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

RUST BELT CHIC ENOUGH?

I wasn’t in Rust Belt Chic –The Cleveland Anthology. An oversight. I’m Rust Belt chic. I’ve lived in Cleveland all my life and I use Rust-Oleum (a local brand) on fire escapes. A tenant fell on a fire escape because it was rainy and slippery, and he complained because we use good paint.

I’m not total lunch bucket like Pulitzer Prize columnist Connie Schultz, whose dad worked at the CEI plant in Ashtabula, or Rust Belt Chic co-editor Richey Piiparinen, whose dad was a Cleveland cop who got run over on the way home from an Indians game.

I told Richey I liked the anthology even though I wasn’t in it. I said, “I like it and I’m not even into the Browns-booze-and-broads thing.”

He said, “That’s good — ‘Browns, booze and broads.’”

1) The Browns. I’ve been to about five Browns games. One was the championship game in 1964. I’m good to go.

2) The Indians. I’ve been to about a game a year. Believe it or not, I’ve seen three no-hitters: Stieb, Bosman and Siebert. I’m good to go, again.

3) Booze. I’ve had very few Great Lakes Christmas Ales. No more than 10. But I’m 100 percent behind Great Lakes Brewing and heavy drinking.

4) Broads. I met a couple at the Last Moving Picture Company in 1976 who are probably dead by now from too much beer. (Pong, the video game, was big then.)

rust belt chic

David Giffels in his essay “The Lake Effect” wrote, “There was never any color in the 30 miles of sky between Akron and Cleveland. It was a masterpiece of monochrome.”

I see color in the sky all the time. I see blue right now, believe it or not. I’m too upbeat for Rust Belt Chic.

Go Tribe! And keep the Wahoo logo!

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April 18, 2018   4 Comments

WHAT DOES HATE MEAN?

I hired Sabina’s husband, not her. She was not into shoveling snow, cutting grass, or climbing ladders. She was a Russian Lit major from Russia. But then her husband deserted her, and I was stuck with just her.

When I asked a tenant how Sabina was doing, he said, “I hate her.”

mower crew“Do you hate me, too?” I said, trying to establish a baseline on what hate meant. He said I was OK, but “Sabina doesn’t clean, she has her young kids cutting the grass, and she doesn’t tell us anything — when anything is going to get fixed.”

I fired her. Then I rehired her because she said she couldn’t feed her kids. Eventually she found a boyfriend in Avon Lake and moved out. I owe that guy.

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April 11, 2018   1 Comment

TRUCKIN’

My cousin Marc had a GMC tractor-trailer, which he parked in the May Co. lot in University Heights. Marc was possibly the only Jewish long-distance trucker in the Heights in the 1970s. In 1975 Marc borrowed a few thousand dollars from my father for the truck. Marc had a contract with International Truck of Rock, Minnesota. Ultimately, Marc moved to Pennsylvania and never repaid my dad.

truckn

In high school Marc had been a J.D., stealing hubcaps. Hubcaps from Shaker Heights. Class. When Marc’s mother (my dad’s sister) heard Marc hadn’t repaid my dad, she made payments, but never fully repaid the loan. My father’s attitude was “win some, lose some” with family.

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April 4, 2018   3 Comments

LET BERT DO IT

My mother, 82, owns 25 rental units in Cleveland Heights. She wants me to collect rents. I’m reluctant. She hides apartment keys for me everywhere and says, “Now this key is to that room, which is next to this door. Turn right, and reach your hand around the corner and it’s on this ledge.” I write it all down. My sister lives in Florida. It’s all on me.

The other day I bumped into Bert Stratton, the klezmer guy. How long has his band been around? They should hang up the Havdalah candle. Bert asks me the same thing every time: “What are you going to do when your mother dies?”

I tell him I’ll sell the stupid houses the minute she dies. He says real estate is solid parnassah, which means livelihood in Yiddish. Bert likes to sling Yiddish. Sling this, Bert: Va fangool! Bert, you manage the houses after my mom dies.

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March 28, 2018   4 Comments

HALIBUT WAS CHEAP THEN

For Clevelanders only, don’t forget to click the City Journal link at the end of this post.

When my mother died, we stored her furniture in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side. The furniture sat there for five years until my older son, Teddy, took the stuff and went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed but usable.

When I visited Teddy at law school and saw my mom’s furniture again, I had full-color flashbacks. Seeing that yellow kitchen table in play again was mildly disturbing. I had eaten at that table for my first 18 years, and now it was in student-housing in Toledo. It was Formica. It was worth something.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In high school I was laconic at that table. I didn’t talk. My dad didn’t talk much either. My whole family didn’t talk much. We didn’t watch TV at dinner, either. We ate a lot of fish. Halibut was cheap then.

Here’s one I wrote for City Journal about snow. Just came out. “Gettin’ My Snow Belt On.”

super woman

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March 21, 2018   2 Comments

WHAT’S THE TEMPERATURE?

Cleveland is a great place to raise a family. It has wonderful cultural attractions, but I couldn’t take the place anymore. I couldn’t take the weather. When I wrecked my knee, I couldn’t even ski.

screw upI’m a member of Wandering Jews here, a group at my temple. We go up into the mountains and pray once a month. I never could stand the glitzy mega-temples in Cleveland.

My friends back home expected me to die in Cleveland. No thanks.

Please don’t be mad at me for leaving. Visit me, and we’ll sit on my patio and listen to the birds.

By the way, what’s the temperature in Cleve today?

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March 14, 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

I HAVEN’T THOUGHT ABOUT
HIGH SCHOOL IN SECONDS

Mike, a high school buddy, found me on the internet and emailed me. He added a postscript: “I haven’t thought about high school in decades!” He recollected a few old high school names.

I haven’t thought about high school in decades. Was he bragging? Like “I’ve moved on.”

I think about high school fairly often. I even think about grade school and pre-school — which is bad, because I didn’t even go to pre-school.

News: “Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety” — New York Times, 7/9/13, John Tierney. I sometimes go to reunions that aren’t mine (though I’m not going to my wife’s next reunion. Can’t take it.) I was at the 50th Cleveland Heights High reunion about ten years ago. I was playing a gig in the same building and went to the reunion to see what I had to look forward to.

I wish teachers were invited to reunions. My 12th-grade English teacher, Mr. Hill, used to walk his dog by my house in the 1990s. One day I got up the nerve to say hi. He didn’t remember me. “I had so many students!” he said.

Bert Stratton, 1967. (My wife's favorite photo of me.) Brush High.

Bert Stratton, 1967. Brush High tennis team

I should call my old friend Dennis. Just called.

He said he’s not coming in from Philly for the 50th reunion. I should call Howard, who is in New York. We occasionally vacation together and analyze our high school days . We talk about the Jewish “Tiger Mom” ethos of our youth, and how it no longer exists —  both our youth and the Jewish “Tiger Mom” ethos. Howard has concocted two classifications for the Jews of Cleveland, circa 1965: 1.) Racetrack Jews (gamblers /working class) 2.) Refined Jews (sheyne, college-educated Jews). My family was a bit of both. We read the Cleveland Press. Howard’s dad bought the Sunday Times.

I haven’t been back to my high school in decades. It’s off my flow chart, even though it’s only 5 1/2 miles from my house. If I went into Charles F. Brush High, I would probably feel very young or very old. I think “very old” would win. Not worth it.

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January 24, 2018   6 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

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

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 ago. 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