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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Maybe a collage artist can do something with my yarmulke collection, from 22 years’ worth of gigs.  I know an artist — a bad one — who did something with old saxophone reeds.

yarmalka-quiltMy Guatemalan yarmulkes, crocheted by Mayan Indians, are from neo-hippie weddings.  There are no bouquet tosses, garter-belt strip routines, or formal introductions at these weddings.  The Mayan kippot (yarmulkes) are particularly popular with female rabbi brides. That’s a niche — weddings of women rabbis — that Yiddishe Cup has cornered in the Midwest.

bubby1The most heymish lids are grandmas’ knitted yarmulkes.

My blue suede yarmulkes are from A-1 Skull Caps.  The lids don’t breathe.  Skull cap. I like a yarmulke that breathes.

Camouflage kippahs exist, too.  One Yiddishe Cup musician, a pacifist, declined to wear his camo lid at a Zahal-themed bar mitzvah.  Zahal is the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  The bar mitzvah boy’s father wore combat boots and a full Israeli uniform.  The band wore IDF T-shirts and camouflage yarmulkes.  (Nobody noticed our musician in street clothes.)

beathing-yarmulke1I have six purple kippot from a bar mitzvah.  I thought the band might want to wear the lids again at another bar mitzvah.  Go for the clean David Clark Five look.  The guys declined.

We wore sports yarmulkes — plus basketball jerseys — at a sports-themed bar mitzvah party.  The party even had a cheerleading squad:

Mazel tov / Let’s shout hurray / It’s Jeremy and Sam’s bar mitzvah day!

I say oy / You say vey / Jeremy and Sam are men today!


Yiddishe Cup’s keyboard player, Alan Douglass, frequently asks, “Is this a yarmulke gig?”  He’s a goy and can’t figure out what’s up with the various Jewish denominations.

My Conservative rabbi wears a throwaway satin lid that funeral homes and synagogues give out.  He apparently doesn’t want to look different from his congregants. I haven’t asked yet — after 20 years — why he wears the throwaway.

My white satin yarmulke from Dec. 9, 2007 has “Ananth Uggirala” — the groom’s name — in it. The groom’s parents were Anjaneyulu and Manorama Uggirala.  I had to announce them.  Tip, please.

You need good hair clips for a yarmulke.  Bobby pins are the worst; they take your hair out with the yarmulke.  Duck bill clips – also no good.  The best clips are the surfboard barrettes.   If you don’t have these clips, get some, particularly for outdoor gigs.

If you drop a yarmulke, you don’t have to kiss it before putting it back on.  A lid is a lid.  It’s not a holy object.  Also, goys, wear the lid at the wedding ceremony; you’re not exempt.

At an American-Israeli wedding, one of the chuppah (bridal canopy) bearers smoked and balanced a drink.  His yarmulke fell off.  Secular Israelis, they’re funny that way.

It’s shocking when you see an Orthodox guy without a lid.  For instance, an Orthodox man might go into a non-kosher restaurant on a road trip and take his yarmulke off.  (Some Orthodox, when in the sticks, will go to a fast-food place for a salad.)

I wore a yarmulke for a week when I hitchhiked the coast of California in my twenties.  I had seen a photo of Bob Dylan wearing a yarmulke at the Western Wall.  Dylan did yahm-ops at The Wall every couple decades, it seemed.


My Easter basket of yahms makes for a moderately interesting pop-psych experiment on shabbes: Who is going to take the pink, who is going to take the matzo-textured lid, and who is going to hide behind the black lid?

Have fun with lids.  That’s in the Torah somewhere.

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1 Susan { 01.05.11 at 9:58 am }

Funny! My son calls the throwaway kippot “Jew for a day” kippot. He wears a size 8 black velvet kippah.

2 Ellen { 01.05.11 at 10:21 am }

I knew it was a good party a few months ago when, after dancing with YCKB, I came home and found a couple kippot in my back pocket. And, um, I think I wrote that cheer….

3 "Kenny G" { 01.05.11 at 11:06 am }

I have a sizable yarmulke collection, but I have weeded it out on occasion, such that there’s a special reason for each one I’ve kept.

Two important ones I’ve lost are a beaded one from India I purchased at the national U.S.Y. Conference in DC in 12/1965 (disappeared after a Beth Am HH service and never appeared in L&F), and the one I wore at my bar mitzvah.

The latter was white satin with silver stars and that other dreidel-type shape. I would pay royally for one as close to it in style as possible! It was a fairly common type in 1962 for the “better ones,” I’m sure.

I’d supply more details, if necessary…. That Davis attorney guy, (Joe?) Park, has one but he won’t sell. Can you help, Bert?

4 Bert { 01.05.11 at 12:40 pm }

To Ellen:

Sources confirm, yes, you wrote those bar mitzvah cheers. Mazel tov, hurray!


To “Kenny G”:

I don’t have any white satin yarmulkes with silver stars and “other dreidel-type shapes” in my inventory. Sorry.

5 MARC { 01.05.11 at 2:42 pm }

You forgot to write what bald guys do to get yarmulkes to stick on their heads. Velcro?

Also, the Brown University student klezmer band is Yarmulkazi.

6 "Kenny G" { 01.06.11 at 8:26 am }

I will pay a commission to anyone who leads me to the right kippah, whose current owner will receive a most generous payment….

There was a woman at Temple Emanuel in Univ. Hts. who made goregous kippot for Marc Simon, as cantorial soloist, and some others there. I asked Lillian and Rachel to make one for me for a birthday that resembled it and they did. I wrote on it for a “yarmulke stories” feature in the CJN. When it got too deteriorated, Lillian made me another – somewhat similar.

When I was at Camp Ramah, it was “the thing” for girls to crochet kippot for guys – a big pastime there. I had to commission one and still have it.

I’m a traditionalist – still like the discreet, black bobby pins – which is the ONLY hardware a guy used to use when necessary.

7 Irwin { 01.06.11 at 9:18 pm }

Really enjoyed the yahm-op! My kind of joke. I love mix-and-matching yarmulkes to what I’m wearing. Part of me says that is kind of sick though. Like taking something rather holy and making it into a fashion statement.

I love wearing my rather high, blue velvet kippah with the silver and pearl sequins.

I think Steve Ostrow looks great in his kippahs. No one can touch him.

8 Harvey { 01.12.11 at 12:36 pm }

Some of us baldies prefer the knitted “light and tight” that hugs the smooth contours, clips being useless.

Once was in our sukkah and saw some school kids come up the drive to try and sell us something. The small salesman was staring at my kippah, mouth agape, so I said, “Do you want to ask me something?”

“Yeah,” he says, “how does that stay on your head?”

“How do you think?” I asked back.

“Nails?” he asked.

9 BGL { 08.03.14 at 2:53 pm }

Actually, goyim ARE exempt from wearing kippot.

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