Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Interview with humor writer Jerry Klinger

My fun author guest today is Jerry Klinger, to chat about his humorous book, Boynton Beach Chronicles – Tails of Norman.

Jerry Klinger and his wife Judy are happily transplanted retired Floridians from Washington, D.C. He is the founder of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation and the To Save A Life Foundation, two American public charities.

Jerry has written over 100 articles about the American Jewish experience, ranging from the Jerusalem Post, the Prairie Connection to the San Diego Jewish World. He is frequently interviewed on T.V. and radio. But it is in Boynton Beach his alter-ego has found expression.

“Boynton Beach, where every corner has a Bagel Den and somebody kvetching. It is funny, simply a very funny place,” he says.

Welcome, Jerry. Please tell us about your current release
The Boynton Beach Chronicles is a compilation of stories written over a number of years. Like with any story, there is a kernel of truth, an element that comes from real life experience and observation. If we back away from the seriousness, the stress, the overwhelming pushing of media, political, and social concerns, and look at the life about us without filters, there is humor everywhere. Our over serious sincerity is actually funny. Laughing at ourselves makes the living part fun.

It confounds my kids who never realized there was a funny bone in my body…the forest and the trees stuff of being too close. The kids are sure they have been raised by strangers, not by their mother and me. Or, they think I have gone off the deep end and need to be checking out Shady Pines, asap. Now that they are adults, it is extra fun confusing them. The grandchildren love the word games. Grin, Grin.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have been writing about American Jewish history, more serious stuff, for years. The articles frequently went along with the over 100 American Jewish historical markers and projects I have completed in 39 states and in five countries. More than 7,000,000 people annually see and benefit from one of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation efforts.

My wife said I created JASHP because I needed something to do when I retired. She knew I was really bad at golf.

People ask me to write a book after seeing, participating in, reading an article I wrote, or hearing me speak somewhere.
I might someday. I tell them. There could easily be a few volumes for the dusty stacks of University bookshelves about JASHP’s wide ranging projects.

Writing a book about my Jewish American historical projects always struck me as work. Not that work is bad, it isn’t. But, I have been writing Jewish humor for years, mostly under a pseudonym for pure fun, part of a secret personal life. It is an escape from the tensions of work.

Moving from telling about the real world to telling stories from my imaginary world that reflected the real world is fun. I can make mistakes on time, date, place, and because it was fiction, it is still accurate. It is my fiction and fun to share.

The serious and the fun stories continued to build. About a year ago, I was in San Diego with Don Harrison, the editor of the San Diego Jewish World. We were site developing for future Jewish Historical projects that my Society would underwrite.

The subject came up of writing a book about the projects. I felt reluctant, anticipating all the work. I asked Don about doing a book using my humor stories on American Jewish retired life in Boynton Beach, Fl., instead. I never associated having fun and laughing, and then chucking again and again about Florida Jewish retired life, as work.

So what inspired me to write the book? I wanted to have fun and share fun and laughs with others who could use a laughing escape even while seeing some reflection of their own lives.

Many years ago, when I was a junior in Mr. Puglisi’s homeroom class at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., he kept life quotes on the walls for us to be read. He was trying to get us to think about what we wanted for our lives ahead.

He never asked us to read them. They were just there for us to read, absorb, or not, on our own.

One of those wall quotes stayed with me. I have no idea whose quote it was.

“If you don’t want to be forgotten when you die, do something worth writing about or write something worth reading about.”

It is a bit of a negative perspective. I dreamed that my life had meaning, only what?

Over the years, I have written much and done lots of things. Few of us have one dimensional lives.

My wife, Judy, shares, perhaps tolerates my split humor/serious personality. We are getting to the years when we plan for the Journey’s End. Judy and I both agreed, we absolutely, without question, totally refuse to have our name written on a stone, dates and the text loving parent and grandparent. We wanted to stick out. We wanted to give people a smile about who these people might have been when visitors come to that somber place and read our stone.

Our agree upon text will have our names and dates.

Our texts will read:

On my side:

He did more than some and less than others.

On hers it will read:

She put up with more than some and less than others.

What we want to leave with folks as they drive by and read the stone is a smile, a chuckle, and a wonder…who were they? They had and even now have a sense of humor.

The Boynton Beach Chronicles, Tails of Norman, is a smile that people can own, reread and enjoy for many, many years.

A smile is more fun than a scowl.

What exciting story are you working on next?
There are funny stories that strike me daily. By lunch, followed with by nap time, unless I write down the idea, I forget the idea and have to wait till the morning for a new one to pop into my balding humor head.

This morning, an email from one of my daughters-in-laws complaining there has not been a roll of toilet paper on the shelves of her local grocery store for seven weeks got me going.

My sense of humor kicked in to the dilemma. She has three children, ages ten to five. What can she do to teach them personal hygiene if there is no T.P.? What do people do if there is no T.P.?

I wondered, being in Florida, we could use Palm fronds. I wondered, what do you do if you live in Arizona, use carefully de-thorned cactus pads? What do you use in Alaska, recently caught Salmon?

Anyway, the humorous possibilities of the Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020 kept me chucking and writing away.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have never considered myself a writer. I like to think of myself as a storyteller. Story telling can be serious. When I taught history at the University, my lectures were stories. I think they kept student’s attention better that way.

Humor storytelling makes people’s lives more fun. It makes my life more fun.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I don’t write full time. I spend much of my time on my historical and charitable efforts. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

I give a lot, money and time, through my historical and charitable focuses. I think the best way to give is to leave people feeling a bit better about life than when I first passed by.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Instantly seeing the foibles of life and reflecting them through a Jewish cultural perspective.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I wanted to teach history. Can’t make a living teaching history. I went into the financial world. Retired now, I can teach all the history I want without having to worry about making a living.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Probably, but it is getting close to nap time.


 Thanks for the chuckles today, Jerry! Wishing you many more happy tails. :)

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