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 New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


Category — Fake Profiles


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 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


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:

Here’s Vulfpeck‘s newest song.–To

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August 26, 2015   3 Comments


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?



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


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


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


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


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


KlezKamp shuts down this month after 30 annual get-togethers. This post looks at KlezKamp 1990.  KlezKamp was a huge positive influence on many musicians.

Sid Beckerman was a living legend of klez clarinet. I followed him around KlezKamp — the  annual music conference in the Catskills.

Sid talked to me!  Big deal?  Yes, it was.  Sid was paid staff, and I was a payer, as in student/customer/fawner, and paid staff was on a higher plane, hard to corner.  They had a lot of demands on their time.

Sid Beckerman, 1998 photo.

Sid Beckerman, 1998

Sid had no ego, according to Washington clarinetist Rodney Brooks, another student.  “Sid was never a star,” Rodney explained.  Sid was “discovered” by klez revivalists, and made his first record at 70.  (He died at 88 in 2007.)

Sid had a handwritten tune-book called “the sheets,” as in “sheet music.”  Sid’s guardian of “the sheets” was pianist Pete Sokolow (b. 1940), who had transcribed the tunes for Sid.

The most popular tune in the collection was “SB7,” which meant “Sid Beckerman tune #7.”  Dave Tarras had originally recorded it as “Di Zilberne Chasene” (The Silver Wedding).  Yiddishe Cup recorded it as “40A.”

Pete Sokolow, 2007

Pete Sokolow, 2007

At KlezKamp I developed a strategy for getting the sheets from Pete Sokolow.  First, I gave Pete a xerox of an obscure 1938 magazine article about “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” hoping to get in Pete’s good graces. Sokolow, stuffing the magazine article in his pocket, said, “The sheets?  What sheets?  I’m so busy now.  I’m working up an arrangement for fifteen people.  What did Sid say?”

I hadn’t asked Sid.  So I went to Sid and offered him $20 for the sheets.  Sid said, “For what?  What transcriptions?”

Funny, all the clarinetists from D.C. knew the SB tunes. So I badgered Rodney, the dean of D.C. clarinetists, some more.  I hocked him.  He finally admitted he had the sheets.  “You can xerox them,” he said.  “But don’t say you got them from me.  Somebody might take umbrage.”

A year later, 1991, the sheets came out as the Klezmer Plus! Folio by Tara Publications.  Everybody could buy them.  Sokolow and Sid were just protecting their investments.

The above post is a rerun.  A version ran as “The Sheets,” 10/7/09.   Also, please check out the first comment (recycled from ’09) by Steven Greenman, about Sid Beckerman.


OK, you want to read something new . . .


I yelled at my wife today. Nothing new there. She forgot to buy milk.

I need a Bud. My neighbor — a guy from Germany — says Bud is the best beer in America.

I drink too much, I know that. Anymore, I’m surprised my wife puts up with me. My kids left. They won’t even talk to me.

I know I should cut back. I’d like to get down to a case a week. I had a friend who drank himself to death at 42. He put away a case a day — 24 brewskis. That’s ridiculous even by my standards. Four beers a day is what I’m shooting for.

I need a beer!

This is a fake profile.

Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron (Ohio) New Year’s Eve, 9:30 p.m. John S. Knight Convention Center. Booze-free event.

Did somebody say free booze?

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December 24, 2014   3 Comments


I’ve been managing bands for years, mostly as a hobby. I know something about marketing, booking and touring. I won’t discuss that stuff here, other than to say the most important thing nowadays is DIY: publicity stunts, cameo appearances at strip joints, stealth holographic projections of your band onto billboards at night.

vulf peckI have this group, Vulfpeck, who I manage informally. They do the opposite of whatever I tell them. Like I say send a press release to the New York Times, and they don’t.  They don’t know what a press release is.  They’re all about social media.  I’m about social too; hello, my name is  _________.

Vulfpeck, they have no idea how well I manage them. I lead a second life through those guys, at no charge to them. Right now two of them are in L.A., one is in Ann Arbor, and the other is at a racino in Toledo.  I follow them.  (I know where you are too, and I’m not pleased.)

Check out this terrific Vulfpeck vid, “Christmas in L.A.” Came out yesterday. Get in on the ground floor. Has a dog in it:

I tell Vulfpeck to sell themselves.  Get a publicist for starters.  Naturally, they don’t. They generate fuzz through Facebook and Twitter.  I’m old school; they’re New School.  I need help from the Urban Dictionary.  (“Fuzz” means “hipster buzz” — to me.)

