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
I play cards at the Horseshoe Casino downtown. I play poker, and I love it. Also, I get free parking and free food, and I have a free cruise lined up. It has to be on Norwegian. And I have a free trip to any Harrah’s in America. Where should I go? Vegas? San Diego?
I hang with others gamblers — guys I know from the tables. I do not hang out with old ladies who play slots all day. Last week I met two Serbian furniture dealers who can out-drink me. (Impressive.)
Here’s a gambling tip: the scared dollar is no dollar. If you’re scared, you’ll never make the play. I win, I lose, I play. Right now I’m down a couple thousand. I’m always down a couple thousand.
If you want a free buffet meal, meet up with me. Any casino. I have rewards all over the country. If you’re a bitter gambler, don’t contact me. There are so many bitter gamblers. I’m not one of them. Your deal.
This is a fake profile. Another gambler post is here, side B, 1/15/14.
April 15, 2015 1 Comment
Evelyn had the dirtiest apartment. Her bathtub was black, like she never used it. There were about 50 roaches in the tub. Lots of beer and liquor bottles around. Cigarette butts everywhere.
She cleaned up. Then I put her on month-to-month; I wanted the flexibility to end the lease if she got sloppy again.
She got cleaner. Not Martha Stewart clean, but no roaches either. She said she wanted to talk to me. I stood outside her door. She said, “How do I know it’s Bert Stratton?”
“I’m not sure. Take your chances.”
She let me in and immediately called me an asshole and said I had disrespected her with the month-to-month lease. She had been on a 12-month lease for 21 years. She also asked for a new refrigerator, plus a two-year lease with a discount for the first six months. She wanted a new kitchen sink cabinet, too. And she wanted her stove removed. “I don’t even use it,” she said. I looked at the stove. “No,” she said, “Look at me. Look me in the eyes. You have disrespected me all these years. Think of all the money I’ve saved you by not having to redecorate every couple years. To you, I’m an asshole.”
Not true. I liked her spunk. But I shouldn’t have stopped in; I should have had let the building manager handle it, which is always cheaper for me. Evelyn said. “I was in a coma for a couple years. That’s why it’s so messy here. I was a little out of it. If you come back in two weeks, it’ll look even cleaner. I’m opening a business here. I’m bringing in customers here.”
I offered her a one-year lease with a $5 increase and a new refrigerator.
She said no thanks. She said, “Just for shits and giggles, what do you want for this place?”
“The entire building?”
“You got it. I’m buying it from you.”
“Evelyn” is a pseudonym. Here’s a pic of another dirty apartment — not Evelyn’s. Top 5:
April 8, 2015 3 Comments
1. Norman Mlachak was a Cleveland Press reporter. I didn’t know him but knew of him. He grew up over a deli at E. 140th Street and Aspinwall Avenue. Every old-timer in Cleveland grew up over a deli, or near one. Nobody had a car, so there were a lot of delis. You bought food almost daily. Mlachak sometimes wrote nostalgic pieces for The Press. His neighborhood was Collinwood. He wrote about Fisher Body, Eaton Axle, Kuhlman Car Co. and the Collinwood Railroad Yards. He died in 1984.
2. I went to high school with Helene Mlotek, who is probably related to Zalmen Mlotek, the New York klezmer macher. Aren’t all Jewish Mloteks related? Helene and I weren’t in any of the same classes.
3. Mary Lou Hribar grew up in and around Fritz’s Tavern, a polka hangout on E. 185th Street. Her father, Fritz, was inducted into the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, under the category “proprietors.” I once met Mary Lou at a Shaker Heights party and haven’t seen her since. Fritz died in 2001.
4. I was at Claudia Hlebcar’s wedding . . .
OK, enough. Thank you for your patience.
— Bert Ptacek
Irregular Passover Humor:
April 1, 2015 5 Comments
I’m an architect who does mostly McDonald’s, TGIFridays and synagogues. I was the first with the “fast-casual shul.” You can get a nosh at my shuls. If the worship service is too long, go to the rear of the sanctuary, to my built-in Frank Lloyd Wright snack bar.
My professional credo:
1. Put the bima (altar) on ground level, among the people. Power to the people.
2. Never use stained glass. That spells “rich guy” to the little guy.
4. Keep kosher on some level. (I dine frequently at kosher-style delis.)
5. Leave a stamp — a signature. I always embed a tiny cross in the coatroom ceiling for the custodial staff.
I also do retrofits. I put in a nosh bar at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights. It caught fire, not literally, but you wouldn’t believe the crowds.. They hired an Israeli chef and a dump truck to maneuver the mounds of ersatz chopped liver.
I’m working on a mosque/falafel stand in Dearborn, Michigan. Saalam alaykum, bros. The old Semitic cousin routine. Whatever.
March 25, 2015 No Comments
My younger son, Jack, got a certified letter from the IRS with a hand-written Post-it note on it. What did the gobierno want? The government usually sends unsigned computer-generated letters. Maybe Jack the Drummer Boy owed another $15 from his Michigan Wolverines basketball band income. (Jack was in college at the time.)
Why didn’t the IRS pick on me, instead? I wanted to be audited. I haven’t been audited since 1982. Thirty-three years of saving bills and income/expense statements and checks — and nobody wants to see it. Yes, I throw the stuff out periodically, but I replenish.
Thank you. No penalty. (Jack got a $68 credit.)
March 18, 2015 6 Comments
I met Yury, a Russian, only four days after he landed in Cleveland. I met him at a park bench, 1990. I sold him my 1978 Buick Regal for $500, and I suggested he change his name from Yury to Yuri. Yury would be a hindrance to his assimilation, I said. Yuri – as in “Yuri Gagarin” — worked better, at least for me.
Yury is now an engineer and lives in Beachwood. Still with the y, 25 years later.
Yury lived in a subsidized apartment two blocks from my house. I helped him light the burners on his stove and lent him an old TV. When he got the Buick Regal, I told him to check it out with the Russian mechanic down on Mayfield Road. Yury said, “I do not trust Russians.”
Yiddishe Cup had a Russian drummer, Misha from Tashkent. He was “the stinger man” because he put a stinger (a klezmer ending) on every tune. Which was annoying. I went to Misha’s mother’s funeral — the smallest funeral of all time. There were maybe 10 people at the funeral home. I can’t imagine what that woman lived through, what with the Nazis and Communists. Misha was a pro drummer. That’s all he did in the Soviet Union. Shelly Manne came through Tashkent in the 1950s and left a lot of drumsticks behind, which everybody prized. (Might have been Buddy Rich. I’m not sure now.)
Misha used to hit his wife and daughter, and admit it. Misha would say, “Here the police listen to the children. In Russian, the parents.”
Misha moved to Boston to drive a cab.
Moishe, the owner of Davis Caterers, said food at Russian gigs is “out of control.” He said, “The Russians eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at once. Fish and cold cuts. Then soup. Then blintzes. Then prime and salmon and desserts. Plus vodka.”
Yiddishe Cup played a few Russian weddings, but not lately. I miss the food. Russian immigrant musicians cornered the Russian wedding market. Immigrant musicians know what the crowd wants and it’s not us. Yiddishe Cup’s Russian skill-set is “7-40,” “Hava Nagila,” and some waltzes like “Ershter Waltz” and “Tumbalalaika.” Also, anything from Fiddler on the Roof is a winner.
What if my grandparents hadn’t left Russia?
Yiddishe Cup had a second Russian drummer, Vladimir, who forgot his sticks and used dowel rods fashioned from a windowshade. That was his only gig with us.
Irwin Weinberger and I occasionally play gigs at a Russian senior drop-in center. The Russians seem to like us. We’ve learned “Kalinka” and “Katyusha.”
Russians, they remind me of what I could have been: dead (via Nazis, etc.) or a bigger partier.
March 11, 2015 6 Comments
I had a show biz lunch at Corky & Lenny’s. The lunch was Hollywood-style, not Hollywood. Bert Dragin, the owner of a furniture store chain, was looking for a movie script. (This was in 1980. C&L’s was still at Cedar Center.) Dragin said to me, “I’ve got money. Everybody will talk to me in L.A. Right now I have something in the Best of the New York Erotic Film Festival.” He suggested I write a screenplay about a fire at a gay nightclub in Atlanta. Not my thing, sorry.
Dragin sold his Name Brand Furniture stores and moved to Hollywood to make movies. He produced Suburbia (1983), and directed Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) and Twice Dead (1988).
I wrote a screenplay, The Flamer, about a bar mitzvah party where several kids got burned to death by playing with sterno. [This paragraph is fiction. The rest is true.]
Dragin ran a tab at Corky & Lenny’s, which he probably paid monthly. He acted in his TV ads for the furniture store. “You heard of Erotic Salad?” he said. “It’s got a soft-X rating.”
“No.” That’s as close as I got to Hollywood.
March 4, 2015 6 Comments
If you need to lose something, lose a ski cap.
I retraced my steps on Taylor Road, looking for my ski cap. Nobody picks up a used ski cap. But somebody did.
My wife lost a ski cap the day before.
I like ski caps to be almost weightless. I lost a lightweight ski cap on Taylor Road.
My next ski cap will be a bright color, in case I drop it in the snow again. The biggest problem with a dropped ski cap: it makes no noise.
This one is longer: “Harvard and Cleveland” for Belt Magazine about my Harvard connections.
Locals, Nighttown tonight (7 p.m. Feb. 25) for the Schmotown Revue by the Klezmer Guy Trio. This happens about every two years, so don’t miss this show. $10. 216-795-0550. Social commentary and plumbing tips, plus klezmer, soul and jazz standards.
February 25, 2015 6 Comments