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.


 
 

Category — Cleveland, Full

GORDONS PARKED

When I was growing up, saying “Jewish music” was like  “Jewish cars.”   Didn’t mean a thing.

On second thought, “Jewish cars” did mean something.  It meant, for example, the Boat — an Olds 98 owned by my friend Mark’s father.  The Boat had electric windows and was oceanic.  (Mark was richer than the rest of us, I think.  He lived by Cedar and Green roads, and his doorbell lit up.)

Years later, a West Side gentile called those humongous Detroit rides “Jew boats.”   So maybe there were Jewish cars.

Re: Jewish music . . .

I learned about that at the house of another high school friend, Shelly Gordon.  His parents knew Israeli and Yiddish music, cold.   Shelly was rarely home.  I was an adult when I got interested in Jewish music, and Shelly had already moved to Israel.  (His parents were such impassioned Zionists most of the family wound up in Israel.)

Shelly’s parents were Labor Zionists (Poale Zion).  They seemed to know every classic Israeli tune and how to dance and/or sing it.  And the  Gordon family  attended a Yiddish camp in Michigan.  (Farband/Jewish National Workers Alliance.)

The parents didn’t know sports, which was odd because Shelly turned into a star athlete.  He played tennis for Ohio State and became a tennis pro in Israel.  Shelly did that for more than 30 years.  (Still at it.)  He never took a private tennis lesson.

Shelly didn’t care about Jewish music; he cared about the Browns, Buckeyes and Indians.  In Israel he logs on — to this day — at about 3 a.m. to catch Cleveland sports scores on the Internet.  He has a yarmulke that reads “Cleveland Cavaliers.”

When I went to Jerusalem in 2006, I played The Wall.  Shelly.  At the Israel Tennis Center, Shelly was like Moshiach (Messiah); he had the highest seniority and everybody deferred to him.  He had even beaten Andy Ram, a Wimbledon doubles champion.  “Andy was 12 at the time,” Shelly pointed out.

Shelly’s dad, Sanford (the man who knew all the Hebrew tunes),  never played tennis.  In fact Mr. Gordon was so oblivious to sports he didn’t even sign Shelly up for Little League.  Mr. Gordon was not an immigrant or DP (Displaced Person); he was a NASA scientist and full-time Zionist.  Baseball meant nothing to Israelis, thus, it meant nothing to Mr. Gordon.

Shelly went to a Zionist camp in Michigan.  (Habonim Camp/The Builders.)

On the flipside: My parents played tennis; didn’t collect Jewish song books;  didn’t send me to any kind of  camp; and my dad managed a Little League team.  So I wound up playing klezmer music.

When Mrs. Gordon died last month, her body was flown from Israel to Cleveland, to Mt. Olive Cemetery.  A twist on shipping an American Jewish corpse to Mt. Olive, Jerusalem.  Mrs. Gordon wanted to be buried next to her late husband.

At Mrs. Gordon’s funeral, I had time to kill because the mourners, following Orthodox tradition, shoveled mounds and mounds of dirt into the grave.  Took a half hour.   I noticed Mr. Gordon’s tombstone said on the back side: “A kind and gentle man loved by all.”  In his case, true.

Mr. Gordon was eydl (polite/refined).  Also, a rocket scientist and excellent balloon twister.  His wife, Beatrice, had gone to college and social work school after raising children.  She wasn’t idle.

When my kids were little, I took them to the Gordons often.  (The Gordon grandchildren were in Israel.  That worked out well for my family.)  I called Mr. and Mrs. Gordon “Beasan” behind their backs.  It was a contraction of Beatrice and Sanford, as in: “Let’s go to Beasan’s for pizza and some magic tricks.”

What a pair.
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1 of 2 posts for 11/11/09.  Please see the post below too.

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November 11, 2009   2 Comments

FISHY

1.   JEWISH FORK-LORE

Musician Mickey Katz called chocolate phosphates “Jew beers.”   He drank them at Solomon’s on E. 105th Street.

I drank mine at Solomon’s at the Cedar Center shopping strip, where Solomon’s moved to.

For some Semitic semantic reason, goys occasionally called Cedar Center the Gaza Strip. Now it kind of is.  The north side of Cedar Center is concrete chunks and gravel heaps. A real estate developer knocked down the 1950s-era plaza and plans to redevelop.  Who knows when.

Solomon’s was my family’s deli of choice. My father, Toby, was a “deli Jew.”  In the Jewish world, that’s usually a putdown, meaning the person knows more about corned beef than Rashi.  Toby’s favorite food was a “good piece of rye bread.”

Toby, a phosphate fan, probably didn’t drink more than a dozen real beers his whole life.  He should have.  In his retirement, when he drank booze he smiled a lot more.  A bit shiker at one party, Toby teed off on a watermelon fruit bowl with a golf club. That stuck with me.  [Shiker is drunk.]

Toby grew up in a deli. His mother had a candy store/ deli at E. 118 Street and Kinsman Road. She sold it to her half-brother when he came over from the Old Country.  Something fishy about that deal — something involving the half-brother’s wife.   My grandmother went from candy store/deli owner to simply candy store owner.  Not a lateral move.

At the Gaza Strip, there was also Corky & Lenny’s. (Still around — four miles east.)   A couple small Jews hung out in the rear booth at Corky’s.  One was Harvey, who did collections for a major landlord.  (Major, to me, means more than 1,000 units.)  I knew Harvey from junior high.

He sued my mother.  My mother, for health reasons, moved from her Beachwood apartment after 27 years into an assisted living facility.  She had a couple months left on her lease.  Harvey, who represented the major landlord, went after her.  Harvey’s boss, by the way, loved my band.   So what.  My mother was collectable.

Freelance journalist David Sax just wrotea book about the decline of delis.  Here’s something for the second edition, David: Delis went downhill when they added TVs.  Now you have to watch the Browns while you eat.

I was deli-famous.  At Jack’s Delion Green Road, I had a thank-you note up in the entrance.   My letter was about the terrific tray for my firstborn’s bris.  Fatherhood was about buying huge quantities of smoked fish.  What a blast.  (I ordered the exact same tray for my daughter’s naming.)

I complimented Jack’s Deli on its fish, which my Aunt Bernice, The Maven, also liked.   I mentioned “The Maven’s seal of approval” in my letter.  Bernice work for a food broker and knew food.

My letter was up for a couple years.

(Acknowledgment to Henry Sapoznik for “fork-lore” in this story’s title.)

***

2.  ’DINES

The trend at mass-feed kiddushes (post-service temple chows) is toward Israeli foods: hummus, baba ganoush, Israeli salad.

When you privatize — and don’t invite the whole congregation — you typically add some fish.

All Jews like a good piece of fish: lox, smoked fish, herring, the occasional sardine.

My youngest son recently called  from Trader Joe’s in Ann Arbor, Mich., and said, “Don’t get excited, Dad, but do I want the sardines in oil or water?”

“Oil.”

I did get excited.  My college kid was finally getting into ’dines.

My mother had given me about eight cans of ’dines when I went off to college.  I ate them on Sunday evenings, when the dorm cafeteria was closed.  (This was back when sardine cans opened with a key, and the ’dines were Portuguese — not Moroccan like now.)  Surprisingly – to me at least – the guys in the dorm wouldn’t share my ’dines. Pizza time.

I liked all kinds of ’dines.  Even the monster-size sardines in tomato sauce were OK.  Bones, no bones . . .  no matter.  Cajun sauce, soya oil, olive oil, mustard sauce . . .  all good. Four ’dines in a can, two in a can . . . either way.

Anchovies?  Also, an excellent choice. Make sure you buy your anchovies in a bottle; they last longer than in cans.

Herring in wine sauce.   Beware.  Last month Heinen’s supermarket substituted Vita brand for Golden Herring.  That was lamentable.  Vita is too sugary.

At luncheons, the other Yiddishe Cup musicians don’t seem to appreciate the fish (i.e., the “dairy spread” in kosher parlance) as much as I do.  Yes, they like the lox.  Lox is apple pie.  But the other items (smoked fish excluded) get little play from the band.  You should see the mountains of herring left over.

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October 21, 2009   17 Comments