Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.


 
 

Category — Landlord Biz

FLOWER (SHOP) POWER

 
Tim Stanton, the owner of Stanton’s Flower Shoppe, didn’t need retail any more. His walk-in trade wasn’t walking in. He was moving to a warehouse, to work the internet and crank out $400-$500 funeral home packages. I saw Tim one last time. I was with my son, and Tim was with his son. I said, “It’s been a good run.”

Tim agreed. He had entered the flower shop at 22, in 1976, and walked out 33 years later. Tim often paid his rent late but usually included a flower bouquet whenever he did. He knew my dad. Not too many tenants went that far back. Tim said, “Your dad gave me a start. I always appreciated that.” I was glad my son got to hear that.

In the 1970s, I used to take lunch breaks in back of the flower shop in the alley. Probably the coolest place — temperature-wise — on the West Side. Always shady and usually with a lake breeze. I was pointing up bricks in the building basement. That was a make-work project, suggested by my dad. I wanted to be a blue-collar guy, and my father had said, “Go ahead, be a blue-collar guy and see how much fun it is.”

A plumber, watching me pointing bricks, said, “These walls are going to be standing long after you and I are both dead. Why are you doing this?”

Because my father said so. I didn’t say anything.

Tim Stanton, in his heyday, employed his mother, sister, brother and several others. I re-rented the flower store to a 26-year-old woman who started a gelato shop. I hoped she would walk out 33 years later. She lasted nine years. Not bad. Now the place is a coffee shop.

The first time I met the gelato woman, I told her, “You don’t want to be on your death bed thinking you didn’t give it a chance. People regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did.” That was my standard spiel, lifted almost verbatim from Stumbling on Happiness by psychologist Daniel Gilbert. “If you don’t give it a try, you’ll never know,” I said.

Gilbert also wrote: “Because we do not realize that our psychological immune systems can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward.”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 18, 2023   1 Comment

DON’T CALL ME “PISHER”

The phone number at AAA Window Shade Co. was something like 221-3700. The proprietor, Joe Villoni, started there at 13, and was 87 when he pulled down the last shade. Seventy-four years, same job, same location. He quit in 2003 because nobody was buying window shades anymore. Everybody was into $5 mini-blinds at Home Depot. My father kept Joe’s rent low because Joe never asked for anything. Joe had a large window shade-making machine, about the size of a car. That apparatus, and possibly the whole store, belonged in the Henry Ford Museum.

I always liked Joe and other old-guy tenants. I was just a baby, a pisher (pisser/youngster), to these guys. Another old tenant, Jim English, gave me a metal Phillies cigar box full of screws. I appreciated the cigar box more than the screws. I was in my 20s and collected anything older than myself.

Jeanne Saunders left me several novel manuscripts when she died. She had one lung, a great disposition, and a very tough life. She should have written more about her life and less about gladiators and cowboys.

Another old-timer, Mary Kubichar, produced a concert for Yiddishe Cup at the Beck Center for the Performing Arts in Lakewood, Ohio. That was the first — and last — major Yiddishe Cup concert on the West Side. (West Side means “not a lot of Jews.”) Mary was from western P.A. (Say P. A.) After retiring from Higbee’s department store, she volunteered at her church and the Beck Center. The Yiddishe Cup concert at the Beck Center was a neighborhood appreciation party for Mary. (She died the next year, 1996.) Even the publisher of the Cleveland Plain Dealer showed up. We played a couple Slovak pieces for Mary.

These days I’m older than most of my tenants. At least nobody can call me pisher.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 21, 2022   2 Comments

STOLEN BASS

A thief stole a bass guitar at one of my apartment buildings. It was a Lakland bass, worth about $1200. The bass was left unattended on the fire escape for a few minutes.

The thief took the instrument to Guitar Center in North Olmsted, Ohio, where he tried to sell it. The Guitar Center store manager checked out the instrument and immediately called a friend. The manager said, “Hey, man, somebody right now is trying to sell me your bass, and I saw your post on Facebook [about the stolen bass].” The cops nabbed the thief right there in the store. He was the boyfriend of the female tenant from apartment 403. (The bass’s owner — the victim — lived in apartment 202.)

The thief wasn’t on the lease for apartment 403. I thought about kicking the girl (403) out. I asked the detective what I should write on her eviction notice. He said, “Stealing shit.”

I called 403 and said, “Your boyfriend isn’t on the lease. Stealing an Amazon package from the lobby, that’s bad. Stealing a bicycle, that’s worse. Stealing a musical instrument, that’s affecting the entire society!” I had rehearsed that.

The boyfriend had no prior criminal record. The bass player (202) said he was “chill” with having his axe back and didn’t want to press charges. He was more chill than I was. I wanted 202 to press charges, but he repeatedly said no.

I let 403 stay. But I did tell her, “You have to get rid of the boyfriend.”

“That’s what my parents say, too,” she said.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 31, 2022   5 Comments

GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY

(This is a good one. It was originally published in City Journal 12/24/15).

“I don’t like rich people,” said Irwin, the singer in my klezmer band, as we loaded in our sound equipment at the country club. The club manager as usual made us go through the kitchen door. At the luncheon—a bar mitzvah—she wouldn’t let us eat the chicken fingers at the kids’ table and would only serve us lemonade, not soda pop. Definitely no beer. We were service-industry workers.

Didn’t the club manager realize Irwin and I are middle class? Irwin is a retired middle-school art teacher. I’m a landlord. We dabble as working class several hours a weekend, period. Forty-four percent of Americans self-identify as middle class, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. “Upper middle class and upper class” account for 15 percent. “Lower middle and lower” is 40 percent. Nobody says rich.

At my apartment buildings, many of the tenants are food-service industry workers, and some don’t like me on principle; I’m the landlord. These tenants all lived rent-free as children, and now, in their twenties and thirties, they have to pay for walls and a roof. About 5 percent of the tenants don’t pay on time. Many of the servers and bartenders come home late and begin partying at 3 AM. When I ask for the rent, the tenants sometimes get sassy: “You want the rent? Let me pull your coat to this—my bathroom ceiling is still leaking.” Luckily I know some jazz slang.

My older son said I seem miserable in my real estate job. I said to him, “Nobody said the job was supposed to be fun. It’s a way to raise a family and hopefully provide decent housing.” Real estate is not music.

In the music biz, weddings are the Rolls Royce of gigs. Nobody wants to be a wedding singer except real musicians. They die for wedding gigs. The money is good and there’s often salmon. One musician in my band brought baggies to gigs. That was particularly useful at buffets. Was he middle class, working class, or just hungry? I seem to go through a couple social classes a day. I suspect most poor people don’t.

I’m a part owner of a medical office building. There, some of the tenants play golf on Wednesdays. The doctor-tenants complain unhesitatingly and often. Irwin—the artist in my band—put up six original paintings in the medical building lobby. A doctor texted me: “If you’ve got money for pictures, then paint my door.” So we painted the door. The door painter said to me, “If you gave that doctor a gold-plated key to heaven, he’d complain the lock was broke. He’s Dr. No.”

The medical building was a house of pain and uneven temperatures. Very few patients were in a good mood there, unlike at bar mitzvahs and weddings, where everybody is happy (except the club manager). I visit neighboring office buildings and say to receptionists, “I have a general question for you. How’s the temperature in here?” Everybody is too hot or too cold. I read how women and men react differently to air conditioning and heat. Apparently everybody needs their own personal bubble. I’ll probably never get the temperature right.

Irwin has memorized all of Bob Dylan’s “list songs.” Driving to a gig, Irwin sang this for me: “You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed.” When we got to the country club, we went through the kitchen door.

Dr. No was late with his rent, on purpose. He was punishing me. I was in his corner office, the area with the family pics and diplomas. Dr. No said, “Take a seat.” I sat, he stood, and he lectured me on climate control. He was hot, and I was sweating the rent. Eventually he handed me the check.

At weddings, I work with a photographer who writes “no wraps” in his contract, meaning no sandwich wraps for him. He insists on a hot meal. But sometimes you get it cold. If my food-industry tenants could have seen me in Dr. No’s office, they would have loved it.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 6, 2022   1 Comment

BOUNCE CITY

When a rent check bounces, the bank charges me a fee. I didn’t bounce the check. Am I supposed to ask the tenant beforehand, “Is your check good or is it tissue paper?”

Eve, a tenant, ran a beauty parlor and was a chronic check-bouncer. She screamed at me: “My freaking check is good! Why don’t you put it in! I hand-delivered it to the manager yesterday.”

“The bank charges me!” I said. “I just called the bank. The teller said it was no good.”

Eve was at the bank. The check was good now, she claimed. And I had just gone to city hall and filed an eviction on her for $100.

I said, “OK, I’ll put the check in if it’s good.”

“The check is good!” she said. “I pay my rent and I intend to pay it until the end of my lease, at which point I’m out of here. And you haven’t fixed the back screen door.”

I said, “I’m evil, I know that. You don’t like me, and I don’t like you.” I hung up and called the bank.  The check was good.

Peace and love.


Yiddishe Cup plays a free outdoor concert tomorrow (6:30-8:30 pm Thurs., June 9) at the Cedar-Fairmount, Cleveland Heights. The show is in a secret location — the parking lot in back of Firestone, 12420 Cedar Rd. (The parking lot’s entrance is on Grandview Road.) Bring a chair.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

June 8, 2022   3 Comments

FLOWER SHOP POWER

Tim Stanton, the owner of Stanton’s Flower Shoppe, didn’t need retail any more. His walk-in trade wasn’t walking in. He was moving to a warehouse, to work the internet and crank out $400-$500 funeral home packages.

I saw Tim once more. I was with my oldest son, and Tim was with his oldest son. I said, “It’s been a good run.”

Tim agreed. He had entered the flower shop at 22 (in 1976) and walked out 33 years later. Tim often paid his rent late but included a flower bouquet whenever he did. He had known my dad. Not too many tenants went that far back. Tim said, “Your dad gave me a start. I always appreciated that.” I was glad my son got to hear that.

In the mid-1970s, I used to take lunch breaks in back of the flower shop in the alley. Probably the coolest place — temperature-wise — on the West Side. Always shady and usually with a lake breeze. I was pointing up bricks in the building basement. That was a make-work project, proposed by my dad. I wanted to be a blue-collar guy, and my father said, “Go ahead, be a blue-collar guy and see how much fun it is.”

A plumber, who saw me pointing bricks, said, “These walls are going to be standing long after you and I are both dead. Why are you doing this?”

Because my father said so. I didn’t actually say that. I didn’t say anything.

Tim Stanton — in his heyday — employed his mother, sister, brother and several others. I re-rented the flower store to a 26-year-old woman who started up a gelato shop. I hoped she would walk out 33 years later. She lasted nine years. Not bad. Now the place is a coffee shop.

About the gelato woman. The first time I met her I said, “You don’t want to be on your death bed thinking you didn’t give it a chance. People regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did.” That was my shpiel, lifted almost verbatim from Stumbling on Happiness by psychologist Daniel Gilbert. “If you don’t give it a try, you’ll never know,” I said.

Gilbert also wrote: “Because we do not realize that our psychological immune systems can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward.”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

May 18, 2022   2 Comments

GREAT NAMES IN THE RENTAL BIZ

Arvids Jansons. I got his desk when he left.

Argero Vassileros. Nickname: Argie.

Michael Bielemuk,  a k a The Professor. He had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Maria Malfundido. A kleptomaniac. She stole light bulbs from the hall so we glued the bulbs into the sockets.

Saram Carmichael. A transvestite who solicited customers from her second floor window. The johns waited at the bus stop outside her window.

Stan Hershfield. One of the few Jews at the time on the West Side. He was raised in an orphanage and loved the word bubkes (beans), as in: “Stratton, I have bubkes so don’t hondle me about the rent.”  [Hondle is haggle.] When Hershfield painted the natural wood floor in the kitchen, he beamed, “Only the best, Stratton, Benjamin Moore!”

Malfalda Bedrossian. She was never late with her rent.

Chris Andrews. He had a regular name but slept in a coffin.

Merjeme Haxhiraj. She talked me down $10 every year on her rent.

Patience Osuma. She wasn’t patient. She had multiple beefs. She thought she was living in the Ritz.

John “Chip” Stephens. He played jazz piano all day and was so good he landed a tenure track job at a university in Missouri.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 2, 2022   3 Comments

ROACH MOTEL

We sprayed the tenant’s suite for cockroaches. It didn’t work. The tenant wrote a letter demanding we do it again, and if we didn’t, she would put her rent in escrow. She worked at a law office. We sprayed again. Then we sprayed the whole building — approximately one-thousand dollars’ worth of spray.

She still had bugs. She called the city building department, which sent out its most gung-ho inspector, who decided we needed to point the chimney and plane the boiler-room door in the basement, and fix up everything in between.

We did all that. And we brought in our cockroach “bomber,” a guy who zapped her apartment, including a direct hit on her coffee maker. A dozen cockroaches scampered out. She had gotten the used coffee maker from her boyfriend. That roach-infested coffee maker set me back thousands.

I planned not to renew her lease, but she told me she was moving before I told her I was not renewing her. That bugged me.

So did her 20-pound bond, legal stationery. She wasn’t even a lawyer.

Here’s my op-ed from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal: My Deadbeat Tenant Insisted on Eviction.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 26, 2022   7 Comments

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
OF PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

  • Don’t rent to anybody for less than a year. How about six months? Nope. You’ll attract unstable — in all ways — tenants.
  • Don’t go long-term on a natural gas contract. Anything can happen with natural gas prices.
  • Don’t assume store tenants will do preventive maintenance. I once hired Roto-Rooter to jet a restaurant’s drain. The bill was $925. The restaurant owner didn’t reimburse me. He said, “How do you know it was my grease?” Well, was it grease from the flower shop next door?
  • Roofers are gonifs. It’s hard work and you can’t easily check their work.
  • When the temperature goes below 20 degrees, everything fails: pipes, downspouts, boilers, walls, roofs, snowplow guys, concrete.
  • Miller is a good all-purpose name. Miller can be Amish, African-American, Jewish, German, English, Gypsy. I once rented to Gypsy Millers. The cops wanted their license plate number but I didn’t get the number fast enough. The Millers left suddenly. They had New York plates.
  • There aren’t enough Elvis lovers in the trades anymore.
  • Real estate brokers wear expensive suits even though they’re not all rich. They go into boiler rooms and climb roofs. They have significant dry-cleaning bills.
  • Make sure there aren’t any Q-tips — even new ones — in the bathroom when showing vacant suites.
  • Wear a tie to court. The defendant usually will not. You win.

  • WSJ readers, here are more real estate stories.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    January 19, 2022   3 Comments

    FREAKED OUT MANY TIMES

    Natalie was freaked out about black mold. She was freaked out about a radiator spewing. We fixed the problems, but then my building manager entered Natalie’s suite without 24 hours’ notice. That freaked out Natalie.

    Freaked me out too. I don’t like getting sued. When I got Natalie’s certified letter, I figured she worked at a law office. Turns out she worked at an insurance office. Nevertheless, she knew how to quote the Ohio Revised Code.

    We fixed all her problems. But then she deducted a half month’s rent from her next payment. I told her, “That’s not how it’s done, but I’ll let it go this month.” I even said she could move out.

    She was ecstatic. “I can be out this weekend!”

    She was too happy. That didn’t sit well with me. I said, “I changed my mind. I’ve put a lot of money into this apartment. For business reasons, I need you to honor the lease. Just call if anything bad happens again. Any leaks. Whatever.”

    “You can be sure I’ll call and you can be sure something will happen.”

    Nothing happened. No more freak outs. She stayed a year and got her security deposit back (minus $40 for a dirty refrigerator and stove. TMI).

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    October 13, 2021   1 Comment

    THE GOOD, THE BAD
    AND THE NUANCED

    Stan Herschfield paced his apartment at 3 a.m., waking up the tenants below. I asked Herschfield to ease up, and he said, “What do you want from me? I can’t fly.” He moved out shortly after that. About 10 years later, he called me: “Stratton, you remember me — Herschfield. I want to move back in.”

    “Herschfield!” I said, emoting like I was in a bad JCC play. “You painted the floor! You complained about the deaf guy across the hall blasting organ music! You complained about the people below you fornicating! You skipped out on your final month’s rent! It cost me fifty dollars to clean the place. But you did teach me some Yiddish words.”

    “I didn’t skip! Those yentzers below, they drove me out!”

    “You painted the kitchen floor.”

    “But I used Benjamin Moore. Only the best!”

    I didn’t let him back. Maybe I should have. I’ve allowed old tenants back in. Usually not into the same suite, but often in the same building. I save records on previous tenants. F. Scott Fitzgerald said bookkeeping is not a sexy subject, but it is somewhat interesting. I wish I hadn’t thrown out my dad’s tax returns, which would make interesting reading now that I’m older and into nuanced returns. I have mini-dossiers on ex-tenants. Nothing personal, no nude posture photos like those Ivy League colleges used to do, just notes on whether the tenant paid his final month’s rent, turned in his keys and didn’t trash the place. If all’s well, I’ll let them back. Could be a decade later. The good tenants, you don’t remember. You have to look them up. Herschfield, I remember.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    June 16, 2021   2 Comments

    LOST MONEY

    I lost 16 rent checks. I used the bank’s night drop, and the envelope wedged between the metal chute and the bank’s brick wall. Just got buried in there like a time capsule.

    I wondered, Did I forget to make the deposit? Was the deposit in my car somewhere?

    I spent hours looking through file cabinets and garbage cans for that deposit. The bank found the deposit three months later. I wrote the bank manager about my embarrassment — having to tell 16 tenants I lost their checks. I asked the bank to waive its service fees for a year. I wrote: “I heard my father — who died years ago — talking to me, saying ‘You did what? You lost the money?’”

    The bank didn’t waive the fees. They did, however, give me $110 to cover tracer fees.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    December 2, 2020   2 Comments

    BAD STUFF

    An employee showed a lot of butt cleft when he waxed floors, alienating some of the more fastidious tenants.

    I hired a building manager who drove too often to Detroit. This was before cell phones. I couldn’t reach him half the time.

    Another building manager grew up in Hough, back when that neighborhood was classy. Her family had boarded Nap Lajoie, the Hall of Fame baseball player. She said to me, “We had the elite in my neighborhood. No mongrels, like from PA.” Her husband was from PA.

    There was a manager who rarely cleaned the building. A tenant taped a note up in the vestibule: “This building is a mess.” Other tenants added to the note: “Vacuum the halls” . . . “Take the tree down, Christmas is over!” . . . “Trim the shrubs.”

    There was a building manager whose vacuum sweeper was always outside her door but she never vacuumed.

    An employee threatened to kill me. He dated a tenant, a problem tenant — a transvestite prostitute. When I fired him, he said he would hunt me down. Luckily, he didn’t know his way around the East Side, where I live. (The East Side has curved streets.)

    One employee regularly asked for loans because her husband took her money and blew it at the racetrack. He was a hard worker, but a gambler.

    There was a building manager whose kids were thieves. One day I asked the manager where her son was, and she said, “He stepped out to shop.”

    “Where to?”

    “Marion.” The Marion (Ohio) Correctional Institution. When her son returned from Marion, he burglarized an apartment in the building.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    August 26, 2020   5 Comments

    JAMESTOWN VILLAGE

    My dad owned an “apartment community” in North Olmsted. The apartment community was garden-style, three-story buildings grouped around a parking lot and pool. The buildings had mansard roofs and looked like 1970s McDonald’s. The community was Jamestown Village. Should have been Jonestown. One tenant peed in the heating ducts and poured aquarium gravel in the toilet on his way out. Another resident seemed to use the hollow-core doors for karate practice.

    A high school wrestling coach — who was also a multi-millionaire — bought the complex from my dad and turned it into condos in 1977. Worked out well for both my dad and the coach. The banker said to my dad, “You made your money, and Howard [the coach] made his.”

    The coach was Howard Ferguson, who took St. Edward High to 11 state championships. Remember him?  He died in 1989.  Remember my dad? (I write about him frequently so you probably think you do.) Anybody remember the banker — Pete Shimrak? I quoted Pete in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The Wall Street Journal editor said to me, “Shimrak is dead, right? Because if he’s not, we can’t use your direct quotes [from Shimrak] without his approval.” Of course Shimrak was dead.

    Uh, no, the editor said. Shimrak is 88. We tracked him down, via his son, and I got Pete’s OK for the direct quotes. In a voicemail Pete said nice things about my dad and called me “the Stratton boy.” Anybody who remembers my father can call me whatever they want.

    Jamestown Village. Many auto workers lived there, and some of them liked to bang on things.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    July 22, 2020   1 Comment

    A WHITER SHADE OF WHITE

    Steve, an apartment painter, had more words for white than Jews have for fool. Steve talked about antique white, Navajo white, pearl white, bone white and white. [Fool in Yiddish: nar, shlemiel, shmendrik, shmegege, yold.]

    “Oil or latex?” — that was the first question at Lakewood Paint and Wallpaper back in the day. Also: “Is Dutch Standard the same as Dutch Boy?” No, Dutch Standard was from Canton, Ohio. Dutch Boy is the nationally known subsidiary from Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland.

    Bill, a paint salesman, made regular stops at Lakewood Paint. He told me to use an “alkyd” (oil). He cornered me and asked, “Are you a Yehudi?”

    “Yes.”

    “What are you doing over here?

    “I’m working for my old man.”

    “Four years of fun and games at college. Now look!” Bill said. “There are only two Yehudis at Dutch Standard. Me and another guy.”

    Bill wandered the aisles of Cleveland paint stores in the 1970s. I traveled a similar circuit. Still do. The other day I paid a man for painting a stairway camel white, which is a Behr color from Home Depot. Lakewood Paint and Wallpaper is long gone.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    May 27, 2020   1 Comment

    PORN AND LIT

    Lakewood International News carried the Paris Review, Partisan Review, Kenyon Review and Bustin’ Out. About half the store was porn. The proprietor, Gil, was a part-time railroader. He manned the elevated counter, which was a lookout tower for nailing shoplifters and pervs. I went there.

    When Gil lost his lease, I told him about a store I had for rent. A Plain Dealer reporter called me about all this. How’d he hear about it? Who knows. Possible PD headline: “Stratton, New Porn Czar.” The old Cleveland porn czar was Reuben Sturman. I got scared. I hand-delivered a media package to the Plain Dealer reporter. I did a Q&A with myself. I wrote: “I believe in the First Amendment and the bookstore would be an asset. It isn’t just porn. Ever heard of the Paris Review? I’ll rent to the magazine store.”

    The deal didn’t happen. Lakewood News moved to a different location, about a mile south, then folded. I rented my vacant store to a bank, and I figured the bank would stay for 20 years. That’s what their lease said. But the bank bailed in a couple years. Banks were merging and consolidating like crazy in the 1980s.

    I miss the bank. I miss the porn-and-lit store, too.


    On Monday I had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. “The Rent Collector’s Dilemma.”

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    May 6, 2020   6 Comments

    QUARTER STEALERS

    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 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.

    The building manager handed the photo to the police. Sarah and Michael were then videoed pouring quarters into a coin sorting machine at the nearby grocery store. Sarah and Michael hit 21 buildings on Cleveland’s West Side, the cops told me.

    I received a letter from the county prosecutor about Paul and Erin — Sarah and Michael’s real names. The thieves were charged with burglary, possessing criminal tools, aggravated theft, theft, tampering with coin machines and vandalism. Paul and Erin wound up in prison. My damages were $884.50. For the record, that’s 3,538 quarters. I never saw any of it.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    December 11, 2019   2 Comments

    CRAZY NUMBERS

    Wendy from Dominion Retail said there were crazy numbers out there, regarding NYMEX natural-gas prices. Wendy’s competitors were offering the crazy numbers, she said, and she wouldn’t match them. Phil from Hess stopped by and said he could get me a gas contract at 3.99 Mcf, which Wendy claimed was “crazy,” as in she couldn’t match Phil’s low price. Phil said he could also get me a toy Hess truck, as in a matchbox toy. Phil — a goy — started in on Jewish things, about Israel and Hebrew. I said, “How did you know I’m Jewish?”

    He said, “The basket of yarmulkes in the corner gives me an idea.”  (He was in my dining room.) Phil learned a new Hebrew word every day, he said. He had recently learned chuppah and ner tamid, and was on remant. I didn’t know remant. Still don’t. He said he could read Hebrew. I brought out a Bible, and he read the first line of Genesis. I didn’t press further.

    Wendy decided to match Phil’s crazy number, but then backed off. So Phil locked me in at 3.99 Mcf, and he gave me the toy truck, plus honey for Rosh Hashanah. Previously I had been at 9.84 Mcf for natural gas. Now that was a crazy number (too high). I had been locked in at that high rate for the previous five years, 2009-14.

    I only go out a year or two now. Or else I float. I’m at 3.39 now. Thank you, fracking.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    November 13, 2019   2 Comments

    RESPECT MY CHECK

    I write about 50 business checks a month. The other day I hit check number 10,000. This made think of some old-timers (not me, other old timers).

    liner notes I’ve had tenants whose personal checks went into the 8000s. I respected those people, their age, and their numbers. Also, I knew their checks wouldn’t bounce. The scariest check number is 101. Young tenants don’t even know how to write checks. I have to fill in certain lines for them.

    That 10,000. Please respect it.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    July 10, 2019   2 Comments

    I RENTED TO MODIGLIANI

    Brian said he was good for the rent. He said, “I’m not like that [a deadbeat]. I pay. I’m an artist. I have $750 tied up in PayPal right now that won’t be released.” His paintings were dark and red like Franz Kline’s. He didn’t pay and I evicted him. The good news: he paid after the legal hearing, so he stuck around. I said, “Modigliani didn’t pay his rent either.”

    “The guy who did the long faces?”

    “Yep.”

    Brian didn’t pay his rent the next month, so I evicted him again, and this time he moved  out, and left a wall of splattered paint, like Jackson Pollock. Also, he wrecked the bathroom floor because he never used the shower curtain. He left one painting, which I offered to the building manager.

    headacheThe bailiff bumped into me at the city court and said, “Your tenant knocked over a couple display shelves in Drug Mart and is under psych observation for a couple weeks.”

    “He’s already out of my apartment,” I said.

    I told an employee about Brian. This worker liked to stay up-to-date on horror stories. The employee said, “There are two sides to this. Everybody is mentally ill.”

    “He sold paintings in Germany on the internet,” I said.

    “Everybody is a star on the internet. There are two sides.”

    At least.

    shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

    June 26, 2019   1 Comment