Category — Miscellaneous
Sam and Frank – Cleveland cops — grew up on E. 79th Street and St. Clair Avenue.
Sam said, “I’m going to have a silver wedding anniversary and invite my three ex-wives.”
Frank said, “If you and the commander — plus your exes — get together, you’ll need the FOP Hall.”
Frank said, “I remember when you were an old man.” (Frank was 37; Sam, 47.)
Sam said, “I’ve got 1139 days left.”
Frank said, “We’ve got to make you a short-timer’s calendar. I had one in the service with the finger on it.”
Sam and Frank, on a drug sweep, rolled down St. Clair Avenue, Collinwood, in a junker at 1 a.m.
Sam said, “Where did we get this piece-of-shit car?”
Frank said, “Mentor.”
“Where in Mentor?
“At the flea market.”
At Pepper Avenue and 140th Street, Sam said, “He’s moving. That car is moving. Let’s catch him dirty while he’s rolling.”
Sam threw the guy up against the car hood. He was dirty; he had a joint on him.
Frank said, “Let him go. Let’s go to Mandalay [playground] and get some white guys.”
Here is the annual “inside baseball” post. Your name might be in here . . .
We interrupt this blog to tell you this blog is four years old.
First off, thanks to the major comment writers.
Charlie B, Ben Cohen, David Korn, Jack Valancy, Ari Davidow and B Katz . . .
Special thanks to Ralph Solonitz. I encourage him to draw as many pics as possible. Works out well. I met Ralph about 22 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo. That’s still your best logo, Ralph.
I have an essay, “Renting the American Dream,” in the latest City Journal, which will be online soon. Also, CoolCleveland.com runs Klezmer Guy blurts regularly. Here’s a blurt (Carma) from today’s CoolCle. My older son left his car at the Rapid Transit parking lot for two months. Check the story out. It’s funny.
Please see the “categories” listing on the right side of this blog. I recently added a new category, 13 BEST POSTS, as judged by me.
“Categories” is also a good place to read 78 posts in a row about real estate. Spend a couple weeks reading archived posts!
No doubt I could increase my comments tally by writing “thanks” or “hi” after every comment. But I have standards.
And they are low. When I stumble upon a new blog, I immediately read the posts with the most comments and feel guilty about that.
The bell rings, round five.
I wrote Carma for today’s CoolClevelandcom e-blast.
May 15, 2013 No Comments
I got a certified letter from my bank saying Yiddishe Cup’s checking account was being shut down. The bank was closing it after 19 years. For what?
How were my musicians going to get paid?
Would I have to move my bank account to PNC? I can’t bank at a place that is just initials. Or Key Bank –- which is nowhere near where I live.
I was shut down for this: “Due to continuing regulatory requirements associated with the correspondent bank account, Huntington is closing all checking and saving accounts in the name of YIDDISHE CUP KLEZMER BANK.”
Wait a minute. What’s that mean?
I walked to my Huntington branch and sat down with Dave. I thought he was the branch manager. He read the certified letter and sent me to Sam, the actual branch manager.
Sam had a private office at the back of the bank. I didn’t know it existed. Sam was black. Relevant. I said, “I have to tell you this, because I remember this like yesterday — I started this account back in 1994, and the banker was Ervin Mason, a black guy in his twenties, and he knew what klezmer was. He had heard of Don Byron. Do you know what klezmer is?”
“No,” Sam said.
“Erv knew!” I said. “It was mind-boggling. Klezmer is similar to gypsy music, with violins and clarinets. It’s Jewish folk music. Let’s call Erv right now. You think he’s still with Huntington?”
Erv wasn’t with Huntington. Sam checked the roster.
“Sam, back then, Huntington misprinted my checks as Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank instead of Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band. So maybe that’s the cause of the screw-up today. I still use Klezmer Bank checks. My musicians think they’re funny.”
Sam called Jared, a commercial banker at HQ in Columbus, Ohio.
Jared got right to the matter: “You’re listed as a bank, as a ‘financial institution.’ That’s the problem.”
Sam said, “Yiddishe Cup would have more money in its account if it was a real bank!”
“True,” I said.
Sam hung up with Jared and said, “We got it squared away.”
I hope so. Squared away.
Good to go.
I hope so.
It’s the bank’s fault, guys. My musicians wouldn’t like to hear that.
Tonight, the Klezmer Guy trio is at Nighttown, Cleveland, 7 p.m. (Tues. April 23). $10. 216-795-0550. Here’s a good preview article by Carlo Wolff about the show, from Friday’s Cleveland Jewish News.
Next week’s Kezmer Guy post will be on Wednesday morning, as usual.
April 23, 2013 3 Comments
I was in the grocery store parking lot, listening to Terry Gross interview poet Donald Hall on the radio.
Gross asked Hall how he liked being old. Hall couldn’t complain, he said, but then he did for several minutes. He talked about how he had recently published a story in the New Yorker in which a security guard at the National Gallery had treated 83-year-old Hall like a child; the guard had leaned over to Hall, who was in a wheelchair, and asked, “How was din-din?” (Hall is poet laureate emeritus of the United States and a recipient of the 2010 National Medal of Arts.)
I could listen to Hall talk about aging all day. I didn’t really want to get out of my car and shop for prunes, yogurt and salmon.
I used to be younger. Take 50. In 2000 my then-teenage son attended a New Hampshire summer camp an hour from Hall’s house. I visited the camp on parents’ day. Should I look up Hall, my old English professor? I had studied with Hall 30 years earlier.
Maybe Hall lived way back in the woods. Maybe he sat on his front porch with a shotgun. I didn’t know.
Hall’s house was not deep in the woods. It was about 50 feet from a federal highway and across from a summer camp. (There are a lot of camps in New Hampshire.) He could sometimes hear “Reveille.”
