Real Music & Real Estate . . .

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

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

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

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

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



Yiddishe Cup’s biggest fan is Lea Grossman.

She got us a gig at The Ark, the premier acoustic music club in the Midwest.  She kugel-ed The Ark’s program director.  She delivered a noodle kugel to his office in Ann Arbor, Mich.  He liked it and he hired us.  (Hopefully our music had something to do with the booking too.)

I had been avoiding Ann Arbor.  I had attended college there during the hippie era and hadn’t learned much.  There had been a quasi-ban on book learning.  The foreign language requirement had been oppressive, according to protestors, and the Psych teaching assistants led T-Groups and gave everyone A’s.  Until I signed up. Then it went to pass/fail.

When my kids started looking at colleges, I told them Michigan was a swamp.  Too big, too impersonal.

I even rooted for Ohio State over Michigan.  I harbored some serious animosity toward the Blue. I told Michigan to stop sending me alumni mail.  But for $75 I hedged and sent a donation every year.  You never knew.

Thanks to Yiddishe Cup super-fan Lea Grossman, I wound up back at Michigan big-time.  Lea is 60-something but gets around like a coed, and she promoted our band to everybody and helped put signs on every phone pole.  The woman can dance, party and cook.  She knows every Jewish dance, and has sung “Tumbalalaika” on stage with Yiddishe Cup at The Ark.

Lea lived near North Campus in a university-affiliated retirement community.  It was like a dorm for seniors — real seniors.  North Campus — the last time I had been there — had been a music school, a smattering of grad student housing, and one undergraduate dorm.  It had been the end of the earth.  You had to take a bus to get there.  (Still do.)  The dorm was called Bursley, as in “brrr, it’s cold.”

For Yiddishe Cup’s first Ark appearance, I picked January.  Not too many rational Clevelanders scheduled weddings in January, so we had an opening.

Ann Arbor’s weather was just like Cleveland’s.  Bad.  And we got a huge crowd at the club.  That was weird.  The difference between Cleveland and Ann Arbor was Michigan had a puffy coat brigade. The worse the weather, the more the puffy coaters came out.  It was almost an Upper Midwest can-do chic — like something from the Progressive Era — a bunch of irregular Jews in irregular puffy coats.

On our first Ark gig, my youngest son stayed in the North Campus dorm, Bursley.  He was in eleventh grade.  (He also played drums on the gig.)

He liked the school and wound up at Michigan.

So I returned to the swamp– to see my son, and play gigs.  (My other kids went to small liberal arts colleges.)

I couldn’t get the Michigan Daily to write up Yiddishe Cup.  Ever.  I tried. The reporters wouldn’t return calls.  Maybe they weren’t too crazy about talking to a middle-aged klezmer guy.

When I had been a Daily reporter, I had enjoyed the John Lennon and Miles Davis assignments but not the local-angle profiles, like when I wrote up the Discount Records clerk who played sax.  (That sax player, Steve Mackay, was good, and cut some records with the Stooges later.)

Lea didn’t know who to kugel at the Daily; the Daily reporters were always rotating in and out.  They missed a good dish. 

Lea moved to New Jersey a year ago.

“To Kugel,” this post,  first appeared in the Washtenaw (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Jewish News, Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010.
Check out the new video clip “Driving Mr. Klezmer,” live from The Challah Fame Cafe. The Klezmer Guy blog exits the loch (your computer).  Klezmer Guy walks and talks.  Rated scary.
Yiddishe Cup plays The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich., 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 23.   Guests include Hawaiian guitarist Gerald Ross, comedian Seymour Posner, and members of the soul/klez band Groove Spoon.

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1 Harvey Kugelman { 01.06.10 at 10:19 am }

Very uneasy about your title’s nonexistent verb. My post — “pass/fail era” college taught that one should avoid creating verbs from non-beverages. E.g., “I wine and dine him.” I do not “wine and prime rib him.” I do not invite a guest over to “cholent him.”

Or maybe kugel to you is just supposed to be an inherently funny word, like Cleveland to a lame comedian looking for a cheap laugh?

And no, Bert, it’s not a personal thing. Some of us just value correct language use.

2 Leonard Koenick { 01.07.10 at 12:25 am }

I am certain that the use of the word kugel was used as a pun related to Google. How could you miss that?

3 Harvey Kugelman { 01.07.10 at 9:34 am }

Should have used dry humor font. My bad.

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