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


 
 

Category — Miscellaneous

THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT

A very uncomfortable place — the building department. It’s in the basement of city hall. The inspectors cite landlords and homeowners. One inspector has a desk with a ton of architectural drawings. He’s the engineer and handles ADA cases.

I had to redo an entrance ramp for a store. My drawing was properly scaled. I did it with the inspector’s help. I paid $30.90 for the permit. After paying, I went to another inspector, who hocked me about a garage wall. I try not to go into the building department, because you just bounce from desk to desk and feel on edge.

Yiddishe Cup / Funk a Deli plays 3 p.m. Sun. (Oct. 14) at the Fort Wayne, Ind., Jewish Federation.

happy bagel

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October 10, 2018   4 Comments

BUGGED

Why do nursing-home administrators request peppy music from performers? Don’t some residents want to hear downer tunes?

bugginWhy do eyeglass-frame adjusters have so much power over us? Where did they all go to college? I.U.?

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

My wife took the electric toothbrush to Columbus, Ohio, on a business trip. The electric toothbrush is a permanent attachment to the dwelling, Alice.

Why does Zagara’s grocery store in Cleveland Heights sell only 12-packs of shabbat candles and not the 72-candle jumbo box?

What about those phone solicitors who ask for money for your kids’ alma maters? I’ve got my own alma mater to not give to.

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

Why aren’t we nostalgic for mimeo machines? We should be!

Why do some Clevelanders brag about not reading the Plain Dealer? “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, ask first: “Do you want to talk about cars with me?” Same goes for sports and politics.

What is preferable: “He passed away” or “He passed”? Answer: “He died.”

Don’t let signs like the smith’s bug you.

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October 3, 2018   6 Comments

MY FIRST DATE

I went out once in high school. It was a fix up, courtesy of my parents. I took out Barbara E. to see Cool Hand Luke at the Vogue and then on to Manner’s Big Boy at Van Aken for shakes. My parents knew her parents. I didn’t see her again, although we went to Michigan together, but I never saw her or said hi to her on the Diag, or anything at all.

How could you say no to this guy?

Bert “Pancho” Stratton, 1967

A couple years ago I was playing tennis in Cleveland, and I saw her father, who is in his 90s. I knew him from my nursing home gigs. Next to him was a young woman (age 66!) in a ski jacket. She was watching the oldsters play doubles. These oldsters were talking to the woman about a nor’easter in Boston. I knew Barbara had moved to Boston after college because I had Googled her. It was her.

I told my tennis partner that Barbara was the first girl I had dated. He didn’t care. He wanted to play tennis. But I stopped everything and said to her, “We went out on a date in high school. I’m Bert Stratton.”

“Really?” she said. I reminded her about Cool Hand Luke and the shakes. Really? “I do remember the name Stratton, though,” she said.

OK.

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September 20, 2018   3 Comments

FOOTNOTE

I was at the examination room in an orthotics store. The room had a small stage, fit for one person. I sat on the stage, and the orthotics guy was in the front row, so to speak, and looked at my feet. He had a shoebox-sized device with foam in it. He said, “Step in it.” I wondered what this had to do with my sore knee.

phoenix sweatin'Not much. Afterward the assistant said, “That’ll be two eighty.” As in $280. For an insert.

My wife didn’t approve of the orthotics outing. She thought the orthotics weren’t worth it, at least for this particular problem. My issue was more of a head case. The orthotics person gave me plaster of Paris casts of my feet. I stored the casts in my closet in case I ever need more orthotics.

More orthotics, please!

Footnote on a similar subject: I recently polled five physical therapists about heel lifts. Four are against heel lifts (for me) and one is for.

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September 5, 2018   1 Comment

I HAVE SOME CAPS

I lost my Brooks running hat. I owned two and lost them both. They were from a running store in Ann Arbor. I don’t usually lose things (except hats, gloves and caps). I went to Dick’s in Cleveland for a replacement hat and bought an Adidas, but it was constricting. I got headaches from the Adidas. (Granted, I didn’t give my head enough time to adjust to the new hat.)

hats five capsAmazon — I tried that. Nothing I liked there. I wanted a long-bill white cap with not much writing on it. eBay had four. I bought them all. That’s excessive, I know, but it’s only overkill if I die tomorrow. (Yiddishe Cup’s former drummer, Don Friedman, has 10 pairs of black jeans. Steve Jobs had at least 50 black turtleneck shirts.)

I went on eBay a couple days after my hat buys to see how the world of caps was holding up. There were no old-style Brooks hats left. I had cornered the market.

My Brooks hats arrived from Mississippi. Then my wife found one of my old ones.

I have some caps.

Here’s my latest essay from City Journal, “Locking My Bedroom Door,” about Airbnb, my wife and me.

The hostess

The hostess

 

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August 29, 2018   3 Comments

TOM CLARK

Donald Hall, the big-time English professor at Michigan, had some super-favorite students, and I wasn’t one of them. Number one was Jane Kenyon, whom he married. Another was Tom Clark, who became poetry editor of the Paris Review at 22, thanks to Hall.

Hall wrote in A Carnival of Losses: “Tom Clark was the best student I ever had. As a senior at the University of Michigan he wrote a 44-page paper about the structure of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, replete with Chinese characters — Tom’s back hurt from carrying Chinese dictionaries — and Greek, neatly ball-pointed . . . His paper went further into Pound’s structure of improvisation than anyone else had done.”

Tom Clark (L) and Lewis Warsh on the beach at Bolinas, Calif., 1968. Photo by Anne Waldman

Tom Clark (L) and Lewis Warsh on the beach at Bolinas, Calif., 1968. Photo by Anne Waldman

Clark was at Michigan seven years before me. I bought his first poetry book, Stones, shortly after it came out in 1969. I hitchhiked to Bolinas, but Clark wasn’t there. (I met Lewis Warsh instead, another poet.) I had a poem in The World, an East Village mag, and was thrilled. I wrote some more poems.

Clark kept up with poetry. Clark had a wise-acre, yet lyrical, poetic style that reminded me how I would write poetry if I was good, brilliant, and had stuck with it. I went over to prose (for the fame and money).

Clark wrote prose, too – mostly dry bios. I liked just one: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, an investigation on Allen Ginsberg’s weird relationship with a Buddhist leader, Chogyam Trungpa, in Boulder.

I wanted to be Tom Clark for a while.

On Friday Clark was hit by a car and died. He was walking across the street in Berkeley. He was 77. It was an accident. A screw up.


I had an op-ed — “5oth high school reunion time? Just Show up” — in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday.

brush greaser

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August 20, 2018   3 Comments

DEATH TRAINING

My younger son recommended I try a flotation tank in California. You climb into a flotation capsule that feels like an MRI tube, but it’s filled with several inches of salt water. There’s music, and then the lights go out, and the music goes off, too. You float on your back in the dark.

I couldn’t find the exit handle and panicked. But when I finally found the handle, I settled in and kept my hand on the exit lever. I counted down from 100. That flotation tank in Pasadena was an acquired taste. Not much going on in there. It was death training.

bert tombstone

Funk a Deli / Yidd Cup on the lawn tomorrow (7 pm Thurs., Aug. 16) at John Carroll U., University Hts., Ohio. Free. Free ice cream, too. If raining, we’re indoors at the Dolan Science Center. (Some PR says “indoors at the O’Malley Center,” but that’s incorrect.)

funk a deli

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August 15, 2018   2 Comments

WRONG JOB?

The building manager became shell-shocked when a tenant called from the hospital, crying about losing his toe to diabetes. Worse: the building manager had to chase the sick man for his rent. Meanwhile, the manager also had to collect rent from apartment 102. She knocked on that door. 102 was passed out on the floor. Drunk.

huebner b101 2_21_11

Messiest apt. ever. 2011

“I’ve never seen a place that messy,” the manager said to me later. The place wasn’t that messy. Some people live like pigs. Some tenants are messy because they have health issues and can’t clean.

A tenant had Alzheimer’s. He couldn’t remember if he had written his rent check. The manager thought the tenant might accidentally light the place up, too, so we turned off the tenant’s stove gas.

There were about 40 cigarette butts on the front stoop. A tenant used the stoop as his personal ashtray. I picked up some of the butts and said to the manager, “If this grosses you out, you’ve got the wrong job.”


Funk a Deli/ Yidd Cup is on the lawn at John Carroll U. next Thurs. (7 p.m. Aug. 16). Free. University Hts., Ohio.

Alan Douglass. Middletown, Ohio 2008

Alan Douglass.

Middletown, Ohio 2008

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August 8, 2018   1 Comment

I’M THE BARD

I used to be a drummer. Now I’m a bard. I break it down by letters, not beats. My favorite letters are k and l, like in glock.

A blue jay smoking a cigar — that’s an abstraction. A blue jay on a cigar — that’s for real. I did wordplay on the drums, but it didn’t work well. I used to play jazz clubs, weddings, bar mitzvahs. I was embattled — with myself. I once did a gig where the club owner strew pillows on the floor so the audience could nod out. They did. One guy woke up halfway through my set and yelled, “I hate this!”

hypno klezI switched to words. Words are tougher than music. The English language is pretty limited with end-rhymes. I hate that tune/spoon, moon/June shit. At least music keeps you anchored with real-life reminders like “when’s the call? . . . what’s the pay? . . . food? . . . dress? . . . parking situation?”

The bard thing is a challenge. What rhymes with challenge?

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August 1, 2018   2 Comments

THE HUMAN JAZZ ENCYCLOPEDIA

Michael “Moon” Stevens has an almost photographic memory for jazz facts. Moon gets most of his information from reading jazz bios and LP liner notes. Moon grew up in Flint, Michigan, and knew John Sinclair, a well-known jazz aficionado. I’m not sure why Moon is “Moon.” I see him about once a year, when he visits family in Cleveland. Moon is a painter at the Los Angeles airport. Moon was talking to his brother-in-law, Louis, and me about Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Maneri, Charlie Parker, Roland Kirk and Bill Evans. Louis mentioned Bill Evans was Jewish.

“How do you know Evans is Jewish, Louis?” I said. “Do you wake up in the morning and wonder who’s Jewish, and who isn’t?” I do. But why would Louis, who isn’t Jewish. Neither is Moon.

“I grew up in Greenwich Village,” Louis said. “New York was a very Jewish town when I grew up.”

“If somebody shoots somebody, or if somebody wins the Nobel Prize, I wonder if the guy is Jewish,” I said. “That’s my M.O.”

Moon said, “Bill Evans wasn’t Jewish. His father was Welsh and his mother was Russian Orthodox.”

Louis corroborated this on Google.

Impressive, Moon.

—-

Was Dave Brubeck Jewish? Here’s that one . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaWvixN_a9Q

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July 25, 2018   5 Comments

SOME THINGS I HAVE LEARNED

  1. Wear a bike helmet (even though nobody in Holland does).
  2.  Put air in your car tires regularly.

In my thirties, I kvetched about not living in New York, or someplace else equally glamorous. Now, who cares where you live. When I was young, I judged people by their tastes in music and their bumper stickers. I don’t care about that now.

In my twenties, I sometimes wore a tool belt, thinking I was blue-collar. I did some brick pointing, painting, whatever. I didn’t like it.

I annoyed old people for fun. For instance, when my mother-in-law said, “They’re wearing their hair high in the 1940s look,” I would answer, “Who’s they?”

She would say, “I don’t have any shoes to wear tonight to the party.” I would say, “You going barefoot?”

Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar

I hung around with the comic-book writer Harvey Pekar — a bitter guy. He said, “I’m hateful. I’d like to have a cool way to slip my George Ade article [published in a local magazine] to my ex-wife [an academic]. She’s small-minded.” Pekar was more cynical than me. I liked that.

Getting married and staying married was one of my better moves. Starting the klezmer band was another good play. Having kids was a good move. Basic stuff.

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July 11, 2018   4 Comments

WRONGFUL DEATH

Two of my friends’ parents died the same week. The first funeral was a massive Catholic Mass, and the second was a small Jewish affair. At both funerals, mourners chit-chatted about wrongful death. The Catholic man had gone into a local satellite hospital for a fairly routine matter, then went to “code blue,” and died. The Jewish woman had a procedure on her trachea and died. They were both in their 80s.

bad gigWhen my father died, he was treated first by a Mt. Sinai Hospital doc, then a Cleveland Clinic doctor. My dad thought he might get better care at the Clinic. Nope.

Marc Jaffe, a comedian, once told me that he wants to interview people regarding the best way to die. Like he will go up to a guy impaled on a picket fence and say, “Hey, is that a good death?” You don’t know till you try it. (The interview and the death.)

People I know — and know of, in a fanboy way — who have died recently:

From my gen . . . Lillian Goldberg, a friend; David Ariel, former head of the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies.

Older gen . . . Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe, Donald Hall.

[I should convert “my gen” to “older gen” right after I post this. The older crowd — the Silent Gen and WWII folk — is tapped out.]

I wrote a tribute to Donald Hall, who died Saturday. He was a mentor to me. “The Freelancer” in City Journal.

Donald Hall (L) and Bert Stratton, New Hampshire, 2000

Donald Hall (L) and Bert Stratton, New Hampshire, 2000

—-

I wrote “Me and my Lawnmower” for Belt Mag. This one is not about anybody dying, but it does touch on the subject.

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June 27, 2018   4 Comments

THE ODDS ARE . . .

The odds are actuaries have interesting jobs. What could be better than figuring out the odds on everything? For instance, what are the odds I’ll rent a store a month sooner if I reduce rent $50? What are the odds I’ll get a gig if I reduce the size of the band?

I’ve had stores empty for years. I had a barber who wanted to put photos of “fades” in her window. I let her. It was a tough store to rent. She was a Puerto Rican Lesbian cage fighter. She had a couple tattoos on her face, like Mike Tyson. She said she was part Jewish. The odds are you’re not Jewish if you say, “I have some Jew in me.”

Me the Landlord? (No, late coroner Lester Adelson)

Me the Landlord? (No, late coroner Lester Adelson)

I rented to a tattoo parlor the other day. I used to not rent to tat shops. We call the new business a “tattoo shop and art gallery” in the lease. I think it’ll work. Tats are mainstream now. Times change. What are the odds an old Jewish landlord would be OK with tats? 55-45.


Funk a Deli, aka Yidd Cup, is at Cain Park, Cleveland 7 p.m. Sun. June 24. Free. No tix necessary. Michael Wex is the emcee. Guests artists are Steve Greenman, Kathy Sebo, Shawn Fink and Greg Selker. We’re gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

Gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

Gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

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June 6, 2018   2 Comments

OPRIMA EL UNO

I tried Spanish to reach a human at AT&T. Oprima el uno for Spanish. That didn’t work; I got no human, just a Spanish robot. I went through the whole Spanish programa, yelling for a human, and ultimately got an adios from the machine. I’m trying to get my landline to work. It’s been out a couple days. The AT&T online repair site says the phone will be working by Friday. That’s too long.

phone push button shelburne 2015

I used to be a phone-repair guy, back in the 1970s. I’d hook up extra phones in the house I rented. I didn’t own the phones. Ohio Bell owned the phones. Ohio Bell came in one day and took one of my phones. That hurt. The Ohio Bell tech was a young woman who sweet-talked my roommate into my bedroom, where my illegal phone was (but I wasn’t).

I’m OK waiting for my landline. I’m not ranting. You think I’m ranting? I’m cool. But hey, I have a “for lease” sign up with that landline number in a vacant storefront. This is costing me dinero.

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May 16, 2018   4 Comments

SUNTAN STU

suntan stu

I knew a Cleveland comedian who moved to Florida and did impressions of Joan Rivers and Carol Channing, and even affected a New York accent. She was on the condo circuit. Yiddishe Cup and she shared the same booker, Suntan Stu.

The first time Stu called me, he said, “Vos machst du, man?” (How’s it going, man?)

“Remind me, Stu, how do you know my band?”

“When a band is as good as Yiddishe Cup, the word gets around!”

I lost $900 to Stu. He booked us at a Florida showcase (a talent show for bands) that never happened. I had to pay $900 in airline cancellation fees. Stu’s website said he had worked with Dolly Parton, Johnny Mathis and the Bee Gees.

Why did I fall for Stu? Because I thought Stu would get us a lot of gigs. We got gornisht.

If you ever hear “Vos machst du, man,” run.

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March 7, 2018   1 Comment

MRS. MAISEL-STYLE

You know how Mrs. Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel bribes the Gaslight Cafe booker with brisket to get a good performance slot? This video (below) outlines how Yiddishe Cup operates, food-wise:

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


Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup) is at the Bop Stop 8 pm this Sat. (March 3), Cleveland. We’ll play klezmer and soul music.


Want something to read?  Read my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Need Emotional Support? Ruff.”


A git Purim, yidn! Hope to see some of you tonight (Feb. 28) at the Purim service at Park Synagogue East, Pepper Pipes, Ohio. Free and open to the public. 7:15 p.m. Funk a Deli gits down.

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February 28, 2018   3 Comments

THE HARSHEST REVIEW OF YIDDISHE CUP

Yiddishe Cup calls its act “neo-Borscht Belt klezmer comedy.” That’s been done before — the Borscht Belt schtick. For starters, about 60 years ago.

Yiddishe Cup can half-fill a golden age center in Miami. Then what? They’re not getting any younger. Has Yiddishe Cup ever toured for weeks, developing a solid groove, establishing decent ensemble chops? On weekends the band passes out inflatable guitars at bar mitzvahs, eats baked salmon, and watches “reflections” videos.

Does Yiddishe Cup research Yiddish tunes at YIVO? Does anybody in Yiddishe Cup even know what YIVO is?

One more thing: dynamics. Try it, Yiddishe Cup.

–I can’t remember who wrote this. I’m blocking.

Glowing reviews — so far — for Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup), performing 8 p.m. Sat., March 3, at the Bop Stop, Cleveland.

funk a deli

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February 21, 2018   2 Comments

ON TOUR

Yiddishe Cup did a month-long tour. We had the bus, the lighting guy, the sound guy and a tour manager. We even had a masseuse. We had hot meals. We had screaming fans. But it wasn’t about us. We weren’t even billed as “Yiddishe Cup.” We were just “Cup”  — a somewhat amorphous, competent band of old Jews.

I jogged a lot during that tour to keep my sanity. The young fans drove me nuts. We sold just 10 Yiddishe Cup CDs, total. Not our crowd, I’ll admit.

We were the “support” band, and we supported the star well. The idea of a pop icon touring with a bunch of old Jews was novel, and it worked. But I wouldn’t do it again.

Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup) is at the Bop Stop 8 p.m. Sat., March 3. $20.

funk a deli


And please check out my essay about Cleveland real estate at Belt Mag. The essay was posted the other day.

 

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February 14, 2018   1 Comment

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