Sunday, July 25, 2021

"A Guy Who's Old Goes for the Gold"

By Jerry Zezima

I am all wet, even during droughts, which is why I am sorry that the Summer Olympics don’t have a Slip ’N Slide competition.

If they did, I’d be the favorite to bring home the gold for my dazzling performance on the watery plastic sheet, which recently impressed my granddaughters so much that they gave me perfect scores, after which I had to recuperate with a cold beer, the drink of champions.

I trained for this high-stakes event — which wasn’t televised but did stream, so to speak, on a cellphone — with Chloe, 8, and Lilly, 4 and a half, superior athletes who humiliated me in other water-related competitions.

One was the Super Soaker, which required me to lumber across the backyard to their inflatable pool, jump in without spraining an ankle or rupturing a vital organ, grab a pressurized water gun and engage in a marksmanship battle with the girls, who hit the bull’s-eye (me) so often that I looked like I had been through a monsoon.

Another was 1-2-3 Sunshine, a game in which I had to sneak up on either Chloe or Lilly (or both) before they turned around and sprayed me with a hose. I was disqualified every time. I just stood there, utterly defeated, as water poured off me like Niagara Falls.

The only contest at which I excelled — though not without injury — was on the Slip ’N Slide, which stretched 15 feet on a slight downward slope and was kept constantly slippery by water that sprinkled out of one side, providing a steady shower through which I thumped, bumped and slid, sometimes out of control and often with painful results.

The girls had already shown fine form in this challenging event, though Lilly went about two feet on her stomach before deciding that sliding on her knees was the better option. She got the hang of it after a couple of tries.

Chloe did the knee slide about halfway down on her initial run before covering the entire course the next time.

Then it was my turn.

“Come on, Poppie!” Chloe exhorted.

“You can do it!” shouted Lilly.

I was understandably nervous as I imagined that I was in the Olympic spotlight, TV cameras trained on my flabby physique while the announcers wondered how, at 67, I had ever made the U.S. team and whether the gold medal, if I actually won, would have to be presented to me in a hospital.

The rules, according to the girls, stated that I had to slide on my stomach, not my knees. This entailed getting a running start and flopping down on my belly, which made me worry that I would miscalculate the landing and end up sounding like a mezzo-soprano.

My worries washed away as I executed a perfect flop and slid flawlessly down the narrow strip to the finish line in what must have been world record time.

“Awesome!” Chloe exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Lilly chimed in.

My wife, Sue, and our daughter Lauren, the girls’ mommy, witnessed my performance from a nearby table, where they were sipping wine and hoping they wouldn’t have to perform CPR.

“Go again, Poppie!” Chloe urged.

I outdid myself with an even better run. I went several more times, whooshing my way to athletic glory.

I must admit that I suffered plastic burns on my stomach and knees. But, like the champ I am, I shook it off and celebrated with a beer.

“How did I do?” I asked the girls, telling them to rate me on a scale of 1 to 10.

“You got a 10!” Chloe said, giving me the thumbs-up.

“I give you 189,” Lilly added. “Plus 50.”

No offense to U.S. swim team stars Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel, but even they couldn’t have beaten me had the Olympic committee seen fit to add Slip ’N Slide to this year’s competition.

But that, as Chloe and Lilly might say, is water under the grandfather.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 18, 2021

"In the Pink (and Purple) at the Spa"

By Jerry Zezima

I may not be as tough as nails, but my nails are tough. And colorful. And I owe it all to the talented cosmetologists at Lilly & Chloe’s House of Beauty.

Lilly and Chloe happen to be my granddaughters. And the house where they made me beautiful is the one I live in with my wife, Sue, who also is beautiful but was about to go out when the girls, who were visiting for the day, asked if they could paint their nails.

Sue and our younger daughter, Lauren, the little beauticians’ beautiful mommy, were going shopping. Lauren’s handsome husband, Guillaume, the girls’ daddy, was going out, too.

I was in charge. And I ended up getting my nails painted — at no charge.

Let me tell you, it was worth every penny.

The spa opened in the kitchen, where Lilly, Chloe and yours truly sat at the table with a couple of bottles of nail polish — one pink, the other purple — which Sue got for them from an upstairs bathroom, one of the many spots in the house where beauty products (none belonging to me) are kept.

“Be good for Poppie,” Sue told the girls before she and Lauren left. “And don’t make a mess.”

It was an ominous warning.

As soon as the door closed, Chloe asked me to paint her fingernails purple to match her dress.

“Let me show you how,” said Chloe, who at 8 years old is a veteran of the cosmetological arts. Then she started painting the nails of her left hand.

Lilly, meanwhile, sat at the table with the bottle of pink polish in front of her.

“Don’t do anything until Chloe and I are done,” I said.

“OK, Poppie,” said Lilly, who is 4 and a half but already has a keen interest in beauty. That includes diamonds. Her poor parents.

Anyway, Chloe painted her nails perfectly. Since she is right-handed, she didn’t want to use her left hand to paint the nails of her right hand. So I became her right-hand man. This may be a left-handed compliment, but I did a good job.

I knew it when Chloe said, “Good job, Poppie.”

Suddenly, Lilly shrieked, “I spilled my nail polish!”

Sure enough, she got the pink stuff all over her blue dance outfit, which for some reason she was wearing over her regular clothes. She also was wearing a ton of costume jewelry — including, she informed me, a diamond ring.

I grabbed some paper towels and tried to get the polish off. I refrained, however, from using Windex.

When it was obvious that my efforts were hopeless, Lilly sat back down and said, “Now paint my nails, Poppie.”

I did another good job.

“It’s your turn,” said Lilly, announcing that she was going to paint my fingernails.

She dipped a brush into the bottle of pink polish, or what was left of it, and smeared a gob onto my right thumbnail. I used a paper towel, or what was left of them, to wipe excess polish off the thumb itself.

Then Lilly dipped a brush into the bottle of purple polish and painted the nail on my right index finger.

She alternated colors until I had a pink pinky.

“Now I’m going to do your left hand,” said Lilly, who repeated the process, except that she started with purple on my thumbnail and ended with the same color on my pinky.

“You look beautiful, Poppie!” Lilly gushed.

“Good job, Lilly!” declared Chloe, who went upstairs to give herself a beauty treatment with Sue’s makeup.

When Sue and Lauren got home, they marveled at my colorful nails.

“Oh, my God!” Sue exclaimed.

“I can’t believe this!” Lauren chimed in.

“What’s the matter,” I asked, “are you ladies jealous?”

Aside from failing to notice that Lilly’s chair was covered in nail polish, not all of which came off, I had a wonderful day at the spa.

“Next time, Poppie,” Lilly promised, “I’ll paint your toenails.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 11, 2021

"When the Cat's Away, the Hammock Won't Sway"

By Jerry Zezima

Before I retired, I was often accused of lying down on the job. Now that I’m not working, it’s my job to lie down.

And what better place to do it than in my brand-new hammock.

I needed a new hammock because my old one, which I’ve had for at least a dozen years, was eaten by mice.

I had always thought that mice ate cheese, though where they get the money to buy it, or if they have it with wine and crackers, is a mystery.

But one or more of the rascally rodents chewed through the ropes of my hammock, which I have kept in the shed so it would be protected, not only from the elements, but from hungry critters like — you guessed it — moose.

No, I mean mice.

The first inkling I had that my hammock wasn’t in the best of shape, just like the guy who owns it, was when I took it out, attached the rings on the ends to the corresponding hooks on two posts, plopped myself in, promptly fell through and hit the ground with a thud on my backside, although I did not, thank goodness, spill my beer.

Bottoms up!

I disentangled myself and noticed that several of the braided ropes had come loose. I tried to tie them together but to no avail.

My wife, Sue, who bought me the hammock, saw tufts of rope on the ground and, later, in the shed.

“I hate to say this,” she said, and proceeded to say it anyway, “but I think this is the work of a mouse.”

“Mice don’t eat rope,” I responded, with absolutely no authority, “unless they want to get some fiber in their diet.”

Still, Sue suggested that I stand on a lawn chair, one of the few things in the shed that are of any practical use, including me, and check out the loft where I keep the hammock.

Sure enough, I saw little brown droppings.

“It’s a mouse all right,” I told Sue. “Or maybe a family of them: mommy, daddy and baby.”

The Three Stooges’ theme song, “Three Blind Mice,” began running through the cavern that is my skull. In one classic Stooge short, the boys were exterminators who brought their own mice to the house where they’d been hired to get rid of them.

“This never would have happened if Henry were still alive,” I told Sue, recalling one of our four cats. Henry routinely assassinated little creatures — birds, bunnies and, of course, mice — and brought them to us as gifts.

Sadly, like the other family felines, Henry went to that big litter box in the sky. Now the field mice are having a field day. And they’re eating my hammock. So Sue bought me a new one.

There’s just one problem: It’s too long. The first time I set it up and plopped myself in, I hit the ground with a thud, though this time I didn’t fall through.

The new hammock is a foot longer than the old one, meaning I can’t lie in it with a beer and swing myself to either sleep or stupor.

I emailed the hammock company and got a quick response from someone named Nova, who said they don’t make a shorter hammock and suggested I try to shorten the new one myself.

I wouldn’t know how, so I went to a home improvement store to buy new hooks, which I planned to insert higher up on the two posts. But a friendly employee named John looked at the photos I took of the posts, which are old, cracked and splintered (a good name for a law firm), and said the new hooks probably wouldn’t hold.

Now I’m hoping to get new posts or find someone with a post hole digger to move the present ones farther apart.

In the meantime, I think I’ll buy a mousetrap. It’ll be cheaper than getting another cat.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 4, 2021

"Big Wheel Keep on Playing"

By Jerry Zezima

I am a man of many words. Unfortunately, most of them are incomprehensible when I use them in a sentence. And the rest can’t be repeated in polite company.

This may explain why, even though I’m a writer who is spectacularly unqualified to do anything else, I am lousy at word games. I can’t say the same for my wife, Sue, a retired teacher’s assistant, or our son-in-law Guillaume, a scientist whose first language isn’t even English.

Still, that has not stopped me from applying to be a contestant on the ultimate word game: “Wheel of Fortune.”

Whenever I watch the program, with Pat Sajak hosting and Vanna White turning the letters, I solve my fair share of puzzles, unless they’re in a category like “What are you doing?” (“I’m watching the show — what do you think I’m doing?” is never the right answer) or its equally difficult twin, “What are you wearing?” (“Nothing” is always wrong, too, and can lead to legal trouble.)

But when I watch “Wheel of Fortune” with Sue and Guillaume, the only thing I know for sure is that I would never win a fortune if I were spinning the wheel for real with them.

That’s why I hope they don’t apply to be contestants, too. In fact, they are so good at word games that they have routinely beaten me in “Scrabble,” which I also lost to my daughters, Katie and Lauren, when they were in grade school and to Sue’s late grandmother, who at the time was still alive, giving her an unfair advantage.

Where I really get walloped is in “7 Little Words,” which is in the daily newspaper.

Here are the instructions: “Find the 7 words to match the 7 clues. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of letters in each solution. Each letter combination can be used only once, but all letter combinations will be necessary to complete the puzzle.”

One clue was: “Annual delphinium relative.” It had eight letters.

Answer (which I never would have gotten): “Larkspur.”

“I like playing this game because it keeps my mind sharp,” Sue has told me, being too kind to say that it would do me some good as well.

If she’s stumped, she’ll ask Alexa.

“That’s cheating,” I have said on more than one occasion.

“You cheat at Scrabble,” Sue has responded, again being too kind to say that it doesn’t do me any good. I’m grateful that she also doesn’t mention her grandmother.

If Guillaume — who was born in France and can make puns in two languages, a talent I greatly admire — is around, Sue will ask him for help. If he’s not and Alex is stumped, too, Sue will call him with a particularly vexing clue, which Guillaume always gets.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that my beloved wife is seldom desperate enough to ask me for help. And if she is, I always have — you guessed it — no clue.

Nonetheless, I am confident in my chances of getting on “Wheel of Fortune.” To apply, I went to the website and filled out a form with basic information like name (I looked it up on my driver’s license) and address (ditto). Then I uploaded a photo of myself (I hope it doesn’t scare Vanna).

I also recorded a brief video saying why I should be a contestant.

“Here’s your chance to charm us!” it said in the instructions. “Try to follow these tips when creating your video.”

Some of the tips were:

Don’t look like you just rolled out of bed.


Be natural.

Don’t ramble.


If I get on the show, I’ll bring Sue and Guillaume for moral support. I’ll even bring some loose change in case I want to buy a vowel. I just hope Pat doesn’t ask me what I’m wearing.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima