Sunday, June 18, 2023

"Bristle Boy Blue"

By Jerry Zezima

Picasso had his Blue Period. And now, I’ve had mine.

The difference between us — aside from the important fact that he had talent but is currently deceased — is that Picasso didn’t paint his bathroom. I painted mine. Or at least I painted part of it.

And I chose the color: serenata blue. It’s AT-535 in the paint sample kit, which contains so many shades of so many colors that the kit could rival “Fifty Shades of Grey” for sheer thickness, though it’s not as painful to read.

This was the first time in a decade that I’ve had a brush with disaster. In the first 10 years of the quarter-century that my wife, Sue, and I have owned our house, I had 20 painting projects.

The biggest ones, with and without help, were in three bathrooms, three bedrooms, the dining room, the family room, the very large living room (twice) and, worst of all, the hallway.

The problem with the hallway was that I didn’t know where to stop. That’s because it leads upstairs and connects to the hallway up there. So I ended up painting half the house.

The day after I finished, Sue said, “I don’t like the color.”

And she picked it out!

After that, I retired from painting.

“You’re not retired,” Sue told me. “You’re just on hiatus.”

She was right because a little over 10 years ago, I came out of retirement, drove to my daughter and son-in-law’s house and helped paint the bedroom of my soon-to-be-born first grandchild. It came out great. Even Sue thought so.

It eased the haunting flashbacks to my worst painting project: the kitchen of the condo where Sue and I lived before we moved into our house.

I was on a stepladder when I pulled one of two chains on the ceiling fan to turn on the light. A minute later, I smelled something burning. It was my hair, which had come in contact with a hot bulb.

I inadvertently pulled the other chain to turn off the light and the fan blades started whirling. They conked me on the head and propelled me forward. Paint splashed onto the wall. It came out pretty nice.

Still, Sue is a better painter than I am. And she usually picks better colors. But this time, for our bathroom, which was being remodeled, I chose a beautiful shade of blue, a cross between baby, pastel and robin’s egg, with a touch of sky thrown in.

“That’s the one!” Sue exclaimed.

Our terrific contractor, Anthony Amini, whom we hired for the remodeling, agreed.

So did Anthony’s assistant, the talented and versatile Carlos Garcia, who kindly let me help him paint.

“I picked out the color,” I bragged.

“It’s very nice,” Carlos said. “I like it.”

After he shook the can of paint and poured some into a container, he handed me a brush and said, “Let’s see how you do.”

I started in the corner and went from top to bottom, using the bristles to smooth out the paint without making Carlos bristle.

“Good job,” he told me. “But watch out on top. Don’t get any paint on the ceiling.”

I stretched up and, in approximately the length of time it would take a tortoise to run the 100-yard dash, carefully ran the brush across the top of the wall. Not a drop got on the ceiling.

“Do you want to use a roller on the rest of the wall?” Carlos asked.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll be on a roll.”

And I was, rocking the roller before handing it to Carlos to finish up.

“How bad a job did Jerry do?” Anthony asked. “Did he mess up? Do we have to paint all over again?”

“No,” said Carlos. “He did great.”

Sue stepped in and surveyed the paint job.

“The color is perfect!” she said approvingly.

“My Blue Period is over,” I announced. “Picasso couldn’t have done better.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 11, 2023

"Martha and Me"

By Jerry Zezima

At my age (rapidly approaching a seventh decade of immaturity), I never thought I could be a swimsuit model, the mere sight of which would clear a beach faster than Jaws.

But then I saw Martha Stewart on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which I bought for strictly professional purposes, and realized you could be 81, as Martha is, and still look fabulous.

Now I want to follow in her sandy footsteps and grace the cover of a major national magazine to prove that age doesn’t necessarily go before beauty.

Even though I have maintained my boyish figure, I won’t wear a bikini, as some of the SI models do. A Speedo would be more my speed.

“Let me tell you,” my wife, Sue, told me, “I’ll never be seen in public with you in a Speedo.”

It couldn’t be any worse than my baggy swim trunks. They wouldn’t get me on the cover of any publication except, possibly, GQ (Geezers’ Quarterly).

I began my quest to be a famous cover boy by going straight to the source: Martha Stewart herself.

In an email to Martha, which I sent to her public relations agency, I wrote: “I think it’s great that you are in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. … I would love to speak with you about what it takes to be a swimsuit model and if you think I could be one.”

So far, I haven’t heard back. I also left two unanswered phone messages.

“She’s probably with Snoop Dogg,” Sue said, referring Martha’s rapper pal and business partner.

Undeterred, I wrote to MJ Day, editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

After complimenting her on being age-inclusive in making Martha Stewart one of this year’s models, I wrote: “As a guy who will turn the big 7-Oh in January, I would love to speak with you about what it takes to be a swimsuit model and if you would consider me for the next issue.

I haven’t received a response, so I guess Ms. Day is relaxing on a beach somewhere with Martha and Snoop.

Next, I wrote to a publication that doesn’t have a swimsuit issue but is geared toward people my age and might put me on the cover: AARP The Magazine.

An editor there said I should go through the media office, but the contact person is on leave. Whether it’s maternity, paternity or Social Security, I don’t know.

I made a final attempt with GQ (the real one), which usually puts young guys on the cover but might, in this enlightened age, be enlightened about age.

In an email to the publicity department, I offered to be a cover model, if not in a swimsuit, which would add a new wrinkle (or several) to the magazine, then at least in a tailored suit, which I would have to spend big bucks on.

No reply as yet.

So I went to a sporting goods store for a Speedo to see how I would look on a magazine cover.

When I told a sales associate named John about my plan to be the male Martha Stewart, he said, “You definitely could.”

“I’ll be 70 on my next birthday,” I said.

“You look great,” replied John, 25, who politely did not add “for your age.”

Then he handed me two Speedos, each a different size, and said I should go downstairs to the dressing room.

That’s where I met Jess, another sales associate. I told her the whole story.

Jess, a very youthful-looking 40, smiled and said, “You’ve got it going on, Jerry.”

I entered the dressing room and tried on both suits. The first, which I thought was my size, didn’t go up past my knees. The second, which I thought would be too big, was so snug that I could have auditioned for the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

“Looks like I won’t be a cover boy,” I said as I handed the Speedos to Jess. “Maybe those baggy swim trunks are my speed after all.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 4, 2023

"House of the Rising Cost"

By Jerry Zezima

My mind is in the gutter. It’s also in the kitchen, the bathroom, the garage and all the other places where I have lost my mind in the 25 years since my wife, Sue, and I became homeowners.

Now that we have been in our humble abode for a quarter of a century, during which time we have embarked on enough home improvement projects to bankrupt the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I can say with utter honesty and no small amount of pride that I am the least handy man in America. To me, a screwdriver is vodka and orange juice.

In spite of this shameful admission, or perhaps because of it, I recently pitched my own show to HGTV.

The premise of “House Blunders” is simple: An incompetent man (yours truly) tries his hand (which is holding a screwdriver) at projects that are well beyond his meager capabilities.

Lacking the requisite sledgehammer that many of the channel’s stars routinely use to knock down walls and smash cabinets, the man and his much smarter and handier wife (Sue, a big HGTV fan) must employ professionals to undertake projects that would otherwise lead to the demise of the man in a ceiling collapse and sole ownership of the home for the woman.

Loren Ruch, senior vice president of production and development at HGTV, said my idea “sounds like a fun story.” But “it’s so crazy behind the scenes” and “we’re just so slammed at the moment” that “unfortunately, I’m going to pass at this time.”

Not one to give up easily (except when it comes to household projects), I am determined to mark 25 years of homeownership by passing along the following tips, observations and other questionable knowledge.

The first is that you do not really own your home. The bank does. The legal proof is a document called a mortgage, which is what the bank requires you to pay so you can rent the home that the government says you own and makes you pay taxes on. You’d get a better deal from Vito Corleone, except he is a fictional character and, even worse, dead.

The second is that a house is not a home unless there is something to do. And there always is.

Over the past two and a half decades, Sue and I have spent tons of money on such things as: a kitchen renovation; two bathroom renovations; a new roof; new siding; new floors; a new oil tank; a new water heater; a new furnace; a new shed; new refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers; major plumbing and electrical work; foundation, wall and ceiling repair; extensive painting projects; and new doors in the kitchen, family room and garage.

And another bathroom renovation is underway.

Sue and I are fortunate to have found a great contractor, Anthony Amini, who does wonderful work at reasonable prices.

Here are some other things I have learned since we bought our house.

I am petrified of heights. I found this out when I had to climb to the top of the two-story Colonial to clean the gutters. Not wanting to slip, fall and crash-land on terra firma, a Latin phrase meaning, “What you will be buried in if you fall off the roof,” I got gutter guards.

A house is the perfect example of the law of physics, which states that any empty space will eventually be filled. This may explain why my office is so messy that the remains of Jimmy Hoffa could be in there.

Despite the work and the cost, Sue and I love our house. It’s the only one we have ever owned. In response to real estate agents who are constantly calling to ask if we want to sell it, I say, “You’ll have to drag my cold, dead body out of here.”

Until then, I hope HGTV reconsiders my idea for a show. If it will help, I have a screwdriver.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima