spent the earliest years of his life in Paterson, New Jersey, where he was born in 1939 into a blue-collar family struggling to overcome the lingering effects of the Great Depression. He has an M.F.A. in fine art and taught for many years in public school and college. He is the author of Paterson Boy: My Family and Other Strangers: A Memoir in Twenty-Eight Stories.
I’m Not Here: A Misfit’s Memoir in 21 Vignettes is a new story collection to be published June 2021 by Rivercliff Books & Media.
Bob and the Beatniks
written by Jerry Vis
In the mid-1950s, author Jerry Vis was the first in his family to attend college. It wasn’t the college of his choice, but the only possibility presented to him — Washington Missionary College, a strict Adventist school just north of Washington, D.C.
As he departed for W.M.C., Jerry’s Uncle, on the sly, gave him this insightful advice: “To become your own person, you need to learn how to think for yourself, not what others want you to think.” In this memoir, Jerry intuitively follows his Uncle’s advice and makes friends with some… unusual characters.
Read by Terry Rey
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Q&A with Jerry
Tell us about your story...
In the 1950s, with little understanding about what I was in for, I found myself at very conservative religious Washington Missionary College, on the outskirts of Washington, DC. Sent there against my will, I found a way to survive by skipping most classes, all religious services, and most social interactions — except those with a small group of like-minded misfits. This turned out to be a most agreeable strategy, which strangely has served me well all of my life.
This story is like a one-act play, with a cast of insecure misfits meeting in a dormitory room trying to form an alternate reality to the conformist religious environment swirling just outside the door.
What was the inspiration for this story?
The inspiration for this story was that I eventually realized, with great amusement, that I had escaped that moment in my life unscathed.
What have you recently read that you loved?
A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles. It is a story built from small events, of day to day life that gives depth and insight to the true nature of our human condition.
And I also recently read The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, by W. Strauss & N. Howe. This book traces the repeating cycles of America’s existence concluding with the potentially catastrophic outcome for the current cycle of events.
Someday I want to...
Live in an America that doesn’t see a benefit in fighting endless, meaningless wars that we lose, while ruining other people’s lives.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Maybe not so hidden… I am, first and foremost, an active visual artist. I have a Master’s Degree in Fine Art. I taught art and spend as much time making art (painting and sculpture) as I spend writing.
I’m still active at the age of 81 as an architectural designer and finish carpenter. I do all of this on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, for six months out of the year. I spend the rest of the year in the central Hudson Valley of New York.
I like to cook too, but of all the things I do, that activity might best remain hidden.
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