Category — Coming of Age
I was somewhat stylish in seventh and eight grades. I shopped at Mister Jr.’s and Skall’s Men’s Wear at Cedar Center shopping center. After eighth grade, I gave up. I couldn’t cut it — shopping and fashion.
My dad had a friend who sold the Farah pants line in Cleveland. I liked Farah, but Farah wasn’t fashionable. Nice feel, but not too cool. Lee –- the brand — was cool. Farah was part of the Continental look — the greaser look. Iridescent sharkskin.
Italians clung to the Continental look for years. Jews got out of it quickly and moved to the “collegiate” look – Lee’s. Like colored jeans. This hurt Farah.
Ben Skall, an old guy, owned Skall’s Men’s Wear. He became a state senator. I had to give up white socks to enter Skall’s world; I bought black socks with gray rings around the top (Adler brand).
Sam McDowell and Hawk Harrelson shopped at Skall’s.
I didn’t quite make the in-crowd at school. I made the in-between crowd. My problem (one of them): I came from a hick elementary school –- a place with plenty shark-skinned Italians and few Jews. When I arrived at junior high, I noticed right off half the school was yiddlach, and these kids were by and large “fast,” and they could dress, and they could “mock you out” if you dressed wrong. I had no idea what to wear! I had a spread-shirt collar. That was verboten. It had to be button down. I went to Skall’s.
I wore a fisherman’s knit sweater my mom made. Homemade was verboten too, but a girl complimented me, so I kept wearing the sweater. “Nice sweater,” she said. (If she had said “Nice sweater” — accent on the “nice” — that would have been a putdown.) Home run. Thanks, Mom.
I bought a shirt jac and light blue denim pants. The shirt jac didn’t tuck in.
Shoes: Pedwin loafers — black, cordovan, or olive green. Choose one. Cordovan was M.O.R. (middle of the road).
I bought Levi’s – not Lee – jeans. Cream-colored. Not blue jeans. Blue jeans weren’t permitted at my junior high.
The rules about clothes and fashion confounded me for several years. For instance, shirts could have box patterns, but not big boxes. If you wore a box pattern the size of a checker board, you were dead. I avoided box patterns and wore striped shirts — always appropriate.
One more thing . . . sweaters: Alpaca was the anchor of the Continental look. Alpaca sweaters were itchy and very Italian. The comfy V-neck sweater was the collegiate look. I had a gold V-neck called Summer Wheat. (Like my cereal, which is Autumn Wheat.)
I dropped out of the fashion whirl about ninth grade. I hung out mostly with nerds. “Nerds” wasn’t even a word. Neither was “geek.”
Dufuses? Dips? We were anti-social and afraid of girls. We were hopeless, so why shop?
This is ancient history.
What about knickers?
Footnote: Greasers were called “racks” at my school. Derived from “racketeers,” I think.
Click here for more on the guys I went to school with [a Klezmer Guy rerun, from 11/30/11].
And please read the info below this illustration.
The Klezmer Guy trio plays Nighttown, Cleveland Hts., 7 p.m. Tues., April 23. $10.
Alan Douglass, keyboard and vocals, Bert Stratton, clarinet and prose; and Tamar Gray, mostly singing Motown vocals.
Tamar Gray’s uncle is Slide Hampton, the jazz trombone player. Tamar’s brother is Pharez Whitted, a Chicago jazz trumpeter. Tamar’s mother was part of the Hampton Sisters of Indiana. In other words, Tamar has yikhes (musical lineage).
Speaking of yikhes (and nepotism), Jack Stratton is 75% of the way toward reaching his latest Kickstarter goal. Check out his Kickstarter project here. It’s about Vulfpeck, Jack’s German-Jewish band.
April 3, 2013 4 Comments
My friend Rob, a social worker, was fixated on Canada. He watched “Hockey Night in Canada” on TV and studied the Canadian railroad timetables. He filled out immigration papers to Canada, waited several months for clearance, and moved to a small town in Ontario.
The next day he came back to Cleveland. He was a mama’s boy, I figured.
He didn’t like the social work job, he said, but he liked Canada.
Rob definitely didn’t like Cleveland — the blasting car horns, the boom boxes, the leaf blowers, and his parents pestering him. One day Rob’s father said, “You’re going to move too far away.” The next day his dad said, “You need to go out into the world and prove yourself.”
I subscribed to “Hockey Night in Canada” for Rob, so he would babysit my then-toddler son for free on Saturday nights.
Rob moved to Canada again. This time to Nova Scotia. Change your place, change your luck, as the Hebrews sages say.
It worked. I haven’t seen Rob in 18 years.
I miss him, even though he verbally abused me. He was misanthropic. He was jaded. No, I was jaded. We held jadedness contests. Rob said I was restaurateur on a perpetual hunt for dishes my bubbe never made.
He said, “You crave urban experience so badly you would eat flankn cooked directly off the seat of a cross-town bus.”
True enough. So would he.
Rob and I listened to comedy records, played music together, and made fun of Jews. Rob knew more Yiddish than I did back then. His favorite curse was Gey mit dayn kup in drerd. (Go to hell. Lit., go with your head in the ground.)
We attended High Holidays at Case Western University Hillel. I had to drive; Rob was anti-car, anti-noise. He was so sensitive — probably the most sensitive person I’ve met, and that includes Harvey Pekar, who was not exactly loosey goosey on the avenue.
I schlepped Rob to a hillbilly bar on the near West Side, so he could jam with the house band. He played guitar and sang a couple tunes. Rob was devoted to country music – authentic country. Rob’s favorite player was Hank Williams.
Rob made his sole East Side musical appearance at Heinen’s supermarket for a cancer-awareness fundraiser. He played “Good Old Mountain Dew” in the pop section and “Hava Nagila” by the oranges. He had a sense of place.
And he moved to Canada.
I wonder what he’s up to. He has family in Cleveland. He visits here, I imagine.
Rob doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t humour me.
“Rob” is a pseudonym.
At CoolCleveland.com today, “The Kid from Cleveland.” About a “kid” I ran into in Atlanta.
Extreme Canada is England. Here’s a video about England. (A Klezmer Guy rerun.)
March 13, 2013 No Comments
I was in the grocery store parking lot, listening to Terry Gross interview poet Donald Hall on the radio.
Gross asked Hall how he liked being old. Hall couldn’t complain, he said, but then he did for several minutes. He talked about how he had recently published a story in the New Yorker in which a security guard at the National Gallery had treated 83-year-old Hall like a child; the guard had leaned over to Hall, who was in a wheelchair, and asked, “How was din-din?” (Hall is poet laureate emeritus of the United States and a recipient of the 2010 National Medal of Arts.)
I could listen to Hall talk about aging all day. I didn’t really want to get out of my car and shop for prunes, yogurt and salmon.
I used to be younger. Take 50. In 2000 my then-teenage son attended a New Hampshire summer camp an hour from Hall’s house. I visited the camp on parents’ day. Should I look up Hall, my old English professor? I had studied with Hall 30 years earlier.
Maybe Hall lived way back in the woods. Maybe he sat on his front porch with a shotgun. I didn’t know.
Hall’s house was not deep in the woods. It was about 50 feet from a federal highway and across from a summer camp. (There are a lot of camps in New Hampshire.) He could sometimes hear “Reveille.”
Hall was happy to see me, and said quickly, “I’m rich.” He had made his money mainly from royalties, from a how-to-write college textbook and his award-winning children’s book Ox-Cart Man. Only a poet would ask, “Are you rich?” He added, “How about you?”
“I’m doing OK,” I said. Look, I had a kid at a New Hampshire summer camp. Enough said.
When I had graduated Ann Arbor in 1973, Hall had discouraged me from returning to Cleveland. He had said, “Why do that — to sell insurance?”
Nevertheless, I returned home and “sold insurance.” I entered my family’s real estate biz.
In New Hampshire, Hall took me to a fancy restaurant near his farm. I said, “I own and manage apartment buildings. I’m a landlord. And I play clarinet.” Meaning I can improvise. I’m still in the arts!
My first year at Michigan, Hall had looked like a stock broker. He went hippie about a year later, I think. In New Hampshire he wore a dye-tied shirt, and I was the guy in the polo shirt.
Hall quit his tenured job at Michigan in 1975 and moved to his grandfather’s farm near Wilmot, New Hampshire. Hall did freelance writing.
At the New Hampshire restaurant, Hall said he had traveled to the Amazon River on a private jet with a Michigan grad who had made it big in the movie business. The student owned a movie company. Hall said, “His family was in the grocery business in Detroit, until I warped his mind.”
Hall warped many minds. He told me to guard against bitterness. His late wife, poet Jane Kenyon, had died five years earlier at 47. I had known her from English classes.
Hall had endured colon cancer, which was supposed to have killed him, but didn’t. Instead, his wife died from leukemia. He said, “Every generation thinks they know more than the next generation. Schopenhauer was writing about this in the 1700s. You don’t know more than the next generation.” Hall wouldn’t even let me pay the tip.
The next day I drove to Manchester, New Hampshire, and flew back to Cleveland to evict people, fix leaky faucets and collect late rents. It was not poetic.
Eleven years later (2011), I mailed several of my published articles to “Donald Hall, Eagle Pond Farm, New Hampshire.” (He didn’t use email.) I wrote: “From your student — your 61-year-old student.” I dated the cover letter. Hall was always big on dates.
Don wrote back, “I know you know I know that you feel old and know you are not.”
I bought my prunes, salmon and yogurt at the grocery store, plus a couple beers. I want to make it to Hall’s age. On the radio he sounded spry and happy.
Attention, Michigan residents. Please come to the Klezmer Guy show at The Ark, Ann Arbor, Feb. 15. 8 p.m. $20. Features Bert Stratton on clarinet and prose, Gerald Ross on ukulele and Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and Alan Douglass on piano, sunglasses and vocals.
Attention, Clevelanders. Attend Purim at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights, Feb. 23. Yiddishe Cup becomes Sly and the Family Stein on Purim. We’re going to play Jewish music and soul music. Free. Open to the public. 7:30 p.m.
February 13, 2013 4 Comments
(A version of this post appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer 11/4/12.)
When will it end?
Superstorm Sandy or the election?
Definitely by Tuesday.
Ohio returns to flyover status Tuesday, and I’m back to looking for celebs at Ohio Turnpike rest stops — bands and gangsters traveling from New York to Chicago.
Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and Condoleezza Rice: history.
My friend Jane posted on Facebook: “Can’t wait until this election season is over so I can be sane again.”
A friend from Rhode Island asked me, “How is it living in a swing state?”
“It’s swinging,” I said. It’s sweet. We’re loved.
When I’m not loved, I’m a landlord. I receive calls from political operatives who want to rent stores for “staging areas.”
I haven’t rented to a politician in years, because politicians tend to trash stores and not pay enough rent. The campaign workers are gone the day after the election, but the pizza boxes aren’t. And where are the keys?
I’m supposed to give the store away cheap, as a political gesture. My gesture: Pay and I’ll rent to you.
“I’m Brian,” said the young man on the phone.
“Where are you from?” I asked. He didn’t sound local.
“I’m in Cleveland right now.”
“I need the store for a few days.”
“How many people will be in the store?”
“Twenty to 30 people. They’ll go out canvassing. Teams are sent out.”
Twenty to 30 people is a lot of foot traffic for a 1,000 square-foot store, and a lot of pizza boxes.
Plain or pepperoni.
I’ll never know. My price was too high, I guess.
From the history channel . . .
When a relative ran for school board and lost, my father said, “Don’t run again. You don’t want to get a loser’s reputation.”
My relative didn’t run again.
I, too, play by my dad’s rules.
I might run. When? Not saying.
First, a little background: I was a Kennedy man. (Who wasn’t? A lot of people.)
I started my own country (on paper) in sixth grade and elected presidents and representatives. My country was a solace, because in the real world I couldn’t run for president because a) I wasn’t 35 and b) I was Jewish.
My mother said I could run and win. She duped me! My man, Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, couldn’t even run. Newsweek said the country wasn’t ready for the Ribman for prez or even veep.
Now presumably a Jew could win the nomination for the top job.
Let me be clear: I won’t start out at school-board level or even vice president.
My Little League teammate Joel Hyatt (Cleveland Heights High ’68) ran for U.S. Senate and got clobbered. He hadn’t paid his dues; he hadn’t run for lesser offices.
Lee Fisher (Shaker Heights High ’69) paid dues. I saw him at civic club meetings in Collinwood in 1982: six neighbors, me and Lee. Fisher eventually climbed to lieutenant governor. Then he got clobbered for the U.S. Senate. He paid dues. Give him that.
I’m willing to pay dues. About $10.
My American history teacher in high school said Stratton is a good political name. (My teacher was Americo Betori. He should have run for mayor of Cleveland in 1950. He would have won.)
Stratton. Remember that name.
A few weeks ago at Simchat Torah, the rabbi said, “We will now read the last verse of the Book of Deuteronomy.” A Yiddishe Cup musician — not paying close attention — said, “Did he just say, ‘We will now read from the Book of Mitt Romney’?”
November 5, 2012 6 Comments
My dad, Toby, and I hired Charles Tuncle for kitchen-floor lino jobs. Tunkl means dark in Yiddish, which my dad never failed to point out. Tuncle — the man — was black. Also, he was a killer. He shot a man in a bar.
When Tuncle was sent to prison, my dad wrote the parole board about Tuncle’s quality vinyl-floor work, and Tuncle got out early. My father never told the tenants — or our building managers — about Tuncle’s record. My dad never said: “You see that guy over there with the utility knife? He’s a killer.”
My dad called our business Reliable Management Co.
We should have hauled garbage with a name like that.
When I started an offshoot company, Acorn Management Co., my dad said, “What the hell does ‘Acorn’ have to do with anything?”
“Dad, I live on Oak Road. That’s why.” It was 1976. Environmentalism was the next big thing.
“Nobody is going to understand ‘Acorn,’” he said.
I sometimes call my company “Reliable + Acorn Management companies” now. That makes me feel like a Danish architecture firm.
I hired Standard Roofing for a roof tear-off. Standard Roofing went under. Too standard?
My electrician is Jack Kuhl, pronounced “Jack Cool.”
I knew Emin Lyutfalibekov, a handyman. I told him to shorten his name, and he said no way; he was offended. He said he was royalty back in Azerbaijan.
Napoli Construction is a bricklaying firm. Art Gallo, chief mason.
I use Donnelly Heating once in a while. Dan Donnelly. There are four Donnelly heating companies on the West Side: Dan, Tom, William and Original. They must have large Seders.
Lawrence Christopher Construction — that was Larry Vesely. He filled a hole for me for $9,000 — a coal bin that had collapsed beneath a parking lot. The city wouldn’t allow me to fill the hole with plain gravel. The city wanted a reconstructed coal bin that could practically double as a bomb shelter, complete with beams and concrete. Larry said the job would cost $3,000 and take several weeks.
The final bill was $9,000 and the job took nine months. One delay and complication after another.
I could not charge higher rents just because I had a nice coal bin. No tenant cared I had a bomb shelter.
I paid Larry back in nine monthly installments, just to get slightly back at him.
Tuncle the floor guy — I miss him. He died at 84 in 2008. A nice guy, except for that night in the bar. He didn’t have any other criminal record.
I was at a gathering of Jewish landed gentry — a landlords’ shabbat — in Pepper Pike.
Landlord A — to my right — owned a 17-suiter which her late father had bought in 1955.
Landlord B owned a building his father bought in 1936.
Buy and hold, chaverim. Shabbat shalom.
I owned (with my sister) a building my dad bought in 1965.
In real estate — as in many fields — it’s good to pick the right father.
In college Donald Trump bought his first building, using his father’s money: a 1,200-unit apartment complex in Cincinnati. Trump’s dad owned property in New York’s outer boroughs. Trump’s net worth upon graduating college in 1965 was $1.4 million, in today’s dollars. [Trump, The Art of the Deal.]
Suites, a local real estate mag, did a profile on Marty Cohen, a Cleveland landlord. The article said Marty “couldn’t shake his interest in property management.” Marty worked at a bank for a while, but that wasn’t a good fit. His family owned a 150-unit Parma apartment complex. Maybe that had something to do with Marty finding a good fit in real estate.
Buy and hold, brothers and sisters. Pass the strudel.
Griffith, the state boiler inspector, called.
I said to him, “You’ve been around as long as me!”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “I was around even when your dad was still around! You know, your father was a kinda guy. A good dude. I miss your dad. He was hoping you’d take over the business. And you did!” (My father died in 1986.)
“How long you been around, Griffith?”
“Since 1972. You were just a kid. You were in high school.” (I was in college, Griffith!) “Your dad was a little worried about you, I’ll be honest with you. I hope you don’t take this personally, he thought you didn’t have the fire. You know, he had went through some things that weren’t easy, and he wanted to leave the buildings to somebody who would appreciate them.”
“I gave my father some things to think about, I guess.”
“I’m proud of you. You come around. If he was around, I’d tell him how good you’re doing.”
I didn’t run the family biz totally into the ground.
My epitaph — if I’m lucky: I’m in the Ground But My Business Ain’t.
Next week’s post will be on Thursday, not Wednesday, due to Yom Kippur.
Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/16/12). “High Holidays beckon twice-a-year worshipers.”
September 19, 2012 6 Comments
The Jazz Temple was a music club in a former Packard showroom at Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue. Coltrane played there. Dinah Washington too. Everybody played there. The Jazz Temple was in business from 1960 to 1963.
I passed the Jazz Temple weekly on my way to Sunday school at The Temple, a Reform synagogue in University Circle, Cleveland.
Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver was the head rabbi at The Temple. Rabbi Silver was very prominent; he spoke at the United Nations, advocating for the establishment of the state of Israel. Rabbi Silver’s son, Danny, was the assistant rabbi. He played football at Harvard and blocked hard for his dad.
The Sunday school kids at The Temple were mostly from Shaker Heights. One kid got a ride in a limo to shul. The driver wore a chauffeur’s cap.
I couldn’t grasp how temple — the word — fit into a non-Jewish setting, like in “Jazz Temple.” Was Jazz a religion too? (Give me a break. I was 10.)
Years later, I met a couple ex-beatniks who had been old enough to go to the Jazz Temple in the early 1960s. They had heard Trane and Ella.
The Jazz Temple was blown up in 1963. Somebody didn’t like the club, or the owner, Winston Willis, a controversial black businessman.
At The Temple, the religious-school kids would attend the last part of the service and hear the sermon. Rabbi Silver looked like God and talked like Him.
Rabbi Silver: Live at the Jazz Temple. Interesting.
John Coltrane: Live at The Temple. Another possibility.
A love supreme . . .
A love supreme . . .
In the arts, if you’re precious, you’re bad. Precious is the worst thing. Precious means you’re dainty and overly refined.
A friend (a former music critic) called all college a cappella music precious.
Harvey Pekar called Willio and Phillio — the Cleveland music-comedy duo — precious. (Willio and Phillio was around in the 1980s.) Willio and Phillio was precious — their stage name for sure. Willio (Will Ryan) went out to Los Angeles to work for Disney, and Phillio (Phil Baron) became a cantor in L.A. They were good, and probably still are.
Yiddishe Cup is precious occasionally. The musicians say “oy vey” too much on stage. I’ve tried to get my guys to stop. I can’t.
Peter Laughner, a Cleveland rocker, died from drug abuse and alcoholism at 24. He killed himself, basically. (This was in 1977.) He was not precious. He was dead — and funny — about art. He was in the Pere Ubu underground before Pere Ubu was famous.
Suicide doesn’t appeal to me for two reasons: 1) My wife would kill me if I tried it. 2) I want to attend my kids’ weddings and eventually meet my grandkids-to-be.
“Precious” is OK for grandkids. (“Grandkids” is precious.)
New construction — Side C — for Michiganders. . .
I drove to Rochester, Michigan, which is not as cool as Rochester, New York, but it does have a small-town charm.
I’ve seen Father Coughlin’s former church in Royal Oak, Michigan.
I’ve been to Detroit many times.
My wife, Alice, said, “Detroit has very long roads.”
She probably meant Woodward, Gratiot and Telegraph.
Detroit also has the Lodge. Elmore Leonard mentions the Lodge in his books, like, “The gambling casino, Mutt, you can’t fucking miss it, over by the Lodge freeway.”
A couple Cleveland freeways and bridges have names, like the Bob Hope Memorial Bridge, but nobody ever uses the names.
I stayed at a hotel near the Silverdome, which looked like a big pillow. (The stadium did.) A Detroiter told me the Silverdome sold for about $200,000. A stadium for the price of a California carport.
Who was John C. Lodge? Probably a labor leader. [No, the mayor of Detroit in the 1920s.]
Detroit is like Cleveland. Detroit has the Eastern Market; Cleveland has the West Side Market. Detroit has downtown casinos. Now Cleveland has a downtown casino.
Metro Detroit has a few more Jews than Cleveland. And probably more Arabs, Poles and Ukrainians. And more blacks.
People who wear Tiger caps are cool, as are Indians cap wearers.
What about Berkley, Michigan? Is that worth a visit?
Elmore Leonard eats at the Beverly Hills Café. I wonder if that’s part of the Beverly Hills Café chain, or an independent restaurant in Beverly Hills, Michigan.
I wonder if Elmore Leonard spends his winters in Detroit. I bet he doesn’t. He writes a lot about Florida.
I have some Elmore Leonard junk mail.
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit. That’s worth reading.
Maple means 15 Mile. Big Beaver is 16 Mile.
What about Oakland University? Does the university have Bobby Seale barbecue sauce in the cafeteria?
I live only three and a half hours from Berkley, Beverly Hills and Oakland.
Yiddishe Cup pulls into Motown Sunday. See us at Cong. Beth Shalom, Oak Park, Mich.,
2 p.m., Sept. 9. Open to the public. Concert info here.
September 5, 2012 7 Comments
When my parents spent winters in Florida, I occasionally represented them at their friends’ funerals in Cleveland.
I didn’t like the work. My mother would call from Boca Raton and say, “Edith was such a good friends of ours. Please go, son.”
But I went. The hardest part was walking from my car to the shiva house. I pictured a bereaved relative opening the door and saying, “Who are you? Have you no decency? We don’t want any!”
That never happened. I mingled with mourners. I was often the youngest non-relative there. Occasionally the rabbi would recognize me . . . “You have such a Stratton punim.” I looked like my mom or dad. Take your pick.
I eavesdropped. That was the action. An old woman said, “When I feel sick, I want to die. Then I get better and want to live.”
“Let me tell you something, deary,” another woman said. “They don’t ask when you want to die.”
My Cleveland Heights friends didn’t talk like that. They talked about marathons, 10Ks and Tommy’s milk shakes. A rabbi talked to me about the Cleveland Browns. Rabbis are into sports now, but a generation ago it wasn’t that common.
A food broker said, “I sell Heinen’s.”
Heinen’s didn’t interest me — not until at least fifteen years later.
I spent about twenty minutes per shiva call. The mourners were always appreciative.
My parents made me do it.
While shiva repping, I met a California man who produced Joel Grey’s shows for 27 years. I said, “I’ll send you my band’s CD and you can show it to Joel. No, on second thought, I won’t send it, because Joel might sue me for ripping off Mickey Katz tunes.”
“Don’t worry,” the producer said. “Lebedeff’s people tried to hit Joel up for royalties on ‘Romania, Romania’ for years. No luck.”
Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs. Aug. 9) at Cain Park, Alma Theater, Cleveland Hts. We’re doing a tribute to Mickey Katz.
A documentary filmmaker from D.C. plans to be there. You might wind up in the movie.
Tickets are $20-22 in advance and $23-25 manana. Discounts for seniors and students. www.cainpark.com and 216-371-3000.
August 8, 2012 1 Comment
“Forty years ago, the news media were filled with reports of a generation gap. Let’s be grateful that we’ve finally solved that problem.” – Karen Fingerman and Frank Furstenberg, op-ed, New York Times, 5/31/12.
Beachwood, Ohio, 1973
I live with my parents at the Mark IV, a high-rise apartment by the freeway.
I’m living with my parents at age 23! My life is so unexciting it couldn’t get published in a mortuary journal.
Chekhov said, “People do not go to the North Pole and fall off icebergs. They go to offices, quarrel with their wives and eat cabbage soup.”
I want to go to the North Pole.
My dad almost clobbered me because I didn’t want to save five dollars on traveler’s checks by comparison shopping at banks. “You aren’t a millionaire yet,” he said, scratching himself. He was wearing just underwear.
Tonight at a party — a parents’ party — Zoltan Rich, the Hungarian know-it-all, said, “The students protest for entirely selfish reasons. You know what the chief word is we’re missing — the key to the whole discussion? It’s obligation. Parents have abrogated their responsibility.”
It’s time to go.
A guy from Case Western Reserve said he might give me a ride out west tomorrow.
California or Mexico?
I won’t come back here for at least six months. My mother has a bridge game here tomorrow. If I’m within 100 feet of that game, I die.
Move along. Try the Rand McNally approach to self-discovery . . .
It’s 3 a.m. in Utah. I’m under a lamppost, “sleeping” in a sleeping bag. I hear deer. Or is it bears? I’m afraid of nature! I hear semis shifting.
I wonder if I like “freak” America. Deep down I’m straighter than a library science major. I could wind up back in Cleveland. You can go home again.
Or maybe I’ll settle out in California.
My dad says, “I’m sure you’ll be a success some day.”
At what? Whatever it is, I should do a good job of it. My father never says, “What are your plans? What do you see yourself doing in ten years?” That would be cruel.
My last month in Cleveland was a hell. But not a bad hell. My mother lined up dates for me. The dates were daughters of my mom’s friends. I took girls to bars and ordered 7&7s. That was my booze repertoire: 7&7s.
I got feedback about the dates from my mother through back channels. She picked up tidbits at bridge games. Some of the girls liked me, some didn’t. One girl thought I was “a little weird.”
She was weird. She had no business dragging me through her dad’s kangaroo court (his living room was plastered with World War II medals) for interrogation. What are my plans? What do I do?
What’s an apricot sour? That’s what I want to know. She ordered that.
I’m sitting on the dock of the bay in Bodega Bay, California. I’m eating squid. Or maybe it’s a big snail. I’m not sure. I’m at a marine lab. Wastin’ time? I don’t know yet.
Part of this post was on CoolCleveland.com, 10/12/11, called “Mom’s Dating Service.”
Yiddishe Cup plays a tribute to Mickey Katz 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 9, at Cain Park, Alma Theater, Cleveland Heights. For tickets: www.cainpark.com or 216-371-3000.
July 25, 2012 5 Comments
I grew up in a gully, according to my friend Max Burstyn. Max said, “You lived on one of those dead-end streets that had flooding. You lived in a gully.”
Yes, there was some flooding, Max. I remember a canoe on my street.
Max lived in the Jewish highlands on the other side of the public park. No flooding in the highlands there, and 99-percent yidlach. Max was equal to
1 ½ Jews. He spoke Yiddish and German. His dad was a Galitzianer from Krakow. Max was born in Munich and came to America as a baby in the 1950s.
I played tennis with Max in the park. That’s where we met.
Max still rants about the gully. He says, “You lived with the goys — like Stropki. I played Pony League with him. There were about eight Stropkis. What about Bobrowski? He was a Catholic too. Went to St. Joe’s. He played third-string for the Browns. He was from your street. There was Mastrobuono. He had a funny walk.”
True, I lived with Catholics, but I heard Jewish mothers shry gevalt (scream bloody murder) at their kids from across the park. Those Jewish moms had powerful lungs.
“Max, what about Willie Hendricks?” I said. “Why was he in your neighborhood?”
“Hendrick’s mother was Jewish,” Max said. “He could pitch.” Hendricks was about 6-4. He was drafted by the majors but never played pro ball.
Max was a self-described mischling ersten grades. (First-degree mixed race.) That’s a Nazi term, but Max used it — at least around me. Max’s mother was a German gentile and his dad was a Polish Jew. They met in Germany after the war. Max was halachically converted as a baby.
Max comes to my house for shabbes. I like his Yiddish. He knows words that nobody else knows. He talks about a kudraychik — a swindler. I can’t find that in the dictionary. It’s probably Slavic, not Yiddish. For example, Max says, “There was a kudraychik, a Jewish barber, in the occupied zone after the
war . . .”
Max books rooms for a hotel chain. He works out of his house. He occasionally talks German to Europeans who want to book rooms in Florida and play golf. Max also gets calls from drunken Englishmen who call him “your majesty.” He has to work 92 percent of the time during business hours. He can watch baseball and football games on mute. “It’s not a bad job,” Max said. The occasional call from Germany, no boss and no commute. Not bad.
Max beat me at tennis. I hadn’t lost to him in a while. Did I sully the honor of the gully? I don’t think so. I’m not Catholic and I’m not gully-proud.
The tennis instructors at Bexley Park were mostly college kids who didn’t care about the job. One year it was Stovsky; the next year, Nagy, the state champ. These “pros” rarely showed us anything. Maybe they showed us grips: the Western, the Eastern, the Continental.
The courts were asphalt with cracks and weeds. At least the nets were real, not chain-link.
My dad got me about 10 private lessons at the Cleveland Skating Club in Shaker Heights. The pro there called me Tiger. I think he called most non-members Tiger. He was John Hendrix. He went on to coach at Ohio State.
Some of my Bexley Park tennis friends became jealous of me because of my private lessons. I got better than most of the Bexley players. One player, Shelly Gordon, still harps about my private lessons, like I violated the South Euclid Tennis Court Oath: Don’t Be a Tennis Snob. Shelly played at Ohio State and became a teaching pro in Israel. He’s self-taught. His strokes are horrible, but he’s good.
A seeming midget, Denny A., ruled Bexley Park, along with a gambler, Twitch, and a tomboy named Annie G. They bet on everything, like who could hit the most first serves in, who could bounce a ball the longest on his racquet. Bexley Park was not a genteel place. Some guys didn’t wear shirts. Billings –- the court gentile — played so much shirtless tennis he wound up with skin cancer.
Krinsky was the best hitter. He could have been a regional player, but he preferred baseball, softball and chasing girls. He was voted the “best dancer” in the senior class.
Max was third singles. Not that good, not that bad.
Some of the best public court players were from neighboring Cleveland Heights. A couple Cleveland Heights boys took several private lessons at the Jewish country club, Oakwood. Garry Levy and Rich Greenberg became the number-one doubles team in Northeast Ohio.
The great public courts players of my day were:
Chuck McKinley, St. Louis
Billie Jean King, Long Beach, California
Pancho Gonzales, Los Angeles
Shelly Gordon, Cleveland
Shelly is remembered by all some in Cleveland, even though he moved to Israel years ago.
Yiddishe Cup plays 7:30 p.m. Thurs. (July 5) on the lawn at Wiley Middle School, 2181 Miramar Blvd., University Heights, Ohio. (Indoors if raining.) Free. It’s “Family Fun Night” with games and free ice cream one-half hour before the show.
July 3, 2012 2 Comments
Ann Wightman got all As and one B in high school. I think she purposefully got the B to let a boy be valedictorian. That’s how it worked back then; some smart girls didn’t want to stick out academically.
In 1991, my wife, Alice, called me from the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia. She was on a canoe trip. She said, “You’re not going to believe who I’m with.”
“Ann Wightman?” I said.
I often guessed “Ann Wightman.” I had a case of Ann-on-the-brain, even though I hadn’t seen her in 23 years — since high school graduation.
When my kids were very young, I told them: “There was this girl, Ann, in my second-grade class who read so many books, the teacher had to put up extra sheets of paper on the wall to track her book reports.”
I probably ran into Ann after graduation, but didn’t recognize her. Maybe we were at Disney World or O’Hare airport together. I’ve seen everybody at least twice. That’s my theory.
The Georgia sighting: Ann was in an alligator-infested swamp with my wife. Alice, via the park pay phone, said, “Ann says your crowd at Brush High was so full of itself — particularly after they went up to Boston and saw Harvard their senior year — that they clapped when Larry Klein was named valedictorian instead of her. That bothered her.”
I met Ann at the swamp when I picked up Alice. (I had been at my cousins’ in Jacksonville.)
Ann was blasè. She didn’t want to reminisce with me about high school. She said, “I’ve probably mentioned high school twice to my husband.”
Ann, what about about our Spanish teacher, Mrs. Worth? I knew Ann was a professor of Latin American history at Wesleyan University. Ann wasn’t interested in recordando a Mrs. Worth.
Was high school that bad, Ann?
I haven’t seen Ann since. And she’s not coming to any high school reunions.
Three days left to Jack Stratton’s Kickstarter campaign. Something about synth and banjo. He needs a couple more backers. Check it out and contribute here.
May 30, 2012 5 Comments
After my mother died, I put her furniture in storage in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side.
The furniture sat there for five years. My older son, Teddy, took the furniture when he went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed, but usable.
When I visited Teddy, I saw my mom’s furniture and suffered post-mom stress disorder. My mother’s sectional sofa meant nothing to me, but her yellow kitchen table was like a punch to my solar plexus. I had eaten at that table for my first 18 years, and now it was in marginal student-housing in Toledo, Ohio!
Unacceptable. My mother’s table belonged in the Cleveland Museum of Art. The table was worth something. It was Formica. It was 1950s. I hope my son doesn’t sell it on eBay or Craigslist.
During high school, I was historically laconic at that table. How’s school? Forget it, I ain’t talking.
My dad, for that matter, didn’t talk much either.
My entire family didn’t talk much. We didn’t watch TV during dinner either. We ate a lot of fish. Fish was cheap. Halibut was very cheap, believe it or not.
For breakfast, we ate pink grapefruit quietly.
Hitchhiking story . . . Ple-ease, no!
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE
I occasionally meet young people who lament they didn’t live through the hippie era.
They lived through nothing.
I know that feeling — living through nothing. I missed World War II and felt bad about that.
Skip Heller, a rockabilly musician, posted a video “Reflections of a 44-Year-Old Middle-aged Jewboy.” It was his reminiscence.
Heller was born in 1965; he missed not only World War II but the hippie era. What could he possibly reminisce about? Transformers?
I hitchhiked across America four times, I think. That’s worth talking about for a minute. One minute . . .
I spent eight hours at the on-ramp in Needles, California, in 100-degree heat. I counted so many Roadway trucks and “Humpin’ to Please” trucks and Consolidated Freightways trucks and Winnebagos . . . it was forgettable.
Worse, no driver ever told me the secret of life. Drivers often asked me my college major and if I knew anybody in Flint, Michigan. (I told drivers I was from Ann Arbor, close by. That got a better response than “Cleveland.”)
A man in Arkansas said he was the youngest person to ever have a heart attack. I gave him a $10 traveler’s check. That was a lot of money in 1970. You could hitchhike cross-country on $5 in the 1970s. (Five dollars equals $29 in today’s money.)
The hippies — aka freaks — had the worst cars. Alternator troubles, steering problems.
The city of Flagstaff, Arizona, didn’t allow hitchhiking. You had to walk through Flagstaff.
Jim Mandich, a Miami Dolphins star, gave me a ride out of Toledo, Ohio. He had been a standout player at Michigan. He was coming from Ann Arbor, where he had partied with former Michigan players — “studs,” he called them. (Studs die. Mandich died of cancer last year at 62.)
I hitchhiked across country with an English girl. She was cute and Jewish. The problem: she was meeting her boyfriend in California.
In Nebraska I stayed at the house of a future congressman, Mezvinsky. No, that was in Iowa. Mez got busted a decade or so later. For what, I can’t remember.
I hitchhiked too much. I should have done something more productive. My knowledge of trucking companies has yet to come in handy.
May 9, 2012 6 Comments
Italians have great names, grant them that. The best name from my old neighborhood was Bocky Boo DiPasquale. Bocky led a band, Bocky and the Visions, a local version of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Bocky Boo was a pre-Beatles greaser with a strong regional following; he got significant air play on Cleveland radio and on Detroit’s CKLW.
The Bock became a Cleveland legend. I, however, was too young to grasp Bocky’s vision. I didn’t listen to his music. I just knew his name and wondered, Can Bocky Boo be real?
I knew an Alfred Mastrobuono. Real.
I knew Carmen Yafanaro. Real.
Ralph Dodero. Real.
Bocky Boo’s real name was Robert DiPasquale.
Robby Stamps – another musician from my high school — knew The Bock and all other local bands, past or present. Stamps was a rocker, riding the first wave of psychedelia. (Robby’s sister incidentally was Penny Stamps.)
Stamps never showed up at high school reunions. He said the Italian greasers would harass him for being a radical. Stamps was a misher — a meddler — more than a radical. He was always around the action, like Zelig. Stamps was shot in the buttock at Kent State on May 4, 1970.
After graduating Kent, Stamps worked jobs as an adjunct faculty member in Hawaii, California and Florida. He majored in sociology and Spanish. Stamps was half Jewish — an oddity, at least in the 1960s. Back then you were generally all Jewish, or you weren’t. Robby’s father was Floyd. (Not a Jew.)
Stamps hung around with just about everybody in high school: racks (aka greasers, dagos), white-bread American kids (aka squids, collegiates) and Jews (aka Jews). Stamps was an emissary between the various groups; he had a pisk (big mouth), played music and was fearless — except at reunions.
Stamps wasn’t part of the “in” crowd or the “out” crowd. Stamps was his own man. He scribbled “pseudo-freak” on the photo of a hippie poseur in my yearbook.
In middle age, Stamps developed every kind of illness: Crohn’s, Lyme Disease and pneumonia, plus he had the May 4 bullet wound. He died in 2008 at 58.
If Stamps had come to the reunions, he probably would have shed light — some sociology — on the various cliques. Stamps’ perspective was bitter, sarcastic and funny. He would have said something like: “Those Jews at the bar, see those guys at the bar, they wore penny loafers in seventh grade without pennies in them, and yelled at me because I put pennies in mine. They threw pennies on the floor. If you picked up the pennies, you were a
“I threw pennies,” Stamps continued. “I worked both sides of the street.”
In 1988 Bocky Boo was shot and killed in a bar. The cops — some who had grown up with The Bock — tried hard to find Bocky’s killer. There was even a website, whokilledbocky, for a few years ago. (Now down. ) No Luck. The Bock and Stamps didn’t stick around.
Well, that’s one thing I can say about that boy, he gotta go.
–Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Born in Chicago,” lyrics by Nick Gravenites
I wrote a review of Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. Most posthumous work — by Hem, Hendrix, Heller, whomever — should stay buried. The Pekar review is here, at today’s CoolCleveland. Need more Pekar? See the archived “Klezmer Guy” posts about Harvey Pekar.
Check out Jack Stratton’s dog music vid . . .
May 2, 2012 10 Comments
I remember Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. Who wrote the Fail part?
I remember Ted Williams could read the label on the ball.
I remember the Cream-O-Freeze.
I remember when the Air Force Academy sent me an application. I was only 10. I wanted a catalog.
I remember Larry and Norm Sherry of the Dodgers.
I remember Summit, the board game.
I remember Burger Chef.
I remember crepe dreidels hanging in the dining room.
I remember the biography of Robert E. Lee.
I remember my mother’s apple sauce. Always lumpy.
I remember the CTS 45 bus to the JCC.
I remember the Boy Scouts’ Life badge.
I remember my dad “hitting them out” to me in the park.
I remember playing “Exodus” on the clarinet at the sixth grade assembly. I remember playing “Margie.”
I remember the shofar player missing every single note on Rosh Hashanah.
I remember 1950-D nickels.
I remember U.N. stamp souvenir sheets.
I remember the H-bomb.
I remember Continental pants, Pedwin loafers and
I remember Chemical Bond Approach Chemistry.
I remember Charlene Cohen, homecoming
I remember “Hands Off Cuba” graffiti by the Rapid.
I remember Saturday Night at the Movies on TV.
I remember slow-dancing to “Moon River” with a
I remember the Roxy.
I remember the JCC’s vending room and how the pop machine was always broken. The milk machine worked. I got a lot of chocolate milk. Was that a parents’ plot?
I remember Walter Lippmann.
I remember my mother writing: “Bert was absent from school yesterday due to religious observances.”
I remember T.A. Davis tennis rackets.
I remember How to Play Better Tennis by Bill Tilden.
I remember Rich Greenberg lost to Bobby McKinley (Chuck’s younger brother) in the National 16-and-unders.
I remember the bell at 3:30.
I remember Harvey Greenberg got a 799 Math
and 785 Verbal.
I remember more Greenbergs.
I remember Madden Football. No, I don’t.
I remember Chap’s GTO.
I remember Geronimo, a Landmark book.
I remember Bruno Bornino’s “Big Beat” music column in the Cleveland Press. (He also wrote “Pit Stop” about cars.)
I remember when I was 21 and remembering all this and feeling old.
This post is a riff on poet Joe Brainard’s I Remember.
You may not have seen the post below. It went up this weekend. The cartoon at the end is super.
March 21, 2012 17 Comments
I was back from Las Vegas, attending a Shaker Heights brunch. Several people asked, “Did you play?”
Did Yiddishe Cup play Vegas?
I wish Yiddishe Cup had played Vegas.
I had been in Las Vegas on vacation with my wife, Alice, and older son, Teddy. I had played blackjack.
That was my second trip to Vegas. My first trip was in 1962, when a Vegas waitress predicted I (then-12 years old) would return to Nevada for my honeymoon. That waitress was very wrong.
I prefer outdoorsy vacations.
On my latest trip I won $7.50 at blackjack at the Jokers Wild, then quit. I could hardly breathe in the Jokers Wild –- or in any other Nevada casino — because of the cigarette smoke. I hung around the casino parking lot, waiting for Teddy and Alice to finish up.
My favorite Las Vegas attraction is the Red Rock Canyon, which is similar to Zion National Park, but only 17 miles from Vegas.
The Red Rock performs daily in an original revue that is F’n Crazy! Be a Part of It! Best Show in Vegas for the Past 900 Years!
December 28, 2011 5 Comments
The Intakes, a JCC boys’ club, should have met at the old Council Educational Alliance on Kinsman Road. The Intakes was a throwback to a Depression-era settlement-house boys’ club.
The purpose of the Intakes was to keep teenage boys off the streets, which wasn’t too hard because we studied so hard we rarely went out.
The club president had a regular Saturday night excuse: “I’ve got too much homework. I can’t go out.” On Saturday night? One summer the club president landed a grant to write a report on the crystal structure of molecules.
The Intakes Club didn’t “intake” girls. We were for the most part afraid of girls. We played poker, miniature golf, bowled and held meetings.
Our advisor was a social worker from New York. He often called us “schmucks,” which we found endearing.
We debated where to spend our money, which we earned by selling salamis and Passover macaroons.
Should we go to New York or Washington?
We went to both, on the Hound. (Two different trips.)
In New York we went to the Statue of Liberty, saw Jeopardy! live and ate at Katz’s Deli. I bought Existentialism Versus Marxism in a Village bookstore. I haven’t finished it yet.
In Washington we met our congressman and pantsed an Intake back at the hotel. We tried to post his pics on the ’net, but got an error message: Internet not invented yet.
Our congressman, Charles Vanik, had an administrative aide, Mark Talisman, a small smart Jew who was just eight years older than us. He seemed to know everything about the government. He gave us a private meeting. He was the puppet master for the entire suburban east side of Cleveland.
Talisman was an inspiration. He made it out of the tough Harvard-Lee neighborhood to Harvard U.
We should have made Mark Talisman an honorary Intake.
We shouldn’t have taken those naked pictures.
November 30, 2011 6 Comments
My parents often name-dropped Billys, who I usually didn’t recognize.
The Billys were:
1.) Billy Rose. He put together the Aquacade show at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1936-7. The Aquacade was a theater-like pool. There was an orchestra and synchronized swimming. Johnny Weissmuller starred in it. Billy Rose took the show to the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
2.) Billy DeWolfe. A character actor. Billy De Wolfe occasionally ate at my Great Uncle Itchy’s restaurant, Seiger’s, on Kinsman Road. Was Billy De Wolfe really Billy D. Wolf, Billy The Wolf, or what?
3.) Billy Weinberger, a Short Vincent Street restaurateur (Kornman’s) who moved to Las Vegas in 1966 and took over Caesar’s Palace. My Uncle Al got discount hotel rates “from Billy” in Vegas. Billy was close with the Cleveland mobsters who started Vegas.
Did I ever name-drop Billys to my kids? I don’t think so. I can’t think of any Billys. My parents took all the Billys.
I did Garys: Gary Moore, Gary Powers and Gary Lewis.
Bonus: Whatever Happened to Putt Putt?, an original video:
October 19, 2011 5 Comments
At Monte’s bar in South Euclid, there was a lot of talk about blacks, but no blacks.
For instance, a Harley Electra Glide was a “nigger-lighted” Harley. The Harley Electra Glide was the black man’s bike because it had after-market trim lights. The white man’s bike was the Harley Sportster, the chopper.
“Nigger fishing” meant casting from the power-plant pier instead of from a boat. Sheepshead was a “nigger fish,” usually caught from the pier. Lake Erie perch was a high-end fish, often requiring a boat to catch.
Monte’s bar also featured Italian specials like tizzone (“coal”) and mulunyan (“eggplant”).
I went to Monte’s to see my neighborhood friend Frank, a mutuel clerk at the racetrack. He wore a snub-nosed .38 in a shoulder harness and always had a wad of cash. Frankie didn’t like dirty money. “I can’t stand it when people give me dirty bills,” he said.
Frank’s mother had played banjo in an all-women’s band, and his father had idolized trumpeter Harry James.
Frank played trumpet in a white soul band. He kidded me because I dabbled in a “nigger band” — a band with blacks.
I was interested in soul jazz (Hank Crawford, Wes Montgomery), which I had heard at my college dorm. I had lived across the hall from three Detroit black kids who were from inside 8 Mile — way inside. Two were dopers into scag (heroin), grass and cocaine. They railed at me for being so straight and suburban. I bothered them. They would say: “Bert, you be a trippin’ motherfucker . . . You’re a bitch with your shit . . . That motherfucker be trippin’ . . . ”
They kidded me because they loved me . . . “Stop playing that country shit!” (I played blues harmonica along to Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry tapes.)
When money was low, the dopers would go to the parking garage across from the dorm and sniff gas from cars for a high. That was called “hitting the tank.”
The third black kid was a non-doper. He was middle-class, an “elite.” He moved to another floor and became a doctor.
At Monte’s bar, patrons liked the idea of blacks and black slang. I was the maven on the subject. Frankie suggested I go to the ghetto and talk shit.
Great idea. I went to Hough and walked past an angry black man (not too hard to find in the early 1970s) and said, “What’s happnin’, man?”
“Nothin’ to it,” the man said, not breaking stride.
I was hip. He was hip.
I stayed hip for another two years, until I took an ulpan (Hebrew course) at Case Western Reserve Hillel.
“Monte’s bar” is a made-up name. “Frank” is also a pseudonym.
More on Frankie at today’s CoolCleveland.com. See “Mom’s Dating Service.”
World-class shofar playing from Cleveland . . .
More on this guy — and his Kickstarter project – here.
October 12, 2011 8 Comments
The FBI building in Cleveland on Lakeside Avenue is on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie. The building is outside the downtown district by a few blocks and somewhat secluded.
I went there to see the head man.
To get to him, I went through two minutes of various security checks in the lobby. Then I was in the boss’ office, overlooking the lake. Nice. If the sun had been out, it would have been Santa Monica.
The boss, Gary Klein, and I were old friends from high school. Gary had been a fearless JCC-league basketball player. After high school, Gary went off to Annapolis, where he got his nose broken by a Southerner in a boxing match. Gary told me some of the students had razzed him because he was Jewish. It didn’t faze him.
Gary was tough, but not greaser tough. He was smart and bowlegged like a cowboy.
Gary showed me the FBI’s war room and the bug-proof room. He said FBI life looked glamorous but wasn’t. In 19 years he had lived in Boston, New York (Cosa Nostra and Russian mob work), Phoenix, Houston, Washington and Cleveland.
His new job was snooping on potential terrorists in northern Ohio, from Cleveland to Toledo. He said, “Ninety-nine percent of it is B.S. leads, like somebody dumping burial ashes over Parma Heights.”
Fighting terror was job one, forget about The Mob, he said.
Gary, how can we forget The Mob? They’re a lot more fun than Islamic terrorists! We grew up on The Mob. Hollywood wouldn’t exist without Mob movies. I had been inside the Little Italy house of James Licavoli (aka Jack White), the last head of the Cleveland Mob. Licavoli made wine in his cellar. Drinks all around.
Gary asked me to keep my eyes open.
I said I would. (This was 2003.)
So far nothing but B.S. leads, thank God.
September 7, 2011 3 Comments
The small tough Jews in my high school were wrestlers, except for the one who was a gymnast.
I saw the gymnast — and his wife — years later at a Yiddishe Cup concert. I said to the wife, “Your husband was a star!” She didn’t seem to know that.
The great Reed Klein. He went on to the Ohio State gymnastics team. Reed was the only gymnast in our high school. There was no team. Reed was an iron man and one small tough Jew. Five-foot-five, max.
The other small tough Jews were Harry Kramer and Steve Gold. They wrestled in very low weight classes, like 93 pounds and 103 pounds in junior high.
Small Jewish wrestlers — as a classification — are still with us. The Cleveland Jewish News ran an article titled “Gross, Jacober, Harris place in state mat meet.” The boys are Beachwood High’s 112-, 130- and 125-pound wrestlers.
My son Jack wrestled in middle school. The matches were so primal: two or three minutes of animal behavior in a stinky windowless wrestling room. Tough and scary. And I was just watching.
My wife dated a wrestler in high school.
Maybe I should have wrestled.
It never entered my mind. I don’t like singlets. I don’t like armpits – other guys’. I don’t like headlocks, unless Bobo Brazil is giving one to Lord Layton, and it’s 1960.
The yideo below, “Stratton of Judea,” is from the Klezmer Guy live show. The clip is about my father changing his last name. One of my better efforts.
The text – but not the video — was posted here Sept. 16, 2009.
Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug 25, at Wiley Middle School, 2181 Miramar Blvd., University Heights, Ohio. The concert is in the air-conditioned auditorium rather than on the lawn, due to construction outside the building. Free. More info at 216-932-7800.
August 17, 2011 6 Comments
Constantin Ferrito, a neighbor, was an usher at the Stadium. Good for him. Not good for us — the neighborhood kids. Mr. Ferritto didn’t allow kids to sneak into the box seats, even though Cleveland Municipal Stadium was usually three-quarters empty.
Mr. Ferritto’s wife was also hard on us. Specifically, she was very sensitive to noise — except her son’s. Her son, John, played piano a lot. He would not shut up on piano.
I practiced an hour a day on clarinet; John Ferritto was just getting warmed up at an hour.
Another neighbor, Frankie, practiced a half hour on trumpet and a half hour on piano. His father kept a clock on him. Frank’s sister punched the clock for a half hour on piano and a half hour on accordion.
John Ferritto ultimately attended the Cleveland Institute of Music and Yale, and became a conductor.
Right now –- a million decades later –- a neighbor is playing drums a block from me. I might call the cops on him. I’m sick of hearing his drums. He plays in his garage, and the sound reverberates. He plays all year round, even during school hours; he must be an adult.
Should I call the cops?
Nobody called the cops on John Ferritto. Nobody called the cops on me.
Somebody did call the cops on Yiddishe Cup. We were playing a bar mitzvah party in a backyard in Shaker Heights. No music allowed in Shaker after 10 p.m.
I can’t call the cops.
My best option: Go nuts.
Footnote: “Frank” is a pseudonym.
Here’s an original yideo, “Is Dave Brubeck Jewish?”
August 3, 2011 5 Comments