Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

The Great Vladimir Horowitz, a Clueless Paperboy and the Generous Drunk…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Bewilderment,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,Humor,Hyde Park (Chicago),Jewish Themes,Love and Romance — Bob at 3:44 pm on Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vladimir Horowitz and the Generous Drunk

(Originally published by Robert M. Katzman © February 22, 2008)


Just how common a name is “Bob”?

When Leslie Towne Hope, born in England in 1903, first came to America, became a citizen, decided to enter show business and wanted to be considered by his new countrymen as a “regular guy,” naturally he rechristened himself as: Bob

Years ago, I used to make fun of my own very common first name, also Bob:

“I…am Bob!!”

“Thou shalt have No Other Bobs…before me!”

Well, despite the Biblical sound of my little self-deprecating joke, once upon a time there were two other older Bobs who were very much “before” me. This is their story, and it also involves a world famous concert pianist, even though he didn’t have the good fortune to also be named Bob.

I owned a wooden newspaper stand on a corner in Hyde Park, Chicago, at 51st and Lake Park, beginning in August 1965 when I was fifteen. I initially ran it with a close friend from another high school south of Hyde Park, but he wisely got out after sixteen months, while I remained tethered to it for another eighteen years.

I melted in the humid languid summers and froze in the mean and merciless Chicago winters, but it was a steady buck, so I hung on, seven days a week.

I’d stand out there in front of my stand on Saturday nights, huddled near my yard-high kerosene stove, while other teenagers were necking in the movies, or whatever normal teenagers did in 1967. I’d stand there on a piece of thick construction grade plywood to keep my leather boots on a softer surface than the frozen concrete, as another ancient newsvendor had taught me to do, while waiting for a car to pull up and buy a newspaper, or maybe two newspapers.

At that time there were three weekend newspapers: The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Daily News which was only printed on Saturdays but kept available for two days. They sold for a quarter and cost me twenty cents. So, I had to sell stacks and stacks of heavy newspapers to justify my willingness to trade the distinct possibility of warm kisses for the less certain probability that I’d net a couple thousand nickels profit when the weekend was over.

That’s one hundred dollars, in case you don’t have a calculator handy. If I could go back in time now–fifty years ago–to do it all again, I wouldn’t.

So I’d stand there, shivering, waiting, hypnotized by the dim glow of the streetlights, frequently feeling the swirling moth-like snowflakes melting on my cheeks, the icy water running under my scarf, making my flannel shirt wet, chilling me even more.

A glamorous job.

So one Saturday night, a long, sleek, black Cadillac slid up to the curb and paused there for a moment, the guy inside looking at me through the still closed window. Then he eased the grand car into the vacant space farther up ahead of him, parked, got out of his car and walked toward me.

I already knew, that despite the black Cadillac, that this was a considerate guy, because he knew enough to pull out of my stand’s selling space at the curb and not tie up my business or make me have to run farther back to sell newspapers to a car pulling up behind him. A guy can tell a lot about people before they ever say a word to you. Frequently, people are aware of the impression they are making, so I knew that inconsideration was a choice usually made by the Cadillac people, or the Chrysler people, but never by the Haitian cab drivers or the off-duty waitresses with their aching legs, who knew all about hard work under tough conditions. But, not this black Cadillac guy.

He walked over to me, asked for a Tribune, gave me a buck and told me to keep the change. This was not a common occurrence. Tips were rare and would usually be a quarter at most. A second impression from the black Cadillac guy. He turned to walk away, and I noticed that although he wasn’t very tall, his back was wide and his shoulders were significant under his expensive-looking tan overcoat.

My high school education was remote and of questionable value to me at that point in my life, but my “street smarts” education was growing one brick at a time on a solid foundation of necessity, observation and self-preservation. So, no, I couldn’t read French at all, but I was becoming quite skilled at reading people.

I was thinking to myself that this guy was no stranger to actual physical labor, which made the large tip from him make a bit more sense. He opened the Cadillac’s door, tossed in the heavy with advertising newspaper, slammed it shut–the sound was a solid muted thud–and walked back to me. There was something on his mind.

He had this walk, a no nonsense walk, like he knew what he wanted and was sure about it. His hair was combed straight back, and there was plenty of grey streaking through the darker hair. He had a thin grey moustache, like a 1940’s type of movie tough guy, with cold grey eyes to match. He looked to me to be in his fifties, like my father, and had the confident manner of a World War II infantry sergeant, also like my Dad, who was in the Signal Corps for years with General MacArthur.

The guy stopped in front of the stand and stood next to the kerosene stove, warming his gloveless hands. It looked to me like it wasn’t the first time he’d done that. I was studying the guy like he was a final exam. There was something about him. Then he spoke up, his voice raspy, but warm,

“Hey kid, you got a nice stand here. I used to do this same thing–hawk newspapers–when I was a kid in the Twenties. I’d run all over the place and make a penny a paper. Man, it was a rough way to make pocket money. I hated the damn winters, too.”

 He paused.

I waited.

He hadn’t asked me anything yet. That was still coming. He was looking the stand over, and me, too, but he wasn’t trying to be too obvious about it, like a cop would. Then he said,

“My name’s Bob and I run a restaurant down the street from here, a pretty nice place, a couple of blocks west. We get a good crowd of paying customers on Saturday nights. They ask me for newspapers sometimes, which I don’t bother with, and I was thinking you might be interested in swinging by a couple of times a night to offer people there a Times or a Trib.

 “My customers put away a lot of Jack Daniels while lingering over their steaks, get pretty loose and I bet you’d make some real solid tips…if you’re willing to take the chance. I know it’s a lot of extra work. But, well…I’d say from the looks of you that hard work would be nothing new for ya, kid.

 “This could be a good thing for both of us, because I like to keep my steady clientele happy–just like you do. So next Saturday night, if you can get someone you trust to watch the stand for you, come on by with a good supply of newspapers and let’s see how this works out.

 “Oh, ah, what’s your name, kid?”

 Breaking my silence, I replied,


 “Hey”, he responded with a smile, “Just like me. Maybe that’s good luck.”

 He offered his hand, warm from my stove, and I shook it. His hands were muscular, the palms rough, like mine. But his hands were bigger, and vice-like. He may own that fancy place down the street, but he sure looked like a bouncer to me. I was thinking I’d prefer his smile to some other less welcoming expression. Unlike other guys I’d met at my newsstand who resembled rough characters–just like this guy–who, when they shook my hand, always made it a point to squeeze a little too tightly, so that it hurt me, to establish their superior masculinity or some dumb thing like that.

But this restaurant guy, Bob, didn’t do that.

Another message.

He waved, wished me a good night and drove off in his long black Cadillac. He had made a very good impression on me, in a very short time. I was thinking I’d take him up on his offer. All I could lose was some sweat and some time–a small risk at sixteen.

Bob’s restaurant was a classy place. I went down there one evening during the next week after my stand closed down at seven, to check it out. There was a very long curved wooden bar, polished to a high shine, and there was Bob standing behind it, wearing a spotless white apron tied behind his back, the same way I tied my blue canvas change belt I’d received from the Tribune’s truck driver, a year ago. I smiled at that thought, and then Bob smiled at me when I caught his eye. He was waiting on a lot of noisy people, a high wall of colorful amber whiskey bottles filling up the wide space behind him, and the bar’s air was full of billowing clouds of delicious cigar smoke and loud talk.

A guy’s place.

Bob made a circular motion with one of his fingers–like he was dialing an old style telephone, the kind where you put your finger in a hole to get the number you wanted–which I immediately understood to mean: Walk around and see how the place was laid out. He didn’t need to say a word to get his thought across to me. I decided to christen him, “Bob the Bartender.”

I made a quick inspection of the two large rooms, noticed the plush, soft red seats in the dark brown wooden booths–there was a lot of dark wood in this place–and I also noticed that the tables were packed pretty close together. That would make it difficult for me to navigate while my arms were filled with a tall stack of heavy newspapers. But on the other hand, this joint must really jump on a Saturday night, or Bob the Bartender wouldn’t have so many places for people to sit.

I saw a raised area over in the corner, like a little stage, where some curvy chanteusie could serenade the mass of people while they ate dinner, with a song or a clarinet or something like that. Bob’s place smelled richly of broiling steaks and leather, and I liked it very much.

Bob the Bartender seemed too involved in some intense discussion about the Chicago Bear’s future prospects for him to notice me slipping out of the polished brass and glass revolving door. Or maybe he did notice. I wouldn’t be amazed if not much escaped him. A guy didn’t get to become a sergeant by overlooking the little things that could get your men killed, my Dad told me once, and Bob the Bartender projected that same comprehensive awareness of what was happening all around him.

The name of Bob’s fragrant steakhouse was Station JBD, located at 1435 East Hyde Park Blvd, near Dorchester Street. It was located on the ground floor of the old Piccadilly Hotel, for years a fixture of the old pre-War Hyde Park, worn some now around the edges and no longer in its prime.

My regular crowd of local old-timers who hung around the newsstand during the day told me that the unusual name of Bob’s restaurant was derived from a time before World War II, when there was a radio station broadcasting out of the top floor in the hotel, and perhaps, the geezers mused, the call letters were the radio station owner’s initials.

Nobody was sure about that. But another way of describing the restaurant’s location, as my new cop friends pointed out to me, was that it was in the 21st District of The Chicago Police Department, as was my wooden newsstand. Just like the Catholic Church cut up the city into a bunch of parishes, the cops divided the city into a jigsaw puzzle of administrative units. On top of that, there were separately named neighborhoods like Hyde Park, South Shore or Beverly, which didn’t conform to any of the other systems. And further, Chicago was additionally divided into fifty geographically defined “Wards”, or political units, each with a number and its own alderman.

Funny how one little area of a city could be divided up and called so many different names by all those different groups. I later learned that a person’s local political power within Chicago’s borders was derived from which group he belonged to. This was a lot to learn at sixteen, and not covered in my high school’s curriculum. My two worlds would never intersect in the years to come, but I eventually became an expert at navigating between them. If you were part of Richard J. Daley’s Chicago Machine, which I had to be to own a newsstand, that was all the passport a guy needed in those years.

The following Saturday my Dad agreed to watch my newsstand for me so I could try out this new experiment to see if it would generate a little jingle. I loaded stacks of Sunday newspapers into a borrowed shopping cart from the local Kroger’s Grocery Store a block away from me, and slowly rolled my way two blocks east through the snowy slushy streets to Station JBD.

My Dad, then fifty-four, usually came by to keep me company for most of the later Saturday evening hours anyway, so this was only a small adjustment for him to make this new opportunity work out for me. He always tried to make things easier for me. He took being my Dad very seriously as he saw the way my life was unfolding. He knew more about the dangers I might encounter in trying to do the two things I was doing at the same time and did what he could to make me more sophisticated about real life, and be less naive.

When I arrived at the JBD, I was able to wrestle the heavy metal shopping cart over the curb so it would be closer to the restaurant’s door and so it wouldn’t be plowed into and crushed by some Saturday night drunken driver. I loaded about twenty fat newspapers into my arms and staggered through the old-fashioned slowly moving glass and brass door, into the warmth of Bob the Bartender’s very crowded and very noisy restaurant.

The tables were filled with men who looked to my young eyes like real estate agents, or insurance men, or advertising men who were unwinding after their stressful week with huge Porterhouse steaks which hung over the sides of their plates, and tables full of half empty glasses of Cutty Sark or Schlitz, or whatever men drank to unwind. I didn’t drink then and still don’t now at near seventy. This was a new experience for me, of total immersion into a very specific world of a certain class of people having pleasure.

The people there all looked to me to be around the same age, like this was a private club for people from a similar class, religion and complexion. Very white crowd in there. I was thinking they were mostly ex-soldiers from some branch of the military because I’d read that something like twelve million Americans were in uniform during World War II. Maybe the special bond between them really was that worst of all wars, ending only twenty-two years ago, then.

The War’s terror, the carousing, the bombings, the constant possibility of death and the exhilaration of the Allies’ victory was for many who lived through that time, eventually realizing that nothing in their lives would ever matter as much as that period of national unity, uncertainty and when America become one enormous war machine between December 1941 and August 1945.

I’d often seen this as a young child with my Dad’s large group of Jewish friends from the tenements of the old West Side of Chicago, almost every one a child of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and also a veteran, who after a few drinks would swiftly fall back in time to when they were young men stationed in New Caledonia, or New Guinea, or the Philippines, storming deadly beaches raked by machine gunfire, or later occupying a defeated Japan, or Germany. His friends would always pronounce that last county as Chur-many for some reason. They all laughed when one of them said it. I never learned why.

The crowd in the JBD wasn’t young anymore, but not old yet, either. The men’s hair was thinning, their once flat bellies now beginning to hang over their belts, the skin under their necks and their eyes beginning to sag. Maybe they could afford to buy really nice clothes, whiskey and very good food, but they couldn’t buy Time, not even a minute of it, and the war stories followed me all around the restaurant as cheerful people grabbed a paper or two from my heavy stack and aching arms–Sun-Times for the Democrats, Tribunes for the Republicans.

This period was during the early years of the war in Viet Nam and America’s politics were beginning to get nastier. But not in this restaurant I was squeezing through the tables trying to sell my newspapers, even though it was so close to the very liberal and out-spoken students at the University of Chicago, just a mile away or so.

Turned out, I did sell a lot of newspapers that first Saturday night. I had to go out to my shopping cart filled with more newspapers to reload my sore arms more than once to satisfy the demand that night. That was good.

Mostly, people shoved a folded buck in my hand for a Trib, but not the sober ones, and seldom the plump and all-dressed-up wives who were inexperienced in the art of tipping a working person. Some of the people there were very friendly and helpful to me, moving their chairs a bit so I could squeeze past them. But then, some looked right through me when I politely asked them if they wanted a Sunday newspaper. I was aware that I had a darker complexion than just about anyone there, and I was used to being assumed that I was either called Italian or Greek. It made me feel very awkward to being ignored in such a crowded space whenever that happened, but I had to learn to get past that feeling, and I’d just move on to another table.

My second load became lighter as I wound my way through the crowded smoky room, trading my heavy newspapers for much lighter and thinner green dollar bills until was all of the way in the back of the restaurant. I was next to the two big swinging double-doors to the kitchen, when every minute or so those heavy doors flew open with a breathless waiter carrying out yet another load of charred steaks and steaming baked potatoes. I was dying in there, man.

I stood outside of the kitchen doors for a moment trying to decide what to do, when I said to myself,

“What the hell?”

 I put my aching back up against one of the heavy doors and shoved my way into Carnivore Heaven.

To my surprise, there was only one guy working in there, a tall muscular and handsome black man in a tight-fitting and completely white uniform including a tall white chef’s hat. He looked like the “Mister Clean” cartoon come to life.

He was smiling at me, a wide smile with very white teeth, and welcomed me into his domain with a laugh. He seemed not at all surprised by my presence, perhaps informed about the possibility of my appearance that first Saturday night by Bob the Bartender. That wouldn’t have amazed me. The joint was organized.

The cook asked me, rapidly, how I was doing, how the customers were treating me, was I hungry, and did I think I would be willing to do this again, meaning supply the restaurant with indoor curb service selling my newspapers?

Wearily deciding, I nodded yes, I would.

The cook, seeing how tired I’m sure I must have looked–over twelve hours at my newsstand that day, so far–he offered me a chair and told me to rest for a moment, showing me a spot on a nearby table to rest my remaining Sunday newspapers.


I gratefully collapsed my butt on top of the hard metal folding chair he pointed to and closed my eyes. When I opened them after a bit, I saw the cook’s broad back facing me and noticed him appearing to be wrapping something up, but I couldn’t see what it was. Then he turned around to face me and asked me for a Sun-Times. All my many black customers would only buy the Sun-Times, never the Trib, and I handed him a Times.

I asked him his name and he said it was Bob. Bob the Cook. I told him my name was Bob, too, but he laughed and told me he already knew that. I began to wonder if everyone who worked in that place was named Bob. Then Bob the Cook pressed a five-dollar bill in my hand, and then just as quickly shoved a tightly wrapped paper bag under my arm. He said for me to keep the change–Jesus Christ!–and to stash that weighty paper bag deeply into one of my winter coat’s wide pockets, telling me to keep my mouth shut and to get out of his hot kitchen.

He said he had no more time to waste on me, but his dark eyes danced and he was laughing as he said it to me. I liked Bob the Cook very much, this new man in the “Land of Bobs”. I grabbed my remaining pile of Sunday newspapers and obediently flew out of Bob’s kitchen.

But, what was in the mysterious bag, I wondered.

Too curious, feeling rich with the five bucks in my jeans for a twenty-five cent newspaper, I slid skillfully past all of the many tables as swiftly as I could, which was much easier with so many of my original stack of newspapers sold, gave Bob the Bartender a cheery wave and pushed my way through the heavy glass revolving door.

Once outside on the dark streets and halfway back to my newsstand with my shipping cart, I pulled out the bag shoved deep into one of my coat’s pockets, opened it and became positively dizzy from the rich fragrance that flowed out of the bag, enveloping my face.

Then I ripped open the aluminum foil and gazed at a big, juicy, steaming hunk of meat–called a Filet Mignon–as I would later learn, which was as big as my fist and dripping with natural juices, forming a little reddish brown pool which the meat rested on in the warm foil.

Speechless, starving, I savagely tore into the hot meat and ate it like a dog, right there on the street, in the cold night air. I could feel the salty juices running down my chin and soaking my scarf. It was SO GOOD!!!

And that became the pattern every Saturday night for the next year, good weather or bad. Heavy stacks of newspapers going in, a small thin stack of green dollar bills going out, plus always a five from Bob the Cook, and a bag full of French meat.

What a deal man.

I waited all week for Saturday nights.

Very, very cool.

So, this one night as I’m working away around the bar selling my papers, thanking people, trying not to knock over their drinks, Bob the bartender comes over to me and says,

“Hey, Kid! You like piano concertos?”

 I stared at Bob like he was a Martian.

 “What?” I replied, somewhat confused.

 Bob repeated his odd question to me, with impatience in his growling voice:

“So, do you like piano concertos? Hurry up! This guy over there at the bar wants to know. Right now.”

 He motioned behind him to a well-dressed, blonde-haired prosperous looking character with a goofy smile on his face, sitting at Bob’s long bar, and appearing to me like he was feeling no pain.

I’m standing there, breathing hard from carrying the heavy stack of newspapers in my arms, dressed like a ragged street urchin from the orphanage in the hit Broadway musical, “Oliver! and I’m supposed to make a fast decision about piano concertos without knowing what the possible consequences would be if I gave Bob the Bartender the wrong answer.

Deciding that a “yes” answer carried less risk, though I truly had no idea what a “piano concerto” was, I nodded vigorously, confirming my ardent love of piano concertos.

“Absolutely!” I loudly gushed, “Yes, they’re great things, Bob!”

 And I smiled a wide dumb smile as if I had the slightest clue what I was talking about.

Bob then smiled at me.


The right answer.

Bob walked over to the blonde drunk at the bar about twenty feet away from me. The young guy handed him something. Bob walked back over to me and said:

“That guy over there has two tickets to see some old guy named Vladimir Horowitz’s Concerto tomorrow at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue at noon. Want ’em?”

I hesitated, confused. Bob then leaned forward close in to my face, warning me,

“Kid, listen to me: Say yes. Look happy. That rich society guy over there’s a very good customer of mine and I want to make him happy. He can’t go to this piano thing tomorrow and he wants you to go for him.”

Bob gave me a hard look that instructed me to nod and smile.

I nodded.

I smiled.

I accepted the tickets.

Bob the Bartender was pleased. That was an important thing for me to see. He muttered something barely audible, under his breath, which I perceived as him telling me to go over there and thank the blonde guy, quick, before I collapsed on the spot barely holding up a massive load of Sunday newspapers. I staggered over and thanked the guy.

He looked at me, loudly belched and then he smiled. And then he stuck five dollars in my pocket and said,

“There, now you can also buy a program so you can follow whatever piece Horowitz is playing, young man.”

 The tickets were $17.50 apiece. With the blonde guy’s five bucks, it came to a forty dollar tip, the largest tip I would receive from anyone over my twenty years working at the newsstand, depending, of course, on how much I enjoyed the Vladimir Horowitz Piano Concerto.

Right now, in 2008 dollars, those tickets plus the tip would be worth about $175!

(I rewrote this story in 2018, ten years later. That same $40 sum would now be worth $306, today).

Horowitz as I know now, was a world-famous and deeply revered Russian Jewish pianist, born October 1, 1904 and who died November 5, 1989, at eighty-five years old. He escaped the deadly tyranny of the then seven-year-old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when he was twenty-five in 1929 to come to America just as the Great Depression kicked in. He was sixty-four the year that I saw him.

This then, is how things turned out after I received that unusual musical gift.

I walked back to the newsstand where my Dad was working while I was schlepping newspapers to the JBD bar. He quickly agreed to work at the newsstand for me the next day so I could see the concert. My Dad was a great fan of classical music. He told me he had seen Enrico Caruso in Chicago, once, and then he told me what a big deal it was for me to see the actual Horowitz, who was an icon to the American Jewish community.

I then called my brand new girlfriend, Brenda, who was slender, with long dark brown hair and all of fifteen, and I asked her if she would go with me to see this thing she’d never been to either. It was ten o’ clock o a Saturday night. I was worried that her father would be pissed off because I was calling her house so late at night. I didn’t think he was all that thrilled with me as things already stood, that his precious only child was dating some guy who ran a ramshackle wooden newsstand.

On the other hand, my asking his refined daughter to go to this concerto thing might raise my stock with him. Who knows?

I knew Brenda liked me, maybe because I was so different from anyone else she ever met–not all polished and shiny. To my surprise, it was she who answered the phone immediately, and then told me to hold on. She ran over to her stern and much older father to see if she could bend him around her soft little finger, and then ran right back to me waiting on the phone to tell me I had his blessing to take her with me the next day, probably leaving him more confused than ever about whom the hell I was, anyway.

I picked her up the next day in my very recently acquired 1962 gun-metal blue Buick Electra 225, a car blessed with a big, wide, soft back seat. Brenda was her usual beaming self, prettier than ever in her party dress. I wore my only suit, a solid black one, good enough for both weddings and funerals, and which otherwise never saw the light of day. Or night, either.

We parked in Chicago’s underground garage on Michigan Avenue and walked over to Orchestra Hall. It was really beautiful inside the structure. So were all the people pouring in there to hear the concerto. Like it was Cinderella’s Ball or something. I was not in my element, but still happy to be there with Brenda. A different experience for both of us, besides our more usual necking in my car in a dark spot on a quiet street.

I’d gotten up at four AM to stuff all of the newsstands hundreds of Sunday newspapers with their comic and advertising inserts before I left my Dad there to sell them, along with some of my grammar school aged employees, who worked for me on Sunday mornings. I was somewhat weary sandwiching all that intense labor into a much shorter time span then usual.

Benda and I found the seats numbers on my tickets, and sat down, waiting for the great Horowitz to appear on the stage. Then, there he was, with his long black hair combed back and wearing an old-fashioned tuxedo with long tails in back and looking very dignified.

He stopped in the middle of the stage with his piano behind him, turned to the audience and gave a slight bow. Everybody stood up and clapped for a while. I handed Brenda the program I’d bought for her to hold so I could clap, too. Confused a little, because I thought an audience was supposed to clap after someone performed something, but I decided that all these gleaming sparkling people already liked him in advance. That sure seemed like an easy life to me.

He sat down on the short black piano bench, facing this enormous black piano, with the top of it propped up, like, maybe it needed air. Maybe all the people there were afraid ground squirrels would be hiding inside under that open top, or raccoons, and they’d all leap out at everyone when he began his performance. I smiled to myself imagining what the room would sound like if something like that ever happened.

Then, everybody sat down and Horowitz raised his hands with their long fingers poised dramatically over the piano’s keys, much like a Praying Mantis about to strike, I thought. Then he began to play, filling the once silent air in the large room with a dramatically high ceiling with amazingly wonderful music. Horowitz’s pale hands were a blur to my tired eyes.

I sat back to enjoy this very cool experience, tenderly reaching over to hold Brenda’s hand, very happy she could be there with me to experience this performance. She squeezed my hand, making me wish we were both parked in some faraway dark place instead, inside of my big old car.

I relaxed, and closed my eyes to better concentrate on the beautiful music Vladimir Horowitz was playing. I was thinking: I’m seventeen. At a piano concerto. A world famous Russian guy playing music for me. I wasn’t standing outside freezing and selling newspapers. Nothing heavy for me to lift. I could get used to a life like this. Yeah, I could…

Then I fell asleep.

When I next saw Bob the Bartender, the following Saturday night, I told him what a fabulous experience it was for me and what a nice thing his special customer had done for me and my new girlfriend. Bob smiled a big smile; happy he had brought some culture to the rough-edged corner newsstand’s paperboy.

And that, was that.

Except, I didn’t tell him I fell asleep.

He didn’t have to know…everything.


 Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: http://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

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Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

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Comment by Jim Payne

February 18, 2018 @ 9:51 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking me with you on your tough journey through the rough side of a cold Chicago. I easily followed along carried by not just your description of what’s around you but also what’s floating through your head. I felt like I was seeing the scene through your eyes. I cold feel what you are experiencing even though I never had your experience. You are a terrific writer to capture all that without losing the tenor of your experience. Absorbing your story has made this a wonderful evening. Thank you.

Comment by Charlie Newman

February 18, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

Some good old days were good old days, eh.
Well-done, Bob!

Comment by scott

February 19, 2018 @ 4:33 am

Bob- I liked the story and actually read it in one take(adhd) makes it hard to do, Best part of all I didn’t fall asleep. You were lucky to kinda get to see and dream to a virtuoso’s performance, Thanks also for the “Caldwellian love” I need al I can get.

Comment by Bill Skeens

February 19, 2018 @ 6:41 am

Great story Bob! I felt like I was right there with you. I was probably one of the grammar kids working for you that day. Ha! I didn’t know what place you were talking about but wondered if it was Station JBD or Morton’s Steakhouse. Ironically after I worked for you for 4 years, when I was 16 I worked as a Busboy at Station JBD when it moved to the Flamingo Hotel at 55th and the Lake. For many at 16 that would be their first job, but no I had four years of experience at “Bob’s”. Although I’m sure the place was a little different than when it was at the Piccadilly, the scene you described was very similar to the bar area. They had booths and a piano bar and a long bar. I remember all the regulars including Bill Veeck. And I remember similar experiences where the chef would sneak me a steak and I had to go out back to the dumpster to eat it. Great story, thanks for sharing! Bill Skeens

Comment by Don Larson

February 19, 2018 @ 5:53 pm

Hi Bob,

Great story!

I’ve found the accumulation of subtleties of life add up to be more important than the few number of overt interactions.

Warmest regards,


Comment by Tom Millstead

February 20, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

Terrific story, Bob. Engrossing narrative and artful sketch of a particular place at a particular time. Almost like a Dickens’ tale — plucky lad perseveres in tough and gritty environment but is rewarded for his efforts. This could’ve been a well crafted short story but is more enjoyable it’s true. Deserves wider exposure.

Comment by Shira Raider

February 20, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

I enjoyed that very much.

Comment by Julie Mautner

April 12, 2019 @ 9:46 pm

Great story…like a whole other world!

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