Sunday, April 25, 2021

"This Guy's a Real Card"

By Jerry Zezima

If I ever got a job at Hallmark, the greeting card company that helps people express their true feelings on such important occasions as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays like National Beer Day, which is April 7 but for me can be any day, I’d suggest a line of humorous sympathy cards. Like this one:

Violets are blue,

Roses are red.

Sorry to hear

Your goldfish is dead.

Now you know why Hallmark would never lower its otherwise high standards to pay me actual money to write greeting cards. But there should be some interest in hiring my wife, Sue, who has started writing her own greetings, which she calls Nini’s Homemade Cards.

She made the first one for me on Valentine’s Day. Instead of buying a card, which would keep Hallmark in business, Sue folded a sheet of pink construction paper in half, cut out a red  and pink heart from other sheets of paper, glued it to the front of the card and wrote this sentiment inside:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

I made this valentine

Just for you!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love you!!


Not quite as moving as my dead-goldfish card, but I appreciated her effort. So, more recently, did our grandchildren Xavier and Chloe, for whom Sue, known to all five of our grandkids as Nini, made colorful birthday cards, even using sparkles on the covers.

Such brilliant creativity made me think Sue could work for Hallmark. So I called the company and was put in touch with Andrew Blackburn, who writes greeting cards for a living.

“What your wife has done with her cards is impossible at Hallmark,” said Blackburn, 32, who has been writing for the company for 11 years.

“Wow, I guess that means she’s unique,” I said.

“What makes what your wife did meaningful and special is that she took the time to do it herself,” Blackburn said diplomatically. “But what we have to do is not only tap into what makes a card meaningful to an individual person, but tap into universal specifics.”

“It sounds like she wouldn’t be an ideal fit at Hallmark,” I said.

“They’re smart enough not to let me make those decisions,” said Blackburn, a personable guy who has created some outstanding cards, including a Father’s Day classic.

On the cover, which features a picture of a smiling brother and sister on a swing, it says: “A good dad lets his kids play outside.”

On the inside, it says: “A great dad lets them back in. Happy Father’s Day to a great dad.”

“I don’t remember if I wrote that one before I had kids or after,” said Blackburn, who has two sons, ages 6 and 4. “But now there are moments when I realize the truth of it.”

He also realizes he is in a unique position never to forget his wedding anniversary.

“I write greeting cards, so I’d have no excuse,” said Blackburn, who has been happily married to his wife, Becca, for as long as he has been working at Hallmark.

“She’s super supportive and loves what I do,” he said.

“Would she be interested in writing greeting cards like my wife does?” I wondered.

“No,” said Blackburn. “She leaves that to me.”

“I think Sue will leave that you, too,” I said. “That way, she can continue to write cards for the family and you can keep your job.”

“It’s a win-win,” Blackburn said.

“Maybe you can start writing cards for such important holidays as National Beer Day,” I suggested. “And don’t forget those humorous sympathy cards.”

“Don’t worry,” Blackburn said. “If your goldfish dies, you will have my sympathy.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"Put on a Happy Face"

By Jerry Zezima

The problem with wearing a mask — aside from the lamentable fact that you can’t breathe, talk or make funny faces — is that no one can see you smile.

Not that there has been much to smile about over the past year because the pandemic has forced everyone to wear a mask, the result being that I couldn’t see people smile at my frustrating inability to make funny faces or tell stupid jokes.

But I recently dropped the mug rug when, after receiving my second coronavirus vaccine and for the first time in months, I saw my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly without having to wear a mask.

“Poppie!” they squealed in unison when I walked in the front door of their house to watch them while my daughter Lauren ran errands.

They still recognized me. I think the mustache was a giveaway because my wife, Sue, known to our five grandchildren as Nini, doesn’t have one.

Sue and I had seen Chloe and Lilly the previous day for an afternoon of outdoor fun and frolic, the first time we had done so, maskless, in I can’t remember how long. (I can’t remember because wearing a mask every day has cut off the air supply to what little remains of my brain.)

At any rate, the only way our grandchildren could see us since this whole viral business began is on FaceTime, which has given me a chance to show my Face one silly session at a Time.

But now, I was finally resuming my cherished role as The Manny, a big-baby babysitter whose grandkids are more mature than I am.

“Where’s your mask, Poppie?” asked Chloe, who just turned 8.

“In the car,” I replied.

“You look better without it,” said Lilly, who’s 4.

Then, announcing she was the Tooth Fairy, Lilly handed me a small mesh candy bag with 40 cents in it.

“You deserve it, Poppie,” Lilly said. “You lost your buck teef when you were little. I didn’t lose my buck teef,” which she couldn’t pronounce without, of course, her “buck teef.”

As the three of us used all of our teeth to eat lunch — mac and cheese — it dawned on me that Chloe and Lilly may be the only people on earth happy to see my full visage again.

Afterward, we went outside to the girls’ picnic table, which served as Lilly’s Restaurant, where I was served a dessert of freshly picked flowers.

“Yummy!” I exclaimed as I pretended to munch on the delicious dandelions, which I pretended to wash down with dandelion wine.

“You don’t have to wear your mask in my restaurant,” Lilly informed me.

After running around the yard and playing on the swings, we went back inside, where Lilly changed into her Princess Aurora costume from “Sleeping Beauty.”

“Would you like me to change into a costume?” I asked, which prompted Lilly’s resounding response: “No!”

Chloe got on her FreeTime to show me “Hello Kitty Discovering the World.”

“Let’s go to Australia!” she said.

“Do I need a passport?” I wondered.

“Of course not, silly Poppie!” Chloe answered.

After visiting all the continents, I made a mental note to put in for mileage on my tax returns.

Then the girls climbed into my lap so I could read “Paulette: The Pinkest Puppy in the World.”

“She’s having a ruff day!” Chloe joked.

It was a wonderful visit, especially since we could actually hear each other.

“Do you know what you sound like with a mask on?” Chloe asked.

“What?” I replied.

“Um, um, um!” Chloe said.

“Ugh, ugh, ugh!” Lilly joined in.

We all laughed. When Lauren got back, it was time to leave.

Without a mask on, it was easy to show the girls I had a great time. They could see it from a smile away.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 11, 2021

"Dotting My Eye"

By Jerry Zezima

I spy with my swollen eye, which got that way because of a stye.

It may come as no surprise that when I took poetry in high school, I wasn’t a very good pupil. That my pupil was recently covered by an inflamed eyelid was a big surprise to me, especially after my wife, Sue, told me to put a hot teabag on the painful peeper and started calling me “Winky.”

I became a double-visionary when I felt something — an eyelash, a piece of dirt, possibly a ham sandwich — in my left eye.

Wisely avoiding the temptation to use a metal rake to remove the ocular invader, I stuck a finger in my eye, though not in the same stern manner that Moe often poked Larry, Curly or Shemp in order to disabuse his fellow Stooges from abusing him.

It didn’t work. So I tried flooding my eye with shower water. That only compounded the problem. So did an inadvertent squirting of soap, which burned like hell.

A couple of days later, my left eyelid had ballooned to the size of — you guessed it — a balloon, though without “Happy birthday!” written on it.

My lid was so red that if I had stood on a street corner, cars may actually have stopped.

“What’s going on, Winky?” Sue asked cheerily.

“My eyelid is about to erupt like Mount St. Helens,” I grumbled.

“You have a stye,” she informed me. “Put a hot teabag on it.”

Sue should know, not only because she has had this ailment herself, but because she drinks approximately half the world’s supply of tea. If she saved a year’s worth of bags, they would be piled as high as the Empire State Building.

I boiled some water, poured it in a cup, dunked in a teabag, pressed it to my eyelid and let out a scream that rattled the windows.

“You have to make the teabag as hot as you can stand it,” Sue said.

“That’s all I can stand,” I replied, echoing Popeye. “I can’t stands no more.”

So I went to a walk-in clinic and saw Dr. Lindsey Schuster, who asked if I use glasses.

“Only those that hold wine or beer,” I responded.

“You have a stye,” she said before prescribing an antibiotic ointment. “If it doesn’t work, you should see an eye doctor.”

The ointment didn’t work, so I went to see Dr. Howard Weinberg.

“You have a stye,” he said.

“My wife told me to put a hot teabag on it,” I told him.

“What happened?” Dr. Weinberg wondered.

“It scalded my eyelid,” I reported. “And the caffeine kept my eye open all night.”

“I’ve seen a lot more styes lately,” he said. “They’re caused by the face masks people wear. Their breath goes into their eyes.”

“What if they have bad breath?” I asked.

“Then,” Dr. Weinberg answered, “they’ll get stink eye.”

“What can I do to get rid of the stye?” I wanted to know.

“Get a baked potato, wrap it up nice and hot, and put it on your eye,” Dr. Weinberg said.

“Will that help?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “But at least you’ll have something to eat.”

The good doctor, who believes that laughter is the best medicine, then gave me an eye exam. I passed with limping colors.

“You have 20/30 vision in your left eye and 20/40 in your right,” he said. “Not bad for someone of your age. And definitely not as bad as this one patient who put a paddle over one eye, covered his other eye with his hand and said, ‘I can’t see.’ And he didn’t even have a stye.”

“What about mine?” I asked.

“Put a warm compress on it,” Dr. Weinberg said. “And enjoy the baked potato.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"On Puns and Needles"

By Jerry Zezima

Now that I have gotten my second dose of the coronavirus vaccine and am suffering no ill effects, aside from a troublesome bout of incoherence, which I was actually born with, I can say without fear of contradiction or incarceration that the pandemic is finally over.

Or more accurately, according to the nice and knowledgeable person who gave me the shot, it will likely end soon, thanks to my heroic and entirely questionable efforts.

I did my part to eradicate this once-in-a-century scourge by going with my wife, Sue, who had already received her second shot and accompanied me in case I fainted, to Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York, a major vaccination site with every important medical feature except, unfortunately, an open bar.

As I did the first time, I drove to the building that served as vaccine central. After Sue and I walked in and had our temperatures taken, I was directed to a table where a pleasant staffer named Charles asked to see my paperwork.

“Because I’m getting my second dose,” I said, “does that mean the pandemic is over?”

“I hope so,” Charles responded.

Tiffany, who sat next to him, added, “Now I don’t have to get my second one.”

“I’m here to help,” I told her.

“I appreciate it,” she said.

“I figured you were going in alphabetical order,” I said. “And since my last name begins with a Z, this is the end of the virus.”

“That explains why people are clearing out,” Tiffany said.

“They probably saw me coming,” I said. “I have that effect.”

“I’ve heard that about you,” Tiffany said as Charles handed me my paperwork and, very politely, told me where to go.

I walked down a hallway with Sue to a door with a sign that read: “Second shots.”

We stood in line for about five minutes before I was directed to a station where Olivia would be giving me the vaccine.

“How did you react to your first shot?” she asked.

“Just fine,” I said. “I liked it so much, I came back for a second one.”

“Maybe you could come back for a third,” Olivia suggested.

“I’d come back for a fifth,” I replied, “but you don’t serve alcohol, do you?”

“No, but I will rub alcohol on your arm before I give you the injection,” answered Olivia.

“I’ve heard that some people get bad reactions to their second shots,” I said.

“You might have a sore arm,” Olivia said.

“Does this mean I won’t be able to pitch in the major leagues?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so,” she replied. “You might also have a fever and chills.”

“Then I’d be running hot and cold,” I noted.

“Any other concerns?” Olivia inquired.

“I’m naturally lightheaded, so how will I know the difference?” I wondered. “And what if I become incoherent?”

“Then your wife will ignore you,” Olivia said.

Sue, who was standing nearby, nodded and said, “I do that anyway.”

“Your wife is smart,” Olivia said.

“You have a point,” I noted.

“Actually, I do,” said Olivia, who used it to painlessly give me the shot.

“Do you realize,” I said as I buttoned my shirt and took a card signifying I was fully vaccinated, “that when the pandemic is over, the only people wearing masks will be bank robbers?”

“Until then,” Olivia said, “you should still wear one when you go out. But you are doing your part to eradicate the virus.”

“So far, it’s kept me off the streets,” I said. “But pretty soon, I’ll be on the loose again. And no one will be safe from my stupid jokes.”

“In that case,” Olivia said, “people may have to be vaccinated against you.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima