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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.



Henry Vernon had a skanky apartment.  It was so smelly even the plumber wouldn’t go in.  We regularly sprayed air freshener in the hallway outside Vernon’s  apartment.

Vernon was the lizard man. The building manager called him that. Vernon had a fake lizard in his car, and a rowboat on top.  He liked to fish.  His application said he worked for the Salvation Army.

He was late with his rent and wouldn’t return calls.  His application was eight years old; the phone numbers were no good.

Nobody saw him around.

Nobody wanted to go in Vernon’s apartment.

The building manager said Vernon hadn’t had electricity for four years.

Four years?” I said.  “How do you know?”

“His meter is red-tagged.”  (Red-tagged meant the Illuminating Company had shut off his power.)

“How does he see at night?”

“I think he uses a camping light. He’s a camper.”

Clothespin Alley

I knocked on his door, said “manager” three times, and entered. There were piles of clothes, cigarette butts and beer cans.  There was a plastic crate of dirt.

“He’s gone,” I said.  “But what about the clothes?  You think he’ll come back for the clothes?”

I searched for “Henry Vernon” on Facebook and Google.


His car was gone.

Vernon was 55.  If he was arrested, or killed, or in the hospital,  cops or relatives would have stopped by.


We took 35 contractors bags of trash from Vernon’s place, including $25 in  loose change from under cushions and chairs.  And the bucket of dirt.

I called the Illuminating Company to get the lights back on, so we could paint. The Illuminating Company representative said, “You’ll need the city to verify the suite is fit for power, because the power has been off so long.  I bet you see all kinds.”

Yes . . . Vernon the lizard man, in the dark for four years, camping.

Vernon, why are you dragging the city into this? Where are you?  Are you in Mt. Vernon, Ohio?  Where are you?

“Henry Vernon” is a pseudonym.

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1 Ken Goldberg { 05.22.13 at 11:19 am }

Phooey – how am I supposed to start my expert searching for a guy only whose pseudonym is furnished?

Today I read the entire passage leading to the “READ NOW” instruction, before performing the click-on…. I must say you brought great suspense into this blog – creating kind of a mini-film noir….

2 don friedman { 05.22.13 at 1:57 pm }

Given what’s happening around Obammy, I think you will find the lizard man on the IRS payroll. Of course, nobody will admit to knowing him!

3 Marc { 05.22.13 at 2:53 pm }

Why do you want to find him? You should be glad that he is gone.

4 Bert Stratton { 05.22.13 at 3:06 pm }

To Marc:

I don’t like it when people drop off the grid. They’re not playing by the rules. Or at least my rules.

5 Ken Goldberg { 05.22.13 at 3:47 pm }

Personally, I don’t care for people with unlisted phone numbers; how are we inquisitive types supposed to find out all about them? Or people who have the nerve to speak on a bus, in a line, or, say, on a porch too quietly – how are we supposed to hear their personal conversations???

6 Mark Schilling { 05.24.13 at 11:27 pm }

If you’d found the decomposed remains of Mr. Vernon buried in the dirt crate you’d have the set-up for a murder mystery — or a horror movie.

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