Sunday, July 21, 2024

"Hair Today, Not Gone Tomorrow"

By Jerry Zezima

I don’t want to give lip service to elections, one of which is coming up in the fall, but I recently won a contest by a vote so overwhelming that it amounted to much more than a whisker.

That’s why, thanks to the support of my grandchildren, who are not too young to have cast ballots, I am keeping my mustache.

The issue came up when my wife, Sue, the very person who encouraged me to grow a mustache, said that after four and a half decades, I should think about shaving it off.

“It might make you look younger,” she said.

“I already look young because I’m immature,” I replied. “And in case you have forgotten, it’s the 45th anniversary of my mustache.”

In 1979, the year after Sue and I got married, I had surgery to repair a deviated septum. Considering the prominence of my proboscis, I’m surprised the doctor didn’t use dynamite.

Anyway, after the operation, my tender nose and naked upper lip were covered in so many bandages that I looked like a mummy, even though I was not yet a daddy.

By the time the coverings came off, I sported a full chevron mustache, which did not, unfortunately, get me a discount at Chevron gas stations.

“I like it!” Sue said.

I liked it, too, especially since it put me in the company of my three mustache heroes: Groucho Marx, Mark Twain and my late grandmother.

So I kept the lip rug, which, I have been told by people with astigmatism, makes me look like Tom Selleck, minus the talent, charisma and money. Still, it has brought me fame, if not fortune.

My greatest accolade came in 2010, when I finished second in the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Contest.

Thanks to the support of people who probably ended up with RSI (Repetitive ’Stache Injury), I got 85,000 votes in the national competition.

I lost (by a hair, naturally) to a Florida firefighter named Brian Sheets. But I beat out such alleged celebrities as major league pitcher Carl Pavano, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and entertainer Brandon Wardell, who was endorsed by model and actress Brooke Shields.

I, of course, was endorsed by Sue.

Five years ago, to mark the 40th anniversary of my guy growth, I was named Mustached American of the Day. This honor was bestowed upon me by the American Mustache Institute, an organization dedicated to fighting discrimination against people with facial hair.

According to AMI president Adam Causgrove, I also was eligible to be inducted into the International Mustache Hall of Fame, whose members include Theodore Roosevelt, Salvador Dali and Burt Reynolds.

“You don’t have to be dead to get in,” Causgrove assured me.

I’m still waiting (to get in, that is). And I was ready to celebrate the 45th anniversary of my mustache — with beer, cake and Just for Men — when Sue said I should shave it off.

That’s when I put the matter to a vote.

We were visiting our three youngest grandchildren — a boy, 7, and his twin siblings, a girl and a boy, almost 5 — when I called for a referendum.

“Who thinks I should keep my mustache?” I asked.

The kids, who have never seen me without it, all raised their hands. I raised my hand, too.

“Who thinks I should shave it off?” was the follow-up question.

Sue raised her hand.

“The vote is 4-1 for keeping my mustache,” I declared.

“You look good with your mustache, Poppie,” the 7-year-old said.

“It’s really hairy, but I like it!” one twin said.

“Me, too!” added the other one.

The following week, Sue and I saw our two oldest grandchildren, sisters who are 11 and 7, respectively.

I took the same vote. Both girls said I should keep my mustache.

“It makes you look handsome, Poppie,” the older girl said.

“And it hides your nose hair,” her sister noted.

“You’ve been outvoted,” I told Sue. “And not just by a whisker.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Monday, July 15, 2024

"Mr. Bigfoot"

By Jerry Zezima

This pudgy piggy went to the shoe store.

This pudgy piggy did, too.

This pudgy piggy wanted flip-flops.

This pudgy piggy bought two.

This pudgy piggy cried OMG, all the way home!

And that, boys and girls, is the story of my recent footwear adventure.

It all began when my wife, Sue, said it was time for me to get a new pair of flip-flops because the ones I had been wearing for approximately the past decade were beginning to disintegrate.

I flip-flopped in rubbery comfort at the beach, the pool and around the house. I even ran errands and threw out the garbage in my airy size 11s, though I sometimes stubbed my big toe and let loose with so many F-words (“feet,” “footwear” and, of course, “flip-flops”) that the neighbors shut their windows and locked the doors.

Still, it was time to treat my tender tootsies to a new pair of slides.

I had referred to these light shoes as flip-flops, but my grandchildren, who are up on footwear fashion, set me straight.

Flip-flops, they informed me, have a Y-shaped strap with a little divider that goes between the big and second toes. I remember wearing them when I was their age. I also remember that they hurt like hell.

Slides have a vamp strap with no divider and are much more comfortable.

That’s what I was looking for when I went with Sue to the shoe store, where I also was looking for a pair of sneakers.

I met a friendly salesperson named Josh and couldn’t help but notice that he was wearing green shoes that looked like two patches of overgrown grass. They were more luxuriant than my front lawn.

“They’re Air Fleas,” Josh explained, adding that the style is called Cactus Plant Flea Market. “You can get them online,” he said.

“Don’t you dare order them,” Sue told me.

“Why not?” I said. “Then I can tell people I have fleas.”

Instead I asked Josh about sneakers — size 11, wide, which would probably fit Sasquatch — and he promptly found a box containing a pair of the kind I was looking for.

I tried them on and they fit like gloves.

“Maybe I should wear them on my hands,” I told Sue.

Then I asked Josh about slides.

“I don’t think size 11 will fit you,” he said. “They’re cut narrow.”

He went in the back and brought out three pairs, sizes 11, 12 and 13.

I took off my socks, exposing what Sue calls “the ugliest feet on earth,” and tried them on.

The first cut off blood flow in my instep. The second felt better, but my toes hung over the front edge. The third was just right.

“I’m actually size 13?” I marveled.

“In slides, yes,” Josh answered.

“I hope I don’t need a boating license,” I said.

The next day, Sue and I went to a pool club with two of our granddaughters.

“I like your slides, Poppie,” said the older one, who is 11. But mine, she pointed out, are black. Hers, which are new, too, are nicer because they have sparkles.

“Your feet are really big,” added her sister, who is 7. Her new slides have colorful flowers.

Then I visited my three youngest grandchildren — a boy, 7, and his twin siblings, a girl and a boy, almost 5 — who saw my new slides.

“They’re like dinosaur tracks,” remarked the 7-year-old, who wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up.

His little brother put on my slides and started clomping around the house.

“Are those yours?” I asked.

“Yes!” he said with a giggle.

“They’re about 12 sizes too big,” I estimated.

His twin sister looked at my plain black slides with the Nike logo and said, “Mine have rainbows.”

And that’s why my pudgy piggies cried OMG, all the way home!

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 7, 2024

"Stressed for Success"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to stress, I put others to the test. That’s why my cardiologist ordered a stress test for me.

“Now that you’re 70, you should have one,” he said. “Have you ever had a stress test?”

“I can’t remember,” I answered.

“Why?” the doctor asked.

“Because,” I said, “I’m 70.”

So I made an appointment for what I feared would be a cardiac calamity.

On the appointed date, I was taken to a room with a treadmill, a computer, all kinds of medical equipment and two very nice nurses, Ivy Brandafino and Angela Townson, who would administer the test, monitor my heart rate and, I fervently hoped, revive me if I keeled over.

But first, I had to be shaved. Yes, like the Wolf Man during a full moon, I have chest hair. The absolute worst thing a guy can experience is having surgical tape or a bunch of adhesive devices ripped from his quivering anatomy.

“I once had a root canal,” I told Ivy, “but it was nothing compared to that.”

“This will be painless,” she promised, using a small razor to clear a couple of spots so electrical wires could be attached to my furry pecs, as well as to my smooth, flabby flanks.

“I feel like the Frankenstein monster,” I said. “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

That assessment was correct when Ivy took my blood pressure and oxygen level, both of which were normal.

“It’s the only normal thing about me,” I said.

Ivy smiled politely and took a reading of my heart while I was sitting down.

“This is easy,” I said.

“Wait until you get on the treadmill,” said Ivy, who asked me to step onto the machine.

It was a little difficult because I was hooked up like a car battery.

Angela got me situated and explained what would happen.

“You are going to start very slowly on a flat surface,” she said. “Then we will increase the speed and incline.”

She added that I would be on the treadmill for nine minutes and that my heart rate was supposed to go up to 128 beats per minute.

“Do you have any questions?” Angela asked.

“Yes,” I said. “If I collapse, will I get pulled under and come out as flat as a flounder?”

“If this was a cartoon, you would,” she answered.

“Then I could be on ‘Tom and Jerry,’ ” I noted.

At that, Ivy started the treadmill.

“You’re doing fine,” she said as I strolled easily but didn’t go anywhere.

My heart rate was in the 90s, so Ivy turned up the speed and raised the incline. I saw that my number went up to 100.

“You haven’t even broken a sweat,” Angela remarked.

“I just hope I don’t break a leg,” I said as Ivy again increased the speed and incline.

A minute or two later, my heart rate reached 128.

“I did it!” I exclaimed.

“You did,” Ivy said. “But you’re not done.”

I had a minute and a half to go.

By this time, with one more ratcheting up of speed and incline, I felt like I was being chased up the side of a volcano by a pack of hyenas. My heart rate topped out at 133.

A moment later, Ivy turned off the machine.

“You did great,” Angela said as I stepped off, slightly winded and fresh as a skunk cabbage.

“Have you ever given a stress test to someone older than I am?” I wondered.

“We had one guy who was 80,” Angela recalled. “He was a marathon runner. He showed up in running shoes and a racing outfit.”

“We also had a woman who was 90,” Ivy said.

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” I said, “but how did she do?”

“Fantastic,” Ivy replied. “Just like you.”

“Good,” I said. “Don’t stress over this, but I’ll see you again in 20 years.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima