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 — Miscellaneous

OLD THIEVES

mr 1939 crossroad

I got a rental application from Joe, a retired 71-year-old factory worker who made $1600/month. Welcome, Joe. But then I ran a criminal search and came up with aggravated arson, forgery and sexual battery. Pre-internet, I would have rented to him because it was hard to run background checks back then. I once rented to a rapist/murderer because I didn’t want to schlep to county records to check him out. The man got picked up on a parole violation and moved out before killing or raping anybody in my building.

I once rented to an elderly nurse who was a felon. Her previous landlord followed her to my place and told me she was a forger and thief. She didn’t look it. She already had the keys to my building; the building manager had given her the keys in exchange for a dime store ring. We moved the nurse’s belongings into the basement and locked the stuff up.  She said, “Give me my meds!” Good point. I gave her meds, plus her toothbrush.

This cost me. I’ve learned two things: a) Don’t do a “self-help” eviction. Lawyers love self-help evictions. b) Screen all tenants like crazy on the way in.


Rerun

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October 18, 2017   1 Comment

GO TRIBE! TOO UPBEAT?

I wasn’t in Rust Belt Chic –The Cleveland Anthology. An oversight. I’m Rust Belt chic. I’ve lived in Cleveland all my life and I use Rust-Oleum — a local brand — on fire escapes. A tenant fell on a fire escape Monday because it was rainy and slippery; he complained because we use good paint.

I’m not total lunch bucket like Pulitzer Prize columnist Connie Schultz, whose dad worked at the CEI plant in Ashtabula, or Rust Belt Chic co-editor Richey Piiparinen, whose dad was a Cleveland cop who got run over on the way home from an Indians game.

I told Richey I liked the anthology even though I’m not in it. I said, “I liked it and I’m not even into the Browns, booze, and broads thing.”

He said, “That’s good — ‘Browns, booze and broads.’”

1) The Browns. I’ve been to about five Browns games. One was the championship game in 1964. I’m good to go.

2) The Indians. I’ve been to about a game a year. Believe it or not, I’ve seen three no-hitters: Stieb, Bosman and Siebert. I’m good to go, again. Looking for a Tribe no-hitter tonight, by the way.

rust belt chic3) Booze. I’ve had very few Great Lakes Christmas Ales. No more than 10. But I’m 100-percent behind Great Lakes Brewing and heavy drinking.

4) Broads. I met a couple at the Last Moving Picture Company in 1976 and they’re probably dead by now from too much beer. Pong, the video game, was big then.

David Giffels in his essay “The Lake Effect” wrote, “There was never any color in the 30 miles of sky between Akron and Cleveland. It was a masterpiece of monochrome.”

I see color in the sky all the time around here. I see blue right now. Maybe I’m too upbeat for Rust Belt Chic. Go Tribe.

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October 11, 2017   3 Comments

THE MEANING OF LIFE

What is the meaning of life? Viktor Frankl says it has to do with 1) good works 2) loving somebody 3) responding well to your suffering.

When I first read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, I was just taking over my dad’s business and wondering if I would acclimate to life in real estate. I figured I would, for my family, but I wasn’t going to make “real estate” my meaning.

hypno klezFrankl talks about “Sunday neurosis” — “that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of control in their lives when the rush of the business week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.” I’ve had that Sunday void off and on for years. I’ve tried the arts. I have some friends in the arts. We talk about commerce versus art. We’re mostly in Cleveland, so we talk about commerce and the arts a lot. We sometimes talk about fame and success. At Heinen’ grocery store, a neighbor  said to me,  “We’re still talking about the bar mitzvah you played for us eight years ago.” I think that’s important. I’ve provided quality music to the Cleveland Jewish community. I’m not that great of a musician (I’m a better writer!) but I’m envisioning a drawing of a clarinet on my tombstone. And an apartment building?

What is the meaning of life?

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September 27, 2017   4 Comments

COPS ARE FUNNY

Cleveland cop Tommy Alusheff moonlighted as a comedian under the name Morey Cohen — a conflation of Morey Amsterdam and Myron Cohen.

Morey Cohen died in 2010. I knew him only by reputation. Morey wasn’t in the Sixth District — my old police beat. The funniest cop in the Sixth was Paul Falzone, who once told me, “I have eight minutes of material to Morey’s twelve. How can you tell Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony? He’s the one with sesame seed buns.”

stand up cops

Falzone ran for county sheriff and president of the patrolmen’s union, and didn’t win either. He eventually became police chief of Bratenahl, a suburb. In 2008 Cuyahoga County tried to put Falzone in jail for theft. Something about drugs and guns missing from the Bratenahl property room. Falzone was acquitted and sued Bratenahl for “humiliation.” No joke there.

Falzone: “So I’m on patrol and walk into the Viking Bar. I see a 16-year-old punk with a Miller’s. I say, ‘When’s your birthday, kid?’ He says, ‘October 10.’ ‘What year?’ ‘Every year.’”

I also know a Myron Cohen imitator. He’s Dave Rothenberg, a resident of Myers apartments in Beachwood. Different story. Non-cop.

Rerun

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September 20, 2017   3 Comments

CARMA

My son Ted parked his car at the Brookpark Road Rapid Transit lot and flew to Las Vegas. The Rapid Transit lot was cheaper than the nearby airport lot. My son didn’t come back. I thought he was going on a vacation, but he got a job in Las Vegas and stayed for a long while.

My son’s 2007 Ford Focus sat in the Brookpark lot for two months, until my wife, Alice, and I loaded our car with jumper cables and a generator air pump and drove to the RTA lot, which is next to Ford Engine Plant #1 and a couple strip bars. I said to Alice, “Ted’s car is technically in Brook Park, not Cleveland. That’s good. If the car has been towed or stolen, we can deal with Brook Park red tape better than Cleveland red tape.” But the car wasn’t towed or stolen. It was there. The doors were unlocked, and the tires were low, and there was a bottle of bourbon in the backseat.

I drove Ted’s car to the Lusty Wrench in Cleveland Heights. Sam Bell, the mechanic, said, “The car is basically in good shape with 89,000 miles. The battery will not make it, and as you know the side-view mirror is taped on. But the tape actually is not a bad solution. The rear tires are round, black and hold air. The car is serviceable.”
What I want to know, Is Greater Cleveland really this safe? I need more data. Please park your car for two months at a Rapid stop and tell me.

carma RTA lot teddys car

<em>Rerun

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September 13, 2017   2 Comments

PURCELLS

My father had about 15 pairs of shoes when he died. I didn’t take any of his shoes even though we wore the same size. He had a foot fungus, and my mother told me to pass. My dad had wingtips, golf shoes and tennis shoes. I never saw him in sandals, work boots or hiking boots.

shoes

My dad wore Purcells. He was pretty good at sports. For one thing, he was a fast runner. He took me to the Arena for the annual Knights of Columbus track meet, and we often played tennis. My dad would hit balls with me after work. He would say, “Racquet back. Hit it now. Racquet back, hit it now.” He wore Bermuda shorts and Purcells and no shirt. That was appropriate attire in the 1960s, at least on the public courts in South Euclid, Ohio. I didn’t appreciate the tennis instruction from my dad. I moped. I should have hustled. He was usually the only dad out there. I should have hustled.


A version of this post appeared here 5/1/13.

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September 6, 2017   3 Comments

RETURN OF THE MAGGIES


Maggies were linoleum salesmen/hustlers in Cleveland. “Maggie” is derived from Magnoleum, a flooring brand. Harvey Pekar wrote a comic strip about maggies in 1982. I didn’t hear the word maggies again until recently, when my cousin Danny Seiger expounded: “The maggies carried thick samples of linoleum that looked like Venetian marble. They sold nine-by-twelve sheets for fifteen dollars. Nobody had fifteen dollars back then, so the maggies took five bucks on installment, and came back with a roll of tissue-paper. They could carry it upstairs real easy. It weighed three pounds. The maggies laid the tissue-paper linoleum on your kitchen floor, collected the five bucks, and never came back.”

The maggies sold more than linoleum, Danny said. They sold ties at barbershops and socks at saloons. Each maggie had a territory and a product line.

I Googled “Maggies” after my cousin Danny left. Maggies, an Irish music group, popped up. Then I tried “Maggies + Pekar” . . .

Michigan State University Libraries,
Comic Art Collection.
“The Maggies: Oral History”/story by Harvey Pekar;
art by R. Crumb. 2 p. in American Splendor, no. 7 (1982).

I phoned Danny Seiger and read the Pekar story to him. I wanted to know if Turk’s deli — where the maggies hung out in Harvey’s comic — was the same place as Seiger’s deli. Danny said, “Turk’s was at One-hundred Seventeenth. We were at One-hundred Eighteenth.”

I said, “There were two delis right next to each other? How many delis were there in Cleveland?”

“There were seven on Kinsman, and twenty-eight in Cleveland in the 1930s,” Danny said.

Seiger's, 1958

Seiger’s, 1958, (with fire damage)

A version of this first appeared here 8/4/10.

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August 30, 2017   3 Comments

FOR YOUNG KLEZMERS ONLY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVqxjhb2iCU


This 1-minute video is geared toward klezmers under 40. And if you don’t fit into that category, it’s still worth watching. Not everything is about you.

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August 23, 2017   4 Comments

MY RELIGION IS EX-JEWISH

I was a Jewish greaser in high school. It was me, Neil Zuckerman and Tommy Steiner — three Jewish greasers in a class of 650. There were greasers, just not Jewish greasers. In the winter we hung out at the pool hall, and in the summer we went to the swimming pool three times a day. We hung with the Catholic girls.

brush greaserI live in Mentor now, with my motorcycle and dog, and don’t see many Jews. I always wanted to be Italian. I got my first kiss from a dago. I wasn’t invited to any bar mitzvahs. I didn’t ever go to temple.

I got no brownie points in my Jewish ’hood for working on cars. If you weren’t pre-med, you were nobody. Levine, a jerk, teased me when I wore the wrong kind of penny loafers in eighth grade. Not Pedwins. I switched to pointy black “rack” shoes, Regals, that night and became a greaser. Rick Miller, another podiatrist-in-training, teased me for wearing white socks. How was I supposed to know white socks had just gone out of style?

Put me in the ex-Jewish column, next to Aleutian.

A version of this post appeared 4/30/14.

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August 16, 2017   3 Comments

THE BILLYS

My parents often name-dropped Billys:

1.) Billy Rose. He put together the Aquacade show at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1936-7. The Aquacade was a theater-like pool. There was an orchestra and synchronized swimming. Johnny Weissmuller starred in it. Billy Rose took the show to the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

2.) Billy DeWolfe, a character actor. Billy De Wolfe occasionally ate at Seiger’s, my Great Uncle Itchy’s restaurant on Kinsman Road.

3.) Billy Weinberger, a Short Vincent Street restaurateur. He owned Kornman’s. Billy Weinberger moved to Las Vegas in 1966 and took over Caesar’s Palace. Billy was close with the Cleveland mobsters who started Vegas. My Uncle Al — not a gangster — once got discount hotel rates from Billy in Vegas.

I never name-dropped Billys to my kids. My parents took all the Billys.


A version of this post appeared here 10/19/11.


Funk a Deli (formerly known as Yiddishe Cup) plays at John Carroll U. 7 p.m tomorrow (Thurs., Aug. 10).  On the lawn. Free ice cream. Featured guest artists: Shawn Fink, Jack Stratton, Rick Lawrence, Maury Epstein and David Krauss.

cassette tape

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August 9, 2017   6 Comments

YELLOW TABLE

After my mother died, I put her furniture in storage in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side. The furniture sat there for five years until my son Teddy took the furniture when he went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed, but usable.

When I visited Teddy at law school, I saw my mom’s furniture and got something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. Seeing her yellow kitchen table again was a punch to the solar plexus. I had eaten at that table for 18 years, and now it was in student-housing in Toledo. It was Formica. It was 1950s.

During high school, I was laconic at that table. How’s school? I ain’t talking. My dad didn’t talk much either. My entire family didn’t talk much. And we didn’t watch TV. We ate a lot of fish. Halibut was very cheap, believe it or not. For breakfast, we ate pink grapefruit.

Toledo 2012

Toledo 2012

A version of this post appeared here 5/9/12.

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August 2, 2017   4 Comments

THE FUNERALGOER

I attended my late mother’s cousin’s funeral. I didn’t know the cousin. There were about 80 Jews at the funeral home. I didn’t know any of the mourners, except the professional Jews — the rabbi and cantor. Buddy Kassoff, the cousin, had died. He got a nice eulogy. A daughter said he had no vices, never swore, was always cheerful, and never passed judgment on anybody. When I got home I told my wife about the eulogy, and she said, “You must not be related.”

Buddy had owned a car wash for fifty years. His father had been a musician, and I had once phoned Buddy, maybe 10 years ago, to get the inside musical scoop on his dad, but there wasn’t much scoop – no musical memorabilia, for instance. I don’t recall meeting Buddy in the past fifty years.

funeral crasher kassoff early 17

I should have gone to the shiva instead, where I would have had a proper conversation with someone. In any event, I don’t regret I went to the funeral. Like I tell my kids: go.

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July 26, 2017   6 Comments

AN ABOVE-AVERAGE JEW

Some Geauga County kids put on “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” a play about the Theresienstadt concentration camp. I spoke to the actors at their theater in Chardon, Ohio. I figured they’d be obnoxious, but they weren’t. I explained what a Jew is. They sang a Theresienstadt-based song for me. I asked them who, in their world, was the most famous Jew. I thought they would say Jesus. They said Billy Crystal.

The kids wanted to know about “the beanie ” — the yarmulke. (Note: I don’t where a yarmulke.) I said it shows one’s humbleness, vis a vis God. Was I right? I gave the actors a couple Yiddishe Cup CDs and said, “The people at Terezin didn’t listen to klezmer music but enjoy these.” Was I Jewish enough? Was I above average?

On One Foot

On one foot


A version of this post appeared here 10/28/15.

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July 19, 2017   4 Comments

MY ADVISEES

I advise two young men. They are my advisees. One is a student of real estate, and the other is a pop musician. The pop musician says “cats” a lot, and the real estate guy says “cap rates” a lot.

The real estate student and I hiked suburban Cleveland. We found a Norfolk & Western right-of-way in Solon that my advisee contemplated buying. We saw a couple great blue herons. Herons and land. How much?

The musician advisee wondered whether he should move to L.A. or New York. He said everybody in L.A. was trying too hard to be famous and attend the right parties, but there was a lot of opportunity in L.A., particularly for music licensing. In New York, he said, it was more about “wearing a weird hat and playing in the subway.” I was lost; L.A., NYC — it’s all Ohio to me. He asked me about Roth IRAs; that was more in my strike zone.

The real estate student moved away. He’s buying and selling around the country. Once in a while he’ll email me, but not so much these days. The musician moved to L.A. He checks in around tax time.

The Advisor

The Advisor

Footnote: No, the advisees are not children.

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July 12, 2017   2 Comments

ROCKIN’ RABBI

Michael Hecht, the rabbi at long-gone Congregation Beth Am in Cleveland Heights, liked music and often talked to me about klezmer. He also liked opera and classical music. He hated rock. It was too loud. He told Yiddishe Cup to turn its volume down, for the second time, at a Chanukah party; our sound guy said, “I can’t turn it down. Our sound system is completely off.”

Hecht, born in Germany in 1936, started Johns Hopkins at age 16. He wrote articles for Good Housekeeping, Conservative Judaism, the Cleveland Jewish News and Women’s League Outlook. That Women’s League Outlook, I can live without. I was at Rabbi Hecht’s funeral in January. The service lasted more than an hour. Many eulogizers hammered on Rabbi Hecht’s love of music.

Rabbi Hecht used to go to the Cleveland Heights Library to take out classical CDs to duplicate. According to one eulogizer, Rabbi Hecht liked the Beatles. OK. “In his [Hecht’s] collection he also had some Led Zeppelin and even Metallica.”

This man into Metallica  . . .

michael hecht

Rabbi Michael Hecht, 1936-2017

Rabbi Hecht had three children. They must have brought the rock records home.

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June 21, 2017   3 Comments

THE O’JAYS UP CLOSE

I helped shut down the O’Jays, the Grammy-winning soul band, last summer. The O’Jays were playing at a neighbor’s. The homeowner, who pays $107,343 per year in taxes (true), apparently thought he could do whatever he wanted, party-wise. He hired the O’Jays for a backyard party.

Lying in bed, I didn’t know it was the O’Jays. I knew it was loud music at 11:30 p.m. I called the Shaker cops, who said the homeowner had a permit. I said, “I’m a musician! I’ve played in Shaker outdoors and been shut down at 10 p.m. I think it was on Rocklyn Road at a bar mitzvah, in fact.”

“The officer on the scene reports it’s not loud,” the police dispatcher said.

ojays

I walked over to the scene, a quarter-mile away. There were several off-duty Shaker cops working the party. On my cell phone I called the police station and asked, “They have a permit to play to when?”

“One-thirty a.m.”

“You’re kidding!”

“All neighbors are invited to go in,” the dispatcher said.

I stood outside the house (the Halle mansion, by the way) next to an old black woman who told me I was listening to the O’Jays. She was on her way home from the ER and felt lousy, but then heard the music, stopped, and felt better. I asked her if she wanted to go in – to the party in the backyard. She said yes. We got to checkpoint, where the off-duty cop said, “Is your name on the list?”

“No, but I called the station and complained, and they said all neighbors are invited.” The cop walked us over to the bandstand, and the woman got to meet a personal hero, Eddie Levert, the bandleader. Then the band shut down. The off-duty cop said, “Too many neighbors are complaining.”

Yiddishe Cup marches in Parade the Circle noon this Saturday (June 10), Wade Oval, University Circle, Cleveland.

Parade 2012

Parade 2012

 

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June 7, 2017   4 Comments

WORD PLAY

“Ali” is a favorite word in crossword puzzles. So are “Mel” and “Ott.” So is “Esai” — as in “Esai Morales,” an actor. Abba “Eban” is big too. A mountain in Italy . . . “Etna”  or “Etta”?  The first name of  Finnish architect Saarinen: Eero or Erno? “Una” Thurman or “Uma?” . . . Judge “Ito.”mr 1939 crossroad

New York klezmer trumpeter Jordan Hirsch posted on Facebook that he successfully completed the Friday New York Times puzzle. Mazel tov. My friend Brit Stenson gets the whole week. He’s been doing crosswords for decades.

If I get the Wednesday puzzle, I’m doing good. I started crosswords in 2006, after the documentary movie Word Play. When I started, I didn’t know you could use run-together words, such as “Leerat,” which is to “eye lustfully.” Leer at. Sometimes the crosswords clues are off-kilter and unfair. Clue: “Anonymous one, in court.” Answer “Jane Roe.” Doh.

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May 24, 2017   No Comments

“BAY MIR BISTU SHEYN,”
A CROSSOVER CLASSIC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsUsO1g0pJQ

Watch this video if you want to know too much about “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn.”

—-

If you want to read, read this (from the Los Angeles Times). On Mother’s Day I wrote about buying my mother, Julia, a pre-need funeral package.

Julia Zalk Stratton (L) and sister Celeste Zalk Kent. Mississsippi, 1928.

Julia Zalk Stratton (L) and sister Celeste Zalk Kent. Mississipppi, 1928.

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May 17, 2017   1 Comment

DEATH AND FACEBOOK

 

Facebook goes like this: cat pic, dog pic, anti-Trump stuff, then a death notice.

For the death notice, I wrote in the comments section: “Rick was the first person to tell me to take a baby aspirin every day. He was always looking out for everybody. ” Rick was a doctor. I knew him from Camp Michigania, where we used to  vacation together.

From now on, every death will be on Facebook — or whatever Facebook becomes. Rick was always friendly. Who wouldn’t be on vacation? Rick was into sailing. I played tennis. For some reason, Rick’s baby-aspirin advice stuck with me, not the sailing tips. Nowadays a lot of doctors swear by the old 81 mg/day. Rick was on that case years ago.

Cat pic, dog pic, anti-Trump stuff, death notices on Facebook. Rest in peace, Rick.

facebook and death color

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May 10, 2017   4 Comments

THE WEIGHT OF PAPER

I have three file cabinets. That’s more than you. A 24-year-old man told me, “The whole history of twentieth century Cleveland real estate is in these file cabinets.” I cull the files periodically, like I recently threw out several 1974 W-2 forms and a 1980 old records filing cabinetsboiler manual. I have a particularly hard time throwing out stuff my dad scribbled on.

I have kept some of my father’s old financial statements. He used to inflate his car and furniture values  — and add some stocks he didn’t own — to look richer than he  actually was. He noted he had $17,000 in Emerson Electric, GTE, GM, and IBM, and a life insurance policy worth $78,000. He needed to look richer on paper to get more mortgages from banks. He leveraged a lot.

I use a computer, but I’m partial to paper. My dad died in 1986. He’s still going strong on paper. That says something. He’s not up to Shakespeare’s 400 years but my dad is making progress.

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May 3, 2017   3 Comments