Sunday, March 31, 2024

"House Calls"

By Jerry Zezima

My wife and I are in better shape than our house. That’s saying something — I don’t know what, but it probably can’t be repeated in polite company — because Sue and I are 70 and our house is 50.

Despite the age difference, our joints hurt less than our joint.

We have come to realize, after a quarter of a century in our humble and hobbling abode, that home is where the heartburn is.

That’s why we are fortunate to have a doctor who makes house calls. He has to because he’s also our contractor.

Anthony Amini, chief of surgery at Performance Contracting and Management, has operated on and cared for our creaky Colonial so often and so well that he should have a residency at Home Depot.

The latest medical emergency involved the plumbing (the house’s, not mine). Specifically, a radiator was about to blow a gasket. On finding this out, I almost blew one myself.

The discovery was made while a toilet was being installed in an upstairs bathroom. Coincidentally, Sue noticed water coming through the family room ceiling downstairs.

One of Anthony’s surgical assistants, an excellent young plumber named Nick Havens, cut a hole in the ceiling so he could replace a leaky pipe. Then he discovered that a larger adjacent pipe was corroded. Transplant surgery was performed and was deemed a success.

The bathroom radiator was replaced, but further examination revealed that all of the radiators in the house had the same terminal condition and had to be replaced, too.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” Sue said.

She was right, of course, because over the past few years, we have needed a new roof, new siding, new gutters and new flooring, as well as a new furnace and a new water heater. Also, repairs had to be made on a crack in the foundation. Last year, we had to renovate our bathroom. And recently, we had to renovate the other upstairs bathroom, where the leaks were coming from.

All of these projects were essential. If we ignored them, the house would have flooded, fallen down or burned to the ground.

So it’s nice to know that I am aging better than the old homestead.

That was confirmed by my physician, Dr. Sanjay Sangwan, who told me on my recent office visit that I am in remarkably good shape. He didn’t add, “for a geezer,” because he is too nice to say so, but I appreciated his diagnosis.

“Your heart is very strong,” Dr. Sangwan said.

“Do I have brainwave activity?” I asked.

“It appears you do,” he answered.

“How about a pulse?” I wanted to know.

“You have that, too,” the doctor replied. “Your vital signs are good, but your blood pressure is a little high.”

I told him about the house.

“That could explain it,” he said. “But just to be safe, I am going to give you a prescription.”

Sue, who had a heart attack a couple of years ago that can’t be directly attributed to home improvement projects, is also in good shape. But she recently twisted her knee while opening the blinds in the family room. They were blocked by furniture that had to be moved so the pipes could be replaced in the ceiling.

“This house is trying to kill us,” I told her after she put a bandage and some ice on her knee.

Anthony, who has become like a member of the family and calls us Auntie Sue and Mr. Uncle Jerry, said he wouldn’t let that happen.

“The house is beautiful, but it’s old,” he said. “After a while, things start to go.”

“You’ve done everything but the kitchen sink,” I noted.

“And now we need a new one,” added Sue.

“I hope it’s the last thing we have to do,” I said. “It would help to lower my blood pressure.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 24, 2024

"The Prince of Paint"

By Jerry Zezima

Jerry had a little lamb.

It was a shade of paint.

It went right on the bathroom wall.

The fumes could make you faint.

That’s the nursery rhyme I composed while painting the wall of a bathroom in our house.

Fortunately, I wasn’t overcome by fumes, which might have improved the creative process, but I can say that the paint is a shade of beige called lambskin.

And I will add, with no small amount of pride, that I picked it out myself. In fact, I have become so good at selecting just the right color that I have crowned myself the Prince of Paint.

This is appropriate since I spend what my wife, Sue, considers an inordinate amount of time on the throne.

It was there that I mulled over the color choices for the bathroom that was about to be renovated.

It wasn’t the first porcelain palace that needed an overhaul. Last spring, the main bathroom had to be remodeled.

This required us to make so many trips to a home improvement store — for tile, a vanity, a sink, fixtures, a mirror, a toilet, a shower, a wastebasket, a towel rack, a toilet paper roller, a toothbrush holder, blinds and, of course, paint — that I’m surprised we weren’t given our own parking space.

My job was to choose the shade of paint that would go on the walls. My selection: serenata blue. It’s a cross between baby, pastel and robin’s egg, with a touch of sky thrown in.

Picasso had his Blue Period and I had mine. I even helped paint one of the walls. Sue liked it so much that she didn’t throw shade at me.

Now I had to do it all over again. And I wasn’t about to give this awesome responsibility the brush-off.

The problem with selecting paint is that there are so many shades to choose from. I found this out last year when I went with Sue to a paint store that had what a salesman said were 8,860 shades of paint.

Unlike another salesman Sue had previously met, this guy wasn’t color blind.

I don’t know how the first one got his job, but I can imagine the interview.

Manager: “What color would you paint a fire engine?”

Applicant: “Chartreuse.”

Manager: “You’re hired!”

This time, we had to select a different color theme for the bathroom, which had been yellow (make your own joke here) but which we thought should have a tan or green look.

The floor tile Sue picked turned out to be too dark, especially since she wanted to go with an oak or maple vanity. It also clashed with the niche that would be installed in the bathtub and shower.

So she chose lighter floor tile, which went nicely with the white vanity she decided to get.

Then came the big question: What color should the walls be painted?

That was my area of expertise. As Sue and our terrific contractor, Anthony, looked on, I went through a book of paint samples that rivaled “War and Peace” for sheer length.

Using my uncanny ability to match shade with theme, or vice versa, I selected lambskin. Little did I know that it would send those godawful lyrics coursing through my skull.

But it didn’t matter. I was determined to prove I wasn’t a flash in the pan. Or, more aptly, the tray.

After I rocked with a roller, smoothly applying a beautiful beige to one of the walls, I asked Sue what she thought.

“Once again, you made the perfect choice,” she said.

“I’m the Prince of Paint,” I boldly declared. “Now if you will excuse me, I have to use the throne.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 17, 2024

"The Diamond's in the Details"

By Jerry Zezima

As a guy who gets pooped at the mere thought of washing bird droppings off a car, I never figured I would wax poetic over my amazing ability to clean and wax my wife’s wheels. But it turns out I am a gem.

That is the expert opinion of a guy who not only owns a car wash, but who knows all about gems because he used to work in a diamond mine.

I met Edgar Barbosa, proprietor of Auto Salon Detail Center, after my wife, Sue, asked me to rid her silver sedan of the foul feculence of a flock of flighty fiends.

We recently had some tree work done, including the removal of a large branch overhanging the driveway. This must have rankled the rockin’ robins that nested on that branch because they came back a few days later and unloaded whatever they had for lunch all over Sue’s car.

It was up to me to remove the raunchy remains. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be taken off with the traditional cleaning combo of paper towels and Windex.

So I drove to the car wash.

“You need a bath!” Edgar exclaimed.

“So does the car,” I replied.

Auto Salon is not the kind of place where vehicles go through a conveyor and are machine-sprayed with soap, buffed with huge rotating brushes and rinsed off before being dried with powerful fans.

“We do everything by hand,” said Edgar.

On this day, those hands belonged to Jose Cruz and Jorge Estrada, who let me lend a helping hand so I could be handed a compliment by Sue when she found out that my cleaning efforts weren’t for the birds.

I began by using a clay bar, a lubricated pad that removes dirt, grime and, yes, bird droppings.

“Go in a circular motion,” Edgar instructed.

“Good job,” said Jose, who has been in the business for almost 30 years.

Jorge, a relative newcomer with seven years’ experience, was impressed by my ability to hose off the lubricant without soaking myself to the skin.

All three men were relieved when I didn’t lose a finger while using an electric buffer to clean the floor pads of Sue’s car.

“That machine can break your hand,” Edgar warned.

“If it does,” I told him, “you can call me Lefty.”

I got high grades for using a shammy to polish Sue’s trunk.

“I’m really taking a shine to this,” I said.

Edgar, who was very impressed with my handiwork, has a car that has seen better days.

“It’s a 2004 Prius with 295,000 miles on it,” said Edgar, who bought it three years ago for $2,000. “It keeps going,” he added. “And my guys clean it. I don’t have a girlfriend right now. The only reason to have a beautiful car is to impress the ladies.”

Edgar, who is 61, with three children and two grandchildren, has had many jobs over the years. His most memorable one was in Brazil.

“I was in the jungle working in a diamond mine,” he remembered. “One of the guys brought up a diamond that was 326 karats. He said I could buy it for $775,000. I called friends in the U.S. and asked them to send me the money. The next day, somebody else bought the diamond. Then he sold it for $25 million.”

“Do you have any more diamonds?” I wondered. “My wife would be interested.”

“No,” Edgar said. “But you did such a good job on her car that you could work here.”

“Will you pay me enough to afford a diamond?” I asked.

“You won’t become a millionaire in this business,” Edgar said. “But if you save enough money, you can buy your wife a new car.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima