Sunday, May 30, 2021

"Let's Get Physical"

By Jerry Zezima

As a geezer whose idea of physical fitness is doing 12-ounce curls and getting up twice a night to go to the bathroom, I had always thought that exercise and health food will kill you.

Then I decided, after packing pathetically paunchy pandemic poundage, to join a gym.

Even though I have maintained my boyish figure and weigh in at a trim 180 pounds, which is distributed nicely over my 6-foot frame, looks can be deceiving. So I figured that my sedentary lifestyle needed adjustment, if only to have an excuse to stop eating the many vegetables that my wife, Sue, a longtime gym member, often makes as part of what she calls a “balanced diet.”

Since I think a “balanced diet” is either spaghetti and meatballs or hot dogs and beans, I relented and signed up at Planet Fitness for a day pass, which I hoped wouldn’t lead to a bypass.

Sue and I showed up after dinner (chicken and, of course, vegetables) and saw that the gym was, according to Sue, uncharacteristically crowded.

“Maybe all these people are here to see if I’ll need CPR,” I theorized.

That was a distinct possibility after a grueling half-hour workout, which was broken down into 10 minutes each on a stationary bike, a treadmill and an elliptical machine.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said as I pedaled furiously, two bikes over from Sue because the gym practices safe social distancing.

Since I was wearing a mask, which made it hard to gasp for air, she mercifully didn’t hear me.

At the end of 10 minutes, I had logged 1.61 miles and burned 47 calories.

I did even worse on the treadmill, going 0.34 miles and burning 34 calories.

The final indignity came on the elliptical machine, where I went 0.57 miles and burned 55 calories.

“Are you done?” asked Sue, looking fresh as a daisy.

“Huff, huff, huff!” I responded.

When we got home, I gulped down a beer.

“You’re having beer after working out?” Sue said incredulously.

“Why not?” I replied. “It’s better than broccoli.”

In fact, I felt so invigorated that I signed up for a gym membership.

Two days later, I met Joe Robles, a personal trainer who asked what I wanted to accomplish.

“My main goal,” I said, “is to stay alive.”

“I think we can help,” said Joe, who is 31.

When I told him that I’m 67, he said, “Get out!”

“My membership sure didn’t last long,” I said.

“No, I mean you look a lot younger,” Joe said. “And you’re in pretty good shape.”

“I owe it all to beer,” I said, adding that I had a cold one after working out with Sue.

“One is OK,” Joe said. “It’s empty calories.”

“My head is empty,” I remarked, “so maybe that’s where the calories go.”

Then I told Joe about my pathetic performance a couple of nights before.

“I was slower than a tortoise with a broken leg,” I said.

“You have to pace yourself and come up with a workout plan,” said Joe, who suggested that I go to the gym three times a week and do short exercises, including weightlifting on the Smith machine.

“If I don’t keel over,” I asked, “would you rename it the Zezima machine?”

“That would be awesome!” Joe said.

“Until today, my personal trainers have been my wife and my grandchildren,” I said. “They’ve kept me in good shape. Now it’s up to you.”

“I know I can handle it,” said Joe. “We have everything you need here.”

“Does that include beer?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any,” Joe said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t have one when you get home. It’ll hit the spot after you work out.”

“I’ll tell my wife what you said,” I replied happily. “She’ll be amazed to know that my exercise regimen still includes 12-ounce curls.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 16, 2021

"Pole Dancing With the Stars"

By Jerry Zezima

I may be happily married to the most beautiful woman on Earth (she’d be No. 1 on other planets, too), but it has always been on my bucket list to meet a pole dancer.

My wish came true when I made the acquaintance of Brandyn Phillips, a fully dressed guy who got into a bucket so he could install a new utility pole in my backyard.

“Your idea of a pole dancer has a whole different meaning,” said Brandyn, who was assisted by Robert Frederick Higgins III, known on the crew as Rob 1, and Robert Baldeo, aka Rob 2.

The terrific trio came over to replace an old pole on which was attached lines that provide power to homes throughout the neighborhood. The mission was to remove the lines and put them on the new pole, which had to be sunk in the corner of the yard before the old pole was removed.

“Can you dance?” I asked Brandyn.

“Yes,” he replied. “But I’d never do it in the bucket. And I’d keep my clothes on.”

“Nobody would want to see you without them,” said Rob 1. “The neighbors would call the cops.”

“He’d have to use the tips for bail money,” Rob 2 chimed in.

Rob 1 ranks ahead of Rob 2 because he has been on the job longer.

“You’re just a heartbeat away from being Rob 1,” I told Rob 2.

“I don’t like the sound of that!” said Rob 1.

Neither one had to risk his life by going up in the bucket — that’s Brandyn’s job. He became a friend in high places when he told me that his tallest order was being 350 feet in the air while working on wind turbines in Iowa, his home state.

“The highest I’ve ever worked on power lines is 180 feet,” said Brandyn, adding that the lines on the pole in my yard are a mere 29 feet up.

“I’m afraid of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head,” I told him.

Perhaps because my noggin is filled with air, I asked if I could go up in the bucket. Brandyn politely said no because of safety rules.

“If I fell out and landed on my head,” I said, “I wouldn’t get hurt.”

“I don’t doubt that,” said Brandyn, who did let me climb into the bucket, which was plastered with “Danger” signs. I found out why when I slipped while trying to lift one leg over the edge and almost qualified to be the lead singer for the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

When I finally got in, I saw all the tools that Brandyn uses to switch lines, which he did after the bucket — without me in it — was lifted to the top of the old pole by a huge vehicle with tank wheels and a boom that was operated from the ground by Rob 1.

“Can I drive it?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t get very far,” Rob 1 replied.

“I’m fat,” said Rob 2, who weighs 300 pounds, “and I can walk faster.”

But first, the 35-foot-tall new pole had to be driven six feet into the ground.

“If it fell on me,” I said, “I’d be six feet under.”

After Brandyn switched the lines, which carry 7,620 volts, the old pole had to be removed.

“If you want to be useful,” Rob 1 said, “grab a shovel and start digging.”

“I work dirt cheap,” I said.

At that moment, my beautiful wife, Sue, came outside and said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m helping out,” I responded.

“You’re bothering these guys,” she said.

“And he’s doing a damn good job,” Rob 2 assured her.

At least I didn’t get electrocuted, which would have prompted my final words: “That’s all, volts!”

But I did assist three great guys in keeping the power on in my neighborhood.

As I told Sue after they left, “Now I can take pole dancing off my bucket list.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 9, 2021

"The Winner by a Nose"

By Jerry Zezima

Of all the famous bridges in America — the Brooklyn, the Golden Gate and, of course, Beau and Jeff Bridges — the most impressive is the Zezima Bridge, which spans a great natural landmark: my nose.

So prominent is my proboscis that I could have set up a toll on the bridge — using SneezyPass — and made money to pay for a recent procedure that was performed not by a road crew but by Dr. Gregory Diehl, a sensational plastic surgeon with a practice in Port Jefferson Station, New York.

I first saw Dr. Diehl a few years ago, shortly after my dermatologist told me that I had a basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer that another doctor removed via Mohs surgery, which did not, fortunately, involve Larry and Curly.

The next day, Dr. Diehl expertly took skin from the upper right side of my nose and used it to seamlessly cover the area that was removed during the operation.

As sometimes happens, however, scar tissue developed. So I went back for a revision.

“I am going to do a dermabrasion,” Dr. Diehl said, referring to a procedure to smooth out surface scarring.

“What will you be using?” I asked.

“A sander,” he replied.

“Did you get it at Home Depot?” I wondered.

“That’s where I get all my tools,” Dr. Diehl said with a smile.

“This one must be big if you’re going to sand my nose,” I remarked.

“It’s small, like a Dremel,” said Dr. Diehl, referring to a make of rotary-action power tools.

“I’ve never heard of it,” I confessed.

“I guess you don’t know your way around a garage or a workshop,” said Dr. Diehl. “I’m pretty handy. I work with wood to put up shelves and make flower boxes.”

“This is why I’m not a carpenter,” I said.

“Or a plastic surgeon,” said Dr. Diehl, adding that he also would make a small incision on the right side of my nose to remove scar tissue that had built up under the skin. “And I won’t even need a power tool.”

On the day of the procedure, Dr. Diehl took a felt-tipped pen and drew lines on the areas of my nose where he would be working.

“You have a flair for this,” I told him as I looked in a mirror to admire his artwork.

In the operating room in the back of his office, Dr. Diehl — ably assisted by certified surgical technologist Ann Rich — numbed my nose (not with an elephant dart) and began to work miracles.

In less than an hour, the surgery was over.

“You did great,” Dr. Diehl said.

“It was nothing,” I replied.

Ann said to put Bacitracin on the affected areas and told me how to change the dressing, which I had to do daily.

A week later, I returned so she could remove the sutures.

When Dr. Diehl came in, he examined my nose, grinned broadly and exclaimed, “I nailed it!”

“I know you’re handy,” I said, “but if you actually did nail it, you would have broken the hammer.”

“I’ve seen a lot of noses,” said Dr. Diehl, who’s 61 and has been in practice for 29 years. “You have a nice one. It’s very symmetrical. And now it looks even better.”

He added that he has seen countless cases of basal cell carcinoma and that his greatest pleasure is “getting somebody out of a tight spot.”

“Do you have any celebrity patients?” I asked.

“You’re the most famous one,” he said.

“You may not be the plastic surgeon to the stars,” I said, “but you’re a star in my book.”

“That’s why we call Dr. Diehl the real deal,” said Ann.

“Take care of that beautiful nose,” the good doctor said as I was leaving. “And stay away from power tools.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 2, 2021

"Mother and (Grown-up) Child Reunion"

By Jerry Zezima

I was born more than three weeks past my due date, an act of monumental tardiness that kept my mother waiting for nearly 10 months to give birth to an 8-pound, 13-ounce baby who is even larger now but, sadly, no more mature.

But that was nothing (easy for me to say because I have not, as yet, given birth) compared to the 15 months my mother, Rosina, had to wait to see me after the pandemic struck.

Now that we have been vaccinated, it was safe for me to venture back to my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, to visit my mom, who at 96 is in better shape than I am, both physically (except for her sore knees, which will probably sideline her for the remainder of the baseball season) and mentally (so are hanging plants, one of which I brought to her as a gift).

I pulled my car into the driveway and was enthusiastically greeted by my sister Elizabeth’s sweet pooch, Lucie, who is 14 and, in dog years, is as old as my mother and almost as frisky.

“Woof, Woof!” (translation: “Hi, Lucie!”) I exclaimed as the cuddly canine planted a kiss on my kisser.

“I think you’re barking up the wrong tree,” said my sister Susan, who with Elizabeth lives with our mom and helps take care of her.

We both laughed and hugged for the first time since January 2020.

Susan, Lucie and I went inside and waited for my mother to come downstairs from her bedroom, where she was getting dolled up for my appearance.

About 15 minutes later, I heard the sound of the stairlift, a contraption my mother calls “my magic carpet,” delivering her to the front hallway, which is next to the family room, where Susan and I were sitting.

My mother rolled into the room with the help of her rollator and said from behind me, “Hello, stranger!”

I turned around and, with mock indignation, huffed, “Can’t you see I’m talking with Susan?”

I turned back around and pretended to continue the conversation with my sister.

There was a moment of silence before we all burst into laughter. I got up and embraced my mother, who hugged me so tightly that she almost cracked my ribs. As a retired nurse, she could have fixed me up in a jiffy.

“I’ve waited for 15 months for this day,” my mother said when she finally released me.

“That’s even longer than you waited for me to be born,” I noted.

“And look what I got,” my mother joked.

What she got was a son who inherited her sense of humor, if not her punctuality. In fact, my mother is always joking, which in recent years has helped her bounce back from broken bones (leg, wrist and back) as well as a bump to the head, which, she said, “is too hard to break.”

Since it was raining, we couldn’t go outside, which was fine with me because the week before, my mother was visited by a bear.

“It came out of the woods and snapped two metal plant hooks like they were twigs,” my mother said.

“You could have scared it away with your trusty BB gun,” I said, referring to the air pistol my mom uses for — no kidding — target practice in the backyard.

“That makes you a son of a gun,” she quipped.

When Elizabeth came home, we hugged and laughed when I told her about the greeting I got from Lucie.

“She loves her Uncle Jerry,” Elizabeth said.

Susan’s son Blair, a wonderfully enterprising young man who also lives in the house, walked in wearing his “magnetic hat,” a baseball cap on which he attached magnets that hold some of the small tools he uses at work.

“That’s using your head!” I told him.

We sent out for pizza and had a laugh-filled dinner before I left for home.

“This has been one of the best days of my life,” my mother said as she gave me another hug. “And just like when you were born, it was worth the wait.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima