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.


Posts from — May 2011


A Jew Grows in Brooklyn, Jake Ehrenrich’s one-man Broadway show, was unadulterated nostalgia.  Jake even flashed photos of his bar mitzvah on the big screen on stage.

The show came through Cleveland recently.  The audience, for the most part, loved the sentimentality and obviousness of the play.  Did you know Jake and other Brooklynites played stickball?  Did you know Irving Berlin was born Isadore Balin?  Did you know Jews wrote many popular Christmas and rock songs?

This just in: Jews like baseball.

What about bark mitzvahs?  (Bar mitzvahs for dogs.)  Aren’t those (fake) events outrageous and cute?  Jake projected dogs in yarmulkes and tallism (prayer shawls) onto the screen.

There are acceptable levels of schmaltz and shtick.  Jake exceeded those levels.

I know, Yiddishe Cup is not exactly schmaltz-free.  And Yiddishe Cup gets negative reviews too.  We’re schmaltzy. We play “Romania” at the end of most of our shows.  That is the imprimatur of a klez shtick band.  But we also play original comedy tunes and regularly rip off the great Mickey Katz.

We would gladly add more high-brow material to our shows if we could play our instruments better.  But we wouldn’t add too much high-brow.

Some high-brow bands are monotonous, repetitive and monotonous.  No names here; I don’t want to alienate any of my musician friends.  OK, I’ll name one group . . .

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.

These drum-crazed Cuban dudes play rhythm patterns on four drums for 45 minutes.  And that’s just the first set. Very little melodic or harmonic variation.  No chording instruments.  No talking between songs.

Yiddishe Cup talks.  We explain our tunes and ad lib asides. I might say, “Ladies and gentlemen, on keyboards, Winston Churchill.”  That’s class.

Jake Ehrenrich, in his show, lifted many old Jewish jokes. That was the best part of his show — his Catskills routine.  (And he’s a good singer and musician.)

Jake’s best joke:

Two Jewish men are walking by a church sign:


Abe says, “I’m thinking of doing it — converting.”

Murray says, “What? Are you crazy?”

Abe goes into the church and comes out ten minutes later.

“So?” Murray asks. “Did you get the $500?”

Abe says, “Is that all you people think about!”

Hurray for Oy Vey.  There’s a market.  And I want the T-shirt concession in the lobby.

Say "No Vey" to "Oy Vey"

For “inside baseball” blog talk, please check out the post below.

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May 25, 2011   3 Comments


interrupt-this-blogBeen doing this blog for two years.

Special thanks to our major donors (commenters).  We could have done it without you, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

In no particular order, thanks to Marc, Jessica Schreiber, Gerald Ross, Seth Marks, Teddy, Adrianne Greenbaum, Bill Jones, Mark Schilling, Harvey Kugelman, Terri Zupancic, Ellen, Susan Greene . . .

David, Margie,  Irwin Weinberger, John Urbancich, Jane Lassar, Zach Kurtz, Ben Cohen, Alice, Alan Douglass, Diddle, Steve, Dan, Jack, Don Friedman, Kenny G,  and Steven Greenman.

Get your name on this list next year by contributing at least $2,500 or writing many comments.

"Substandard paragraphs!  Ten cents!"

"Substandard paragraphs! Ten cents!"

Also, a special thanks to Ralph Solonitz, the blog’s illustrator.  He adds a lot.  When I write substandard paragraphs, I encourage Ralph to throw in as many pics as possible.  Works out well.

I first met Ralph about 20 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo.

Several people have recently asked when they’re going to get in the blog.  They want in!

On the other hand, many more people say, “Don’t put me in your blog, whatever you do.”

Google Analytics — a spy op — says there are “Klezmer Guy” readers in every state except South Dakota, plus many foreign countries.  (The five most popular countries are Canada, Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.)

Google Analytics, for your information, zeroes in on readers by their hometowns, not their names.  For instance, somebody in Chico, California, reads this blog.

Thanks for hanging in with this blog.  Without you — the reader — I’d be writing for the drawer, which I’ve done and it’s no fun.

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May 20, 2011   3 Comments


When Alice Gibson, a tenant, skipped out, I phoned her because she left her apartment purple, black and yellow.

She didn’t want to talk about that.  She wanted to talk about why I hadn’t changed the toilet seat when she moved in, and why I hadn’t fixed the ceiling in her hallway, and why had my building manager told her she could paint the walls purple, black and yellow if she couldn’t.


Ms. Gibson had never been late on her rent. She was there two years.  She was a good tenant.

But she skipped and used weird paint colors.

“Didn’t you get my final month’s rent?” she said. “I sent it with a note saying I was moving.”

I didn’t receive the check. It was the twentieth day of the month. I went dumpster-diving in my wastebasket for the check.


"I see a Johnnie Walker but no Gibson."

I had a 30-gallon wastebasket.  I wondered how many more times I would go dumpster-diving for liars.

Ms. Gibson had seven months left on her lease. I called her back and threatened to take her to court.

She said, “Go ahead, I’m broke.”

“It’ll be on your public record,” I said. “If you try to buy a car or a house, the ‘public record’ will be on your credit report. At least pay this month’s rent.  You said you mailed it.  I didn’t get it.  So mail it again. Do the right thing.”

She said she would send one-half month’s rent.

I started talking Spanish with her — for bonding’s sake.   A half month’s rent! Better than nothing.   I knew she was going to Argentina.  I ended in English: “Make sure you send it. You know, you painted the kitchen cabinets black.”

“And those cabinets look a lot better than when I moved in!” she said.

I didn’t get the half month’s rent.

I left Ms. Gibson a voice mail: “Pay the half month’s rent. Give it to the Pony Express, or the mailman, or hand-
deliver it to me.  If you don’t, I’m going to sue you.  I don’t care if you are broke.  It’s not right what you’re doing.”

My new tenant — post-Gibson — liked the black cabinets. He also liked Ms. Gibson’s yellow paint job in the kitchen.

Alice Gibson saved me some money on re-painting.  She knew her colors.

She had some pluses.

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May 18, 2011   5 Comments


The “shul with a pool” movement peaked in the 1920s.  Major synagogues in large Eastern and Midwest cities sometimes built sanctuaries with pools attached.   My shul — at its previous location (East105th Street, Cleveland) — had an indoor pool.  It’s still there, the pool and the shul (now Cory United Methodist Church).

The church has famous Jews’ names carved into the frieze. Hillel, Maimonides, Rashi . . .


Jews and swimming. It’s in the Talmud somewhere: A Jew must learn to swim.

I started my serious swimming — my lap swimming– at the Mayfield JCC in 1995.  I thought I was going to jail; that dingy pool had no natural light.  Russian women in bathing caps and Russian guys in Black Sea briefs bumped into me in the lap lane.

For serenity, I tried the newer JCC in Beachwood.  But that didn’t solve my problem. A doctor/lap swimmer there thought he was playing water polo.  He would bump and splash me.  I liked the guy but not in the water.


My favorite indoor lap pool is at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago.  I’ve only been there once, but I’d like to go back.  My daughter, Lucy, a renowned globe-trotting event planner, lined up the Intercontinental-with-pool for me.

Johnny Weissmuller trained at the Chicago Intercontinental (formerly a Shriners’ athletic club and hotel).  It’s an historic landmark.johnny-weismuller-best-at-intercontinental-hotel-pool

The most beautiful part of the Chi pool: three signs that read laps only.  The pool’s fourth lane has an open swim sign. Usually it’s the other way around: Three lap lanes for horsing around and one for swimmers.

I politely asked a young dad and his bobbing kid to leave my lap lane.  They did.  Then other bobbing dorks encroached.  Couldn’t these kids read laps only? There was no lifeguard.  I muttered, “What a disaster.”

The young dad, overhearing me, said, “The sun is out! You’re alive!  Sorry if we’re ruining your swimming.”

The dad did not understand lap swimming.  He did not realize lap swimming is a quasi-religious experience.  Lap swimming is a combination of mediating, praying, thinking and just zoning out.  A lap swimmer needs a shul in a pool.

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by me on Sunday. Click here to read it.  The article was about love, junk food and Jewish tongue.

Why didn’t the Times use this Ralph Solonitz illustration?


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May 11, 2011   11 Comments


You aren’t going to read this entire blog.  I know that.  You have other things to do. Like working out . . .

Benching the Sunday NY Times

Mr. Mentsh benches the Sunday NY Times

Here’s a good idea.  Check out this “best of” list:

1. The three best blog posts are . . .

SEARCHING FOR GALICIA, about the Alter Heym (Old Country); has a photo of my mother;

FECES HAPPENS, about a building manager cleaning up excrement;

and YID LIDS, about a yarmulke collection.

This  site — Klezmer Guy — is primarily an amusing word pile, accompanied by Ralph Solonitz‘s illustrations, original Klezmer Guy videos and Yiddishe Cup music.   And no recipes.

2. The best video is about a beat-boxing drummer (guy in yellow shirt with tie):

3. The best Yiddishe Cup recording is Meshugeneh Mambo — a klezmer comedy album. mambo-final You can buy and/or listen to it at CDBaby, Amazon, or iTunes. (Yiddishe Cup’s Web site is We play all over the country. We also do a duo act.)
Here’s our best song:

Meshugeneh Mambo (Crazy Mambo) by Yiddishe Cup

4. The blog’s illustrator, to repeat, is Ralph Solonitz. His best work is Yiddishe Cup’s logo at the very top of this page.

herring-boat5. Please sign the mailing list at the lower left of the screen. You’ll get a fresh post delivered to your door every Wednesday morning by herring boat. You will receive one — just one — email a week. (We don’t sell your email address to others.) Or you can “like” us on Facedeath and get a weekly blog post there.

Once again, welcome. Please read the posts below and come back here on Wednesday mornings. Nobody — and that includes the New York Times — covers the klezmer/
landlord scene like we do.

Lox on,

Bert Stratton

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May 7, 2011   7 Comments