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 — Fake Profiles


I envy you. Don’t gloat over that. I envy a lot of people. For instance, I envy the patients at the Cleveland Clinic. They are among the 1,700 sickest people in the world. The Clinic is the 4th-best hospital in the country, according to US News & World Report. I envy that #4 ranking.

I wore a white lab coat to the Cleveland Clinic and walked the halls . . .

Desk H-70, Pain Management. The patients there don’t know about real pain. My car has static at 91.5 FM, the jazz station. That is pain.

G-50 Dermatology. The doc took full-body naked pics of me. She’s sick.

C-20, Palliative Care. People are dying but look pretty good. I take drugs and don’t look as good as these folks.

I-20, Eye Clinic. Floaters to my left, floaters to my right. I told the gate attendant at the eye-clinic parking lot, “You’ve got the most dangerous job in the world because half the people coming out of here are blind.”

He said, “Don’t you know it. This is the third time we’ve fixed the turnstile this month.”

I envy that man — the car crashes he must see.

NV-50, Envy Clinic. I’m here for a month.


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January 31, 2024   1 Comment


Charlie Chaplin brings tears to my eyes. And I adore ’Trane and Beethoven. T.S. Eliot — yeah, I know he wasn’t thrilled about Jews, but who can deny him and his line “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.”

Yes, reality “blows” — as we used to say in junior high. For instance, I need to check with a welder right now. He’s supposed to pick up some ribbon sheets for a fire-escape repair job. That certainly blows. Fire escapes — they need to be painted almost every year in Cleveland, or they rust out. Don’t put salt on fire escapes. Calcium chloride is OK, but no salt.

I once was vainer, younger, shallower and more facetious. Now I’m all that, and older. I wake up, eat a bowl of prunes, brush my teeth and think about getting elevator shoes. A couple inches might change my life.

I’m all in on the slogan “Drive away loshn hora,” which is Jewish-talk for “Don’t repeat gossip.” I’ve got to work on that.

I don’t like ferrets. Who does? I know a ferret named Bubbles. I’m going to kill him. OK, indict me. And put me in jail for this, too: Anglophilia, Jewmania and prickliness. I loved The Crown, except the last part.

Are you Jewish? I spend a couple minutes a year discussing whether Brubeck was Jewish or not. And I spend a minute a decade on whether Chaplin was Jewish. (Chaplin and Brubeck weren’t.)

Yesterday I cut off a man at Dave’s supermarket, Shaker Square, and he went ballistic. It could have been a racial thing. I was the only white guy around. Or maybe I was simply a jerk. My cart was in front of his in line, and I went to another line (sans cart) to see if the second line was shorter. When I came back, the guy went nuts. “What you doing?”

”I’m ahead of you,” I said.

“No, you ain’t!”

I wouldn’t give in. Then I did. I’m mellow. I’m interested in love, but also rubble, swine, nudniks, landlords, klezmer musicians and Snickers.

The candy man, John Lokar (1981).

I don’t take criticism well. A klezmer violinist in California called my band “crappy,”  This was years ago, online. I need to to find out what part of California he lives in and do something.

A rabbi was disbarred (disrobed?) for soliciting a prostitute. I like gossip. Can’t help myself, Chabad.

I ruffle feathers. Ruffle, ruffle. People don’t like me. At least some people. I could name a couple but I don’t want to give them ink here.

I’m sensitive. Please don’t comment on any of this.


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January 3, 2024   1 Comment


I get a kick looking at buildings for sale. Any kind of building: office, commercial, multi-family. I feel like I’m going out on a date. My heart races. Not everybody is a deal junkie, I know. Deals are stressful and there’s a lot of posturing. Most people don’t go for it. There’s risk — enormous risk.

I know brokers. They all work on commission. Nobody is on salary. They eat what they kill. There’s a lot of BS, as you can imagine.

When I  see a property that throws a nice bottom line, I skip around my living room like a kid. I do a deal or two a year. My dad owned a shoe store in Willowick. His landlord was Albert Ratner. When I first started, I called Ratner. I cold-called him. He agreed to meet me at his Terminal Tower office. I said, “My dad used to have the shoe store in Willowick. Remember him?” Of course Ratner remembered my dad. We talked about Arnold’s Shoes. Ratner said, “I take it you don’t want to sell shoes. You want to learn about real estate. Then do it. Buy a building and learn it.”

I did. I like it. I like almost every facet of real estate. I even like bankers.

Granted, there are always holes to patch. Asphalt, concrete. Nothing lasts forever. Office buildings — the worst. Medical-office space – the absolute worst. Medical is very painful. Doctor as tenants, they think they’re God.

Multi-family . . . I’ve made a fortune there. I’ve got a crew that’s on top of everything. Still, I handle some of the mishigas myself. A tenant calls and says, “Hey, my bathroom ceiling is falling in.” Ever heard of humidity, buddy? Open a window. “Hey, my stove smells like carbon monoxide.” Bullshit. Carbon monoxide is odorless. “Hey, my cat is dying from the black mold in the bathroom.” Black mold is not Black Plague, deary. Get some Clorox and a scrub brush.

I like foreclosures; I like straight-cash deals; I like leverage. I’m a deal animal. For me, there’s nothing better than hanging around old people at Jewish Federation events and asking if they own property. Some sell, some don’t. No broker. Sweet.

I have holdings in Ohio, Utah, Florida and Texas. I’m not only Rust Belt. I learned that from Ratner.

Please call my assistant if you’ve got something for me to look at. Thank you.


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May 16, 2023   1 Comment


I’m a German klezmer musician. Everyone thinks that fascinating. Everyone has questions for me.

Here are the answers:

I didn’t know any Jews. I just liked the music. My aunt told me, “Why do you play that silly music? You’re German!” I don’t think klezmer is silly music! I’ve studied Yiddish and I’ve been to klezmer conferences, and I have Jewish friends now.

Every year I play memorial programs, and each time at the Kristallnacht commemoration in my town there is always at least one Jewish tourist who comes up to me and says, “Are you Jewish?” And I say no, and he’s says, “You have to be!” Sometimes I tell him my grandfather is Romanian. It’s not true; I am German, but if a Jewish person insists I’m Jewish, who am I to disappoint him?

I am a klezmer musician, or a German klezmer musician. Your choice. I never wanted to be a Jew, and I never wanted to be not a Jew. Somebody once said, “You’re not really a Jew unless at one point in your life you didn’t want to be a Jew.” So maybe I am Jewish.

An American once called me a “poseur.” I had to look that word up. He claimed to be a klezmer musician from Cleveland, Ohio. He told me I shouldn’t play klezmer music because I’m not Jewish. He was emphatic about that. The middle of the United States is too red, I think.

Do I feel guilty about the Holocaust? Why should I? I don’t follow the tradition of my great-grandparents. If you think I’m a bad person for playing music from somewhere else, then you know damn little about music.

[fake profile]

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May 3, 2023   1 Comment



I placed high in a couple math contests. Nationwide stuff. I’ve told you this before but it bears repeating. I got offers to attended workshops at U. of Chicago, MIT and other colleges. This was in high school. I went off to U. of Rochester one summer and got my gonads scraped by some smart kids there. After that, I became modest.

I saw the Stones, Beatles, Dylan. Everybody. Janis Joplin. James Cotton. For the record.

I went to Rochester for college. That was a long time ago. I’m not sure where Rochester is anymore.

My parents? My mom wanted a career in show biz. That wasn’t going to happen in Cleveland, but she did do some community theater. She wanted NYC. She got there on a couple vacations. My dad — you know about him from this blog. My brother? He doesn’t want any ink. Respect.


Here’s my essay in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer. What will become of my wheat berry salad? Dave’s supermarket is taking over Zagara’s supermarket in Cleveland Heights.

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October 26, 2022   3 Comments


I wrote something about the Midwest — how cool and tough and underappreciated the Rust Belt is. The question: how much BS on the Rust Belt can the world absorb? A lot. My piece, “My Rust Belt Doesn’t Rust,” didn’t even mention Ukraine. Didn’t need that crutch.

The New York Times ran it. Then everybody copied the Times. The Plain Dealer picked it up. Then everybody else. I got in the International New York Times. All this because I love the Midwest. Readers in Circleville and Marquette and Muncie loved the piece.

We have better manners in the Midwest. We don’t raise our voices. We don’t care about college credentials. We resent the term “flyover country.” Right now I’m googling myself to see where my story has popped up. It’s in the Anchorage Daily News.

I live and die for the Browns, Guardians/Indians and Cavs. I miss the steel mills. I like to work hard with my hands. I play clarinet. That counts.

Google “Stratton + Rust Belt.” Amazing.

[fake profile]

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April 27, 2022   1 Comment


I never report my music income. I’m a musician, not an accountant. I don’t give a shit about taxes. I play music eight hours a day, and in between I wait for the phone to ring for gigs. I have no life except music, and I’m proud of it.

I owe people money. Big deal. That’s standard in the music biz. My standard line is “Can you lend me five bucks to get home from the gig? What’s five bucks?”

One musician yelled at me, “Five bucks is pathetic! At least ask for a twenty!” He gave me a twenty. Nice.

I occasionally hock my instruments and show up at gigs with student-level gear. This, too, annoys bandleaders. Charlie Parker hocked his horn; I’m in good company! A bandleader once told me, “Tools, man, where are your tools?” I have tools — cheesy student tools, which I play better than you. I once asked a rabbi for gas money and he gave it to me. I have bad habits. I’m flawed.

What about you? Are you perfect?

[fake profile]

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March 30, 2022   1 Comment


I’ve been into computers since the punch-card days. I can talk RAM and bytes, and byte me. But I won’t tech-talk here.

I had a baby-boomer friend who cried whenever he had computer problems. He would call me in tears. He literally would be rolling on the floor in pain. I was his fix-it guy. Sometimes it was just a matter of rebooting the computer.

In the 1970s I had a cellphone as big as a shoebox. I golfed a lot and schlepped that James Bond cellphone. Blew people’s minds. I worked for Motorola for a year. My kids call me for computer help.

Let me know if you have any problems.

[fake profile]

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February 9, 2022   4 Comments


I skipped third grade. Let me put that out here right away.

I was the shortest kid in my class and got the crap kicked out of me regularly.

I remember Colavito hit four homers in a row against Baltimore in 1959.

I did juggling, tennis, ping pong and music.

I got beaten up by Italians, in particular. I was 4-foot-7 in seventh grade. However . . . I made the junior high basketball team. I didn’t see a minute of play, but I could sink 20 free throws in a row.

I was a Life Scout, not Eagle, just like musician Irwin Weinberger.

I worked summers at a drugstore, stocking shelves for $1.25 an hour. I got one free Snickers per shift.

My dad often dozed in the upholstered chair in the front room. He had The Cleveland Press in his lap. My mom was a homemaker and did all the normal Donna Reed stuff.

In high school I placed in a national math contest and attended a summer workshop at the University of Rochester, where I got schooled by true math geniuses. After that I became modest, except here.

I went to some big-name rock concerts. I saw the Byrds, the Band. Everybody. Janis Joplin. James Cotton opened for her.

I attended Michigan, U. of.  Then I went into real estate. Is there anything else to do? Not that I know of.

I got married in 1978. My wife has a degree in physics from Ohio State. Never used it. She taught gym. We have three adult children and 11 grandchildren — more than some Orthodox Jews.

I skipped a grade. Did I mention that? Sandy Stein did too. He was also short.

[fake profile]

You want to read something true? I wrote about Santa Claus and small-claims court for the Wall Street Journal last week. “Never Throw Out Santa Claus”

Triple play. I made a 1:45-minute video. “Deli Jews, My Dad, and the Browns.”

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December 29, 2021   3 Comments


When I’m drinking at the neighborhood bar, I like to hear a lot of noise. And when I’m at the corner restaurant, I want it loud in there, too. I like vibrations. Sometimes I pretend to get drunk just so I can be crazy-loud and incoherent. I try to knock over beer bottles with my voice.

When I’m riding the Rapid, I talk as loudly as possible. I see drops of bloods, people screaming at me, exclamation points (!) all over. Doesn’t bother me.

Should I attenuate? No. Potentiate? Probably. I’m 71. I’m not old. An old person is somebody who says, “It’s too loud in here.” I have never said that.

I hang out with my musician friends and talk about tinnitus and loud Orthodox Jewish weddings. Musicians are all sound wrestlers. Some of us are hard of hearing.

We’re not living in an abbey. Crank it up. I’m here to hear.

[fake profile]

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December 15, 2021   3 Comments


I’m still at it — security work. My office is on Mercantile Road in Beachwood. No sign. I’m in back of Pella Windows.

I tore down a Royal Castle hamburger joint and used the tiny crown tiles (like on the Ontario license plate) for an in-lay on my company’s lunchroom floor. I also put in a sliding board for dogs at my office. My place rates in the “Top 10 Best Places to Work in Cleveland.”

I specialize in rent collections. My tenants scream at my boys: “You can’t put my shit out on the street!” And my boys scream back: “You break law. You no pay rent. Now we break law!” My collectors are Albanian and Ukrainian.

I’m involved, in a good way, in the community, too. I hire interns from the Beachwood High wrestling team, like Sam Gross 112, Alec Jacober 130, Ryan Harris 125. These guys can squeeze through small openings.

“You Want to be a Jewish Cop?” — that’s my annual lecture at Beachwood High career day. I tell the kids, “Be a cop but don’t be a wussy cop. Don’t be like that cop at Heinen’s parking lot with the Harpo Marx Jewfro.”

I like klezmer. That’s why I’m featured here. My friend Stratton is the leader of Klezmer Cup. I know every yidl in Cleveland.

[fake profile]

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November 3, 2021   2 Comments


Klezmer is a clichéd term. I don’t use it. I don’t even play klezmer. My new album is No Name — no label, no religion too. I like to eat. My religion is pastrami. My next album is going to be Thank You for Your Kindnesses,  I’m Out of Here. When I told my wife I’m leaving Judaism, she said, “Que maravilla!” She studies Spanish online and wants to move to Latin America.

She’s thinking about Guatemala. I like guacamole so I’m OK with that. As for the klezmer scene down there, it’s shvach (weak). I ran into a couple Israelis in Guat in April, but they didn’t like my klez. (I always travel with a student-model clarinet.) The Israelis liked my “Bashana Haba’ah,” though.

I won’t busk on the streets of Guat. Wouldn’t be a good look: a rich gringo tourist asking for pesos — or whatever they call their money — from the locals. Could wind up in jail.

Also, internet reception isn’t too reliable down there. You may never hear from me again.

[fake profile]

I wrote some real essays this week . . .

  1. an article in USA Today about throwing stuff out. How I’m tired of reading articles that begin with “Millennials don’t want Grandma’s china.”
  2. a diaTribe in the Wall Street Journal about the Cleveland Indians changing their name to the Guardians. 
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July 28, 2021   No Comments


I’m sensuous. For example, I like opera and tennis. I was born above a deli in 1950. I remember the pickles. The smell. The cukes were right in the goddamn basement. My parents got out of there in 1953 and moved to South Euclid.

At Chillicothe, I did kitchen work. Yeah, I went to prison. Had something to do with drugs. I got high on my own supply and did some bad things. Nobody died.

The whole thing went kaplooey in ’79 — the year I got busted. The Crash of ’79, for me, wasn’t a book. I  blew all my money on a racehorse –- owning one — and owed important people some money, and then one thing led to another. Like I said, nobody died.

I play tennis almost every day with some other old guys at the courts here in Hollywood, Florida. Pick up game. Half the guys speak Spanish and are bigshots from Latin America. In the afternoon I tread water in the condo swimming pool. While treading, I listen to Mozart and Verdi on my headphones,

One last thing, I haven’t eaten ice cream in at least thirty years. It’s kids’ food.

[fake profile]

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June 2, 2021   1 Comment


I was a rock star of sorts in the 1990s. My band, The Crushin’, was on MTV and charted #53 on the Billboard Hot 100. But I had a problem; nobody wanted to be a sideman in my band. Everyone wanted to be the star. I wrote the songs but everybody else thought they were the star.

Now I do mostly solo gigs and give piano lessons. I don’t play klezmer. I knew you’d ask that. I like klezmer but I don’t play it. I don’t mind listening to klezmer — in small doses.

Last shabbes my rabbi’s Zoom sermon was “What I Learned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” The rabbi must have recently seen 20 Feet from Stardom. He said you’ve got to balance your sideman role with your star-tripping persona. Joseph was a star-tripper and his brother Judah was a sideman in the band.

The rabbi asked for comments from the congregation. (He likes to work the room.) I chimed in about my old band. Most people didn’t even know I had been a rocker. I talked about my record-label deals and my A-hole manager. I actually said “A-hole.”

I’m a sideman. I accept that now. We’re all sidemen. But don’t forget this: I hit #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 (June 21, 1995) with The Crushin’s “I Hope My Afterlife is After Yours.”


[fake profile]

Here’s my recent op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a lake with no water in it. “Rescue Horseshoe Lake. Dam It.”

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March 31, 2021   5 Comments


I was out of my skull when I broke into boxcars, unloading Cutty Sark, golf balls and tires. I used tin snips that cut right through corrugated steel. This was a while ago. Now I’m retired and just watch TV. I have an intense appetite for the Indians — or whatever they’re called — and sausage and hash browns.

I’m lonely now with Corona-time. I never got married. A mistake. There was this chick in the 1970s who loved me, but I wasn’t ready. Schmuck — me. I joined the Marines and was in for six months. Semper Fidelis was plain bullshit to me. Latin bullshit. I quit.

You ever notice how Italians swear so much? It’s very big with them. If you’re Italian, you’re better than everybody else. You can be the biggest, dumbest fuck on two feet, but if you’re Italian, you’re it. I have enough spaghetti and wine in my veins to be Italian. The goddamn hot peppers, I can eat a mason jar full. But I’m not Italian, not by a long shot.

My family disowned me after Marion. A Jewish boy in the joint — me. Not kosher. I did three years there, then two in Chillicothe. I haven’t talked to my relatives in, I bet, 30 years. When I got out the last time, I made a clean slate of things. I sold stained glass to restaurants. Completely legit. But I didn’t like it, so I went back to stealing. The hardest part was carrying the loot. I was that good.

My biggest mistake? Quitting high school. I thought I knew more than the teachers. Schmuck — me, again. I hung out with the delinquents who stole cars. An old fat Jew — we called him the Eggman — ran the show.

I don’t have a dime to my name. I blew it all on cards, broads and racehorses. After a while, I couldn’t deal with the thickheaded Italians at the racetrack, so I got out. But not before I was broke. I love wieners and Coke. Love that combo. My best heist was when I pinched three cases of sausage from Red Barn. I didn’t fence it. I ate it all! I’m in menopause now — male menopause. The docs talk about it on TV. I love my flat-screen. Almost perfect. Just me and my TV.

Here’s my record:

DOB: 12-11-1953
WT: 325
HGT: 5-8

[fake profile]

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July 8, 2020   5 Comments


I grew up with a pair of binos around my neck. I lived near a park and saw vireos, cardinals and hawks. I got good at ID-ing birds by songs and calls. These days I tell my bandmates to check out birds on our road trips. Funk a Deli’s guitarist is always spotting hawks.


I’ve never been on a birding vacation. Nobody wants to go with me. My wife doesn’t like the idea of walking slowly and craning her neck.

Another confession:

I like fracking. I’ve spent a lot of time in southeast Ohio, mostly around Marietta. There’s good birding and fracking there. The Ohio Valley is a micro-tropical climate. I rent a Hefner-style bachelor condo in Marietta. The condo has a big-screen TV, huge white couch and a ton of wine. The place comes furnished. I’m not too far from the marsh in back of Kroger, where I go for all my birding and grocery needs. Here’s a photo of me at rig 383 in northern Washington County, Ohio:

gas rig bert 5_25_14 rig 383 washington county ohio

[fake profile / real photo]

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June 24, 2020   2 Comments


I have a cottage by Lake Erie. Before coronavirus, I’d invite everybody over — friends from high school, musicians, my wife’s schoolteacher friends. People liked the lake.

Funny thing, in Cleveland few people live by the lake. For instance, Cleveland Heights is six miles from the lake. One guy came to my parties from Indiana. Jeff left Cleveland twenty years ago and returned just to see the lake. He liked to toke down on pot. Am I saying that right — “toke down on pot”? It’s been a while for me.

The water on the lake is rarely blue. It’s usually green. We drink beer until the lake turns blue. Then we play klezmer, “Louie Louie” and “Mustang Sally.” One guy, Dave, always wants to sing “Mustang Sally.” He’s in Thailand most of the time, thankfully. He goes over there for the girls, I think.

I wonder if anybody would show up at my parties if not for the beer and lake. I’m not a big draw. I’m taciturn to the extreme. I talk in a monotone like a depressive. Maybe they like my hot dogs. I get the best: Vienna. Also, I serve some veggie stuff. I wonder: What if I threw my next party in the Heights? Would anybody show up? I’m afraid to think about it.

[fake profile]

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June 3, 2020   3 Comments


I used to box. I listened to Johansson-Patterson fights on the radio. I boxed at the Ukrainian Club, AAU and Junior Golden Gloves. My parents were all for it. Weird: everybody was into tennis and golf and bowling, and I boxed. My father encouraged boxing. In my dad’s day, Jewish fighters sometimes hit the top: Jackie Davis, Benny Leonard. Locally, Harry Levine was a good light heavyweight. Levine fought with his face out front. If he got hit, his head would shake like a bobblehead. He kept hitting though.

My last fight was in 1972. