Sunday, January 31, 2021

"The Poppie Show"

By Jerry Zezima

If there’s one good thing that can be said about the pandemic (the bad things can’t be repeated here), it’s that it has kept me off the streets.

That means, unfortunately, that I can’t get out to see my grandchildren. So I have stayed home and become a TV star.

“The Poppie Show,” named for me because all five kids call me Poppie (adults call me things that also can’t be repeated here), airs regularly on FaceTime. It’s an interactive, on-demand program that allows me and the children to see each other, something we haven’t done in person, in the case of the youngest three, for more than a year.

What’s worse is that the youngest two are twins who are a year and a half old, so it will give you some idea of what I have been missing.

The same goes for my wife, Sue, whom the kids call Nini. She’s sometimes a guest on “The Poppie Show.” It helps boost the ratings.

One recent episode began when I got a call from our older daughter, Katie, who said that Zoe, one of the twins, was saying “Poppie” and wanted to see me.

Zoe popped up on the phone screen with a big smile.

“Hi, Zoe!” I gushed, smiling back at her. “It’s Poppie!”

Katie held up a family photo collage and asked Zoe, “Where’s Poppie?”

Zoe pointed to my picture and said, “Poppie!”

Her younger (by 25 minutes) brother, Quinn, also popped up on the screen, flashing a big smile. He said my name, too.

“They’ve joined the Cult of Poppie,” said Katie, whose son Xavier has been a member for all of his nearly 4 years.

Xavier recently sent me an original artwork for my birthday. Before that, he sent me another watercolor he made all by himself. It’s modern art, so I don’t know exactly what is depicted, but both pieces are beautiful. Since I don’t have enough postage to donate them to the Louvre, I taped them to the wall in my office at home.

Naturally, the drawings were featured on “The Poppie Show.”

“He wanted to send them to you,” said Katie, who, in an earlier episode, told me to watch the mail.

“For you, Poppie,” Xavier said.

It was the highlight of the show, which is billed as a comedy (the laughs are at my expense since I’m less mature than the children), but there is some drama, too, because Sue and I see how much the kids, especially Zoe and Quinn, have grown but sadly can’t be there to toddle along with them.

The last time we saw them in person, right after New Year’s of 2020, Xavier was toddling and the twins were infants.

Our oldest grandchild, Chloe, who’s almost 8, and her sister, Lilly, 4, are frequent guests on “The Poppie Show.” In fact, they call me all the time so we can sing, dance and be silly, which adds considerably to the entertainment value of the program.

Our younger daughter, Lauren, sometimes makes a cameo appearance, usually in the background while she cooks dinner or cleans the house.

Sue and I have visited the girls a couple of times in recent months, since they live a lot closer to us than Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, whom we have to get on an airplane to visit. We stay outside, we keep a safe social distance and we all wear masks. But most of the time, we see each other on the small screen.

One of these days, everyone will be vaccinated, the pandemic will be over and I can see, hug, kiss, sing, dance and be silly with my grandchildren in person.

Then “The Poppie Show” will be canceled, which will be all right with me. Being a hands-on grandfather beats being a TV star any day.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 24, 2021

"The Bucks Stop Here"

By Jerry Zezima

A major American bank where I don’t have any money because, unfortunately, I don’t have any money has hired Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson, major American actors who have a lot more money than I do, to ask me this important financial question:

“What’s in your wallet?”

The answer, Jennifer and Samuel L., is $3.

But at least it is tucked into a brand-new wallet I just bought because my old wallet was falling apart despite the lamentable fact that there was never much money in it.

My wife, Sue, who manages the money in our house, where we still live because she pays the mortgage every month, took me shopping at a store that specializes in handbags, luggage and accessories such as wallets that really ought to hold more than $3.

“Is there any money in here?” I asked the very nice, witty and helpful store manager, Laurabeth Collins, as I peeked inside one of the wallets on display.

“No, I took it out,” Laurabeth replied. “You should have come this morning.”

“I may buy it anyway because I need a new one,” I said, taking out my old wallet to show Laurabeth.

“I’ve seen worse,” she told me.

“The problem,” I said, “is that it’s too thick, like my skull, but it hurts the opposite end when I sit down.”

Laurabeth nodded and said, “If you don’t have any money in there, what’s making it so thick?”

“Cards,” I answered. “Credit cards, insurance cards, Medicare cards, appointment cards, everything except playing cards, which would make the wallet even thicker except I’m not playing with a full deck.”

Laurabeth nodded again and said, “I can save you some money and solve your card problem at the same time.”

“How?” I asked eagerly.

“With a wallet set, which costs less than just this one wallet,” she said, showing me a box with a wallet, a card insert and a keychain. “You can carry the card insert separately,” Laurabeth noted, “so your opposite end won’t hurt when you sit down.”

“That would be good for the bottom line,” I said.

Sue and Laurabeth exchanged glances.

“Or,” said Laurabeth, “maybe you’d like a sling bag.”

“What’s it for,” I asked, “a slingshot?”

“No,” Laurabeth said. “It’s for guys who have too much stuff. My husband is always saying to me, ‘Put this in your bag, put that in your bag.’ I told him, ‘Get your own!’ ”

“You mean it’s like a pocketbook for men?” I asked.

“It’s more like a small backpack,” Laurabeth said as she showed me some. “Then there are man bags, which are bigger.”

“What do women carry credit cards in?” I inquired.

“Zip-around wallets,” Sue answered. “I love mine.”

“Me, too!” Laurabeth said in a wifely bonding. “I also keep my membership cards in there.”

“I don’t belong anywhere,” I admitted.

“Poor guy,” Laurabeth said sympathetically.

“No, I mean I belong at home,” I said, looking at Sue for assurance, “but I don’t belong to a health club or any other place that would have to lower its standards to accept me.”

“That means your card insert won’t be too thick,” said Sue, who suggested I get the wallet set. “And if you don’t use the keychain, I’ll take it.”

“Sold!” I told Laurabeth, who also sold me a shaving kit at a big discount.

“This is your lucky day,” she said. “You got a wallet set and a shaving kit and you saved a lot of money.”

“And I still have $3 left over,” I said.

“What are you going to spend it on?” Laurabeth asked.

“Lottery tickets,” I answered. “I want to have a good answer the next time Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson ask me what’s in my wallet.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to mad scientists, there was no one madder than the Invisible Man, whose Hollywood smile couldn’t be seen because, of course, he was wearing invisible braces.

I have a Hollywood smile because I have been wearing invisible braces for several years. So when one of my two retainers recently cracked, which was probably the result of a wisecrack, I watched as Dr. Max Sanacore, who isn’t a mad scientist (otherwise, he’d be known as Mad Max) but does work in a laboratory, made me a new one.

Actually, Dr. Max is in his last year at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, where he is the latest in a string of student orthodontists who have made sure that my pearly whites stay on the straight and narrow.

The root (see: wisecrack, above) of the problem was that my right upper lateral incisor began to rotate like the tires on my car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to a mechanic. To compound matters, my left central lower incisor started to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the key difference being that tourists couldn’t see it because I always had my foot in my mouth.

I went to Stony Brook and got invisible braces, a pair of clear plastic devices that slowly but effectively straightened my two wayward teeth. It was a lot better than getting the metal kind, which look like miniature railroad tracks and put beer drinkers like me in danger of being hit by flying refrigerator magnets.

After the bottom retainer split, without so much as a goodbye note, I went back to Stony Brook and saw Dr. Max.

“First,” he said as I settled into the chair, “I have to make an impression.”

“I think you’re very impressive,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Now please open your mouth.”

Peering into the oral equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Dr. Max filled a metal tray with alginate, a gooey substance that contains seaweed, which made me want to cry for kelp, and pressed it over my bottom teeth.

“Can you breathe?” he asked.

“Ong, ong, ong,” I responded affirmatively.

For a full minute, I drooled with the force of Niagara Falls, which at my age happens with alarming frequency.

When the molar eclipse was over, Dr. Max took me into a back room that looked like a laboratory where a mad scientist might conduct a hideous experiment on an unsuspecting patient whose brain would be transplanted into the head of a gorilla.

Fortunately for apes everywhere, I don’t have the kind of gray matter that could possibly do them any good. In fact, the gray matter that would become my new bottom retainer was being molded and heated by Dr. Max.

“You could train a monkey to do this,” he said.

“Not with my brain,” I replied.

Dr. Max, who has more than a smattering of smarts, originally studied engineering.

“On my last day of college, I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be an engineer. I want to be a dentist.’ So I came here,” said Dr. Max, who’s 30 and will graduate in June. “Then I’ll have to get a real job,” he added.

For now, he’s doing great work, the most important being the creation of my new bottom retainer. He showed me how to pour the alginate, put it in a vibrating machine to get the air bubbles out and heat it up in another machine so, he said, “it’s nice and malleable.” Then he trimmed it into shape.

Later that afternoon, the retainer was ready. I snapped it onto my bottom teeth.

“Perfect!” I exclaimed.

“Now you can keep your Hollywood smile,” said Dr. Max.

“Thanks,” I said. “The Invisible Man would be jealous.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"To Have and Have Knocks"

By Jerry Zezima

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Jerry who?

Jerry Christmas and happy New Year!

OK, so I just made up this lame attempt at humor, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in the next edition of “Knock, Knock! The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever,” which my wife, Sue, and I gave to our granddaughter Chloe for holiday ho, ho, hos.

Since then, Chloe, who’s 7 and a half and loves to laugh, which not only is true but also rhymes, has been calling me with knock, knock jokes.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said in her most recent call.

“Who’s there?” I answered.

“Weirdo,” said Chloe.

“Weirdo who?” I replied, convinced she was talking about me.

“Weirdo you think you’re going?”

“Ha ha!” we laughed in unison.

Chloe and her little sister, Lilly, who’s 4 and is a real pistol, with a sassy sense of humor and a mischievous grin, not only love to tell me jokes but routinely invite me to parties on FaceTime, which is the closest we get to seeing each other — without face masks and social distancing — in this age of viral quarantine.

“Poppie?” Lilly said on the screen while dressed like a fairy princess.

“Yes, honey?” I replied while attired in my pajamas.

“What’s Pinocchio’s name when he tells a joke?”



All three of us laughed at the witticism, which Lilly obviously made up all by herself. I was so proud of her!

People often ask me if I spoil my grandchildren.

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

I must admit, with all due modesty, that I have succeeded splendidly.

That was evident at our latest virtual party.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?” I replied.


“Owl who?”

“Owl be seeing you!”

More giggling.

“We’re having a picnic,” Lilly announced.

“What can I bring?” I asked.

“You can bring the telephone,” Lilly instructed.

Chloe, who like me was still in her pajamas, except hers were adorned with a castle while mine sported coffee stains, was eating a small bag of pita chips. So was Lilly. I had a bag of Bambas.

“Here, Lilly,” I said, pretending to feed her one of the peanut snacks through the screen.

“It’s in my head!” Lilly squealed.

Chloe and I chortled.

Lilly was on a roll, which didn’t surprise me because I had heard from my younger daughter, Lauren, who happens to be the girls’ mother, that when Lauren scolded Lilly for making a mess in the house, Lilly retorted: “You’re fired!”

“Lilly,” I said. “Did you fire Mommy?”

“Yes,” she responded, very seriously, without explanation.

I burst out laughing. Chloe laughed, too. Lilly kept a straight face for a few seconds. Then came that mischievous grin. She looked into the camera and said, “Poppie?”

“Yes, Lilly?”

“You’re a knucklehead!”

We all roared. At least I wasn’t fired.

While all this frivolity was going on, I was sipping coffee out of the mug the girls gave me for Christmas. It says: “Dad Jokes: Served fresh daily.”

But the jokes were on me.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?”


“Boo who?”

“Don’t cry, it’s just a joke.”

I laughed.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said again.

“Who’s there?”


“Olive who?”

Chloe smiled and said, “Olive you.”

I smiled back and said, “Olive you, too.”

Olive both girls, who have inherited Poppie’s propensity for jokes, silliness and just plain fun.

Someday, when this pandemic is over, we’ll get together and have a real party. Then we’ll open the book and tell each other jokes.

Take it from a goofy grandfather who graduated, magna cum laughter, from the School of Funny Knocks.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 3, 2021

"Supermarket Driving Test"

By Jerry Zezima

When you are my age (old enough to know better), your driving skills have probably diminished so much that you can barely operate the simplest of vehicles.

I refer, of course, to shopping carts.

Since I am the designated cart driver when I go grocery shopping with my wife, Sue, I have devised a test to help you safely navigate your local supermarket.

I came up with the idea when Sue and I went shopping recently and encountered so many rude, reckless and maddeningly clueless cart operators that they all should have been pulled over, given a hefty ticket and had their driver’s licenses suspended.

Good luck!


If you are in the produce aisle and are cut off by another cart driver who then goes at a snail’s pace, what should you do?

(a) Hit him with a cantaloupe.

(b) Pull out your cellphone and call 911.

(c) Leave your cart in the middle of the aisle and go home.

ANSWER: None of the above. Just stand there and fume. Or, better yet, forget the fruits and veggies and go to the next aisle. Who needs broccoli anyway?


Speaking of cellphones, should you text and drive in the supermarket?

ANSWER: Not unless your spouse isn’t with you and you need to call home every three minutes to ask where everything on your shopping list is.


Who drives worse, men or women?

ANSWER: Both can be pretty bad, but at least women know where they are going. That is why they are more likely to speed, weave in and out of traffic and create chaos in the frozen food section, where they often stop to get ice cream.

Men, for the most part, have absolutely no idea where they are going, what they are doing or why they are even in the supermarket, although most of them know instinctively where the beer is.


If you are the designated cart driver and you can’t keep up with your spouse on the way to the deli counter, or you have just been involved in a fender bender with a little old lady who is looking for prune juice, what should you do?

(a) Stand in the aisle and block traffic.

(b) Pull over to the side and block other shoppers from getting items you are standing in front of.

(c) Go immediately to the beer section.



What safety features are standard equipment in shopping carts?

ANSWER: None. Carts don’t have power steering, which makes them difficult to operate since they all have four wheels that go in different directions. Also, they don’t have backup cameras, which makes it difficult to see the cart that is parked right behind you.


Why aren’t there traffic cops in supermarkets?

ANSWER: Good question.


Why aren’t cart drivers required to have insurance?

ANSWER: Another good question.


Is parallel parking even possible in a supermarket?



What should you do if you are involved in an aisle rage incident?

ANSWER: See answer to Question 4.


When you are at the checkout counter, what should you do?

(a) Get in the express lane with more than the allotted 12 items.

(b) Realize you don’t have your debit card and struggle to find a pen so you can write a check.

(c) Take half an hour to bag your groceries.

(d) All of the above.



What should you do the next time you have to go to the supermarket?

ANSWER: Stay home and drink the beer you bought the last time you went shopping.


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima