A COUSIN GROWS IN BROOKLYN
The venue: the Barclays Center.
The show: Jay-Z on the mic.
The kingpin: Cousin Brucie Ratner, owner of the Barclays Center.
Brucie isn’t my cousin, and I don’t know Jay-Z’s music. But I felt part of the Barclays Center’s grand opening. I walked around the outside of the arena.
Furthermore, I occasionally play gigs for the Ratner family in Cleveland. The Ratner patriarch — Albert — likes “Oyfn Pripetchik” (At the Hearth). Albert doesn’t even have to ask.
Bruce Ratner told the New York Times he used to be embarrassed he was a developer. He was an anti–war protestor back in the day, he told the Times.
Brucie is me x 1 billion dollars.
I was at a wedding in Brooklyn. Beyoncé’s sister was there. I sat across from Beyoncé’s marketing agent. (Jay-Z is married to Beyoncé.)
The music at the wedding was arena quality. A gospel singer from the Blind Boys of Alabama sang the ceremony. A doo-wop group did the cocktail hour. An eight-piece New Orleans brass band walked into the wedding through an industrial garage door and wailed for hours.
Where was I — other than two miles from Jay-Z? I was in a former brass foundry, close to a toxic site, the Gowanus Canal.
I saw guys in Brooklyn Nets T-shirts.
My band, Yiddishe Cup, once played the Brooklyn Center for the Performing the Arts in Flatbush. Not too cool, apparently. (My band or Flatbush?)
I think the wedding venue was in Red Hook, a section of Brooklyn. Not sure. Maybe Carroll Gardens (another Brooklyn neighborhood). I like to know where I am.
Boys, hit ’em with “Oyfn Prip.” Cousin Brucie might drop by. Just like back home. (There is a Brooklyn, Ohio.) Jay-Z in the house? Strike up “Money, Cash, Hoes.”
I sat on a bench at Horseshoe Lake and read the Cleveland Jewish News. I felt like Isaac Bashevis Singer with the Yiddish Forverts. (Typical Singer opening: “While I was sitting on a park bench I noticed that my left shoelace was untied.”)
I had a letter to the editor in the CJN and wanted to make sure the paper got it right.
The park bench at Horseshoe Lake had a plaque: “In loving memory of Arthur Lipton. He played at Carnegie Hall.” My question: Did Arthur Lipton get paid, or was he in a youth orchestra? Did they — the orchestra — rent Carnegie Hall?
The CJN got my letter right.
The “wombs and tomb” section of the CJN is the crux of the paper: the births, bar mitzvahs, weddings and deaths. Deaths are always a good read. Who owned what business. Who fought in Japan. In the weddings, there is usually a U. of Michigan grad. Does every Jewish family in Cleveland have a Michigan connection? I skip the bar mitzvah and birth announcements; I’m too old for those, or not old enough.
On returning from the park, I saw a dog crapping on my front lawn. I paused at a distance, to see if the owner would clean up. She did.
Snack time: I opened a new jar of peanut butter.
It was creamy! I bought creamy by mistake!
Heinen’s should be more distinctive with its labels:
My (future) park-bench epitaph: “Albert Stratton preferred crunchy peanut butter.”