Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz.  (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

FLORIDA CONDO CIRCUIT

Yiddishe Cup played four Century Village retirement communities in Florida in 2002. Each Century Village had a theater about the size of a basketball arena. Other acts on the boards were Debby Boone, Dr. Ruth, Jack Jones, “Jim Bailey as Judy Garland,” Joel Grey, and Larry Storch — “the lovable Corporal Agarn from F-Troop.”

One emcee told us he had opened, as a comedian, for the Righteous Brothers, and had worked in Las Vegas, on the cruise ships, and been married nine times. He said, “Only Mickey Rooney has me beat.” He told us two “inside” Century Village jokes:

What’s 25-feet long and smells like urine?

The conga line at Century Village.

century village conga line

What’s an 80-year-old man smell like?

Depends.

The band wasn’t allowed to mingle with the audience. That was a Century Village rule. Another rule was Do not walk off stage for an encore because the audience will leave. Also, don’t take an intermission because the lines at the restroom will be so long the intermission will never end. Also, do not sell CDs. Why not sell CDs? I don’t know.

We broke some rules. And we never got asked back — and the crowd liked our comedy stuff! I would like to return to Florida, but I don’t think it’s going to happen unless I buy a condo at Century Village.


Rerun

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

November 15, 2017   1 Comment

BOOKS TO GO

books 2 colored

Here are some books I’m throwing out. I refuse to take these mediocrities to the library; these clunkers are going right on my treelawn:

Cobbler, Mend my Shoe!
by Thom McAn

My Favorite Car Sales
by Del Spitzer

Fungo Batting
by Woody Held

Selfies
by Jeff “The Body” Sugarman

The Wiener in Bavarian Folk Arts
by Nathan Famoso

photo by Eric Broder

100 Years in an RV
by Irv Weinberger

Puzzles, Wrinkles and Twisters
by Albert Einstein

Sexism at the Battle of Waterloo
by “Jilly”

Chillicothe: Ohio’s First Capital
by George Becker

Jesus in My Glove
by Mac “Octopus” Vouty

How to Identify a Child Molester
by Frederick M. Rogers

I Broke My Knee and Ran 10 Miles
by Mark Schilling

The History of the Electric Toothbrush
by Ralph Solonitz DDS

An Appreciation of Aluminum Siding
by Ken Goldberg

Regular Guy: The Life of Nelson Rockefeller
by Jim Sollisch

Lieder and its Influence on Mick Jagger
by Tricia Springstubb

My .38 Special is Special
by Stan Urankar

Fracking Jews
by Theodore S. Stratton

Guess Your Neighbor’s Net Worth
by James Kerson

Life on the Outskirts of Beer
by Isaac Miller

A hat tip to Gilbert Sorrentino. Ten percent of the book titles are from Sorrentino’s novel Mulligan Stew (1979).

The German wiener photo is by Eric Broder

File this under Fake Profiles. And it’s a rerun.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

November 8, 2017   5 Comments

THE SCHVITZ

If you’re a Cleveland Jewish male and have never been to The Schvitz, you are a disgrace. Real Cleveland Jewish men will malign you, impugning your Jewish bona fides. The Schvitz is at East 116th Street and Luke Avenue, off Kinsman Road, in a lousy neighborhood. The Schvitz has no sign. The Schvitz’s official name is the Mt. Pleasant Russian-Turkish Baths, which nobody uses. Some people call it the Bathhouse. Some people call it the Temple of the Holy Steam. (Lawyer Harvey Kugelman does.) Most people call it The Schvitz. It has photos of Mussolini, Dayan and Patton on the walls. That’s it for decorations. (Plus a photo of Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood, reports Mike Madorsky.)

There are three acceptable responses to “Have you ever been to The Schvitz?”
a) I held my stag there.
b) I was there with my father.
c) My grandfather took me there.

The Big Five in Russian-Turkish–style schvitzes are in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. I got this list from Billy Buckholtz, the pleytse guy at the Cleveland schvitz. Billy’s grandfather was the original pleytse guy. Pleytse is the rubdown, traditionally done with a broom of soaked oak leaves. Billy uses a seaweed broom and horsehair brush.
schvitzers

Cleveland’s schvitz isn’t coed. Most of the other schvitzes are. The Detroit schvitz even used to have an orgy night. The Cleveland schvitz never went coed, aside from a short experiment in the 1970s, because the neighborhood is so bad. Why encourage women to come to Kinsman?

In The Schvitz’s heyday, it catered to immigrant factory workers who dropped by after work “to get the creosote off their skin, knock down a few shots and get a pleytse,” Billy said. “The immigrants didn’t want to wait in line with their eight kids for the only bathtub at their house.” Billy told me all this at a Yiddishe Cup gig at an art gallery, not at The Schvitz.

I’m not crazy about steam. I get periodic Schvitz invitations from the Brothers in Perspiration, an ad-hoc group of Cleveland Heights Jews. The email subject-line reads: “Have a serious jones for the stench of sweat, mildew, steak, cigar, garlic?” That sounds good, except for the cigar, sweat, mildew and steam.


Rerun

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

November 1, 2017   3 Comments

THE UNKNOWNS

Here’s a short video about the power of the internet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAAQ_qtgp78

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

October 25, 2017   4 Comments

OLD THIEVES

mr 1939 crossroad

I got a rental application from Joe, a retired 71-year-old factory worker who made $1600/month. Welcome, Joe. But then I ran a criminal search and came up with aggravated arson, forgery and sexual battery. Pre-internet, I would have rented to him because it was hard to run background checks back then. I once rented to a rapist/murderer because I didn’t want to schlep to county records to check him out. The man got picked up on a parole violation and moved out before killing or raping anybody in my building.

I once rented to an elderly nurse who was a felon. Her previous landlord followed her to my place and told me she was a forger and thief. She didn’t look it. She already had the keys to my building; the building manager had given her the keys in exchange for a dime store ring. We moved the nurse’s belongings into the basement and locked the stuff up.  She said, “Give me my meds!” Good point. I gave her meds, plus her toothbrush.

This cost me. I’ve learned two things: a) Don’t do a “self-help” eviction. Lawyers love self-help evictions. b) Screen all tenants like crazy on the way in.


Rerun

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

October 18, 2017   1 Comment

GO TRIBE! TOO UPBEAT?

I wasn’t in Rust Belt Chic –The Cleveland Anthology. An oversight. I’m Rust Belt chic. I’ve lived in Cleveland all my life and I use Rust-Oleum — a local brand — on fire escapes. A tenant fell on a fire escape Monday because it was rainy and slippery; he complained because we use good paint.

I’m not total lunch bucket like Pulitzer Prize columnist Connie Schultz, whose dad worked at the CEI plant in Ashtabula, or Rust Belt Chic co-editor Richey Piiparinen, whose dad was a Cleveland cop who got run over on the way home from an Indians game.

I told Richey I liked the anthology even though I’m not in it. I said, “I liked it and I’m not even into the Browns, booze, and broads thing.”

He said, “That’s good — ‘Browns, booze and broads.’”

1) The Browns. I’ve been to about five Browns games. One was the championship game in 1964. I’m good to go.

2) The Indians. I’ve been to about a game a year. Believe it or not, I’ve seen three no-hitters: Stieb, Bosman and Siebert. I’m good to go, again. Looking for a Tribe no-hitter tonight, by the way.

rust belt chic3) Booze. I’ve had very few Great Lakes Christmas Ales. No more than 10. But I’m 100-percent behind Great Lakes Brewing and heavy drinking.

4) Broads. I met a couple at the Last Moving Picture Company in 1976 and they’re probably dead by now from too much beer. Pong, the video game, was big then.

David Giffels in his essay “The Lake Effect” wrote, “There was never any color in the 30 miles of sky between Akron and Cleveland. It was a masterpiece of monochrome.”

I see color in the sky all the time around here. I see blue right now. Maybe I’m too upbeat for Rust Belt Chic. Go Tribe.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

October 11, 2017   3 Comments

I NEVER REPORT
MY MUSIC INCOME

I never report my music income. I’m a klezmer clarinetist and blues harmonica player, not a tax guy. I don’t give a shit about taxes. I play music eight hours a day, and in between I wait for the phone to ring for gigs. I have no life except music, and I’m proud of it.

I owe some people money. Big deal. That’s standard in the music biz. My go-to line is “Can you lend me five dollars to get home from the gig?  What’s five bucks?” (I often get paid by check for gigging.)

blue eyed soulOne musician yelled at me, “Five bucks is pathetic! At least ask for twenty!” He gave me a twenty. Nice.

I occasionally hock my instruments and show up at gigs with student-level gear. This, too, annoys bandleaders. Charlie Parker hocked his horn; I’m in good company! A bandleader once told me, “Tools, man, where are your tools?” I have tools — cheesy student tools, which I  play better than you! I once asked a priest for gas money at a wedding, and he gave it to me.

I have bad habits. I’m flawed. What about you?  Are you perfect?

 

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

October 4, 2017   3 Comments

THE MEANING OF LIFE

What is the meaning of life? Viktor Frankl says it has to do with 1) good works 2) loving somebody 3) responding well to your suffering.

When I first read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, I was just taking over my dad’s business and wondering if I would acclimate to life in real estate. I figured I would, for my family, but I wasn’t going to make “real estate” my meaning.

hypno klezFrankl talks about “Sunday neurosis” — “that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of control in their lives when the rush of the business week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.” I’ve had that Sunday void off and on for years. I’ve tried the arts. I have some friends in the arts. We talk about commerce versus art. We’re mostly in Cleveland, so we talk about commerce and the arts a lot. We sometimes talk about fame and success. At Heinen’ grocery store, a neighbor  said to me,  “We’re still talking about the bar mitzvah you played for us eight years ago.” I think that’s important. I’ve provided quality music to the Cleveland Jewish community. I’m not that great of a musician (I’m a better writer!) but I’m envisioning a drawing of a clarinet on my tombstone. And an apartment building?

What is the meaning of life?

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 27, 2017   4 Comments

COPS ARE FUNNY

Cleveland cop Tommy Alusheff moonlighted as a comedian under the name Morey Cohen — a conflation of Morey Amsterdam and Myron Cohen.

Morey Cohen died in 2010. I knew him only by reputation. Morey wasn’t in the Sixth District — my old police beat. The funniest cop in the Sixth was Paul Falzone, who once told me, “I have eight minutes of material to Morey’s twelve. How can you tell Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony? He’s the one with sesame seed buns.”

stand up cops

Falzone ran for county sheriff and president of the patrolmen’s union, and didn’t win either. He eventually became police chief of Bratenahl, a suburb. In 2008 Cuyahoga County tried to put Falzone in jail for theft. Something about drugs and guns missing from the Bratenahl property room. Falzone was acquitted and sued Bratenahl for “humiliation.” No joke there.

Falzone: “So I’m on patrol and walk into the Viking Bar. I see a 16-year-old punk with a Miller’s. I say, ‘When’s your birthday, kid?’ He says, ‘October 10.’ ‘What year?’ ‘Every year.’”

I also know a Myron Cohen imitator. He’s Dave Rothenberg, a resident of Myers apartments in Beachwood. Different story. Non-cop.

Rerun

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 20, 2017   3 Comments

CARMA

My son Ted parked his car at the Brookpark Road Rapid Transit lot and flew to Las Vegas. The Rapid Transit lot was cheaper than the nearby airport lot. My son didn’t come back. I thought he was going on a vacation, but he got a job in Las Vegas and stayed for a long while.

My son’s 2007 Ford Focus sat in the Brookpark lot for two months, until my wife, Alice, and I loaded our car with jumper cables and a generator air pump and drove to the RTA lot, which is next to Ford Engine Plant #1 and a couple strip bars. I said to Alice, “Ted’s car is technically in Brook Park, not Cleveland. That’s good. If the car has been towed or stolen, we can deal with Brook Park red tape better than Cleveland red tape.” But the car wasn’t towed or stolen. It was there. The doors were unlocked, and the tires were low, and there was a bottle of bourbon in the backseat.

I drove Ted’s car to the Lusty Wrench in Cleveland Heights. Sam Bell, the mechanic, said, “The car is basically in good shape with 89,000 miles. The battery will not make it, and as you know the side-view mirror is taped on. But the tape actually is not a bad solution. The rear tires are round, black and hold air. The car is serviceable.”
What I want to know, Is Greater Cleveland really this safe? I need more data. Please park your car for two months at a Rapid stop and tell me.

carma RTA lot teddys car

<em>Rerun

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 13, 2017   2 Comments

PURCELLS

My father had about 15 pairs of shoes when he died. I didn’t take any of his shoes even though we wore the same size. He had a foot fungus, and my mother told me to pass. My dad had wingtips, golf shoes and tennis shoes. I never saw him in sandals, work boots or hiking boots.

shoes

My dad wore Purcells. He was pretty good at sports. For one thing, he was a fast runner. He took me to the Arena for the annual Knights of Columbus track meet, and we often played tennis. My dad would hit balls with me after work. He would say, “Racquet back. Hit it now. Racquet back, hit it now.” He wore Bermuda shorts and Purcells and no shirt. That was appropriate attire in the 1960s, at least on the public courts in South Euclid, Ohio. I didn’t appreciate the tennis instruction from my dad. I moped. I should have hustled. He was usually the only dad out there. I should have hustled.


A version of this post appeared here 5/1/13.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 6, 2017   3 Comments

RETURN OF THE MAGGIES


Maggies were linoleum salesmen/hustlers in Cleveland. “Maggie” is derived from Magnoleum, a flooring brand. Harvey Pekar wrote a comic strip about maggies in 1982. I didn’t hear the word maggies again until recently, when my cousin Danny Seiger expounded: “The maggies carried thick samples of linoleum that looked like Venetian marble. They sold nine-by-twelve sheets for fifteen dollars. Nobody had fifteen dollars back then, so the maggies took five bucks on installment, and came back with a roll of tissue-paper. They could carry it upstairs real easy. It weighed three pounds. The maggies laid the tissue-paper linoleum on your kitchen floor, collected the five bucks, and never came back.”

The maggies sold more than linoleum, Danny said. They sold ties at barbershops and socks at saloons. Each maggie had a territory and a product line.

I Googled “Maggies” after my cousin Danny left. Maggies, an Irish music group, popped up. Then I tried “Maggies + Pekar” . . .

Michigan State University Libraries,
Comic Art Collection.
“The Maggies: Oral History”/story by Harvey Pekar;
art by R. Crumb. 2 p. in American Splendor, no. 7 (1982).

I phoned Danny Seiger and read the Pekar story to him. I wanted to know if Turk’s deli — where the maggies hung out in Harvey’s comic — was the same place as Seiger’s deli. Danny said, “Turk’s was at One-hundred Seventeenth. We were at One-hundred Eighteenth.”

I said, “There were two delis right next to each other? How many delis were there in Cleveland?”

“There were seven on Kinsman, and twenty-eight in Cleveland in the 1930s,” Danny said.

Seiger's, 1958

Seiger’s, 1958, (with fire damage)

A version of this first appeared here 8/4/10.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 30, 2017   3 Comments

FOR YOUNG KLEZMERS ONLY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVqxjhb2iCU


This 1-minute video is geared toward klezmers under 40. And if you don’t fit into that category, it’s still worth watching. Not everything is about you.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 23, 2017   4 Comments

MY RELIGION IS EX-JEWISH

I was a Jewish greaser in high school. It was me, Neil Zuckerman and Tommy Steiner — three Jewish greasers in a class of 650. There were greasers, just not Jewish greasers. In the winter we hung out at the pool hall, and in the summer we went to the swimming pool three times a day. We hung with the Catholic girls.

brush greaserI live in Mentor now, with my motorcycle and dog, and don’t see many Jews. I always wanted to be Italian. I got my first kiss from a dago. I wasn’t invited to any bar mitzvahs. I didn’t ever go to temple.

I got no brownie points in my Jewish ’hood for working on cars. If you weren’t pre-med, you were nobody. Levine, a jerk, teased me when I wore the wrong kind of penny loafers in eighth grade. Not Pedwins. I switched to pointy black “rack” shoes, Regals, that night and became a greaser. Rick Miller, another podiatrist-in-training, teased me for wearing white socks. How was I supposed to know white socks had just gone out of style?

Put me in the ex-Jewish column, next to Aleutian.

A version of this post appeared 4/30/14.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 16, 2017   3 Comments

THE BILLYS

My parents often name-dropped Billys:

1.) Billy Rose. He put together the Aquacade show at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1936-7. The Aquacade was a theater-like pool. There was an orchestra and synchronized swimming. Johnny Weissmuller starred in it. Billy Rose took the show to the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

2.) Billy DeWolfe, a character actor. Billy De Wolfe occasionally ate at Seiger’s, my Great Uncle Itchy’s restaurant on Kinsman Road.

3.) Billy Weinberger, a Short Vincent Street restaurateur. He owned Kornman’s. Billy Weinberger moved to Las Vegas in 1966 and took over Caesar’s Palace. Billy was close with the Cleveland mobsters who started Vegas. My Uncle Al — not a gangster — once got discount hotel rates from Billy in Vegas.

I never name-dropped Billys to my kids. My parents took all the Billys.


A version of this post appeared here 10/19/11.


Funk a Deli (formerly known as Yiddishe Cup) plays at John Carroll U. 7 p.m tomorrow (Thurs., Aug. 10).  On the lawn. Free ice cream. Featured guest artists: Shawn Fink, Jack Stratton, Rick Lawrence, Maury Epstein and David Krauss.

cassette tape

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 9, 2017   6 Comments

YELLOW TABLE

After my mother died, I put her furniture in storage in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side. The furniture sat there for five years until my son Teddy took the furniture when he went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed, but usable.

When I visited Teddy at law school, I saw my mom’s furniture and got something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. Seeing her yellow kitchen table again was a punch to the solar plexus. I had eaten at that table for 18 years, and now it was in student-housing in Toledo. It was Formica. It was 1950s.

During high school, I was laconic at that table. How’s school? I ain’t talking. My dad didn’t talk much either. My entire family didn’t talk much. And we didn’t watch TV. We ate a lot of fish. Halibut was very cheap, believe it or not. For breakfast, we ate pink grapefruit.

Toledo 2012

Toledo 2012

A version of this post appeared here 5/9/12.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 2, 2017   4 Comments

THE FUNERALGOER

I attended my late mother’s cousin’s funeral. I didn’t know the cousin. There were about 80 Jews at the funeral home. I didn’t know any of the mourners, except the professional Jews — the rabbi and cantor. Buddy Kassoff, the cousin, had died. He got a nice eulogy. A daughter said he had no vices, never swore, was always cheerful, and never passed judgment on anybody. When I got home I told my wife about the eulogy, and she said, “You must not be related.”

Buddy had owned a car wash for fifty years. His father had been a musician, and I had once phoned Buddy, maybe 10 years ago, to get the inside musical scoop on his dad, but there wasn’t much scoop – no musical memorabilia, for instance. I don’t recall meeting Buddy in the past fifty years.

funeral crasher kassoff early 17

I should have gone to the shiva instead, where I would have had a proper conversation with someone. In any event, I don’t regret I went to the funeral. Like I tell my kids: go.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 26, 2017   6 Comments

AN ABOVE-AVERAGE JEW

Some Geauga County kids put on “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” a play about the Theresienstadt concentration camp. I spoke to the actors at their theater in Chardon, Ohio. I figured they’d be obnoxious, but they weren’t. I explained what a Jew is. They sang a Theresienstadt-based song for me. I asked them who, in their world, was the most famous Jew. I thought they would say Jesus. They said Billy Crystal.

The kids wanted to know about “the beanie ” — the yarmulke. (Note: I don’t where a yarmulke.) I said it shows one’s humbleness, vis a vis God. Was I right? I gave the actors a couple Yiddishe Cup CDs and said, “The people at Terezin didn’t listen to klezmer music but enjoy these.” Was I Jewish enough? Was I above average?

On One Foot

On one foot


A version of this post appeared here 10/28/15.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 19, 2017   4 Comments

MY ADVISEES

I advise two young men. They are my advisees. One is a student of real estate, and the other is a pop musician. The pop musician says “cats” a lot, and the real estate guy says “cap rates” a lot.

The real estate student and I hiked suburban Cleveland. We found a Norfolk & Western right-of-way in Solon that my advisee contemplated buying. We saw a couple great blue herons. Herons and land. How much?

The musician advisee wondered whether he should move to L.A. or New York. He said everybody in L.A. was trying too hard to be famous and attend the right parties, but there was a lot of opportunity in L.A., particularly for music licensing. In New York, he said, it was more about “wearing a weird hat and playing in the subway.” I was lost; L.A., NYC — it’s all Ohio to me. He asked me about Roth IRAs; that was more in my strike zone.

The real estate student moved away. He’s buying and selling around the country. Once in a while he’ll email me, but not so much these days. The musician moved to L.A. He checks in around tax time.

The Advisor

The Advisor

Footnote: No, the advisees are not children.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 12, 2017   2 Comments

DIRTY POET

I’m Cush Pack, an intense sex explosion. Guys like me because I write dirty poems. My best poem is “The Poet and the Pediatrician,” which doesn’t sound dirty but it is. My dirtiest poem is “I Want to Wet Your Feelings.” It’s been published in a couple anthologies.

I go clubbing almost every night. All kinds of clubs. Last night I crashed the Shaker Heights Country Club and trashed the parish priest in public. The golfers in the lobby went ballistic. One guy said, “Did I just hear this chick call the priest an atheist?” I do teasy push-pull stuff like that. I like a reaction.

My newest poem is “Who Must File,” about my accountant. Yes, I’m a middle-aged self-supporting woman from Shaker Heights. My “Who Must File” poem is in Belt, an online journal of erotica. My bio note reads: “I like curly fries.” That’s all. I try to play it cool.  Next week I”m changing it to “I’m into herring.”

Tell me something about yourself, please. What are your electives? Come on, pull my rip cord. No, I’m not an undercover cop. Let’s talk. I’m Cush Pack.

socks

A version of this appeared here 3/18/15.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 5, 2017   2 Comments