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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Nobody out-talks Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek. He’s the quote machine. He once said, “I’m old-school Collinwood. You mess with me or my property, and I mess with you.” He called former councilman Jay Westbook a “weasel,” and former mayor Mike White a “son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch.”

Polensek, 2002

Polensek, 2002

Before Polensek was a councilman, he was a machinist at White Motors. I saw Polensek frequently in 1981 and 1982, when I was a reporter for the Sun Scoop Journal. Polensek ran for city council against Dave Trenton — a fellow incumbent Slovenian — in 1981. The city wards had been redrawn, and Polensek or Trenton was going to be out of a job. Trenton was “shanty Slovenian,” said my editor, another Slovenian.   Trenton was slightly rougher-edged than Polensek. For instance, Trenton smoked a cigar in public.

polensekThe editor endorsed Trenton, maybe because he and Trenton played softball together. The editor told me to survey the 14,000 registered voters in the ward. I talked to 75 people. Trenton received 32 votes in my poll. He had a plurality. The paper ran this headline: “Trenton called favorite in Ward 11 race.”  And the endorsement stated: “As council’s majority leader, Trenton can serve the community from a position of strength . . . [He has] invaluable connections downtown.”

But Polensek, the underdog, won! When I walked into Polensek’s victory party at the Italian Cooperative Association Hall on St. Clair Avenue, a Polensek supporter announced, “Your paper endorsed Trenton!” Another man said, “You’re in the wrong place. You’re going to eat crow when you write up your shit. You’re one of the worst writers ever! What are you doing here?” A woman, somewhat calmer than the men, said, “I don’t think you’re going to find what you’re looking for here.”

They didn’t like me. (I was a curly-haired hippie Jew from the Heights. That didn’t help.) But Polensek liked me — liked me enough. He liked media people, period. He said, “Oh well, you’re here. Like I told your boss, I knew we’d win.”  I said I would have voted for Polensek if I lived in Ward 11. Polensek wasn’t impressed. He said, “You’re disrespecting your boss.”

Polensek is still a councilman 35 years later. I ran into him a couple years ago and said, “You remember the ICA Hall,  when some of your supporters wanted to kill me?”

He was foggy on it. I wasn’t. He said, “No hard feelings.”

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1 Irwin Weinberger { 02.24.16 at 11:17 am }

This was a nicely written piece Bert. Brought some insight to local politics and a nice sketch of Polensek. I wouldn’t want to have been in your place when you walked into their headquarters.

2 Ken Goldberg { 02.24.16 at 7:18 pm }

Shouldn’t last sentence have ended with a question mark?
I believe that, for the most part, Polensek’s Ward has been going downhill. Not too much to stem the out-migration flight. Waterloo good for arts and a few decent shops, etc., but not much else of real interest. East 185th, I believe, has been going downhill for years – in diversity of shops, in streetscape maintenance, in its losing its joyous summer festival which really was outstanding about 25 years ago. Some anticipated new businesses never opened. Yes, it’s got that Standard restaurant and Cafe 185, but it also has dives and an awful lot of barbers, salons, bars. Lost good pet shop, chalet travel agency, flea market stores, African store, some ethnic restaurants, several interesting ethnic stores, traditional garden store (it died a slow death), costume store. There was a short phase of many vintage/collectible stores, but it’s long gone. Artsy benches were actually sophisticated but are now all shabby. Will coffee house EVER open? How about that theater project? Will the last owners of that ice cream takeout place reopen? Woman had actually said she wanted to stay open all winter (it never seems to work with a place like that). I almost miss Puff-n-Stuff….

3 Mark Schilling { 02.24.16 at 10:27 pm }

A brilliant return to form.

4 Dave Rowe { 02.25.16 at 12:35 am }

Polensek was (maybe still is) referred to as “The Mayor of Collinwood” – wonder if he ever went for the top prize. Was (and undoubtedly still is) “the quote machine.”

5 jmu { 02.26.16 at 12:02 pm }

Well done, Bert, though I think your memory is as foggy as Mike’s.

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