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.




I rented to a yoga lady. I went halves with her on a laminate floor for her storefront. She did the legwork, hired the installer, and sent me a bill. I expected a copy of the installer’s invoice, but I got the yoga woman’s note as to what I owed.

I did a Reagan trust-but-verify; I called the floor installers, whom I knew from way back. They had rented a store from me down the street. I hadn’t talked to them since they had moved out. The flooring woman said the numbers on the invoice were right, and she told me her husband had died of cancer at 54 in 2008. I said, “I can still picture you and Rick walking around the [flooring] store with sweaters on, freezing.” The store was on the end of the heating line and didn’t warm up too quickly.

The flooring woman mentioned my father, whom she remembered and had a good impression of. That always gets me –when people remember my dad. Not too many people do; he died in 1986. My dad had had a real affinity for young entrepreneurs: flower shop guys, flooring stores, beauty parlor owners, resale shops, bars, you name it.

I had an essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Feb. 16. The story might have been paywalled. Here’s the whole thing:


Bert and Toby Stratton, 1957, Victory Park School, South Euclid, Ohio

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — My family used to be shy. Then, in the 1950s, my father enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking and became less shy. When I was in my 20s, my father bought me Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and I became less shy, too. When my children grew up, I bought them the book. Carnegie’s book, written in 1936, holds up. Carnegie’s message is, essentially, it’s not about you. He wrote “arouse in the other person an eager want.” Let the other person talk her head off, and you listen. Warren Buffet displayed his Carnegie-course diploma on his office wall.

Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan wrote that shyness is partially inherited. There is a brain marker for shyness. However, if you are willing to work on shyness, you can become less shy.

I’m an extrovert now in my old age. When I play clarinet at nursing homes, the audience members occasionally heckle me, and I welcome that. I actually relish it. One listener blurted out, “Shut up and play!” And I kept on talking – bantering about whatever seemed amusing. I typically poll the audience about their lives and tell anecdotes between songs. I like all kinds of interactions, short of violence.

I ask the nursing-home residents what high schools they attended, and which delis they like. Corky & Lenny’s and Jack’s Deli finished in a dead-heat for first. Then Corky’s went under. Now the residents and I try to create lists of defunct Jewish delis: Budin’s, Seiger’s, Solomon’s, Irv’s, Lefton’s, Sand’s and Diamond’s. Are there others? As for where everybody went to high school, Cleveland Heights High comes in first. (It used to be Glenville High. I play mostly Jewish nursing homes.)

My dad, toward the end of his life, became fearless and often sent back tepid soup at restaurants, and he once told floor sanders to re-sand floors that came out too wavy. (My dad owned Lakewood apartment buildings with wood-plank floors.) The sanders were off-duty policemen, and my dad wouldn’t pay until those floors were smooth. I was impressed my dad would go head-to-head with cops. The height of my dad’s boldness was when he was in the Cleveland Clinic dying of leukemia. He told the doctor, “I own this place.” My father owned a $10,000 Cleveland Clinic municipal bond.

A hardware-store owner in Lakewood once said to me, “Nobody is going to jew me down on that price.” This was in the 1970s, and I was in my 20s and very shy. I spent several minutes pacing the store’s aisles before reapproaching the owner. I said, “Bob, you know, I’m Jewish.” Bob didn’t know that. He didn’t know “jew” was derogatory. He apologized. No big deal, in hindsight.

Jack Stratton on his first gig, age 3 1/2, Beachwood Library, 1991

When my youngest child, a musician, finished college, he moved to California to try to make it in the music business. I told him to call Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish. I had gotten Joe’s number from a friend. Joe lived in California. My son said, “Who’s Country Joe?” Huh? Had my son never heard of Woodstock? Or at least seen the movie. I said, “Don’t be shy. Call him.” I was talking to myself mostly – my younger self.

My son didn’t call Country Joe. It takes time to become less shy.

Bert Stratton, a frequent contributor, lives in Cleveland Heights and has also written for The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He writes the blog “Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate.”

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1 comment

1 sam { 03.28.24 at 10:25 pm }

‘Prose poetry’, the teachers called it. But did they know klezmer? I think not. But that is all in driftwood memory now. Carnegie built libraries, no?

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