Editor’s Note: Jack Zimmerman was my immediate predecessor as President of The Cliff Dwellers. He was a tough act to follow. On February 23, 2022, Jack helped The Cliff Dwellers put the pandemic in the rear view mirror by telling some stories.
Here’s a smidgen of how the internet (and no doubt Jack himself) has chronicled his life in full up to now:
Jack Zimmerman grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago. He spent his early years listening to Charlie Parker, reading Down Beat, and playing trombone in his parents’ basement. He heard a symphony orchestra for the first time when the Chicago Symphony came to his college in Quincy, Illinois. When the trumpet of Adolph Herseth floated above the orchestra, Zimmerman said, “Please, God, I’ve got to do this for a living.” He’s been broke ever since. He graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of Music as a trombone performance major.
He spent four years in the Navy during the Vietnam War and has worked as a college instructor, piano tuner, newspaper columnist, Ravinia PR man, and for a time was a trombone player on WGN’s “Bozo’s Circus.” In later years, he did public relations for the Ravinia Festival and then worked as the subscriber relations manager of Lyric Opera of Chicago. At the age of thirty, Zimmerman moved from Chicago to the suburbs determined to live the gamut of the suburban experience. He became a chauffeur for mouth breathers, maintained a refrigerator full of microwavable chicken patties, taught Sunday school, and joined the Lions Club. He practiced lawn care and aluminum siding restoration. At last, he knows the difference between soffit and fascia.
But Zimmerman’s writing transcends the suburban experience. He is a novelist in search of the novel and a middle-aged fat guy who has weathered more than one career change. He survived his son buying his first earring, job interviews in which he hears voices, and Disneyworld.
For ten years he chronicled this life, two columns a week, in the Elmhurst Press. His writing has garnered two first place awards from the Illinois Press Association and free beers from local bartenders.
His novel Gods of the Andes was published in 2006, and a collection of his newspaper columns, 10,000 Years in the Suburbs, was published in 1994. In 2010 he released The Gift, a collection of his stories on CD.
Jack now lives in downtown Chicago with his wife, Charlene, who has served as the Lyric Opera’s principal clarinetist. The Zimmermans have two grown sons.