An Interactive Memoir
Jerry Ross, the Painter

"To be truly lost is to have, in fact, found the Way"

Ch1:Early Life and Education


I don't have many early memories but rather thoughts.  I have always thought that my life should amount to something, I mean make a difference in some way.  I was born during the height of WWII during some of the worst Nazi atrocities. Sometime I think that some of these unfortunate souls entered me when I was born and when they were floating about.  And that is really something for me, an atheist, not believing in souls or "spirits". 

But I have always felt close to nature and animals, at least to dogs and cats. Instinctively I believe they "are people too" and that humans have no special status over them. Despite whatever religions teach, I think we all have our own instictive belief systems, very personal thoughts about these things.  I don't believe in heaven, for example, unless it has dirt, the promise of sexual gratification, the smell of cow dung, the ability to poop. After all, I'm a Taurus.

Lately, I have been re-reading "The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt about "de rerum nature" or "On the Nature of things" by Lucretius, a long poem written in hexameter. This long lost work was resurfaced in the 1400s by Poggio Bracciolini, an Italian monk. In Chapter 8, "The Way Things Are" he spells out the main points of Lucretius' revelations:

  1. Everything is made of invisible particles
  2. The "seeds of things" are eternal
  3. They are infinite in number but limited in shape and size
  4. All particles are in motion in an infinite void
  5. The universe has no creator or designer
  6. Everything comes into being as a result of a swerve
  7. The swerve is the source of free will
  8. Nature ceaslelessly experiments
  9. The universe was not created for or about humans
  10. Humans are not unique
  11. Human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty, but in a primitive battle for survival
  12. The soul dies
  13. There is no afterlife
  14. Death is nothing to us
  15. All organized religions are superstitious delusions
  16. Religions are invariably cruel
  17. The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain
  18. The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain, but rather delusion.
  19. Understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder

My wife Angela is very expert about things astrological. She has explained to me that my singleton moon in Sagitarius is more dominant than my Sun sign. This means the iconic image of an arrow in flight is more characteristic of me and my personality than is the image of the bull in a china shop!

I was born May 11th, 1944 during the 4th Battle for Monte Cassino in Italy:

The first assault (May 11-12) on Cassino opened at 23:00 with a massive artillery bombardment with 1,060 guns on the 8th Army front and 600 guns on the Fifth Army front, manned by British, Americans, Poles, New Zealanders, South Africans, and French.

Within an hour and a half the attack was in motion in all four sectors. By daylight the U.S. II Corps had made little progress, but their Fifth Army colleagues, the French Expeditionary Corps, had achieved their objectives and were fanning out in the Aurunci Mountains toward the Eighth Army to their right, rolling up the German positions between the two armies (Wikipedia).

It was the height of the war in Europe so the world I was born into was perilous, to say the least. But somehow life goes on and things spring up in the worst of conditions. 

Somehow my very ectoplasm, as I theorize, my actual DNA, was impacted by these events, what was going on in the world then, the war,  the holocaust, all of that.  I am certain that my later years anti-fascist activities stemmed from this context. I didn't know it, but when I was born I was already (automatically?) a militant anti-fascist. It shaped my personality and formed my temperment.

Speaking of DNA, last year I used Ancestors.com to get my DNA analysis which shows I have 5% Italian/Greek ancestry and 5% traces of "who knows what" while the balance of 90% of East European Jewish ancestry.


Although my current legal name is Jerry Ross, I was born Gerald Joel Gross to Sidney and Jeanette Gross.  They lived in the "housing projects" on the lower west side of Buffalo.  Sidney worked forN.L.Kaplan, a Buffalo furrier, and Jeanette was a housewife.  During WWII Sidney was drafted into the Air Force and Jeanette stayed home caring for my older brother, Ronnie. 

Sidney was one of eight siblings born in Brooklyn of Jewish parents.  His father was a tailor and a "shammas" . This is a person who takes care of the synagogue and, in my grandfather's case, repairs thetallits. As the story goes, he was a tailor in the Czar's army and continued in this trade after immigrating to New York.  I never knew the man, never having an occasion to meet him or my grandmother for that matter. 

You know by now that the title of this book is Farblondgit which means "lost."  I see it as a grand metaphor not just for my life but for almost all of us, for humanity. I believe that my father was "farblondgit" most of his life as well.

As Sidney would often characterize himself, he was the black sheep of a family of high achievers.  His youngest brother Herb was a yeshiva (religious school) graduate. One of his older brothers, Ben, was a lawyer and successful manufacturer. His brother George wrote a column for The New York Telegram called "So this is Broadway?"