A chat with the lady who wears bling
July 29, 2017
I spot Gerry Stern working on a ceramic bear. She's wearing a faux leopard jump suit, and has a gold sequin backpack. We're in the Community/Senior Center, the Bellagio of Gardnerville.
Gerry and I slip into the cleanup room for a chat. Speaking with Gerry turns out to be uncommonly easy. We both have a tendency to speak, and then think.
Gerry has a mathematics and philosophy degree from Purdue. "I wanted people to know I had a brain," she says and adds, "Indiana is the navel of the Nation," which is apropos of nothing, but that's Gerry.
"What did you do after you graduated?" I ask. "I moved to Manhattan for two years and did market research and a little modeling. Manhattan was such a wonderful fun place, Joe Namath and everything, and it was safe, too. I loved it," she says.
"Why did you pick Manhattan?"
"I figured if I could survive in the Big City, I could survive anywhere. I didn't survive. I went to my sister's in Laguna Beach."
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This precipitates my memories of Manhattan in the '60s, and Laguna Beach in the '70s, so we squander a few moments reminiscing.
Gerry and I are utterly attuned so I get a little personal; "Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake?" She replies, "Well, I tend to get my feelings hurt sometimes, but I don't critique myself so much anymore. I'm much more outgoing now." She whips out her iPhone and there she is, as a young woman doing a marathon. She was and still is very attractive.
More iPhone treasures. "We moved to Fairbanks in '77. I had 35 sled dogs. I'll have to show you my trophies. I wore a yellow jump suit and when people saw the yellow jump suit coming, they said, 'Oh, that's Gerry.' We go to Fairbanks every March and now Ed (husband of 35 years) is the musher. When Gerry talks about sled dog racing, you feel the dogs pulling, sense her love of her dogs and feel her passion for racing.
I've neglected mentioning Gerry walks with a very serious wobbly gait, but has far too much going on in her life to be hindered in the slightest. She is also an intensely personal person. She's neither pushy, nor is she a push over, but has a mind of her own. She would be a very good person to have as a friend.
"Are we getting close?" she asks. Earlier she suggested I follow her to her house. I capitulate, "Yes, Gerry, we can go now."
I walk into her house. Every inch of wall space, every shelf is covered with trophies, ceramics, paintings, photographs, tapestries and statues. "You should turn this place into a tea room," I tell her, and we go from room to room to see more photographs, posters, statues and paintings.
"I've been very lucky in life, and I haven't failed at much," she says. There isn't an ounce of regret, remorse, or disappointment in Gerry. She is that rarity in nature; A truly happy person.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.