I’m Vulfpeck’s manager. They don’t know it.  If they did, they’d fire me.

This is a fake profile.  Or at least 51 percent fake.

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December 10, 2014   6 Comments


I envy you. That’s not good, but I can’t help myself. I envy a lot of people.  For instance, I envy the patients at the Cleveland Clinic. They are among the 1,700 sickest people in the city.

The Clinic is the fourth-best hospital in the country, says US News & World Report. I envy that number-4 ranking.  I’d like to be fourth best at something. Fourth shows mastery and modesty.

I want to walk through the Clinic in a white lab coat.

I just did . . .

Palliative Care, Desk C-20. People are dying and feeling OK about that.  I envy that “feeling OK” part.  I take drugs but don’t feel that good.

Pain Management, H-70. The patients there don’t know what pain is!  My car has terrible static on 91.5 FM — the jazz station. That’s pain.  What’s your BMI?  I’m 23.33 kg/m2.  My pulse is 53 —  slightly higher than a dead man’s.  If your pulse is lower than mine — and you’re not dead — I envy you.

Dermatology, G-50.  The doctor took full-body naked pics of me.  TMI.

Eye Clinic, I-20.  Floaters to my left, floaters to my right.  Nice.  At the eye-clinic parking lot, I told the toll attendant, “You’ve got the most dangerous job in the world, because half the people coming out of here are blind.”

“Don’t you know it,” he said. “This is the third time we’ve fixed the turnstile this month.”  I envy him the crashes he sees.

Envy Clinic, NV-50.  I’m here for a while.  Will report back in a month.

Fake profile.

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December 3, 2014   1 Comment


I’m a German klezmer musician. Hold your questions. Here are the answers:

I live in Berlin. My aunt once told me — she was drunk — “Why do you play that crap? You’re German!”

I play every year Kristallnacht commemorations, where there is always at least one Jew who comes up to me and says, “Are you Jewish?”  I say no, and he’s says, “You have to be!”  Sometimes I tell the person my grandfather was Romanian,  just to move on.

I also play jazz and funk (Vulfpeck).  I have played even for Orthodox Jews in the States, but they don’t thrill too much to my jazz music.

klezgoyI play reeds — saxophone and clarinet.  I don’t try to be Jewish.  I never wanted to be Jewish or not Jewish. Somebody said, “You’re not really a Jew unless at one point in your life you didn’t want to be a Jew.”   I don’t know about such things.

In the Middle West, in Ohio, an old Jew called me a “poseur.”  I had to look that  up.  He was a klezmer musician.  Maybe he was a poseur.  The middle of the United States is very red, I think.  Only he could play klezmer, I think he means. If people think I’m a bad person for playing music from somewhere else, then they know damn little about music.

I’m a klezmer musician.  Forget about the German part for a second.


Check out Magdalena Waligorska‘s nonfiction book Klezmer’s Afterlife, about the klezmer scene in Berlin and Cracow. Forty-three percent of this post is lifted from the book.

File this under KlezFiction and Fake Profiles.

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October 8, 2014   2 Comments


(This is a rerun, just for Rosh Hashanah. A previous version appeared here 9/23/09. No, I’m not running out of stuff. Side B, below, is new.)

Some Jews don’t like choirs in temple. Some can’t stand guitars.  Some can’t stand temple.

I have a friend who is down on “temple Jews” — people who actively participate in synagogue life.  They’re too conventional for her, which is saying a lot, because she’s very conventional (college decals on the car, Heinen’s fried chicken in the frig).

I’m a temple Jew, at least on occasion.  My family belonged to Silver’s Temple, named for Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.  The temple’s official name was The Temple.

“Which temple do you belong to?”


Rabbi Abba Hillel SIlver

“The Temple” morphed into The Temple-Tifereth Israel  after the rabbi and his son (also a rabbi) died.  My family didn’t really fit in there in the 1960s, because many of the members were a lot richer, many from Shaker Heights.  One Shaker kid arrived in a station wagon driven by a chauffeur with a shiny-visor cap.

My younger son went through religious high school at The Temple.  The place had mellowed by then. Nobody cared anymore if you were Deutsche Yehudim — one of Cleveland’s original German Jewish settlers.  When my parents left Silver’s, they went to Temple Emanu El, a middle-class temple in the ‘burbs.  My mom taught macramé there and volunteered in the sisterhood gift shop.  She collected “donor points” for volunteering — points that reduced her admission costs to the annual temple dance.

Yiddishe Cup has played some of these temple dances.  Not so many lately because few people want to dance at temples. They’d rather stay home and watch people dance on TV.

My parents joined the heymish synagogue after I was confirmed, so I didn’t much care what they did. (Heymish — the word — should be banned, by the way. Too heymish.)

On the High Holidays, I went with my parents to the heymish temple, or else with my friends to Hillel at Case Western Reserve. After Rosh Hashanah services, we’d eat at Tommy’s restaurant.  Years ago an older woman told me, “I joined Fairmount Temple because I like the music there.”  She had other reasons too: Brith Emeth didn’t have enough money to carpet, she said, and she liked Fairmount Temple’s classic Reform music.  That stuck with me: joining a temple for the music.

I belong to Park Synagogue because, among other things, I like the music and the rabbi, who likes my band.  Yiddishe Cup is scheduled to play Park Synagogue’s holiday celebrations until about 5800. I once played a holiday gig at another shul, where the rabbi left early to attend a rock concert. He said he was seeing a famous band.  I wasn’t impressed.  The rabbi was walking out on Yiddishe Cup!

It’s impossible to be a rabbi.

Park Synagogue uses a choir once in a while.  Some Jews think a choir is super-goyish.  Not true.  In Europe there were synagogue choirs as far back as the 1500s.

Some temples have rock bands. (I have subbed in several rockin’ shabbat bands.) Rock on. Some congregants really enjoy that groove.

I can see picking a shul for the music.  Why not.  I enjoy hearing the Israeli cantor my shul imports for the Rosh Hashanah overflow.  Either way I’m OK —  main sanctuary (with the regular cantor) or overflow auditorium.  SRO in both places.  Who’s got extra tickets?

Happy New Year.

 B'nai Big Tent

Congregation B’nai Big Tent


Gear shift . . .


When I was up in North Dakota, I filled my tank for under $3/gallon. I actually thought about moving there, but I don’t want to live in a trailer, and there is a serious lack of lox.

But I do love cheap gas. I own a pickup and two cars.

I love natural gas too. It’s all organic — all Cs and Os.

I want “in” on the Utica shale play here in Ohio. Drillers from Oklahoma and Texas are here. Why should they have all the fun?

frackers go vestPrimer for me: OSU means Oklahoma State, not Ohio State; OU is the University of Oklahoma, not Ohio University. I need to learn this.  Today I’m buying some Western wear and tomorrow I’m heading down to Marietta, Ohio, which is a lot closer than Williston, North Dakota.

Meet the frackers. I’m trying to!

File this under fake profiles.

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September 24, 2014   8 Comments


books 2 colored

My neighbor got rid of a lot of her books because she’s moving. Twenty-five years of books.  Many of them dirty.  I took these:

Cobbler, Mend my Shoe!
by Thom McAn

Stupid Bastard: The Life of Harry Purim
by Meier Meier

Amusing Car Sales
by Del Spitzer

Good Riddance, Chancres
by Rodney Benson MD

Fungo Batting
by Woody Held

Tie Your Own Tubes
by V.A. Szechtomijh

My Selfies
by Elaine “The Body” Sugarman

Put It Right There
by Vera Panting

The Cry of the Serbo-Croats
by Boris Crzwcwzw

10 Days to a Hairless Body
by Alice Greune

The Wiener in Bavarian Folk Arts
by Nathan Famoso

photo by Eric Broder

So You Want to Be Jewish?
by Saul Bernard Roth

The Story of the Harlem Cooperative Bakery
by Rose Towne Krug

100 Years in an RV
by Gabe Marquez

The Cheater
by Bernie Madoff

Algebraical Puzzles, Nuts, Wrinkles and Twisters
by Albert Einstein

Sexism at the Battle of Waterloo
by “Jilly”

Chillicothe: Ohio’s First Capital
by Les Peterson

Jesus in My Glove
by Mac “Octopus” Vouty

Cuckoos and Grosbeaks
by Nancy Debeak

Golf Your Way to Sexual Fulfillment
by Franz Godemiche

How to Identify a Child Molester
by Frederick McFeely Rogers

Blood and Bills: My Life as a Successful Surgeon
by Kirk Benway MD

I Broke My Knee and Ran 10 Miles
by Mark Schilling

What It Means to Be a Coprophile
by “Raymond”

The History of the Electric Toothbrush
by Ralph Solonitz DDS

The Streets of San Francisco (and Richmond, California)
by Cindy L. Barbour

Covering Your Lawn with Sheet Metal
by Leo Kaufman

Throw Away Your Truss
by Charles Atlas

Jackoff in the Old Red Barn
by Ricky Dickey

An Appreciation of Aluminum Siding
by Kenneth Goldberg

Regular Guy: The Life of Nelson Rockefeller
by Barry Grovel

So You Want to Dance, Act, and Play the Clarinet!
by Priscilla Peck

Lieder and its Influence on Mick Jagger
by Aaron Alwitz

The Birdwatcher
by J. Philip Stratton

My .38 Special is So Special
by Stan Urankar

Masturbate Those Pounds Away!
by Weary Reilly

The Hipster Jogger Handbook
by Meghan Corriendo

Lesbianism in Western Ireland (1886 – 1891)
by Olive D’Olyly and Winnie Carr

Speling Maid Ez
by Kent Read

A Priest Looks at Group Sex
by Pedro Nanismo

Kreplach in the Congo
by Reb Yellen

All My Laundromats
by Johnny Park

Pet Insurance for Dummies
by Fido Buster

klez dogs

More Selfies
by Elaine “The Body” Sugarman

Bowl Game Jitters
by Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler Jr.

Sitz-Bathing Around the World
by Lee Huang

How to Get into Princeton
by Muncy Rowfant and Michael Yu

Fracking Jews
by T. Boone Soltzberg

Guess Your Neighbor’s Net Worth
by Alton Whitehouse IV

Thank you and Goodbye, and Hello
by Hillary Clinton

Peeing is the New Smoking
by Amy Streem

Social Media for Seniors
by Betty Dumchick

Life on the Outskirts of Beer
by Isaac Miller

A major hat tip to Gilbert Sorrentino. Forty-nine percent of the above book titles are from Sorrentino’s novel Mulligan Stew (1979).

The German wiener photo is by Eric Broder

File this under Fake Profiles.

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July 2, 2014   6 Comments


A New York editor wrote, “You should write a book.  After reading your wonderful essay in the New York Times this morning, I’ve spent the last couple of hours reading everything you’ve written that I could find online. You root your essays in your personal experience, but they have a universal appeal.”

The editor concluded, “A humorous book about real estate would have tremendous commercial appeal.”

Yes!  But what if I worked a year on the book, got a paltry advance, and only four people read the book?  Besides, I’ve already published a book. I published a novel in the 1970s about sex and college.  It was small press (my press). I gave a copy to Allen Ginsberg. You can find it on Google.  A Cold Night in Ann Arbor.

I’m fried from writing books that go nowhere.  I wrote unpublished books before that New York editor was born.  I wrote Check My Balance (about my mental health and the family business), and Riding on Mayfield (about my youth) and Kicked in the Groin (about my hernia operation).  None of them got published, and I had great agents too.

One time — when  I was in Latin America — my dad acted as my literary secretary.  He wrote to my literary agent, “We’re very proud of Bert and are very pleased you are representing him.”

I’m glad my dad was “very proud” of me.  I still think about that.

But I’m done.  I just wrote the New York editor back: “I’m not going to write the real estate book.”  If anybody wants to read about real estate, they can always click here for 92 Klezmer Guy posts about real estate.

The above is Philip Roth–style fiction.  Yes, my dad was my “literary secretary,” and the bit about the unpublished novels is based on fact, but I never received any email from a New York editor.  If I had, I would have written back, “Yes, I’ll do it.  Can I pay you?”

File this under fake profiles.



Every year I pause to 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 kibitzers Marc, Ken G, Jessica Schreiber, Gerald Ross, Ted, Bill Jones, Mark Schilling, Ellen, Seth . . .

David Korn, Dave R, Irwin Weinberger, Alice, Don Friedman, Lea Grossman Hapner, Ari Davidow, Pierce G, Charlie B, Jeff Moss, Nancy Kane, Jack, Gerry Kanter, Michael Wex, Faruk Ahmed and Steven Greenman.

See your name here next year by writing in.

An extra gracias to
Ken G 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 21, 2014   6 Comments


I play house concerts; I perform in people’s living rooms and sleep in their bedrooms. I play guitar, sing and tell stories.  I’ve taught a class or two at old-timey music camps in West Virginia.

The house-concert scene is my Airbnb, except I get paid; I don’t pay.  And I usually sell a handful of CDs.

I wish the  house-concert scene was bigger.  Fifty people in a living room is my best draw.

I saw the movie Inside Llewyn Davis recently and thought to myself “that’s me!” except I’m happier than that guy.  Right now I’m doing a Bix Beiderbecke transcription in a bedroom in Columbus, Ohio, and enjoying myself.  I’ll  be in Pittsburgh tomorrow. I live cheaply and save money, so when I’m 65 — three years from now — I’ll stop this train and settle down.  I’m thinking about Austin.  I’m tired of sleeping in other people’s beds.


The  post above is a fake profile. This one is true.


In my refrigerator, I had Golden Herring (Brampton, Ontario), Ma Cohen’s (Detroit) and Ducktrap River (Belfast, Maine). In wine sauce, not in cream sauce. Must say “tidbits.”

Ma Cohen’s was the best. It was lower in sodium and sugar than the others. They all had omega-3s.

I bought my Ma’s at Corky & Lenny’s, my Ducktrap at Whole Foods, and Golden at Heinen’s. For a while I thought “Golden” might be the owner’s name, like in Al Golden, my late uncle. I Googled the company; Golden is owned by Lorne Krongold of Brampton, Ontario.

I stopped by a Polish deli in Slavic Village, Cleveland. The place had a ton of herring, even matjes herring, which I had only seen previously at KlezKamp.

Here’s an interesting tidbit:  1) Herring was a major source of protein for impoverished Jews in Eastern Europe.  2) Don’t take herring to a hunger center.  They’ll refuse your donation.  They’ll say, “We can’t even give this stuff away.”

If you don’t get it — herring — you probably think this subject is idiotic. But listen,  you can acquire herring love. Start out on sardines and move up. A third way: anchovies.

My sister and I used to eat anchovies right from the can, straight. My sister isn’t that crazy about herring. I don’t get that.

I’m down to a jar of herring a month.  Something bad about salt, my doc says.

An earlier version of this post is a video.

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May 7, 2014   8 Comments


Some excellent free activities are sex, talking about the weather, and defecation.

A few more: dreaming, library books, jaywalking.

I sell toilets — not free.

You want a urinal?  What kind?  Stainless steel?

When I sleep, I see gold and brown dots, and movement.  It’s entertaining and free.  I have a friend who sees bright lights — red and black — when he falls asleep.  I don’t.

People say, “Hey, look out your window and get some sensory stimulus.”  That’s fine, but I prefer looking inside toilets.  The blank looks I get.

How about a 0.8 gpf for $150 total?  Would you buy one?  Niagara Stealth.  How about five Stealths at a discount?

I say, “I know you don’t want to talk about toilets, but think of the sudden shifts, the transitions, the swoosh.”

A good bowel movement is as good as sex; Harvey Pekar, the comic book writer, said that.  I sold 10 toilets to Stratton — this blog’s author — with that literary crap. The froth, the bubbles, the shine.

I still have an intensity, to this day, that goes back to age 21. Yes, my life is scarier now that I’m 35, but I’m not at “flush” yet.    I have a slick pack of possibilities, and I appreciate deep listening.


Lavatory means sink to a plumber. Commode, yourself!  By the way, you look like an elongated toilet seat.

When a stranger takes off her pants and sits on one of my toilets, that’s a good feeling — a fragile catastrophe, a tinge of very heavy weight, a grand opening.

The key factors: the empathic rictus, the squeeze, the brilliant flash.

It’s all binary.  One and two.  Map it.

Fourteen percent of this post was stolen from the Poetry Project Newsletter.

The complete fake-profile collection is here.

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April 23, 2014   3 Comments


I use the name Mordecai Ham on the Internet I post a lot of comments and don’t want cyber-nuts tracking me down.

Mordecai Ham — the actual person — was an evangelist.  He influenced Billy Graham.  Look Ham up. I know from Ham; I know fundamentalist Christianity. From an early age, I was taught in church to venerate Jews and Israel.

Yes, the Jews killed Jesus and cried out, “His blood be upon us and on our children.” But they did so out of ignorance.  It was part of God’s plan laid out in the prophesies of Isaiah 9:6, Ezekiel and Esther. The Jews suffered mightily as God rained down Inquisitions and Holocausts to beat the band.

My daddy was about hellfire and brimstone, tongue-talking and Satan-stomping.  He attended the same college I did: the Kentucky Mountain Bible College.  On my graduation I ordered neon polyester suits from the same store my daddy did: Hart, Schaffner and Marx in Chicago.

I dress less showy nowadays.  For one thing, I’m older.  Secondly, neon is out.

Where my father pastored, he had a rack of John Birch literature next to the King James Bibles in the church foyer.  Paul Harvey was our only news source.  Now I get news from all over. I know what bobe mayse means, for example.

I don’t smoke a corncob pipe. I don’t have a ZZ Top beard. (Pentecostals don’t smoke, by the way.) I’m Mordecai Ham, I am. I read the Jew York Times.  That’s what my father called it.

The Rev. Woody Allen said about the New York Times: “I want you to get an injunction against the Times.  It’s a New York, Jewish, communist, left-wing, homosexual newspaper.  And that’s just the sports section.”

My full name is Walter Terry Hamilton. Everybody calls me Sonny. I have a B.S. (Biblical Studies).

I invite you to stop by my shul, down here in the hills of beautiful Eastern Kentucky.  I’ll save a piece of kichel for you.

Shalom, chaverim.

Yes, my iPhone has a Yiddish/Hebrew-word-a-day app.

The complete fake-profiles series is here.

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January 8, 2014   9 Comments


Some thieves specialize in quarters. They pry open coin boxes on washing machines and dryers in laundry rooms.

Quarter stealers did this a couple times at one of my apartment buildings. One time the building manager ran into them, took their picture, and asked them who they were. They said they were Sarah and Michael.

Afterward, the building manager handed the photo over to the police. Sarah and Michael were then videoed pouring quarters into a coin-sorting machine at a nearby grocery store.

Sarah and Michael hit 21 buildings on the West Side, the cops told me.

About a month later,  I got a letter from the county prosecutor about Paul and Erin — the crooks’ real names.  They were charged with burglary, possessing criminal tools, aggravated theft, theft, tampering with coin machines and vandalism.  The thieves wound up in prison.

My damages: $884.50.

That’s a lot of quarters. (For the record: 3,538.)


Not another fake profile! (The complete fake-profile series is here.)


I’m a boxer. That’s the essence of who I am.

I’m not a heavyweight so you probably don’t know me. I grew up boxing. I listened to Johansson-Patterson fights on the radio. Also, Patterson versus Clay. I boxed at the Ukrainian Club, AAU and Junior Golden Gloves.

My parents were all for it. My father encouraged boxing. In my dad’s day, Jewish fighters frequently hit the top: Jackie Davis, Benny Leonard. Locally, Harry Levine was a good light heavyweight. Levine fought with his face out front. If it got hit, his head would shake like a bobblehead. He kept hitting though.

My last sanctioned fight was in 1968 against Johnny Montello. We were from the same neighborhood. The bout was old-school, Italian versus Jew. It was a 1930s ethnic turf battle but in the 1960s! Johnny was just back from ’Nam. He had been a cook over there. He was punchy (foggy-headed). He had boxed too much in the Army.

Johnny got into my face verbally, like Ali, saying: “You’re always talking about Jewish shit.” Johnny pointed at the Star of David on my trunks.

I said, “You should know one thing about me: being Jewish is who I am. Everything I do is a part of that.” I was a college student back then. Up at Michigan, I boxed in Waterman Gym — with myself. Existential stuff.

My buddies attended the Montello fight. My friends were hippies. Montello’s friends were extras from Grease.

Montello broke my nose and gave me a concussion. After that, I promised my parents I would quit boxing. My dad, finally, thought it was a good idea and got me private tennis lessons. Tennis was like boxing, he said, but without hitting. Agassi’s dad — a boxer — said the same thing.

I miss the ring. I play tennis, but I miss the ring. I think about boxing a lot: Babe Triscaro, Jimmy Bivins, Tony Mulia.

I would like another chance. The Senior Olympics has pickleball but no boxing. What’s pickleball?

An op-ed, by yo, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Friday (11/29).  The print headline was “Klezmer Christmas?  He’s actually in favor of goodwill to men.” The online headline was “Dreaming of a Green Christmas.”

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December 4, 2013   2 Comments