Sunday, May 28, 2023

"Air to a Fortune"

By Jerry Zezima

I’m probably putting my foot in my mouth for saying this, but Air Jordan, the fabulously successful sneaker line named after former basketball great Michael Jordan, may have to step aside for a new shoe, one named after a guy whose athletic exploits on the playground and the trampoline should be an inspiration to grandfathers everywhere.

I refer, of course, to Air Zezima.

I got the idea for my own sneaker line after watching “Air,” a new movie about how Nike courted and ultimately won over the Jordan family by creating a shoe designed specifically for Michael, then a young hoop star who became a hardwood legend and, in part because of his sneaker, a cultural icon and a financial titan.

The driving force behind Michael’s success was his mother, Deloris, played in the film by the fantastic Viola Davis. Deloris considered two other shoe companies, Adidas and Converse, before settling on long-shot Nike.

And — swoosh! — just like that, millions of dollars poured in.

If Michael’s shoe, marketed largely to teens and 20-somethings, could be that successful, why not a sneaker for geezers, the kind of guys who can’t jump too high or run too fast anymore but who still chase their grandchildren all over the yard, the house and the park without, let’s hope, suffering pulled muscles, aching joints or cardiac troubles?

I ran (actually, I walked) the idea past my mother, Rosina, who will be 99 in November but is sharp as a tack, which distinguishes her from yours truly, and could probably talk Nike into designing a sneaker just for me.

“I’ll broker a big deal for you,” Mom promised.

I contacted John Donahoe, CEO of Nike, to tell him that I wear his company’s sneakers and to ask if his design team could come up with a shoe for me, but I haven’t heard back about my proposal.

Mr. Donahoe should know that Michael Jordan and I are on a first-name basis: I call him Michael and he doesn’t know who the hell I am.

Aside from the lamentable fact that Michael is younger, richer, more talented and better-looking than I am, we have something very important in common: We wear sneakers.

That’s why I am the perfect person to join Michael in making oodles of money on our feet, which would prove that there’s no business like shoe business.

First, my sneaker needs a good design, something appropriate for older men (and women) who are still active and hip, not inactive because they have broken their hips.

After much sole-searching, I have decided that the bottom of the shoe should be properly cushioned — with air, naturally — to give a bounce to our steps when we are running after the grandkids.

Also, the sneaker should be a high-top model to strengthen our ankles and prevent sprains when we are bouncing on trampolines, playing hopscotch or dancing to music videos, as I have done many times with my grandchildren.

This design would also offer stability when carrying the kids or pushing them in strollers.

Finally, many children’s sneakers have lights that flash when the kids move around. My sneaker would also have a first-alert system to notify authorities when we have stumbled and fallen while engaging in the aforementioned activities.

Safety first!

I am going with Air Zezima as the name, so the shoe won’t be confused with Air Jordan. But since my grandchildren call me Poppie, I think Air Poppie is a possibility. Or even Air Grandpa. And for active older ladies, there would be Air Grandma. In my wife’s case, it would be Air Nini.

I hope my brilliant idea leads not only to a new movie (“Airhead”), but to an endorsement by Michael Jordan and a lucrative contract with Nike.

As my mother will tell John Donahoe: “Just do it.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 21, 2023

"A Sod Story"

By Jerry Zezima

I have gone to seed. Unfortunately, so has my grass.

The problem is that it won’t grow, especially in the front yard, where a giant oak tree throws shade at a lawn I have tried for years to make green and lush. Instead, I recently made myself green (with envy at my neighbors’ lawns) and lush (because I gulped down a beer after a hot afternoon of getting down and dirty on a patch of earth that looks like it was manicured with a flamethrower).

Specifically, I dropped lots of “sun and shade” grass seed on areas of the yard where grass won’t grow in either sun or shade. My wife, Sue, who has a green thumb (I told her to see a dermatologist), did the same in the backyard, which looks better but still has spots that resemble the shaved head of Curly of the Three Stooges.

“Soil will help,” said Sue, who got some dirt from the pots of her potted plants, which were no longer in the pots.

“What happened to the plants?” I asked.

“They died,” Sue answered.

Still, we spread the soil over several bare patches and covered it with blue grass seed.

“Maybe we’ll get Kentucky bluegrass,” I said, noting that we now had New York brown grass.

Then I filled a watering can with gin (no, I mean water) and sprinkled the soil and seeds. The next morning, I turned on the sprinklers, which did a better job. So did Mother Nature, who made it rain the following day.

Nonetheless, I was afraid that the grass wouldn’t come up for weeks, if at all, keeping our property looking like the Death Valley of the neighborhood.

So I went to a home improvement store and spoke with a friendly manager named Casey, who suggested that I forget about natural grass and put down unnatural grass.

That’s right: artificial turf.

“You won’t have to water it and you won’t have to cut it,” he told me.

“Will I have to paint yard markers on it?” I asked.

“Only if you want to play football,” Casey said.

I wasn’t about to give up on growing grass, so I asked Casey what I should do.

“Put down lime,” he suggested.

“Like the kind used in cocktails?” I asked.

“No,” Casey replied. “But you might enjoy one after a day of yard work.”

“What shouldn’t I do?” I wondered.

“Don’t spread fertilizer,” Casey said.

“I’ve been known to spread fertilizer wherever I go,” I admitted.

“I can see that,” said Casey.

I told him that I have a lawn service, which hasn’t been too successful in getting grass to grow, and that I also have a landscaper who has an easy job because there isn’t much grass to cut.

“I keep getting conflicting advice,” I said. “I don’t know when to drop seed, when to water or when to spread fertilizer. Now I don’t even know when to put lime in my cocktails.”

“You can drop seed anytime,” Casey said. “And you should water the grass every day.”

“What about cocktails?” I asked.

“Wait until 5 o’clock,” Casey said.

A few days later, I was visited by Wayne, from the lawn service, who told me it’s best to drop seed in the fall and that I should water the grass only twice a week.

“Otherwise,” he said, “you’ll overwater and weeds will grow. You don’t want to feed the weed.”

Wayne had come by to put down weed killer but said he wouldn’t do that because he saw that I had already dropped seed and the weed killer would also kill the new grass.

“Instead, I’ll spread fertilizer,” he said.

“I thought fertilizing in the spring was bad,” I said.

“It is,” Wayne replied. “But I’m using starter fertilizer.”

“Is there finishing fertilizer?” I wondered.

“Yes,” said Wayne. “It’s used in the fall.”

Disregarding all advice, Sue and I have been faithfully watering the seeds every day and running the sprinklers every other day. Miraculously, little green blades are coming up.

“Looks like we won’t have to get artificial turf,” I said. “But trying to improve our lawn is a pain in the grass.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 14, 2023

"Home Is Where the Art Is"

By Jerry Zezima

When I was in school, I was so bad in art that if I became a painter, I would starve to death because I couldn’t even draw a good salary.

But my grandchildren are in school and they are so good in art that their works deserve to be in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Instead, they are in the Zezima Museum of Art and Snacks on Long Island, New York. It is an admittedly modest space devoted to the world’s finest paintings, drawings and illustrations, all done with brushes, crayons and markers, all hanging on office, bedroom and family room walls, as well as a refrigerator door, and all created by five talented artists ranging in age from 10 to 3.

These wunderkinds could, in my humble opinion, put Vincent van Gogh to shame, not just because each has an eye for beauty and a nose for trends, but because they all have both their ears.

I acknowledge that I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. It’s the reason I have established Zezima’s Two Rules of Modern Art.

Rule No. 1: If you see an artwork titled “Spring Butterfly,” but it looks more like the grille of a ’57 Chevy, don’t buy it.

Rule No. 2: If an artist has been working on a piece for months and, when he’s finally finished, calls it “Untitled,” it means even he doesn’t know what it is. Don’t buy that one, either.

If my grandchildren’s artwork were for sale, I would urge you to buy it, even though it is priceless and its estimated value is well beyond the ability of even the richest collectors to afford.

Besides, the kids would have to report their income to the IRS (Infantile Revenue Service) and they’d be legally obligated to pay more in taxes than they have in their piggy banks.

That is why I am humbled and gratified that all five of my grandchildren have recently made pictures just for me.

One, done by my 10-year-old granddaughter, is a 9-by-12-inch masterpiece, ink on cardboard, its deep hues of blue, green and yellow enhancing a playful drawing of her backyard, with a swing set and a slide meticulously done in black against an azure sky with a bright golden sun containing, in her distinctive handwriting, the beautiful words “to Poppie.”

I couldn’t be happier if I received a Monet or a Manet, which would be worth a lot of Money.

This magnificent piece, which could pair with van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” should be called “Sunny Day.”

There’s also a portrait of yours truly, with a mustache and a wide smile, which was gifted to me by the aforementioned artist for my latest birthday. It features balloons with my age on them. The inscription reads: “69 years of being funny.” Sorry, da Vinci, but “The Mona Lisa” has nothing on “The Mirthful Poppie.”

Another work, done by the artist’s 6-year-old sister, is titled “Wonder.” This pen-and-ink drawing lives up to its name, its deceptively simple lines showing an awestruck, long-haired girl, surrounded by stars, standing outside a house with another girl, smiling, in the doorway.

Imagine the price it would fetch in an auction at Christie’s!

The youngest three grandchildren, a 6-year-old boy and his 3-year-old twin siblings, a girl and a boy, are major talents in their own right and have gifted me with pieces done in crayon and felt-tipped marker. Some, from the twins, are even enhanced with colorful stickers, a bold statement that says, well, something.

Maybe that’s why they are untitled. Still, they are beautiful, especially the series of floating hearts that express the 6-year-old’s feelings for me and mine, of course, for him.

In fact, I (heart) all five of my grandchildren, who also work in watercolors that sometimes spill onto the kitchen table. But that is a small price to pay for what critics would call true art.

I should take lessons from the kids. As the creator of “Wonder” told me recently, when I attempted a drawing of my own, “You really need to practice, Poppie.”

Someday, one of my pieces will be good enough to hang in the Zezima Museum. I just hope the little artists will let me borrow their crayons.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 7, 2023

"Nothing but the Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima

I used to think that criminal possession of a forged instrument involved stealing a tuba. Now I know what I should have known for the past 40 years: It’s the act of writing a note to an unsuspecting child while pretending to be a fictional character.

That’s why, in my latest act of forgery, I plead guilty to impersonating the Tooth Fairy.

I was pressed into conducting this shameful ruse when my 6-year-old grandson lost his first tooth. Because his parents were out of town, and my wife, Sue, and I were watching him and his 3-year-old twin siblings for the weekend, I had to write a note from the Tooth Fairy congratulating the excited boy on his initial dental dropping.

Then I had to slip the note, along with the five bucks his parents had left for me, into a small canvas bag with a picture of a smiling, bowtie-wearing tooth on the front.

After the kids went to sleep, I put the bag under my grandson’s pillow while he presumably dreamed of an overnight windfall from a winged pixie whose handwriting closely approximated that of his sneaky grandfather.

Against the advice of my attorney, who is in jail, I will admit that my career in forgery dates back to when my two adult daughters were as young as my grandchildren are now. Under orders from Sue, who took care of everything else, I wrote notes from Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and, of course, the Tooth Fairy.

Naturally, the girls kept the notes, so I had to remember whose handwriting was from which character.

The Tooth Fairy’s writing couldn’t match that of Santa, whose writing couldn’t match that of the Easter Bunny. And none could match mine, which ordinarily looks like the chicken scratch of a man whose hand was caught in a trash compactor.

Eventually, the girls went from suspicion to the dismaying certainty that their father was a well-meaning but incompetent fraud.

I had been on probation for the past four decades until my grandson lost his first tooth, a lateral incisor in the bottom row.

The problem was that we couldn’t find it. The tooth wasn’t in his bed, in his pajamas or on the bedroom floor. Sue suspected that he swallowed it. I told her that even though I am a devoted grandfather, following the tooth through his alimentary canal and into the toilet was out of the question.

I assured my grandson that the Tooth Fairy didn’t need evidence that he had lost a tooth. And besides, what the hell was she supposed to do with it?

The next morning, the beaming boy ran up to me and said, “Guess what, Poppie! The Tooth Fairy came last night and left me five dollars! She also left me a note. Wanna read it?”

Since I’m old and forgot what I wrote, I said, “Of course!”

The note read: “Congratulations on losing your first tooth! I am so proud of you, and I loved coming to your house to leave this gift. Keep being a good boy and don’t forget to brush your teeth every night before bed! Love, the Tooth Fairy”

My grandson’s little sister, who initially said she was scared of the Tooth Fairy, saw the moola and said, “I can’t wait to lose a tooth so the Tooth Fairy can leave me some money!”

Her twin brother added, “Me, too! Then I’ll be rich!”

It dawned on me that inflation had increased the Tooth Fairy’s monetary gift from the 25 cents my daughters used to get to the five bucks my grandson received.

At least the Tooth Fairy still uses cash. What’s next? A check? A credit card? Venmo?

But the most important question was asked by my granddaughter.

“Poppie,” she said, “when your teeth fall out, will the Tooth Fairy leave you some money?”

“I hope so, sweetheart,” I answered. “And she might even write me a nice note.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima