Real Music & Real Estate . . .

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

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

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

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

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


 
 

Category — Miscellaneous

BIKING IN DISCOUNT DRUG MART

I saw a bike inside Discount Drug Mart. It wasn’t for sale. It was blocking an aisle. A fully loaded bike – camping gear, front bag. I was trying to get blueberries but couldn’t easily navigate around the bike. A girl came up and said the bike was hers. I asked if Drug Mart let bikes in. She said yes. She was biking from Maine to California, she said.

She was Audra, 20, from Maine. She goes to Mount Holyoke and is studying film and environmental-something. She was biking out the southern route, Route 66.

She hadn’t heard of the song “Route 66.” I sent her a link to the Nat “King” Cole version. Also, I told her I had contributed to Adventure Cycling in Missoula, Mont., like forever. Like since it was Bikecentennial, 1976. I like maps — bike maps in particular.

Audra did the trip solo. (This all happened in August.) She said she’d send me a film of her trip. Cool. I haven’t gotten it yet, young lady!

All this went down next to the blueberries at Discount Drug Mart in Lakewood, Ohio.

I had an essay, “Rushing to the Gate is a Young Man’s Game,” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, about airport travel. (No paywall.)

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November 23, 2022   1 Comment

DEATH WISH AT
THE NURSING HOME

I was sick of playing “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn” and “Tumbalalaika” at the senior facility. Instead, I read neo-beatnik blog pieces. This was a death wish. A woman in the front row walked out. I suggested she stick around, but she wouldn’t. My keyboard player, Alan Douglass, told me to change the program. He said, “The Who went to their greatest hits whenever they faltered.”

Too late. Even my mother — long dead — would have disliked this show. My wife, Alice, was there; she  panned it, too.

I screwed up. I needed to get rid of the Ferlinghetti/Kerouac prosody shtick. Alice and I rehashed the gig at a Chinese restaurant afterward. I told her, “I feel like I just played Sowinski Playground.” (Sowinski is a Cleveland city park where rapes occurred regularly in the 1960s.)

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November 16, 2022   1 Comment

JEWISH MUSIC
AND JEWISH SPORTS

When I was growing up, “Jewish music” was like saying “Jewish cars.” It didn’t mean anything.

On second thought, “Jewish cars” did mean something. It meant “The Boat” — an Olds 98 owned by the father of a high school friend, Mark. The Boat had electric windows and was oceanic. Mark was richer than the rest of us, I think. His house had a doorbell that lit up.

“Jewish music” . . . I learned about that at the house of another high school friend, Shelly Gordon. His parents knew a lot about Israeli and Yiddish music. Shelly’s parents were Labor Zionists (Poale Zion). They seemed to know every classic Israeli tune and how to dance and sing it. The family attended a Yiddish camp, Farband, in Michigan. (Clarification, in high school I didn’t hang out much at Shelly’s house. When I was in my 30s, I went to his house a lot to learn about Jewish music.)

Shelly’s parents didn’t “know from sports.” That was strange because Shelly wound up a star athlete. He played tennis for Ohio State and eventually became a tennis pro in Israel. He never took a private tennis lesson but he gave a lot of  private lessons.

Shelly didn’t care about Jewish music. He cared about the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Indians. In Israel he logged on at about 3 a.m. to catch Cleveland sports scores. He had a yarmulke that read “Cleveland Cavaliers.”

Shelly’s dad, Sanford, knew all the Israeli tunes and never played sports. In fact Mr. Gordon was so oblivious to sports he didn’t even sign Shelly up for Little League. Mr. Gordon was not an immigrant or DP either; he was a NASA scientist and full-blown Zionist. Baseball meant nothing to Israelis, so it meant nothing to Mr. Gordon. Shelly went to a Zionist camp, Habonim, in Michigan.

Shelly has been a tennis pro in Jerusalem for decades. He still doesn’t know much Jewish music. (Come on, he must!)

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November 9, 2022   1 Comment

BACK TALK

I tried to cancel the shot in my back. I’d already had a shot, and I wasn’t keen on getting a second poke. But I had this brutish pain in my right thigh. I couldn’t walk too far, or swim, or play tennis. I had a herniated disc. I used to categorize water joggers as wusses. No more.

At the PT place, I saw a young woman without the lower part of her leg. That shut me up for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, I biked to Chagrin Falls, and somebody posted that on Facebook and everybody thought everything was cool with me. (The only thing cool was the bike riding. That didn’t hurt my back.)

The pain felt like 100 red ants crawling on my thigh, or 1,000 cell phones vibrating. It wouldn’t go away.

I canceled the second shot. No, I postponed it. The doc, the first time around, had said there was a one in 10,000 chance I’d be paralyzed from a poke. I had to sign off on that. I dithered. I had a few tricks left: cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, chiropractors, massage, acupuncture, four more PTs and another doc.

I’m not complaining, am I? Just reporting. I’m reminiscing. This all happened five years ago. I still think about back pain a lot. It gets your attention. I got the second shot and steadily improved.

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November 2, 2022   No Comments

MORE ABOUT ME

 

I placed high in a couple math contests. Nationwide stuff. I’ve told you this before but it bears repeating. I got offers to attended workshops at U. of Chicago, MIT and other colleges. This was in high school. I went off to U. of Rochester one summer and got my gonads scraped by some smart kids there. After that, I became modest.

I saw the Stones, Beatles, Dylan. Everybody. Janis Joplin. James Cotton. For the record.

I went to Rochester for college. That was a long time ago. I’m not sure where Rochester is anymore.

My parents? My mom wanted a career in show biz. That wasn’t going to happen in Cleveland, but she did do some community theater. She wanted NYC. She got there on a couple vacations. My dad — you know about him from this blog. My brother? He doesn’t want any ink. Respect.

(fiction)

Here’s my essay in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer. What will become of my wheat berry salad? Dave’s supermarket is taking over Zagara’s supermarket in Cleveland Heights.

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October 26, 2022   3 Comments

BUCKEYE BATTLE CRY

My father had one record album, an Ohio State marching band LP. No, that was my record. He bought it for me. My dad had no LPs. My dad had stock records. Toby bought his first stock, Seaboard Air Lines, when he was at Ohio State. Air lines meant train line back then. An air line was the shortest distance between two points – the way the crow flies.

My father didn’t mind I wound up at the U. of Michigan. He wasn’t a nutty Buckeye.

My band had a trumpet player who was a rabid Buckeyes fan. At one afternoon bar mitzvah party, I gave him time off during the gig to watch part of the OSU-Michigan game. The other musicians were nonplussed. They did not understand that the trumpeter had been in the OSU marching band and had attended every single Ohio State bowl game, including the Tostitos Bowl. My bandmates did not know my father had given me one album, The Ohio State University Marching Band featuring “Buckeye Battle Cry.”

My bandmates are still talking about the trumpeter’s “absence,” and it’s been years. Look, the football game was supposed to start at 3 p.m. but the TV honchos moved the start-time up to noon at the last minute. I doubt the trumpeter would have booked a gig if he had known it would conflict with the OSU-Michigan game.

One more thing . . . Simchat Torah (which just ended) sometimes gets hairy because of its occasional conflict with Indians/Guardians playoff games. I’ve got a nursing-home gig tonight and would have liked to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but I don’t see the point now with the Guardians out of  it.

Go Bucks.

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October 19, 2022   4 Comments

RINGING HOME

I’m related to very few Strattons. So I got excited when I came across Jon Stratton, the author of Coming Out Jewish. I found him on the internet. Wow, another Stratton writing about Jewish matters.  Maybe I’m Jon, using a pseudonym.

Jon Stratton is a cultural studies professor in Perth, Australia. His mother was Jewish and his father Christian. Jon grew up in England, not knowing anything about Judaism or Yiddishkayt (Jewishness).

I ordered Jon’s book on Amazon. I found out Jon “came out Jewish” in multicultural academic circles, writing about, among other things, “ghetto-thinking” — Jewish anxiety. He said he had been slightly different from his friends in England because his mother had made him “ring home” whenever he went out, while his chums never had to ring home. Jon’s mother was an angst-ridden Jew from the Continent.

My mother, on the other hand, was from the Mississippi Delta and didn’t worry about anything. My mother left me off at freeway exits to hitchhike. One trip I made a left on I-80 and wound up in South America. She was OK with that.

In 1990, at the Cleveland airport, I waited for my mom to arrive on the “snowbird” flight from Florida. I was with my then 9-year-old son, Teddy, who I let run around the airport. But I warned him, “If you wander off too far, you’re going home on the Rapid.”

He wandered off and I left him. A half hour later a Cleveland policeman called me, and I had to go back to the airport — 20 miles one-way. The airport cop gave me a “sir, you are a douche bag” smirk when I entered the airport police office. The cop didn’t understand my son had practically memorized the Rapid Transit timetable and had ridden the complete Lee Road route.

I learned laissez-faire childrearing from my mother. There was nothing continental about her except her airlines. (Cleveland to West Palm Beach direct on Continental.)

If I ever go to Australia, I’ll look up Jon Stratton and maybe we can talk about our mothers.

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October 12, 2022   1 Comment

BIRTH PAINS

My daughter, Lucy, calls. She’s six months pregnant. This is January 2022. She says, “I don’t want to dump on you.” Then she does. She says the most recent ultrasound shows a spot on the baby’s heart. Lucy is on vacation in Mexico, and the midwife knew Lucy was on vacation, but the midwife nevertheless emailed Lucy, informing her to come in for her next ultrasound in six weeks instead of eight. That email dampened Lucy’s vacation mood. My mood (non-vacation) dampened, too. Lucy is in her late 30s. The docs are monitoring the heck out of her.

Me . . .  I had insane back pain in 2017 and got an MRI. The result: a herniated disc at L1-L2. OK, but then the doctor called me a day later and said I might have syringomyelia. What? That’s a cyst on your spinal cord that can mess with your nerves and brain. I scheduled a second MRI right away.

My insurance company called the morning of the second MRI and said the procedure would be $3900, and they weren’t sure they’d pay for it because I had just had an MRI. I said “full speed ahead.” If my brain was frying, I wanted to know now.

The second MRI came back “artifactual” — no sign of a brain problem. False positive. That’s my story, and I told Lucy. So many tests.

But I guess more tests are better than no tests.

[Cecil was born April 18. Doing well. He has a spot in my heart.]

I had a humorous op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about fasting on Yom Kippur. (No paywall.)

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October 6, 2022   3 Comments

MESSY CHICKEN

A friend, who had moved away, rented a room at a hotel by I-271, in suburban Cleveland, to sit shiva. He hung around that room for a couple days. Visitors knocked on the door, which was kept ajar. Ten Jews in a suite by I-271, chanting Hebrew prayers. Subversive. My friend left town after three days. It was no picnic, that hotel, except for a picnic I brought in: $204 worth of chicken Marsala and sides from a kosher caterer named Norman.

I knew Norman from klezmer gigs. Way back he had thrown dirty plates all over the kitchen floor at the Crawford Auto Museum. So many plates, my band couldn’t roll our musical gear and carts over the jumble. It was like a Greek party center at 4 a.m.

Then a wedding client asked me about Norman’s work, and I said, “I wouldn’t use him.” She told Norman. Thanks. Norman called me, bitching and moaning. He said his messy auto-museum gig had been his first off-premises catering job. I hadn’t known that. I told him I wouldn’t bad-rap him again. It wasn’t loshn hora (evil gossip), my trashing him. You’re obligated to tell the truth when asked for a business reference.

I spent $204 on Norman for hot food at an I-271 shiva. Everything is kosher now between Norman and me, I think.

(Norman is a pseudonym)

Next week’s post will go up on Thursday instead of Wednesday because of Yom Kippur.

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September 28, 2022   3 Comments

DON’T CALL ME “PISHER”

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

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

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

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

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

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September 21, 2022   2 Comments

FIGHTING WORDS

I had these editors at Sun Newspapers, Stan and John. This was in the early 1980s. My beat was the city — Collinwood.

I just saw John — the head editor — at a wedding. He told my wife I got in a fistfight with Stan at the paper. Alice, on the way home from the wedding, said to me, “Why didn’t you tell me about that fight? You were hotheaded.”

I never got in a fistfight. Prove it! Maybe a little yelling but I never hit Stan.

Here’s how it went down in ’83:

Stan, marking up my copy, said, “How can you write like this?”

“Listen, schmuck,” I said. “I’m not writing like this. I’m leaving.”

“Don’t get so worked up.”

“You have no tact, Stan. No ability with human relations. My copy is easy to edit. You’re dictatorial. We don’t get paid enough to listen to this.”

“Your copy is the most difficult here,” Stan said. “No, I take that back. Bob’s copy is.”

I never hit Stan. By the way, I’m friends with Stan. The recent wedding — the one mentioned above — was Stan’s younger daughter’s. I talked copy editing at the wedding. I told John how a summer intern at a national publication had recently tried to change a line of mine from “I said” to “I replied.” (For example: “I like ketchup,” he replied. instead of “I like ketchup,” he said.)

“I let it stand, John,” I said. “I had other battles to fight. But then when the story came out, the ‘I replied’ practically ruined it for me.”

“Who says ‘I replied’?” John said.

“Nobody. Exactly. It’s ‘I said.’”

John and I agree on that, at least. Nice. But John still claims I got in a fight with Stan. Lately he has hinted he might downgrade the fight to “maybe it was some pushing.” I’d like a full retraction, John.

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September 14, 2022   2 Comments

THE SPEED READER

I went to a speed-reading workshop at the Somerset Inn.  Somebody there was pitching the Evelyn Wood method. No thanks. Too expensive.

DIY was my style. I got on a self-improvement kick. I was 23, living with my parents, and I sped-read Exodus and Herzog and all the other blue classics lying around my parents’ apartment.

I could even speed-read stop signs. You see STOP, but you don’t subvocalize it. You let the world imprint itself on your brain. It’s hard to speed-read longer signs, like “Brainard-Cedar, Next Right.”

I wish I could read faster but I can’t.

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September 7, 2022   1 Comment

STOLEN BASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 31, 2022   4 Comments

OFFICIAL OLD GUY

I’m an official old guy. An arts agency made a documentary about roots music in Ohio, and a bunch of baby-boomers, including me, was the subject. We were the old fogies on the porch, picking away at authentic instruments. The guys in my “old guy” pantheon are all dead: Muddy Waters, Dave Tarras, Mickey Katz.

I saw a 92-year-old piano player. He isn’t dead.

I still get nervous when I play. I’m not dead.

I once played an “old guy” record-release party at Nighttown, a local club. Something like my 1,028th Yiddishe Cup gig. I played a Moldovan folk piece in 7/16 and stopped halfway through. Man, I must have been playing it in 9/16 or 10/16. I was so ahead of the game. I was freaked out by my fellow musicians in the room.

Me and nervous go way back. My first recitals at Victory Park School in South Euclid, Ohio, were debacles. I had memorized my tunes and then forgot them. Let’s take it from the top again, shall we, Bert? Worse, a violin prodigy always followed me. Philip Setzer. He wound up in the Emerson String Quartet.

I just bought a ticket to see Setzer next month at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I also wrote him a fan letter, including the tag “you want to meet for coffee?” I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance that’ll happen.

I really botched “Theme of Exodus” one year at Victory Park. Phil probably followed that with some slick Mozart concerto. Both Setzer’s parents were violinists in the Cleveland Orchestra. I have no idea why they lived in South Euclid. They were total Heights profile, right? If I meet up with Phil, I’ll ask him, “Why did your parents live in South Euclid?”

Yiddishe Cup plays a free concert tomorrow (7 p.m. Thurs. Aug. 18) at Walter Stinson Community Park, 2301 Fenwick Road, University Heights, Ohio. Bring a chair or blanket.

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August 17, 2022   1 Comment

LOSING MY CREDIT

Last week I lost my credit card and went around town looking for it. (Been there, done that, you say.) I retraced my steps to On the Rise, the neighborhood bakery, and the clerk there had about 20 cards in a drawer. One card belonged to a friend of mine. My card wasn’t there.

It had to be there! I had  just done an in-depth regression analysis of every place I had been in the past three days. You know how hard it is to recall everything you’ve done in the past three days? Particularly when you’re 72.

My friend — the guy whose card I had found in the pile at On the Rise — texted me, “Crikey!!!!! That is so weird. Thank you for the heads up.”

I wish store clerks called when they found cards.

I monitored my online statement. I didn’t freak out. Yippee. Nobody was charging anything. If my card didn’t show up soon, I’d call Visa and ask for another one. My son Ted said, “Don’t say you lost it. They’ll cancel your card.” Right-o, Ted. I don’t want to spent two hours online changing all my auto-pays.

Yesterday I was at CVS to pick up a prescription and asked if by chance they had my card. I had also been there the week before to pick up some generic Lipitor. But I had paid cash then. The pharmacist held up my card and said, “I’ve been on a spending spree!” That was funny.

To repeat, I think stores should call when they find cards. (I suspect many stores do.) I didn’t ask the pharmacist why she didn’t call. I didn’t want to wreck my good mood. I love finding things I’ve lost.

[A Harvey Pekar tribute post.]

Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 18, at Walter Stinson Park, University Heights. Bring a chair or blanket.

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August 10, 2022   5 Comments

SAVE HORSESHOE LAKE

Losing Horseshoe Lake in Shaker Heights means losing an important piece of history, along with priceless water views and the dam’s role as a public living room for dog walkers, bird-watchers, and parents pushing strollers.

I didn’t write that. Cleveland.com and Plain Dealer reporter Steven Litt did. [“Removing Horseshoe Lake Dam releases a torrent of potential,” July 29.] In 2019, before the lake was drained, Horseshoe Lake was a “living room.” It was homey — a throwback to an era when people walked around a lot and bumped into each other. Like what we still do at the grocery store. Say, Zagara’s grocery store in Cleveland Heights, except no Cheerios and soy milk at Horseshoe Lake. Only warblers, herons, ducks and sunsets. Free, too.

horseshoe lake. lucy photo

Litt wants to demolish this living room. Litt favors the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s plan to turn the lake into two streams. We already have miles of streams! We have the Nature Center at Shaker Lake right next door, with its boardwalk, gazebo and illustrative signs.

The other day I was at Cumberland Pool, Cleveland Heights. Johnny Weissmuller once swam there. The pool is a treasure. Why? Because it looks like it did when Johnny Weissmuller swam there. Some things of beauty should stay the same. Want to knock down the Cleveland Museum of Art’s 1916 main building and give it a re-make? Would we sell the museum’s painting “Stag at Sharkey’s” by George Bellows?

Nobody ever lost his life in a flood at Shaker Lakes. Why are we going nanny-state to make sure the dam is 110% safe? Again, nobody ever — in the Heights or University Circle – lost her life in a flood in the 170-year history of the man-made Shaker Lakes and dam. There is this Talmudic precept “whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.” But come on, this coddling is ridiculous. The sewer district fears flooding under the Rapid Transit bridge in University Circle, where there is one apartment building – one – that might get flooded. Somebody should buy that old University Circle brick apartment building and vacate the ground floor; pour concrete in it; and call it a day. (I’m doing that tomorrow! joke) Then the old building will look like the science fortresses around that part of University Circle. We’ll be fine.

The sewer board hired a landscape architect from Cambridge, Mass. One of the firm’s owners is Lauren Stimson, who according to the website, “has a deep love for New England, where she was raised, and an interest in the overlap between the built environment and the rural landscape.” Gotta love New England. And here in Cleveland, we have locals with a deep love of Cleveland — locals with the common sense to realize we have a beautiful lake, and it should stay that way.

The Friends of Horseshoe Lake has hired an engineering firm, public-relations firm, and a law firm to fight for the preservation of Horseshoe Lake. Don’t be misled by the sewer people and the Plain Dealer. Check out SaveHorseshoeLake.com.


Here’s my recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: “Finding a Good Plumber is a Heavy Lift.” Read the comments — a lot of ranting about how young people should go into plumbing instead of film studies.

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August 3, 2022   1 Comment

PEEVED

Why do eyeglass-frame adjusters have so much power over us? Did they all attend I.U.?

How come newspaper columnists don’t write about pet peeves anymore?

What about those phone solicitors who ask for money for your kids’ colleges? We have our own alma maters not to give to.

Why do sensitive people insist on telling everybody they’re sensitive?

Why are we so nostalgic for mimeo machines? The smell, I guess.

Why do so many Clevelanders brag about not reading the Plain Dealer? The paper is on life-support, yes, but still, it’s all we have. “I’ve lived in Cleveland 20 years and never subscribed to the PD.” Go back to New York.

If you want to talk about cars, first ask: “Do you want to talk about cars?” Same goes for sports and politics.

What is preferable: “He passed away” or “He passed”?  Neither. “He died.”

Don’t let signs like THE SMITH’S get you down.

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August 3, 2022   No Comments

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

I’ve been to approximately 60 Cleveland Indians games and seen three no-hitters. What are the odds on that? Call the Freakonomics guy.

I am a fair-weather fan! For two of the three no-hitters, I didn’t even know who the players were. Like now, I can’t name any of the Guardians players.

I saw Toronto’s Dave Stieb no-hit the Tribe in 1990. I didn’t know any of the Cleveland players then. I saw Cleveland’s Dick Bosman throw a no-hitter in 1974; again, I didn’t know any of the Cleveland players except Buddy Bell, who I recognized as Gus Bell’s son.

1966 — my first no-hitter. Sonny Siebert, 2-0, against the Senators. I knew the players. I was in high school: Azcue, Alvis, Davalillo, Wagner, Colavito.

francona 1960 topps

Francona batted .363 in 1959 but was 34 at-bats shy of the minimum needed, so the batting title went to Harvey Kuenn.

I used to get free tickets to the games in high school for straight A’s. I didn’t get straight A’s but the Cleveland Press (which gave out the free tix) didn’t care about a B or two, as long as if you provided a written explanation. “This class is AP,” etc.

By the way, I’m uneasy with the fine-print mention of “Harvey Kuenn” in the photo caption above. April 19, 1960. What a dark day. Frankie  Lane unloaded The Rock for Kuenn. That was the day I learned life isn’t fair. Still adjusting.

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July 27, 2022   4 Comments

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

I like virgin olive oil. It costs more, but it does make a difference, at least on salads. I’ve made trips to various import shops in Cleveland for the quality juice. Sometimes I buy the huge XL can. A can is your best buy because you don’t want to expose the oil to light, or worse, plastic.

I drizzle olive oil on everything. I don’t want to sound like a snob here, but you really can’t live a full life without extra virgin olive oil. I flew once to Rome and traveled in a rental car four hours due-east to get my favorite olive oil, I-77. No lie. Not the freeway. I went to the I-77 headquarters in Vasto, Abruzzo, and bought a couple cans there and shipped them home. That trip was the highlight of my life (that, plus being captain of the tennis team at Brush High).

Everybody is going to Italy right now. Rich people, at least. Italy is the number-one tourist destination, I think. If you go, please stop by the I-77 place and pick up a couple cans. Gotta be cans.

 

(This post is partially true. The true part: I have been to the I-77 HQ in Abruzzo.)

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July 13, 2022   1 Comment

THE FUNERAL STRATEGIST

I’m a funeral strategist. I advise mourners on funerals. No charge, by the way. The big Jewish funeral parlor in Cleveland is BK Broiler (Berkowitz Kumin). Some funeral services last only 15 minutes. Others go way too long. It’s bad when too many relatives speak, but I once attended a funeral where nobody spoke. That’s worse. The entire funeral was 12 minutes. Come on! The sweet spot is 25 minutes with two or three eulogies.

A tip to eulogists: don’t say, “She enjoyed traveling in her later years.” Talk about her upbringing and prime time.

I try to arrive at the funeral parlor 20 minutes beforehand, to work the family room, where relatives sit. I like to say hi, catch up, and offer my condolences.

The employees at BK Broiler wear dark suits and are very proper. They never say anything off script. They say, “This ends our service here. Please go to your cars and turn on your lights.”

Why doesn’t the chapel at B-K Broiler have windows? Are funeral-home windows forbidden in Jewish law? (Shuls must have windows, my rabbi once told me.) Maybe it’s because mourners at funeral homes don’t want to see passersby laughing and joking.

Think about it. Or don’t think about. I’ll think about it for you.

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June 29, 2022   1 Comment