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Writing from a personal perspective as an immigrant, an artist, and a sexagenarian with longevity. Him/His

Chapters of WHEN KENNEDY WENT TO BERLIN are posted regularly

Image of the writer taken by Andrew McMurtrie

I’m Juergen K. Tossmann. I immigrated to America in the late 1950’s with my parents. My mother German and father Yugoslavian, children of war, were looking for a new life in a new land.

When we arrived, a presidential election was in full force and John Fitzgerald Kennedy offered hope and change and reflected a youthful approach to politics.

The new decade was dubbed the “Turbulent '60s” and the struggles for civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, and personal freedoms led to protests and civil unrest.

As Bob Dylan wrote —

The Times They Are A Changin

My book WHEN…

Chapter 1 — Abandonment Wounds

Photo by Isai Ramos on Unsplash

The muffled screams in a language he could barely understand were unbearable to Klaus. He flipped his pillow over, tucked the ends around his ears, and hummed his favorite tune to drown out the arguing in the bedroom across the narrow hallway. He sang to himself.

“There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world, I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room
Those are the only words of a Beach Boys song that Klaus memorized. …

Chapter 2 — The Blue Jay

Photo by Stefan Gogov on Unsplash

The mourning dove was Klaus’s comfort animal. From an early age, he lay in his bed listening to the soothing cooing sounds outside his window. He liked to watch them take flight, for their wings made a whistling sound. On days when he dreaded going to school for his fear of being teased or the morning after one of his mom and dad’s infamous fights, the doves calmed him just enough to help him out of bed to start the day.

The slender dark-spotted mourning dove pecked at the early spring ground. She was awaiting the barrage of house sparrows…

Chapter 7 — The Funny Guys

Photo Eric Krull on Unsplash

The sweltering June wind amplified the screeching sound of the bandsaw and broke through the silence in Klaus’ room.

Removing the morning crust from his eyes, Klaus rolled over and put his new 45 on the Defiant portable record player that sat on his hand-me-down nightstand. He and his awkward pal Bryce found the Defiant while on one of their Thursday morning garbage picking adventures.

Bryce was a lanky prankster with massive growing pains, which generally left him ornery and angry. …

After thyroid surgery.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

During my annual physical exam, the doctor found a small lump on my thyroid. He wasn’t overly concerned. As a precaution, he referred me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist.

The ENT ran some tests and concluded that I had a 30% chance of cancer and that a biopsy might be prudent.

Faced with such low odds, I thought, “I’ll just take my chances.” After all, there was a 70% chance that it wasn’t cancer. I explained my decision to my daughter.

“Dad, are you nuts? Get the biopsy!”

I’ve learned that millennials know more than me. …

Chapter — 6 Affirmations

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Klaus grabbed his final report card, awkwardly kissed the soft hand of Mrs. Kellerman, and crashed through the rotting wooden doors leading to the playground. He hoped he would be alone as the rest of the students exited through the front entrance to the school.

He sat on the deteriorating concrete steps, palms sweating. He flipped the small manilla envelope onto its back and bent up the metal fastener. His palms, now saturated with fear, he wiped them on his trousers and grabbed the card from its corner as not to get it wet. …

Making the Grade— Chapter 5

Photo by Phinehas Adams on Unsplash

A strip of peeling paint exposed the once red, now olive green school bell that rang on the first day of second grade. The principal greeted the students over the intercom, a dilapidated speaker in a makeshift wooden box, which looked like it was ready to fall off the wall. It was September 3rd, 1962.

Klaus sat in the rear of the class, feeling woefully inadequate. The first grade ushered in a barrage of teasing by his peers. He was labeled an outsider. His clothes were handmade, he wore hand-me-down shoes, and he had a bit of a residual accent…

Chapter 4 — Things I Will Never Tell You About

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

In the summer of ’63, when school was in recess, Klaus wandered into the daily Kaffeklatch looking for a bit of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Apple Strudel or Schnecan, which was his favorite.

The Kaffeeklatsch was a mid-day ritual gathering around coffee and desserts where the elders sometimes sang songs and bickered over details about the war — where they were and when things happened. Klaus liked the songs but didn’t pay much attention to the discussions they had because they were mostly in German; his native language was becoming more distant to him since immigrating to America. His father was…

Who will stand up for you?

Photo by Sammie Chaffin on Unsplash

All of us face challenges in our lives. Our paths aren’t always straight and narrow. We do things and say things that we wish we wouldn’t have said. However, by in large, we are making our way through life, trying to do the right thing, pursuing happiness and freedom, and if you are like me, striving to make a difference.

George Floyd was addicted to opiates. On May 25th, 2020, he was full of life, dancing in Cup foods on the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th in Minneapolis Minnesota. He was arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill…

Chapter 3 — The Frosty Window Pane

Photo- Doug Hill/The Car Guys

Klaus’ loved the family’s two-toned green ’48 Dodge Sedan. Josef purchased the car for 95 dollars from an older Italian spinster who lost her family at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Even though the car wasn’t worth the money, Josef took pity on her.

The Dodge was at the stage of becoming a jalopy with its back springs jumping up and down on the cobblestone streets of German Village; it’s one of the things Klaus loved most about it. …

Juergen K. Tossmann

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