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.



Ken Goldberg, a friend, came over for shabbes dinner and brought not only dessert, but an eyewear catalog.

The catalog was from Ben Silver, a store in Charleston, South Carolina . . . “Tasteful and refined eyewear for men and women.”

Ken said his favorite Cleveland eyeglass shop is Park Opticians, the fashionable and expensive store near my house.

I ran into Susannah Heschel — the daughter of  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel — at a wedding; she said she was going to Park Opticians the next day.  Susannah has many frames.  She lives in New Hampshire.  She is a scholar at an Ivy League school.  She shops at Park Opticians.

Susannah Heschel

My frames adjuster at Park Opticians is Mickey.  Keep your hands off my glasses if you’re not Mickey!

My daughter, Lucy, bumped into my glasses when I gave her a horsy-back ride.  (Lucy was 4 at the time.)  My glasses wouldn’t fit right after that.  I went to the headache center at the Cleveland Clinic.  Either my eyeglass frames were askew, or I was.

B. Stratton, 1973

I like clear frames, aka “crystal.”  I’ve been a crystal wearer for years.  My younger son, Jack, jacked a pair of my crystals.  What’s with that, son?  (I have extra crystals lying around the house.)

I usually unveil a new pair of crystals after visiting Les Rosenberg, an optometrist who works out of a box, 20/20 Eyewear, on the West Side.

Les doesn’t care that I don’t buy his frames.  Les makes a living, with or without my purchases.  Les is simply happy to see a fellow yidl and old high school buddy.

Jack Stratton w/ child (seltzer machine) and crystals, 2011

Les didn’t hang out with  the smart guys in high school.  Les was a goof-off.  But a smart goof-off.  Les dated, did little homework, and went to Ohio State and partied.  He eventually studied, I guess.  He is a doctor.

At 20/20 Eyewear, Les gives me the latest info on the popular “kids” from high school, and I give him the latest on aging eggheads like Marvin and Howard.  Les says, “I was as smart as those guys!”

Yes, you were, Les.  And you were a goof-off.

Les is not a goof-off  now.  He’s a skilled professional, and bonus, he’s empathetic.  He does not criticize my crystals or my supplier, Park Opticians.

Life with tortoiseshells is not an option.  Les knows that.  Goldberg, my shabbes guest, knows that too.

I once had ultra-light rimless frames.  The frames were so flimsy they fell off  my head whenever I put on a pullover sweater.  Ski caps, another big problem.  The ultra-lights were Swiss; you’d think they’d be good.

One word:



Lucy Stratton at the White House, 2011.  Her eyeglasses are partially wood.  (The White House hired a Jew to decorate the Christmas tree.  I hope she put a Jewish star on top.)



’Tis the season to be . . .


Giant Eagle asked me to play at its pre-Passover shopping extravaganza last Sunday.  Giant Eagle, headquartered in Pittsburgh, called me in Cleveland and said they needed two musicians at Legacy Village, the “lifestyle” shopping center in suburban Cleveland.

I’m anti-“lifestyle” centers.  And I don’t like the phrase “playing in the aisles.” The Giant Eagle booking agent said, “We can pay X dollars for this.”

I said, “X + 50 percent.”

She said she’d get back to me.  She didn’t.

She hired my competitors.  Actually, two musician friends of mine.

The Sunday morning of my non-gig, I said to my wife, “I could be at Giant Eagle right now playing.”  She was impressed.  She likes Giant Eagle.  (I’m more a Heinen’s supermarket guy.)

I ran into Irwin Weinberger from my band, Yiddishe Cup.  I said, “Right now we could be playing Giant Eagle.”

He shrugged and said, “We don’t have anything to prove at this point in our careers.  Now if you said you just priced us out of a gig in Fuerth, Germany, that’s a different story. But not Giant Eagle.”

The musicians with the grocery-store gig worked Facebook hard that morning.  They elicited 10 comments about how cool it must be to play a grocery.

Ten Comments on Facebook is commanding.  Why had I quoted such a high price to that Pittsburgh agent?

And I probably could have gotten a free box of matzo, too.

Later, I read the eleventh-or-so Facebook commandment.  It was from a Giant Eagle musician: “Sure wish the agent who hired us could have notified Giant Eagle that we were playing.  Sorry to all those who made it out to see us.  We are very disappointed.”

What?   Did they make you guys play over the Muzak?  Did people throw Tam-Tams at you?  Did a kid spill grape juice on your violin?

I suddenly felt pretty good about the gig.

Happy Passover.

The next day, my first question to the musician was “Are you getting paid?”

“Yes, we are getting paid in full,” he said. “The store manager, who wasn’t the main manager, didn’t know we were scheduled.  The main manager wasn’t there.  So we went home.”

The check is coming by giant eagle from Pittsburgh.

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1 Eric Krasner { 04.04.12 at 9:15 am }

There are much better things to do than spend your day playing next to stacks of macaroons and kosher Coke. You did the right thing.

2 Kenny G { 04.04.12 at 9:48 am }

You outdid yourself this time, Bert. Thanky! I’m sure Park Opticians thanks you, too. Too bad they’re supposed to be officially changing their address to the dumb “John Carroll Boulevard,” though. I always like to associate them with North Park Boulevard, with its mansions and parkland. So far, though, JCU hasn’t come up with dishing out the $ for new signs, etc., apparently.

3 Marc { 04.04.12 at 10:25 am }

I’ve been wearing metal frames for many years. They keep making the lenses smaller and lighter. Do you remember those aviator frames we wore in the 70’s? They had giant glass lenses that made a red mark on your nose where they hit your nose.

Those plastic lenses we wore in the sixties didn’t last long. One good patchke and they were done. The optometrist used to put them in a hot bin with gravel in them to soften them up so they could be bent.

The Klibinoff optometrist dynasty was big in Rhode Island. Father and sons, maybe grandsons.

4 Steven Greenman { 04.04.12 at 10:55 am }

The gig paid well (I’ll tell you the fee later) even though it didn’t happen. It could have been a good thing for you. How much did you ask for? It was fricking Giant Eagle, not the Louvre!

5 Steven Greenman { 04.04.12 at 10:56 am }

Thanks, though, for passing on the gig so that I could do it (sort of).

6 Irwin Weinberger { 04.04.12 at 11:08 am }

Now I am a little jealous. It’s always a joy to be paid for a gig that you don’t have to play.

Once we had a drummer who was sent home on a shabbat gig (no drums allowed). But I can’t remember any gigs where I was sent packing and still received the gelt!

Is that what happened Steve, or did I read it wrong?

7 Steven Greenman { 04.04.12 at 11:48 am }

First of all, I didn’t know that the entertainment agency had called Bert first. Now for the explanation of why there wasn’t a “gig.”

There was a mix-up in the Giant Eagle communication about our performance – the manager at Legacy Village wasn’t informed that musicians were to play, so we checked with the Beachwood Giant Eagle just to make sure we had the right place, and then went home.

It was still “work” in the sense that Mark had to shlep all his equipment out and then pack it up and take it home, and we arrived there early in the morning all ready to go.

It’s good that the agency is paying us though, otherwise I’d be really pissed. Sorry you chose not to do it, but if this happened to you guys I think Bert would have blown a gasket at the Pitt agent. I almost did, but held off while still demanding to be paid, which she agreed to.

8 Kenny G { 04.04.12 at 11:57 am }

Btw, Susannah Heschel, whom I’ve heard speak, has her priorities in order.

9 Garry Kanter { 04.04.12 at 1:04 pm }

I’m never exactly sure where the meandering is leading me on this blog.

And even after Googling “crystal frame glasses”, and looking at a picture, I have no idea what they are.

10 Bert Stratton { 04.04.12 at 1:25 pm }

To Garry Kanter:

“Crystal” is just another name for “clear.”

I wore clear plastic frames for years before realizing I was wearing “crystal.”

The opticians and eyewear catalogs use the word “crystal.”

There are a couple photos in the post of Strattons in clear frames.

11 Garry Kanter { 04.04.12 at 5:00 pm }

Thank you!

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