“No,” I answered sheepishly.

“Get a double-A battery and put it in,” Nipa instructed. “Insert the negative first and the positive facing the cap.”

Voila! The grill started on the first try.

“You’re a genius,” I told Nipa, who was too polite to say that I’m not. “And you’re invited over for our first cookout on the new grill. I’ll even make you some veggies.”

“Thank you,” Nipa said. “What can I bring?”

“How about some batteries?” I suggested. “Without them, I wouldn’t be cooking with gas.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 21, 2020

"It's Not the Heat, It's the Stupidity"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Because I am full of hot air, which could earn me a spot as a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.

Instead, I save it for the big stuff, like installing air conditioners, which works me into such a sweat that I need to turn them on immediately so I won’t pop like a helium balloon and go flying out the window.

That’s why this year, like the previous 21 years we have been in our house, my wife, Sue, and I have vowed to get central air-conditioning next year.

“This is the last time I’m doing this,” I told Sue as we headed for the storage area of the garage, where I dumped the bedroom and office air conditioners after I took them out of their respective windows last year.

“You’re too old,” Sue stated.

“I am not,” I responded defensively, even though I am clearly a geezer. “I just don’t want to wrench my back like I did a few years ago and end up looking like Quasimodo. I have a hunch it will happen again.”

This was the worst year because we rearranged the storage area to make room for a new refrigerator, with the result that the two air conditioners were buried under and surrounded by so much stuff that, if it were put on a scale at a truck stop, the stuff would have outweighed the air conditioners.

And trust me, each unit weighs approximately as much as a baby grand piano, which I can’t even play.

Since we have been waiting during the quarantine for a new kitchen cabinet to be installed, the stuff included enough dishes to feed the entire population of Liechtenstein if we invited them over for dinner. For this and other reasons that made no sense, there also were coffee cups, soup bowls, a sugar bowl, three chairs, a large metal pot, toilet paper, popcorn, a stool, board games, paper towels, Christmas lights, Easter baskets, a wreath, several tote bags and a big plastic bin filled with Christmas decorations.

“You can maneuver your way around this stuff,” Sue said.

“I can’t maneuver around you,” I said as she stood in my way.

“You’re always looking for the easy way out,” Sue replied.

“There is no easy way out of this,” I noted as we cleared a path.

With each unit, I squatted, tried to get a firm grasp, gritted my teeth and, with a jerk (me), rose to my feet, one of which, I was sure, would be flattened like roadkill if I dropped the metal monstrosity.

Through the garage, the laundry room, the kitchen, the family room and the front hallway I lurched, resting at the bottom of the stairs before climbing the domestic equivalent of Mount Everest.

It was a miracle I didn’t rupture a vital organ.

I got the bedroom AC in the window, which I took the precaution to open first, but had to take it back out when Sue noticed that it was resting so precariously on the sill that it would undoubtedly wait until I was outside, directly underneath, before falling two stories onto my skull, which wouldn’t faze me but would damage the unit so badly that I’d have to buy a new one.

I repeated this process with the office AC, the installation of which required me to move a bookcase — after taking out all the books, of course — so I could plug the stupid thing in.

Both are working nicely, making the upstairs comfortable for sleeping and working, which I often do simultaneously, but this time I mean it: Next year, we’re getting central air.

“If not,” I told Sue, “I will definitely lose my cool.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 14, 2020

"A Houseboy Comes Clean"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to housework, my wife has it maid. And she is not too proud to say that the maid is her husband.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a little French maid’s dress, which I would happily wear except I can’t find one in my size and I’d probably fall down while vacuuming in high heels, but I am one step up from being a domestic worker.

I am, according to my wife, a houseboy.

“That’s your title,” said Sue, who has told countless people of my new role in the family hierarchy.

To which our younger daughter, Lauren, commented: “It’s better than being a pool boy.”

If I were, I’d have to be a kiddie pool boy, because that is where Lauren’s young daughters, Chloe and Lilly, like to frolic. Besides, on a maid’s salary, which amounts to exactly zero, it’s the only kind of pool I can afford.

Still, for the first four-plus decades of my marriage, I had been practically useless around the house. But ever since I retired several months ago, and especially now, during the quarantine, when Sue could see how good a job I do, I have aspired to be a centerfold in Good Housekeeping.

As I have told Sue, “A husband’s work is never done.”

And it takes a lot of it to keep our humble abode clean enough to pass the white glove test. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pair of white gloves, which would get ruined in the toilet anyway, so I use rubber ones. They keep my delicate hands smooth and young-looking.

Speaking of the toilet, I am flush with excitement to say that the bathroom is where I shine. Since the Ty-D-Bol man is no longer with us, I have taken his place, though I can’t fit a motor boat in the porcelain convenience. A good thing, too, because otherwise I’d go down the tubes.

Nonetheless, I do a sparkling job, if I do say so myself. Sue has said it as well, especially after I injured my back while bending down to clean the floor behind the toilet.

She wasn’t so happy when I used what I thought was an old toothbrush to scrub the chrome faucet on the sink.

“That was my new one!” Sue protested.

“Sorry,” I apologized. “Want to use mine?”

“No!” she shot back.

Picky, picky.

At least Sue never complains about my vacuuming, which leaves our carpets and rugs free of dirt, lint and whatever else gathers underfoot. Speaking of feet, I once caught my big toe in the vacuum cleaner while wearing flip-flops. Now I make sure to don heavier footwear.

Sue also likes how I dust, especially when I use the dusting wand to reach high places, where I don’t have friends but do have bookshelves and ceiling-fan blades.

“Let’s not get into a dust-up,” I once said.

“If you don’t watch out,” Sue replied, “unto dust you shall return.”

I sweep the kitchen floor (and try to sweep Sue off her feet), wash the dishes (dishes my life), iron clothes (I am, after all, a member of the press), clean windows (it’s a pane in the neck) and do just about everything else except laundry. That’s because Sue doesn’t trust me. She thinks I’ll either flood the place or break the washing machine.

“Life is a vicious cycle,” I told her.

“Pick up your dirty socks and underwear,” she said.

“Too bad I don’t have a little French maid’s dress,” I said. “You’d have to wash that, too.”

“If you clean the house, it’ll be worth it,” Sue said.

“I’ll go shopping for one tomorrow,” I said. “I hope there’s a sale on fishnet stockings.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 7, 2020

"A Pie-in-the-Sky Idea"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie, that’s a-boring.

And that’s why my wife, Sue, desperate for a diversion during the quarantine, asked me to help her make pizza.

“I’m bored out of my mind,” she explained, apparently not bothered by the fact that her husband, who has been driving her crazy while she’s been cooped up in the house all these weeks, has been out of his mind for the entire 42 years of our marriage.

Sue has made pizza before, and it’s always been delicious, but this was the first time she had asked me for a hand.

“How about two hands?” I offered.

Sue shook her head and said, “I have a feeling this is going to be a mistake.”

She had already taken out five pita breads that would substitute for pizza dough.

“I guess I can’t twirl them in the air like they do in pizzerias,” I said.

“Not unless you want to hit the ceiling fan,” replied Sue, pointing out that the fan was on and the bread would go flying across the kitchen and possibly hit me in the eye like a big pizza pie.

“That would be amore,” I said, snuggling up to Sue.

“Keep your mind on your work,” she ordered.

The work involved making five pies: tomato and basil; red and green peppers, onions, black olives and tomatoes; sausage, peppers and onions; sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms; and sausage and mushrooms.

“I ran out of meatballs,” said Sue, who usually makes my favorite, meatballs and spinach.

“That’s Popeye’s favorite, too,” I pointed out.

Since Sue couldn’t roll her dough, she rolled her eyes.

“Make yourself useful,” she told me.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked, afraid she would answer, “Get lost.”

She didn’t. Instead, she said, “Slice the olives.”

They were small and the knife was large, but I managed to succeed without slicing off a finger.

“That would be quite a topping, wouldn’t it?” I remarked.

Sue ignored it and said, “Now slice the tomatoes.”

I did, after which I sliced the mushrooms and some of the peppers and onions, the last of which, I said, “can make a grown man cry.”

Sue looked like she was about to burst into tears when I told her I would sprinkle the ingredients, which I had helped her brown in a pan on the stove, over the pita breads.

“I asked you to help, not take over,” Sue said as I also used a tablespoon to spread canned pizza sauce on the breads, which I then topped with, of course, the toppings.

“Now sprinkle on the cheese,” Sue said, handing me a bag of shredded Romano, a fistful of which I shoved, along with a few toppings, into my mouth.

“Stop eating the ingredients!” she commanded.

Finally, the five pizzas were ready to be put into the oven.

“They look good,” I said.

When they came out 20 minutes later, they tasted good.

“Yum!” I exclaimed as I stuffed my face with a slice of the pie with sausage, peppers and onions.

“It came out pretty well,” Sue said, adding: “These days I have nothing else to do but cook. I’m bored. I don’t know how I am going to retire.”

I’ve been retired for months; Sue, a teacher’s assistant, has been working remotely while school has been closed due to the pandemic.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “we can open our own pizza joint, with curbside service. I can see it now: Jerry and Sue’s.”

“Sue and Jerry’s,” Sue said. “And you can’t take over my creations.”

“All right,” I said as I took another bite. “But we do make a good pizza team. Any way you slice it.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima