Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Seeking Forgiveness from a Dead Man, 60 Years Later

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 10:48 pm on Saturday, January 7, 2023

by Robert M. Katzman © January 7, 2023

A friend, Ron Buzil, sent me and a number of our other classmates from Caldwell Grammar School at 8546 S. Cregier St on the South Side of Chicago a message that a person I once was in kindergarten with in 1955, Michael Froman, had just died at 72. What follows is a series of unexpected emotions and memories locked away I thought for good, but I guess the lock was sorta rusty. Long forgotten, I realized I had a debt to pay.

Michael Froman was a person I only knew in a glancing way. We were in a class of baby Boomers meaning we filled every seat at every desk in every class from kindergarten to 8thgrade, and sometimes there weren’t enough chairs for all of us post World War 2 children. About 33 kids per class, I believe.

Mike was quiet, not athletic, not disruptive, not abrasive and most likely very smart. After all, he ended up becoming a lawyer.

There was an obituary I saw online saying there would only be a graveside service in Illinois, and I had no intention of going to it, since I live in southeast Wisconsin and he and I weren’t friends. He never called me, I never called him. I didn’t know his family and except for one person, or whether he had any brothers or sisters. I thanked Ron for keeping me in the loop as yet another one of our class from 1964 died. When you hit your seventies, between grammar school, Hebrew School, high school and college, the dead begin to pile up.

So I dismissed any other thought about Mike other than I was remotely sorry he died so young, and went on to other things.

Except I have a subconscious which I have learned is impossible to be ignored and seems to have the ability to be a bully in my brain, pushing all the other parts around so it can be first in line to remind me about something I didn’t want to remember. Maybe I thought Mike was incidental to my life, when unbeckoned, my memory opened up like the Yellow Brick Road and demanded I walk the walk to examine the Mike Froman files a little more closely. After all, who did I think I was, anyway?

There were no witnesses, no one to hear the tumult in my darkening mind as I was dragged kicking and bitching to confront the facts as I knew them.  It seemed that I was on trial and being called to account whether I was willing or not. When my subconscious demands attention, everything else just falls away and I must listen to the silent voice from decades and decades.

Although I was a wild, angry, disruptive and dangerous when provoked kid in grammar school who, unknown to anyone in the Fifties and early Sixties, was being beaten daily and shrieked at in an always darkened house by a mentally unbalanced mother. This was a big secret. People in those times didn’t talk about stuff like that. Didn’t matter if I was smashed in the face with her fist, beaten with rubber garden hoses, leather belts and sometimes the belt buckles, this was not to be revealed.

I was in so many playground fights, the visible bruises or welts on my face, neck or arms must have been assumed to be from that, perhaps my teachers might have assumed. No one ever asked me about that between 1955 and 1964.

Whoever I clashed with, and there were many, because I was perpetually angry and had a short temper, quiet Mike Froman was never in my sights. He was unprovocative and seemed to exist on the edges of the class population. I never talked to him, even though he lived next door to my beloved Aunt Adele who was across the street from the school’s playground, on the corner.

So we graduated and he went with 99% of my class to Bowen High School to become part of the 1968 graduating class there of 680 people, and I went to the University of Chicago Laboratory School with one other classmate, becoming part of 160 graduating students in 1968 in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

I stayed in touch with a small group of people I cared about even though we were miles apart. Mike Froman wasn’t one of them.

Then, in 1969, I opened a (sort of) kosher deli, the Deli Dali across the parking lot from my then pretty well known Bob’s Newsstand. One of our suppliers was a Mr. Froman who sold us a range of cheeses. I knew he was Mike’s father when I would see him to say hello, and remembering my terrible French thought it was amusing that a Mr. Froman sold us ‘fromage’. But that bit of humor was soon forgotten after I sold the deli and went on to buy other newsstands instead. I remember he was an immigrant, possibly from Germany. He had a strong accent.

Many years went by. Three guys from Caldwell, Ron Buzil, Steve Golber, Bobby Kopple and I went out four times a year to celebrate our conveniently spaced birthdays, at a range of restaurants across the Chicago area. One of those times, I somehow connected with Mike to invite him to join us at Pasteure’s, a French-Viet Nam restaurant. I don’t remember the details, but it was a pleasant evening and I supposed we all wondered if he wanted to become part of our group, but he never joined us again or called me.

The dinners went on for about 20 years until Bobby Kopple sold his business and decided to travel the world with his wife. After he left, the dinners stopped. It just wouldn’t have been the same. Not too much later, Bobby died at 70, and it was a shock. Money couldn’t buy him Time.

About 2000, I found Mike’s office in an older building near the Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, Ill.

When I rode up the elevator to see him, I saw the carpet was worn and the fragrance in the hallway was not so welcoming, but when we met and shook hands, I didn’t mention any of that. I had been unemployed for two years and knew all about what life was like with very little money. Perhaps Mike’s legal career wasn’t doing so well, but I had no idea and didn’t ask him. We talked for a little while and then he told me something about my life I didn’t know.

I had been in a six-year distribution war with America’s largest distributor in an intense battle that received much publicity because of the “David vs Goliath” aspect of our competition. I was Gulliver’s Periodicals. They had been a monopoly for most of a century and my entering their locked-up market caused an incredible response from them. They wanted me to quit, I wouldn’t quit, things became tense and steadily worse for me when a newspaper story in Chicago’s Reader, a free alternative press at that time, told the city what was happening to me, a fly on the ass of the bigger company, and an anti-trust lawyer appeared out of nowhere to defend me in court for the duration of my battle to survive.

His presence changed the entire situation because now there was someone willing to fight for me whenever something was done to me that he said was illegal. After six years, they gave up, agreed to settle and as part of the settlement a large amount of money was paid to me, plus the other company had to give me one of their retail chain of Chicago magazine stores. It was an unambiguous victory.

But while I thought the war was over, a person on the other side didn’t think so and as my fortunes tumbled for a range of reasons, they were able to push me over the edge and I lost my five stores and became unemployed and unemployable. A nightmare at 35 years old.

Eventually I was able to open a small store, gradually leading to my largest ever and my life was back on track except for brain surgery in 2004 and a range of other bad medical moments.

Mike told me that my fight with the other company made legal history because no one in America had ever defeated a monopoly in the periodical distribution business, and the consequences changed far more than I ever realized. Mike told me the battle was being taught in law schools. I stared at him. This was unimaginable. After everything fell apart for me in 1985, I felt like a total loser, not some “historic figure”.

No one else in the 15 years between that year and my moment with Mike in his office had ever said anything about it to me. No one. Gulliver’s Periodicals would live on, somehow, even if I never knew it. I was stunned and thanked him for telling me. I wished him well, left his office and we never saw each other again for the next 22 years until Ron Buzil’s message told me of his death.

As the day wore on and the memories returned, something very dark arrived: In 1962, my next door neighbor Mr. Meyers, a Chicago cop and someone very handy with tools made a slingshot for me, made out of plywood with a wide rubber band to hold the BB’s he handed me. He showed me how to use it, told me to practice with some paper targets he gave to me from the Police Dept shooting range for officers and I did that, day after day. I began to get better and better then very good at hitting whatever I aimed at.

I was twelve and from my earlier self-description, a wild angry child. I was likely to strike out at another kid whom I felt was hostile and this was endless. One day, as I was going across the street to have lunch at my Aunt Adele’s house, I saw Mike Froman standing in his doorway about to go in. I pulled out the wooden slingshot, centered a BB in it the rubber band and shot the BB into Mike’s eye, and he screamed.

I froze, unable to comprehend what I did and who I did it to, for no reason at all. I can’t recall more than that except that Mike’s eye wasn’t permanently damaged and my slingshot disappeared forever. I have no memory of ever speaking to Mike about it or apologizing for my brutal act.

As the present day wore on, I became more and more morose remembering this terrible thing, too late forever now to ever say I was sorry. And to think I saw him twice in all those years and he never brought it up to me. That made it worse. He was a saint, I was a beast. I became very upset.

I called a man I know who is a Rabbi, Rabbi Tzali Wilshanski and who has a Chabod in Kenosha,Wisconsin, fifteen miles south of my home. I don’t join things and belong to no synagogue but in the seven years I knew him since I moved north from Illinois, we had become very friendly, then after his kindness toward my wife Joyce who was dying from cancer, friends. He is forty, young enough to easily be a child of mine, but I hold him in high esteem. He has a talent for listening and for teaching.

I called him and asked him if he could help me with something and he swiftly agreed. I asked him to say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and he asked me to find out Mike’s Hebrew name, meaning to find out his father’s first name which I didn’t know. My Hebrew name is R’u-vain ben Yisrael, or Robert the son of Israel. After calling the funeral home to get that name, we settled on Moshe ben Liaban, or Michael the son of Lewis.

I then asked the Rabbi to also tell me a prayer for forgiveness, for when a person has been wronged.

When I went there today, which is Saturday January 7, 2023, it is Shabbat or the Sabbath. There were about a dozen men gathered in the room for prayers. In Chabods, which follow Hasidic traditions, women sit separate from the men. When the time came for me to say Kaddish, which is not Hebrew but actually Aramaic, an ancient lingua franca from the Middle East at the time of Jesus, because the Romans, Greeks, Jews, Arabs, and Samaritans all spoke Aramaic as the common tongue everyone could understand. Just like English to day is the lingua franca for business all over the world.

I have read the Kaddish many times, most recently five years ago when Joy died. It is not an easy thing to do. The Rabbi stood near me, uncertain about whether I could remember how to say the prayer or read the Hebrew letters it was written in. But I did. I read it clearly, one word following another when to my total surprise I became overwhelmed with emotion at my guilt and dissolved into tears, unable to continue. The Rabbi waited for me to continue, but I sat down and it was obvious to him I was in complete misery, my face streaming in tears.  So, good man that he is, he swiftly took over from where I stopped, walking away to where the Torah was opened to draw attention away from me, and to him instead.

I was quiet for the rest of the service. No other person there said a word to me. Then he included the prayer of apology in the rest of what he said, on my behalf. Not everyone can be a Rabbi. It is a calling for a very special few who somehow can comprehend the Jewish soul. I later walked over to him to thank him for how he handled an awkward situation so well, saving me further embarrassment.

I sat there while the Rabbi was finishing the service and rolling up the Torah to return to the Ark, its resting place. I began to look at various pages in the heavy blue prayer book, looking for nothing.

While randomly leafing through my prayer book written in English and Hebrew, I by chance, noticed a small line item on the bottom of page 566, right side, called “Prayer for Rainbows”, which made me stop and reread it. It was partially in Hebrew which I can read but not understand. It also said a man should not stare at a Rainbow too long. What? Is that one of the 613 commandments?

I know in Jewish tradition and maybe other religions, too, the Dove returning from dry land somewhere no longer submerged under the Flood with a little green twig in its beak, followed by a brilliant Rainbow never seen by anyone before the Great Flood, somehow communicated to Noah a promise from God that He would never Flood the world again.

This may be a fairy tale like all the other fairy tales in all the world’s religions about how everything came to be out of bleak black Nothingness.

Nevertheless, fairy tales can be very necessary when they help a guy express himself during his grief over a real bad thing that happened a little less than thousands of years ago. Long ago, another wise and warm Rabbi told me that there are no coincidences, that all is preordained. That was a lot to take in.


I’ve decided that the next Rainbow I see will be a sign from Michael Froman telling me he heard my silent plea from the Great Beyond where Time means nothing, about something that pains me greatly today. I will take that Rainbow as a sign of forgiveness and get on with my life. Maybe when I was a wild twelve-year-old I could care less about shooting Michael in the eye with my slingshot. But Mike, sixty years later as an old man I can surely feel your great pain today, almost as if I was you. I don’t know if that transformation is possible, but there’s a lot of things I’ll never understand.  My waiting for my Rainbow  from Mike  forgiving me begins today: January 7, 2023.


Today is May 7, 2023.

Six months have passed and no Rainbow has appeared in my life. I had thought about this from time to time, the strangeness of never seeing a Rainbow through the mist of a Spring day. I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico on my honeymoon after marrying dear Nancy a year ago. Not a rainy place. I had stopped thinking about no rainbows because it seemed eerie to me and made me fee strange. And sad.

We were in the Georgia ‘O’Keefe Museum in a beautiful sand-colored building on a clear sunny day. I was and am a big fan of hers. Seeing her etherial work can make a guy feel a little etherial himself, maybe. After seeing all of her work in the small building, I decided to look around the bookshop there for some postcards. The bookstore is filled with a range of books, jewelry, glass items and other items of clothing. I was passing by a window and saw a piece of putty-colored fabric and to my utter amazement, there was a tiny Rainbow, a clear, complete with all the colors Rainbow running across the slightly rumpled fabric. It was under a piece of glass about a foot above it with a beveled edge. I stared at it. My Rainbow? Delivered in a time and place of Mike’s choosing?  As refracted light and incredibly illuminated running across the fabric and as thin as a pencil?

With my “impossible-to-believe” own life, I am ver careful to look Fate in the mouth, and accept whatever comes my way like messages delivered  by Jewish Butterflies. After determining where the light from the sky was coming from, through that small window, I put my hand under the Rainbow so it ran across my skin, like a multi-colored caterpillar, moving this way and that as I moved my hand, or flexed the skin. I was playing with light. I was playing with something cosmic I’d been waiting for, for so long.  I began to take photos of my hand and arm, letting the rainbow run across my fore-arm and the back of my hand, like it was liquid light. I became transfixed by this odd situation. And then I became overcome with emotion and ran out of the bookstore and out of the building.

I don’t like people to see me cry.

It is too deep a look into my soul and that must be private.

Standing behind the adobe-colored building in a large shadow, I felt the tears on my face. It had been five months of waiting for this moment.

In my invented “Terms of Micheal’s Symbolic Forgiveness” I had challenged Nature to give me what I wanted so I could find peace within me about hurting a twelve-year-old boy sixty years ago. Nature has little to do wth me and my problems.

Why did I choose something so hard to grasp?  My remembering Michael, my going to that Rabbi, my seeking not private forgiveness, but instead public Jewish forgiveness, my tears interrupting the moment with the Rabbi, my random flipping through the Chasidic Prayerbook in my frustration and misery, my stumbling across this incredibly obscure prayer about Rainbows, my learning the translation, my choosing to allow Michael to use a Rainbow to express his forgiveness to me, because rainbows require a person to be at the right time and place, and especially, to (in most cases, I guess) look up, Heaven-ward.

A great Rabbi I once knew very well a long time ago, once told me there are no such things as coincidences.  Everything is preordained by God.

I am not some holy-roller, imbedded in religion or miracles. I belong to no Temple and rarely go to services. My relationship with God is conversational and matter-of-fact. I think God expects me to inspire others through my stories and poems, and for him, that is the same thing as prayer. Then i heard Mike’s voice in my head, as real as if he were standing next to me. Or above me.

“Hey, Katzman what were you expecting? You slug me in the eye with a metal BB and then feel sorry about it…sixty-years later?

And then what? I’m supposed to drop everything and rush a Rainbow to you? By Fed-Ex maybe? Are you so important or something?

To you, a day, a week, a month…may seem like a long time to wait for something. I face eternity. Letting you wait six months seems like seconds to me, but I wanted you to feel the pain I felt, in 1962. Now is enough. Forget me, get on with your life and remember to be nice to people, kind to people, even if it is inconvenient. Got it, Katzman?”

Then the voice went away. My tears stopped. I felt as if we were standing on the crushed stone of our Caldwell Playground standing face-to-face.

I have the photos.

Micheal, thanks.

I will remember your words, even if in my imagination, even if it is inconvenient, for the rest of my life.



Two notes in closing: Rabbi Tzali answered my inquiry about Rainbows, posted here–

1) This is the Hasidic Chabod Jewish prayer for Rainbows and why, in Hebrew and in English:

“After the flood, God promised Noah that He would never again bring a flood that would destroy the world. A Rainbow is a reminder of this Covenant that God made with Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures. Therefore, upon seeing a Rainbow in the sky, we recite the following blessing:

Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha’olam zocher ha’brit v’ne’eman bivrito v’kayam b’ma’amaro.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who remembers the Covenant, and is faithful to His covenant, and keeps His promise.”


2) This is what I found out about being instructed in the prayer book to not look at Rainbows too long:

“The Sages state that we should not stare at a rainbow because it is tantamount to staring at God Himself (Talmud Hagigah 16a). (This is based on Ezekiel’s description of his vision of God, in which he compares it to “the appearance of the Rainbow that will be in the cloud on a rainy day” (1:28).) The rainbow is thus an especially strong manifestation of God in the world. Although the background might be that the world is not wholly worthy, it is as if God Himself comes down to watch over us, stating in effect that He will never again give up on mankind.”


If anyone wants or needs to talk to a fine man and Rabbi for whatever reason, this is how to reach my (now and then) Rabbinical friend:

rabbitzali@gmail.com   He didn’t ask for this attention. Not his style.

Readers of my difficult childhood story and also about Jewish Mysticism, another day has passed now and my story is finished.

About one thousand people responded overwhelmingly with kindness and warmth, and that has been a great comfort to me.

Thank you.

And Michael, rest in peace.



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 Bernard White

January 8, 2023 @ 9:46 am

Good morning, Bob. I wish I could write these letters, these words in the color of the ?. I can use the emoji for the rainbow ?.

You are forgiven.

Your heartfelt real ritual of remembrance and contrition is not a fairy tale.

It is practical and it is real.

the sharing of your transformation is a gift to us all.

a gift of forgiveness.

a gift of confession, of exposure.

your tears are cleansing and none of us ought turn away from them.

not only are they not a source of embarrassment…

they are the source of the healing and healed life.

Mike wanted me to share this with you;


good morning beautiful brother.

your writing is a Balm in Gilead.

your writing is the real news.

Comment by Don Larson

January 8, 2023 @ 2:48 pm

Hi Bob,

You wrote that very well!

Sometimes the only recourse at times like you experienced we reveal certain needs to ourselves.

I will occasionally think of Michael when I speak to someone new or from the old days of my youth. Thank you for writing your story.



Comment by David Griesemer

January 9, 2023 @ 6:50 pm

Reminds you of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
Bob’s subconscious is a ghost, come to show him something grievous.
At the Chabod, Bob sobs like Scrooge.
“I want to change,” Scrooge cries. He did.
So did Bob.

Comment by Linda D Young

January 9, 2023 @ 6:57 pm

Glad to have come across and read this Bob. Through the decades I’ve encountered you: as a fellow U-High class of ’68 mate, at your newsstand when on Lake Park, in your shop at Chicago and Main in Evanston and now here. You were always pleasant to me with goodness radiating from your being. With no qualification to do so- I say most assuredly- the ‘wayward’ youthful act of/for which you express regret has been forgiven many times over by Existence itself.

Comment by Heather McCullough

January 20, 2023 @ 12:03 pm

Again Bob, a great story! I think old Jewish people and old Catholics have another thing in common…GUILT!! Heather

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