Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

I’m Flying to See My Friend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 6:46 am on Friday, May 26, 2023

by Robert M. Katzman © April 25, 2023

(Dedicated to and inspired by Raphael Pollock, a friend since 1964)

Up at 3 am

I am older now

More careful now

Packing began a week ago

Notes to remind me:

Computer/Phone/Hearing Aid

Money/Driver’s License/Boarding Pass

My good wife wakes up with me

Makes me hot coffee

Mother Hen’s me studiously

Insuring I leave nothing behind

She drives me through the rain

We both search for the airport’s lights

My one-time high school classmate

 Endured a heart attack

I bring him the only medicine I have

I’m flying to see my friend


I’ve flown across the Oceans

Seen a dozen countries

Giant book-fairs in Germany

When I once had a bookstore

I had more energy

I felt more excitement

Airports seemed like Carnivals

Now they are too big for me

Massive Purgatories of Transport

Horrible food costs a fortune

Everyone moves so fast

Everyone dresses so badly

I’m flying to see my friend


I bring some old paperbacks

Hardcovers are too heavy

Noir 1940’s crime by Raymond Chandler

Stories about wise-cracking failures

With snub-nosed 38’s in shoulder holsters

1870’s Westerns by Larry McMurtry

Stories about calm steely men

Who didn’t speak at all

Whose Colts spit fire and compelled respect

In my imagination I am both of them

Secretly a very dangerous man

Who needs no weapons at all


I have all my many medicines

I wear a thin plastic belt

Replacing – for the moment

My worn leather belt with its metal parts

It sails me through security

But really, no one cares

No one scrutinizes an old man

I mean, how fast could I run?

I’m flying to see my friend


Squashed into my aisle seat

More room for my bum hip

An angry gash of a scar

Botched surgery fifty years ago

Not that I remember it

Flight attendants seem like teeny boppers

They serve me tepid coffee — I spill it

I try to read my hero’s stories

But the attendant’s loud

Robotic safety instruction

Drag on for an hour

The plane wiggles too much

Didn’t used to vibrate so much

I, of course, am exactly the same

I’m flying to see my friend


The Plane takes off

The Plane lands

I asked God to do this for me

So far, he has always listened

Seeking my ancient luggage

A lumpy zippered buckled blip

In the moving sea of steel and leather

Desperately seeking an exit:

One sign among so many

Damn signs are in Babylonian!

Damn letters are so small!

Why must it be so hard for me?

My mission is so pure:

I’m flying to see my friend


My friend meets me at the exit

 I tell him: He looks wonderful

He tells me how good I look

We are experienced old liars

We know just what to say

We go to very good restaurants

Though we two can no longer

Eat the best spicy foods

Our world has become so toxic

I’m flying to see my friend


We tell each other our familiar stories

Memories of once hot now old girlfriends

We trade stories of passion and lust

My Father born in 1912 once told me

When I was a receptive child:

“You can never make any “new” old friends”

Now, so many of them are disappearing

Like pictures dropping out of a yearbook

Growing piles stacked on the floor

Faces discarded by time

Kings, Queens all ending up as Jokers


My friend is a skilled surgeon

Rising so high in his field

He was Chief Physician to Odin

My life, however

Navigated shadowy nooks and corners

Transacting using real money and coins

But also knowing intimate details

Of those White men’s lives

On all of the worn and wrinkled

Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars

I feel my beloved friend sees me

As Primitive Man with real possibilities

Between us, alone

Our language is studded with laughter


One night

Our day’s minutes nearly exhausted

Most lights extinguished

Seated on opposite sides

Of a scarred wooden table

Long enough to serve Vikings

A bottle of Jack Daniels between us

Glinting golden in two crystal glasses

Real conversation consumes the hours


Pain, mistakes, loss, regrets

Lurking in the shadow’s silence


Black blood between us

We speak like men receding in Time

No chance to do it over

Do it better

Next time

The brutal honesty

Gradually tightening

Unbreakable bonds

Which bind us


We discuss our blessedly

Not being in Viet Nam

He deep in medical school

I had (not so blessedly) cancer

We discuss Taiwan, Ukraine

We touch on meaning

Inevitably, we discuss Judaism

He is objectively Jewish

I am incessantly Jewish

We consider:

Is it a fantasy?

Is it reality?

He sees life as terminal/abrupt

 I see life as a brief intermediate stage



He thinks I’m floating mentally on a

Spiritual Roller Coaster in Jerusalem

I worry he has seen far too much of

Arteries, tumors and vacant eyes

I worry he is educated

Beyond imagination’s grasp

I see/feel what isn’t there

He feels, however, we two would have

Both fought together

To the death in

The Warsaw Ghetto

His intensity is transmittable


I conclude, quietly, that he is more

Intrinsically fundamentally Jewish

Then he can logically comprehend

We are on non-intersectable

Planes of Perception

of the

Idea of the existence of God

Weary, we ancient conflicting

Masses of antagonized molecules


Drink coffee

Suppress the Cosmic

Return to discussing women


Here, we old men are

Exactly on the same page


He is so frail

This fine man I know forever

We sit quietly together

Sheltered for passing seconds

By Fate’s gentle embrace

We have bravely laid bare

Our unvarnished souls

Momentarily inter-changeable

Now, we just sit

Remembering a river

Of endless



Frigid Reality

A heartless, relentless, indifferent

Stone-faced Being

Has silently entered the room

My dear friend and I

We may never meet again

We are connected by this truth

Even Time pauses for Love

For now, there is no other place

I want to be

I have flown to see my friend


(Essentially a true story, comments welcome)

Inevitable Postscript, added:

May 31, 2023

(36 days later)

I saw my friend in Ohio from April 25 to April 29, 2023. I flew home that day, and three days later my wife Nancy and I — both art lovers — left for Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 2 to celebrate our first year of marriage, at 71 and 73.  But on My 11th, with Nancy driving between our 2nd city, Santa Fe, and our 3rd Taos, 70 miles gradually upward among the mountains, my vision stopped working properly and I had trouble talking. Then I couldn’t stay awake. We stopped at the first hospital we could find on the southern outskirts of Taos and I was able to walk into the small hospital where I was whisked with amazing speed into their little ER as they told me was normal procedure for a possible stroke victim.

Every test possible was done on my head, heart and blood and the very kind doctor told me I was “very, very, very lucky ” and had just missed having a stroke or else had altitude sickness.  I walked out again four hours later and we continued our time in New Mexico, flying home 5 days later on May 16th. Once back in Wisconsin, a range of tests by my own dozen doctors (no kidding) showed no damage or any evidence of a stroke.

I think of how irony enters a life. When young I once read it is very difficult for a writer to “create” irony in a story, let alone real life.

In the final stanza of my long poem about going to see my friend, the two lines:

“My dear friend and I

We may never meet again”

was intended to suggest that his heart attack at our age could sooner or later kill him.

I did not imagine that 16 days after I typed those ten words that I would (possibly) be the first to die. With my rugged working-class physical life of carpentry and self-employment over 60 years, I mostly felt invulnerable, despite 42 surgeries. Logic has no place in my calculations.  I will consider myself now living on “extra time” and treasure each day, each friend and each person I love a bit more than before my Taos mountain experience, if that is even possible.

And that kind Taos doctor:I will remember his “very, very, very lucky”  phrase for the rest of my life, as well.

Robert M. Katzman













Comment by Brad Dechter

May 26, 2023 @ 8:26 am

Sad, but true. Nailed it- no religious meaning attached. You captured weariness, sadness, love, and understanding. I felt them all.

Comment by Martha Gottlieb

May 26, 2023 @ 9:24 am

Bob- This is so beautiful. I loved reading it, and am sorry I didn’t get to see you at the reunion. Keep writing! Best, Martha

Comment by Herb Berman

May 26, 2023 @ 10:03 am

Love this, Bob,

Most of my old, old friends are dead. My best old friend is senile. It should be very sad. Somehow, it’s not. I wonder why.

Comment by CVharlie Ndewman

May 26, 2023 @ 10:21 am

Yeah…whoever named them the Golden Years deserves to be beaten with an aluminum baseball bat. But you said it with more style and less violence.

Comment by Bernard White

May 30, 2023 @ 7:27 am

the line;

I worry he is educated
beyond imagination’s grasp

what a profound brave ambitious journey to see your friend.

you are flying, indeed.

there is currently, a dead nun in the news.

dead 4 years or so and corpse is not decaying.

folks are flying to see the body.

science is running tests.

she wasn’t embalmed and was in a plain wood coffin.

a Catholic Nun, black, essentially Jewish.

a snail that’s found it’s way to the fruit center of the flower.

“do not let me hear of the wisdom of old men
but rather of their folly
their fear of fear and frenzy
their fear of possession, of belonging to another
or to others or to G-d.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
is the wisdom of humility.
Humility is endless.”


we can fly to see humility.

Or we can remain at home and humility’s right there.

with and without imagination.


Oh I just love your writing.

it is a gift of experience:

You, and your surgeon friend,
are G-d’s Beloved Sons
in whom G-d is well pleased.

Here we are, Lord,
flying to see a friend,
we’ve come to do Your will.

Love you brother cousin
Bob, still risking flight.

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