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.



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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1 Bill Jones { 05.18.11 at 10:09 am }

Mazel tov! on adding the NY Times to your writing precis in the headline. May you go from strength to strength.

2 Mark Schilling { 05.18.11 at 10:15 am }

Why didn’t you fix her toilet seat? Sounds like a legit complaint to me.

And it’s a great story.

3 Bert { 05.18.11 at 10:38 am }

To Mark Schilling:

I’m always changing toilet seats. $15. No big deal.

But sometimes a tenant who owes back rent will ramble on about how horrible everything is at the building — to justify not paying.

Human nature, I think.

4 MARC { 05.18.11 at 3:25 pm }

We sell white toilet seats for $10.99. Next time you’re in Providence stock up.

5 Irwin { 05.18.11 at 4:06 pm }

I really liked this story, Bert. Brings up some interesting views on human nature. Interesting that what you saw as being a disaster, another person viewed as beauty.

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