Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Grief Hits Like a Brick: April 27, 1975…by Robert M. Katzman

Grief Hits Like a Brick: April 27, 1975

by Robert M. Katzman © April 27, 2018

 

Never knew when it would hit, how hard it would hit, or where.

Didn’t think it would be in my kitchen in Wisconsin on a sunny Friday morning, on the 43rd anniversary of when I met a beautiful young love I’ll never see again.

It is one thing to type that.

It is another thing to experience the totality of that slammed door all at once on the first anniversary of that endlessly shared day with her, without her.

Oh, she’s gone.

Forever.

And the pain of it unexpectedly just smashed into me with a suddenness that made me think I was going to break into pieces, very wet pieces. Tears poured through my fingers where I was holding my face, dripping on my greying beard, down my neck soaking my black T-shirt. And they kept flowing because there was no way to turn them off. Fifty weeks after Joy’s funeral, I’d figured whatever I was going to feel, I’d already felt.

Wrong.

(Read on …)

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 Fierce 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.

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 …)

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 …)

Paul, Beautiful Sue, Wayne, the Paperboy Failing Algebra & the University of Chicago Lab High School (1966)…Part Two…by Robert M. Katzman

Paul, Beautiful Sue, Wayne, the Paperboy failing Algebra, and the

University of Chicago Lab High School in 1966.

by Robert M. Katzman © January 31, 2018 

Part Two

So Paul and I met twice a week for months in that small room in the library with two wooden chairs and a wooden table. I told him about how the newsstand was progressing and what I was learning, and the difficulties of learning to manage a one-armed, one-legged 69-year-old employee, born in 1896, who as it turned out was the original owner of where my newsstand was now, except his was there in 1916. This became sessions of stories about stories.

I had no identity as a writer, never considered that as any kind of career for myself and wasn’t writing down any of what I told Paul when we met, or his stories either. Like two pre-biblical Israelites carrying on a kind of oral tradition of expecting the next generations to preserve unwritten history. But we were both telling each other stories. I wasn’t expecting anything from him, but I was glad he seemed interested in this kid talking about whatever I was talking about. But when we were telling stories, we weren’t talking about algebra, so that was good.

(Read on …)

Paul, Beautiful Sue, Wayne, the Paperboy Failing Algebra & the University of Chicago Lab High School (1966…Part One…by Robert M. Katzman

Paul, Beautiful Sue, Wayne, the Paperboy Failing Algebra & the

University of Chicago Lab High School (1966)

by Robert M. Katzman © January 30, 2018   Part One 

Classic gritty Chicago tale about a high school math tutor and a student from very different worlds leading to a fifty-year warm friendship, which only death could end.

In September 1964, after failing a pre-freshman admittance required Algebra course during the summer at the University of Chicago Laboratory School High School, or U-High, in Hyde Park, I also subsequently failed my first year taking Freshman Algebra, too.

Somewhere among my less treasured memories is an old shoebox, and within it, besides my four different draft card classifications between 1968 and 1974, is a small rectangular piece of paper with the handwritten letter “F” placed squarely in the center of it. It meant I had to take the detested algebra class for yet a third time.

U-High’s very efficient system for helping students who seemed likely to embarrass and undermine the school’s gleaming reputation in the future assigned me a math tutor who would meet with me in the library in a private room every Tuesday and Thursday. The first week of my second year there as a sophomore in September 1966, I met Paul Moulton. I was sixteen, born in 1950, and he was forty-six, born in 1920.

(Read on …)

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