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 …)

Pain Pill…I Tried to be Nice…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © 2004

                        While I was visiting my sister, Bonnie, in 1981 in a hospital where she was recovering from thyroid gland cancer surgery, I happened to pass her endocrinologist in the hall.  We had met before in her room, and he recognized me and greeted me in the distinctively charming way doctors do when they stumble across some one who has some slight imperfection in their appearance.  He said to me:

“Why don’t you fix your face?”

(Read on …)

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 …)

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 …)

1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance and a Jewish Boy’s Revenge…by Robert M. Katzman

1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance

by Robert M. Katzman © September 9, 2018

Fifty-four years ago on June 8th, 1964 I ran away from a dangerous violently abusive home. I was fourteen and two weeks away from graduating Caldwell grammar school on the South Side, about a dozen miles south of State and Madison, Chicago’s Downtown.

My story is filled with Ghosts, but it is worth writing down, if only to soothe the Ghosts’ anxiety.

After all, aren’t I part of a world-wide Tribe so often called: The People of The Book?

Who am I to resist that Celestial Design?

It is now long past “What will become of this wild child?”

Now near seventy, I must write, “This is what really happened.”

(Read on …)

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