trash can blues

Jerry Vis

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 and is presently finishing a new story collection.

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Memoir

Trash Can Blues

written by Jerry Vis

In the early-1950s, against his wishes, Jerry Vis was sent to a strict Adventist boarding school in Virginia. In this short memoir, he recalls a school that was definitely not to his liking or fitting his character, where he was dubbed Jerry “Vice.” and remembers a new Dean who doled out peculiar punishments, but who Jerry came to respect.

Nudity and trash cans play a role in this funny tale of how he painted himself into a corner — and out again.

 

@2020 by Jerry Vis. Recording ©2020 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

“My mother’s parents had me swear on the Bible never to join my father’s church, and they subversively gave me a portable radio for Christmas, knowing that it was against the boarding school’s rules to have one. I had to sneak it into my room in my suitcase.”

“It took a bit of time, but I had to admit I liked the new Boy’s Dean, Mr. Riley. He was kind, personable, and unusually creative at handing out discipline — something I discovered firsthand.”

“The boys in the senior class, who had been the bane of my existence (but thankfully lost interest in me for a while), rediscovered me and decided to make good on an earlier threat to toss me out of a third-floor window.”

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.

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 time 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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