Sunday, December 18, 2022

"All Aboard the Polar Express"

By Jerry Zezima

On a December eve, very recently, I stood outside in the cold darkness dressed in my pajamas — and not for the first time, for I frequently go out in my PJs, much to the consternation of neighbors, shopkeepers and, not least of all, the police.

Anyway, there I waited, amid a gathering crowd on a train platform, when I heard a conductor cry out, “All aboard!”

I ran up to him.

“Well,” he said, “are you coming?”

“Where?” I asked.

“Why, to the North Pole, of course,” was his answer. “This is the Polar Express.”

And so it was. I was among countless excited ticket holders, young and old, who boarded the train in Kingston, New York, for a trip to the home of Santa and his elves. They would also be on board and, unbeknownst to them, would have to listen to my silly wisecracks as they mingled with the passengers. I’m lucky I didn’t end up on the bad-boy list.

Accompanying me were my wife, Sue; our younger daughter, Lauren; her husband, Guillaume; and their daughters, Chloe, 9, and Lilly, 6, who are most definitely on the good-girl list.

The train was filled with other children, their parents and, on this special trip, their grandparents, all in their pajamas.

Chloe also wore a Santa hat and Lilly wore a conductor’s cap.

When the real conductor, Jay, came by to punch our golden tickets, he noticed Lilly and allowed her to punch her own ticket because, of course, she was a conductor, too.

“I don’t have a ticket,” I confessed. “I snuck on the train.”

Jay knew it was a fib, so he smiled and said, “I could throw you off, but I won’t.”

Then he punched my ticket and, with a hearty chuckle, added a smiley face.

Hero Boy, one of the characters in the famous book by Chris Van Allsburg, came by in a bathrobe with a hole in the pocket.

“I have a hole in my head,” I told him. “And I go out in my pajamas all the time.”

Hero Boy smiled weakly and said, “Merry Christmas!”

Then, wisely, he moved on down the aisle.

Next came a character from the film version of the book, the Hobo, who asked, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed. “In fact, I’m almost as old as he is. We hung out together as kids.”

The Hobo chuckled and moved on, too.

A guy named Justin, dressed in a white chef’s outfit, walked up with “The Polar Express” in his hands and asked me to turn the page as the story was being read over the loudspeaker.

“I write books, too,” I told Justin. “Maybe my next one should be ‘The Geezer Express.’ ”

An elf named Camilla stopped by with hot cocoa, which I slurped, and cookies, which I munched.

“Did you bake these cookies yourself?” I asked.

“Yes, I did,” Camilla responded with a sly smile. “Honest!”

When she came back with bells for the passengers, I shook mine and said, “Camilla, your name rings a bell.”

Just then, the jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus, made an appearance, which thrilled Chloe and Lilly, who told him what they wanted for Christmas. They also posed for a picture with him.

When Santa got to Sue and me, he asked, “And what do you want for Christmas?”

Sue said, “How would you like to pay off our mortgage?”

“Ho, ho, ho!” the big guy boomed.

“I’ll take a bottle of brandy to celebrate getting out of debt,” I told him.

Then I posed for a picture with Santa, too.

A little while later, the Polar Express pulled back into the station. It was a magical ride.

“Thanks for not throwing me off the train,” I told the conductor on the way out.

“It’s my Christmas present to you,” he said. “And by the way, nice pajamas.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 11, 2022

"The 2022 Zezima Family Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima

Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch, and Sue, the matriarch, as well as two daughtersiarch, two sons-in-lawiarch, five grandchildreniarch and a partridge in a pear tree.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an eventful year for the Zezimas!

The highlight was a family reunion that included Jerry’s mother, Rosina, who at 97 was the life of the party. She was thrilled to be with all three of her children, all five of her grandchildren and all five of her great-grandchildren for the first time.

It also was the first time that all of Jerry and Sue’s grandchildren had seen each other in person. The kids, who range in age from 9 to 3, had a ball, especially with Jerry, who splashed at the beach, bounced on a trampoline, acted silly at an aquarium and rode on a carousel. He was more fun and less mature than any of them.

The good times continued when granddaughters Chloe and Lilly set up a lemonade stand on Sue and Jerry’s front lawn. The girls netted $45 in 45 minutes, which made Jerry wonder if he picked the wrong profession.

In automotive news, Jerry got a new car. His old car wasn’t that old (two years, 17,000 miles), but the trade-in deal was too good to pass up. Jerry even has seat warmers, which he previously called pants. Unfortunately, he is still getting calls about his extended warranty.

On the domestic front, Sue and Jerry got new garage doors. It was about time because one of the old doors had a gap that allowed snow and leaves to accumulate in the garage. To Jerry’s dismay, the place is so cluttered with junk that he can’t fit his new car in there.

Sue and Jerry also got a new dishwasher. It replaced the world’s worst appliance, which leaked so much that it threatened to turn the kitchen into a swimming pool. Now Jerry won’t have to do the dinner dishes in his bathing suit.

An alarming development occurred when Sue went out of town for five days and left Jerry home alone. In a blunder that would have impressed Macaulay Culkin, Jerry set off the house alarm and had to convince a nice person at the alarm company not to send the cops. As Sue said when she returned, “At least I didn’t have to bail you out of jail.”

Sue and Jerry had a tarot card reading at a wine bar, where they really got into the spirit. The reader couldn’t give Jerry the winning Powerball numbers, but she did tell him that he was already rich because he had Sue. Jerry drank to that.

Jerry came out of retirement to work as a brand ambassador at Costco, giving out samples of peppermint pretzels and mint truffles. He proved to be a super salesman but retired again after only two days. For some unfair reason, he can’t collect a pension.

In medical news, Sue and Jerry both went to an ENT specialist to get their ears cleaned out because they couldn’t hear each other. Jerry still has a tough time making out what people are saying on TV, but Sue, regrettably, can clearly hear all of his stupid jokes.

Jerry also got a new primary care physician because his old doctor, who is 81, finally retired. Jerry likes his new doctor, who at 51 is the first physician Jerry has ever had who is younger than he is.

In a frightening coincidence, the day after Jerry updated his will, which could have been written on an index card, he received a brochure in the mail from a cemetery. He did not, thank God, keel over.

In sad news, Sue’s mother, Josephine Pikero, passed away at age 92. A career woman in the days when such a thing wasn’t common, she had three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She also was an excellent cook — Italian dishes were her specialty — but she never understood why Jerry doesn’t like anchovies. “Because,” he explained, “I draw the line at fish with hair.”

Last but certainly least, Jerry’s sixth book, “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old,” was published. Like all his other books, it’s a crime against literature. It also comes in handy for propping up a wobbly table leg. And if you suffer from insomnia, you might even want to read it. Tell Santa that it’s better than coal.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 4, 2022

"Hack to the Future"

By Jerry Zezima

At the risk of plagiarizing Popeye, who is a cartoon character and can’t sue me, I am what I am. I can’t say what I am in polite company, but I can say who I am: a guy nobody should want to be because, on most days, I don’t want to be myself.

But that hasn’t stopped some people — I don’t know who they are — from wanting to be me and trying to accomplish such a dubious feat by stealing my identity.

I may be a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, but I don’t have a secret identity for the following reasons:

(a) I can’t fly, which is a good thing because I’m afraid of heights.

(b) I’m not faster than a speeding bullet, except when I’m rushing to the refrigerator for a beer.

(c) I don’t wear tights and a cape. Well, at least not during the week. What I do on weekends is nobody’s business.

My real identity is so pathetic that no one in his right mind should want to steal it. And if the perpetrator is caught, he could avoid conviction by pleading insanity.

Still, I have been the subject of some recent hack attempts on social media by individuals I can only describe as — that’s right! — hacks.

One claiming to be me asked my friends to become his friends, which prompted me to issue the following warning: “I’ve been hacked. Why anybody would want to be me is an enduring mystery. I don’t want to be myself, but it’s too late to do anything about it. Anyway, do not accept a friend request from anyone purporting to be yours truly. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

My sister Elizabeth responded: “I’m anxious to see if the new Jerry Z is going to pay your bills and take care of your yard. In which case stolen identity pays!”

Daniel wrote: “That wasn't you naked with a bowl of fruit on your head?”

I replied: “I ate the fruit. The rest is true.”

Rick A. wrote: “You mean I should disregard the message that you're holding $1,432,679 for me and all I have to do is send you $2,000 as a good faith measure???”

Rick L. wrote: “Can’t imagine you had that many friends to begin with.”

More recently, there was another attempt to bamboozle friends who were already my friends into becoming my friends again. The message read: “Jerry Xezima sent you a friend request.”

I immediately posted this warning: “X marks the spot where I have been hacked by someone claiming to be Jerry Xezima. It’s not me (why anyone would want to be, I don’t know), so please do not accept the friend request.”

This sparked a volley of responses.

Jim: “I think Jerry Zezima has been hacked, or else he’s the new premier of China.”

Dan: “I got that, and one from Jerry Eczema, but I think a cream makes that one go away.”

Robin L.: “That wasn’t you messaging me about my car insurance?”

The worst part of this whole thing has been trying to prove I’m me. That’s what I had to do for the IRS on a website called, an online identity network that allows people to prove they are who they say they are.

I needed my Social Security card, my driver’s license and my cable bill. Then I had to choose a new password because I forgot my old password, one of approximately 150 passwords I have just so I can prove I am, for better or for worse, Jerry Zezima.

Next I had to go on a video call and be interviewed by a “conference host” who was not, of course, identified. After that, I had to take a selfie for facial recognition.

Finally, I needed a “verification partner.” I chose my wife, Sue, who verified my identity and added, “Believe me, there’s no one else like him.”

Remember that the next time you get a friend request.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima