Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Finding a New Girl at 17. Finding a New Woman at 68. How?…by Robert M. Katzman

Why is today different from all other days? Because on April 20, 1889 Adolph Hitler was born in Austria. Growing up Jewish on the South Side of Chicago, I learned this date when I was very young, perhaps seven. History matters when you belong to a people whom other people hunt to kill.

But maybe that was because ten days after that date on April 30, 1945, he killed himself in an underground bunker as the American and their allied armies were swiftly closing in on Berlin from the West, and the Russians were closing in on Berlin from the East. And exactly five years later, I was born on 59th and Cottage on April 30, 1950.

As a wary Jewish child, uncertain about who might hate me next, sometimes I used to say to myself:

“Good. I replaced him”. Meaning to me, I erased the evil man. Children can create essential fantasies.

With such somber history imprinted on me so young, it fostered a fascination with history throughout my life. Who did what to whom; why; when; how come this army defeated that army; why do people kill over religion; land; water; women; why do some people think they are superior to other people; and one day I thought to myself:

If a tiny black Pygmy from Central Africa could give a blood transfusion to a tall blond Swede thousands of miles north of them in order to save their life, well, we must all be the same. We look different, but we are all the same. It’s so simple.

That revelation hit me at about ten, and I found prejudice to be ridiculous. Which means my children and grandchildren also grew up with no prejudice. What is taught works both ways, depending on what a person feels is essential to creating a welcoming world, or a world with walls and barbed wired to keep out the “lesser people”. Evil can outlive you just as easily as kindness. I choose to give a person a chance.

(Read on …)

My Angry Grandma Celia Warman, Her Thousand-Dollar Bar Mitzvah Gift to Me on the South Side of Chicago, 55 Years Ago……………….by Robert M. Katzman © April 13, 2018

    by Robert M. Katzman © April 13, 2018

55 years ago today, April 13, 1963, near the top of Pill Hill on the South Side of Chicago at a very large, very square synagogue named Rodfei Sholem or Chadash on 91st and Jeffery Avenue, I was still 12 years old and it was my Bar Mitzvah. But that Temple was so packed with members, that it had to schedule two Bar Mitzvahs at one time. Alan Lantz was my partner that day and I assume he went to Chicago’s Bowen High School a year later. I didn’t.

Many of the Hebrew School teachers were high-strung Israelis, only 15 years after the new country was formed, and they screamed at me all the time. This Bar Mitzvah, this singularly longed for day represented parole for me from my resented ethnic prison. I was free. I was done.

It took me four more years, on my own running a newsstand in Hyde Park by then, to figure out I really did completely accept my Jewish identity at 17, in 1967 and my personal life long self-education began that year and continues today, half a century later at almost 68.

99% of everyone who was at my Bar Mitzvah party are dead now. It is a lonely time to recall any of it, but I do remember the crowds. Now no one left to call and say: Do you remember…?

(Read on …)

Marooned in Illinois with 400 Copies of My New Book “A Savage Heart” by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © April 9, 2018

I first posted this beginning part on Facebook on April 3, 2018. But what I wished and hoped for isn’t what happened. Read the older part first and my story will begin after that:

Ok, this is a little eerie. Well, everything I write about probably seems a little eerie. A little over a year ago, I bought a 1993 suburban car/van because it was big enough to carry my wife’s wheelchair, walker and other things she needed to go visit our children and our friends.

What once was a casual get-up-and-go on impulse to do something, morphed into a production of trying to get her out of the house, down the three steps and then into the van by putting a step down for her to use to move up. This woman was a gymnast at Thornton High School in 1967.

Whenever I became exasperated by having so much to do, I imagined what an insult this progressive decline of her body had become to her, and I kept quiet. We were in the last act of a tragedy, and we both knew it.

(Read on …)

Facebook ain’t Your Buddy, it’s a Sly Pickpocket of Your Secrets!…by Robert M. Katzman

Facebook Ain’t Your Buddy, it’s a Sly Pickpocket of Your Secrets!

by Robert M. Katzman March 21, 2018

Having had a little time to think about this intellectual hurricane of fury about Facebook and betrayal in the quiet black fields of Wisconsin where nothing has sprouted yet, but the promise of innocent plants seeking the sun remains,

(Read on …)

Setting Back Chicago Clocks, Selling Newspapers at 4 am, Unromantically Once-Upon-A-Time…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Life & Death,Love and Romance,My Own Personal Hell,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 6:55 am on Sunday, March 11, 2018

Setting back Clocks, Selling Newspapers at 4 am, Unromantically Once-Upon-A-Time

by Robert M. Katzman © March 11, 2018

Eyes fluttering open in a silent room half-lit by sunlight squeezing past opaque shades, I remember what day it is, and though no one else can hear it, I sigh. Once upon a time, now like some white-haired Revolutionary War veteran fifty years later, I am thinking that maybe there’s no one left anymore to remember the complications of this twice-a-year Chicago South Side moment.

I woke up with all of my conflicted emotions mechanically assembled as I remembered the day, and I stopped moving, because I didn’t have to get up if I didn’t feel like it, my momentary protest against my past. My ancient past…

Running a wooden newsstand on a Sunday morning with thousands of newspapers to assemble and sell, slightly warmed by capricious kerosene heaters belching black wispy smoke along with their heat, a small army of children and adults arrive in the dark in Hyde Park, wordlessly take up their tasks. Little conversation, multiple cups of black and tan coffee steaming in a range of hand held ceramic cups from home, long before coffee was something bought on every third corner in America.

Once, people made their own coffee. Really.

(Read on …)

The Great Vladimir Horowitz, a Clueless Paperboy and the Generous Drunk…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Bewilderment,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,Humor,Jewish Themes,Love and Romance — Bob at 3:44 pm on Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vladimir Horowitz and the Generous Drunk

(Originally published by Robert M. Katzman © February 22, 2008)

 

Just how common a name is “Bob”?

When Leslie Towne Hope, born in England in 1903, first came to America, became a citizen, decided to enter show business and wanted to be considered by his new countrymen as a “regular guy,” naturally he rechristened himself as: Bob

Years ago, I used to make fun of my own very common first name, also Bob:

“I…am Bob!!”

“Thou shalt have No Other Bobs…before me!”

Well, despite the Biblical sound of my little self-deprecating joke, once upon a time there were two other older Bobs who were very much “before” me. This is their story, and it also involves a world famous concert pianist, even though he didn’t have the good fortune to also be named Bob.

(Read on …)

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