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

CANDYLAND

Snickers was my candy bar. I also had a taste for Nestle Triple Deckers. Long gone. My wife, in her youth, liked Valomilks. She bought one a few years ago at a specialty store and didn’t like it. Too sweet.

My dad was big on Planter’s Peanut and Mr. Goodbar. I used to buy a Mr. Goodbar before visiting his grave.

Canada, that’s a great candy vacation. Kit Kat, not bad.

Chunky . . . I miss the idea of Chunky. I liked the Arnold Stang Chunky commercials.

Anna Soltzberg, my grandmother, ran a candy store at 15102 Kinsman Road, Cleveland, from 1927 to 1937. Here’s some of her the inventory: Mr. Goodbar, Sensen breath mints, Boston Wafer, halvah, Coca-Cola, peanut bars, chocolate-covered cherries, Uneeda biscuits, Dentyne, Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry, and cigars such as White Owl, Dutch Master, Websters, Cinco, Murad, John Ruskin and Charles the Great Pure Havana. (I got these brands from studying a photo of her store with a magnifying glass.) Candy stores were a common first business for immigrants.

When did Snickers first come out?

[Googled.] 1930. Frank Mars named the bar after his horse.

Reese. Who was Reese?

Here’s my Sunday Plain Dealer essay about playing gigs and not playing gigs. “The gigs disappeared. Now it’s all just talk.”

Irwin Weinberger and I played a nursing home yesterday. It was our first indoor gig in front of a live audience in 14 months.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

May 12, 2021   6 Comments

HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY
TO GET RID OF YOUR BACK PAIN?

I had a part-time job dealing with my back pain. I enrolled in a three-month Cleveland Clinic program for back-pain sufferers. It was a group class. Rule #1 of the class: Nobody wants to hear about your back pain. #2: Never say “pain,” it’s “discomfort.”

To get rid of back pain, I would have paid 400K.  I would have walked down Euclid Avenue naked. I would have . . . [fill in the blank]. Philosopher Viktor Frankl said how you deal with your suffering is one way to define your life. I would have bribed and cheated — for starters.

My back-class classmates were mostly whiners (like me). One woman said she lay in bed all day, using ice packs. Another used a heating pad and lay in bed all day. The group psychologist said, “What do you do to get out of your stupor?” Classmates said they lie in bed.

After class, I met a friend for lunch and said, “What a great day. It’s sunny out.” I was just doing my cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), circumventing my usual glass-half-empty M.O.

My back doctor said, “Back pain is truly one of the medical conditions that can rate a 10 on a pain level.” I told him I was at 8. He said back pain typically went away within a year, often less. I said my pain was like a hundred cell phones vibrating in my thigh all at once. (My back pain was in my thigh. Uh.) Or a thousand red ants scurrying. I had a couple CAT scans.

A woman in my class said her mantra was “I’ve got this!” Nice mantra. When she moved out of town, I took her mantra. I meditated and tried new exercises, developing new neural pathways!

“Motion is the lotion” was a sign in the physical therapy department. A couple verbal catch phrases were “Exercise to the pain but not through the pain” and “Sore but safe.” I saw a lot of PTs.

The pain ended in 10 months. Two shots in the back helped. I think about back pain a lot. Even when I don’t have it.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

April 21, 2021   1 Comment

SAME OLD, SAME OLD JEWS

Ashkenazi Jews are the same everywhere. My Mississippi mishpocha are lawyers. My relatives in Israel are lawyers. My relatives in Arizona are lawyers. I have relatives, through marriage, in West Virginia. Some are lawyers. (By the way, West Virginia Jews request “Country Roads” at banquets; I’ve played several West Virginia Jewish Reunions at the Marriott in Charleston.)

Philip Roth wrote about New Jersey Jews. Joseph Epstein wrote about Chicago Jews. Mordecai Richler wrote about Montreal Jews. Stories populated with pickles and old guys named Herman. (By the way, there’s a Don Hermann’s Pickles in Cleveland.)

I played a wedding for a Canadian Jew and an American Jew. Under the chuppah the rabbi talked about choosing between “about” and “aboot.” That’s the big difference between an American Yid and a Canadian Yid.

Happy Passover.


Here’s an article I just wrote for City Journal. “Hanging in There.”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 24, 2021   2 Comments

GRAMPS THE RECORD PRODUCER

My grandfather owned a record label in Cleveland, like the Chess brothers’ thing in Chicago, except smaller. Gramps’ label churned out everything from Slovenian polkas to gospel. It was a labor of love. Gramps’ parnassah (livelihood), all along, was a shopping strip center he owned on Mayfield Road — the main drag in Cleveland Heights. Gramps rented to a print shop, beauty parlor, locksmith and bar. I hung around the bar in grade school for the pretzel rods.

Gramps used a storefront for his record label. The place had no sign. My grandfather said to me, “I’ve got this little curl in my tail — this little something different — this something the new treatment doesn’t cure. I’m in trouble. The doctors tell me, ‘We can’t straighten out your tail.’ You’re dead. That’s what. I’ve got one or two more records in me.”

Gramps liked a Slovenian-style polka group out of Wickliffe called Terri and the Soup Nuts, a popular all-girls band. Gramps said to me, “There are a lot of Slovenians in this town. A lot. Money will be made.”

Money was not made. Terri and the Soup Nuts didn’t sell many records. Johnny Pecon did better. Yonkee, way better.

Gramps had a soft spot for Terri and the Soup Nuts. He told me, “That stupid name sticks! Sticks like a burr.” He put a pic of the girls on the side of a CTS bus. No traction. Only one DJ ever spun the girls’ records — Tony Petkovsek, the “nationalities hour” honcho. That was limited.

At Gramps’ funeral, Terri asked to sing a hymn. An ecumenical, no-Jesus thing. Hey, Terri, no music at Jewish funerals. She handled the rabbi’s rejection well.

This is all history.

Terri and the Soup Nuts’ records and memorabilia are in storage at the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. All the musicians are dead. The building on Mayfield Road is still there. Somebody should put up a Cleveland Heights heritage plaque there, right next to Subway.

[fake profile]

 

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 17, 2021   3 Comments

BLOOD AND MONEY

My dad, Toby, admired Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-winning Vitamin-C taker. Toby was very health-conscious; he did the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises in the early 1960s. He used to jog in his underwear in the kitchen. Didn’t anybody make running shorts back then? My dad could beat me in a foot race up through my college years. Toby, in retirement, told me his best years were the Boca years: financial security and grandchildren.

Even though Toby was an exercise nut, he had lousy health. His big problem was polycythemia vera, a blood disease. He got it in his fifties. The disease kept him focused on his muni bonds and real estate investments. He wasn’t sure he’d be around the next day. He donated blood every month or two. He had to lower his red-blood count. He died in 1986, just shy of 69, from leukemia, which evolved from polycythemia vera.

My mother kept the Florida condo another 11 years after my dad died. The condo association owes my sister and me $8,160.82. That’s the golf membership dinero. The condo association has had that money since 1997. Many elderly Jews decamped from the condos (their bodies went north) in the late 1990s, and the condo association was short on cash.

Who’s playing golf at the Boca Lago Country Club these days? Is it still Jews or is it some new genre, like Latin Americans? Any cash floating around?

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 3, 2021   2 Comments

FUNERAL REPPING

When my parents spent winters in Florida, I represented them at their friends’ funerals in Cleveland. I didn’t like the work. My mother would call from Boca Raton and say, “Edith was such a good friend of ours. Please go, son.” Screw Edith.

But I went. The hardest part was the walk from my car to the shiva house. I always imagined the homeowner would open the door and say: “We don’t want any! Who are you? Have you no decency?”

It never happened that way. I was often the youngest non-relative at the shiva. I eavesdropped a lot because I didn’t know anybody. An old woman said, “When I feel sick, I want to die. Then I get better and want to live.” OK with me.

A rabbi talked about the Cleveland Browns a lot. Rabbis usually weren’t sports nuts back then, but this rav was young and a major Browns fan. A food broker said to me, “I sell Heinen’s.” What was I selling? Not sure.

My parents made me do it.


Footnote:
While shiva repping, I met a  California man who produced Joel Grey’s shows for 27 years. I said, “I’ll send you my band’s CD and you can show it to Joel. Wait, I won’t send it. Joel might sue me for ripping off Mickey Katz tunes.”

“Don’t worry,” the producer said. “Lebedeff’s people tried to hit Joel up for royalties on ‘Romania, Romania’ for years. No luck.”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 24, 2021   1 Comment

ASK ME ANYTHING

I’ve managed a lot of bands. So I know a lot about marketing, booking and touring. I won’t tell you everything I know here, but I will say this much: the key to success is publicity stunts, cameo appearances at strip joints, and surreptitious holographic projections of your band’s PR photo onto billboards at midnight.

The bands I manage make money — large money. And you’ve probably never heard of them. Most Klezmer Guy blog readers think music ended in 1975.

OK, you’ve heard of Vulfpeck. That’s because I bang on about that band so much here. I made Vulfpeck what they are today. The Vulf boys don’t know what a newspaper is, or a press release. I’m old school, they’re New School. They’re about social media. I’m about being social: Hello, my name is ____________.  I make many calls a day for Vulf. (Granted, half are to WE1-1212. More snow?)

Right now two Vulfpeck musicians are in Los Angeles, one is in Ann Arbor, and two are at a Bibibop in Carmel, Indiana. I monitor the boys’ moves and temperatures. I know how much water and booze they’ve drunk today, down to the cc.

Ask me anything. (AMA, as we say on Reddit.)

[fake profile]


Check out this op-ed I wrote last week, “Stayin’ Alive — the Covid-19-shot Hustle,” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Guitarist Irwin Weinberger at Discount Drug Mart

Guitarist Irwin Weinberger at Discount Drug Mart

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 17, 2021   4 Comments

GO BUCKS

I’m out of the pre-med game. I lost my University of  Michigan Zoo-Bot 106 frog-dissection scissors. I used the scissors for the past five decades to cut my fingernails. I took the scissors to an athletic club and lost them. The scissors said “Made in Italy” on them, in case you find them.

I bought some German scissors on Amazon the other day. Not as good. (By the way, my professor at Michigan, poet Donald Hall, said scissors is the longest word in the English language.)

There were about 30 pre-meds on my dorm floor,  and I think one or two made it to doctorhood. I took inorganic and math my freshman year, and organic and physics my sophomore year. Organic did me in.

Those dissection scissors were my main connection to the U. of Michigan. For some people, it’s football. For me, it was the scissors. Now I’m a free man.

Go Bucks.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 10, 2021   4 Comments

THIS IS BERT STRATTON

This is Bert Stratton. Is there a market for a book with that title? There’s a book This is Larry Morrow . . . My Life On and Off the Air: Stories from Four Decades in Cleveland Radio. There’s a new book by Paul Orlousky: Punched, Kicked, Spat On, and Sometimes Thanked: Memoirs of a Cleveland TV News Reporter.

Is there a market for Bert? Yes, I know I’d have to expand the title. How about This is Bert Stratton . . . Stories About Strippers, Mobsters and Klezmorim.

Every Sunday my family gathered around the piano. Neighbors stood on the sidewalk and listened. We played klezmer music, which we simply called “Jewish music” in the 1960s. Neighbors didn’t listen for too long. By age 13 I was supporting my family, playing at the Roxy Burlesque, where I saw naked women. I knew Tarzana and Morganna, who were at my bar mitzvah party at the Shaker House Motel. Nobody could top that.

I knew mobsters. An acquaintance, gangster Shondor Birns, was blown up by a car bomb on the West Side. Then Danny Greene, a fellow mobster, was blown up by a car bomb in Lyndhurst. By default I became head of the Cleveland Mob. My gangster income, plus my music, was a living. My high school grades suffered, but so what.

I have a couple questions for you. Would people in, say, Peoria, Illinois, buy a book about Cleveland mobsters, strippers and klezmer musicians? Or should I cut the part about mobsters and strippers, and go pure klez?

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 3, 2021   8 Comments

JAZZMAN IN TRAINING

Bill DeArango played guitar with Dizzy Gillespie on 52nd Street and was the music guy in Cleveland. I was at DeArango’s University Heights music store, playing charts from New Sounds in Modern Music (edited by Bugs Bower, 1949). DeArango had randomly picked the New Sounds in Modern Music book from his sheet-music rack. A kid with a horn (alto) in 1970. Back then it was all guitars and drums. I didn’t tell DeArango I had bought the New Sounds book a couple years before and knew it cold.

DeArango introduced me to Jimmy Emery, a guitar player who could pick out all the Charlie Parker solos. (Emery moved to New York three years later and went on to record with all the big names.) Emery and I had jazz to ourselves in 1970, at least among 20-year-old white kids in Cleveland.

I visited Berklee in Boston. It had no campus, just one building. The founder was Lawrence Berk. The lee in Berklee is for Lawrence’s son, Lee. Berklee — the name — reminded me of my dad’s failed foot-powder company, Lesbert Drug Co., named for my sister, Leslie, and me. Maybe not a real college — Berklee? I went home to Cleveland, then back to Ann Arbor to reactivate my authentic college life.

I was not near Jimmy Emery’s level. Emery could mimic any sound he heard, and do it quickly. I bought play-along records and got into the Michigan jazz band. Dave Brubeck’s son was in that band. I got the second alto seat by playing a blues in F, or something like that. Few kids knew how to improvise back then. Music students came from high school stage bands, not jazz bands.

I borrowed recordings of Hank Crawford, Lou Donaldson and Rufus Harley from a black Detroit kid I knew from the dorms. I went to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit to see Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and Roland Kirk. I bought how-to-play-jazz books. I read Leroi Jones for cultural background. My how-to-play-jazz books were mostly by David Baker, Indiana University. These books were boring chord patterns and scales. Not as dry as Organic Chemistry, but not a pleasure.

I eventually quit playing and dropped out of college for a few months. These days I play some Dixieland clarinet, and not too well. Hurray for klezmer!

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 20, 2021   5 Comments

YOU WANT SHINGLES WITH THAT?

I thought I had shingles again. My first shingles was when my dad died. My dad was stressed, and so was I. This time around I was stressed about a building, not even a human. I had sold an apartment building and was annoyed with the gas company. The temperature outside was zero, and a meter man was at the building with a huge wrench, threatening to turn the gas off. I didn’t even own the building. I had sold it the day before! “You have two choices,” the gas man said to me. “Turn the gas off or leave it on.” I don’t own the place!

The new owner hadn’t called in for an initial reading. The temperature was supposed to drop to – 7. “Keep it on,” I said.

I went swimming to relax. I would chase the new landlord the next day for the bill. When I finished my laps, I noticed a red streak across my stomach. Shingles again?

My wife, a registered nurse, checked out my stomach when I got home. She said I had scratched myself.

Paranoid? No. Shingles is bad.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 13, 2021   2 Comments

COLUMNY

I saw Wilma Salisbury, the former Cleveland Plain Dealer dance critic. She was a tough critic. Used to be a tough critic. She was retired, so she was simply Wilma Salisbury now. I saw PD columnist Eleanor Mallet — also retired. She was simply Eleanor now. Winsor French — a long-dead Cleveland Press columnist — used to arrive at work in a Rolls. He was independently wealthy. He went all over the world during the Depression, reporting on glamorous parties.

Have you made it through a book-length compilation of newspaper columns? I have. One book: Eric Broder’s very funny The Great Indoors. Would you read 45 Dick Feagler columns in a row? Good stuff but you might die from an overdose.

Here are some other former Cleveland columnists: Don Robertson, Alfred Lubrano, Jim Parker, Jim Neff, Mary Strassmyer, Tom Green . . . and I’m just getting started. I was once a columnist. I wrote about candy, sheepshead and the public library for Sun Newspapers. I could see both sides to everything, even sheepshead. Not a good thing for a columnist.

Terry Pluto, Plain Dealer columnist, writes about religion and sports. Pluto phones clergy and asks (my guess): “Can you tell me and my readers how to live — and preferably in three or fewer sentences. And how about them Browns!” I like Pluto on both religion and sports. It’s all coming together for Pluto, what with the Browns in the playoffs and the plague (Covid) hitting the head coach and several key players. In one religion column, Pluto quoted a rabbi who cited Pirke Avot: “The one who is wealthy is satisfied with what he has.”

I am satisfied with not writing a newspaper column.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 6, 2021   3 Comments

GOOD VIBRATIONS
FROM CALIFORNIA

How come documentaries about California musicians — Hal Blaine, the Sherman brothers — have poolside shots, but no outdoor ping-pong shots? The musicians are sunbathing poolside. Are they embarrassed to show their ping-pong moves? (The Kids Are All Right, a comedy-drama set in California, had an outdoor ping-pong table. No musicians, though.)

My father, Toby, had an old friend in Los Angeles, Irv Drooyan, who taught high school, wrote math textbooks and played outdoor ping-pong. Toby kept in touch with Irv and another Kinsman Road old-timer — Sol of San Diego. In the 1950 and 1960s, California was just an extension of Cleveland. My dad’s friends switched their first names to sound more American. Irv was Red. Sol was Al. Toby was Ted.

My introduction to outdoor ping-pong was on Red Drooyan’s patio in Woodland Hills, California, in 1962. Unforgettable because A) it was outdoors, and B) I didn’t know my dad had any friends. In Cleveland my father hung out exclusively with my mom’s friends and their husbands.

I’ve got to get back. To 1962? Cleveland? California?

To the ping-pong table. Your serve.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

December 30, 2020   5 Comments

HEROES DIE FIRST

The guys who are eight to 10 years older than you, they’re your idols. You’re not in competition with them. They’re different: wiser, polished, cooler.

Dennis Ralston died last week at 78 from brain cancer. He was on the Davis Cup team in the 1960s. I wasn’t a huge fan of him, because he was tall and I was short. Ralston was 6-2. His teammate, Chuck McKinley, was my guy, 5-8. McKinley died of brain cancer, too, at 46 in 1986. I didn’t know that until a minute ago. I don’t follow tennis that closely.

Here’s a great 1:56-minute video of McKinley playing Roy Emerson at Roxboro Middle School. Technically, Harold T. Clark Courts, Cleveland Heights, 1964:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJYmGGwwSd8

My mother bought me a ticket. She wouldn’t buy an extra one for herself or my father because tickets were expensive — $10 a day ($84 in today’s money). The setting: a 7,500-seat bleacher rig where the Roxboro running track is. The U.S. lost to Australia.

OK, you never heard of Ralston. Try Bob Dylan. I hope to outlive Dylan, born in 1941. I idolized him. I hope I don’t croak before he does. That wouldn’t be right. Heroes dies first.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

December 16, 2020   3 Comments

YOU’RE LARRY DAVID

My dentist thinks he’s Larry David. My dentist insults me every visit, shouting, “You bastard, you don’t have any cavities!” My friend Mike, a retired businessman, thinks he’s Larry David. Mike is tough on waiters when we eat out.  “What? No Pellegrino?”

I’m Larry David. I used to listen to comedy records at Harvey Pekar’s apartment. Harvey had all of Bob and Ray, Lenny Bruce, and even Arnold Stang, the actor who did the Chunky commercials. I heard everything.

My band has gigged with a couple comedians. The comics did bits on dieting and Jewish cuisine. Frum comedians did riffs on kosher food, like “We had a power outage at our house and lost $100 worth of kosher meat — two chickens and a pound of hamburger.” I could do that — if I kept kosher and could tell a joke.

One of my relatives thought he was Phil Silvers. He ruined everything at Seders with stale constipation jokes. Yiddishe Cup once did a Catskill-themed event at a nursing home. Luckily, few people in Cleveland know about the Catskills, so our stuff went over, sort of.

I’ve watched Curb Your Enthusiasm a lot lately. Reminds me of me at my worst. That’s the point, right? I’m Larry David. You’re Larry David.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

November 25, 2020   2 Comments

SAINTHOOD?

I went to the Shaker Square farmers market on Saturday just because the weather was good. I didn’t buy anything. My wife likes to buy brussels sprouts. I asked the head cheese at the farmers market: “How about if I come back here with my clarinet and play? I’ll give you the money.” I was sick of playing just for myself in my basement. He said OK.

I made $21.50 in 45 minutes. All single bills, plus two quarters. The “little guys” supported me with their Washingtons ($1s). Power to the people. I played mostly standards and campfire songs. That’s where the money is. “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “Autumn Leaves.”

Very few people actually stopped and listened. That’s the ignominy of busking. Nevertheless, I got in some clarinet practice, and an elderly lady said to me, “‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ made my day!” and a middle-aged black man said, “Nothing like live music!’

My sole regret is I didn’t hand the head cheese my band’s business card when I gave him all my dough. How’s he going to know to call me post-Covid? 

Enough. Orwell wrote: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying . . .”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

November 11, 2020   4 Comments

HEAVY VINYL

My records were heavy, and I didn’t want them. I hadn’t listened to them in about 20 years. I said to my friend Carl, “In 10 years I might not be able to physically pitch them. I’ll be sitting in my La-Z-Boy and making my kids choose between Bob Dylan and Jefferson Airplane. So I’m doing it now for my kids’ sake.”

Harvey Pekar used to rifle through my albums. The only album he ever wanted was my Charlie Parker Memorial Album, Vogue Records, England, 1956. I didn’t sell the record to Harvey because I figured if he wanted it, it must be worth something.

A record-store owner came to my house; Pete from Blue Arrow Records stopped by. This was in 2012. Pete went through my record collection a few times as I said goodbye to Aretha Live at the Fillmore West, Herbie Mann’s Memphis Underground, and some Paul Butterfield, Gary Burton, B.B. King and Mayall. I got $300 for about 100 records. Not bad. Pete didn’t care about the condition of the records. Pete said his target market — millennials — “won’t buy the reissue LPs, they want the originals like yours.”

I said, “What jumped out at you? Is there any album worth ninety percent of what you paid me?”

He said, “I like your two Fred Neil’s — Everybody’s Talkin’ and Sessions. You don’t see those often.”

“Let me take a photo, Pete, of the collection. Don’t worry, I don’t want the records back.”

I want them back now. I also want my baseball cards back, which I sold in 2007. I’m King Tut II, and I can take this stuff with me.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 16, 2020   6 Comments

SHOOT ME LATER

My friend Mike said he wouldn’t mind being shot dead at the restaurant. We were at Barrio, Cleveland Heights. Mike said, “I’ve had a good life and I don’t want to suffer.” Mike is 68. His dad is 99 and suffering.

I would mind getting shot to death. I want to see my kids get married, see a grandkid, go to more simchas, play more simchas, see more Vulfpeck shows, play more nursing-home gigs, and sit on my porch.

Nursing homes? Nursing homes are cool — the ones I’ve played at. Nobody sits in doo doo, and the residents hear quality live music. (Pre-Covid, that is. I’ve played some outdoor gigs at nursing homes this summer.) I’ve jammed with talented musicians at nursing homes. They do their schtick in one room, and I’m in another, and then I crash their gig and join them on clarinet. I just jump in. I should ask before I sit in, but sometimes I forget.

Once I busted in on a pianist playing “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” I had no idea how that tune went, but I played anyway. I apologized later. He didn’t shoot me, but maybe he wanted to.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 9, 2020   4 Comments

MORE OF A DESK GUY

In 1938, when my father graduated college, he wanted a job — any job. When I graduated college in 1973, I wanted meaningful work. Meaningful work — the expression — I first heard from Lawrence Kasdan, The Big Chill director. (By the way, The Big Chill was a total ripoff of Return of the Secaucus 7.)

I tried bricklaying. I got a joiner, mortar and a mason’s trowel. I knew a Jewish bricklayer who talked up the profession, and he showed me a few things. This was before YouTube.

My father said, “You want to work with your hands?”

It turns out, I didn’t. I’m more of a desk guy. I like to keep records. I have records on most everything. I know how long ink rollers last in my adding machine. One year, almost to the date. I wrote dates on lightbulbs. That, I’ve given up. Life is short. Life, itself, lasts . . . uh, varies.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 2, 2020   1 Comment

MY BAGEL DIET

My diet was sesame and poppy seed bagels. I thought it was a smart way to lose weight. Bialy’s Bagels in University Heights was my go-to place. My back-up was Amster’s at Cedar Center. The counter woman at Amster’s, Marilyn Weiss, volunteered for school levies and racial integration projects, and did a ton of schlep work at my shul. (She died in 2000 and Amster’s closed a few years later.)

I also shopped at Better, as in “Better Bagel,” on Taylor Road. The owners were New Yorkers who wore yarmulkes and Brooklyn Dodgers shirts. I figured they knew bagels. They didn’t. Their bagels were too doughy and not crispy enough on the outside. Better Bagel eventually changed its name to Brooklyn Bagel. No better.

I never buy bagels now. (My bagel diet didn’t work.) I hear Cleveland Bagel is pretty good. I have a friend who swears by Bruegger’s. Pathetic. I’d go back to Bialy’s if I ever go back.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 12, 2020   2 Comments