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.




I interviewed for a position on the library board.

I like to read, and I know two people who have been on the board and liked it.

I wondered, “Will the school board ask me what books I’m reading?” (The school board oversees the library board.)

In 1967 at Johns Hopkins’ admissions office, I talked about my Holocaust reading. The Holocaust wasn’t yet the “Holocaust.”  I made a good impression in Baltimore, I think. (I was pre-med.)

Re: the library board interview. I recently read How Music Works by David Byrne and Shit my Dad Says by Justin Halpern. I have also read to page 100 in Malamud’s A New Life, a novel about a college instructor. For the first fifty pages, I was interested in the goings-on of a 1950s college English department. Then less so.

Nevertheless, “I’m reading Malamud” might be the ticket.

The members of the school board sat on a dais at the board of education building, and I took the “witness stand” in the center of the room. Only three school board members — out of five — showed up. One MIA board member was a playwright; the other, a guy from my synagogue. My A-team was absent!

Question 1: How would you make the library better for students?

Students?  They are the species who play computer games and horse around in the teen room? I’ve been in that room, like, never. “I would maintain the library as a first-class multicultural, multimedia center,” I said.

Question 2: What do you do at the library besides take out books?

Not much! “I was at the dedication of the Harvey Pekar statue,” I said.

Question 3: What would you do to help the library’s finances?

“I vote for the levies.” What about Malamud?

Question 4: Are you willing to commit to a seven-year position?

“Yes, but actuarially speaking, who knows.”

A chemist beat me out for the job. In an email, the library director thanked me for applying and encouraged me to apply again.

First I need to walk through the teen room and get a better feel for the young adults’ needs. I’ll do that right after I finish Malamud’s A New Life.

Side B


I got a call from Oo (rhymes with “boo”), looking to open an Asian food market.

I said, “How do you spell that?”

“O, O.”

“O, O, 7?”

“Yes.  Hah-hah.”

“Is Oo your first name.”

“No, that’s Kyawswar.”

“You Chinese?”

“No, I’m from Burma.”

“Close enough,” I said.

“Yes, very close.”

“Is this going to be an American mini-market or an Asian market?” I said. “I don’t want 40-ounce malt liquor and cigarettes.”

“Asian market, sir.  Our people like rice, the vegetables, avocados.  Maybe cigarettes. The high school boys from the school [across the street] buy the fruit juices.”

Oo rented the store. He’s  industrious.  He owns two sushi stands at Giant Eagles.  That’s not all . . .

I told my wife, “Oo had a nail salon.”

“Who?” she said.


Footnote: Consider “U Thant,” the former UN secretary general from Burma. Thanks to Ted Stratton for this  U/Oo connection.

Byliner chose my essay “The Landlord’s Tale” (City Journal) as one of the top 102 nonfiction journalism pieces  of 2012.  Read the essay here.

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1 Mark Schilling { 01.30.13 at 9:19 am }

Oo’s on first. I don’t know enough Burmese names to say who’s on second and third. The poor guy would probably rather wade through a land-mined rice paddy back home than hear another wisecrack like the one above (and wonder why “Oo’s on first” is supposed to be funny). Good on you for giving him his shot at the American Dream.

2 B Katz { 01.30.13 at 10:08 am }

Our last renters were Burmese. The guy’s name was Moo. They moved out so that their kids could get into a better school. As renters, they were hardly ever a problem. Moo knew a Hispanic guy named Jesus who could do electrical and plumbing. He asked me if it was ok if Jesus did some of the stuff for the house. I said, “Moo, I think he probably pronounces his name ‘Hey-sus’ instead of Jesus.”

Moo said later that when he asked him, Hey-sus told Moo calling him Jesus was fine.

After they left, we had to get all of Jesus’ work redone. Our next renters, from Buffalo, weren’t happy with the quality even though Moo thought it was fine.

3 Ken Goldberg { 01.30.13 at 1:00 pm }

I think the time I most seriously considered applying for the Library Board opening was when Lillian wanted to apply, thus that was that.

I might have some of the credentials they’d want “on paper,” but I can’t imagine wanting to do it. All I can think of is very long and very boring meetings – hours and hours every year with topics such as purchase details, maintenance details, etc., etc. Not interesting!!

Even thinking of seven years would also be ridiculous for me. And most of it not real, professional librarianship.

I don’t care for that sort of questioning, either. I used to go through that with County Library openings. Landmark Commission – exactly my sort of thing – perfect fit. Also Trustee for CH Historical Society, etc. Again – perfect fit.
I actually now frequently use the computers in the Teen room, btw. Not too bad, usually.

I might check out your Oriental store. I really, really, like the Oriental supermarkets (now four in AsiaTown) – here and elsewhere. And, of course, I love Asian bakeries.

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