Sunday, October 30, 2022

"Food for Naught"

By Jerry Zezima

Refrigerators leave me cold. That’s because I can seldom find what I want to eat.

After moving around all the contents so I can locate the pickles or the pork chops or whatever I am looking for, I have to ask my wife, Sue, where the heck (not my exact phrasing) that particular item is.

She will shake her head and say, “It’s right in front of your nose.”

As a guy with a prominent proboscis, I have often used this as a feeble excuse for my pathetic inability to find anything in the fridge. But she’s always right. The pickles are right there on the second shelf, where even a person who is blindfolded, hooded and wrapped in bandages could instantly locate them.

Sometimes I think I need glasses — the prescription kind, not those that hold beer, which I could use after being baffled by the elusive food in my refrigerator.

So I went to my optometrist, Dr. Howard Weinberg, to see why I can’t see.

“It’s not your vision,” he said. “You have a bigger problem.”

I gulped and stammered, “What is it?”

“You’re a guy,” Dr. Weinberg responded. “I see it all the time,” he added, asking me to pardon the expression. “Men can’t find anything around the house. Your wife can tell you to go into a drawer for a screwdriver and it won’t be there.”

“I know exactly where to find a screwdriver,” I said. “In the liquor cabinet.”

“This is common in men,” Dr. Weinberg said about our inability to locate things. “Every guy I talk to says the same thing.”

“Can you find anything in your house?” I wondered.

“No,” the doctor said. “And I wear glasses, so you’d think I would be able to see where stuff is. They don’t help.”

Dr. Weinberg’s wife, Jill, the office manager, corroborated this alarming claim.

“It’s not a vision problem, it’s a man problem,” she told me. “Even before looking in the closet or the refrigerator, they’re asking where the thing is. They don’t even try.”

“My wife says the same about me,” I told Jill.

“My husband is no better,” she said. “And he’s an eye doctor.”

At least I found my car keys (they were in my right pocket, although I could have sworn I put them in the left one) so I could drive back to the house, which is filled with hidden treasures.

A cabinet, a drawer, a closet, a room, you name the place, it contains stuff I can’t put my finger on (I won’t say which finger) even though Sue tells me the thing I am looking for — a roll of tape, a bag of popcorn or, yes, a screwdriver — is definitely there.

Sometimes it is and I can’t find it even though it’s right in front of my nose. Other times it’s not because Sue moved it and didn’t tell me.

This is especially true of the food in the refrigerator. Compounding the problem is that we have two refrigerators, one in the kitchen and the other in the garage. Dollars to doughnuts, which I can’t find, either, whatever I am looking for is in the other fridge.

Or it’s in one of the freezers atop the refrigerators. I have to remove half the contents to find the sausage links (which of course are the missing links) that I want to cook with the eggs I plan to make for a big weekend breakfast.

When I take items out of the freezer, I sometimes fail to put all of them back, leaving at least one — frozen chicken, let’s say, because we have more chicken than Colonel Sanders — on the counter, where it starts to thaw and drips all over the place.

Sue, miffed at my carelessness, will put it back in the freezer. Or she’ll put it in the refrigerator, only to take it out again, cook it for dinner and put the leftovers in the fridge.

“Where’s the chicken?” I’ll plead the next day while looking for something to eat.

Sue will shake her head and say, “It’s right in front of your nose.”

It’s enough to make me rush back to the refrigerator for a beer. That’s the one thing I can always find.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 23, 2022

"Jumping In With Both Big Feet"

By Jerry Zezima

If the shoe fits, let someone else wear it. That’s my motto now that I have donated four pairs of clodhoppers to my granddaughters’ school fundraiser.

Usually, fundraisers are held so parents and grandparents can shell out the equivalent of a mortgage payment for items like candy, games, wrapping paper, Tupperware, microwave splatter shields and possibly, in some cases, even microwaves themselves.

I’m surprised cars aren’t among the things you can buy to keep a school afloat.

One of the most popular items are assorted nuts, of which I am one.

There’s also clothing. Last year I purchased a pair of pajamas with the school logo and proudly wore them not only to bed, but to run errands in. You should have seen the looks I got at the gas station.

This year, my daughter (the girls’ mommy) agreed that the cost had gotten out of control and said the school was allowing people to make modest monetary donations without buying anything and, in a very nice gesture, was accepting shoes for people who need them.

I’m not sure who would need anything that had been on my stinky tootsies, or whose feet are tremendous enough to fit into a pair of size 11s (I’m grateful that, on days when I don’t shave, I haven’t been mistaken for Bigfoot), but I decided to donate four pairs of shoes.

Accounting for half the footgear in my closet, they were: one pair of old sneakers, one pair of old slippers, one pair of new slippers that had never been worn and one pair of brown boat shoes that had been worn but were still in good shape.

The sneakers were the most potentially hazardous donation because they should have been condemned by the board of health. I always have two pairs of sneakers, old and new, except when the new pair becomes old, making the original pair even grungier and, if possible, more fetid.

My new sneakers aren’t new anymore, but they’re in better shape than the pair I donated. I buffed the old ones with household cleaner and a paper towel to get off the dirt I routinely bring into the house and sprayed the insides with disinfectant to prevent the nasal hair of the new owner from falling out in clumps.

I also disinfected the old slippers, which had a rip in the side of the right one, leaving part of my big toe exposed. I considered using duct tape on it (the rip, not my toe, which would have taken an entire roll), but I figured the new owner could take care of it or maybe slit the other slipper and recline in breezy comfort.

I realized I had never worn the new slippers, which I had obviously received as a gift and promptly forgot about, because they were two sizes too small. They did not, at least, have to be disinfected.

Just to be safe, I sprayed the boat shoes, which had served me well for years but had fallen into disuse because: (a) I got new boat shoes and (b) I am retired and no longer go where I am required to wear shoes that would be appropriate for a criminal trial or a funeral, in either case, God forbid, my own.

Now I am left with the new boat shoes, one pair of slippers that are serviceable but will soon be on the way out, a pair of new-old (or old-new) sneakers and a pair of black dressy-casual shoes that are old but have seldom been worn.

The male equivalent of Imelda Marcos I am not.

I stuffed a large shopping bag with my donated footwear and brought them to my daughter’s house. She thanked me for disinfecting them. My son-in-law took one look at the sheer size of each pair and said, “People don’t need boats.”

“No,” I acknowledged. “But thanks to the fundraiser, they’ll have mighty big shoes to fill.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 16, 2022

"Bye Bye Birdie Droppings"

By Jerry Zezima

My wife’s car is for the birds. So I took it to a car wash.

Sue asked me to take care of business after a fouling flock that nests in a big oak whose branches overhang the driveway did its business all over her previously pristine vehicle.

That’s how I ended up at Medford Car Wash, where I helped the conscientious crew clean Sue’s car and got the drop on bird droppings.

I pulled up, got out of the car and asked Abed, who was about to vacuum the seats and floor mats before sending Sue’s sedan through the wash, if I could offer some assistance.

“This is my wife’s car,” I explained, “and I want to tell her that I actually helped clean it.”

Abed smiled and handed me a hose so I could blow dirt, sand and lint off one of the mats he had removed from the car.

“You’re doing a good job,” he said approvingly. “Your wife will like it.”

Inside, a very nice cashier named Nallely told me that husbands bring their wives’ cars in all the time because they can’t wash the cars themselves.

“Or,” she added with a knowing grin, “because they don’t want to.”

After the car had come out the other side, I asked a personable crew member named Nikita if I could help hand-dry it.

“It would impress my wife,” I said.

Nikita nodded and smiled. Then she gave me a towel and told me to see Taki, who was directing a couple of other guys on the crew.

“You want to help?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll put some elbow grease into it.”

“Don’t put grease on the car,” said Taki, who let me dry part of the roof, as well as the left passenger door and the door frame.

“How did I do?” I wondered.

“I’ll give you a 10 out of 10!” Taki gushed. “Five stars!”

Nikita was similarly impressed.

“Do you want your own car wash?” she asked.

“I could never do as good a job as you and your co-workers,” I replied. “But if I did own one, I’d give you all raises.”

Just then, Sam, the real owner, came over.

“Your crew is terrific,” I said. “And I helped clean my wife’s car.”

“You could work here,” said Sam, adding that his employees are, indeed, very good. He also said he brings his wife’s car in to be washed.

“You don’t wash it yourself?” I asked.

“No,” Sam said. “But after 15 years of marriage, she trusts me to make it look good. She had some dings and scratches. I compounded her car and it came out perfect.”

“I’ve been married for 44 years,” I told Sam.

“I’m on wife number 4,” he said. “But she’s the best one.”

As he looked over Sue’s car, he noticed some spots that hadn’t quite come off.

“Do you have a tree next to the driveway?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s dripping sap on your wife’s car,” he said. “If you don’t remove it right away, it will burn the car. But don’t worry, I have some sap remover.”

“I’m a sap,” I said. “Will it work on me?”

“No,” said Sam. “You’re too big.”

Then he noticed the faint residue of bird droppings that weren’t fully washed off because they had been caked on the car.

“As soon as you see them, you have to hose them off,” Sam said.

“The poop or the birds?” I wondered.

“Not the birds,” he said. “That won’t help you.”

But the solvent solved the problem.

“Now the car is spotless,” I said. “My wife will love it.”

And indeed she did when I got home.

“My car hasn’t been this clean since it left the dealership,” Sue said.

“That’s because I helped,” I told her.

The next day, Sue spotted some spots on my car.

“Looks like the birds got it,” she said.

“I can’t wait until they fly south for the winter,” I grumbled. “In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to help clean it at the car wash.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 9, 2022

"Greet Expectations"

By Jerry Zezima

When I think of the dogs I’ve had in my life — my boyhood pooch, Daisy; my adulthood companion, Lizzie; and my granddog, Maggie — the thing I remember best is that they were always happy to see me. And they proved it by barking excitedly and slobbering all over my pants.

They were the world’s greatest greeters. If they had worked in a restaurant, in which case the joint would have closed the next day because they ate all the profits, they’d be called maitre dogs.

Now there’s another woofing welcomer in my life. His name is Bunker and he’s a toy poodle who works at Bridge Lane Tasting Room, where my wife, Sue, and I are wine club members.

“Arf! Arf!” Bunker exclaimed when Sue and I arrived for a pickup party.

“He’s glad you’re here,” said his mommy, Delia Sarich, manager of the tasting room, which features a wall with photos of about 50 dogs who are known as “Bunker’s Buds.”

“The dogs belong to our customers,” said Delia.

“How did Bunker get all those pictures?” I asked.

“He has a little camera,” Delia said.

At that moment, he also had a little toy. He stood with the stuffed animal in his mouth and looked up, waiting for me to chase him around the display area.

Round and round we went, stopping only so Bunker could drop the toy, lure me into a pathetic attempt to pick it up, snatch his saliva-soaked plaything and continue the mad chase, which ended quickly because I was panting harder than he was.

“I’m dizzy,” I told Sue and Delia. “And I haven’t even had any wine.”

Bunker had a drink (of water) and rested on his laurels.

But he’s not the only dog who ever greeted me with a toy. A dozen years ago, I showed up at the Connecticut office of filmmaker Ron Howard so I could pitch my first book to his production company, Imagine Entertainment, as the basis for a sitcom.

I walked in the door and was met by a Portuguese water dog named, I believe, Maddie, who had a stuffed animal in her mouth. She didn’t bark or make me chase her around the room — and her boss didn’t buy my TV idea — but I felt special because a Hollywood hotshot’s office pooch actually let me pet her.

It was the closest I had come to the big time since I took Lizzie to meet Lassie in New York City. Lassie ignored me, but she greeted Lizzie with air kisses. It was nice to see those two canine superstars get along so well.

Lizzie, like Daisy before her, was a champion greeter. She was so friendly that I called her the burglar’s helper. If anyone broke into the house, Lizzie would help him carry out all our valuables. But she would never let him take one of her toys.

Maggie was sweet but hyper, jumping enthusiastically when I walked in the door, her long claws often coming perilously close to making me sound like Frankie Valli.

My sister Elizabeth’s dog, Lucie, is sweet but mellow. She’s a bit hobbled because she just turned 16 (112 in dog years), but she always greets me with kisses. Like me (68, but 476 in dog years), she’s too old to chase around.

Bunker isn’t. He’s 2 (a rambunctious 14 in dog years) and not of legal working age.

“For tax purposes, he’s an intern,” Delia explained.

“He does a great job,” I said.

“Bunker’s a good boy,” said Delia, adding that he “likes to water the flowers, if you know what I mean.”

Bunker, who was born under Delia’s bed, is named for Bunker Spreckels, a famous surfer.

“He doesn’t surf,” Delia said of the dog, not the surfer, who is currently deceased. “And he’s too young to drink. But he’s the best greeter in the world.”

“Bunker,” I asked, kneeling down to get at eye level, “if I drink a bottle of the wine in our pickup package when I get home, how will I feel tomorrow morning?”

Bunker barked.

“I know what he said,” I told Delia and Sue. “I’m going to need hair of the dog.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 2, 2022

"How Do You Like Them Apples?"

By Jerry Zezima

My grandchildren are the apples of my eye. So it was only fitting that I was hit in the eye by a falling fruit while apple picking with the kiddies.

Chloe, 9, and her sister, Lilly, almost 6, witnessed the senseless attack, which occurred during an otherwise pleasant visit to a farm with my wife, Sue, and the girls’ parents, our daughter Lauren and her husband, Guillaume.

The day began innocently enough with a wagon ride to the orchard. The wagon, which was packed with about three dozen people, was pulled by a tractor that looked almost as old as the farm, which dates back to 1661.

Tom Wickham — who is not nearly that old but, like me, is no spring chicken, and whose family owns the 300-acre property, which indeed has chickens — drove the asthmatic vehicle over a dirt road rutted with so many bumps, holes and ridges that my backside could have used a set of shock absorbers.

When we mercifully arrived at the orchard, Tom told the pack of pummeled pickers that there were three kinds of apples to choose from: Macoun, Honeycrisp and Snapdragon.

“Eat as many as you want,” he said pleasantly.

That was the signal for me to stuff my face with my second-favorite fruit. My favorites are grapes, but only those that go into wine.

Sue and I spent $20 for a small paper bag that we could fill with as many apples as it would hold. That proved to be a problem when the flimsy handles broke and I had to carry the heavy load from the bottom while not allowing the overflowing apples to spill out so I could trip on one of them, fall on my face and make instant applesauce.

But an even more menacing situation loomed. In full view of Chloe and Lilly, I reached up to a high branch of an apple tree and dislodged a Honeycrisp that was the size of a bocce ball and almost as hard.

The ample apple plummeted at warp speed and plunked me in the right eye. Fortunately, I was wearing a pair of sunglasses that didn’t make me look cool but did absorb the blow and saved me from sporting the kind of shiner usually seen on the loser of a heavyweight boxing match.

“Are you OK, Poppie?” Chloe asked with great concern.

“Yes, sweetheart,” I replied.

Lilly, relieved that her grandfather hadn’t been knocked senseless, which is my normal state anyway, summed things up by saying, “You sure are clumsy, Poppie.”

Laden with the fruits of our labors, we awaited the wagon ride back to the farm stand.

I told Tom about my mishap and added, “Everything happens in trees.”

Tom, a laconic gent, smiled.

Lilly said, “Poppie, you’re so silly.”

Chloe said, “Classic Poppie.”

Halfway through the return trip, the tractor wheezed and stopped. Tom got out and walked over to the side.

“Maybe he’s calling AAA,” I told Lauren.

“It would stand for Apple Apple Apple,” she replied.

Proud of her ability to match me pun for pun, I said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Tom got back on the tractor and started it up again. When we reached the parking lot, we loaded our respective bags of fruity pickings into the car and went to the farm stand for an apple (of course) pie.

Later, when Sue and I got home, we dumped our bag and counted 26 apples. One of them, a large Honeycrisp, had a bruise.

“It’s the one that hit me,” I said. “Which just goes to prove that an apple a day won’t keep the eye doctor away.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima