Sunday, September 27, 2020

"Granddaughters' Art Is a Big Draw"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

As a painter, I like to think I have something in common with Picasso, mainly because we both had blue periods, mine coming several years ago when I used that color to paint the bathroom.

But I pale (my beige period, when I did the soffits in the kitchen) compared to my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, who not only deserve to have a brush with fame, but whose talent is on full display in a watercolor show at my house, proving to critics and connoisseurs alike that home is where the art is.

I may not know a Manet from a Monet, except that their paintings cost a lot of Money, but I know what I like, which is why I have established Zezima’s Two Rules of Modern Art.

Rule No. 1: If you see an artwork that’s titled something like “Spring Butterfly,” but it looks more like the grille of a ’57 Chevy, don’t buy it.

Rule No. 2: If an artist has been working on a piece for months and when it’s finally finished he calls it “Untitled,” it means even he doesn’t know what it is. Don’t buy that one, either.

But there’s no mistaking what Chloe, 7, and Lilly, who will soon turn 4, have accomplished in their brief but brilliant careers.

The gallery at the Zezimanse, where the girls’ paintings hang (or, rather, are taped to the family room wall), is their latest exhibit.

I witnessed the creation of these masterpieces when the girls had a sleepover and asked if they could paint.

I sat them in their usual spots at the kitchen table, spread out some newspapers (including copies of my columns, which have never been confused with art), got them their brushes and paint, plopped down a stack of white printer paper, filled two small plastic cups with water, and watched as the magic happened.

Chloe went to work on a rainbow. The bold yet delicate strokes were reminiscent of van Gogh, who definitely had an eye for beauty but not, unfortunately, an ear for it.

Lilly went for a more modern look, especially after she spilled the contents of her cup on the various shapes (circle, rectangle, blob) that began to run with all the hues in her palette, putting the water in watercolor.

But the girls don’t work only with brushes. They also use pencils, crayons and markers on their colorful creations.

These implements can be useless in the hands of a hack, as I found out when I used a marker to draw Shrimpy, a pink crustacean in one of the girls’ favorite movies, “Zombies 2.”

“It’s not so good,” I admitted.

“That’s OK, Poppie,” Chloe said. “You just need to practice.”

I thought I would do better when Lilly, who had drawn “Anna,” a girl with blue hair, yellow eyes, an apricot face and mosquito bites on her chin, wanted me to draw a dress. I took a marker and outlined the garment.

“You put sleeves on the dress!” Lilly scolded. “I don’t like sleeves! That’s a bad dress!”

Then she showed me how to do it right by drawing a sleeveless dress, which she painted gold.

Chloe painted a wedding dress with a blue neckline, a pink waistline and a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink hemline.

I tried drawing another dress, this one sans sleeves, but Lilly said, “It’s still bad.”

I had flunked Art 101, which explains why none of my pieces are in the show, which includes paintings of a unicorn, a butterfly and a flower.

At least my wife, Sue, has faith in my artistry. In fact, she wants me to paint the dining room. It looks like I’ll be going back to my blue period.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Going to Seed With a Lawn Guy"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Because I am widely recognized as an airhead, just like the stars of the Tom and Jerry cartoons, you’d think I would be an expert in aeration, which is the process of putting more holes in my yard than I have in my skull.

But it recently took a lawn service guy (Tom) to show me (Jerry) how to do it right.

“We could have our own show,” Tom suggested after he removed the aerator from his truck.

“My granddaughters would be thrilled,” I said. “They love Tom and Jerry. Are you going to chase me around with the machine?”

“Not unless you want me to,” said Tom, adding: “It would be a cat-and-mouse game.”

My granddaughters would have loved that, too, but they probably wouldn’t be interested in lawn maintenance, which is why Tom was at my house.

His job was to use the aerator, a hulking, 400-pound, $3,000 contraption that looks like a giant snowblower, to punch holes in the lawn so water from either the sky or our sprinklers could seep into the ground and, after seeding, allow grass to boldly grow where no grass has grown before.

I watched as Tom revved up the machine, put it in gear and drove it over the ground in the backyard.

“Could I try?” I asked.

“Sure,” said Tom, who is something of a driver’s ed instructor for the company’s new lawn guys. He showed me how to work the levers — down for drive, up for reverse — and stood back.

I pushed down, the motor roared and I went flying into a forsythia bush.

“Here, let me help you out of there,” said Tom, adding that I didn’t have to push the levers all the way down. “Ease them,” he instructed as he maneuvered the aerator onto a straight path and let me take the controls again.

This time I didn’t floor it and drove like an old man, which I am in real life, except there wasn’t a blinker for me to keep on as I tootled along.

“You’re doing great,” Tom said above the din of the motor as the aerator punched holes in the soft soil.

After I had done a couple of rows, I asked Tom if I could work for the company.

“Why not?” he answered. “We’re always hiring.”

Tom, who’s 25, was hired two years ago.

“Do you take care of your own lawn?” I wondered.

“No,” said Tom. “I live with my mom and she doesn’t have much of a yard. I take care of other people’s yards and they pay me. My mom wouldn’t pay me.”

“Maybe not,” I noted, “but she feeds you.”

“That’s a pretty good tradeoff,” Tom agreed.

Then he showed me how to use a spreader to seed the lawn.

“It’s bluegrass and rye,” he said of the seeds.

“I thought bluegrass grew only in Kentucky,” I said. “And it’s a little too early in the day for rye.”

Still, the spreader was a lot easier to use than the aerator.

“I’ve been known to spread fertilizer,” I told Tom, who smiled and said, “I think I know what you mean.”

After about an hour and a half, the front and back yards were finished.

“You did a good job,” said Tom, adding that it would take two weeks for the seeds to germinate and that I should run the sprinklers for half an hour every day.

“I don’t even take a shower every day,” I said.

“That’s more than I need to know,” replied Tom, who said our aerator and spreader adventure could have made a good “Tom and Jerry” episode.

“Let me know when you come back in the spring and I’ll make sure my granddaughters are here,” I said. “They’ll love it.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 13, 2020

"A Coffee Maker's Brew Haha"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

I have reached the age (old enough to know better) where getting a good night’s sleep depletes me so much, especially if I dream about something exciting, like sleeping, that I need a liquid boost to start the day.

No, silly, not gin. I refer, of course, to coffee.

And it’s my dumb luck to make it better than my wife, Sue, which is why, on most mornings, I have to get up first to brew a pot of rich, dark, steaming hot java that gets the blood circulating and puts smiles on our faces, at least until the caffeine wears off.

Often I will detect, after getting up quietly to use the porcelain convenience, that Sue is awake on her side of the bed, pretending to be asleep so I will stay up, instead of climbing back in the sack, and make the coffee.

Down the stairs I thump, yawning and stretching, attorneys at law, and stumble into the kitchen, where I put a filter into the basket of the coffee maker and begin the meticulous process of measuring the exact amount of ground beans: nine even scoops, one bulging scoop and — this is the key — a pinch that would barely cover an ant, which you definitely don’t want in your kitchen, and especially in your coffee.

Then I fill the pot with precisely a dozen cups of faucet-fed water, flick the switch and — voila! — realize I haven’t plugged in the machine. Once I do, the percolation commences.

Ten minutes later, five beeps indicate that the coffee is done, at which time Sue enters the kitchen. I pour her a large cup of coffee and put in a splash of milk. She takes a sip, smiles and says, “Good! You make it better than I do.”

She’s right. I have had Sue’s coffee. It’s not so strong that it will take the paint off the wall (I’m off the wall, so I should know) or so weak that it will fail to awaken the aforementioned ant.

It’s just, well, not as good as mine.

Such is the curse of the man who never used to drink coffee. In fact, I had always considered coffee a stupid drink. It’s made from beans that are grown on mountains and brought down by mules so they can be ground into grounds, through which hot water is run.

I prefer a sensible drink. Like beer.

I once brewed my own brew, which I called Jerry’s Nasty Ale. It went down smooth and came back up the same way.

Actually, it wasn’t bad. It had an inadvertently smoky taste, which I couldn’t figure out since I didn’t put cigar ashes in it, and earned raves from Sue and a couple of neighbors, who did not, thank God, have to be hospitalized.

Another sensible drink is wine, which I have also made. The first time, I got grapes from a vineyard, brought them home, stomped on them in the bathtub like Lucille Ball did in “I Love Lucy,” bottled the concoction, let it ferment for a couple of weeks and brought it back to the vineyard, where the winemaker tried it and exclaimed, “It tastes like nail polish remover!”

I went back the following year to help him make the real thing, mainly by shoveling grape skins out of a vat and watching him do the rest. The resultant vintage was dubbed Merlot Jerry. It tickled the palate. Then I sneezed.

But it wasn’t nearly as good as my coffee, which I serve in two of the approximately 85 mugs that are crammed into a couple of our kitchen cabinets.

“Good!” Sue said this morning after taking her first sip.

“I’m glad,” I replied, waiting for the caffeine to kick in, “that you don’t have grounds for complaint.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 6, 2020

"Beach Blanket Birdbrain"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Whenever I go to the beach, which is about once a year, thus sparing regular beachgoers the horror of witnessing me in a bathing suit, running into the water and getting eaten by a shark, I imagine myself as Frankie Avalon, star of the “Beach Party” movies of the 1960s.

My wife, Sue, takes the Annette Funicello role, though she’s not very good in it because she doesn’t like to dance in the sand — unless, of course, she’s bitten by a crab.

So it was with very little fuss, and no rock and roll music, that we recently staked out a slice of shore, slathered on some sunscreen and plopped ourselves down in rickety chairs for what was probably the last beach day of the season.

For me, it was the first. And my unexpected presence must have excited a fine feathered flock of aquatic birds because they welcomed me with open wings, which they used to zoom over, past and around me. One of them squatted nearby, eyeing me with either friendly curiosity or, more likely, open hostility.

It was boy meets gull. We got into a staring contest. I looked over. The bird looked away. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye (though I don’t know how anything round can have a corner) and noticed her staring again.

I made a stupid face. She screeched, which prompted another gull to sit on the opposite side of me. I was surrounded.

I shifted in my chair and almost fell over. The birds flew off and came back moments later with reinforcements, some of which circled overhead before a couple of them dive-bombed me.

I felt like Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.”

The only place to escape was the water, but I didn’t want to go in because: (a) it looked dirty, (b) it looked cold and (c) it looked like just the place where Jaws would be waiting for me.

With apologies to John Williams, taking a dip would have been “dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb.”

So, while Sue snoozed and sunbathed, left mercifully alone by my avian adversaries, I got up and walked on the beach. I wore flip-flops to prevent the rocks that studded the shore from hurting my feet, which, even at size 11, are very delicate.

Speaking of studs, I noticed a couple of young women looking at me. At first I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger, muscles rippling and glistening in the sun, before I realized that with my physique, I would never be in the male version of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Instead, I’d be the cover boy for GQ (Geezers’ Quarterly).

I saw a guy with a fishing pole.

“What are you going for?” I asked.

“Porgy and bass,” he replied.

“A Gershwin classic,” I said, referring to the George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.”

For some strange reason, the guy didn’t get it. But he did say he also hoped to hook a bull shark, adding: “They’re dangerous.”

“That’s no bull,” I stated.

He didn’t get that joke, either, so I moseyed back to our little patch of sand, clumps of which became embedded under my nails and between my toes, and plopped down in my chair. I nearly tipped over again, which woke up Sue.

“Let’s go,” she said.

I struggled to fold the chairs, one of which, I was sure, would slice off a finger. We gathered everything and started to walk back to the parking lot when the birds began harassing me again.

I screeched. One of them whirled to fly away and nearly collided with another one.

I smiled with satisfaction, knowing I probably wouldn’t see them again until next year.

As they say at the beach, one bad tern deserves another.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima