Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

(1967) Bill & Ellen & Bob & Larry & Hugh & Jan & Brian…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman  ©  Halloween 2011

What follows is the quintessential Chicago story of hardship and friendship. It all happened on the South Side, and my story covers decades. Why not dive in and get lost for a while? Every so often, as present civilization seems to be crashing down around us, and civility with it, good happens.

Why this is always a surprise mystifies me, but just as there’s more darkness in the Universe than light, perhaps that out-of-whack ratio is mirrored here on Earth with evil overwhelming good.  I don’t want to believe that is true.  I have evidence to the contrary that spontaneous good both exists in the most modest of people, and that it is either an inherited trait, or a mutation.  

Though my story was written on Halloween, it is more goodhearted than all the witches and goblins who surface that day, and is much more of a Thanksgiving Day story, at least to me.  Let me introduce the cast of this absolutely true little drama, which begins in frigid winter, 1967 and ends in sunny June 2011, forty-four years later.

(Read on …)

On Saving the Forgotten Small Business in Your Town…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Depression and Hope,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 7:52 am on Thursday, December 5, 2019

by Robert M. Katzman © December 5, 2019

As a former owner 

I can tell you it is death 

Of an intense boutique business 

By a thousand individual sales 

Which never happened 

(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 …)

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 …)

Bookstore Stories (2) Entrepreneurs are born that way, even after two grim November 17ths…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,My Own Personal Hell,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 12:45 pm on Saturday, November 17, 2018
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November 17th? Here is my definition of being an Entrepreneur: On Nov 17, 1985, seven weeks after my first attempt to go into the back-issue magazine business-then common in the United States, now three decades later, almost extinct–two months after Bob’s Newsstand in Hyde Park closed after 20 years, the space I rented on Lasalle & Kinzie Streets in Downtown Chicago went up in flames, leading to 2 years of unemployment. Thousands of ancient periodicals collected by me over the decades going back to the Thirties, gone forever.

(Read on …)

Bookstore Stories (1) On Turning Away Hate…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Bewilderment,Friendship & Compassion,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,Jewish Themes,Rage!,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 10:10 am on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bookstore Stories (1) On Turning Away Hate

by Robert M. Katzman © November 7, 2018

(This possible series of story ideas was suggested to me by my wonderful Daughter-in-Law, Nicole)

 In 1991, I owned a small foreign-language world-travel bookstore on the north side of Chicago in the Lakeview area, near Clark and Belmont streets. It was the center of Chicago’s gay/lesbian community, and was also and still is known as Boy’s Town. The store’s name was Le Grand Tour, and before that, Europa.

(Read on …)

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