Sunday, December 27, 2020

"Goodbye From the Good Humor Guy"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

When I was in high school, Stamford Catholic, Class of 1971, where I was the class clown and my proudest achievement was setting the school record for most trips to the principal’s office, my goal in life was to be silly and irresponsible and actually get paid for it.

I wondered how I could do this when I started reading the great humor columnists Art Buchwald and Erma Bombeck in my hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. I resolved to write a humor column, too. It would be like doing standup comedy, except I wouldn’t have to show up.

In 1976, a year out of college, with absolutely no journalistic experience, I bluffed my way into a job at the Stamford Advocate. I failed miserably in one thing after another — copyboy, police reporter, sportswriter, assistant metro editor, features editor — until there was nothing left to do but write a humor column.

My first one was published in 1985. For the past 35 years, I have been inflicting myself on the good readers of the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time (and, more recently, the other papers in Hearst Connecticut Media Group).

Because all stupid things must come to an end, this is my last column for the Hearst Connecticut newspapers. It is not my decision, but I respect the editors who made it.

From the beginning, I have written about family foibles and the funny little things of everyday life. It beats writing about inconsequential stuff like politics and world affairs.

The star of my column — and my life — is my wife, Sue. If it weren’t for her, I would be either dead or in prison. She’s the backbone of the family, my soulmate, a woman who, for putting up with me for so long, deserves to be the first living person canonized by the Catholic Church. I deserve to be shot from a cannon.

Sue and the rest of the Zezima clan — daughters Katie and Lauren, sons-in-law Dave and Guillaume, and grandchildren Chloe, Lilly, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn — have given me a gold mine of material. So have pets, friends and even complete strangers.

I once went to the bank to apply for a loan so I could buy Sue the $10 million Millennium Bra from Victoria’s Secret for Christmas. I ended up getting her a flannel nightgown instead.

I flunked the same driving test that Katie, then 16, passed with flying colors.

I called the White House to see if I could have Lauren’s room declared a disaster area so I would qualify for federal funds to clean it up.

I played blackjack with Lizzie, the family dog — and lost.

I took Chloe to a bakery to make doughnuts, I dressed up like a fairy princess while babysitting Lilly, I took Xavier to the Smithsonian and was surprised I wasn’t put on exhibit myself, and I mastered the fine art of simultaneously feeding infant twins Zoe and Quinn on a nursing pillow called My Brest Friend.

I even managed to find humor in the quarantine when Sue and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary in the most romantic way possible: We took a trip to the dump.

This may be my last hurrah for Hearst, but I will keep writing my column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to papers nationwide and abroad. If you have ever wondered why the newspaper industry is in trouble, it would be because of me.

If you suffer from insomnia and would like to continue reading my columns, you can see them each week on my blog:

And if you want to keep in touch, here’s my email address:

After all these years, I’m still silly and irresponsible. Just what you’d expect from the class clown in high school.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 20, 2020

"The Zezimas' 2020 Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media/Tribune News Service

Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the daughtersiarch; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch; and Chloe, Lilly, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, the grandchildreniarch.

Dear friends:

Hindsight may be 20/20, but nobody had the foresight to want to have hindsight on 2020. Still, some good things did happen in the Zezima family.

The year got off to a great start when Sue and Jerry took a trip to visit Katie and Dave and their children, toddler Xavier and infant twins Zoe and Quinn. They celebrated New Year’s together and Jerry mastered the fine art of napping while the twins napped, too. He also had a blast by baking a cake with Xavier, giving bottles to Zoe and Quinn simultaneously, having a bottle himself and proving to be less mature than all three of the children.

Unfortunately, Sue and Jerry have not seen them since because the pandemic broke shortly thereafter. Thank goodness for FaceTime, which Sue and Jerry have also used to keep in touch with Lauren and Guillaume and their daughters, Chloe, 7, and Lilly, 4.

