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 New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


 
 

Category — Miscellaneous

MY PLOT

Harvey Pekar is buried in the most expensive section of Lake View Cemetery — in $6895-a-plot turf. He’s near the Wade Lagoon, not far from Eliot Ness and Alan Freed. It’s crowded around that lagoon. It’s ongepatshket.

There are less-crowded  — and cheaper — sections of the cemetery. Lake View has 111,000 dead people. There is room for 5,500 more. My wife, Alice, and I rode around in a golf cart looking for a plot. Alice found a tombstone with a clarinet on it. No, it was an oboe, I told her. John Mack was buried there. He had been the principal oboeist in the Cleveland Orchestra. His son once jumped on my front porch for no apparent reason. I didn’t know the kid, so I called Oboe to complain. Oboe was listed as “John Oboe Mack” in the Cleveland Heights phone book. Mr. Mack made sure to mention right off he played in the Orchestra. When you say “Orchestra” around here, it’s like “Harvard.”

I don’t need a clarinet on my headstone. I checked out Park Synagogue’s cemetery — about $2,100 a plop. And very crowded, plus right across from a BP station. My cousin said she had unused plots at Hillcrest Cemetery, where my parents are buried. Hillcrest is a grassy field with a couple trees. They mow that place. No vertical headstones. I once put a tennis ball on my dad’s marker. The ball got eaten up by a machine. My cousin’s plots are from  1977, when her parents bought the slots. But her parents are buried in Kansas City. I don’t think they’re moving back. The plots were bought for $270 total. Now they’re worth $1500 each.

The plots are now mine. Transferred. My cousin gave me the OK. I paid Temple Emanu El (Cleveland), the cemetery overseer. Hey, I’m getting 1970s plots! I’m going into the ground with Greatest Generation folk — yidn who died in the 1980s. I’ll get some sleep. And if not, I’ll dig the swinging sounds of Benny Goodman.

I had a piece in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal“I Should Never have Gotten Involved with the MOB.”

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November 26, 2019   4 Comments

MY HOUSE SHOOK

I told the plumber to check out a rusted-out waste stack in my basement. He cut the pipe in half and said, “Oops, it’s a support post.” My freaking house shook! This plumber was stupid, but I was, too, for telling him it was a waste stack when it was, in fact, a support post. The plumber said he’d take away the old support-post pipe, which he cut into two 30-pound cast-iron sections. Easier to move. But he left the stuff.

So I took the pipes to the tree lawn. No takers. Then I brought them back and called the city. I babysat the pipes for three week. The city guy said, “Put them out a day early this time, and they’ll be gone. Scrappers will take them.” I put the pipes out again.

Scrappers didn’t take them. I arranged with the city to take the pipes with a special pick-up. That happened. One less peeve.

And by the way, I got a new support post, so my house doesn’t shake now.

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November 20, 2019   1 Comment

CRAZY NUMBERS

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

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

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

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

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November 13, 2019   2 Comments

REVERSE GATSBY

I’m Jay Gatz, but in reverse. You see, I moved from New York to the Midwest, specifically to Cleveland, and I changed my name. I used to be Justin Jacobson. Now I’m Bill Jones. Of course, I go by “William J. Jones,” too, whenever that seems appropriate.

I grew up in Manhattan at the San Remo, right next door to where Lennon was shot. My parents owned an art gallery. In fact, they owned two art galleries — one in Switzerland and one in New York. I ran the Zurich gallery for a while and met all the big names. But I got sick of New York and the entire gallery scene. Why? It was too effete. I wanted to hang out with “real people” — real estate guys, for example. I went to Ohio University. After college, I rented a one bedroom in Cleveland for $850. Tricked out, too. Marble countertops, dishwasher. I’ve been in Cleveland a couple years.

I hope to buy up the town — Cleveland. I can probably buy it for what my parents’ NYC apartment is worth. I’ve only made two errors in Cleveland: 1) I guessed wrong that a milk chute is for seltzer delivery, and 2) I didn’t know what tree lawn meant.

Cleveland is a cool town. Like Hoboken. Urban, but not too urban.

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November 6, 2019   3 Comments

I REMEMBER

I remember Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. Who wrote the Fail part?

I remember Ted Williams could read the label on the ball.

When I was 10, I sent away to the Air Force Academy for a catalog and got one, along with an application.

I remember Larry and Norm Sherry of the Dodgers.

I remember Summit, the board game.

I remember Burger Chef.

I remember crepe dreidels hanging in the dining room.

I remember the Boy Scouts’ Life badge.

I remember my dad “hitting them out” to me in the park.

I remember playing “Exodus” on clarinet at the sixth-grade assembly. I also remember “Margie.”

I remember 1950-D nickels.

I remember “Hands Off Cuba” graffiti by the Rapid.

I remember slow-dancing to “Moon River” with a Christian Scientist.

I remember the Roxy.

I remember the JCC pop machine, and how it was frequently broken. The milk machine always worked. I drank a lot of chocolate milk. Maybe the useless pop machine was a parents’ conspiracy.

I remember Walter Lippmann in Newsweek.

I remember T.A. Davis tennis rackets.

I remember Rich Greenberg played Bobby McKinley — Chuck’s younger brother — in a national 16-and-unders tennis tournament. Rich lost, but still, he played a McKinley.

I remember Harvey Greenberg got a 799 Math and 785 Verbal. (And this was before re-centering.)

I remember Chap’s GTO.

I remember Bruno Bornino’s “Big Beat” music column in the Cleveland Press. He also wrote “Pit Stop” about cars.

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October 30, 2019   6 Comments

UNREST AT THE NURSING HOME

When I arrived at my nursing-home gig, I noticed a 15-piece big band setting up next to me. I said to the nursing-home coordinator, “I don’t appreciate a 15-piece band playing fifteen feet from me.” (The band was TOPS — Tough Old Pros.) These guys were stealing my turf!

The big boss — a programming director — came up to me and said, “I hear you have a problem.”

“I don’t appreciate a 15-piece band playing fifteen feet from me,” I said. [The TOPS band was about 100 feet away.]

She said, “I hear you getting into it with my co-worker.”

“I didn’t swear at her. I didn’t say anything disrespectful. I did have an edge to my voice — like I do now. What did she say I said?”

“She said you said you don’t appreciate playing fifteen feet from a 15-piece band.”

“That’s right! What’s wrong with saying that? Are you doubling down on this?”

“We have six buildings on this campus and many musical acts and there can be conflicts.”

“A 15-piece band!” This was an ego thing for me, in case you haven’t guessed. “Maybe I’ll leave,” I said.

I didn’t. I like playing for senior citizens. I’m one myself.

 

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October 23, 2019   2 Comments

FIND THIS GUY

I lost my wallet and got it back quickly. I left the wallet on a bike path. Beachwood cops called.

I tried to give the finder a reward. I got his number from the cops. But the finder wouldn’t answer his phone. The police said he was a 47-year-old man from Woodmere, Ohio. He supposedly had told the cops, “If I lost my wallet, this is what I’d want.”

Nothing was taken from the wallet. The man deserved something. Matthew Lewis, 47, of Woodmere. I couldn’t find him. Granted, I didn’t spend hours on my search, but still, I put in time.

Yidd Cup Funk A Deli is at Fairmount Temple, Beachwood, Monday night for Simchat Torah, and Tuesday night at Park Syn, Pepper Pike.

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October 16, 2019   2 Comments

OPRIMA EL DOS

I decided to oprima el dos. I called the Spanish-speaking operator at Spectrum (Time-Warner) to discuss my internet bill, which jumped from $50 to $65/month.

The operator wouldn’t shut up, in English or Spanish. Spanish is a beautiful language, she said, and her grandkids won’t speak it. She said she was from Laredo, Texas, and now lives in San Antonio. She said she could make more money as a bilingual translator in the Carolinas, but she preferred Texas.

She didn’t lower my bill. (I had an introductory offer that had expired.) What good is Spanish.

I’ll oprima el dos again. All Spanish operators speak English, too. That’s a safety net. Buenos dias.

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October 2, 2019   1 Comment

CHECK OUT MY LIFESTYLE

I spit wherever I want.

I go to the city dump for toilet seats and milk cartons. I’m a collagist.

I have sexy legs.

I own a big house and need another one. I’m seeing a realtor Friday.

I can’t read in the car. That’s a weakness.

I want to be Mr. Rogers, but not from Pittsburgh.

Rock-and-roll trivia is my forte. Also, baseball history. Pie Traynor!

I hate air conditioning. I wear a Speedo around the house in the summer.

My favorite movie is The Awning Fabricator. It’s Serbian.

Exercise sucks.

My girlfriend is sumptuous and intense, and a fugitive from my wife.

I often eat alone. My fav meal: Don’t have one.

My fav song: “Meshugeneh Mambo.”

Wednesday mornings I’m at Stone Oven, Eton Collection, Woodmere, Ohio. Stop in.

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September 25, 2019   4 Comments

STAR TURN

I backed up a star. A minor star. A minor, minor star: David “Dudu” Fisher. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he’s big in the Jewish music world, and he came to Cleveland and needed a backup band.

The usual Cleveland jazz dudes were called in to back up Dudu. These Cleveland guys play for touring Broadway shows at Playhouse Square and have music-school degrees. These musicians have bio notes that read “shared the stage with blah blah and blah blah.”

I’ve shared the stage, too. Yiddishe Cup played at a Dayton, Ohio, folk festival gig right before Jon Hendricks. War, too,  (Detroit) and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Akron). I haven’t actually played with anybody. Correction: a tune with Vulfpeck in Ann Arbor.

The reed player in the David “Dudu” Fisher backup band wasn’t comfortable with the clarinet charts. He was a jazz-sax guy and the klez clarinet parts were a bit too intricate. So I got a call. I practiced a lot and did OK. There was jazz, klez and classical. I can read music! The pro jazz dudes said I did a good job. That meant something to me.

*”Dudu” is a Hebrew/Israeli diminutive for David.

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September 18, 2019   2 Comments

LEGIT

The caller wanted to put a restaurant in a 750-square-feet vacant storefront. Seven-hundred fifty feet is not much bigger than a shoebox. The caller said he could fit a couple tables in there. He said he owned two 500-square-feet restaurants in Brooklyn.

“Where in Brooklyn?” I asked.

“Fort Greene and Williamsburg,” he said. “You know New York?”

“I’ve heard of Williamsburg.”

“You know New York?”

“I know about Williamsburg. That’s where the hipsters live.”

“That’s right.”

“That’s what I want if you open here — hipsters,” I said. “I don’t want you open all night and selling cigarettes, lottery tickets and beer to derelicts.”

“Man, we want the hipsters.”

“What’s your name?”

“Ezzat. And my partner is my brother, Rizi.”

“That’s a lot of Z’s. You should call your restaurant Z’s.”

“Yeah.”

“What’s your last name?”

“Assad.”

“What’s your brother’s last name?”

“He’s Hamda.”

“What kind of restaurant?”

“El Toro Taqueria.”

Legit.

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September 11, 2019   No Comments

MEN’S FASHION — A HISTORY

I was a bit stylish in seventh and eight grades. I shopped at Mister Jr.’s and Skall’s Men’s Wear at Cedar Center. After eighth grade, I gave up on making it in fashion. I couldn’t cut it — shopping, fashion and popularity contests.

One of my dad’s friends sold Farah pants. I liked Farah but Farah wasn’t cool. Nice feel but not cool. Lee –- the brand — was popular. Farah was the continental look — the greaser thing, like iridescent sharkskin. Italians clung to the continental look for years. Jews moved on to the “collegiate” look — Lee’s colored jeans.

Ben Skall, an old man, ran Skall’s Men’s Wear. He became a state senator. I gave up white socks to enter Skall’s. I bought black socks with gray rings around the top (Adler brand). Sam McDowell and Hawk Harrelson shopped at Skall’s.

I was in the in-between crowd. I noticed right off in seventh grade half the class was yiddlach, and these kids seemed “fast” and could dress, and they would mock you out if you dressed wrong. The dagos, my side of the tracks, dressed like Dean Martin or the Fonz (who came later). I wore a spread-shirt collar. Verboten amongst Jews and dagos. It had to be button down. So I went to Skall’s.

I wore a fisherman’s knit sweater my mom made. Homemade was verboten, too, I learned. But a girl complimented me on the sweater, so I kept wearing tit. “Nice sweater,” she said. History!

I had a shirt jac and light blue denim pants. The shirt jac didn’t tuck in, by design.

Shoes? Pedwin cordovan penny loafers.

Sweaters, again: Alpaca was the continental look. Very Italian and very itchy. The collegiate look was a comfy cashmere-feel V-neck like a color called Summer Wheat.

Underwear? Yes, and white.

 

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September 4, 2019   3 Comments

SCREW WOODSTOCK

I didn’t go to Woodstock. Never even thought about going. Wasn’t into Woodstock, period. I disdained anything popular. That was me. (My future wife, Alice, went to Woodstock for a fraction of a day. She saw Richie Havens and left because Woodstock was too crowded. By the way, Richie Havens was OK with me because he wasn’t super popular.)

I saw most of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, which was two weeks before Woodstock. I should have seen the whole blues festival but my sister got married in Cleveland the same weekend. The chutzpah. I had to bounce back and forth from the wedding to the festival. I was the blues festival’s PR chairman, so I placed ads in major daily newspapers, Coda (a Canadian jazz mag), underground newspapers and Rolling Stone. I got in touch with the Voice of America, which taped the event. (The tapes haven’t resurfaced. Some other tapes have. There is a  just-released live double album.)  I worked with an ad agency in downtown Cleveland — a guy there did ads for the key company my dad worked at.

ann arbor blues festival poster 1969

First A2 Blues Festival, 1969.

The blues festival drew 20,000, and we spent about $60,000 from the University of Michigan and Canterbury House — an Episcopalian coffeehouse. That was a lot of money. ($419,000 in today’s terms.) I got a free trip out of it, to New York to talk to WNET. They weren’t interested in filming the festival because they had just done the Memphis Blues Festival.

Woodstock got a lot of ink because of the big crowd and the movie (1970).

Another national music festival in August 1969  was the Atlantic City Pop Festival. That drew about 100,000. Atlantic City Pop — you don’t hear much about that anymore. You don’t hear much about the Ann Arbor Blues Festival either.

The blues festival committee was U-M “blues freaks.” Most were Jews. University Activities Center — a student programming organization — ran an ad in the Daily that said hey-you-want-to-put-on-a-blues-festival? The student who placed that ad was Cary Gordon. He had a thing for Clifton Chenier. Gotta bring in Chenier! We did. And we brought in everybody else, too: Fred McDowell, Son House, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and more. These old black musicians had a certain presence. They knew more about music and life than we did. Screw Woodstock.

*Speaking of old, B.B. King was 43. Son House was 67. Sleepy John Estes was the oldest at 70.

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August 28, 2019   6 Comments

KLEZKLEVELAND

KlezKanada is going on right now. Come on, America, let’s compete against the Canadians. Let’s do a full-blown Midwest klez conference. Not in Chicago, thank you, and not in some bubble town like Madison, Wisc., or Ann Arbor, Mich.

KlezKleveland. Where exactly? My house.

Accommodations: tent camping on my front lawn. There will be shower trucks and port-a-potties in the driveway. Don Johns — only the best.

Gentiles welcome, of course.

Do I need to play an instrument to attend?

No.

Do I need to know Yiddish?

Just chutzpah and putz.

Faculty?

Maybe. 

Sports?

Spinning to the music of KnishKnash, a NYC band.

Teen activities?

Yes. Teens will put on a play about scrap and Midwest Jews, based on Leonard Tanenbaum’s memoir, Junk is not a Four-Letter Word.

KlezKleveland ends with a fireworks display over Shaker Lakes. Look for a KlezKleveland flyer in your mailbox. Look for the next eight years.

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August 21, 2019   4 Comments

POOL, PING PONG
AND MARCHING BAND

My father’s father, Louis Soltzberg, was run over by a May Co. truck in 1924 and had a metal plate put in his head. After that he began hanging out at the pool hall a lot. My great aunt once told me, “If they had given out prize money for playing pool like they do now, he would have been a millionaire.”

My dad steered his kids toward ping pong, away from pool.  Ping pong was in our basement. To shoot pool, you had to go to Severance Center. There was a big sign at Severance: “No Hats.” That was because black customers liked to wear stingy brim hats while shooting, and the owners didn’t want too many blacks.

My dad entered a ping pong tournament at Danny Vegh’s club and got clobbered by a Hungarian. After that, Toby played only in our basement.

My father was good with racquets, and at sports in general. His brothers were good, too. His brother Milt was a fast-pitch softball player, and brother Sol played football at Western Reserve. My dad, Toby, took me to annual indoor track meets sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. I kept trying to find Ohio State and Michigan on the jerseys, but it was all Seton Hall, Holy Cross and Villanova. Were those colleges?

We lived three houses from the public tennis courts. My dad hit tennis balls with me after work. He would say, “Racquet back. Hit it now. Racquet back. Hit it now.” He was the color man without much color. I didn’t like his constant patter. To rile him, I’d mutter, “You stink.” You meant me. That drove my dad nuts. And I would say, “I quit!”

I liked music, too, and particularly the intersection of music and sports. Ohio State’s marching band had no woodwind section. It was all brass, and my parents wouldn’t buy me a trumpet. I had my Uncle Al’s hand-me-down clarinet. I stopped begging for a trumpet around ninth grade. I got used to the clarinet. In twelfth grade I dropped marching band altogether. I wasn’t marching anymore (to quote Phil Ochs, another South Euclid boy).

The marching band director at Cleveland Heights High – a nearby school — kept his “marching” band stationary in the end zone. That would have suited me, but I was at Charles F. Brush High, and we marched. I didn’t like learning the marching patterns.

My dad never saw me march, or play with my klezmer band, for that matter. He died before I got it going. I still play tennis. Ping pong, every three years. Pool, every six years.


Tomorrow night (7 p.m, Thurs., Aug. 15)
Funk A Deli / Yidd Cup
Free outdoor concert
Walter Stinson Community Park
2313 Fenwick Road
University Heights, Ohio
Be there!

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August 14, 2019   3 Comments

THINK YIDDISH, ACT BRITISH

Bill Miller, who went to law school in South Dakota, wore a cowboy hat to our sons’ Little League games. Jews — the subject — came up, as it tends to around me. Bill ended our conversation with, “Think Yiddish, act British.” This was a new expression to my ears. Also, this guy — Bill Miller — was Jewish? Bill said he was inching his way back to the East Coast. He had lived in South Dakota, Iowa, and now Ohio. He had grown up on Long Island.

Bill got me to thinking about my personal “Think Yiddish, Act British” (TYAB) playbook. I had learned the cardinal rule of TYAB, courtesy of my mom: “Don’t make a scene.” If anybody in my family ever said “Jewish” in a restaurant, for instance, my mother would glance around to see if anybody heard. Forget Jew — the word — I rarely heard that growing up.

My dad couldn’t read (sound out) Hebrew. My mother could. My father’s parents were “basically communists,” an elderly cousin told me. That was a bit of an exaggeration. My grandparents were entrepreneurs with a socialist background. Par for the course.

We put out Easter eggs and got Christmas presents. No tree. No yelling. At High Holidays, my mom would write my teachers: “Please excuse Bert’s absence from school due to religious observances.” My temple held services on Sunday, not Saturday.

Jewish got more play beginning in 1967. I was surprised when my parents attended an emergency fundraiser for Israel. A lot of American Jews stepped forward during the Six-Day War. Abba Eban, at the U.N., was my hero. The possibility of a second Holocaust seemed very real. A couple kids in my high school began wearing Jewish Power buttons, courtesy of a button shop in Greenwich Village. I didn’t have the guts to wear the button. The button-wearing kids had grown up in the Jewish neighborhood, not with the Italians like I had. After the Israeli victory in 1967, the TYAB playbook became nearly obsolete.

At my dad’s funeral in 1986, my father’s brother Milt baited the officiating rabbi: “One place I’d never go is Israel.”

“Why is that?” the rabbi asked.

“Our mother was an ardent Zionist who wanted us to move there, and I didn’t want to.”

My mother questioned Milt’s propriety several hours later. According to my mom, 1) Uncle Milt’s mother had been a Zionist, but had never urged her kids to make aliyah. 2) Milt was a jackass for making a scene.

An etiolated version of TYAB was alive. But is TYAB in effect when you’re totally among Jews?

Yidd Cup/ Funk A Deli  plays a concert 7 pm Thurs, Aug. 15, at Walter Stinson Community Park. That’s somewhere in University Heights, Ohio. (hint: 2313Fenwick Rd.) Free. Outdoors.

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August 7, 2019   2 Comments

YOU ARE THERE: 1973 PART 1

Beachwood, Ohio  1973

I live with my parents at the Mark IV, a high-rise apartment by the freeway. I’m living with my parents at age 23. I want to go to the North Pole. Chekhov said, “People do not go to the North Pole and fall off icebergs. They go to offices, quarrel with their wives and eat cabbage soup.”

My dad got mad at me because I didn’t want to save five dollars on traveler’s checks by shopping at various banks. “You aren’t a millionaire yet,” he said, scratching himself. He was wearing just underpants.

Tonight at a party — a parents’ party — Zoltan Rich, a Hungarian know-it-all, said, “The students protest for entirely selfish reasons. You know what the chief word is we’re missing — the key to the whole discussion? It’s obligation. Parents have abrogated their responsibility.”

It’s time to go. A guy from Case Western Reserve said he could give me a ride out west tomorrow. I won’t come back here for at least six months. My mother has a bridge game here tomorrow. If I’m within 100 feet of that game, I die.

I’ll try the Rand McNally approach to self-discovery . . .

loayl to axe 1

It’s 3 a.m. in Utah and I’m sleeping under a picnic bench. I hear deer. Or bears? I hear semis shifting. What’s up? I don’t even like “freak” America. Deep down I’m straighter than David Eisenhower. I might wind up back in Cleveland. Or maybe I’ll settle out in California.

 

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July 24, 2019   5 Comments

I’M AROUND

This blog has been around 10 years. Sometimes I think of hanging it up, but then I post a rerun and carry on. Over all, I enjoy writing the blog.

If I hadn’t started the blob, I wouldn’t have had any op-eds in national publications. My first New York Times piece  — about my mom shopping at Heinen’s — was written for this blog, but then I figured, hey, why not first send it to the Times for Mother’s Day. I sent it to “oped@nytimes.com,” and bingo, millions of people read the op-ed, including my ex-girlfriends, long-lost college and high school friends, Obama, Kissinger, and Dylan (or so I imagined).

My mother and father at Ohio Stadium, 1959. Julia and Toby Stratton.

My mother and father at Ohio Stadium, 1959.
Julia and Toby Stratton

Some people don’t want to be in this blog. I once showed a friend a rough draft about him, and he said, “I’m a private person. Please don’t run that.” And the piece was all flattery, too. Another time, a woman asked me to delete a post about her because she didn’t want me to be remembered the way I remembered her.

I started the blob to leave footprints in the sand, as the great Mileti said about his arena at Richfield, Ohio. I wonder if my kids, after I’m gone, will pay GoDaddy to keep the electricity on at this site. I doubt they will, and I don’t blame them. I might quit this blog at any time. Just a heads-up. I don’t owe you a 30-days’ written notice.

Thanks to everybody who write comments. Have you noticed how it’s 90-percent guys who comment?

The hard-boiled reason I started the blog: to promote Yiddishe Cup’s 2009 CD, Klezmer Guy. (Buy the CD here.) What’s a CD? What’s a blog?

 

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May 22, 2019   7 Comments

BURY ME AT __________.

Every few days I get an email from my synagogue that reads something like this: “Subject — the passing of Melvin Weiner.” About three people die per week at my shul. (I belong to a big shul.) My rabbi must live at funerals. Yes, he has an associate rabbi, but still, I think he — the senior rabbi — does most of the heavy lifting. The senior rabbi told me Costco has the best lox in town. He should know; he must see at least five dairy spreads a week. (I see my fair share, too. I love a dairy spread.)

The passing of Albert “Bert” Stratton. No, I prefer “the passing of Albert Stratton.” Cleaner. I visited my mom’s grave a while back and couldn’t find it because it had snow on it. The headstones are flush to the ground. I guessed the approximate location of the grave and drew a Jewish star and Mom. She’s at Hillcrest Cemetery with my dad.

My wife doesn’t want to be buried in our shul’s cemetery (Park Synagogue /Bet Olam) because it’s too cramped. I’m fine with Park. My wife wants to be in Lake View Cemetery. Actually, she doesn’t “want” anything. She doesn’t like to discuss this. I wonder if my rabbi does burials at Lake View. [Yes.] Lake View is a nondenominational garden-style WASPy place. I’ve seen Jewish stars on some of the tombstones there. Lake View is in Cleveland Heights. Nice. It’s not by the freeway. Nice. But if I die today, put me in Bet Olam — by the freeway.

albert tombstone

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March 27, 2019   2 Comments

SHUT UP AND PLAY

Jim Guttmann, the bassist in the Klezmer Conservatory Band, said his biggest thrill is playing nursing homes. Guttmann, who has toured the world, said nursing home residents appreciate him the most.

I don’t know about playing Europe, but I do know about nursing homes. I’ve played a lot of them. If you don’t play “Tumbalalaika” and “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” don’t bother showing up. Humor — at least my brand — doesn’t go over at nursing homes. I once did a comedy number at a nursing home, and an old man in a wheelchair interrupted, “Play music! Sit down!” I was flustered. I blurted out, “I’ll sit down when you stand up!” That quieted him.

When I go to a concert, I often feel like yelling “talk!” at performers. I don’t go for the Bob Dylan no-talk model. Say something between songs, and make it interesting. Don’t just say, “My next tune is . . .” Tell the audience about your favorite candy bar — anything.

I had a Snickers bar recently in Peru. There was this snack shop on a remote mountain trail. I was walking toward a water fall and this Snickers appeared. (Shut up and play.)

candy man john lokar 1981

This is a Snickers from 1981, in Cleveland. Vendor is John Lokar.

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February 27, 2019   3 Comments