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

PURE JAZZ AND
MY COLLEGE ROOMMATE

Pure jazz was my thing. Blues, too. My roommate, John, was an inner-city kid who didn’t know a clarinet from an oboe, or anything about music. I visited John at his Chicago house decades later (1995); he lived in his childhood neighborhood, Wrigleyville. His teenage kid was jamming to Jamey Aebersold jazz play-along records.

John had started U. of Michigan as a pre-med, like me and everybody else, but he came out a railroad brakeman. Sophomore year he chalked “Take Drugs” and “Only Fools Stay in School” on the sidewalk in front of our co-op house, and he dropped out.

In 1995 he said he was sweating his monthly urine test with the railroad. His house, which he had bought in 1975 for $30,000, was worth more than a half million. “I’m a capitalist now,” he said. “And I have two renters.” But he still subscribed to The Militant, the Socialist Workers newspaper. His son played “Watermelon Man” on tenor sax. This was familiar to me, except for The Militant part. My parents had subscribed to Newsweek.

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January 17, 2018   2 Comments

AT THE PAWN SHOP

The pawn shop had a lot of flat-screen TVs, fishing poles, amps, guitars and power drills. The store was a man cave, basically, and it was in the inner city. I went there to pick up my band’s sound equipment. I gave the cashier $774.25 cash. No credit cards or checks accepted. The cashier was behind a bulletproof window. I wore a tie and jacket to impress the shop owner, who I ran into. I said, “I knew your brother. Sorry to hear he passed away.”

“My brother is alive,” the owner said. Oops.

I said, “Could you make it so I don’t have to pay interest on my band equipment? It was brought here without my permission.” The owner said no.

The owner disappeared into the backroom but then waved me back to the counter. Reconsidering? “I just read your blog,” he said. “I want that shit down in three hours or I’m fucking suing you.”

moneyHe had read my blog? In a pawn shop in inner-city Cleveland! Apparently he was doing due diligence on his fellow Jew — me. I had written about pawnshops and cops a couple years ago and said some pawn shops kept sloppy records. This pawn shop owner was thorough. Maybe he would sue me. I deleted the pawn-shop reference as soon as I got home.

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January 10, 2018   1 Comment

FOLLOW ME

I’ve been blogging for almost nine years. I sometimes get cranky letters: “You ain’t shit . . . Honestly, why don’t you take your blog and . . . Glorified Larry David.” [I made those up. I think I received two cranky letters, but I forgot what they said.]

Follow me @Klezmerguy. I tweet every five years. I try to be cool but I need help from the Urban Dictionary. I fire myself and rehire myself.

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January 3, 2018   1 Comment

MY SHOW BIZ LUNCH
IN CLEVELAND

I had a show biz lunch at Corky & Lenny’s. This was in 1980, when C&L’s was still at Cedar Center. The lunch was Hollywood-style, not Hollywood kosher. Bert Dragin, the owner of a local furniture store chain, was looking for a movie script. Dragin said to me, “I’ve got money. Everybody will talk to me in L.A. Right now I have something in the Best of the New York Erotic Film Festival.” He wondered if I would write a screenplay about a fire at a gay nightclub in Atlanta. Not my thing, I told him.

Dragin sold his business and moved to Hollywood. He produced Suburbia (1983) and directed Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) and Twice Dead (1988).

Dragin said, “You heard of Erotic Salad? It’s got a soft-X rating.” I said no. That’s as close as I got to Hollywood.

erotic salad movie

This post is a rerun.

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December 27, 2017   1 Comment

NEED A LIFT?

I have eight heel lifts. Each is 5/8 inches. I’ve alternated between lift and no lift. I first got a lift in my thirties. The physical therapist said I was leaning too much. Then a doc said forget it — the lift.

A PT said put the lift back in. I did recently. My lift is like a security blanket; it makes me feel better, even though it  doesn’t do anything. I’m reluctant to even walk to the bathroom without a lift.heel lift

A different doc just said forget the lift.

I have these extra lifts . . .

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December 20, 2017   3 Comments

YIDDISHE CUP AND ROUTE 66

A Yiddishe cup fan called and said he had gotten my phone number off a Yiddishe Cup CD.

I asked, “Which album do you have?”

Yiddfellas.”

yiddfellas CD cover

“Where’d you get the CD?”

“At a swap meet in Kingman.”

“A swap meet where?

“A swap meet in Kingman, Arizona. I like the record. It’s kind of cool.”

“You like klezmer?”

“This is my first record.”

“How much did you pay?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“Nice. Fifty cents would have been too much.”

If this is too short for you, read my essay in Belt Mag. “On Being ‘In Real Estate’ in Cleveland, OH”

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December 13, 2017   5 Comments

PHIL HART

Phil Hart, a resident at Wiggins Place assisted living, sometimes wears a Navy baseball cap. I know another WWII Navy veteran, Al Gray, who lives at Stone Gardens assisted living. Phil used to teach aerobics/calisthenics-of-some-kind at the JCC. For decades. He also was an architect, city councilman and photographer. Now he says he’s an “inmate.” I hear “inmate” occasionally from other nursing home residents. (I don’t think I’d mind a top-quality nursing home. We’ll see.)

I remember seeing Phil kneeling, shooting photos, at an Elderhostel about five years. I was jealous because at the time I couldn’t kneel due to meniscus surgery.

One thing about hanging around nursing homes, I’m under no illusion anybody gets out of this painlessly. Phil is doing pretty well, I think, for 95. His mind is all there.

phil hart, about 2014

Phil Hart, about 2014

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December 6, 2017   4 Comments

THE UNKNOWNS

Here’s a short video about the power of the internet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAAQ_qtgp78

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October 25, 2017   4 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

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

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

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

SOMEWHAT DISREPUTABLE

Martin Amis said being in his father’s business (writing) was somewhat disreputable. Martin Amis said, “Being a hereditary novelist is a freaky thing, and people do find it a bit creepy.”

Here are some other hereditary artists and/or public figures: Ravi Coltrane, Ben Cheever, Katie Roiphe, Ben Stiller,   Dweezil Zappa, George W. Bush, A.G. Sulzberger. All schmucks! Yes, that’s an extreme reaction, but I’m a bit envious.

A friend said to me about my family business: “I wish I had a business to pass on to my son.”

unemployed father and son

A family business which is real world (like carpet sales, real estate, or law) is nothing to get envious about, so don’t get envious. But show biz and politics, that’s a different mammal.

One exception to the above rules: If a father is a regional musician, and his son becomes a nationally known musician, that’s called roots and is very acceptable. Joe Lovano’s father was a sax player in Cleveland. Joel Grey’s father (Mickey Katz) was a clarinetist in Cleveland. Ken Peplowski’s father played in a polka band in Cleveland. That’s all very admirable.

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April 26, 2017   5 Comments

THE PROPER-SIZE MEAT PORTION

Dr. Michael Roizen, the longevity guru, spoke at my temple men’s club. He said take 6-to-8 supplements a day. He said he hadn’t eaten ice cream since 1993. A good-natured heckler said, “And that’s when you stopped growing!” Roizen is about 5-5. Roizen gave the heckler a fist-bump, acknowledging the man’s comment was the best moment of the lecture.

Roizen says eat more turmeric, fish oil and vitamin D. And here are few more tips:

Meat portion . . . the size of two fists and a ping-pong ball.

caduciousGet a flu shot unless you’re allergic to “wool.”

Waffles for breakfast every day. But no maple syrup.

Avoid fad diets.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid apples from Washington State. Bad chemicals up there.

People over 70: exercise more. Run or walk 25,000 steps a day. You can break that up.

Fight for the little guy — anybody under 5-7.

Play the lottery. Bet daily — and a lot. You’ll feel better.

Say “yes” to wine and beer, but no more than four drinks a day, ladies, and no more than eight drinks a day, gents. And don’t knock Miller Lite and other “piss waters,” to quote Roizen.

Chocolate is good for you. We know that, but here’s the latest: eat a marshmallow before and after your chocolate intake. The mallow triggers many good enzymes.

The first two paragraphs are true. The rest isn’t.

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April 19, 2017   3 Comments