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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

Category — Fake Profiles

THE DEAL ANIMAL

I like to tour all kinds of buildings: retail space, offices, apartments, warehouses. I get a kick from them all. I know — not everybody gets this high. At 21 I bough my first double, on Eddington Road in Cleveland Heights. Now I own hundreds of units. My phone number is everywhere — all my lobbies. I have nothing to hide. The calls: “My tub overflowed. I need an ark” . . . “My ceiling fell on my bed. Lucky I wasn’t sleeping” . . . “My stove smells like carbon monoxide” . . .  “My cat is dying from black mold.”

I love it. When I see a building that throws a nice bottom line, my heart skips a beat. If you hear of anything, give me a call.

heart better deal animal

fiction

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October 11, 2016   1 Comment

CENSORED

I write a lot about women. My metier is feelings. I once did a piece on Erma La Douce, who I saw at the Roxy in 1965. My wife didn’t like the article, so I’m not linking to it here. roxyI also wrote a good essay about Dorothy Stratten, the Playboy playmate who was killed. My wife didn’t like that one either. No link. Lately I’ve been writing a lot about real estate and klezmer.

My high school friend Dave just stopped in. Dave likes to talk about how he schtupped his next-door neighbor — this was 40 years ago — at the Pink Motel on Lake Shore Boulevard. The Pink Motel barmaid, Jan, had a tattoo on her left ankle — Greek letters from her Kent State sorority.

Enough. The Mazeltones, a now-defunct Seattle klezmer band, played a few Sephardic tunes because many early Seattle Jewish settlers were from Rhodes, Greece . . .

 

censored birds and bees

fiction

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September 14, 2016   4 Comments

IN REVERSE

I grew up in New York and never liked it there. I went to college in Ohio. I’m never going back east. To do what? Live in Williamsburg and write a blog about beer?

My roommate at Kenyon College took me to his hometown, Shaker Heights, a couple times. Cleveland has lawns and you don’t pay $2000/month for a one-bedroom apartment. I moved there. I have a one-bedroom for $850. Tricked out too — marble counter tops and a dishwasher. My dad thinks I’m crazy. He said I should enroll in accounting school at NYU

I work in property management in Cleveland. I’ve gone back to New York once. I can’t stand it. Going to the deli for a sandwich is a major deal — the crowds, the lines, the elevator. People say I’m going the wrong way. Wrong! I am Jay Gatz in reverse. For a million dollars I could buy almost all of Cleveland. And I will.

fiction

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August 31, 2016   6 Comments

JAZZER

Nobody cares about jazz except me and a couple random Berklee freshmen. I’ve played with Frank Sinatra, Jr. That was the darkest year of my life. Vegas wasn’t meant for a 20 year old. I gigged with Chick Corea. His drummer quit and I got the call. I was only 22.

I’ve been a music professor for about 10 years. That’s the best gig for jazzers these days. I want to enroll in the creative writing class at the college here, but the English chairman says all the writing classes are full. Let me in! I want to write a book on how we reverse-engineer musicians. We teach kids technique but none of the spiritual aspects of music. give shit about jazz 2 somewhat cleanerThink about folk musicians. They don’t get nervous and take beta-blockers. They grew up with their music. It’s part of their culture, like food.

There are maybe two people who give a shit about jazz — me and a kid at Berklee. I hope he buys my book.

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August 17, 2016   2 Comments

WIENER ROAST ON THE LAKE

I throw wiener roasts at my cottage on Lake Erie. I invite Catholics from Rocky River, Jews from Beachwood, and generics from all over the city. I wonder if my guests come for the lake or me? I hold raffles, we play cards. There’s booze and gambling.

Funny: in Cleveland very few people live close to Lake Erie, so the lake is a big deal. My house — in Cleveland Heights — is six miles from the lake.

Bill Wallace, an old friend from Washington D.C., is coming to town for the wiener roast. Yiddishe Cup will play klezmer music until 10 p.m., then we’ll go into “Wild Thing”-type music. Yiddishe Cup’s former drummer, Don Friedman, will sing “Mustang Sally.” Is that an attraction? Not likely. The lake is the attraction.

cabin by lake

fiction

Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 4, on the lawn at John Carroll U., University Hts., Ohio. Free. Indoors if raining.  Free ice cream, kids!

ice cream highway

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July 27, 2016   4 Comments

I’M SCREWED

My husband is a studio photographer and makes zero money. Even worse: I just lost my job as a teacher. My husband hides in his darkroom. He should donate his darkroom to the Smithsonian and get a real job. We’ve been married 19 years ago and 16 years of those years have been a huge mistake. He shops on the Internet all day for metrosexual bullshit like cameras, clothes and wine. I’m screwed. What should I do?

photographer dark room

fiction

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July 13, 2016   2 Comments

MIDWEST POSEUR

 

I got semi-famous a few days ago when my article about the Rust Belt was published throughout the world. Question: how much rust can the world ingest?

A lot. My article, “My Rust Belt Doesn’t Rust,” was about my love for my Cleveland, my resentment of the term “flyover country,” and Go Cavs.

rust belt

A lot of papers ran it. It’s in Anchorage now. It was in the International New York Times.

Midwesterners have good manners, don’t raise their voices, and don’t care about credentials, etc. Around here (Cleveland) the only thing that matters is you didn’t go to Michigan.

Truth be told: I’m a Midwest poseur. All Jews, no matter where they live, are New York Jews. I play the Stratton/Ohio card to get published.  Another guy who occasionally plays that card is Bob Greene, who grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio. He writes about Midwestern-ness, particularly about Bexley, the Shaker Heights of Columbus. I like that, probably because my wife grew up in Bexley. Now, if you want vintage Midwest, the true-blood cornfield stuff, read Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg Ohio about Clyde, Ohio.

I see something in Italian. Gotta go. One more thing: can’t believe Stephen Curry might not make it to the Finals. Does San Fran have bad luck?  That would be so Rust Belt.

This is fiction — the bit about the newspaper article.

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May 25, 2016   3 Comments

THE HIPPIE STRIPPER

During the dying days of burlesque, I was a stripper in Toledo, Ohio. I dressed like a hippie — bell-bottoms and long hair — and went by the name Tzippy the Hippie. I did New Burlesque, which we called “burlesque” back then.

tzippy the hippie stripper

I worked throughout the Midwest. The main burlesque guy in Detroit was Herman the Head. He liked to drink. I think he was a beer bottle in a previous life. I lived with Herman for six months. He also liked talk radio a lot. He listened to that shit so much he was a radio before he was a beer bottle. I  didn’t get my name, Tzippy the Hippie, from Herman; I got  it from a U. of Toledo professor. Yes, I have some college!

I dyed my hair blond, wore tie-dyed rags, and didn’t shave my underarms. One night, when I was supposed to be in Fort Wayne, I was in Toledo with my professor, and Herman found out about it. I said to him on the phone, “I’m not coming home. There’s this party here in Fort Wayne and I’m so drunk I’m going to crash here.” Herm knew I was lying.  He went directly to the prof’s house, and I ate out of a straw for six weeks. (The prof suffered three broken ribs.)

Now I’m 70 and my health is real bad. It’s awful — diabetes, heart condition and arthritis.  Every cent, to me, is precious now. A vintage strippers website says I’m dead. Not quite, kids! Next week I’m in Denver for a New Burlesque conference. I’m getting $200 plus expenses. I have cool 1969 photos for sale (only $10). Hope to see you there!

This post is based 0.1 percent on Pat Oleszko the Hippie Stripper — a 1960s performance artist from Ann Arbor. This post is fiction, I think.

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March 30, 2016   7 Comments

I’M COLD

I don’t help with the shopping, cooking, or bill-paying. I never cut the grass or wash the dishes. Self-medication — mostly alcohol — works best.

brain freeze alcohol

Brain Freeze

I had a miserable childhood. That’s part of it. And I botch up my adulthood daily. For instance, I screamed at my wife today for moving the rinse glass in the bathroom. Where is it? I have to stop blaming her — and others — for everything.

Bottom line, I have wronged a lot of people. Maybe I should disappear. Where to? Hawaii? Canada? I’m thinking Canada. I’m cold.

This is a fake profile — the part about the booze.

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February 17, 2016   8 Comments

FATHER-SON TECH TEAM

THE DAD:

My son has a knack for writing, which he got from me. I’m a tech writer.

I have a friend my age who cries whenever his computer crashes. I’ve seen him roll on the floor crying. It’s usually a matter of rebooting the damn thing. If I’m not home, I send my son over.

My first cell phone was a Motorola.

 

THE SON:

I fix computers my dad can’t fix. My customers are old hippies like my dad. They don’t know a web browser from a server. I fix their gear, and then haul their shit to the tree lawn. I have hauled couches and other heavy stuff.

I got the writing bug from my dad. I need to raise $15,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book.  Here are some chapter titles: ‘My Dog Browser,’  ‘I’m Updating Your Mother’ and ‘Router in the Hole.’

I like going into people’s houses and watching the customers shout with joy when I fix their stupid problems.

Consider my Kickstarter. I don’t want to live with my dad any longer. This photo from our kitchen says it all:

phone push button  shelburne 2015

This is a fake profile.

Yiddishe Cup plays The Ark,  Ann Arbor, Mich., 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 6.  $20.  Our Schmotown Revue — mixing klezmer and Motown.

yiddishe cup 12_15_15 300 dpi maybe

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January 27, 2016   4 Comments

I HAVE A FOLLOWING

I make goodie bags for guys. Most goodie bags are made by women for women. (Goodie bags are handed out at hotel desks to out-of-towners checking into bar mitzvahs and weddings.)

party favorsI don’t put in mandarin oranges, Tic Tacs, or sparkling water. I shop at Walmart at Steelyard Commons — next to the steel mill. I load up on Reese’s Cups and Hershey bars in aisle 4 — bagged candy. I sometimes go with gummy bears. Snacks are in aisle 12: rod pretzels, chips.

Walmart has lime green and pink gift bags on display. I ask for dark bags, which aren’t on display.

I deliver the bags to the hotel. I have a following.

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January 20, 2016   3 Comments

I’M OUT OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS

I used to play a lot of gigs and nobody listened. I once did a gig where pillows were strewn on the floor, and the audience literally nodded out. They went in and out of consciousness. One guy, awakening after an hour, yelled, “You suck!” That was it.

nodding out  pillows

Now I play for myself. I write a lot of lyrics. The downside to lyric-writing is the English language is so limited — all that moon/spoon/June kind of shit. Another problem: everybody thinks they can write, so everybody is so quick to judge.

I’m amazed how many musicians are still gigging — what, with nobody listening. I used to play weddings. I was in a klezmer wedding band for years. I was embattled, mostly with myself. I made latkes with that band, but “Hava Nagila” every weekend nearly killed me. Throw my instruments on the curb, where tourists can play them — if tourists are around here. Throw my axes out the window. Throw my suitcase out there too. 

Are you listening? 

No, I didn’t think so.


This is a fake profile. Yiddishe Cup is around — in its 28th year! (Nineteen percent of this post is stolen from a Clark Coolidge interview from the Poetry Project Newsletter, Feb/March 2013.) 

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November 11, 2015   5 Comments

THE DAY MY DAD WENT TO PRISON

Friedman from the bakers’ union didn’t look too good. Neither did Presser from the Teamsters. Shondor Birns, the numbers guy, was dead — blown up. My father — my thieving father — faced a 10-year sentence, which meant at least five years, which meant he would die in prison because he was so sickly. He had dreck stains on his pants, a severe shuffling gait, and a 250-pound man’s clogged heart.

Could I erase all this? I tried. I put Hello Kitty stickers on everything, but it didn’t work.

I was at my dad’s apartment, looking at a spider on the ceiling. My dad said, “Too many times I’ve let you down.” True, Dad.

He tried to kiss me on the forehead but missed because my head was looking at the spider.

The deputies escorted my father to the parking lot to ship him off. Next to the car, he bear-hugged me. With each squeeze, my ribs cracked slightly.

My dad died in prison. I can’t say that I missed him. My dad tried to learn Hebrew in jail. He never got past transliteration. He was good with numbers but not letters.

dad died in prison

—-
Five percent of the above is stolen from the Poetry Project Newsletter (Dec 2014./Jan 2015).  The post is fiction.

Here’s Yiddishe Cup’s mash-up of Fiddler on the Roof and The Temptations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMFG_K8NXSU

Here’s Vulfpeck‘s newest song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5pYL-Y–To

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August 26, 2015   3 Comments

FLY THE FLAG

I sell nautical flags, banners, buntings and American flags. My busy season is Memorial Day through July 4. By the way, Flag Day is Sunday.

flagI fly the American flag every day. I have to trim the hem on the bunting edge every couple months because of the wind around here.

My dream is that Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state. Another state would be good for the flag business.

I have a quiz question for you: What are the five most-recent states? A lot of people, I bet, can name the four newest states, but few people know the fifth most-recent state.


For the answer, please see the comments section.

[btw, I don’t sell flags. This post is a fake profile.]


Yiddishe Cup plays the annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish concert at Cain Park, Cleveland Hts, 7 p.m. Sunday, June 28. No tix necessary. Just show up. Evans Amphitheater. We’re doing a mash up of  The Temptations and Fiddler on the Roof.  Other acts that night are Steven Greenman and Lori Cahan-Simon.
YCKB logo from web page

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June 10, 2015   3 Comments

MR. 1939

mr 1939 crossroad

I published a literary magazine, Crossroad, in Cleveland in 1939. Ruth Seid (aka Jo Sinclair), the novelist, wrote for me, as did Chester Himes. Chester was just out of the Ohio Penitentiary. Sidney Vincent also wrote. Sid eventually worked at the Jewish Federation. I had a couple professors from Cleveland College, too.

Chester Himes is now best-known for If He Hollers Let Him Go, published in 1945. As for Ruth Seid, she was discovered in the 1980s by the lesbian literary scene. I didn’t know Ruth was gay. I didn’t know a lot in 1939.

When Hitler and Stalin signed the non-aggression pact, Chester left the Communist Party. I followed right after that. Then I was drafted and sent to the Pacific.

After the war, I sold plumbing supplies for my father-in-law in Cleveland. Chester moved to Paris, and Ruth became a gardener in Geauga County.

The Crossroad era is just between you and me, OK?


SIDE B

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG

Every year I thank the major commenters to this blog. I could do Klezmer Guy without comments, but it wouldn’t be as interesting.

In no particular order, thanks to Marc Adler, Ken Goldberg, Gerald Ross, Ted, Bill Jones, Mark Schilling, Seth Marks . . .

David Korn, Dave Rowe, Irwin Weinberger, Mimi Harris and Don Friedman.

See your name here next year by writing in.

An extra gracias to Ken Goldberg and Mark Schilling. They crank out comments in bulk — always insightful, inciting and/or stupid.

Lastly, thanks to bloggie illustrator Ralph Solonitz, the best and cleverest drawer around. Here’s an old post about Ralph and his motorcycle.

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May 20, 2015   3 Comments

THE SCARED DOLLAR
IS NO DOLLAR

I play cards at the Horseshoe Casino downtown. I play poker, and I love it. Also, I get free parking and free food, and I have a free cruise lined up. It has to be on Norwegian. And I have a free trip to any Harrah’s in America. Where should I go? Vegas? San Diego?

I hang with others gamblers — guys I know from the tables. I do not hang out with old ladies who play slots all day. Last week I met two Serbian furniture dealers who can out-drink me. (Impressive.)

Here’s a gambling tip: the scared dollar is no dollar. If you’re scared, you’ll never make the play. I win, I lose, I play. Right now I’m down a couple thousand. I’m always down a couple thousand.

gamblerIf you want a free buffet meal, meet up with me. Any casino. I have rewards all over the country. If you’re a bitter gambler, don’t contact me. There are so many bitter gamblers. I’m not one of them. Your deal.

This is a fake profile. Another gambler post is here, side B, 1/15/14.

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April 15, 2015   1 Comment

SYN ARCHITECT

I’m an architect who does mostly McDonald’s, TGIFridays and synagogues.  I was the first with the “fast-casual shul.”  You can get a nosh at my shuls.  If the worship service is too long, go to the rear of the sanctuary, to my built-in Frank Lloyd Wright snack bar.

My professional credo:

1. Put the bima (altar) on ground level, among the people.  Power to the people.

2. Never use stained glass.  That spells “rich guy” to the little guy.

4. Keep kosher on some level.  (I dine frequently at kosher-style delis.)

5.  Leave a stamp — a signature.  I always embed a tiny cross in the coatroom ceiling for the custodial staff.

I also do retrofits.  I put in a nosh bar at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights.  It caught fire, not literally, but you wouldn’t believe the crowds.. They hired an Israeli chef and a dump truck to maneuver the mounds of ersatz chopped liver.

I’m working on a mosque/falafel stand in Dearborn, Michigan.  Saalam alaykum, bros.  The old Semitic cousin routine.  Whatever.

Fake profile.

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March 25, 2015   No Comments

PISS MONEY

People say I’m a good businessman.  Why?  Because I’m not around.  Gone — outta here — is a sign of brilliance, particularly in Cleveland in February.

I’m not in Arizona, California or Florida.  I’m in Mexico.  I’m in a pueblo just south of Mexico City.  (I’d rather not say exactly where.)

I invest; that’s what I do, even on vacation.  I own a tube hotel/spa.  (I do excellent foot massages.)  My tube hotel is old sewer pipes:

And I analyze the Mexican market for fun.  Educated Mexicans are often snobs; when I raised the price on my tube hotel to $50 a night, the rich Mexicans came.  Lower than $50, nobody showed up.

I own half interest in a tortilla school, too.  Tourists make tortillas and tamales.  I freeze their products and sell the extra at the local market. Rule one: El que no transa, no avanza.  (If you don’t cheat, you don’t advance.)

My most successful business is WCs — bathrooms.  I charge 5 pesos (40 cents) a piss. Everybody urinates, am I right?  Am I right?  I keep my toilets USA tidy.  Everybody likes that.

When my friends in Cleveland write, I say, “You don’t want to come here.  This is Mexico: Montezuma’s revenge, stray dogs, narcotraficos.”  My friends stay away.  That’s good!

The locals seem to like me — or at least put up with me. I attend  the town hall meetings, and on fiesta days I pass out brooms, mops and small coins — piss money.

Stream it.


This is a fake profile.


Locals, come to Nighttown next Wednesday, Feb. 25.  7 p.m.  The Klezmer Guy Trio. $10.  One-stop shopping for Aretha’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” klezmer and prose blurts.  Make a reservation. It was pretty full the last time we did this show (2013). 216-795-0550.

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

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February 18, 2015   3 Comments

DON’T BE MAD AT ME

I lived in Cleveland for 23 years, then left.  It was a great place to raise a family, and it had wonderful cultural attractions, but I couldn’t take the weather anymore.  When I wrecked my knee, I couldn’t even ski anymore.

dont be mad at me 2Now I sit on my patio, listen to the birds, and look at the blue sky every single day of the year.  The temple out here is about the size of a CVS.  Nothing fancy.  I’m in Wandering Jews — a group at my temple.  We go into the mountains and pray once a month.  I never could stand the mega-temples back in Cleveland.

My friends in Cleveland expected me to die there, I think.  No thanks!  I have no roots in that town.  I moved to Cleveland for a job in 1992 . Before that, we lived in Columbus.  Before that, Philadelphia.  I was born in Albany.

Please don’t be mad at me for leaving.  Visit me here.  We’ll sit on the patio and listen to the birds.  By the way, what’s the temperature there?


This is a fake profile.  If I fooled you, sorry.  I didn’t move.

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January 14, 2015   2 Comments

ROCK STAR #53

I was a rock star of sorts in the 1990s.  My band was on MTV and charted #53 on the Billboard Hot 100.  But we had a problem; nobody wanted to be a sideman, everyone wanted to be the star.  I wrote the songs but everybody thought they were the star.  I was the star!

rock star #53

Now I mostly do solo gigs and give private piano lessons.  I don’t play klezmer.  I knew you’d ask.  I like klezmer, but I don’t play it.  I like the blues — all kinds.   The Jewish blues, by the way, is all about the flatted 2nd.  Last shabbes my rabbi’s sermon was “What I Learned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”  The rabbi must have seen 20 Feet from Stardom recently.  He said you’ve got to balance your sideman role with your star-tripping goals.  Joseph was a star-tripper, and his brother Judah played in Joseph’s band as a sideman, not as a star-tripper.

You don’t know the story of Joseph?  Look it up.

The rabbi asked for comments from the congregation.  He likes to work the room. I chimed in about my old band.  The worshipers loved my comments!  Most people didn’t even know I was a rocker.  I talked about my record deals and my A-hole managers.  I even said “A-hole.”

I’m a sideman.  I accept that now.  Deep breath.  Om.

We’re all sidemen.  But, hey, don’t forget this: I hit #53 on the Billboard Hot 100, June 21, 1995, with “My Afterlife is After Yours.”

This is a fake profile.

Yiddishe Cup plays tonight (Wed. 12/31) at Akron (Ohio) First Night, 9:30 p.m., John S. Knight Convention Center.

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December 31, 2014   3 Comments