Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Hiroshi Hamasaki, and What He Meant to Me in 1969…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © August 2005

(Sometimes I get hired to read my stories in public in front of groups of people–a way of becoming known as a writer worth reading–and then hopefully selling some of my books. But I will never read this story in public. Never this one. Read it, it is very brief, and you will understand what happened 50 years ago this month. If Hiroshi were still among us today, I am imagining the terror he might be reliving…again).

Hiroshi Hamasaki, or “Frank”, as he told non-Japanese people to call him, came to my wooden newsstand in Hyde Park for the first time in fall, 1966. He was self-conscious about people stumbling over his unconventional actual name and long ago selected a name that would make strangers feel more at ease with him.

           At the more established, larger newsstand down the street from me, the irritable  news vender who owned it, a World War II veteran, had made an unfortunately vile reference to Frank’s ancestry, even though Frank’s family had lived in the United States for generations.

(Read on …)

The Rustic Queen on the Carousel…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman ©️ June 27, 2019

Matt Jerke, the technical assistant on the 2nd floor of the Racine Public Library, has been incredibly helpful in trying to bring me into the 21st Century. I am a work in progress. Very slow progress. Thank you, Matt

(1 of 20)
Some beautiful sunlit morning
While I wait for Cinderella to arrive
My grand-daughter might say to me:
“Grampa, what did you learn in your life?”
And I look through the colors of the glass
Fade backwards thru time
Drifting  
Wondering how to answer someone so young
And pointing to the pretty window
I’d say to her,
“Well sometimes things were wonderful…

(Read on …)

Learning To Work With Your Hands…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © May 20, 2019

Learning to work with your hands changes your worldview and increases your ability to take care of yourself and be more independent. It also helps make a person more compassionate to other people’s physical limitations, because so many are one injury away from unemployment.

To me, judging another’s worth by what they do for a living is a sin. But then, running a wooden newspaper stand as a teenager to allow me to pay for high school with privileged classmates will create feelings like that in a person. Seven of my 160 classmates ended up working for me, at one time, or another. 

(Read on …)

When Pope John-Paul Came to Chicago While I was Running the Newsstand at Randolph and Michigan…by Robert M. Katzman

About the Randolph and Michigan Newsstand:

Quote from the historic Downtown Chicago newsstand’s last owner, Rick Graff, in a May 25 1987 Chicago Tribune story by Jack Houston : “Graff said he bought the stand three years ago from Robert Katzman, known among street vendors as the ”King of Newsstands.”

Very nice to read that, but the newspaper rackett reality was a lot less regal.

After buying it from the second owner after Al Paccelli, I arrived on a Saturday night with a truck filled with pre-cut wood, a lot of tools, and cans of brown paint. Using a sledge hammer, I destroyed the stainless steel newsstand by pounding on the places where it was welded together. Made a tremendous amount of noise, but at no time did any cop come, by or drive by, and ask me what the hell was I doing with the 100-year old landmark?

No one asked me anything. In 1977 no one lived Downtown and the streets were essentially empty.

(Read on …)

When Ebony Magazine’s John H. Johnson Rejected Me, Gently…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Black/White relationships,Friendship & Compassion,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories — Bob at 4:13 am on Thursday, April 11, 2019

I met John H Johnson in 1976 when my Gulliver’s Periodicals began expanding the number of titles I carried to include mainstream magazines. When I requested a meeting with him—and I was absolutely nobody—he granted me one in his beautiful Michigan Ave building, in his office.

He graciously heard me out, told me he felt he owed loyalty to the Charles Levy Distributing Company the had first given him his chance to be seen on newsstands decades before. But nevertheless wished me luck in my battle with them on the streets of Chicago.

(Read on …)

Incident in Nick’s Diner…by Robert M. Katzman

Incident At Nick’s Diner by Robert M. Katzman © June 2005

After my divorce in 1977, I would pick up my daughter at her mother’s house early everySaturday and bring her home Sunday morning. Sometimes, before I would return her to her mother’s house, she and I would stop off for a quick breakfast at Nick’s Diner, a popular local restaurant.

Nick was a very friendly Greek man from Athens. He would wave and smile at me whenever I would stop by his place.  The food was good, and cheap, and Kate, the waitress, was fast and sweet to my daughter. We liked Nick’s Diner.

One Sunday morning in 1979, when my daughter was four and I was twenty-nine, we were sitting in our usual spot in a booth near the door, when I heard a loud and obnoxious voice from across the diner.

(Read on …)
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