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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

Category — Miscellaneous

FOR NYT READERS

I’m a musician-landlord from Cleveland — a curiosity to New York Times editors, no doubt. Definitely not a Harvard professor. You want more real estate stories? Here’s one.  Heads-up: it’s long, but it’s my best and is the basis for my Dear Landlord memoir.mr 1939 crossroad

I post a new story to this blog every Wednesday.

The Times didn’t activate the “comments” button on “I’m Not Evil. I’m a Landlord.” If you want to comment on the piece, you can fire away here.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 11, 2016   17 Comments

THE FUNERAL STRATEGIST

I’m a funeral strategist. I advise mourners, like my wife, who occasionally gets disoriented at funerals. I don’t.

funeral strategistThe Jewish funeral parlor in Cleveland is BK Broiler (aka Berkowitz Kumin). Many funeral services are only 15 minutes. Others go way too long. It’s bad when too many relatives speak. Three relatives is plenty.  On the other hand, I once attended a funeral where nobody spoke. That was 12 minutes. The sweet spot is 25 minutes, with two to three personal eulogies.

I arrive at the funeral parlor 20 minutes before, to work the family room, where only relatives sit. I want to reminisce, catch up with friends.

A tip to eulogists, don’t say, “She enjoyed traveling in her later years.” That’s so boring. Talk about the person’s youth, instead.

BK Broiler employees wear dark suits and act polite. They never say anything off script. They say, “This ends our service here. Please go to your cars and turn on your lights.” The satin black, throw-away yarmulkes are always new, never recycled.

Why does B-K  have no windows, at least in the chapel? Are windows against Jewish law?  (Shuls must have windows, my rabbi told me.) Maybe mourners don’t want to see bums walk by.  Non-Jewish funeral parlors don’t have windows either, I’ve noticed. Think about it. Or don’t think about. It’s my job to think about it.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 2, 2016   6 Comments

NO HARD FEELINGS,
SAYS COUNCILMAN POLENSEK

Nobody out-talks Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek. He’s the quote machine. He once said, “I’m old-school Collinwood. You mess with me or my property, and I mess with you.” He called former councilman Jay Westbook a “weasel,” and former mayor Mike White a “son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch.”

Polensek, 2002

Polensek, 2002

Before Polensek was a councilman, he was a machinist at White Motors. I saw Polensek frequently in 1981 and 1982, when I was a reporter for the Sun Scoop Journal. Polensek ran for city council against Dave Trenton — a fellow incumbent Slovenian — in 1981. The city wards had been redrawn, and Polensek or Trenton was going to be out of a job. Trenton was “shanty Slovenian,” said my editor, another Slovenian.   Trenton was slightly rougher-edged than Polensek. For instance, Trenton smoked a cigar in public.

polensekThe editor endorsed Trenton, maybe because he and Trenton played softball together. The editor told me to survey the 14,000 registered voters in the ward. I talked to 75 people. Trenton received 32 votes in my poll. He had a plurality. The paper ran this headline: “Trenton called favorite in Ward 11 race.”  And the endorsement stated: “As council’s majority leader, Trenton can serve the community from a position of strength . . . [He has] invaluable connections downtown.”

But Polensek, the underdog, won! When I walked into Polensek’s victory party at the Italian Cooperative Association Hall on St. Clair Avenue, a Polensek supporter announced, “Your paper endorsed Trenton!” Another man said, “You’re in the wrong place. You’re going to eat crow when you write up your shit. You’re one of the worst writers ever! What are you doing here?” A woman, somewhat calmer than the men, said, “I don’t think you’re going to find what you’re looking for here.”

They didn’t like me. (I was a curly-haired hippie Jew from the Heights. That didn’t help.) But Polensek liked me — liked me enough. He liked media people, period. He said, “Oh well, you’re here. Like I told your boss, I knew we’d win.”  I said I would have voted for Polensek if I lived in Ward 11. Polensek wasn’t impressed. He said, “You’re disrespecting your boss.”

Polensek is still a councilman 35 years later. I ran into him a couple years ago and said, “You remember the ICA Hall,  when some of your supporters wanted to kill me?”

He was foggy on it. I wasn’t. He said, “No hard feelings.”

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 24, 2016   5 Comments

WHO YOU GOING TO BLAME?

Tom, a friend, said he got food poisoning at an upscale Mexican restaurant. But maybe he didn’t. I got food poisoning about four times, and always blamed it on Taco Bell. I once called The Bell and asked if other people had gotten sick there. Of course not, the manager said.

What about Chipotle? Who you going blame? You can’t tell your friends, “I have a non-specific 24-hour flu.”  That’s not newsworthy. Food poisoning is.

Somebody yanked a shrub from my yard. My wife wondered if I had hit it with  the car. No, I hadn’t.  Maybe one of our adult kids hit it, I said. But they weren’t even around.

Who you going to blame? Never yourself!

The snowplow guy. Blame him.

I’m thinking of Chipotle stock, but it’s still overpriced. Let’s eat there today, OK?

eating utensils

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 13, 2016   2 Comments

ACCOUNTING AND KOREAN

 A 52-second video about when my dad, Toby, told me to take a business course at Cleveland State:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q2m3Yu6I60

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

January 6, 2016   No Comments

MY BOOK TOUR

Stefan Kanfer, a biographer of Humphrey Bogart, wrote an article about the “misery called the Book Tour.” He wrote, “I had planned to have dinner at my hotel, but the plane was three hours late . . .”  [City Journal, Summer 2011.]  Also a limo driver talked too much.

book tourI can handle plane delays and limo issues. I wouldn’t mind a book tour. I would bring extra cough drops because I might strain my throat from talking so much about myself.

Where’s my book? Where’s my book?  (Friends, don’t bring up my coming-of-age lost manuscripts.)

I saw Jon Fine at a book reading recently. He wrote Your Band Sucks, a memoir about his bands that toured extensively in the 1990s. The book was about the quintessential non-famous band.

I could do that.

My limo is here!

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

December 23, 2015   3 Comments

BANK ERROR

I caught the bank in a $505 error. The bank had debited my account instead of crediting it. I said to the bank clerk, “I’ve never caught the bank in an error before. This is great!” The clerk, on the phone, didn’t react. I’ve been checking my bank balance my whole life, and it paid off at last.

My friend Carl never checks his balance. He says the bank never screws up. How would he know? My adult kids never balance their checkbooks. They laugh that I do. Stop laughing! That was a $1010 swing, kids (-$505 instead of +$505).

bank error

————

I wrote “Punk rock guitarist versus the St. Edward High band” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer Friday (11/27/15). About noise wars.

st eds marching_band

St Edward High marching band

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

December 2, 2015   4 Comments

HALF A JEWISH TOUR

lolly gagExploring Jewish Cleveland
1850 – 1950

Tuesday, September 20 • 9:30 – 3:30
$30 JCC Members; $40 Non-members
Registration deadline: September 15
Code: 6316
Meet by the Mandel JCC front entrance

lolly gag

I bailed from the tour halfway through (at Liberty Hill Baptist Church, formerly Euclid Avenue Temple). I was on the bus for four hours, and the tour had three more hours to go, according to the guide. I can do local Jewish history but not seven hours. I missed Kinsman and Glenville. I caught the Central neighborhood portion. James A. Garfield (not Jewish) and Mickey Katz graduated from Central High.

I’d like two half-day tours of Jewish Cleveland.

Here’s “Homeboy,” about growing up in Cleveland and never leaving. From City Journal. L’shana tova.

kid from cleveland

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

September 9, 2015   1 Comment

I REMEMBER (PART 2)

I remember PSSC Physics. (Physical Science Study Committee.)

I remember Tarzana at the Roxy.

I remember “Java” by Al Hirt.

I remember Norm Cash. (I don’t know many names shorter than “Norm Cash.” There’s Joe Dart, the bassist in Vulfpeck, and Al Gray, the Cleveland philanthropist. How about Hy Fox? Who’s he?)

Joe Dart

Joe Dart

I remember the U.N. Flag Game.

I remember Special Hebrew.

I remember my Confirmation party at the Hospitality Inn in Willoughby. Why did my parents pick that place? Because it was close to where my dad worked and my parents got a deal on it.

I remember Hitler on German stamps.

I remember God — Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.

Rabbi Abba Hillel SIlver

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver

I remember William E. Miller.

william e miller

William E. Miller

I remember an Olds 98 with electric windows. (Belonged to a friend’s father.)

I remember the “collegiate” look: V-neck sweater — preferably cranberry — with Levi’s and penny loafers.

I remember Larry Zeidel, a Jew who played for the Cleveland Barons (hockey). Also, forward Art Stratton — not a Jew.

Larry Zeidel

Larry Zeidel

I remember my SAT scores, which I’m not going to tell. However, I will mention Steinman’s scores: 487 Verbal, 789 Math. He became a successful CPA who never read a book.

I remember my dorm floor was the “dope floor.”  (The other guys were the dopers.)

I remember “Rap-in Tonight, Lounge, SDS.” Also had rap-ins with Peanuts’ Charles Schulz (via telephone), Madalyn Murray the atheist (phone), Gen. Curtis LeMay (phone), and the Campus Crusade for Christ (in person).

I remember “Let’s split.” I’m splitting.

Click here for more “I Remember” (a rerun).

——-

Steinman is a pseudonym.

Yiddishe Cup plays on the lawn at John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio, 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 13. Free. And don’t forget, free ice cream. Indoors if raining.

Big Ten cone

Big Ten cone

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

August 5, 2015   7 Comments

BANK HASSLE No. 100

I got a certified letter saying Yiddishe Cup’s checking account was terminated.

Shutting me down after 19 years? For what?

“Due to continuing regulatory requirements associated with the corresponding bank account, Huntington Bank is closing all checking and saving accounts in the name of YIDDISHE CUP KLEZMER BANK.”

How would my bandmates get paid? Should I move my checking account to PNC? I can’t go to a place that is initials. CVS is bad enough (for aspirin).

I went to the Huntington branch and talked to a senior banker, Dave. I thought he was the head cheese. Dave read my certified letter and sent me over to Sam, the real senior banker, who had a secluded office in the rear of the bank.

Sam was black. I said to him, “I got to tell you, I remember it like yesterday, I started this account and the banker was Ervin Mason, a black guy in his twenties, and he knew what klezmer was. He had heard of Don Byron. Do you know what klezmer is?”

“No,” Sam said.

“Erv knew! Let’s call him right now and see if he remembers me. Is he still at Huntington?” (Sam checked. Erv was gone.) “Back then,” I said, “Huntington misprinted my checks as Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank. I kept the Bank as a joke. So maybe that has something to do with this mix up. ”

check BEST2

Sam then called Jared, a commercial portfolio manager in Columbus. Jared said Yiddishe Cup was listed as a “financial institution.”  “That’s the problem,” Sam said. “We thought you were a bank. You’d have more money in your account if you were a real bank!”

“True.”

“We got that squared,” Sam said.

I hope so.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 29, 2015   4 Comments

I AM NOT A SLAVE

I am not a slave to my possessions. I don’t collect. You can have anything I have. (Exception: my Sharpie retractable markers.) A Yiddishe Cup musician once told he looks forward to his next purchase. He’s so off-base!

Take my stemware, please.  Crystalware means nothing to me. (I’m hostile toward glass because my mother made me “dry” too often.) I accidentally broke a glass at a dinner party while cleaning up. My wife said I should pay the host $30 for the glass. No way!

stemware  broken glass

This card also is important to me (and you can’t have it):

maris baseball card 2

Maris 1958.

Anything else is yours.

One more thing, you can’t have my musical instruments. (And I reserve the right to revise this list.)

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

July 22, 2015   5 Comments

FOR NY TIMES READERS ONLY!

Here’s a popular Vulfpeck video. Jack is the guitarist in the red-and-white striped shirt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRHQPG1xd9o

Here’s the Vulfpeck Website.

Here’s Vulf’s Facebook page (with concert dates).

The new Apple iPhone 6 commercial, with Vulfpeck’s tune “The Birdwatcher,” is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwaV1pIJyZU

Nobody — and that includes the New York Times — covers the klezmer/landlord scene like this blog. Please subscribe.  (See right-hand column.)

Lastly, a father-son moment . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brxD5qHu51c

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

June 12, 2015   6 Comments

CARMA

My son Ted parked his car at the Brookpark RTA lot and flew to Las Vegas. The RTA lot was cheaper than the airport lot. My son didn’t come back. I thought he was going on a vacation, but he got a job in Las Vegas and stayed for a while.

My son’s Ford Focus, a 2007, sat in the Brookpark lot for two months, until my wife, Alice, and I loaded our car with jumper cables and a generator air pump and drove to the RTA lot, which is next to Ford Engine Plant #1 and a couple strip bars.

I said to Alice, “Ted’s car is technically in Brook Park, not Cleveland. That’s good. If the car has been towed or stolen, we can deal with Brook Park red tape better than Cleveland red tape.”

But the car wasn’t towed or stolen. It was there. The doors were unlocked, and the tires were low, and there was a bottle of bourbon in the backseat.

The next day I drove Ted’s car to the Lusty Wrench in Cleveland Heights. Sam Bell, the repair-shop owner, said, “The car is basically in good shape, with 89,000 miles.  The battery will not make it, and as you know the side-view mirror is taped on.  But the tape actually is not a bad solution. The rear tires are round, black and hold air.” The car was serviceable, he proclaimed.

What I want to know, Is Greater Cleveland really this safe? I need more data. Please park your car for two months at a Rapid stop and tell me.


This post first appeared at CoolCleveland.com 5/15/13.

—–
SIDE B

Here’s something new . . .

RECALCULATING

You dislike yourself for several very good reasons:

    • You fist-bump too much. That is so childish. Shake hands!
    • You have tiny cracks in your fingers that irritate others. Try fist-bumping.
    • You are not 25, so act your age.
    • Your sexuality is questionable.
    • Cut back on the Facebook postings. Three a day is
      too many.
    • Don’t be so jittery.
    • Move to a log cabin. Or else go to an airport lounge with your laptop and iPhone, and live there for a week.
    • Doodle more.
    • Recalculating . . . ignore this.

doodle

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

May 13, 2015   3 Comments

HOW LONG DO THINGS LAST?

Always mark the date. Here is what I’ve learned from marking dates:

Jogging shoes last 6 months.

Bathing suits, 3 years.

Eyeglasses, 6 years.

Stoves, 25 years.

Dishwashers, 18 years (a good dishwasher). [Dang, my 5-year-old KitchenAid — a good brand — is out cold today. Won’t start.]

Refrigerators — a good one, 25 years. (Frigidaire brand, 10 years.)

how long things lastLeather gloves from Sam’s Store, Ann Arbor, 2 years.

Battery for a Shark vacuum cleaner, 8 months.

Screw-in fluorescent bulbs. They do not last anywhere near the claimed 5-to-7 years. Try 2 years.

I had a Hardwick gas stove at a rental property for 36 years. The stove was made in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1974, junked in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010. The broiler door fell apart. The stove top still worked.

P.S. I have information on the “useful life” of condensate pumps, hot water tanks and boilers, too. Spare me, you say. OK.

Irwin Weinberger and I play at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights, 7-9 p.m. next Wed.,May 13. Be there! We’ll play jazz standards and some klezmer.

IR & B  B&W poster

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

May 6, 2015   7 Comments

I’M NOT A CROOK

In a country-club locker room, an old man asked me, “How was it?”

“How was what? I survived — whatever it was,” I said.

“Good! What’s your field, chap?”

“My field? Real estate and writing.” For some reason I didn’t say music.

“I bet you like the writing best.”

“You got that right. My name is Bert Stratton. What’s yours?”

“Tom Stratton-Crooke.”

“We’re relatives,” I said.

“I could tell by the cut of your jib.”

“What’s your field?” I asked.

“Steamships.”

“Steamships?”

“Where did you go to school?” he asked.

College? Michigan.”

“Ann Arbor?”

“Yes. What about you?”

“King’s Point, the Merchant Marine Academy. Then NYU. I was in Japan and Korea, and Iran, and then throughout the Middle East. The colonel like my loquacious manner.”

I turned to go. “Nice meeting you, Mr. Stratton-Crooke.”

“Likewise.”

“I’m Stratton, but I’m not a crook,” I said.

“Neither am I.”

stratton crooke

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

April 29, 2015   5 Comments

THE RUSSIANS WERE COMING

1.
I met
Yury, a Russian, only four days after he landed in Cleveland.  I met him at a park bench, 1990.  I sold him my 1978 Buick Regal for $500, and I suggested he change his name from Yury to Yuri.  Yury would be a hindrance to his assimilation, I said.  Yuri — as in “Yuri Gagarin” — worked better, at least for me.

Yury is now an engineer and lives in Beachwood.  Still with the y, 25 years later.

Yury lived in a subsidized apartment two blocks from my house. I helped him light the burners on his stove and lent him an old TV.  When he got the Buick Regal, I told him to check it out with the Russian mechanic down on Mayfield Road.  Yury said, “I do not trust Russians.”

2.
Yiddishe Cup had a Russian drummer, Misha from Tashkent.  He was “the stinger man” because he put a stinger (a klezmer ending) on every tune. Which was annoying.  I went to Misha’s mother’s funeral — the smallest funeral of all time. There were maybe 10 people at the funeral home.  I can’t imagine what that woman lived through, what with the Nazis and Communists.  Misha was a pro drummer. That’s all he did in the Soviet Union.  Shelly Manne came through Tashkent in the 1950s and left a lot of drumsticks behind, which everybody prized.  (Might have been Buddy Rich.  I’m not sure now.)

Misha used to hit his wife and daughter, and admit it.  Misha would say, “Here the police listen to the children. In Russian, the parents.”

Misha moved to Boston to drive a cab.

3.
Moishe, the owner of Davis Caterers, said food at Russian gigs is “out of control.”  He said, “The Russians eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at once. Fish and cold cuts. Then soup. Then blintzes. Then prime and salmon and desserts. Plus vodka.”

Yiddishe Cup played a few Russian weddings, but not lately.  I miss the food.  Russian immigrant musicians cornered the Russian wedding market.  Immigrant musicians know what the crowd wants and it’s not us.  Yiddishe Cup’s Russian skill-set is  “7-40,” “Hava Nagila,” and some waltzes like “Ershter Waltz” and “Tumbalalaika.”   Also, anything from Fiddler on the Roof  is a winner.

What if my grandparents hadn’t left Russia?

4.
Yiddishe Cup had a second Russian drummer, Vladimir, who forgot his sticks and used dowel rods fashioned from a windowshade. That was his only gig with us.

russians

5.
Irwin Weinberger and I occasionally play gigs at a Russian senior drop-in center.  The Russians seem to like us.   We’ve learned “Kalinka” and “Katyusha.”

6.
Russians, they remind me of what I could have been: dead (via Nazis, etc.) or a bigger partier.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

March 11, 2015   6 Comments

SKI CAP TREATISE

ski caps

If you need to lose something, lose a ski cap.

I retraced my steps on Taylor Road, looking for my ski cap.  Nobody picks up a used ski cap.  But somebody did.

My wife lost a ski cap the day before.

I like ski caps to be almost weightless.  I lost a lightweight ski cap on Taylor Road.

My next ski cap will be a bright color, in case I drop it in the snow again.  The biggest problem with a dropped ski cap: it makes no noise.


This one is longer: “Harvard and Cleveland” for Belt Magazine about my Harvard connections.

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Locals, Nighttown tonight (7 p.m. Feb. 25) for the Schmotown Revue by the Klezmer Guy Trio.  This happens about every two years, so don’t miss this show.  $10.  216-795-0550.  Social commentary and plumbing tips, plus klezmer, soul and jazz standards.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 25, 2015   6 Comments

MACHERS ON THE ROOF

Howard Metzenbaum was the big name in my father’s generation.  Metzenbaum made millions in parking lots, and eventually became a U.S. senator.  My father and Metzenbaum were born the same year, 1917, in Cleveland.  My dad didn’t know Metzenbaum but enjoyed following his career.

Metzenbaum, in his later years, owned a condo at Three Village, the holy of holies for upscale living in Cleveland.  The building went up in 1978 near Cedar Road at I-271.  The Three Village condo development was wooded and secluded.  My parents lived nearby, at the Mark IV apartments (now called the Hamptons).  I don’t know why my mother went to apartment living from a colonial in South Euclid.  She was a gardener, and then suddenly she was  doing tomatoes in pots on her Mark IV balcony.  My parents liked brand-new housing; they weren’t keen on used.  Everything had to be shiny and new, maybe because they grew up in poverty.

Across from the Mark IV was Acacia on the Green — a step up, rent- and prestige-wise.  Next to Acacia was Sherri Park, a step down.  Across from Sherri Park was Point East, a step up from Acacia but down from Three Village.  These buildings all went up in the 1970s and were popular with my parents’ generation.

three village

My parents never went inside Metzenbaum’s building.  I did.  I visited a friend who bought a condo in Three Village.  Metzenbaum was long gone — dead as of 2008 — and this was 2014.  The building’s buzzer directory read Maltz, Mandel, Ratner, Risman, Weinberger and Wuliger (among others).  Some of the condos were 7,500 square feet.

Maltz, Mandel, Ratner . . . Maybe you have to be an old Cleveland Jew to appreciate that.  If you’re not an old Cleveland Jew, and have read this far, please explain.

Buzz.  Come in.

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

The Klezmer Guy Trio performs at Nighttown, 7 p.m. Wed., Feb. 25.  An evening of social commentary, plumbing tips and music. $10. 216-795-0550.   Alan Douglass, piano and vocals.  Tamar Gray, vocals.  Klezmer, soul and standards.  I’ll do prose blurts and play clarinet. 

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 11, 2015   7 Comments

BUSKING IN NEW ORLEANS

Trumpeter Kenny Terry and his band played for tourists on Jackson Square in New Orleans.  I went back to my hotel room, got my axe, and — heads-up, Kenny — here I come!

Kenny Terry, trumpet, 2014

Kenny Terry, trumpet, 2014

Kenny Terry said, “Where you from, Kansas?”  Then he announced to the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special guest from . . . Cleveland!”   We did a Bb blues.  I managed, but I didn’t project; I had a thin sound, at least for outdoors.  Kenny said to me, “You got to play with some balls!”  That hurt.  I said, “I have this cheap plastic reed!”

The word in New Orleans is, If you’re loud, you’re loved. (Phil Frazier, Rebirth.)

Kenny Terry called “What a Wonderful World” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” — tunes I actually knew.  A man danced with me.  (I kept playing.)  He was Dr. Love, a street performer.  No, I don’t have a video or pic of any of this.  The photo above is from the internet.  My wife and family were off somewhere.  But I do have a video of me playing with a gospel singer down the street:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr1taF3VUps&list=UUMIAlYOHXWO_vc59jAbIuVA

New Orleans was like KlezKamp, except it was trad jazz and funky brass bands everywhere.  I saw four terrific clarinetists in two blocks.  One was Doreen Ketchens.  I said to her, “I saw you on Treme in the airport scene.  I told my wife you weren’t playing in that.”  Doreen said she was playing.  I said, “The main actor — the trombone player — wasn’t playing.  He’s from The Wire.”  Doreen explained that a real trombonist played the music off-camera while the actor faked it.

By Central Grocery, New Orleans, clarinetist Ricky Paulin played, and even asked my musician son, Jack, to sit in on tambourine (after my prompting).  My son said no thanks. When is Jack going to learn?   Ricky Paulin’s dad played with Kid Ory, Jack!  I’m not afraid to talk to musicians.  That’s the thing about musicians, they’re all approachable.*

*Exception: Miles Davis.

Other busking stories are “Playing Rome” (9/3/14) and “Down on the Corner”  (5/5/10).  “Busking” is an American English word now.  Everybody in New Orleans uses it.


Also, please check out “Live, From the Nursing Home,” my op-ed in the New York Times (Monday, Feb. 2).  Illustration by Joao Fazenda:

nyt ill by joao fizenda  2_215

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 4, 2015   6 Comments

FOR NY TIMES READERS ONLY!

 

Welcome, New York Times readers.

This blog is primarily an amusing word pile, with illustrations by Ralph Solonitz.  There are also videos and the occasional Yiddishe Cup tune.  No recipes!

The Times has published six of my op-eds lately.

bad gigMost of my stuff is about music and real estate.  But here’s one more about nursing homes — about when I almost got the hook at a nursing-home gig.  Click Bad Gig.

Here’s a previous NYT op-ed about my mom: “Love and Junk Food.”

If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll get a fresh post every Wednesday morning.  (Sign up in the right-hand column.)

My band, Yiddishe Cup, plays all over.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’ve played in 19 states and Canada.  Missouri plus Kansas, six times.  What?

This month some of us are doing shows in Cleveland Heights.  Convenient for us.  How about for you?  Where do you live?  Seriously, write in.  The person who lives the furthest from Cleveland wins an award.  Not sure what.


FEBRUARY SCHEDULE
Gigi’s,  7 p.m. tomorrow (Tues. Feb. 3), Cleveland Hts.
Bert Stratton & Irwin Weinberger play standards and klezmer.

Nighttown,  7 p.m.Wed., Feb 25, Cleveland Hts.
An evening of social commentary, plumbing tips and music.
Klezmer Guy Trio (Tamar Gray, Alan Douglass and Bert.)  Prose, standards, Motown and klezmer.

Lastly, here’s a post about Yiddishe Cup’s show in New York City, in keeping with the thank-you-NYT theme . . .

HICK YIDS BLOW NY LIDS

Yiddishe Cup played New York. We rented a van at LaGuardia Airport and drove to a hotel in Elmhurst, Queens, which was like Cleveland except a lot more Asians. The hotel was between a transmission shop and a Burger King.

hotel-dreck1

New York, New York

We played the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.  Who knows why. Maybe we got the gig because no East Coast band was doing klezmer comedy like us.

In Brooklyn — on our way to the gig — I saw a fender bender. The driver called out, “Would you be a witness?”

“No, I’m from Ohio,” I said.

My musician buddies wondered: Why the schmuck-itude and the ‘I’m from Ohio’?

Here’s why:  I was daydreaming about our imminent “Midwest Yids Blow NY Lids” headline in the New York Post.  Maybe a Post reporter was hiding in our van to write us up.  Also, I was preoccupied with not denting our ride — a 15-passenger rental van.  I was weaving through very dense borough traffic, and the last thing I wanted, right before showtime, was to talk about dents with cops and witnesses.

We did Catskill comedy tunes at the concert. The audience — primarily AKs — loved us.  I thought we were going to play for young people.  Aren’t there a lot of young people in Brooklyn?  Yes.  But they were not at our show.  And no reporter showed up, even though a New York Jewish Week critic had written: “Yiddishe Cup is a band that was made for a hip Jewish New York audience.  It’s a wildly funny amalgam of Mickey Katz, Spike Jones, PDQ Bach and straight-ahead klezmer.”

yc-in-nyc-jewish-week-4_21_061

“Think of that — American Jews who have never been to Brooklyn.” — New York Jewish Week

The crowd was mostly elderly Flatbush residents.  I brought out some 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cards and gave the audience a quiz:

What was Duke Snider’s real first name?

pee-wee-reese-1957What was Pee Wee Reese’s real first name?

What was Al Walker’s nickname?

The audience got every answer right.  One man even guessed Duke Snider’s height correctly (6-1). [Answers: Edwin Snider, Harold Reese, Dixie Walker.]

I talked about Cleveland.  I told the crowd I had gone to high school with Eric Carmen of the Raspberries.  That’s what New Yorkers wanted to hear — who I went to high school with. New Yorkers like to say “I went to Sheepshead Bay with Larry David” or “I went to Eramus with Sedaka.”  If they don’t say that often, they feel like Midwesterners.

We did  New York our way. Next stop, Columbus, Ohio.


Listen here to the comedy tunes we played in New York.

This post, “Hick Yids Blow NY Lids,” originally ran 5/4/11.  The Brooklyn concert was in 2006.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

February 1, 2015   6 Comments