Hall was happy to see me, and said quickly, “I’m rich.” He had made his money mainly from royalties, from a how-to-write college textbook and his award-winning children’s book Ox-Cart Man. Only a poet would ask, “Are you rich?” He added, “How about you?”
“I’m doing OK,” I said. Look, I had a kid at a New Hampshire summer camp. Enough said.
When I had graduated Ann Arbor in 1973, Hall had discouraged me from returning to Cleveland. He had said, “Why do that — to sell insurance?”
Nevertheless, I returned home and “sold insurance.” I entered my family’s real estate biz.
In New Hampshire, Hall took me to a fancy restaurant near his farm. I said, “I own and manage apartment buildings. I’m a landlord. And I play clarinet.” Meaning I can improvise. I’m still in the arts!
My first year at Michigan, Hall had looked like a stock broker. He went hippie about a year later, I think. In New Hampshire he wore a dye-tied shirt, and I was the guy in the polo shirt.
Hall quit his tenured job at Michigan in 1975 and moved to his grandfather’s farm near Wilmot, New Hampshire. Hall did freelance writing.
At the New Hampshire restaurant, Hall said he had traveled to the Amazon River on a private jet with a Michigan grad who had made it big in the movie business. The student owned a movie company. Hall said, “His family was in the grocery business in Detroit, until I warped his mind.”
Hall warped many minds. He told me to guard against bitterness. His late wife, poet Jane Kenyon, had died five years earlier at 47. I had known her from English classes.
Hall had endured colon cancer, which was supposed to have killed him, but didn’t. Instead, his wife died from leukemia. He said, “Every generation thinks they know more than the next generation. Schopenhauer was writing about this in the 1700s. You don’t know more than the next generation.” Hall wouldn’t even let me pay the tip.
The next day I drove to Manchester, New Hampshire, and flew back to Cleveland to evict people, fix leaky faucets and collect late rents. It was not poetic.
Eleven years later (2011), I mailed several of my published articles to “Donald Hall, Eagle Pond Farm, New Hampshire.” (He didn’t use email.) I wrote: “From your student — your 61-year-old student.” I dated the cover letter. Hall was always big on dates.
Don wrote back, “I know you know I know that you feel old and know you are not.”
I bought my prunes, salmon and yogurt at the grocery store, plus a couple beers. I want to make it to Hall’s age. On the radio he sounded spry and happy.
Attention, Michigan residents. Please come to the Klezmer Guy show at The Ark, Ann Arbor, Feb. 15. 8 p.m. $20. Features Bert Stratton on clarinet and prose, Gerald Ross on ukulele and Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and Alan Douglass on piano, sunglasses and vocals.
Attention, Clevelanders. Attend Purim at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Heights, Feb. 23. Yiddishe Cup becomes Sly and the Family Stein on Purim. We’re going to play Jewish music and soul music. Free. Open to the public. 7:30 p.m.
February 13, 2013 4 Comments
Snickers used to be my bar.
It’s everybody’s bar. It’s the number one seller in the America.
The pic above is John Lokar, the candyman, 1981. He owned L&M Candy on East 185th Street. He had everything, including baseball cards and tobacco.
I also had a taste for Nestle Triple Deckers. Long gone.
My wife had a nostalgic longing for Valomilks. She recently bought one at a specialty store and didn’t like it. Too sweet.
My dad was a Planter’s Peanut guy, and he also liked Mr. Goodbar. I used to buy a Mr. Goodbar before I visited his grave.
Kit Kat: not bad. Kit Kats were from Canada when they were good.
Canada, that’s a great candy-centric vacation.
Chunky . . .
I miss Chunky. No, I miss the idea of Chunky. I miss Arnold Stang (who did Chunky commercials).
My grandmother Anna Soltzberg had a candy store at 15102 Kinsman Road, Cleveland, from 1927 to 1937:
I studied this photo with a magnifying glass. Here’s the inventory:
Mr. Goodbar, Ivory soap, Sensen breath mints, Boston Wafer, halvah, Ringo, Lux and Lifebuoy soaps, Coca-Cola, peanut bars, chocolate-covered cherries, Maxwell House coffee . . .
Uneeda biscuits, Dentyne, Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry, and cigars: White Owl, Dutch Master, Websters, Cinco, Murad, John Ruskin and Charles the Great Pure Havana.
Candy was a low-cost entry point for immigrants. John Lokar — the man with the gigantic Snickers — was a Slovenian-American candy wholesaler. I bought new baseball cards from him in 1981. Didn’t make any money on it.
When did Snickers come out?
1930. Frank Mars named the bar after his horse. (Googled.)
Here’s an ad from the December 1980 Candy Marketer. Lokar gave it to me:
Jaw Breakers. I haven’t had one of those since the Center-Mayfield stopped their 25-cent Saturday matinees.
Reese . . .
Who was Reese?
For relatives only: candy-store photo . . . Anna Soltzberg, apron; her husband, Louis Soltzberg, behind counter; her sister-in-law Lil Seiger, behind counter; and two unidentified women.
Anybody have strong feelings about MilkyWay? I doubt it.
January 9, 2013 13 Comments
My cousin David owned a GMC tractor-trailer, which he parked in the May Co. lot in University Heights. David may have been the only Jewish long-distance trucker in the Heights. Maybe the only long-distance trucker, period, in the Heights.
In 1975 David borrowed several thousand dollars from my father, Toby, for the truck. David had a contract with International Truck of Rock, Minnesota.
David moved to Pennsylvania and never repaid my dad.
In high school David had stolen hubcaps. He had been a Shaker Heights juvenile delinquent.
David even looked like James Dean. My cousin Danny once said, “David’s dad was the most handsome man you ever met.” David’s dad drifted around Cleveland, playing pool. David’s dad and mother divorced in the 1950s.
When David’s mother heard David hadn’t repaid my dad, she made payments, but she never fully repaid the loan.
My father’s attitude was “win some, lose some.” Toby believed in lending money to family. My dad had borrowed from his Uncle Itchy to buy his first house.
Last year I called David’s sister. This was a big deal; David and his sister were out of the cousins’ loop. David is now in his seventies and has had several heart attacks, his sister said. He is living in a hotel that his son runs in Florida.
No more truckin’.
No more David as family black sheep. Stolen hubcaps and an unpaid loan, is that the worst of it in my family? I think so.
Now, my wife has an estranged cousin who stole sterling silver . . . Stop.
“David” is a pseudonym.
I became bionic. My daughter, Lucy, gave me a pedometer.
I can count my daily steps. I can even monitor my sleep patterns, but that’s too much data — even for a guy like me who likes data.
I gave up jogging last year. My right knee wasn’t into it anymore. I miss the “sweat” of jogging.
Should I post my step count here? Dieters post their calories online. Bicyclists post their heart rates.
My step count today is _____. (Will post up at 11:59 p.m for maximum effect.)
For a couple new illustrations by Ralph Solonitz, please scroll down to “KlezKamp 2012,” which went up last week.
Yiddishe Cup plays at First Night Akron on New Year’s Eve.
December 26, 2012 1 Comment
The venue: the Barclays Center.
The show: Jay-Z on the mic.
The kingpin: Cousin Brucie Ratner, owner of the Barclays Center.
Brucie isn’t my cousin, and I don’t know Jay-Z’s music. But I felt part of the Barclays Center’s grand opening. I walked around the outside of the arena.
Furthermore, I occasionally play gigs for the Ratner family in Cleveland. The Ratner patriarch — Albert — likes “Oyfn Pripetchik” (At the Hearth). Albert doesn’t even have to ask.
Bruce Ratner told the New York Times he used to be embarrassed he was a developer. He was an anti–war protestor back in the day, he told the Times.
Brucie is me x 1 billion dollars.
I was at a wedding in Brooklyn. Beyoncé’s sister was there. I sat across from Beyoncé’s marketing agent. (Jay-Z is married to Beyoncé.)
The music at the wedding was arena quality. A gospel singer from the Blind Boys of Alabama sang the ceremony. A doo-wop group did the cocktail hour. An eight-piece New Orleans brass band walked into the wedding through an industrial garage door and wailed for hours.
Where was I — other than two miles from Jay-Z? I was in a former brass foundry, close to a toxic site, the Gowanus Canal.
I saw guys in Brooklyn Nets T-shirts.
My band, Yiddishe Cup, once played the Brooklyn Center for the Performing the Arts in Flatbush. Not too cool, apparently. (My band or Flatbush?)
I think the wedding venue was in Red Hook, a section of Brooklyn. Not sure. Maybe Carroll Gardens (another Brooklyn neighborhood). I like to know where I am.
Boys, hit ‘em with “Oyfn Prip.” Cousin Brucie might drop by. Just like back home. (There is a Brooklyn, Ohio.) Jay-Z in the house? Strike up “Money, Cash, Hoes.”
I sat on a bench at Horseshoe Lake and read the Cleveland Jewish News. I felt like Isaac Bashevis Singer with the Yiddish Forverts. (Typical Singer opening: “While I was sitting on a park bench I noticed that my left shoelace was untied.”)
I had a letter to the editor in the CJN and wanted to make sure the paper got it right.
The park bench at Horseshoe Lake had a plaque: “In loving memory of Arthur Lipton. He played at Carnegie Hall.” My question: Did Arthur Lipton get paid, or was he in a youth orchestra? Did they — the orchestra — rent Carnegie Hall?
The CJN got my letter right.
The “wombs and tomb” section of the CJN is the crux of the paper: the births, bar mitzvahs, weddings and deaths. Deaths are always a good read. Who owned what business. Who fought in Japan. In the weddings, there is usually a U. of Michigan grad. Does every Jewish family in Cleveland have a Michigan connection? I skip the bar mitzvah and birth announcements; I’m too old for those, or not old enough.
On returning from the park, I saw a dog crapping on my front lawn. I paused at a distance, to see if the owner would clean up. She did.
Snack time: I opened a new jar of peanut butter.
It was creamy! I bought creamy by mistake!
Heinen’s should be more distinctive with its labels:
My (future) park-bench epitaph: “Albert Stratton preferred crunchy peanut butter.”
November 21, 2012 4 Comments
(A version of this post appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer 11/4/12.)
When will it end?
Superstorm Sandy or the election?
Definitely by Tuesday.
Ohio returns to flyover status Tuesday, and I’m back to looking for celebs at Ohio Turnpike rest stops — bands and gangsters traveling from New York to Chicago.
Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and Condoleezza Rice: history.
My friend Jane posted on Facebook: “Can’t wait until this election season is over so I can be sane again.”
A friend from Rhode Island asked me, “How is it living in a swing state?”
“It’s swinging,” I said. It’s sweet. We’re loved.
When I’m not loved, I’m a landlord. I receive calls from political operatives who want to rent stores for “staging areas.”
I haven’t rented to a politician in years, because politicians tend to trash stores and not pay enough rent. The campaign workers are gone the day after the election, but the pizza boxes aren’t. And where are the keys?
I’m supposed to give the store away cheap, as a political gesture. My gesture: Pay and I’ll rent to you.
“I’m Brian,” said the young man on the phone.
“Where are you from?” I asked. He didn’t sound local.
“I’m in Cleveland right now.”
“I need the store for a few days.”
“How many people will be in the store?”
“Twenty to 30 people. They’ll go out canvassing. Teams are sent out.”
Twenty to 30 people is a lot of foot traffic for a 1,000 square-foot store, and a lot of pizza boxes.
Plain or pepperoni.
I’ll never know. My price was too high, I guess.
From the history channel . . .
When a relative ran for school board and lost, my father said, “Don’t run again. You don’t want to get a loser’s reputation.”
My relative didn’t run again.
I, too, play by my dad’s rules.
I might run. When? Not saying.
First, a little background: I was a Kennedy man. (Who wasn’t? A lot of people.)
I started my own country (on paper) in sixth grade and elected presidents and representatives. My country was a solace, because in the real world I couldn’t run for president because a) I wasn’t 35 and b) I was Jewish.
My mother said I could run and win. She duped me! My man, Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, couldn’t even run. Newsweek said the country wasn’t ready for the Ribman for prez or even veep.
Now presumably a Jew could win the nomination for the top job.
Let me be clear: I won’t start out at school-board level or even vice president.
My Little League teammate Joel Hyatt (Cleveland Heights High ’68) ran for U.S. Senate and got clobbered. He hadn’t paid his dues; he hadn’t run for lesser offices.
Lee Fisher (Shaker Heights High ’69) paid dues. I saw him at civic club meetings in Collinwood in 1982: six neighbors, me and Lee. Fisher eventually climbed to lieutenant governor. Then he got clobbered for the U.S. Senate. He paid dues. Give him that.
I’m willing to pay dues. About $10.
My American history teacher in high school said Stratton is a good political name. (My teacher was Americo Betori. He should have run for mayor of Cleveland in 1950. He would have won.)
Stratton. Remember that name.
A few weeks ago at Simchat Torah, the rabbi said, “We will now read the last verse of the Book of Deuteronomy.” A Yiddishe Cup musician — not paying close attention — said, “Did he just say, ‘We will now read from the Book of Mitt Romney’?”
November 5, 2012 6 Comments
Re: my op-ed in today’s NYT (9/30/12)
Welcome, NY Times readers.
I know you’re busy. You have other things to do.
Like benching the Sunday Times.
Guys, give me a New York minute!
Are you looking for top-quality real-estate lit? You just found it! (To subscribe, enter your email in the space on the left and click “submit.”)
I’ve been on the NYT op-ed page three times in the past year and a half. I’ve written a million — make that 72 — blog posts about real estate. Check them out here.
Must read amusing posts about real estate now. Yes, you must.
I do a music/prose show, “Dear Landlord.” I’m doing my “Dear Landlord” (aka “Klezmer Guy”) show at The Ark, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Sat. Feb. 9.
My band, Yiddishe Cup, plays all over the country. When my buildings turn to dust, this song will remain.
I post up every Wednesday morning. Subscribe and you’ll get a weekly post. I won’t sell or give away your email address.
I’ll gladly write a book about real estate if a publisher offers me a contract. (TV series would be OK, too!) Title: How to Jam with Your Tenants. The mock-up for the book is here — an article I wrote for City Journal. The article is my best essay.
Thanks for your time and interest.
Vid time. Here’s a clip from the “Dear Landlord” show.
One more vid, “Should I Rent to a Stripper?” For landlords only!
No, one more! Michael Brecker, on electronic wind instrument, jams with economist Milty Friedman. This vid was on my blog last week, too. By Jack Stratton.
September 29, 2012 2 Comments
“58% of commuters have experienced road rage while driving to work, and 9% have gotten into a fight with another driver.”
– Wall Street Journal, 8/15/12
Fifty-eight percent seems kind of low.
I was doing the speed limit, 35 mph, on North Park Boulevard at North Woodland in Cleveland Heights. A guy in a red sports car tailgated me.
Not only did I give the guy the finger, I jumped out of my car at the light and yelled, “Thirty-five! The speed limit is thirty-five!”
I’m not sure the guy in the car was a guy; it was somebody with tinted windows and vanity plates 1KAP, and the driver was aggressively tailgating me.
Whoever it was, was nice, aside from being a bad driver. The person didn’t jump out of the red car and come after me.
Maybe I looked threatening. I had on shades!
I hesitated telling my wife about the incident. I knew she would get mad. She would call me hostile. Correct.
I had never jumped out of my car before and yelled at a driver. Do I have any explanation for my behavior?
My best explanation is I was on my way to visit Michelle, my number-one employee, who was dying of cancer at 40. She couldn’t talk, and she was on all kinds of tubes.
I’m not sure who I was mad at.
My top building manager was Michelle Orozco. I’d visit her first. She was always upbeat and set the mood for the day. She had problems — a lot of physical ailments, but she didn’t complain much. She was my assistant. That was an official title. She got paid a little extra. She had grown up in Los Angeles and dropped out of high school.
She was a School of Hard Knocks honor student. When the city said I needed to cough up the names of all my tenants and their move-in dates for my annual housing license, I thought, “What’s that about? Big Brother?” That’s what I thought. Michelle said, “They want the names for RITA.” The Regional Income Tax Agency.
I paid Michelle to supervise my newer custodians. She showed them how to do evictions notices, how Tarnite was better than Brasso.
Michelle moved back to California and left me. She wanted to try her hometown again, the Golden State and all that.
She came back, because California was too expensive. She moved into one of my buildings as a tenant. I said, “I’m not promising you a job. And whatever you do, don’t undermine the custodians in here now.” (I’ve had ex-custodians who stuck around and pestered the new custodians. The ex-custodian would call me and say, “The new guy isn’t cleaning. He’s drunk. He’s swearing at the tenants.”)
Michelle — and her husband, Manuel — kept to themselves. They waited and eventually got their job back.
She was my spy. I wondered if other custodians checked their boilers regularly in the winter. Did they “blow down” the valves? I asked Michelle, “How do we know they’re doing it regularly.”
She said, “They’ll do it because it’s more of a hassle to have the boiler go out than blow it down.”
I hired Michelle when she was 25. Her mother worked for me. I hired Michelle’s niece, also from California. I hired Michelle’s sister.
Michelle didn’t steal or lie. She was a good cleaner. She could rent apartments. Sounds basic, but it’s not.
She called just-looking apartment seekers “looky-loos.” I never did understand that. I heard it as “Lucky Lous.” She called air fresheners “smellies.”
Michelle knew the ways of Home Depot rental trucks, and how to access the junk yard with proper ID. More basics, but again, somewhat tricky. And which apartment buildings I allowed satellite dishes, and which I didn’t.
She was an optimist. She had a bright personality. She kept things on the sunny side — no small feat in the real estate biz.
Michelle Orozco, 1971-2012.
August 22, 2012 6 Comments
My friend Brad eats out a lot and knows many maîtres d’ and chefs.
Brad is finicky around food. If his fries aren’t crispy enough, he sends them back. If there is the wrong kind of cheese on the tagliatelle (ribbon pasta), Brad sends the dish back. Brad doesn’t do sharp cheese. If there’s a “short pour” on the glass of wine, watch out.
Brad works the room whenever we go out. We mostly go to places where his buddies are. When we were at Club Isabella, Brad pointed out the doctors and dentists in the room. “That’s the guy who does the dental implants. He runs the full-page ad in the Plain Dealer,” Brad said.
I said, “You’ve got to do better than that when I visit you in California [where Brad spends part of the year]. You’ve got to do better than docs who do dental implants.”
Brad said he would take me to L.A. restaurants where I would have a greater than 50-50 chance of spotting celebrities. I said, “I want to see Dean Martin and Don Rickles.”
“Dean Martin is dead, and we’ll have to wheel out Don Rickles,” Brad said.
Brad likes loud rooms. That’s best for schmoozing. He likes to nearly scream “goyim,” just to see if he’ll get a rise out of nearby diners. (Nobody hears him. Nobody cares. He gets away with it.)
I wanted to eat on the patio at Club Isabella. It was quiet out there, but Brad said it was too hot for dining al fresco, so we ate in the echo-chamber dining room. Nearly every Jew in Cleveland was there. Brad worked the room . . . “How was Aspen, Sandy? . . . “How’s your tennis elbow, Jeff?” That kind of thing.
I need a quieter restaurant next time. Indian and Chinese restaurants are the best — the quietest. I don’t want to suck cough drops and sip tea for weeks after my night out with Brad.
“Brad” is a pseudonym.
MADE IN HOLLAND
My old Norelco razor tore my face off. But I kept using the razor just to see if it would stop tearing my face off.
Finally, I bought a new Norelco. The new razor said “Made in Holland,” just like my 1984 model.
The day I bought my new Norelco, I met a boy named Anno. Anno is a Dutch name. I had a Dutch day — which isn’t easy in Cleveland.
I wonder what Norelco means. Northern Electric Company?
Google it . . . North American Philips Electric Company. In the 1940s, Philco stopped Philips from using the name “Philips” in the U.S.; Philco and Philips sounded too similar. Philips chose the name Norelco for America.
The recharger on my new Norelco doesn’t work. The package is marked down and stamped “Discontinued.” Maybe that’s why.
“Made in Holland,” you don’t see that every day.
I’ll keep it.
I wonder if my electric toothbrush — a Philips Sonicare — is made in Holland.
. . . No, it isn’t.
In Cleveland, it is customary to have at least one Dutch-made product in your house. I follow that custom.
What’s your Dutch product?
August 15, 2012 4 Comments
Charlie Broeckel was the Silver Fox or The Creep. He went by both names. He was a burglar and hit-man in Collinwood –- a neighborhood in northeast Cleveland.
I’m not sure where Broeckel is now. Maybe he’s dead. Or maybe he’s in a safe house in Ada, Oklahoma. For a while he was “John Bradford” (federally protected) in the Pacific Northwest.
Broeckel and Phil Christopher — another Collinwood burglar — did a bank heist at Laguna Niguel, California, in 1972. It was supposedly the biggest bank burglary of all time. Charlie and Phil flew to California from Cleveland for the job. California didn’t have quality bank burglars back then, I guess. Collinwood did.
I saw Broeckel and Christopher at trials in Cleveland. They would periodically come in from their federal prison cells or witness protection program locations. One trial was for murder: Christopher and accomplices took a pimp, Arnie Prunella, out on a boat, shot him and drown him.
Collinwood was “think ethnic”-to-the-10th power. There were four distinct neighborhoods in Collinwood: Slovenian (St. Mary’s parish), Italian (Holy Redeemer), black (west of the E. 152nd Street, aka the DMZ) and Lithuanian (Our Lady of Perpetual Help). Broeckel’s ethnicity was indeterminate. Maybe German, maybe Slovenian. Christopher was Italian.
Broeckel and his fellow burglars stored nitroglycerin — used for blowing up safes — on a Lake Erie beach. In 1983 a Cleveland policeman operated a backhoe at the local beach, searching for old, very unstable nitro. Traffic cops kept reporters and passersby at a distance. Charlie was supposedly in bad health and wanted brownie points for helping the cops find old explosives.
The chief cop in the neighborhood — Capt. Ed Kovacic — had a warm spot for highly skilled crooks. These thieves would drill out safes and jump burglar alarms. They weren’t entirely stupid. Kovacic often said, “If there was a hall of fame for burglars and safecrackers, it would be in Collinwood.”
In 2006, Lyndhurst police chief Rick Porrello wrote a book, Superthief, about Christopher. Then Tommy Reid, a Hollywood entrepreneur, made a documentary movie –- also Superthief — which came out in March. The movie is mostly talking heads: old cops and old thieves sitting in living rooms, reminiscing about old days.
The documentary ran exclusively in theaters in Euclid and Lake County — where many former Collinwood residents moved to. There were three people in the Lakeshore Cinema. One elderly man, with a walker, said on his way out, “Phil is a thief!” His wife said, “I like Phil!”
Christopher, 66, is out of jail. He has spent nearly half his life in prison. What if Broeckel — the creep, the silver fox, the rat — comes out of hiding and puts Christopher back in prison?
Just like old times.
I was a police reporter in Collinwood for Sun Newspapers in the 1980s. (Last time I’m going to mention this factoid for a while. So please remember.)
Here is the annual “inside baseball” post. Your name might be in here . . .
We interrupt this blog to tell you this blog is three years old.
“I’ve read every word of your blog!” a musician told me.
Hooray for him. I wrote every word.
A blog reader said, “You found your subject — your father, Toby.”
No, you did. I’ve had Toby on the brain for decades.
A woman said, “I look forward to your posts every Wednesday morning . . . I don’t do comments.”
Here’s my comment: Nine-tenths of Klezmer Guy readers don’t do comments. They want to protect their animosity. Listen, you are not above comments; you are not paying for this; chip in the occasional enlightening, humorous or really stupid comment.
Several other readers claim to have read every word of the blog.
What was the first word?
Special thanks to our major donors (commenters). I could have done it without you, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
Get your name on this list next year by contributing at least $2,500 or writing comments.
Special thanks to Ralph Solonitz, the blog’s illustrator. He adds a lot. I encourage him to throw in as many pics as possible. Works out well. Ralph had a Klezmer Guy illustration in The Forward recently.
I met Ralph about 21 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo. That’s still your best logo, Ralph.
Sometimes I send my stories to the media before posting here. This past year Klezmer Guy articles were published throughout the planet: the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, City Journal, Ann Arbor Observer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jerusalem Post. Did I miss any continent? I’ve started to link to some of the newspaper articles. Please see the right side of this blog, under “Articles.” Also, check out “Categories” there. “Categories” is particularly useful if you want to read 68 posts in a row about real estate.
Google Analytics — a spy op — says there are Klezmer Guy readers in every state and many foreign countries. Ohio has the most Klezmer Guy readers, followed by New York, California, Michigan and Massachusetts. The top foreign countries are Canada, United Kingdom, Israel, Germany and Australia.
Google Analytics, for your information, zeroes in on readers by their hometowns, not their names. For instance, somebody in Chico, California, reads this blog.
The bell rings, round four.
I wrote this op-ed, “The Impossible Dream,” for Mother’s Day for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/13/12). It’s about listening to the radio with my mother.
Illustration by Ted Crow, Plain Dealer
May 16, 2012 10 Comments
One dog isn’t enough. When I walk around Horseshoe Lake by my house, I see a lot of people with two dogs.
On my last walk, I saw five people with two dogs, and one schnook with a schnauzer.
My family was a one-dog family for 13 years. This was before the two-dogs-are-mandatory rule in the Heights. My family’s dog, Sammy, was a meshugenner who liked to play in traffic and bark a lot.
I Hate Barking Dogs was my bumper sticker, so I had a problem. The barking dog was my dog; I couldn’t call the cops.
The other day I called my cousin Howard in Colorado; he told me he had been up since 5 a.m. because of barking dogs.
My wife, Alice, is bugged by our neighbors’ barking dogs.
We have new neighbors on the other side. The day they moved in, I said, “Give me the bad news. How many dogs do you have?”
The neighbor said, “None. My daughters are allergic to dogs.” I couldn’t believe it. Even if he turns his house into a crack den, I’m ahead.
Years ago –- when I lived on Oak Road — I approached a neighbor and said, “Your dog is barking.”
The woman stared at me, at her dog (who was yapping 24/7 on a chain in her backyard) and said, “No, he isn’t.”
She didn’t “hear” the dog barking, and she certainly didn’t hear me.
Our dog, Sammy, was a standard poodle. Supposedly poodles are smart and non-allergenic. Doubtful on both counts.
My kids in particular loved Sammy, who died exactly when the youngest kid went off to college.
I knew the pediatrician John Kennell. He should have had two dogs. Him. Nobody else.
This clip is “Critters” . . .
Yiddishe Cup plays tonight (Wed. 4/25) at Fairmount Temple, 6:40 p.m., Beachwood, Ohio. Free. The community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.
April 25, 2012 4 Comments
(Ivan Demjanjuk died today, 3/17/12. This post is a rerun — a slightly altered version of a 3/31/10 post titled “War Luck.” The Ralph Solonitz cartoon at the bottom is new.)
I was interested in seeing a Nazi. I had thought and dreamed about Nazis, but had never been in the same room with one. (I dreamed about being in the same room.)
At the 1981 Ivan Demjanjuk trial in Cleveland, lawyers argued about forensics, among other things, at the federal courthouse. I looked on, as the prosecution presented a handwriting expert who had studied over 4,000 signatures. He said Demjanjuk’s signature on the prison guard ID card was the real thing, not a Soviet forgery.
The judge agreed on that and a few other things — after months of testimony — and revoked Demjanjuk’s citizenship.
Demjanjuk then spent some time in various American prisons for technical violations, such as missing his first deportation hearing.
In 1986 Demjanjuk was sent to Israel for a second trial.
A cop at the Sixth District police station watched a small TV hidden under his desk. The TV was always on. (I was covering the police news.) The cop said, “Hey, there’s that guy — What You Call Him — getting off the plane in Israel.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t take a pill,” I said.
“For what? He didn’t do it.”
“There are five witnesses,” I said.
“So what. It’s the past. Let it die. But the fucking Jews keep bringing it up. He didn’t do it. He was told to, or else.”
A lieutenant interrupted, “What would you do if somebody put a gun to your head and said, ‘Do it or else’?”
“He didn’t have to do it,” I shrugged. I was down for the count with F-ing Jews.
Israel convicted Demjanjuk, and he was in an Israeli prison for years. Then Israel’s high court overturned its verdict on various technicalities and sent him back to America.
When Demjanjuk returned to the States, he went on trial again in Cleveland and was ordered deported. Nobody wanted him until last year, when Germany said yes.
Damned John’s junket: Kiev Oblast, Flossenberg, Trawniki, Treblinka, Sobibor, Cleveland, Jerusalem, Munich . . .
March 17, 2012 3 Comments
re: my op-ed in today’s NYT (2/29/12).
Best idea: Read my piece in the latest City Journal mag. This article is my best writing. If you are looking for top-quality real-estate lit, the City Journal article is the way to go.
Must read long amusing article about real estate now. Yes, you must.
I do a two-man music/prose show, “Dear Landlord: Real Music and Real Estate.” You — or your real estate group – should hire “Dear Landlord.” We’re ready for the real estate conventions.
My band, Yiddishe Cup, plays all over the country.
I post up here every Wednesday morning. Please subscribe to this blog.
P.S. Regular blog readers, please read the post below too. It’s fresh.
February 29, 2012 25 Comments
Jimmy Sollisch, a friend, plays basketball at age 53. But he’s hurting. Jimmy has plantar fasciitis and is temporarily out of action.
I’m glad Jimmy is hurt. Guys in their fifties, they think they’re going to be pain-free forever. It’s sick fun to watch them get zapped by the middle-age hand buzzer.
I ran into Ken Kurtz, who was on Penn’s all-star lacrosse team. Not now. In 1955. Ken is 78, but looks 65. He played singles tennis until several months ago. He said, “You have to know when to quit, but it’s impossible to know. I never know.” Ken has stopped playing lacrosse, squash, basketball and, now, singles tennis. His advice: “Take up painting.”
I said, “I already do things like that.” (Like klezmer music.)
Jimmy — the basketball player – wants to play basketball at 70. That’s like climbing Mount Everest.
Jimmy’s “painting” is cooking. He makes an excellent roasted lamb.
Sacrifice the lamb, kid. That’s the way to make it to basketball at 70.
Every decade or so, I throw out my elbow braces, thumb splints and knee braces. Sometimes I get emotionally attached to the stuff, and it’s hard to throw out certain items. Like, if you sleep with a molded arm splint for three months, you can’t just pitch it.
My friend Carl wears a knee brace when he plays tennis. I refuse. Knee braces are crutches.
I threw out my “clarinet tendinitis 1991” notes and exercise diagrams.
I did biofeedback back then. I did it just once.
I went to a blind masseuse who believed in inducing terrific pain in me. His dog should have stopped him. Deep tissue, deep purple. He was accused of rape. (Different customer.)
I have a new bag of orthotics — mostly knee braces and exercise diagrams.
I’m supposed to balance on one foot for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.
Try it. If you succeed, you are completely well.
You shouldn’t have read this. You might become “worried well.”
February 22, 2012 7 Comments
Every January I spend a day filling out employer tax forms.
My favorite is the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) form.
I did my first FUTA Form 940 in 1978, when my dad went to Florida for the winter. He and his high school buddies golfed in Boca Raton, and I filled out FUTAs in Cleveland.
Not bad. I like tax forms better than golf.
The treasurer of Ohio likes his W-2 reconciliations promptly. The Ohio Bureau of Employment Services also likes its money quickly. The Ohio Workers Compensation bureau has rachmones (pity) and bugs me only twice a year, not quarterly like everybody else.
I used an IBM Selectric-style typewriter for tax forms until the machine died last year. The A key wouldn’t work. That was its main drawback.
Str tton” didn’t cut it with the government. I threw out the typewriter and several boxes of Ko-Rec-Type.
Now I use IRS computer forms, except for my Yiddishe Cup 1099s, which I do by hand.
Last year I used blue ink on Yiddishe Cup’s 1099s.
The gobierno prefers black ink, I’ve learned. I’ll get with the program this year.
What are you in jail for?
I wore a camping headlamp and crawled around the attic, culling old manila folders, making room for new files.
The old files weren’t read by anybody.
Why did I save all this stuff?
Because the government wanted me to.
I got insulation flecks on my fleece jacket. It was freezing up there. And there were mouse droppings and desiccated rubber bands.
My dad used to recycle manila folders. For instance, he would reuse the file “1975 Plumbing” in 1981.
I threw out 30 pounds of paid invoices, checks and rent rolls. I do this every January.
Should I feel nostalgic?
Here’s an op-ed, “From Soltzberg to Stratton,” from last week’s Jerusalem Post (Jan. 17).
January 25, 2012 10 Comments
It wouldn’t cost much for me to open a klezmer store. I have several vacant storefronts.
I could put my store — call it the Klezmer Shack — next to the Bass Shop. The Bass Shop doesn’t sell basses, but string players brake for it anyway. The Bass Shop is a bait and tackle store.
Some of my merchandise:
The Jewish Fake Book by Velvet Pasternak. Useful for anybody who wants to pass as a Jew. You’ll learn your way around seltzer and freylekhs (horas). Plus you’ll learn the Hebrew lyrics to “Jerusalem of Gold” and “Bashana Haba’a.”
Yiddishe Cup latkes.
Dave Tarras’ Freilachs, Bulgars, Horas – 22 clarinet tunes, handwritten by the master himself. I got my copy in Delray Beach, Florida, from the widow of Harold Branch, the late New York bandleader.
Irwin Weinberger’s autoharp. Please buy it! (Irwin is Yiddishe Cup’s singer.)
Harold Branch’s Club Date Handbook. You’ll learn what to play when the caterer wheels in the Viennese dessert cart at a 1968 New York bar mitzvah party. For the flaming jubilee, play “Funiculi, Funicula.” (For the main course — the roast beef — play “I’m an Old Cowhand.”)
Clarinet neck straps. Hard to find. We have them.
Clarinet travel bags. Ours are imported from the Pilot truck stop, Lodi, Ohio.
Seven Kleveland Klezmorim Sound of the World’s Soul LPs, 1985. Never opened.
Footnote: There is a Klezmer Shack website, run by Ari Davidow, who is allowing me to use the name for my store, I think.
Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron (Ohio) 6:15 p.m. Sat., Dec. 31.
Here’s a video by Kasumi, who teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She won a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for her vid work. This video is Yiddishe Cup.
December 21, 2011 4 Comments
Why do nursing-home administrators request 100-percent peppy music from performers? Some residents want to hear contemplative tunes.
Why do eyeglass-frame adjusters have so much power over us? Did they all get PhDs? From where? I.U.?
How come newspaper columnists don’t write about pet peeves anymore? That’s annoying.
My wife took the electric toothbrush to Columbus, Ohio, on a business trip. The electric toothbrush — and the seltzer machine and Bose radio — are permanent attachments to the dwelling, Alice.
Why does Zagara’s grocery in Cleveland Heights sell only 12-packs of shabbat candles and not the 72-candle jumbo box? Zagara’s Jewish Lites.
What about those phone solicitors from yours kids’ colleges who ask for money. What are you supposed to say? “Here’s another $50. No problem.”
Why do “highly sensitive” people insist on telling you what bothers them? That’s irritating.
When your computer crashes, why do you feel like your right hand fell off? Why can’t you feel like a mosquito bit your ankle.
Who is nostalgic for mimeo machines? Somebody should be.
Why do “sophisticated” Clevelanders brag about not reading the Plain Dealer? They say, “I’ve lived in Cleveland for 20 years and never subscribed to the PD. I read the New York Times. ” Go home.
People who grow vegetables always serve arugula. Why don’t they grow dates or figs?
Why do concertgoers at the Cleveland Orchestra applaud maniacally after every single piece? The listeners nap for 54 minutes (Mahler Symphony #1), then give the conductor three curtain calls. Applaud this!
If you want to talk about cars, first ask: “Do you want to talk about cars with me?” Same goes for sports, TV shows and politics.
Which is preferable: a) “He passed away.” or b) “He passed.” Answer: “He passed away.” Best answer: c) “He died.”
Who was the curmudgeon — Harvey Pekar or Andy Rooney? Coin toss.
Don’t complain about lousy cell phone service and long lines at the post office. That’s modern life. You wouldn’t get upset by a house sign that said the smith’s, would you?
November 23, 2011 5 Comments
Doctors like to complain how their pay isn’t what it used to be. Another gripe of docs is the increased paperwork.
But doctors do all right. They are one of the few professions that still hire bands.
A side benefit for Yiddishe Cup is we sometimes get free medical advice at gigs. At a Pittsburgh wedding, a doctor checked one of our guys for a hernia in the men’s room stall.
In Cleveland, a doctor asked me for an appointment. He was a Washington heart specialist, considering a job at the Cleveland Clinic. He played mandolin. He wanted to know if Cleveland had a good quality of life.
I said yes.
He spent several years at the Cleveland Clinic giving me –- and others — the lowdown on HDL. (The lowdown is there is no sure-fire way to raise your HDL.)
Yiddishe Cup occasionally gets gigs from immigrant doctors from South Africa. One doc had a diploma on his office wall from the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa). I thought “witch doctor” — like the doctor in the Mickey Katz parody “My Son the Knish Doctor.” The Katz doc had studied at the Bwana Wana Yeshiva.
South African doctors are often Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) and plugged into Yiddish culture — what’s left of it.
I met a doc at Klezkamp who was atrocious on soprano sax and would repeat, “I’m a doctor! I’m a doctor!” That worked. It made him feel better.
He had a point. He saved lives. So what if he couldn’t play “Khasidim Tantz”?
Yiddishe Cup had a medical student in the band. Dave Jaffe, guitarist/singer and Case medical student. He lasted a year. Med school and the band were too much.
Doctors often form their own bands because of their busy schedules. These bands play a couple benefits a year and often have names like No Evidence of Disease.
I wish I had studied harder in Inorganic and Organic Chemistry. I wouldn’t mind being a brain surgeon with a side interest in klezmer.
Turns out I’m a klezmer musician with a side interest in brain surgery. This scares people.
I accept most insurance plans.
October 5, 2011 3 Comments
Gratz College in Philadelphia offers an online course called Comparative Genocide.
The teacher, Sean Martin, lives in Cleveland.
I said to Sean, “I think Don DeLillo wrote about Hitler Studies in a novel, but that was a novel. Comparative Genocide, is it real?”
“Gratz named the course,” Sean said. “I didn’t. It’s a real course.”
Sean also teaches classes on ethnicity and the Holocaust in Cleveland. He speaks Yiddish and Polish, and has a PhD.
Sean, from Weirton, West Virginia, is of Italian and Appalachian descent. (There is also a Yiddish scholar from Japan.)
I said to Sean, “You’re interested in everything you’re not, is that it?”
“Exactly,” he said.
“In the Comparative Genocide class, does everybody try to top the Jews’ story? ” I said. “The Jews are the gold standard?”
“There’s some of that going on,” Sean said. “But that’s not the intent. Let me repeat, I didn’t pick the name of the course. Gratz has got to change that.”
Here’s an original Klezmer Guy movie, “Nine Days to Die.” It’s funny. My “bro” — Stuart — has followed me my whole life. Or I’ve followed him.
June 15, 2011 4 Comments