Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

A Chicago Croissant Street-Fighting Story…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Cops,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 6:55 am on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

by Robert M. Katzman September 9, 2020


In the Summer of 1989, in Chicago’s Boy’s Town, I was standing inside of my world travel bookstore at 3229 N. Clark Street, eating a buttery croissant from a local bakery. It was flakey and delicious.

But then, right in front of me on Clark Street, a few hundred feet north of Belmont, two men began a fist fight. They were really whaling away at each other and I decided to step outside and see how this situation turned out. I put my flakey croissant inside of my pants pocket for safe-keeping.

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Movies Worth Seeing…by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven!)

by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven)©️ Memorial Day, May 2019

I have been obsessed with the fantasy world of movies since I was a child who couldn’t escape a dangerous home. An alternative cinematic Universe seemed a safe harbor, if only for a brief time.

Sports were never an alternative. Hit a ball, catch a ball, get crushed while holding a ball, avoid being hit by a speeding ball–what is it with balls and aggression? 

Oh, wait. Not a good question.

While a lot of people revered Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, I was a long time admirer of Roger Ebert, and even got to know him for a long while. He was the only person in my one year on Amazon who bought my first book.

I’ve made a list of a number of movies, various genres, but all involving human interaction of movies worth seeing more than once or twice. I won’t list the casts or directors because younger people won’t recognize the names, but also because an existing group of famed movie stars appearing together in a film can amount to nothing without a great script and director.

There are a number of Westerns, but they tend to tell detailed moments of intense relationships in isolated areas of America where mutual dependence is essential. The fact they are “Westerns” is not essential to the overall story.

There are qualities of friendship, empathy, grit, courage and determination that sew these varied films into a celluloid quilt, but a person’s perception of pleasure is partly base on what rescued them from pain, I believe. Emotion doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

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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. Working with handtools builds muscles, focuses attention and keeps aging people stronger.

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

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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.

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How a Lithuanian Jewish Kid, at 14 , Joined “Da Chicagah Machine”…by Robert M. Katzman

How a Lithuanian Jewish Kid, at 14, Joined “Da Chicagah Machine”

by Robert M. Katzman © January 13, 2019

Chicago is a museum of unassimilated words, accents and physical expressions. North Side Jewish accent, rich kids, was very different from the West Side, the immigrants and the South Side, home of the white collar, the working-class Jews. The Chosen People had different voices, even in the American Promised Land. 

Dees guys, dis stuff, dem bricks and dos cops came from the Germans who came here earlier. 

(Read on …)

Once Upon a Time: The Kindness of Strangers, long ago…by Robert M. Katzman

Here is an inspiring true story about the kindness of strangers. It is forgotten Chicago history, but not by me: 
When I was in my battle between my tiny independent magazine distribution company (1975-1980), against America’s largest distributor, as time went on I was becoming overwhelmed by the impossible odds.

I drove one truck and my wife, Joyce, drove the other one with our newborn son David (now 40, this week) sleeping in a cardboard box lined with soft blankets next to the step van’s vibrating stick-shift, helping me servicing 60 accounts. 

(Read on …)
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