They had a couple of masked visits, first by going strawberry picking (Jerry wanted to use the berries to make daiquiris, which Sue said she needed after listening to his stupid jokes) and second by watching the girls for an afternoon. Chloe and Lilly gave Jerry a good workout in the backyard, where he ran, played catch, popped bubbles and gave the girls horsey rides, after which he went home and slept like a baby (see: napping, above).

Hurricane Isaias knocked out the power in Jerry and Sue’s house for six days and spoiled hundreds of dollars’ worth of food. Even worse, Jerry’s beer got warm.

Jerry and Sue celebrated their 42nd anniversary in the most romantic way possible: They went to the landfill. Later, they had a takeout dinner by candlelight and toasted each other with boxed wine. Love means never having to say you’re sorry for practicing social distancing.

During the quarantine, Jerry also gave himself a haircut and didn’t end up looking like Curly of the Three Stooges, though he still acts like the loony comedian. Jerry helped Sue make pizza and did not, miraculously, burn the house down. The lovebirds also passed the time by engaging in an activity that begins with the letter S. That’s right: Scrabble.

The fun and games have continued since Sue joined Jerry in retirement. Now she doesn’t have to get up at 5:30 every weekday morning to go to work. Instead, Jerry has to get up first to make the coffee.

In an online shopping mishap, Sue’s identity was stolen. The problem was resolved with a trip to the bank, where Sue got a new card and it was agreed that Jerry’s identity would never be stolen because nobody wants it.

Last but certainly least, Jerry wrote his fifth book, “Every Day Is Saturday: Sleeping Late, Playing With the Grandchildren, Surviving the Quarantine, and Other Joys of Retirement.” Like his first four books, it’s a crime against literature. And if you’re bored out of your skull during the lockdown and can’t get to sleep, you might even want to read it.

Here’s saying good riddance to 2020 and hoping that 2021 will be a good year for all.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 13, 2020

"For Whom the Bell Doesn't Toll"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media/Tribune News Service

My greatest fear as a homeowner, aside from undertaking a do-it-yourself plumbing project and being swept away in the resulting flood, is being arrested at gunpoint for breaking into my own house.

I recently found out that I could have ended up in the penitentiary after talking with an alarm company technician who nearly had the same thing happen to him.

“I once set off a panic alarm in a house where I was working,” said Tim Seibert, who was working at my house. “It was a silent holdup. I went outside and there were two cops with guns. I said, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m only the alarm guy.’ I had to show them proof.”

“If that happened to me,” I said, “it would be because I locked myself out. And I wouldn’t have proof that it was my house.”

“You’d end up in jail,” said Tim, who had come over because the company ran a test on the alarm system and found that, unbeknownst to me and my wife, it hadn’t been working for a month and a half.

“If someone broke in — like you, for instance — the alarm would have gone off in the house, but it wouldn’t have registered in the control center, so we wouldn’t have known something was wrong,” Tim explained.

“So burglars could have made off with all our valuables?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Tim answered.

“The bad news is that we had no idea we weren’t protected,” I said. “The good news is that we don’t have too many valuables.”

It was news to me that, according to Tim, the phone company was to blame. After he inquired about our landline and I told him that we’d had trouble with it and that someone had come over and supposedly fixed it, Tim said, “I see this all the time. They unplug stuff and don’t even tell you they did that. It disconnects the alarm and you don’t know it.”

When Tim reconnected the alarm, it screeched at a decibel level that almost blew out the windows. He jumped. I nearly lost kidney function.

Tim pressed some buttons on the keypad and the screeching mercifully stopped.

“There,” he said with a sigh of relief. “You’re all set.”

When I told Tim that the phone was still acting up, he fixed that, too. But just to make sure, he called my cellphone from the landline. We stood five feet apart. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hello?”

Tim: “Hi, Jerry.”

Me: “Tim?”

Tim: “Yes. Does the phone work?”

Me: “What?”

Tim: “Does the phone work?”

Me: “Who is this?”

