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 has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



 This appeared on the Ann Arbor Observer blog last week.  If you’ve already read it, please skip down to Side B.

Last year at The Ark, my klezmer show got bumped for Judy Collins.  She took my slot.

Ann Arbor ukulele-master Gerald Ross, who was a sideman, emailed me then: “I saw The Ark schedule. I don’t think we’re playing Feb. 9 [2013], because you’re not Judy Collins.”

I had a lock on that date!  I emailed The Ark.  The Ark said how about another date?  I suggested a couple more Saturday nights.  The Ark said how about a Friday night.

I don’t play Friday nights if I can help it.  I like to stay home for Friday nights — shabbat.  Sometimes my shabbats are just a couple hours, but they’re always on Friday night!  I once heard a Reform rabbi say, “Say a prayer over your pizza if you’re out with your kids on Friday night.”  I’m all for that.  I “hold” by that.  (“Hold” means  “I follow that custom.”)

I reluctantly took the Friday night slot last year, but didn’t put Friday in my publicity.

I got up to Ann Arbor on Friday afternoon and met up with an old college friend, Charlie Burch.   He had just donated his 1960-70s political buttons to an archive in the Graduate Library.  I wondered who still used the library. The answer: Charlie.  (His buttons were No Nein Nyet Non Lo; March on Washington; Go Michigan Beat Thailand.)

Charlie pointed out where various stores don’t exist anymore.  Like Centicore Books, Borders Books, Orange Julius and Miller’s Ice Cream.

I like touring Ann Arbor.  It’s the only place I’ve lived other than Cleveland.  I graduated U-M in 1973.

I said a private shabbat prayer in a Mexican restaurant, Sabor Latino, before my gig.  I opened the gig with “Shalom Aleykhem” (a well-known Friday night song) and wished the Jews at The Ark “shabbat shalom.”

I had a good one — a good shabbat.  But playing publicly on Friday night is not optimal for me.

Yiddishe Cup plays  Saturday night this year –- this Saturday, Feb. 8 [2014].  Praise the Lord!


180-degree turn . . .


I shot a cow once. It was crippled and couldn’t walk. My dad sold the dead cow to the Amish for meat. We couldn’t sell it to anybody else because it wasn’t “choice” grade.

My dad loved everything having to do with cows: barns, ice cream, blintzes. He had me pitching balls against the side of our barn, like Bob Feller. My dad thought I could be the next Rapid Robert even though I was a near-midget.

I planned to go to Ohio State to major in dairy science after high school. But my high school friends — all non-dairy guys — talked me into Michigan, where I majored in diary science (creative writing). A big mistake.

I spent a year in Israel after college, at a kibbutz, milking cows in the refet (dairy barn). The kibbutzniks  were impressed.

I still like unpasteurized milk, but it’s hard to find these days.

I order milk at bars. Women overhear me and say, “You’re like James Cagney!”

Got milk?

I hope so. I have zero tolerance for the lactose intolerant.

File under Fake Profiles.

Yiddishe Cup is at The Ark  this Sat., 8 p.m. Feb. 8. Here’s a vid from our show at The Ark, 2009:

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1 Mark Schilling { 02.05.14 at 9:35 am }

I’ve got tons of button from my UM days:
Tenants Union Rent Strike
Greetings (promo button for 1968 Brian De Palma flick)
Nov 15 March on Washington
Revolution for the Hell of It
Ann Arbor Film Festival
Cleaver for President
The Great Society: Bombs Bullets Bullshit
Green Survival
Recognize Biafra, etc.

2 Bert Stratton { 02.05.14 at 9:54 am }

Wow, Mark Schilling, button man.

Here’s what I’ve got:
Nov 15 March on Washington
McCarthy for President
McCarthy May 7 (Ohio primary)
The other guys are the joke (Mailer for NYC mayor)

By the way, somebody [Taschen Books of Germany] is doing a coffee table book about Kennedy and Mailer, and I’m going to be in it. The book will supposedly have a photo of me at Ohio Stadium, Oct. 1960; I’m wearing a Kennedy for President button.

I wonder if I can link to the pic here. The photo is from my blog. In fact I’m getting $100 for the photo. The publishers found the pic here. This blog makes money!

Link to photo, maybe:

3 Ken G. { 02.05.14 at 9:56 am }

My father was the real thing – grew up in the city, graduated from College of Agriculture at Cornell, and owned and managed a farm near Rochester for five years.

At least you could have taken one of them On the Rise challas to Ann Arbor, as you didn’t mention it.

4 Bert Stratton { 02.05.14 at 10:03 am }

To Ken G.

On the Rise [a Cleve Hts. bakery] is my challah source. (The Source, as Michener might say.) I should have taken an OTR challah to Ann Arbor last year. Trouble is everybody in Ann Arbor is hooked on Zingerman’s.

5 Mark Schilling { 02.05.14 at 11:25 am }

I have Nixon/Lodge and Thomas E. Dewey buttons. No Kennedy buttons — In 1960 I went to the Dem campaign HQ in Barberton with my best buddy, who scooped up Kennedy buttons and stickers, but I refrained out of loyalty to my Repub parents. Regrets, I’ve got a few…

6 marc { 02.05.14 at 2:28 pm }

My idea of a great Friday night is a nice Shabbos dinner at home to include wine or beer, a good book on the couch afterwards and falling asleep early.

7 David Korn { 02.06.14 at 2:00 pm }

My U of Michigan memories are sparse — I didn’t attend, but I visited. I dimly remember what I had been told was a campus landmark (as in, It will always be here, guaranteed), called Drake’s Sandwich Shop. Still exist?

8 Bert Stratton { 02.06.14 at 3:14 pm }

To David Korn:

Drake’s went under.

My band is insisting we go to Noodles this weekend, when we play Ann Arbor. Noodles will always be around (for a while).

9 Dave R. { 02.22.14 at 2:37 pm }

Down here there isn’t much of a klezmer scene — undoubtedly I’ve got the biggest collection of K music in western NC.

When most people up north hear banjo music they think of “Deliverance.” Me, I try to figure out what the guy (or woman) is doing.

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