Sunday, January 29, 2023

"You Axed for It"

By Jerry Zezima

In my hands, which are big and clumsy, tools are dangerous weapons, which is why I generally avoid using saws, hammers, drills and other menacing objects that could slice off a finger, crush a thumb, pummel a palm or otherwise destroy my hands.

So imagine my surprise and delight to find out that — in my right hand, at least — I am a natural with an axe.

I don’t mean using one to chop wood (not a good idea since I don’t have a fireplace and the house might burn down), but rather throwing one at a target.

And I consistently hit the bull’s-eye, which is no bull, by displaying a good eye at the New York Axe Throwing Range, where I didn’t need beginner’s luck to show that I am a champ at burying the hatchet.

My axe-ploits (more axe puns coming up!) impressed coach Liz Vanek and manager Kaitlyn Lombardi, who agreed that I have an inherent talent at an activity that was popular during the Middle Ages. I considered it good timing since I will be the big 7-Oh on my next birthday and, unless I live to be 140, am a bit past middle age.

“Am I the oldest axe thrower you’ve ever met?” I asked.

“No,” said Liz. “We had a sweet little old lady in her 80s who was really good. She said, ‘I’ve never thrown axes before.’ But she wanted to try. And she killed it.”

“Killed?” I stammered.

“Not literally,” Liz assured me.

Before I tried my hand at throwing caution to the wind, I said to Liz and Kaitlyn, “Let’s get the wordplay out of the way. Do you hear a lot of axe puns, like ‘You axed for it’ and ‘It’s a hatchet job’?”

“All the time,” Liz quickly acknowledged. “The puns make me groan internally.”

“We’ve even come up with our own,” said Kaitlyn, who told me about the names of teams that customers could use.

They included VIP Axe-cess, Axe-cent, Axe-ident, My Axe Husband, My Axe Wife and, the best one, Pain in the Axe.

“We already did the work for you,” Kaitlyn noted.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’m happy to axe-cept your help.”

And I couldn’t have been in better — or younger — hands.

Liz is 18 and became a certified axe-throwing coach after going through a rigorous training program that involved learning safety measures, becoming proficient at consistently hitting the target and — this is very important — not maiming anybody.

“No missing limbs,” she said.

Kaitlyn is 21 and used to work as a clown at birthday parties.

“I’m a pretty good axe thrower,” said Kaitlyn, who started in the entertainment industry. “But Liz is better. After all, she’s a coach.”

“Let’s see how you do,” Liz said as she brought me to the first of the range’s 14 lanes.

“Are you right-handed or left-handed?” she asked.

“I’m ambidextrous,” I replied. “I’m incompetent with both hands.”

“Some people use both to throw axes,” Liz said. “But which hand is more dominant?”

“My right one,” I answered.

“That’s important to know because of leg placement,” she said. “You have to put your best foot forward.”

“Another pun!” I exclaimed.

“Sorry,” Liz said softly.

But first, I had to choose one of two kinds of axes: a smaller one, which resembled a hatchet, and a larger one that was a genuine axe.

I chose the smaller one because, as I told Liz, “I don’t have an axe to grind.”

She groaned internally and handed it to me.

“Bring it back like this,” she said, helping me hold the axe next to my head and parallel to the floor while standing a dozen feet from the large wooden target. “Step into your throw and follow through. The axe should rotate once before hitting the target. Ready?”

“Ready!” I said. Then I let the axe fly.

It landed squarely in the middle of the target.

“Bull’s-eye!” Liz chirped as she rang a bell.

“Great shot!” added Kaitlyn.

I had several more throws, the majority of which were bull’s-eyes.

Then I switched to the larger axe, for which I had to stand a couple of feet farther from the target. It didn’t matter. I scored one bull’s-eye after another.

This continued for an hour (the price for which is $39). I could have gone for an hour and a half ($55), but I had already proved my point.

“You are very good at throwing axes,” said Liz.

“Did you have fun?” asked Kaitlyn.

I smiled proudly and said, “I had an axe-cellent time.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 22, 2023

"I Married a Cover Girl"

By Jerry Zezima

I am not one to make blanket statements, but I will make one now: We have enough blankets in our house to cover the Green Bay Packers.

At last count, which entailed going to every room with a calculator (I could have used a pedometer, too), there were 17 blankets scattered about the place. And that doesn’t include the one in my car. Or the many that are hiding in closets. Or in drawers. Or even in bins I haven’t looked in yet.

I did look inside an ottoman in the family room, where there are half a dozen blankets.

Then, of course, there are the bedroom blankets, but they don’t count. Beds are supposed to have blankets. Rocking chairs aren’t.

The only places in the house that don’t have blankets are the three bathrooms. But that’s only because they would end up clogging the toilets.

And I just remembered all the beach blankets we have. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello would be impressed.

Our house has to be the blanket capital of the United States because my wife, Sue, is a bona fide cover girl.

“I like blankets,” she explained.

It was the understatement of the century.

Sue not only buys blankets (“Is there a cover charge?” I once asked), she also makes them. And I must admit they’re beautiful.

She gives some of them to our grandchildren, who order blankets from her like they were shopping on Amazon, except the kids get them for free.

Sue hasn’t made a blanket for me, but if I keep complaining about all the ones that are taking over the house, I might be suffocated with — you guessed it — a blanket. But it won’t be one that Sue made because she’s too smart to leave evidence.

I can just envision the crime scene.

Cop (to Sue): “You say your husband smothered himself with a blanket last night?”

Sue: “Yes, officer. It must have ridden up over his face while he was sleeping.”

Cop: “Why do you have extra blankets on the bed?”

Sue: “It was cold. And we like to save energy, so I got a second blanket for each of us.”

Cop: “The one on your side is nice.”

Sue (proudly): “I made it myself.”

Cop: “Did your husband ever complain about all the blankets in the house?”

Sue (hesitating): “Uh, not that I can recall.”

Cop (to first responders): “All right, let’s get this guy out of here. Cover him up.”

Sue: “Don’t use a blanket. I’ll have to wash it.”

Keith Morrison would have a field day with this on “Dateline NBC,” which Sue and I sometimes watch, although we regularly watch the various “FBI,” “Chicago” and “Law & Order” shows, as well as movies and streaming series.

We do so while sitting in comfy chairs with our feet up and our legs covered by soft, cozy blankets.

I will concede that they serve a purpose, which is to help me fall asleep before the closing credits, although if I have popcorn, Sue will warn me not to get buttery kernels on my blanket.

At least that won’t happen with the blanket in the back seat of my car, which Sue put there in case we break down.

“It will keep us warm while we’re waiting for a tow truck,” she reasoned.

I haven’t looked in Sue’s car, but I bet there’s a blanket in there, too.

We also have a lot of pillows, but not as many as our friends Hank and Angela Richert, who must have more pillows than any couple in America.

Sue and I recently told them about all our blankets.

“You’ve got us beat,” Angela said. “I may have to start a new collection.”

Hank sighed and said, “Oh, no.”

“Don’t complain,” I told him. “And be sure to sleep with one eye open.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 15, 2023

"Three Cheers for Two Crews"

By Jerry Zezima

I am frequently in the dark, so I don’t have to go out on a limb to say that the limb that recently fell on our power lines left me in a scary place:

The bathroom.

Which was dark.

That’s because the power had gone out.

It happened at 3 a.m. I got out of bed and stumbled to the porcelain convenience, which I visit a couple of times a night as part of a strict exercise regimen, and flipped the switch. The light didn’t go on.

As winds raged (outside, not in the bathroom), I cleverly deduced that a storm had knocked out our power. Little did I know until later that morning what had happened.

“Hurry downstairs!” shrieked my wife, Sue. “A huge tree limb fell on the lines in the back.”

Sure enough, I saw that the top of a big oak had been sheared off and had snapped the wires attached to a pole in a corner of the yard.

But the biggest surprise came when Sue pointed out that a couple of lines that stretched across the yard to the house had almost ripped off the electric meter. Wires and a broken conduit littered the patio.

“Are the wires live?” Sue inquired nervously.

“I’d be shocked — shocked! — if they were,” I replied. “But I don’t want to go outside to find out.”

Fortunately, a crew from the power company wasn’t powerless to do anything about it. Neither was a crew from a tree company that opened a branch office in our backyard.

“We have to wait for the line guys to shut off the power,” said Brendan, the tree company crew chief.

“It’s already off,” I informed him.

“Not completely,” Brendan said. “We don’t want to get zapped before we can remove the limb from the wires. Have you ever gotten an electrical charge?”

“Every month,” I said. “And how do you think my hair got like this?”

To compound matters, rain was falling, the temperature was dropping and nothing in the house worked.

“I can’t even offer you coffee,” Sue told the guys.

Instead, she brought out a plate of homemade cookies.

“Can I have one?” I asked.

“No!” Sue said. “They’re working. You’re not doing anything.”

So I had a bowl of cereal.

“And don’t keep the refrigerator door open,” I was told. “The milk will go bad.”

Sparked by Sue’s sweet sustenance, the guys swung — literally — into action.

One of them, Omar, was like Tarzan, using ropes to swing from an adjacent tree to a position where he could wield a chainsaw to cut the limb on the wires. When he had finished and was back on terra firma, Omar got an ovation from the tree and power crews.

“I almost fainted while watching you up there,” I told him. “I’m afraid of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head.”

“It’s fun,” Omar said. “And I get paid for it.”

“You mean money actually grows on trees?” I asked.

As Omar and his co-workers cut up the huge limb on the ground, the power guys worked to restore electricity to our house and the other 65 homes affected by the outage.

“Have you ever had an outage at your house?” I asked Dave, the power company foreman.

“Yes,” he admitted.

“How many times have you flipped a light switch and remembered that you have no power?” I wondered.

“Every time until the power comes back on,” he answered.

In our house, where Sue had put on a coat because it felt like a meat locker and had started lighting candles because the sun had gone down, the power came back on at 5:30 p.m., more than 14 hours after it went out. Of course, this was nothing compared to what people in California have been going through.

Still, the crews from the power and tree companies were superb, even if not all the neighbors thought so.

“You and your wife are the only nice ones,” said a power company worker named Gabe. “I got yelled at by a woman and an old guy down the street. At least you were hospitable. Thanks for having us.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. “Thanks for all your great work.”

“Now you can go back in the house and see what you’re doing,” Gabe said.

“It won’t help,” I replied. “Even when the lights are on, I’m still in the dark.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 8, 2023

"You've Still Got Mail"

By Jerry Zezima

I like to think outside the box, mainly because I can’t fit inside the box. And even if I could, I would suffocate.

That’s why I have never believed that the check is in the mail — unless it’s one of the checks I have to write so I can pay all the bills that are delivered to my mailbox.

But I recently saved myself $80 — the price of a new mailbox, which would have contained a bill for that amount from a home improvement store — by fixing a broken door on the decrepit mailbox my wife, Sue, and I have had since we moved into our house almost a quarter of a century ago.

For several months, the door had been unhinged, not unlike a certain homeowner. Every time I opened it, the stupid thing came off in my hands. I closed it by lining up the magnet on the door with the magnet on the frame.

One day the door blew off in a high wind. I found it down the street.

The mail was still in the box, but I couldn’t take the chance that something important — a supermarket circular with coupons for beer — would blow away, too.

“I think we need a new mailbox,” I told Sue.

“Can’t you just fix the door?” she asked.

It was a good question with a bad answer: No.

So I sought advice from our mailman, Arnie.

“Bore a hole in the side of the mailbox and put a screw through until it attaches to the door,” he suggested. “Do you have a screwdriver?”

“There’s vodka and orange juice in the house,” I replied.

“It might help,” Arnie said.

“If I fix the door, will you stop delivering bills?” I wondered.

“Only if you put a lock on it,” Arnie said.

Sue and I went to a home improvement store to look for screws — I couldn’t find a lock — and went to an aisle with mailboxes.

“They cost 80 bucks!” Sue shrieked. “That’s too expensive. We can save a lot of money if you do it yourself.”

So I spoke with a helpful hardware man named Brian.

“Get screws that are an inch and a half long,” he suggested after I showed him a photo of our mailbox. “If they’re too short, bring them back.”

Naturally, the screws were too short.

“Bring them back,” said Sue.

That’s when I met Chris, a hardware guy who had better advice.

“Get a threaded metal bar and a hacksaw,” he said. “Measure the bar and cut it to the right length. Leave a little bit sticking out of the side of the mailbox, then put a washer and a nut on the end.”

“It sounds too complicated just to get bills and junk mail,” I said.

“You can do it,” Chris assured me.

I bought a threaded metal bar, a packet of washers and one of nuts, and brought the whole kit and caboodle home.

I found a hacksaw in a toolbox in the shed, went to the garage to get a hammer and a nail, and walked outside to the mailbox.

When I tried to drive the nail through the side of the thick plastic box, the hammer ricocheted out of my hand and landed on the curb.

As this pathetic scene was unfolding, drivers were actually slowing down — some even stopped at the stop sign — to witness the witless.

Undeterred, I went back into the garage and found a drill. I put in a bit, got an extension cord, trudged outside again and, like a dentist working on a stubborn molar, drilled a hole through the side of the box.

I slipped the bar through, attached it to the door, used the hacksaw to cut off the excess metal, and put on a washer and a nut.

It worked!

Sue was astonished.

“It’s unbelievable!” she exclaimed. “You saved us $80.”

Arnie the mailman was impressed, too.

“You did a good job,” he told me. “Now I can’t bring you a bill for a new mailbox.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima