Sam and Frank – Cleveland cops — grew up on E. 79th Street and St. Clair Avenue.
Sam said, “I’m going to have a silver wedding anniversary and invite my three ex-wives.”
Frank said, “If you and the commander — plus your exes — get together, you’ll need the FOP Hall.”
Frank said, “I remember when you were an old man.” (Frank was 37; Sam, 47.)
Sam said, “I’ve got 1139 days left.”
Frank said, “We’ve got to make you a short-timer’s calendar. I had one in the service with the finger on it.”
Sam and Frank, on a drug sweep, rolled down St. Clair Avenue, Collinwood, in a junker at 1 a.m.
Sam said, “Where did we get this piece-of-shit car?”
Frank said, “Mentor.”
“Where in Mentor?
“At the flea market.”
At Pepper Avenue and 140th Street, Sam said, “He’s moving. That car is moving. Let’s catch him dirty while he’s rolling.”
Sam threw the guy up against the car hood. He was dirty; he had a joint on him.
Frank said, “Let him go. Let’s go to Mandalay [playground] and get some white guys.”
Here is the annual “inside baseball” post. Your name might be in here . . .
We interrupt this blog to tell you this blog is four years old.
First off, thanks to the major comment writers.
Charlie B, Ben Cohen, David Korn, Jack Valancy, Ari Davidow and B Katz . . .
Special thanks to Ralph Solonitz. I encourage him to draw as many pics as possible. Works out well. I met Ralph about 22 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo. That’s still your best logo, Ralph.
I have an essay, “Renting the American Dream,” in the latest City Journal, which will be online soon. Also, CoolCleveland.com runs Klezmer Guy blurts regularly. Here’s a blurt (Carma) from today’s CoolCle. My older son left his car at the Rapid Transit parking lot for two months. Check the story out. It’s funny.
Please see the “categories” listing on the right side of this blog. I recently added a new category, 13 BEST POSTS, as judged by me.
“Categories” is also a good place to read 78 posts in a row about real estate. Spend a couple weeks reading archived posts!
No doubt I could increase my comments tally by writing “thanks” or “hi” after every comment. But I have standards.
And they are low. When I stumble upon a new blog, I immediately read the posts with the most comments and feel guilty about that.
The bell rings, round five.
I wrote Carma for today’s CoolClevelandcom e-blast.
May 15, 2013 No Comments
The cops at the Sixth District police station in Cleveland considered me a hippie spy from the Heights. But when I told the cops I was a Seiger (“My uncle owned Seiger’s Restaurant on E.118th and Kinsman”), the cops warmed up to me. The cops — the older ones, the bosses — all knew Seiger’s Restaurant.
Seiger’s Restaurant was a Damon Runyon casting hall on Kinsman Road. All manner of hustlers, cops, businessmen and shnorers (beggars) hung out there. The shnorers were Orthodox Jewish tzedakah (charity) collectors who had their own booth in the back.
My Great Aunt Lil Seiger served the shnorers kosher food from her apartment, which was at the back of the store. The shnorers wouldn’t eat the non-kosher food from the restaurant. The deli was kosher-style, not kosher. “We served the rabonim [the rabbis] on special china and silverware, milchig [dairy]’,” Lil’s son Danny said.
Rabonim – and cops — ate well at Seiger’s. Nobody ever got a ticket for an expired parking meter, and sometimes cars were parked two-lanes deep on Kinsman. “I couldn’t even spend a nickel in Seiger’s,” retired cop Bill Tofant said.
Itchy Seiger, my great uncle, was the owner and chief kibitzer (glad-handler/talker). He had been a cloak maker in Galicia, Austria-Hungary. Itchy was the greeter. Aunt Lil did the cooking, except the breads and strudels, which she bought.
There was a party room, seating about 65, in the basement. The matchbooks read: “Seiger’s Restaurant, Delicatessen, Barroom and Rathskeller.”
I didn’t go to Seiger’s Restaurant often. My parents didn’t think Kinsman was the right direction for a Sunday drive. More often we wound up out east — the other direction — at the Metroparks.
Danny — my cousin – started showing up at Yiddishe Cup gigs in the 2000s. I asked him about the mini-feud between his father (my Uncle Itchy) and my grandmother, Anna Soltzberg (nee Seiger). Itchy and Anna had been half-siblings. (Enough with the genealogy, Klezmer Guy!) Danny said Itchy and Anna had had two things in common: sugar diabetes and iron wills.
My grandmother’s candy store — near Itchy’s deli on Kinsman — had frequently been “oyf tsoris” (badly off), and Itchy rescued it, Danny said.
“Everybody loved Itchy,” Danny said. Everybody but my grandmother, who complained about Itchy’s buy-out terms on her store. Later, my grandmother opened a candy store further east on Kinsman, near Shaker Heights.
“At the restaurant, there were two brothers, the Schoolers,” Danny said. “One, Joe, wanted a soft matzo ball. The other, Morty, wanted a matzo ball as hard as a baseball. Ma made both kinds. That’s how we thrived.”
Somebody should take Danny, age 80, and a video camera for a stroll down Kinsman. Walk Danny through the old neighborhood and into Seiger’s, which was recently a soul food restaurant. (Today it’s boarded up.)
Danny: “This is where Ma made the mish-mash soup. She gave the recipe to Corky & Lenny’s. This is the counter where Jim Brown bounced a $10 check. I should have saved it for the autograph. This is where Oscar Schmaltz downed an industrial canister of soup. Oscar weighed 400.”
Footnote: Seiger’s is pronounced Sigh-ger’s (rhymes with High-gers) by Jews, and See-ger’s by cops. Seiger’s closed in 1968.
For relatives only . . . family photo above, taken at the shiva for Toby Stratton’s mother, Anna Soltzberg.
On floor, from L: Bert Stratton, sister Leslie
Middle: Aunt Lil Soltzberg of Washington; unnamed woman who divorced out of the family; Aunt Pearl Bregman; Great Aunt Molly Mittman; Audrey Seiger.
Top: Uncle Milty Soltzberg, Toby Stratton, Julia Stratton, Uncle Sol Soltzberg, Great Uncle Sam Mittman, Aunt Lil Soltzberg of Delaware, Great Uncle Itchy Seiger, Danny Seiger.
(Sol Soltzberg, Milty Soltzberg, Pearl Bregman and Toby Stratton were siblings.)
May 8, 2013 7 Comments
My father, Toby, had about 15 pairs of shoes when he died. I didn’t take any of his shoes, even though he and I 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. White shoes, definitely.
I’m more sensible about shoes — a habit picked up from my mom. I like SAS shoes, which my mother told me about. She needed solid shoes when she got Parkinson’s disease. “SAS” stands for San Antonio Shoes.
When my then-20-year-old, fashionable daughter studied abroad in Barcelona, she said I couldn’t visit her if I wore tennis shoes or a fanny pack. My SAS shoes were an excellent substitute for tennis shoes in Europe.
I never did figure out a good way around the “no fanny pack” rule.
My dad wore Purcells abroad. He didn’t let his children tell him what to wear.
II. PURCELLS AGAIN
My grandfather was hit by a May Co. truck in 1924. The doctors put a metal plate in his head. After that, he just hung around the pool hall on Kinsman Road.
Years later, my great aunt told me, “If they had given out prize money for playing pool, like they do now, Louie would have been a millionaire.”
Louis “Louie” Soltzberg — my father’s dad.
My dad, Toby, didn’t play pool. He played ping pong. My dad wasn’t a pool hall–type guy. My dad once entered a ping-pong tournament at Danny Vegh’s club and got creamed by a Hungarian. After that, my father played only in our basement with friends.
My father was pretty good at several sports. For one thing, he was a fast runner. He took me to the Arena for the annual Knights of Columbus track meet. I looked for “Ohio State” and “Michigan” jerseys and came up with “Seton Hall,” “Holy Cross” and “Villanova.” Were those real colleges?
My dad and I often played tennis together. No pool.
My dad would hit balls with me after work. He would say, “Racquet back. Hit it now. Racquet back, hit it now.” He was a color man with no color. He wore Bermuda shorts and Jack Purcells, and often no shirt. That was appropriate attire for tennis in the 1960s, at least at the public courts in South Euclid, Ohio.
I didn’t appreciate the tennis instruction from my dad. I moped on the court. I should have hustled.
There were no other dads out there.
I should have hustled more.
Part I (above ) is also a Klezmer Guy movie, originally posted July 11, 2011.
Here’s a new Jack Stratton vid . . .
May 1, 2013 No Comments
I got a certified letter from my bank saying Yiddishe Cup’s checking account was being shut down. The bank was closing it after 19 years. For what?
How were my musicians going to get paid?
Would I have to move my bank account to PNC? I can’t bank at a place that is just initials. Or Key Bank –- which is nowhere near where I live.
I was shut down for this: “Due to continuing regulatory requirements associated with the correspondent bank account, Huntington is closing all checking and saving accounts in the name of YIDDISHE CUP KLEZMER BANK.”
Wait a minute. What’s that mean?
I walked to my Huntington branch and sat down with Dave. I thought he was the branch manager. He read the certified letter and sent me to Sam, the actual branch manager.
Sam had a private office at the back of the bank. I didn’t know it existed. Sam was black. Relevant. I said, “I have to tell you this, because I remember this like yesterday — I started this account back in 1994, 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!” I said. “It was mind-boggling. Klezmer is similar to gypsy music, with violins and clarinets. It’s Jewish folk music. Let’s call Erv right now. You think he’s still with Huntington?”
Erv wasn’t with Huntington. Sam checked the roster.
“Sam, back then, Huntington misprinted my checks as Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank instead of Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band. So maybe that’s the cause of the screw-up today. I still use Klezmer Bank checks. My musicians think they’re funny.”
Sam called Jared, a commercial banker at HQ in Columbus, Ohio.
Jared got right to the matter: “You’re listed as a bank, as a ‘financial institution.’ That’s the problem.”
Sam said, “Yiddishe Cup would have more money in its account if it was a real bank!”
“True,” I said.
Sam hung up with Jared and said, “We got it squared away.”
I hope so. Squared away.
Good to go.
I hope so.
It’s the bank’s fault, guys. My musicians wouldn’t like to hear that.
Tonight, the Klezmer Guy trio is at Nighttown, Cleveland, 7 p.m. (Tues. April 23). $10. 216-795-0550. Here’s a good preview article by Carlo Wolff about the show, from Friday’s Cleveland Jewish News.
Next week’s Kezmer Guy post will be on Wednesday morning, as usual.
April 23, 2013 3 Comments
I live near two large Amish settlements — Middlefield, Ohio and Holmes County, Ohio. I know some of the differences between the various Amish sects. Some Amish use battery-powered lights on their buggies. Some don’t. Some use the triangular orange “slow vehicle” sign, some don’t.
I’ve only been around Amish and Jews once. I saw an Amish man in the lobby of Green Road Synagogue — an Orthodox synagogue in Cleveland. I said to myself, “I’m wrong.”
This “Amish“ guy was probably a hipster Jew trying to look Amish, with a wide-brim hat, beard, no mustache and a vest. Like Solzhenitsyn.
I saw 15 Amish women in blue dresses and white bonnets come out of the kitchen. They carried parfaits on trays.
Then I saw a horse and buggy at the side door. (How does a horse and buggy get to suburban Beachwood? By truck.)
Solzhenitsyn stacked bales of hay in the temple lobby and brought in chickens. He was John, an Amish from Middlefield, and he worked for an Orthodox Jew who owned a mattress factory and was hosting a sheva brochas (post-wedding dinner). Yiddishe Cup played the dinner. We played our usual repertoire of Yiddish, Hebrew and klezmer. I asked the Amish buggy driver what he thought of the music. He said, “It sounds like Mozart.” Maybe because of the violin?
The man stacking the hay said some Amish in Ohio play harmonica — the 10-hole diatonic model. “That’s all, for instruments,” he said. “Other instruments [like flute, guitar] might lead to forming a band.” A Jewish joke?
The rabbi jokingly asked if Yiddishe Cup knew any Amish songs. We tried “Amazing Grace.” Probably a first for Green Road Synagogue. The Amish liked the song. We also played a Yiddish vocal, “Di Grine Kusine” (The Greenhorn Cousin), which the Amish didn’t seem to go for. I thought they would like our Yiddish repertoire, since the Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch.
Now I know: go easy on the Yiddish at Amish-Jewish parties.
The Klezmer Guy trio plays Nighttown, Cleveland Hts., 7 p.m. Tues., April 23. $10. Play it safe and make a res: 216-795-0550.
An evening of social commentary, plumbing tips, and song. As if Garrison Keillor was raised on pastrami.
Alan Douglass, piano and vocals; Bert Stratton, clarinet and prose; Tamar Gray, vocals . . .
Next week “Klezmer Guy” posts up on Tuesday (April 23) instead of Wednesday. Just so I can remind you one more time about the April 23 Nighttown gig.
Mazel Tov to Sen. Jack Stratton (I-Calif.) for reaching his goal on Kickstarter. His band, Vulfpeck, hit the mark today.
Jack the Tummler . . .
April 17, 2013 1 Comment
Brittany, a tenant, said she saw five rats in her kitchen. She hightailed it to her parents’ house in Sandusky, Ohio, and called me. “I’m tired,” she said. “I have to drive in from Sandusky now every day for work.”
“You saw five rats at once?” I said.
“Yes. Your custodian said they were rats,” she said.
“They were probably mice,” I said. I also told her to take $200 off her rent, and we would bring in a professional exterminator.
She said the rats crawled in her bed.
I paid the exterminator $102. He sealed the apartment with caulk and put in mouse traps that looked like miniature tinted-glass limos. Mice crawled into the limos and died. The mice were ready for the mouse funeral parlor.
Brittany showed me a cell phone pic, taken in her kitchen, of a dead rat.
I said, “Mouse.”
“That’s a rat,” she said.
I’ve seen maybe 50 trapped mice and two trapped rats. Rats are much bigger than mice. Rats rip things up. They’re like raccoons in your kitchen. Rats rip bags to shreds. Rats eat through concrete.
“You had a mouse,” I said.
“Please don’t say rats,” I said.
She moved out.
Drug Mart has a new mouse trap with an extra-wide feeding plate. I’m not sure it’s a better mouse trap; I haven’t bought one.
My favorite traps are traditional spring-loaded Victors, from Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Drug Mart was out of Victors. I got the Chinese knock-offs. The instructions on the Chinese traps read: Ne pas mettre les doigts dans la trappe. Drug Mart must have gotten the traps from a Canadian buyout. Recommended bait: fromage, saucisson, jambon, beurre de cachuetes. I figured all that out, except saucisson.
I looked up saucisson: French hard salami.
Mice live well in Canada.
I don’t blame my tenant, Brittany, for moving out. A rodent — a mouse or rat –- crawling in your bed is serious. Rodents should stay in the kitchen, where they belong.
This will take your mind off rats.
A Yiddishe Cup musician sent this pic from a gig to his friends. (My sidemen are always taking pictures.)
The pic was murky and scary. The musician captioned the photo: “Wildest gig ever. Upside-down acrobat pouring champagne for the guests.”
Another musician – not at the gig – wrote back: “Wild Gig? What did I miss!”
The absent musician missed the upside-down acrobat. Compared to a bar mitzvah, it was a wild gig.
The event was a fundraiser for a community college.
Not salacious enough for you. Right.
Yiddishe Cup plays 6:15-7:45 p.m Mon., April 15, at Landerhaven for Cleveland’s community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. Free. David Broza is on at 8 p.m.
The Klezmer Guy trio plays 7 p.m. Tues., April 23, at Nighttown, Cleveland Hts. $10. More info here.
April 10, 2013 1 Comment
I was somewhat stylish in seventh and eight grades. I shopped at Mister Jr.’s and Skall’s Men’s Wear at Cedar Center shopping center. After eighth grade, I gave up. I couldn’t cut it — shopping and fashion.
My dad had a friend who sold the Farah pants line in Cleveland. I liked Farah, but Farah wasn’t fashionable. Nice feel, but not too cool. Lee –- the brand — was cool. Farah was part of the Continental look — the greaser look. Iridescent sharkskin.
Italians clung to the Continental look for years. Jews got out of it quickly and moved to the “collegiate” look – Lee’s. Like colored jeans. This hurt Farah.
Ben Skall, an old guy, owned Skall’s Men’s Wear. He became a state senator. I had to give up white socks to enter Skall’s world; I bought black socks with gray rings around the top (Adler brand).
Sam McDowell and Hawk Harrelson shopped at Skall’s.
I didn’t quite make the in-crowd at school. I made the in-between crowd. My problem (one of them): I came from a hick elementary school –- a place with plenty shark-skinned Italians and few Jews. When I arrived at junior high, I noticed right off half the school was yiddlach, and these kids were by and large “fast,” and they could dress, and they could “mock you out” if you dressed wrong. I had no idea what to wear! I had a spread-shirt collar. That was verboten. It had to be button down. I went to Skall’s.
I wore a fisherman’s knit sweater my mom made. Homemade was verboten too, but a girl complimented me, so I kept wearing the sweater. “Nice sweater,” she said. (If she had said “Nice sweater” — accent on the “nice” — that would have been a putdown.) Home run. Thanks, Mom.
I bought a shirt jac and light blue denim pants. The shirt jac didn’t tuck in.
Shoes: Pedwin loafers — black, cordovan, or olive green. Choose one. Cordovan was M.O.R. (middle of the road).
I bought Levi’s – not Lee – jeans. Cream-colored. Not blue jeans. Blue jeans weren’t permitted at my junior high.
The rules about clothes and fashion confounded me for several years. For instance, shirts could have box patterns, but not big boxes. If you wore a box pattern the size of a checker board, you were dead. I avoided box patterns and wore striped shirts — always appropriate.
One more thing . . . sweaters: Alpaca was the anchor of the Continental look. Alpaca sweaters were itchy and very Italian. The comfy V-neck sweater was the collegiate look. I had a gold V-neck called Summer Wheat. (Like my cereal, which is Autumn Wheat.)
I dropped out of the fashion whirl about ninth grade. I hung out mostly with nerds. “Nerds” wasn’t even a word. Neither was “geek.”
Dufuses? Dips? We were anti-social and afraid of girls. We were hopeless, so why shop?
This is ancient history.
What about knickers?
Footnote: Greasers were called “racks” at my school. Derived from “racketeers,” I think.
Click here for more on the guys I went to school with [a Klezmer Guy rerun, from 11/30/11].
And please read the info below this illustration.
The Klezmer Guy trio plays Nighttown, Cleveland Hts., 7 p.m. Tues., April 23. $10.
Alan Douglass, keyboard and vocals, Bert Stratton, clarinet and prose; and Tamar Gray, mostly singing Motown vocals.
Tamar Gray’s uncle is Slide Hampton, the jazz trombone player. Tamar’s brother is Pharez Whitted, a Chicago jazz trumpeter. Tamar’s mother was part of the Hampton Sisters of Indiana. In other words, Tamar has yikhes (musical lineage).
Speaking of yikhes (and nepotism), Jack Stratton is 75% of the way toward reaching his latest Kickstarter goal. Check out his Kickstarter project here. It’s about Vulfpeck, Jack’s German-Jewish band.
April 3, 2013 4 Comments
Yiddishe Cup calls its act “neo-Borscht Belt klezmer comedy.” That’s been done before – the Borscht Belt schtick. For starters, about 60 years ago.
Yiddishe Cup can fill a golden age center in Miami. Then what? Take it on the road to the Bronx Hebrew Home for the Aged. Then return to Miami and stay there. And don’t forget your meds, guys. You’re not getting any younger.
Has Yiddishe Cup ever toured for weeks, developing a solid groove, establishing decent ensemble chops?
On weekends the band collects inflatable guitars at bar mitzvahs, eats baked salmon, and watches “reflections” videos.
Does Yiddishe Cup research old Yiddish tunes at YIVO? Does anybody in Yiddishe Cup know where YIVO is? [New York.] Or what YIVO means? Does anybody? [Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut.]
One more thing: dynamics. Ever heard that word, Yiddishe Cup?
Klez bandleaders, please submit your recordings for review here. You have nothing to gain.
This post is a rerun (from 4/20/11). No, I’m not running out of material. I just like this one. Happy Passover.
NOT A PASSOVER STORY
Bialy’s Bagels in University Heights, Ohio, was my bagel supplier for years. I would go swimming; go to Bialy’s and buy 15 bagels; eat two; drive to my mother’s; give her three; and take the rest home.
I was on a bagel diet. I thought eating sesame and poppy seed bagels was a smart weight-control maneuver.
My back-up bagel purveyor was Amster’s at Cedar Center. The counter woman there, Marilyn Weiss, volunteered for school levies, racial integration projects, and did a ton of schlep work at my shul. Amster’s was all about Marilyn’s personality. Unfortunately she died in 2000, and the place closed a few years later.
I also went to Better — as in “Better Bagel” — on Taylor Road. The owners were New Yorkers who wore yarmulkes and Brooklyn Dodgers shirts. I figured they knew bagels.
They didn’t. Their bagels were too doughy and not crispy enough on the outside. Better Bagel eventually changed its name to Brooklyn Bagel.
Go to Bialy’s. If Bialy’s ever closes, we’re in bagel trouble in Cleveland.
March 27, 2013 7 Comments
I was out of my skull. I broke into boxcars and unloaded Cutty Sark, golf balls and tires. On a bad night, tennis shoes.
I had tin snips that cut right through corrugated steel roofs.
This was several years ago. Now I’m retired and live a fairly quiet life. I’d rather not say where.
I belong to no clubs and don’t go out. I watch sports on TV. I have an intense appetite for the Browns, Indians, sausage and hash browns.
I never got married. I should have. There was this gal in the 1970s — Roz Falk. She loved me, but I wasn’t ready. I was 45. Schmuck! Me.
I was in the Marines. A lot of people don’t know that. I couldn’t stand it. I was in for six months. Semper Fidelis was plain bullshit to me. Latin bullshit.
You ever notice how Italians use that kind of bullshit language? It’s very big with them. If you’re Italian, you’re better than the next guy. You can be the biggest, dumbest fuck on two feet, but if you’re Italian, you’re it.
I have enough spaghetti and wine in my veins to be Italian. Believe it. And the goddamn hot peppers, I can eat a whole mason jar full.
Funny, I grew up in a deli — a Jewish deli — on Kinsman in Cleveland. I remember the pickles best. The cukes were right in the goddamn basement. They were delicious. And the goddamn gherkins . . .
My family disowned me after Marion. A nice Jewish boy in the joint. Not exactly kosher. I did three years in Marion, then eight in Chillicothe. I haven’t talked to any relatives in, I bet, 30 years.
When I got out — the last time — I made a clean slate of things. I sold stained glass to restaurants. Completely legit. I didn’t like it.
I never killed nobody. I…did…not. I was an accomplice, yes that’s true, but I never killed nobody. The chickenshits from Murray Hill, they did. They didn’t have my abilities. I did everything that took a brain, and they stood around with their hands in their pockets, except when it came to guns.
I’m paranoid. That has saved me — being paranoid. Sometimes you know a place is a death trap. It’s all trial and error.
My biggest mistake . . . You know? Quitting high school. I thought I knew more than the teachers. Schmuck! Again. I could have been an engineer.
I hung with the older boys who ran a stolen butter and cigarette ring on Woodland. An old fat Jew — the Eggman — was in charge. I rigged him up a walkie-talkie.
I don’t have a dime anymore. I spent everything I ever earned. I blew it all on cards, broads and racehorses — owning horses. I couldn’t deal with the thickheaded Italians at the racetrack, so I got out, but not before I was broke.
I eat wieners and Coke. Love that combo. I remember when I pinched three cases of sausage from Red Barn. I didn’t fence it. I ate it all.
I’m in menopause — male menopause. I’m 79. The docs talk about that on TV.
I love my TV set. It don’t talk back to me. Perfect.
I ain’t got nobody, just my TV.
I do have a record . . .
NAME: JOSEPH A. MOSKOWITZ
ALIAS/NICKNAME: JOE MOSCOW
FACIAL ODDIITES: UNK
FACIAL HAIR: GOATEE
MISSING BODY PARTS: UNK
GENERAL APPEARANCE: UNKEMPT
CONVIC: MANSLAUGHTER, AGGRAV BURGLARY, LARCENY, KIDNAPPING, CRIMINAL TOOLS, GRAND LARCENY
This is the latest in a series of fake profiles. (Cyberspace needs them!) File under “KlezFiction.”
Jack Stratton’s latest Kickstarter campaign is up. Something about a half-Jewish German-American band, Vulfpeck. The Kickstarter staff — as well as Bandcamp people — picked the project as a fav. Check it out here.
March 20, 2013 5 Comments
My friend Rob, a social worker, was fixated on Canada. He watched “Hockey Night in Canada” on TV and studied the Canadian railroad timetables. He filled out immigration papers to Canada, waited several months for clearance, and moved to a small town in Ontario.
The next day he came back to Cleveland. He was a mama’s boy, I figured.
He didn’t like the social work job, he said, but he liked Canada.
Rob definitely didn’t like Cleveland — the blasting car horns, the boom boxes, the leaf blowers, and his parents pestering him. One day Rob’s father said, “You’re going to move too far away.” The next day his dad said, “You need to go out into the world and prove yourself.”
I subscribed to “Hockey Night in Canada” for Rob, so he would babysit my then-toddler son for free on Saturday nights.
Rob moved to Canada again. This time to Nova Scotia. Change your place, change your luck, as the Hebrews sages say.
It worked. I haven’t seen Rob in 18 years.
I miss him, even though he verbally abused me. He was misanthropic. He was jaded. No, I was jaded. We held jadedness contests. Rob said I was restaurateur on a perpetual hunt for dishes my bubbe never made.
He said, “You crave urban experience so badly you would eat flankn cooked directly off the seat of a cross-town bus.”
True enough. So would he.
Rob and I listened to comedy records, played music together, and made fun of Jews. Rob knew more Yiddish than I did back then. His favorite curse was Gey mit dayn kup in drerd. (Go to hell. Lit., go with your head in the ground.)
We attended High Holidays at Case Western University Hillel. I had to drive; Rob was anti-car, anti-noise. He was so sensitive — probably the most sensitive person I’ve met, and that includes Harvey Pekar, who was not exactly loosey goosey on the avenue.
I schlepped Rob to a hillbilly bar on the near West Side, so he could jam with the house band. He played guitar and sang a couple tunes. Rob was devoted to country music – authentic country. Rob’s favorite player was Hank Williams.
Rob made his sole East Side musical appearance at Heinen’s supermarket for a cancer-awareness fundraiser. He played “Good Old Mountain Dew” in the pop section and “Hava Nagila” by the oranges. He had a sense of place.
And he moved to Canada.
I wonder what he’s up to. He has family in Cleveland. He visits here, I imagine.
Rob doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t humour me.
“Rob” is a pseudonym.
At CoolCleveland.com today, “The Kid from Cleveland.” About a “kid” I ran into in Atlanta.
Extreme Canada is England. Here’s a video about England. (A Klezmer Guy rerun.)
March 13, 2013 No Comments
A tenant called my father, Toby, and said, “It’s 54 degrees in this apartment. I’m cold. I can’t even take a bath.”
“We’ll get you some heat,” my dad said. Old buildings are hard to heat; some suites boil while others freeze. Hopefully, the sun would come out tomorrow and raise all apts.
A second tenant called. She said her rent would be late. I answered that call. I said OK, basically.
Toby said to me, “You’ve got to get on them sometimes.”
“I quit,” I said.
“Go ahead and quit. If you want to get temperamental on me, quit.” Toby didn’t raise his voice. I wasn’t worth histrionics.
“I’m out of here,” I said.
I went to the Cleveland Clinic to a headache specialist. He said I should drink more alcohol, and if that didn’t work, try biofeedback.
Benny — a building manager — said I should put a cold potato on my head. He said, “Put the potato in a refrigerator, cut the potato into pieces, and put them in a cloth around your head. It sucks the swelling right out.”
I went to the JCC for a massage and tried the whirlpool.
My dad died from leukemia. My then-5-year-old son said, “You won’t see Grandpa Toby again. Never! He’s dead.”
My headache suddenly went away.
Now I had a real headache — running the business.
This happened last month . . .
CLEVELAND’S FUNNIEST RABBI CONTEST
I was a judge at Cleveland’s Funniest Rabbi contest at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. I knew three of the five rabbis. One rabbi had hired Yiddishe Cup for various temple functions. Another recently hired Yiddishe Cup for a simcha. A third rabbi religiously books Yiddishe Cup for Chanukah.
Was I biased? Was I on the take?
The rabbis told jokes in front of 250 paying customers. The judges — three of us — made public comments and rated the rabbis. Afterward, an audience member said to me, “You were very nice.”
Why not be nice? It’s petrifying to tell jokes in front of 250 people. Besides, the rabbis were raising money — for the Maltz Museum? (For me?)
I stocked-piled interesting adjectives in advance. My arsenal: droll, gut-busting (didn’t use that one), cheery, sharp, zany, wacky, witty and perturbing.
Nobody was perturbing, unfortunately.
I gave the highest rating — a 10 — to the rabbi who eventually won. Turns out he wasn’t even a rabbi. And I didn’t know him. (He owes me a gig.) The winner was Kiva Shtull, a retired ER doctor, a mohel and the spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Shalom, Bainbridge Township. He got wry, droll and zany.
He’s a mohel with a sharp sense of humor. Worth watching:
More funny. Benyamin Bresky cornered Yiddishe Cup for an interview on Israel National Radio. The interview begins with Yiddishe Cup’s version of “Essen,” which Ben declares “the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.” Click here.
March 6, 2013 2 Comments
Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, also goes by the name Donny Mann (as in “Shelly Manne” and “Herbie Mann” — fellow yids).
“Donny Mann” started back in pre-history — the 1970s. “Jan Paderewski gave me the name when we were playing five nights a week at the Blue Fox Restaurant in 1974,” Don said. “Talk about wiseguys. It was all Mafia guys at the bar.”
“Jan Paderewski?” I said.
“Yes. His parents were musicians. They played a lot in Little Italy.”
Jan Paderewski’s great, great uncle was the Jan Paderewski, the renowned Polish pianist and statesman. Jan Paderewski of Cleveland was a stand-up comedian, restaurant owner and pianist. He played light classical and standards. Jan Paderewski of Cleveland died in 2000.
Donny Mann attended Berklee in 1961, when Berklee was just one building with a couple hundred students. Donny dropped out. Back then that was the idea: drop out and play gigs. Still is.
Donny Mann’s first pro gig was pre-Berklee, age 16, in his hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania. Don played with the Stardusters (piano, accordion, alto and drums) every Saturday night at the American Legion Hall. Tunes like “Poinciana” and “Moonlight in Vermont.”
“I heard ‘The House of Blue Lights’ in the late 1950s,” Don said. “That drove me nuts. I loved it.”
Don worked in a hat store in Erie. “My first encounter with retail,” he said. Don eventually worked in a men’s clothing store in Cleveland. And he listened to jazz — Gene Krupa through Tony Williams. “I shied away from rock and roll. It was primitive to me.”
“I wasn’t crazy about New York,” Don said. “Cleveland was the big-time, being from Erie. In the 1950s and 1960s, Cleveland was the big-time — look out, Jimmy Brown! In Erie, I rooted for the Browns, not the Steelers.”
Don worked at Rogers Drums in Cleveland, starting in 1965. He sold drums and musical-accessory chazerai to mom-and-pop music stores, and he gigged at night. “Every other word I said was hip. ‘I’m hip, man.’ I used that too much. I try not to say it nowadays, but it’s hard.”
Don hung out at the Theatrical Restaurant. “I was never in the section where you ordered the expensive steaks,” Don said. “I sat at the bar.” He sat behind the featured drummer, behind the bandstand — the best place to watch the drummers’ hands and feet. He saw Cozy Cole, Papa Jo Jones (“He wore white socks”) and Louie Belson, among others.
“Bob McKee, the house drummer, played a blue onyx Rogers. All the drummers loved that set. It had Swiv-O-Matic hardware. The Japanese copied it. Bobby still has the set in his basement. He’s in his eighties now.
“Philly Joe Jones was at the Theatrical, too. He was more modern than Papa Jo. Buddy Rich was there. Gino too. Gino was a bit past his prime – past his fame.”
“Gino who?” I said.
“Gene Krupa. Everybody called him Gino, at least among friends.”
Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the coolest guy (by a narrow margin) in Yiddishe Cup: the one and only Don-ny Man-n!
February 27, 2013 2 Comments
Beth El–the Heights Synagogue is the cool shul in Cleveland. Beth El recently held a jazz jam night.
Bud Sullivan blew tenor sax in the shul basement. I almost didn’t unpack my clarinet when I heard Bud’s quality licks. I eventually played along to “I Got Rhythm” and read a blog piece.
The rules for the next jazz night at Beth El: no prose or poetry.
I don’t think it was me. A poet read a five-minute screed about Nazi death camps. I — and probably others — hit the scotch schnapps hard after that guy. A comedian followed with Jewish jokes — straight from the Internet — for another five minutes. Deadly.
I’m a member of Park Synagogue, a block from Beth El. Park Synagogue is to Beth El as U. of Michigan is to Oberlin. Beth El is crunchy, cool; Park is the “big tent” champion – filled with thousands of hot, cold and in-between Jews. (I like both shuls.)
At Park Synagogue, I once brought in an Orthodox-style rapper for Purim. The rapper was half Orthodox/half reggae-man. The congregants nearly plotzed: a rap-a-holic in peyes and all- black.
This Purim Yiddishe Cup collaborates with a soul singer. Her name is Tamar. Perfect.
Bring your schnapps. You might need it.
Sly and the Family Stein at Park Synagogue.
Yiddishe Cup plays Purim at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights, Sat. (Feb 23). The service is 7:15-7:45 p.m.; the Jewish music is 7:45-8:45 p.m.; the Sly and the Family Stein portion begins around 9 p.m. Free. Open to the public. Wear a 1960s costume if you want.
I wrote “Rust Belt Chic” for today’s CoolCleveland.com.
This video has some chazones (cantoral music) in it.
Is this what a hipster looks like? . . .
February 20, 2013 3 Comments
I was in the grocery store parking lot, listening to Terry Gross interview poet Donald Hall on the radio.
Gross asked Hall how he liked being old. Hall couldn’t complain, he said, but then he did for several minutes. He talked about how he had recently published a story in the New Yorker in which a security guard at the National Gallery had treated 83-year-old Hall like a child; the guard had leaned over to Hall, who was in a wheelchair, and asked, “How was din-din?” (Hall is poet laureate emeritus of the United States and a recipient of the 2010 National Medal of Arts.)
I could listen to Hall talk about aging all day. I didn’t really want to get out of my car and shop for prunes, yogurt and salmon.
I used to be younger. Take 50. In 2000 my then-teenage son attended a New Hampshire summer camp an hour from Hall’s house. I visited the camp on parents’ day. Should I look up Hall, my old English professor? I had studied with Hall 30 years earlier.
Maybe Hall lived way back in the woods. Maybe he sat on his front porch with a shotgun. I didn’t know.
Hall’s house was not deep in the woods. It was about 50 feet from a federal highway and across from a summer camp. (There are a lot of camps in New Hampshire.) He could sometimes hear “Reveille.”
Hall was happy to see me, and said quickly, “I’m rich.” He had made his money mainly from royalties, from a how-to-write college textbook and his award-winning children’s book Ox-Cart Man. Only a poet would ask, “Are you rich?” He added, “How about you?”
“I’m doing OK,” I said. Look, I had a kid at a New Hampshire summer camp. Enough said.
When I had graduated Ann Arbor in 1973, Hall had discouraged me from returning to Cleveland. He had said, “Why do that — to sell insurance?”
Nevertheless, I returned home and “sold insurance.” I entered my family’s real estate biz.
In New Hampshire, Hall took me to a fancy restaurant near his farm. I said, “I own and manage apartment buildings. I’m a landlord. And I play clarinet.” Meaning I can improvise. I’m still in the arts!
My first year at Michigan, Hall had looked like a stock broker. He went hippie about a year later, I think. In New Hampshire he wore a dye-tied shirt, and I was the guy in the polo shirt.
Hall quit his tenured job at Michigan in 1975 and moved to his grandfather’s farm near Wilmot, New Hampshire. Hall did freelance writing.
At the New Hampshire restaurant, Hall said he had traveled to the Amazon River on a private jet with a Michigan grad who had made it big in the movie business. The student owned a movie company. Hall said, “His family was in the grocery business in Detroit, until I warped his mind.”
Hall warped many minds. He told me to guard against bitterness. His late wife, poet Jane Kenyon, had died five years earlier at 47. I had known her from English classes.
Hall had endured colon cancer, which was supposed to have killed him, but didn’t. Instead, his wife died from leukemia. He said, “Every generation thinks they know more than the next generation. Schopenhauer was writing about this in the 1700s. You don’t know more than the next generation.” Hall wouldn’t even let me pay the tip.
The next day I drove to Manchester, New Hampshire, and flew back to Cleveland to evict people, fix leaky faucets and collect late rents. It was not poetic.
Eleven years later (2011), I mailed several of my published articles to “Donald Hall, Eagle Pond Farm, New Hampshire.” (He didn’t use email.) I wrote: “From your student — your 61-year-old student.” I dated the cover letter. Hall was always big on dates.
Don wrote back, “I know you know I know that you feel old and know you are not.”
I bought my prunes, salmon and yogurt at the grocery store, plus a couple beers. I want to make it to Hall’s age. On the radio he sounded spry and happy.
Attention, Michigan residents. Please come to the Klezmer Guy show at The Ark, Ann Arbor, Feb. 15. 8 p.m. $20. Features Bert Stratton on clarinet and prose, Gerald Ross on ukulele and Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and Alan Douglass on piano, sunglasses and vocals.
Attention, Clevelanders. Attend Purim at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights, Feb. 23. Yiddishe Cup becomes Sly and the Family Stein on Purim. We’re going to play Jewish music and soul music. Free. Open to the public. 7:30 p.m.
February 13, 2013 4 Comments
I look for musical yikhes (lineage/pedigree) wherever I can find it. My grandmother played piano at a white Baptist church in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Not bad.
This Mississippi bubbe — Ida Kassoff Zalk — had a brother, Earl Kassoff, in Cleveland. Earl was a drummer, xylophonist and house painter. He went by the stage name Earl Castle, and led bands in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the 1990s – when I first began looking for musical yikhes — I couldn’t find much info on Earl. I talked to a couple relatives. Earl didn’t leave behind sheet music or tune books. He died in 1969.
At a Yiddishe Cup gig, an elderly musician schmoozed with me. I asked him if he knew Earl Kassoff. Yes, he remembered Earl. The schmoozer was Harold Finger, age 77. He had made a living playing clarinet and sax during the 1930s and 1940s.
I took my tape recorder to Harold’s apartment and interviewed him. He said there were “four or five bands that got the Jewish work.”
I asked, “What bands?” He didn’t remember the names. “What were the most popular Jewish tunes?” I said.
He said, “The songs from the Kammen Book. That was the big thing.”
The Kammen International Dance Folio, published in 1924, is still around. The Kammen book is to Jewish music what a sex manual is to sex. (Pianist Pete Sokolow makes this statement at most KlezKamp conventions.)
My Uncle Earl’s band did mostly “dance work” — American music, Harold said. Earl worked the downtown theaters, as well as the Golden Pheasant — a Chinese restaurant where Artie Shaw started.
Harold said he didn’t stick to the melody all the time. He did some “faking” (improvising). Now he played clarinet with a community orchestra. “I don’t do much jobbing anymore,” he said. (Jobbing is gigging.)
Harold died three years after the interview. I thought his kids might enjoy the interview tape, from 1992, so I called a Finger relative and left a message in the mid-1990s.
I didn’t hear back.
The relative should have called! Harold’s wife was on the tape, teasing Harold about how he loved his saxophone more than her. Harold said, “What? I quit playing music for you!”
Michiganders, come to the Klezmer Guy show at The Ark, Ann Arbor, Feb. 15. 8 p.m. $20. Bert Stratton on clarinet and prose, Alan Douglass on piano and vocals, Gerald Ross on ukulele and Hawaiian lap steel guitar. Prose pieces will contain words such as “Ann Arbor,” “Michigan” and “Rudy Tomjanovich.”
More on Mississippi Ida — my bubbe — later. Maybe not.
Yikhes update. Check out the latest from Jack Stratton’s band, Vulfpeck.
February 6, 2013 6 Comments
At a Detroit wedding, the bride came down the aisle to Barbra Streisand recordings. She paused several times to read from her childhood diaries. She had 109 journals. (She read only from a handful.)
Eight years later, the bride emailed me and asked if I remembered her.
Yes. And I remembered the bridal dance we had played, and how we opened for a soul band (a good band), and how I announced the bridal party individually; one groomsman was Billy Wisse.
I had said Billy Weiss. He thanked me. I explained to him, “There’s a Ruth Wisse, a Yiddishist and professor at Harvard. I’ve heard the name pronounced before.”
“That’s my mother,” Billy said.
“No! Where do you teach?” I said. The Wisse family is scholarly; David Roskies, Ruth Wisse’s brother, is a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Billy said, “I write questions for Jeopardy.”
“That’s a job?” I said, pulling out a pen and jotting down Billy’s email address. My son Teddy — a college student then — would love a job at Jeopardy upon graduation. Teddy was on Brandeis’ Quiz Bowl team. (Quiz Bowl is Jeopardy minus the money.)
Two years later, Brandeis played in Los Angeles for the national championship. Teddy was on the Brandeis team. I gave Billy’s email to Ted.
Ted and his Brandeis teammates met with Billy Wisse for breakfast at Canter’s Deli.
Two years after that (2004), Ted got a business call at our house. He had recently graduated college. He wouldn’t pick up the phone. I yelled, “Pick up the phone, Teddy! It’s for you.”
Sony was on the line.
Sony owns Jeopardy. Sony offered Ted a slot on Jeopardy as a contestant. Sony sent a contract via FedEx. One paragraph read (paraphrased): “Do you know anybody from Sony or Jeopardy? If so, you can not be on the show.”
Teddy did not know Billy Wisse! Teddy and Billy Wisse ate breakfast two years prior for one-half hour. Also, there had been other Brandeis players at that breakfast.
At Sony Studios in Culver City, California, Billy Wisse stood by a computer at the edge of the Jeopardy set. Alex Trebek, the show’s host, wore a cast on his wrist. He had fallen off a ladder, he told the studio audience. He had been cleaning his gutters. Sounded odd to me. (I was in the peanut gallery.) A Hollywood guy cleans his own gutters? Maybe. There are low gutters in California.
Jeopardy tapes five shows a day. The show’s contestants for that day sat in rows isolated from the studio audience. Whenever an on-deck contestant went to the bathroom, he or she was escorted by a guard from Standards and Practices, which monitored cheating.
The first game was between an Idaho man, a Washington state woman, and the defending champ, “a schoolteacher from Lancaster, Ohio.”
The Jeopardy stagehand said, “Lights, camera.” But no “action.” Wisse and other Jeopardy employees huddled at the side of the set. They looked at computers and talked to each other. This went on for about a half hour.
Wisse, you do not know my son. Have rachmones (pity), Wisse. You see 11 Jeopardy contestants per day; they’re mostly all young white guys who look alike. You do not know Teddy!
The Jeopardy people couldn’t locate the appropriate random packet of questions for the first game. That was the hold-up. Everything had to be kosher — up to Standards and Practices.
Teddy didn’t play that morning.
Lunch break was at Quizno’s for the peanut gallery. (The contestants ate in the Sony cafeteria.) At Quizno’s, the girl friend of one contestant said, “I don’t care if Jonathan wins or loses. I don’t love him for his game playing.”
Shut up. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat.
Teddy didn’t play the game after lunch either. I asked an usher, “What if my son doesn’t play today?”
Teddy made it onto the final game of the day. He faced a Boston book editor — the defending champ — and “a graduate student originally from Johnson City, Tennessee.” That was Jeopardy-speak for “a graduate student now living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, doing a post-doc at MIT.”
Ted did well in the Double Jeopardy category “Our Lady,” about Catholic shrines. The “Our Lady” questions covered Our Lady of Czestochowa (Poland), Our Lady of Gethsemane (Kentucky) and several others. This is what my son learned at Brandeis.
Heading into Final Jeopardy, the Tennessee grad student was in first place. Ted was in second, and the defending champ, Boston book editor, was in third.
The Final Jeopardy category was Fictional Children. The answer was: “This boy, introduced in a 1902 book, flew away from his mother when he was 7 days old.”
I felt like I was watching my kid line up a 50-yard field goal at the Ohio State-Michigan game with one second left on the clock. That is the weird part about being a parent — all that collateral joy and pain. Merv Griffin’s Jeopardy think-music ended.
The Boston editor, in third place, answered, “Who is Peter Pan?”
Right-o. She went up to $10,900.
Teddy said, “Who is Peter Pan?” Right. He went up to $13,399.
The graduate student from Tennessee said, “Who is the Little Prince?” He went down to $7,900.
Alex Trebek announced, “The new champion, Ted Stratton, a reporter from Cleveland Heights, Ohio!”
Footnote: For $500, “Who is Billy Wisse?” Answer: a mentsh.
For a blow-by-blow of the game, see Robert KS’ J! Archive.
January 23, 2013 No Comments
I moved to L.A. on December 7, 1990. I still don’t take the weather for granted. Everyday I wake up and say thank you. Even if it’s only 50 degrees.
I live near a gelato store, smoothie shop, and three vegan restaurants. I can order a tofu bratwurst at 2 a.m.
I’m too old to be a hipster! I’m 47. I’m more retro man. I prefer the beatnik era — the real hipsters! My stereo system is so good it’s like I’m seated in the front row at Shelly’s Manne Hole. That live. The speakers are mounted on maple block.
Shelly’s Manne Hole is gone, unfortunately. It was at Hollywood and Cahuenga.
What do hipsters listen to now? I don’t know. I don’t talk to them. I live across the street from the “Shameless” guys. I’m not sure what that is. A TV show? A band?
Everyone here is in the industry — the entertainment industry.
Me too. I started off writing celebrity profiles for Us and People. I wrote for Wings. I wrote for Cheers. I wrote for Seinfeld.
After Seinfeld shoots, we would hang at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Studio City. Jerry once told me he liked working in L.A. because, since we had such long hours, he didn’t feel he was missing much, like if we had been in New York.
I just explained to Josh the meaning of the word “ofay.” Means white guy. Pig Latin for “foe.” I know, my “ofay” etymology is a bubbe-mayse, but I like the idea of blacks speaking Pig Latin.
Josh still calls me Moon (short for Moonbeam). Josh is the only guy who can get away with that. I was the beatnik at Shaker Heights High, 1984. I’m still a little “outside,” but not that much by L.A. standards. I wear Arthur Ashe–era short shorts. Big deal.
My first year here I had a hard time making the rent nut, but I hung in. I played b-ball with other writers. I had slow times. I had fast times.
I just put a half million dollars into a gangster love story. I directed and wrote it. Hopefully, we’ll get it into Sundance. A long shot, I know. Then there’s Toronto. Even if the movie goes nowhere, I’m OK. I didn’t refinance my house for it.
I shot the movie in Cleveland. They love me there. The press I get there. Right now I need about 30,000 Clevelanders to “like” my movie trailer on Facebook. Please search “Bloody Vista Boulevard” on Facebook and “like.”
My steady check — that’s my rental unit. I’ve got two musicians next door. $3,000/month. They sleep till noon and go out from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. They’re jingle writers. They say they “shed” Charlie Parker, but I’ve never heard it. (“Shed” means “woodshed” — to practice.)
I’m going to die in this house.
Cleveland doesn’t have the mountains, the ocean, the sun. Thank God I’m here.
The Seinfeld info is stolen from writer Peter Mehlman. This post is KlezFiction.
January 16, 2013 5 Comments
Snickers used to be my bar.
It’s everybody’s bar. It’s the number one seller in the America.
The pic above is John Lokar, the candyman, 1981. He owned L&M Candy on East 185th Street. He had everything, including baseball cards and tobacco.
I also had a taste for Nestle Triple Deckers. Long gone.
My wife had a nostalgic longing for Valomilks. She recently bought one at a specialty store and didn’t like it. Too sweet.
My dad was a Planter’s Peanut guy, and he also liked Mr. Goodbar. I used to buy a Mr. Goodbar before I visited his grave.
Kit Kat: not bad. Kit Kats were from Canada when they were good.
Canada, that’s a great candy-centric vacation.
Chunky . . .
I miss Chunky. No, I miss the idea of Chunky. I miss Arnold Stang (who did Chunky commercials).
My grandmother Anna Soltzberg had a candy store at 15102 Kinsman Road, Cleveland, from 1927 to 1937:
I studied this photo with a magnifying glass. Here’s the inventory:
Mr. Goodbar, Ivory soap, Sensen breath mints, Boston Wafer, halvah, Ringo, Lux and Lifebuoy soaps, Coca-Cola, peanut bars, chocolate-covered cherries, Maxwell House coffee . . .
Uneeda biscuits, Dentyne, Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry, and cigars: White Owl, Dutch Master, Websters, Cinco, Murad, John Ruskin and Charles the Great Pure Havana.
Candy was a low-cost entry point for immigrants. John Lokar — the man with the gigantic Snickers — was a Slovenian-American candy wholesaler. I bought new baseball cards from him in 1981. Didn’t make any money on it.
When did Snickers come out?
1930. Frank Mars named the bar after his horse. (Googled.)
Here’s an ad from the December 1980 Candy Marketer. Lokar gave it to me:
Jaw Breakers. I haven’t had one of those since the Center-Mayfield stopped their 25-cent Saturday matinees.
Reese . . .
Who was Reese?
For relatives only: candy-store photo . . . Anna Soltzberg, apron; her husband, Louis Soltzberg, behind counter; her sister-in-law Lil Seiger, behind counter; and two unidentified women.
Anybody have strong feelings about MilkyWay? I doubt it.
January 9, 2013 13 Comments
Charlie Chaplin brings me to tears. Louis Armstrong and Beethoven do too. T.S. Eliot — yes, I know he didn’t like Jews — but you can’t deny his greatness. For instance, “Humankind can not bear too much reality.”
Yes, reality blows — as we used to say in junior high. (We said the “blows” part.)
I escape to the arts. I escape to this:
Fire escapes have to be painted every year in Cleveland, or they rust.
I used to be shallower, vainer, younger and facetious. Now I’m all that, and older.
I’m thinking of getting elevator shoes. A couple inches might change my life.
I don’t like ferrets.
Go ahead, indict me.
Indict me on this too: Anglomania, Jewmania and prickliness.
Downton Abbey — the TV show — is terrific. Everybody is so taciturn and proper. Nobody runs his or her mouth.
Who’s a Jew? That’s my second obsession. I annually debate whether Brubeck was a Jew. He wasn’t. Or was Chaplin Jewish? No, he wasn’t.
Prickliness, that’s a universal trait. I cut off a man’s position in the check-out line at Dave’s supermarket. The man said, “What you doin’?”
“I’m ahead of you.”
“No, you ain’t. You moved!”
I had moved for a second! I had left my cart in one line and walked to another line to see which was shorter.
I said “you win” to the man, and let him in front. He got out of the store before me!
I’m looking for elevator shoes.
I cry a lot.
This one is real. The above post is half real.
It’s easy to fire a drunken building manager, or a thieving one, but it’s hard to fire a manager who is only lousy.
For instance, he doesn’t answer the phone quickly enough, or he doesn’t clean enough.
I thought about firing Sabina; I had hired her husband, not her, and her husband had skipped out on her. She was shoveling snow, cutting grass, and climbing ladders. It wasn’t her strong suit; she had majored in Russian lit at a Russian university.
My tenants reported negative things about her.
That helped — me.
I asked a tenant how the manager was performing, and he said, “I hate her.”
“Do you hate me too?” I said, trying to establish a baseline on his “hate.”
I fired her.
Then I rehired her. She couldn’t get welfare because she had no green card. I let her stay.
She found a boyfriend – a guy in Avon Lake – and moved out.
I owe that guy in Avon Lake.
“Sabina” is a pseudonym.
January 2, 2013 3 Comments
My cousin David owned a GMC tractor-trailer, which he parked in the May Co. lot in University Heights. David may have been the only Jewish long-distance trucker in the Heights. Maybe the only long-distance trucker, period, in the Heights.
In 1975 David borrowed several thousand dollars from my father, Toby, for the truck. David had a contract with International Truck of Rock, Minnesota.
David moved to Pennsylvania and never repaid my dad.
In high school David had stolen hubcaps. He had been a Shaker Heights juvenile delinquent.
David even looked like James Dean. My cousin Danny once said, “David’s dad was the most handsome man you ever met.” David’s dad drifted around Cleveland, playing pool. David’s dad and mother divorced in the 1950s.
When David’s mother heard David hadn’t repaid my dad, she made payments, but she never fully repaid the loan.
My father’s attitude was “win some, lose some.” Toby believed in lending money to family. My dad had borrowed from his Uncle Itchy to buy his first house.
Last year I called David’s sister. This was a big deal; David and his sister were out of the cousins’ loop. David is now in his seventies and has had several heart attacks, his sister said. He is living in a hotel that his son runs in Florida.
No more truckin’.
No more David as family black sheep. Stolen hubcaps and an unpaid loan, is that the worst of it in my family? I think so.
Now, my wife has an estranged cousin who stole sterling silver . . . Stop.
“David” is a pseudonym.
I became bionic. My daughter, Lucy, gave me a pedometer.
I can count my daily steps. I can even monitor my sleep patterns, but that’s too much data — even for a guy like me who likes data.
I gave up jogging last year. My right knee wasn’t into it anymore. I miss the “sweat” of jogging.
Should I post my step count here? Dieters post their calories online. Bicyclists post their heart rates.
My step count today is _____. (Will post up at 11:59 p.m for maximum effect.)
For a couple new illustrations by Ralph Solonitz, please scroll down to “KlezKamp 2012,” which went up last week.
Yiddishe Cup plays at First Night Akron on New Year’s Eve.
December 26, 2012 1 Comment