Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Raph Pollock, Carbon Dioxide and His Unexpected Help in My Losing My Virginity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 11:27 am on Monday, October 18, 2021

by Robert M. Katzman © October 18, 2021

Perhaps I may have your attention. A Chicago Story.

What follows is an unwritten story because I didn’t know there was one to write about. But I was wrong. Ask my flame, Nancy who makes sure I know that. Here is the genesis of remembering the above words in my title and the remarkable sequence which follows:

In July this year, 2021, Nancy and I embarked on an unusual adventure. We decided to rent a cargo van, adapt the interior for comfort, meaning an air mattress and five opened sleeping bags; for safety: one hammer, plastic boxes labeled with contents: Nancy Clothes, Bob Clothes, Bungie Cords, Medicine, Tools, Fans, Batteries, plus Misc. They stacked well and didn’t shift during quick stops. There were hooks attached to the 12-foot long van’s interior with strong clamps which enabled order to prevail, depending on the weather. 

The original name of this story about our trip was to be: Eat Cheap, Sleep Cheap: Truck Stops and Diners which will still be written. But this shorter story was too cool to forget. Again. So, here’s what happened.

Nancy and I planned to go to a dozen art museums in the East, large cities and small towns, walk around these places, find neat little diners – which are everywhere these days, and the quality varies considerably. We’d walk and talk and visit little shops, especially used bookstores. Those of you similarly addicted will understand this.

Before we left cosmopolitan Racine, Wisconsin, I called an old classmate of mine who sometimes responded to the stories I post all the time at www.DifferentSlants.com I thought, why not see him again? We had both benefited from and were victims of The University of Chicago Laboratory High School, or Lab School, or U-High between 1964 and 1968. No matter how I say the school’s famed name, it sounds pretentious. He attended the school systems there longer than I did, was part of an experiment to combine 7th and 8thgrades and so was a year younger than I was when we met at 13 and 14. Today we are 70 and 71.

I called him in Columbus Ohio where he is a surgeon, teacher, many things too complicated to condense here, but all of them enough to make a Jewish Mother proud. I sort of took the other path with the opposite results.

On the way there from Racine, Nancy asked about Raph, and did I have any stories about him like I’d written about so many other people in my six published books. I replied,

“Well, no, I didn’t because I worked at my newsstand all the time in Hyde Park in Chicago and spent as little time in our socially stratified school as possible, where cliques of rich kids sharply defined the 168 kids in our class. My running a grubby newsstand to pay the school’s steep tuition did not make me one of the cool kids, and my friends were few, girls: zero”.

We dropped the topic, eventually saw Raph, who is about a foot taller than myself, a warm, wonderful man and very welcoming to someone he last saw in 1968 – 53 years ago! – as if we had never been apart. Some people have that magical quality and Raph made Nancy and I feel very welcome, offering us a real shower and bed for the night and showing us his own excellent local diners. 

He remains a busy man, has zoom meetings and is part of the Columbus medical establishment. He, like me, is widowed and has five children. I have four. Our mutual response to Hitler. We will never disappear.

After we parted the next morning, promising to meet again, Nancy said it seemed it difficult to believe I had no long ago “incident” with Raph, because there was so much chemistry between us. I worked, never went to dances, played on any school teams and except for the school’s newspaper, The Midway, belonged to nothing. Raph and I never hung out, went to movies, doubled-dated (hah!) or marched in any peace protests at that time, the Fabled Sixties.

So we drove on, and explored our dozen art galleries, and diners; or we attempted to, with Covid-19 making it a difficult goal to achieve: in Baltimore, Washington DC, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Pa, Cleveland, Youngstown, Harrisonburg, Virginia and other places. We walked everywhere, were pleased we both could do that because of our assorted medical limitations. Together, we keep Walgreens Pharmacy open and thriving. 

We may slightly threaten them that if they don’t rename one of their stores the ‘Nancy & Robert Old Fart Pharmacy’, well, there’s always CVS, drugs from Canada, Hometown Pharmacy and others who might appreciate us a little more. 

This is senior humor, youngsters. You may not laugh today, but one day, you’ll see…

When we returned, unpacked and discussed how to simplify our circumstances and take less stuff to make it easier to find things. We took fans which were battery-operated, and we hung three around us on the warmer nights, using our bungie cords. We decided to add to the number of LED lanterns to give us light at night in the truck stops. We agreed there would be more trips. Short trips by car, long trips across America by cargo van.

Our second trip east had Raph scheduled for on the way home. We saw Boston, all of Cape Ann above it, with its six little towns and the art galleries there. We saw my very old friend in Yorktown Heights, Bruce Matteson, which is a place about forty miles north of Manhattan, but that area was much less accessible for Nancy and I to visit this time, as no Cargo van would work in the Big Apple. But on the way east we saw Niagara Falls, her second visit since 1957, my second time since 1988. Looked kinda the same, though. Still stunning. Maybe she was hinting at something?

Later, on the way home we went off ‘the-road-more-often-taken’ and discovered Kent Falls State Park, in Western New York State, which is obscure and magnificent. Even though we both walked all the way up the wooden stairs on the right side-which was far up -my suggestion that we walk down on the Falls’ other side’s path (which regrettably didn’t actually exist) was unfortunate. But Nancy was game as we slip-slided our way down the steep wrong way over wet moss, mud, leaves, fallen dead trees and smooth rocks. 

It was also very quiet and beautiful. We landed about two miles away from the parking lot where we first went in. Nancy and I discovered that even though our circumstances were fairly daunting, we handled it with humor and no noticeable pain the next day.

That’s the bottom line with us. We like each other, and we get along. Love’s in there, too.

Later, we explored Peekskill, New York which is an American Revolutionary era town on the Hudson River.

The little town is so cool, with the assorted periods of architectures, blended with the unusual range of Latin-American grocery and art stores. Nancy went off on her own to draw the Hudson River and I walked some miles to check the town out. Then I encountered Scott, at Apple Books and Music, an extraordinary used book, music and video store so artfully arranged it is like a movie set. I was knocked out, bought too many books and videos because I used to own bookstores and used magazine stores myself for fifty years, and to me, a great store like Scott’s is better than Disneyland.

I usually never do this, but here: 923 Central, Peekskill, NY (914) 734-7000 The guy is cool, laid back, been there 23 years and deserves your support.

Nancy and I went to Amherst, Massachusetts to visit the Yiddish Book Center, which is a unique national treasure which strives to preserve in particular the Yiddish language, books and theater, music and more. It is for me totally engulfing within Jewish culture and I was blissed out, which for Sixties people, you may smile and understand.

There is nothing like it. It is my Grandparents: Jacob, Rose, Celia and Nathan’s story and there are posters, classes and a zillion books in Yiddish. Stacks of them waiting to be preserved and shelved. Whatever else you might be planning to do, this place is nirvana to those of us in the Jewish Diaspora, about six million in North America. They even have an antique printing press with Hebrew letters. That, was cool.

1021 West Street, Amherst, MS, 01002 (413) 256-4900 You will qvell.  (Look it up in a Yiddish dictionary or online).

So, as we wove our way back stopping here and there to sleep and eat in a range of places, we returned to Raph’s home in the Germantown area of Columbus, also to a vast 40-some room bookstore worth your time to check out, as well.

Everything I wrote earlier on our first visit was repeated. A lovely man, a lovely time. Plenty of conversation.

Again, Nancy asked me about Raph stories and my answer was the same. 

Sorry, none.

She sighed. 

Didn’t believe me.

Oy, women.

Then Nancy and I drove on East to visit the not-so-well-known, but oh so beautiful Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, in Indianapolis. Go there, see it. Indiana is more than Perdue University and a zillion covered bridges. It is small towns with stunning murals, centuries old architecture, wondrous sunrises and friendly people with yard sales here and there.


That’s a signal when a story-teller seeks to make a radical transition.

Here, at last, is my Raph story. Even Raph doesn’t know it, because Bob forgot about it

On our last night on the road in Hamilton, Indiana before visiting the Indian Art museum, there was a powerful rainstorm which we drove through in the night, seeking a truck stop’s shelter from the interstate, but there were none for too long a time. Scary? Yes? The rain fell like wet bricks. In my life, driving in rain and snow have both casused near death experiences. I didn’t say anything to alarm Nancy, but Fear was driving in the front of the van with us. Smiling at me. Taunting me. And only I could see that smug monster.

Then we found one, a solitary truckstop alone on the side of the road, with no trucks. It wasn’t actually a truck stop, but I went inside the open 24-hour building and asked the sturdy, square-jawed Appalachian-looking woman working there alone for her permission to sleep there for a few hours. She looked me over, big smile on her face, said,

“Sure, go head” as the massive stormed poured down outside.

I offered to pay her, but she shook her head and she said,

“Naaah, g’wan ‘n sleep and I’ll seez ya in the morning.”

I waved, thanked her and went back to Nancy, warm nancy.

She, Ms Nameless in the building, was the antidote to my fear, or Fear itself. There are people like her coast to coast, in Canada, Europe and Israel. If fact, there is kindness everywhere, embodied in people who often have near nothing themselves.

We spent the night there and we both awoke with terrible headaches. We had all necessary drugs of course, but it was the first time in two weeks.

As we both got ourselves together, which took longer when everything that we had which has a joint, hurts more at sunrise, we eventually found coffee, drugs and another diner, Nancy, rarely a complainer, talked about the possibility of too much CO  in the van when it was parked because we didn’t leave a window open far enough.

I doubted that, but Nancy spoke some magic words, reminding me of long ago times, buried since May 1967. She spoke the unusual words which were the key to open the dusty, locked and forgotten door in my subconscious. It came back to me like a speeding dump truck bursting out of that tiny old door, shining a bright light on my youth.


Ok, here we go.

I was fighting with my Father, Israel, whom I lived with at age 17. I was determined to move out. My newsstand didn’t yet make enough money to let me escape our battles, and no one would rent a room to a shaggy-haired, too young-looking kid like me, appearing about fifteen when I was seventeen. But I was so determined.

I decided that I would live in my eight-foot by twelve-foot wooden newsstand which was parked on the corner of 51st and Lake Park; in Hyde Park, Chicago. 51st Street was also known as Hyde Park Boulevard as it wound its way through the neighborhood. An angry rebellious adolescent; my newsstand would be my new home. 

However, as I was also someone who knew quite a lot about science, I was aware that my snug-as-a-bug wooden newsstand with its insulation held in place with chicken-wire, and its roof carefully shingled (by me) was close to air tight; what if I slept in there, and what if the level of Carbon Dioxide proved fatal?

What to do? What to do? Who was smart enough to give me a straight answer and not laugh at my bizarre idea of living in a newsstand?

Raphael Pollock.

I knew that he was a smart kid, not part of any cliques, friendly to me when we passed in the halls or ate the horrible food in the school’s cafeteria. Why did such an elite school have such revolting food? A mystery.

I called Raph, because unlike probably every other public school in America, the Lab School published a small pamphlet with everyone’s address and phone number, perhaps to facilitate mingling among the privileged minions. Perhaps to insure that more such special children would result, some day, with this easy access by phone.

Don’t know, ‘cause no one ever called me; but still, I had that pamphlet. I dialed Raph’s phone number from my apartment, because cell phones didn’t exist. AT&T owned all those heavy plastic phones in America. There were no computers, either. The world was far less linked together in 1967 than it is today. Maybe better then now, 2021, if a person wanted to be ignored, left alone, seeking quiet and privacy.

Raph picked up the phone in his own home, listened carefully, asked me a few questions and then told me to drill a series of holes about a foot apart at the floor level of my newsstand using a special drill bit which was two inches wide; made by a circular bit with very sharp teeth which would attach to my existing drill bit with a set screw. Raph knew I knew about tools, as most people did. I was in the Lab School’s shop making things all the time; or building, repairing or expanding that wooden newsstand. Raph told me to carefully attach a piece of screen about three inches square, to cover the holes and keep the mice out while I was sleeping.

I thanked Raph profusely, who was patiently going over with what was necessary for me to do a second time. He was serious then and already a teacher. Thing is, the guy cared. He never took the opportunity to ridicule my plan, which many other kids would delight in doing. Like: Yeah, sure, one more bizarre aspect of that crazy public-school kid Katzman. Hah! But nothing like that from Raph.

I wrote down his instructions, bought the circular drill bit necessary to do the job, bought some flexible screening and the large flat thin brads needed to hold the small square screens in place.

Now armed with what was the essential missing piece of detail necessary to my plans to escape my apartment, I drilled the holes as instructed by Raph, covered them, then went to a nearby Sears Robuck to buy the folding bed for twenty bucks which was a flexible metal frame on wheels with a thin mattress. I experimented and found a blanket and thin pillow which would fit inside of the folded-up mattress and it was still was able to be locked.

When I brought the contraption to my newsstand, it fit perfectly under the wooden shelf where I inserted the fat Sunday comic/advertising sections into the (then) thick Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune newspapers. The bed was thin enough to be able to be next to my several five-gallon tanks of kerosene gas for my tall black steel stove in the cold weather and which also fueled my precious kerosene lanterns necessary to illuminate the front and interior of my newsstand on freezing cold and dark so black it’s thick Chicago nights. I was ready to leave home and sleep in my newsstand.

While today, this may read as comical and far from rational, to me it was the only way out to escape conflict with my Father. Maybe it would work out, maybe not, but I was the kind of guy willing to give it a chance.

As far as filling, cleaning and lighting my two lamps and heater, this occurred every night for the four years I was a student at the esteemed University of Chicago Laboratory School, for 1,460 nights. 

No awards given for such things, but there was much I learned outside of school between 1964 and 1968.

So, I picked the night, a warm one in 1967 when I had just turned seventeen, rode my bike to the newsstand as I always did and I locked it up to a tall green steel city light pole near the stand. After closing up the newsstand for the night, I went inside, unfolded the bed, adjusted the blanket and pillow for comfort, lay down upon the bed, read a book for a while in the dim light, then, when sleepy, I turned down the lantern and went to sleep. 

Or tried to.

The reality was, the thinness of the mattress and the blanket became more evident to me as the night gradually became colder on that particular May night, still memorable fifty-four years later. The colder air flowed easily into those newly drilled holes, the cars drove back and forth constantly all night, the trucks belched smoke and muffler-less cars roared by late into the night. The bathroom? A block away at a gas station.

The next morning, I accepted the reality of my failed experiment; but also decided to keep that folded bed under the counter in case some massive blizzard trapped me at the newsstand one winter night. Climate change? When I was working that stand, the amount of snow continuously falling on Chicago in huge drifts was likely how my shoulder and arm muscles developed. A person running a wooden newsstand outside for ten years knows a great deal about what the weather was like between 1965 and 1975.

Though dejected that an idea of mine didn’t work out as planned, I tried to find alternative reasons to possibly use whatever I had for some unknown future purpose. I never spoke to Raph about it. 

Time moved on.

As usual, the next morning I opened the newsstand to begin my day selling newspapers in the darkness before going to high school. Later, after that one miserable night, I removed an ancient prophylactic, or rubber, three of them still in a metallic sheath from my wallet and placed it above the doorway in a small enclosed spot, like a totem for the future, the way some people hung horseshoes. Except my goal was not to acquire an attractive horse for a romantic evening. Some day, some day…

Well, that day was about three months later on September first, 1967. 

A very pretty and petite woman, about five feet tall, with short dark brown hair wearing a trench coat tied at the waist like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, carrying a cello in a long heavy case about as big as she was, stopped by my newsstand and began to look at me. She had beautiful dark brown eyes and olivey skin, both kinda like mine. She looked at me for a long time, not speaking. Time really was relative, because her looking at me was an eternity of uncertainty.

It may seem to be a moment in an early Woody Allen movie, but it was real enough for me.

I began to vibrate. It was very difficult to endure being looked at, intently, for about fifteen minutes by a really good-looking older woman standing about six feet away from me when no girl anywhere had ever paid any attention to me in school or out of it.

When I decided to speak to her, she responded in French. Only French. 

Ok. It was a Woody Allen movie after all.

I had involuntarily been forced to take four years of French in both public and private school-to the frustration of many French teachers who viewed me as an incorrigible, uncooperative and impossible student to teach the beauty of the French language. I was never failed. No French teacher wanted me twice.

However, right there and then, while standing in front of my newsstand at about six o’clock on a warm September evening with this enticing creature posed before me with her cello, the Gallic words flowed into my mind, pieces of sentences, so many French words, and I attempted to communicate with the beautiful woman.

Um, I said suavely, what could I do for her?

Her name was Sophie. She was lonely. She was Jewish.  She played in an orchestra somewhere. She missed Paris. Then, the way a woman knows how to do, she made it very clear to me exactly what I could do for her.  The small beauty turned out to be twenty-eight years old.

Stunned, but not so much as to be immobile, I closed up that newsstand in a flash, removed the glowing kerosene lantern into the newsstand from where it hung by a nail on a roof rafter; opened up the bed and brushed as much dust off of it as possible. I invited Sophie inside.

Where in the next two hours, I learned many things-wonderful things, like the word “bustier” which was this odd thing Sophie had on her waist, above her hips and below her breasts, was black with tiny roses all around it and waaaay too many little hooks to unhook.  She ran her cool fingers through my dark brown shaggy hair as I keep unhooking away on her bustier. I can fill her fingers right now, a half-century later.

Sophie, dear Sophie, was very amused with her enthusiastic young student now enrolled in her, “How to make Love with a French Woman” class. How to kiss, what not to do, how to use my rough-skined hands; when to be above, when beneath. I was very eager to stay after class. A class with no talking. She conquered my embarrassment and uncertainty and made the unknown to me become a magical way a man can communicate with a woman.

For a guy with zero knowledge about girls, I thank God that He decided that my first experience was to be with a French woman who would show me the ropes – ok, there were no ropes – who taught me how a woman desired to be treated by someone young enough to experience several of her, um, classes, one immediately right after the other. Yeah…

Ever since that first night, kerosene has always had this erotic fragrance for me. Not something I can explain, even today when I see a Coleman lantern or stove keeping someone warm at night while he or she is attempting to sell something.

I didn’t learn any more French. But I sure learned a lot more about kissing. The French know something about kissing. Sophie taught me just how communitive two lips can be when they meet another set of lips ready to kiss.

I think kissing is an art form by itself.

Sophie and I continued classes like that for months, and in other places after I acquired a car, a 1962 Bick Electra 225, later that same month for $300, until one day, December 15, 1967, I was late to lunch at school, and I met this beautiful sophomore who actually responded shyly but positively to me, when I asked if I could sit with her during lunch. A Jewish girl, then 15.

Then we went out on New Year’s Eve. We saw “The Graduate”. But soon, staring at the two of them up there on the screen, I was seeing myself. Damn!

At first hesitating, but then with more certainty, I told beautiful Sophie it was time for me to spend time with girls my own age, and whom I could actually talk to, in English. She was sad, then happy; then erotically requested a final class with me, a test of everything I should know by then, which she later told me I passed one hundred per cent! or I think she said that. Je ne sais pas.

We kissed good-bye, and Sophie went back to Heaven or wherever she came from. After nearly four months. I never saw her again. I used to imagine that I found a feather from her wings in my newsstand, but reality was enough for me.

Then, much later, that pretty girl and I were married on June 13, 1971 when she was eighteen and I was twenty-one.

My first child was born on March 30, 1975, now 47.

And my first grandchild, a daughter, was born on December 3, 2008, now near 14.

No, Nancy, I have no Raph Pollock story. 

Except for the one where, with his protective help- Raph became part of the most important story of all.

Hey, Raphael in faraway Columbus, Ohio, are you smiling, or are there tears?

Yeah, me too.

Thanks, man.

I’ll be seeing you, as long as we can.

Au Revoir.


Publishing News!

(Currently seeking representation as a speaker/poet for hire)

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.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998 (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1) $3.95; (2) $5.95; (3) $7.95; (4) $8.95 (5) $9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9) $13.95 (10) $15.95 (15) $19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools can call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My two latest books are available in the Racine Wis Public Library. Both books are labeled: 921 KAT. ROB on their spines, in autobiography Dept. 

Signed Books are also for sale at: 

Studio Moonfall Bookstore, 5031 7th St. Kenosha, Wis, email: hello@studiomoonfall


Comment by Brad Dechter

October 18, 2021 @ 11:48 am

Loved it Bob. Filled with imagery. Great storytelling.
Thanks for sharing!
If you and I ever go camping together, I’ll remember to bring lamps that don’t burn on kerosene!

Comment by Don Larson

October 18, 2021 @ 5:09 pm

Bob, this story should be in, Readers Digest, ‘Tiny House’ Hidden Secrets’. ?


Comment by Dobie Maxwell

October 19, 2021 @ 9:59 am

Always great to read a Bob Katzman story of any kind.

I must admit I don’t do it nearly enough, but I vow to force myself to make better use of my time and enjoy the work of a true artist.

Excellent work as usual. Thanks for keeping me on your list!

Comment by Danica Polite

October 19, 2021 @ 4:34 pm

I loved this story, Bob. Thank you for sharing.

Comment by Joel Raven

October 22, 2021 @ 2:05 pm

There are few writers who can capture a moment, let alone a lifetime, the way Bob Katzman can. We are all better off for being able to read his words, which make even prose read like poetry.

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