Jerry “The Birdman” Kramer has many ideas about how life should be lived. Just read the sign that hangs in the window of his Obama/Elvis car. He’s used to getting stopped by the police or having people follow him home to ask about his automobiles.
Or in my case, having a half-crazed woman chase him down at a red light to shove her business card into his hand and beg for an interview.
I have periodically noticed Jerry’s cars in the streets of Cleveland Heights ever since moving here. I was curious about the driver of these automobiles. They were always over the top, always an attention getter. My assumption – he was young and out to prove a point by distracting the drivers of the city with his glittery paint job. As I knelt in Cedar Road traffic to offer my contact information, the person who greeted me was old (sorry Jerry but you know you are) and a person so gentle, I knew from the moment I introduced myself that I would like him.
Jerry Kramer admits that he’s never had much money. And that as a young man his goal in life was to figure out how to get paid for doing absolutely nothing. But the Cleveland Heights resident found a particular knack for being able to parlay nothing into something. And that ability has afforded him a wealth of experiences, from run ins with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself to Redd Foxx, Don Ho and Carol Burnett.
“You gotta have balls to make it through this world. These parents raise children with so much fear. The parents are oftentimes more afraid than the kids are.”
Maybe this comes from the fact that Jerry lives his life fearlessly. Typically, these fearless sorts are also labeled as arrogant but Jerry is truly a people person. He uses his car and his antics to reach out to others and break the proverbial ice. He hates words like I can’t or I’m embarrassed. He is quick to put himself out for others. He volunteers in neighborhood parades and enjoys performing for kids and for others. His feeling is that the world’s a stage and he’s constantly feeding you the best one-liners like –The reason we’re richer than Rockerfeller? Because he’s stuck in a box with only one suit!
But if you get stuck on the silliness of his character, then you quickly lose the essence of who Jerry Kramer really is.
Jerry is the type of person who is a friend to all. What’s welcoming about him is a genuine concern for the well-being of others and respect for those who fight to be themselves, especially when the world hasn’t been as kind as it could have been. “A lot of people, they’re all followers. All I hear is, ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I can’t do this’. You see they have nothing to offer to make it better. They just complain, that’s their conversation.”
So he drives around in his automobiles, smiling and enjoying those he helps to smile.
“I feel that I have really lived, and I’ve really enjoyed it and still am, thank God.”