Friedman from the bakers’ union didn’t look too good. Neither did Presser from the Teamsters. Shondor Birns, the numbers guy, was dead — blown up. My father — my thieving father — faced a 10-year sentence, which meant at least five years, which meant he would die in prison because he was so sickly. He had dreck stains on his pants, a severe shuffling gait, and a 250-pound man’s clogged heart.
Could I erase all this? I tried. I put Hello Kitty stickers on everything, but it didn’t work.
I was at my dad’s apartment, looking at a spider on the ceiling. My dad said, “Too many times I’ve let you down.” True, Dad.
He tried to kiss me on the forehead but missed because my head was looking at the spider.
The deputies escorted my father to the parking lot to ship him off. Next to the car, he bear-hugged me. With each squeeze, my ribs cracked slightly.
My dad died in prison. I can’t say that I missed him. My dad tried to learn Hebrew in jail. He never got past transliteration. He was good with numbers but not letters.
Five percent of the above is stolen from the Poetry Project Newsletter (Dec 2014./Jan 2015). The post is fiction.
Here’s Yiddishe Cup’s mash-up of Fiddler on the Roof and The Temptations:
Here’s Vulfpeck‘s newest song.
August 26, 2015 3 Comments
Bob Berkman lectured on the roll of the player piano roll in Jewish music. Berkman used to work at a player piano company in Buffalo, New York. The company made piano rolls until 2009. The last Jewish piano roll rolled out in 1980. It was “The Theme from Exodus” by Ferrante and Teicher. Berkman said there are about 800 Jewish piano-roll titles out there. He has 256.
Berkman’s mother was at the lecture, in Cleveland at a temple sisterhood. His mother lives in Cleveland. Bob had a power point and had rented a grand piano. He hooked up his Pianola player piano to the grand piano. I bet Bob took a financial bath on that presentation. (I know about sisterhood budgets.) I think he did the presentation just for his mom. Bob played everything from “The Shtiler Bulgar” to “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn.” He asked where might do a presentation next. I wasn’t sure.
Niche of niches. Maybe branch out. No rolls . . .
(Bob’s website is here. Book him!)
Yiddishe Cup plays the Medina (Ohio) International Fest 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 22). Free.
August 19, 2015 6 Comments
I know a fair amount about flower arranging, photo booths, video production, and music. I’m a party planner. I once built a 24-foot Barbie doll house from flowers, candy and Elmer’s glue.
Food-wise, I stop by Rally’s and buy fries and burgers for my parties. The music — not the food — makes the event. My clients always leave saying: “The food sucked but the band was terrific.”
Yiddishe Cup. Try them. They’re the best.
Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs. Aug. 13) on the John Carroll U. quad, University Heights, Ohio. Free. Indoors if raining. Free ice cream, too. No burgers.
This is relevant. How Yiddishe Cup started. (fiction)
August 12, 2015 1 Comment
I remember PSSC Physics. (Physical Science Study Committee.)
I remember Tarzana at the Roxy.
I remember “Java” by Al Hirt.
I remember Norm Cash. (I don’t know many names shorter than “Norm Cash.” There’s Joe Dart, the bassist in Vulfpeck, and Al Gray, the Cleveland philanthropist. How about Hy Fox? Who’s he?)
I remember the U.N. Flag Game.
I remember Special Hebrew.
I remember my Confirmation party at the Hospitality Inn in Willoughby. Why did my parents pick that place? Because it was close to where my dad worked and my parents got a deal on it.
I remember Hitler on German stamps.
I remember God — Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.
I remember William E. Miller.
I remember an Olds 98 with electric windows. (Belonged to a friend’s father.)
I remember the “collegiate” look: V-neck sweater — preferably cranberry — with Levi’s and penny loafers.
I remember Larry Zeidel, a Jew who played for the Cleveland Barons (hockey). Also, forward Art Stratton — not a Jew.
I remember my SAT scores, which I’m not going to tell. However, I will mention Steinman’s scores: 487 Verbal, 789 Math. He became a successful CPA who never read a book.
I remember my dorm floor was the “dope floor.” (The other guys were the dopers.)
I remember “Rap-in Tonight, Lounge, SDS.” Also had rap-ins with Peanuts’ Charles Schulz (via telephone), Madalyn Murray the atheist (phone), Gen. Curtis LeMay (phone), and the Campus Crusade for Christ (in person).
I remember “Let’s split.” I’m splitting.
Click here for more “I Remember” (a rerun).
Steinman is a pseudonym.
Yiddishe Cup plays on the lawn at John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio, 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 13. Free. And don’t forget, free ice cream. Indoors if raining.
August 5, 2015 7 Comments
I got a certified letter saying Yiddishe Cup’s checking account was terminated.
Shutting me down after 19 years? For what?
“Due to continuing regulatory requirements associated with the corresponding bank account, Huntington Bank is closing all checking and saving accounts in the name of YIDDISHE CUP KLEZMER BANK.”
How would my bandmates get paid? Should I move my checking account to PNC? I can’t go to a place that is initials. CVS is bad enough (for aspirin).
I went to the Huntington branch and talked to a senior banker, Dave. I thought he was the head cheese. Dave read my certified letter and sent me over to Sam, the real senior banker, who had a secluded office in the rear of the bank.
Sam was black. I said to him, “I got to tell you, I remember it like yesterday, I started this account and the banker was Ervin Mason, a black guy in his twenties, and he knew what klezmer was. He had heard of Don Byron. Do you know what klezmer is?”
“No,” Sam said.
“Erv knew! Let’s call him right now and see if he remembers me. Is he still at Huntington?” (Sam checked. Erv was gone.) “Back then,” I said, “Huntington misprinted my checks as Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank. I kept the Bank as a joke. So maybe that has something to do with this mix up. ”
Sam then called Jared, a commercial portfolio manager in Columbus. Jared said Yiddishe Cup was listed as a “financial institution.” “That’s the problem,” Sam said. “We thought you were a bank. You’d have more money in your account if you were a real bank!”
“We got that squared,” Sam said.
I hope so.
July 29, 2015 4 Comments
I am not a slave to my possessions. I don’t collect. You can have anything I have. (Exception: my Sharpie retractable markers.) A Yiddishe Cup musician once told he looks forward to his next purchase. He’s so off-base!
Take my stemware, please. Crystalware means nothing to me. (I’m hostile toward glass because my mother made me “dry” too often.) I accidentally broke a glass at a dinner party while cleaning up. My wife said I should pay the host $30 for the glass. No way!
This card also is important to me (and you can’t have it):
Anything else is yours.
One more thing, you can’t have my musical instruments. (And I reserve the right to revise this list.)
July 22, 2015 5 Comments
1964 . . .
Maybe I should buy Canoe for Stone’s bar mitzvah. No, I think I’ll go with a proof set.
The guys outside the Coin Shop at Cedar Center are sharp dressers. Schwartz has a built-in watch in his ID bracelet. Levin is twitching — a nervous thing. Stern has a heart murmur. The Twitch says, “I wish Cotton was a monkey.” That’s from the Little Rascals. Schwartz asks if I’m going to Stone’s bar mitzvah.
Yes, I’m going, but I’m not dancing at the bar mitzvah!
Proof set? I don’t know. BU set? (Brilliant uncirculated.)
I don’t want to go.
This is half-true fiction.
I wrote “At Harvey Pekar’s Pad” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/12/15).
July 15, 2015 4 Comments
My dad had a cosmetics franchise similar to Mary Kay. It was Ovation of California. My mother went to Los Angeles to learn more about it, and when she returned, she dumped a box of cosmetics onto the dining room table. My sister got the cosmetics, and I got a shoehorn from the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel.
My sister held up her diary. “Look what your darling son did to my diary while you were gone,” she said. I had cut the lock off her diary. Big deal.
“I apologized,” I said. (I was researching petting — as Ann Landers called making out. I was 13, my sister was 16. I thought she had some info.)
My mother said, “So you tore open your sister’s diary?”
“I’m sorry.” I bought my sister a new diary.
One more crime: my father put a bottle of Ovation cleansing cream in the bathroom and made me use it. I was supposed to rub the cleanser on my forehead with a cotton ball. “This is no gimmick,” he said. “Men use it.” My dad tried to turn me into a metrosexual! The franchise went under in a year.
Yiddishe Cup plays 6:30 pm Sun. (July 12) in Granville, Ohio (near Columbus). More info here.
July 8, 2015 6 Comments
These are my Greatest Hits (letters) to tenants:
1. Dear Tenant, The building manager heard you yelling, “I’m a porno star and a sex machine,” out your window. This isn’t the only time this has occurred.
2. Dear Tenant, You flicked 20-to-30 cigarette butts out your window. Some of these butts landed on cars and left burn marks. This must stop!
3. Dear Tenant, You got in a fight with a female in your apartment and tore the door jamb off. Also, you have slipped unsolicited notes under the door of other tenants. That can be construed as sexual harassment, depending on the content of the notes. You are a self-described drunk. That, too, won’t do here — at least outside your apartment.
4. Dear Tenant, There was very loud recorded music coming from your suite between 3-5 a.m. That’s when people sleep. You aren’t living in a dormitory.
5. Dear Tenant, You were incessantly buzzing a neighbor’s entry buzzer, banging on a neighbor’s back door, and banging on your ceiling. You phoned me and said a neighbor’s cat was annoying you by running across your ceiling. Tenants are allowed to have cats. The tenants pay extra for cats.
6. Dear Tenant, The hallway smells outside your apartment. You need to clean up immediately.
7. Dear Tenant, you and a female visitor were drunk and screaming in the parking lot. She lay down on the ground. She could have gotten killed.
8. Dear Tenant, You disturbed other tenants’ sleep at 3 a.m. by loud talking, running through the halls, and kicking on the locked door. Three tenants complained. Three — that’s serious. Please understand, this building is not party central.
July 1, 2015 5 Comments
My father wore a hearing aid from age 50-on. He went to a hearing expert, William Lippy in Warren, Ohio, for stapedectomy surgery, but the surgery didn’t help.
My dad missed nuances because of his poor hearing. For instance, I would say, “Haney [a custodian] is burning some shit in the incinerator. The firemen told him not to.”
My dad would answer, “A lady is learning what?”
I repeated it slower. My dad would say, “Now you’re starting to tell me something!”
My father liked to give advice, maybe because he didn’t hear advice. He spoke very deliberately. He was like Sevareid. My dad’s main advice was “Look out for yourself, no one else will.” Bill, a tenant, ran a beauty parlor; my dad said to him, “I’m only looking out for myself, Bill. You’re just giving me a two-percent CPI increase.” (Bill was trying to low-ball a renewal figure on his beauty parlor lease.)
Bill said, “You don’t have to tell me about looking out for myself. I own a rental condo.” Store tenants frequently owned residential rental property on the side, like double houses or condos by the lake.
“There is nothing short of outright speculation that will equal real estate,” my dad said. “There are unmerciful and countless forces arrayed against us.”
The quote “There is nothing short of outright speculation that will equal real estate . . .” is out of context here; my dad didn’t say it to Bill. My dad wrote it in an unpublished manuscript. More on that some other time.
I wrote a good article about my father for the latest Belt Mag.
Come to Cain Park (Cleveland Heights) Sunday (June 28) at 7 p.m. for a free klezmer concert. Evans Amphitheater. No tix necessary. Yiddishe Cup plays the second half of the show. The first half is Steven Greenman and Lori Cahan-Simon. The 37th Annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert.
June 24, 2015 1 Comment
Howard the laundry-machine guy said I had a yiddishe kup. Thanks. Howard rented me coin-op washers and dryers.
Howard had never heard of Yiddishe Cup. What, a Cleveland Jew who has never heard of Yiddishe Cup? “But I’ll see you guys soon!” Laundry guys will say anything.
I once got a check from a coin-op company in Plainview, New York; their Cleveland rep told me, “We’re a local company.” The Plainview company was owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Somebody in Scotland was pocketing quarters from my buildings’ laundry rooms.
Howard the laundry guy had bona fides: 1) He had gone to my high school. 2) “I got in a lot of fights with the Italians there.” 3) His father had been in Auschwitz. 4) “Jewish geography is my favorite subject.” All pluses.
I said, “I don’t trust you.”
“I don’t blame you,” he said.
I hope to trust him.
Continue if you’re interested in laundry contracts . . . There was a classic screw-the-landlord lease (yes, there is such a thing) written by a Chicago law firm. (Always referred to as the “Chicago lease” by Cleveland landlords.) In clause #5 of the lease, the coin-op company had the “right of first refusal,” which meant the company could match any new bid or supplier the landlord came up with. In other words, the old laundry company could remain the landlord’s supplier for life. It was like indentured servitude. The headline for the infamous clause #5 was not “right of first refusal,” which would have been OK, but the very misleading header “exclusive laundry equipment,” which made no sense. And in very small type too.
Come to Cain Park (Cleveland Heights) 7 p.m. Sun., June 28, for a free klezmer concert in the Evans Amphitheater. No tix necessary. It’s Yiddishe Cup plus Steven Greenman, Lori Cahan-Simon and Shawn Fink. And don’t forget Yiddishe Cup’s newest singer: Tamar Gray. Klez from Kleveland: The 37th Annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert in the Park.
I had an op-ed, “Don’t Go to Music School,” in the New York Times on Saturday (June 13). Check out the comments section.
June 17, 2015 3 Comments
Here’s a popular Vulfpeck video. Jack is the guitarist in the red-and-white striped shirt.
Here’s the Vulfpeck Website.
Here’s Vulf’s Facebook page (with concert dates).
The new Apple iPhone 6 commercial, with Vulfpeck’s tune “The Birdwatcher,” is here:
Nobody — and that includes the New York Times — covers the klezmer/landlord scene like this blog. Please subscribe. (See right-hand column.)
Lastly, a father-son moment . . .
June 12, 2015 6 Comments
I sell nautical flags, banners, buntings and American flags. My busy season is Memorial Day through July 4. By the way, Flag Day is Sunday.
My dream is that Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state. Another state would be good for the flag business.
I have a quiz question for you: What are the five most-recent states? A lot of people, I bet, can name the four newest states, but few people know the fifth most-recent state.
For the answer, please see the comments section.
[btw, I don’t sell flags. This post is a fake profile.]
Yiddishe Cup plays the annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish concert at Cain Park, Cleveland Hts, 7 p.m. Sunday, June 28. No tix necessary. Just show up. Evans Amphitheater. We’re doing a mash up of The Temptations and Fiddler on the Roof. Other acts that night are Steven Greenman and Lori Cahan-Simon.
June 10, 2015 3 Comments
I knew a Cleveland comedian who moved to Florida and did impressions of Joan Rivers and Carol Channing, and even affected a New York accent. She did OK on the condo circuit. She and Yiddishe Cup shared the same booker, Suntan Stu, in Florida. The first time Stu phoned me, he said, “Vos machst du, man?” (How’s it going, man?)
“Remind me, Stu, how did you hear about my band?”
“When a band is as good as Yiddishe Cup, the word gets around!”
I lost $900 because of Stu. He “booked” us at a Florida showcase (a talent show for bands) that never happened. I paid airplane cancellation fees. Stu’s website said he had worked with America’s biggest stars: Dolly Parton, Johnny Mathis and the Bee Gees.
Why did I fall for Stu’s line? (Probably because I thought Stu would get Yiddishe Cup a lot of gigs.) We got gornisht. “Vos machst du, man?” Next time somebody says that to you, run.
Check out the Schmotown Revue tonight (7-9 p.m Wed., June 3) at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights. Outdoors if the weather is good; indoors if raining. Soul music and klezmer.
June 3, 2015 5 Comments
The book Dave Tarras: The King of Klezmer is 37 pages. Big pages: 8 ½” X 14″. Tarras played clarinet in the Catskills and brought his wife to the “mountains.” He owned a house in Brooklyn. He wore a suit a lot. He was very talented. Here are two representative sentences from the book: 1) “’I admired my grandfather and loved to spend some time in the mountains [with him],’ said Marc Tarras, grandson and doctor.” 2) “Dave was a very funny guy and had a great sense of humor.”
Naftule Brandwein — another great klezmer clarinetist — drank heavily, hung around mobsters, and supposedly almost electrocuted himself with a lightbulb-festooned suit. I think a bio of Brandwein would be longer than 37 pages.
Check out the Schmotown Revue next Wednesday (7-9 p.m, June 3) at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights. Outdoors if the weather is good; indoors if raining. Soul music and klezmer.
May 27, 2015 6 Comments
I published a literary magazine, Crossroad, in Cleveland in 1939. Ruth Seid (aka Jo Sinclair), the novelist, wrote for me, as did Chester Himes. Chester was just out of the Ohio Penitentiary. Sidney Vincent also wrote. Sid eventually worked at the Jewish Federation. I had a couple professors from Cleveland College, too.
Chester Himes is now best-known for If He Hollers Let Him Go, published in 1945. As for Ruth Seid, she was discovered in the 1980s by the lesbian literary scene. I didn’t know Ruth was gay. I didn’t know a lot in 1939.
When Hitler and Stalin signed the non-aggression pact, Chester left the Communist Party. I followed right after that. Then I was drafted and sent to the Pacific.
After the war, I sold plumbing supplies for my father-in-law in Cleveland. Chester moved to Paris, and Ruth became a gardener in Geauga County.
The Crossroad era is just between you and me, OK?
WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG
Every year I thank the major commenters to this blog. I could do Klezmer Guy without comments, but it wouldn’t be as interesting.
David Korn, Dave Rowe, Irwin Weinberger, Mimi Harris and Don Friedman.
An extra gracias to Ken Goldberg and Mark Schilling. They crank out comments in bulk — always insightful, inciting and/or stupid.
Lastly, thanks to bloggie illustrator Ralph Solonitz, the best and cleverest drawer around. Here’s an old post about Ralph and his motorcycle.
May 20, 2015 3 Comments
My son Ted parked his car at the Brookpark RTA lot and flew to Las Vegas. The RTA lot was cheaper than the 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 while.
My son’s Ford Focus, a 2007, 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.”
The next day I drove Ted’s car to the Lusty Wrench in Cleveland Heights. Sam Bell, the repair-shop owner, 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 was serviceable, he proclaimed.
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.
This post first appeared at CoolCleveland.com 5/15/13.
Here’s something new . . .
You dislike yourself for several very good reasons:
- You fist-bump too much. That is so childish. Shake hands!
- You have tiny cracks in your fingers that irritate others. Try fist-bumping.
- You are not 25, so act your age.
- Your sexuality is questionable.
- Cut back on the Facebook postings. Three a day is
- Don’t be so jittery.
- Move to a log cabin. Or else go to an airport lounge with your laptop and iPhone, and live there for a week.
- Doodle more.
- Recalculating . . . ignore this.
May 13, 2015 3 Comments
Always mark the date. Here is what I’ve learned from marking dates:
Jogging shoes last 6 months.
Bathing suits, 3 years.
Eyeglasses, 6 years.
Stoves, 25 years.
Dishwashers, 18 years (a good dishwasher). [Dang, my 5-year-old KitchenAid — a good brand — is out cold today. Won’t start.]
Refrigerators — a good one, 25 years. (Frigidaire brand, 10 years.)
Battery for a Shark vacuum cleaner, 8 months.
Screw-in fluorescent bulbs. They do not last anywhere near the claimed 5-to-7 years. Try 2 years.
I had a Hardwick gas stove at a rental property for 36 years. The stove was made in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1974, junked in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010. The broiler door fell apart. The stove top still worked.
P.S. I have information on the “useful life” of condensate pumps, hot water tanks and boilers, too. Spare me, you say. OK.
Irwin Weinberger and I play at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights, 7-9 p.m. next Wed.,May 13. Be there! We’ll play jazz standards and some klezmer.
May 6, 2015 7 Comments
In a country-club locker room, an old man asked me, “How was it?”
“How was what? I survived — whatever it was,” I said.
“Good! What’s your field, chap?”
“My field? Real estate and writing.” For some reason I didn’t say music.
“I bet you like the writing best.”
“You got that right. My name is Bert Stratton. What’s yours?”
“We’re relatives,” I said.
“I could tell by the cut of your jib.”
“What’s your field?” I asked.
“Where did you go to school?” he asked.
“Yes. What about you?”
“King’s Point, the Merchant Marine Academy. Then NYU. I was in Japan and Korea, and Iran, and then throughout the Middle East. The colonel like my loquacious manner.”
I turned to go. “Nice meeting you, Mr. Stratton-Crooke.”
“I’m Stratton, but I’m not a crook,” I said.
“Neither am I.”
April 29, 2015 5 Comments
1. Theory has nothing to do with Yiddishe Cup.
2. Yiddishe Cup does not play it safe. We take chances and, yes, we occasionally screw up. Do you know how hard it is to make semi-decent music?
3. Musicians need encouragement, not criticism.
4. We don’t use fake books.
5. We listen, then lock in.
6. Pyrotechnics are OK with us.
8. Feelings are always appropriate. The down side is we often feel hurt and abused.
9. We are chatty.
10. Our X-axis is comedy; our Y, tragedy. Plot it.
Yiddishe Cup plays the community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebration 5:30-7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs. April 23) at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Hts.
April 22, 2015 3 Comments