Tim hung up and said, “It works.”

“You’re really handy,” I told him.

“I like to solve problems,” said Tim.

“I like to cause problems,” I noted.

“You could keep me employed,” Tim said. “It’s like the old saying — job security for guys who don’t know what they’re doing.”

Tim, who’s 53 and has been in the alarm business for 33 years, said his first job was as a bill collector.

“I hated it,” he said, adding that he used to repossess cars. “One guy came out yelling. Shortly after that, I quit. But I’ve had my share of crazy customers in this job, too. Like the guy who kept a gun under his bathroom rug.”

After determining that he’s made more than 50,000 service calls, Tim said, “I looked on my log and saw that I was here seven years ago. I knew your name rang a bell.”

“A bell?” I said. “Good one!”

Tim smiled and said, “Your house is safe. You don’t have to worry about being arrested.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Now I can tell my wife there’s no cause for alarm.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 6, 2020

"A Grandfather's Guide to Physical Fitness"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media/Tribune News Service

As an out-of-shape geezer who drinks red wine to avoid heart trouble and believes that exercise and health food will kill you, I am proud, happy and practically comatose to report that I recently got the best workout I’ve had in months. And with not one but two personal trainers.

I refer, of course, to my granddaughters.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, I hadn’t seen Chloe, 7, and Lilly, 4, since the summer. And we had to wear masks and keep a safe social distance.

My wife, Sue, and I had to do the same this time, when we watched the girls for a couple of hours while their mommy and our younger daughter, Lauren, a talented photographer who has her own business, Lauren Demolaize Photography (, was out on a photo shoot.

The fun, frolic and potential cardiac issues included:

Running around the backyard in a spirited and nearly debilitating game of tag.

Playing catch with a rubber ball.

Playing catch with a plastic ball.

Kicking a soccer ball.

Chasing and popping bubbles as they floated through the air.

Writhing spasmodically in a failed effort to keep a hula hoop going for more than three seconds at a time.

Pushing Lilly on a swing, running around to stand in front of her and dashing back to push her again when she said she wasn’t going high enough.

Falling to the ground and pretending to be knocked unconscious by Chloe’s high-kick swinging.

Sprinting next to the girls as they zoomed down the slide, which they did, one after the other, about a dozen times.

Throwing each girl into the air and catching her while trying not to rupture a vital organ.

And, what we boomers call the sport of kinks, playing horsey, a game in which yours truly was the horse (instead of my usual role as the back end of one). I got down on my hands and knees while both girls jumped on my back and exhorted me to giddyup, which I did, slowly and pathetically, uphill and downhill, until I collapsed in a heap, after which the girls wanted me to give them another ride. As my entire skeletal structure started to crumble, I wondered: They shoot horses, don’t they?

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, we had a blast. Unbounded exuberance and the narrow avoidance of hospitalization are what happens when grandparents and their grandchildren finally get together after weeks of being separated.

Since we all wore masks and were outside, Sue and I were able to get closer to the girls than we would if we were in the house, but we still had to be careful. The granddaughter tosses and the horsey rides were done while we faced away from each other.

Nonetheless, Chloe and Lilly could run an open-air health club. And I, a hip grandfather hoping not to be a broken-hip grandfather, or even a hip-replacement grandfather, could be their first, best and most ancient customer.

“You’re fun, Poppie!” Chloe said as I gasped for air after one of our strenuous exercises.

“Even though you’re old!” Lilly added helpfully.

After Lauren returned, Sue and I drove home, where we wolfed down dinner and watched a movie, during which I nodded off so often that I must have looked like a bobblehead doll.

“You got quite a workout today,” Sue said as she turned off the TV and we headed up to bed.

“At least you didn’t have to call 911,” I noted.

“It was like being at the gym,” Sue said.

“I hope it’s not another several months before I can join,” I replied. “And when I do, the girls can push me on a swing and give me a senior citizen discount.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima