Sunday, June 30, 2024

"The Air Apparent"

By Jerry Zezima

I like to think I’m hot. I like to think I’m cool, too. In reality, I am neither — unless I have to stick a big, heavy air conditioner in the bedroom window and another in the office window, in which case, if I even survive, I am both.

For the past 26 years, which is how long my wife, Sue, and I have lived in our house, we have vowed to get central air conditioning.

And every year, when the place starts to feel like a sauna and I feel like sitting around in a towel, which really gets Sue steamed, I have had to lug not one but two bulky air conditioners upstairs and install them in the corresponding windows without having a heart attack, throwing my back out or rupturing a vital organ.

Then there is the danger of dropping one of the huge metal appliances on my foot, breaking my big toe and walking around for the rest of my life with a pronounced limp, which, for those of you who have never experienced such agony because you already have central air, is pronounced “limp.”

In the past few years, I have had help from both our son-in-law and our contractor, for which I am relieved, grateful and — most important — alive.

But now that I am 70, an age at which dragging a garbage can to the curb is a health hazard, I figured it was stupid even by my low standards to still be dealing with air conditioners.

So we contacted Adam Harris, an equipment specialist for our home heating company, to come over, size up the joint and help us select a central air conditioning system at a price reasonable enough to be paid in — that’s right! — cold cash.

“Will central air offset my hot air?” I asked.

“Yes,” Adam assured me. “But the system may have to work pretty hard.”

“I hope it doesn’t overheat,” I said.

“Don’t worry, it won’t,” said Adam, who went room by room, downstairs and upstairs, to measure the square footage, look in closets and check out the attic. He also went outside to see where a condenser could be placed.

Because of the configuration of the house, a two-story Colonial, Adam said we could get central air upstairs but not downstairs, where expensive ductless units would have to be installed.

“Would we need ductless tape for the units?” I wondered.

“You’d need more than that,” said Adam, adding that the installers would have to go through floors and walls.

“I’m floored,” I remarked. “And off the wall.”

Adam, who politely didn’t disagree, said the downstairs would stay cool because we already have a large, powerful air conditioner in a wall sleeve in the family room.

“Upstairs is where you need central air,” he said, quoting us a reasonable price that we agreed to.

Unfortunately, the job couldn’t be done for a couple of weeks, when it would be getting warmer, so I decided to haul one of the two old air conditioners from the garage to our bedroom.

“I have a hunch I’ll end up like Quasimodo,” I told Sue as I breathlessly carried the unit — step by step, inch by inch — through the house and up the stairs.

I plopped it in an open bedroom window and asked Sue to hold it in place while I screwed the AC into the frame. Then I pulled out the worn and torn accordion side panels and screwed them into the frame, too. Sue stuffed the gaps with sticky strips of foam rubber so bugs the size of Chihuahuas couldn’t get in.

She plugged the unit in and turned it on.

“It still works!” Sue exclaimed.

That held us over until the day our central air conditioning system was finally installed.

“We should have done this a long time ago,” said Sue.

I agreed.

“I may not be so hot anymore,” I said. “But I’m still pretty cool.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 16, 2024

"Veggies to Diet For"

By Jerry Zezima

Since my cardiologist put me on a Mediterranean diet, I have been looking forward to a daily meal of spaghetti and meatballs or a few slices of pepperoni pizza.

Instead, I get the uneasy feeling I will be eating prodigious quantities of another Italian-sounding food: zucchini.

To put it mildly, I am not a fan of zucchini. Or squash of any kind. Nor, for that matter, do I like most vegetables.

“They’re good for you,” said Dr. Rohit Maini. “And they are an important part of a Mediterranean diet.”

“I can’t afford to go to Italy every day,” I told him.

“You don’t have to,” Dr. Maini replied. “But if you do, send me a postcard.”

“What else is good for me?” I asked.

“Legumes, fish, fruit, eggs and white meat,” the doctor said.

“White meat tastes like chicken,” I noted.

“It does,” Dr. Maini said. “But it shouldn’t be fried. Remove the skin. It’s bad for you. So are processed foods.”

“Like what?” I inquired.

“Cold cuts,” the doctor said.

“Too late,” I countered. “I’m already full of baloney.”

“Is your wife in charge of meals?” Dr. Maini wondered.

“Yes,” I responded. “She’s a great cook. And she has kept me alive and healthy for the past 46 years.”

“Good,” he said. “Tell her to keep it up. Bon appetit!”

When I told Sue what Dr. Maini told me, she said, “You’re already on a Mediterranean diet.”

“Is that why you insist on feeding me so many vegetables?” I asked.

“Yes,” Sue said. “In fact, you’re having broccoli tonight.”

She has already made certain concessions, such as not buying cold cuts anymore. And she doesn’t serve red meat too often.

At my request, she has cut back on buying snacks like popcorn and instead buys almonds.

“I’m nuts about them,” I said.

But I have some questions that even science can’t seem to answer. Such as: Why did eggs used to be good for you, then were considered bad but now are good again?

“I don’t know,” Sue admitted.

I don’t, either, which is why every Saturday morning I make myself a big breakfast consisting of two eggs (scrambled or sunny-side up) and three sausage links.

Sausage supposedly isn’t good for me because of the cholesterol, but eggs can raise cholesterol and they’re OK to have again. Go figure.

It’s the same with one of my favorite meals, hot dogs and beans, which Sue frequently makes.

“Beans are good for you,” Sue said. “Hot dogs aren’t.”

“I guess it makes for a balanced meal,” I said.

I like fish, except those that have no taste, which is most of them unless they have been smothered in teriyaki sauce, or those that have supposedly been filleted but still have little bones that end up getting stuck in my teeth.

Fruit is fine except for pineapple, which is more pine than apple and is the only thing about Hawaii, where Sue and I honeymooned, that isn’t heavenly. Pineapple is in almost everything there, including, I think, toothpaste.

That brings me back to vegetables. I actually don’t hate most of them. The ones I like are asparagus, red and green peppers, and string beans. Eggplant is OK, too.

Then there is broccoli, which Sue serves often because of its nutritional value. It’s not really so bad unless it’s served with skinless chicken. Same goes for cauliflower, which is broccoli’s cousin twice removed. Sometimes I think it should be.

The vegetable I really detest is squash, which is what I would like to do to it.

“You’ll eat squash if I disguise it,” Sue said.

“With what, a mask?” I asked.

“I’ll put cheese and hot sauce on it,” she said. “Or I can grill it.”

“You mean it has to be incinerated to make it palatable?” I said.

“Your choice,” Sue said. “But you are going to eat it.”

“I suppose it’s part of my Mediterranean diet,” I conceded. “But this weekend, so you don’t have to cook, let’s send out for pizza.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, June 9, 2024

"No Absence of Mallets"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to croquet, a leisurely game that sounds like it involves chickens, I cannot mend my wicket ways.

That’s because I am not very good at it.

Proof came when my wife, Sue, who makes delicious chicken croquettes and recently bought a croquet set, soundly defeated me in a backyard blitz.

Our 7-year-old granddaughter also put me to shame before she got bored with the inferior competition and went off to blow bubbles.

Sue, a fan of the TV series “Bridgerton,” in which rich, snooty characters in 19th-century England play a croquet-like game called pall-mall, implied that I could never be on the show because my character, Viscount Jerry I, would ruin the contest and give the swells a bad name.

This would happen as I was clad in a pair of breeches, knickers, pantaloons or whatever ridiculous trousers that guys wore in those days. I would bend over to hit a ball through a hoop and promptly get a wedgie, sending the shot off the powdered wig of a duchess and starting the War of 1812, which didn’t end until 1815, when the Americans defeated the British on the croquet fields of Long Island, where I live and, as it turns out, play the game terribly.

It’s no different from other outdoor games in which I have competed, such as:

Golf, which I played once and ran up a score that rivaled the national debt.

Miniature golf, which I have played many times and have always lost to miniature people (my grandchildren).

Badminton, which I have played a few times and watched more birdies than I hit.

Bocce, which I botched.

And tennis, which I played when I started to court (literally) Sue. She routinely beat me, even though I took lessons as a kid. It quickly became clear that the only way I could qualify for Wimbledon was if I went as a ball boy and got beaned by a blazing backhand. It would have served (again, literally) me right.

Now my incompetence has spread to croquet.

The set that Sue bought came in a rectangular box that contained four mallet heads, four mallet handles, four colored balls, two stakes and nine wickets. There also were instructions that included croquet terms, court layout and rules of the game.

The croquet terms were easy to understand. (My own terms, which I added during the game, were also easy to understand but can’t be repeated here.)

The court layout gave me two choices: 10-by-18 feet and 40-by-72 feet. I chose the former because otherwise our backyard would have to be big enough to increase our property taxes. And I didn’t want the game to last for a month.

The rules were simple: Use the mallet to knock the ball through the wickets without breaking a window or adding new terms. (See above.)

After I planted the two stakes and the nine wickets, I screwed the mallet heads onto the corresponding handles and explained everything to Sue.

I didn’t account for the fact that our lawn has a few divots and bare patches, but it didn’t matter because Sue picked up the game like a pro, knocking her first shot through not one but two wickets.

My first shot traveled about an inch and a half. My second shot glanced off the first wicket and rolled hopelessly away. I had to hit the ball back toward the first wicket and then knock it through.

By this time, Sue was well ahead of me.

I started to get the hang of the game, but by that time it was too late. Sue had already finished before I was even halfway through.

The next day, I got a similar thumping from our granddaughter, who said, “You’re pretty bad, Poppie.”

She doesn’t watch “Bridgerton,” so I couldn’t even blame it on a wedgie in my Bermuda shorts.

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima