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.




The ping-pong season started several months ago, when violinist Steve Greenman called and said “I want to play ping-pong tonight.” He got tilapia out of it.  Not a bad night for a single guy (soon to be married).  My wife, Alice, cooked.

Ping-pong is predominately a winter sport in Cleveland. The Jewish ping-pong dean here is Valeriy Elnatanov.  He’s a Russian pro who used to teach ping-pong and pilpul at Green Road Synagogue, an Orthodox shul.  [Not sure about pilpul (a Talmudic study method) but he did teach Hebrew to Russians.]


Valeriy moved on to other training facilities.  I saw him at the Shaker Heights community building playing top-notch Asians.

Valeriy said the best way to develop a top-spin forehand is to turn a bicycle upside-down and swat repeatedly at the spinning tire with your paddle.  I never did that, but I thought about it.practicing-spin

When Valeriy practiced, he used dozens of balls.  That’s the way to go.  You bend down less.

My wife, Alice, has a good forehand slam.  Steve Greenman has a steady backhand.  Neither cheats.  Many ping-pong players don’t toss the ball up high enough on the serve.


How come documentaries about California musicians — Hal Blaine, the Sherman brothers — have poolside shots, but no outdoor ping-pong shots?

I played ping-pong on a patio in Los Angeles. You don’t forget that if you’re from the Midwest.

In the Cal movies, the musicians are sunbathing poolside.  Are they embarrassed to show their ping-pong moves?  (The Kids Are All Right, set in California, had an outdoor ping-pong table.  No musicians playing, though.)

My father, Toby, had a childhood friend in Los Angeles, Irv Drooyan, who taught school, wrote math textbooks and played outdoor ping-pong.  Toby kept in touch with Irv and one other Clevelander in California, Sol of San Diego.  In the 1950s, California was just an extension of Cleveland.

These friends of my dad occasionally switched their first names — maybe to dodge anti-Semitism.  Irv was Red.  Sol was Al.  Toby was Ted.

My introduction to outdoor ping-pong was on Red Drooyan’s patio in Woodland Hills, California, in 1962.  Unforgettable because a) it was outdoors, and b) I didn’t know my dad had any friends.  In Cleveland, my father had hung around exclusively with my mom’s friends and their husbands.

California was about a) stippled paddles — with a woody sound, and b) my dad with friends.

Good vibrations. Got to get back there.

To 1962 or California?

To the ping-pong table.

Your serve.


[For goys only.  In Ralph Solonitz‘s ping-pong table illustration,  “milchidike” refers to dairy and “fleishidike” means meat.  The two major divisions in the Kosher League.]


Please see the post below too.  It’s raunchy and new.

Yiddishe Cup celebrates Purim this Sat. (March 19), 7:45- 9 p.m., Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights.  Open to all.  Free.

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1 Marc { 03.16.11 at 9:46 am }

I used to play a lot of ping-pong when I was a kid.
We had a table in the basement. I was pretty good at defense.

My friend, who was often my opponent, was a great offensive player. He should have won every game; however, my consistently good defense would get on his nerves, and he would loose his patience.

2 adrianne greenbaum { 03.16.11 at 10:09 am }

LOVE ping-pong! When can I play with you and Greenman?!! I’m pretty good. Had that table in the basement, deluxe.

But during college years, mom put everything that didn’t have a home on the table: gifts from folks, ones that she would wear on a rainy day, some day; extra kosher dishes, some for Passover; empty shopping bags. My sister and I had to retire from the game….

PLEASE, I want to come! Ping-pong and Jam? What a combo!!!

3 Bert { 03.16.11 at 10:29 am }

To Adrianne Greenbaum:

Next time you’re in Ohio, let me know. I’ll arrange a tournament of klezmer ping-pong. Make it wintertime. Summer ping-pong is not kosher here.

4 Seth Marks { 03.16.11 at 4:43 pm }

Bert: There are house rules and house hazards, so low-tossed serves are OK at my place and you have to deal with a low ceiling.

At yours, you have to wear a hat to block out the glare from the overhead light, and if you back up too much you either hit the wall or fall over a music stand.

5 Alice { 03.16.11 at 9:44 pm }

You forgot to mention Valeriy was from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He gave our son, Jack, lessons. I challenge anyone to take on Jack. He did spin the bike wheels.

6 Ted { 03.17.11 at 1:07 pm }

How do you get “Toby” from Theodore anyway?

7 Bert { 03.17.11 at 1:45 pm }

To Ted:

“Toby” is a variant on Tuviah (Hebrew) and Tevye (Yiddish).

Toby was sometimes called “Tobele” (Little Toby) by his mother. I heard that many times.

8 Stuart Zolten { 12.09.12 at 8:20 pm }

Haven’t played in years. Like to get some of my old game back. Is there a more informal place than Masonic to play once a week?? It would take me a long time before I could compete with those guys!! Tried it once. I’m in Ohio City.

9 Bert Stratton { 12.10.12 at 8:46 am }

To Stuart Zolten:

Try Jerry Goldstein (216-932-6549) head of Shaker Hts. ping pong club. Meets at Shaker community building. Or it did. I haven’t been in a couple years. Good luck!

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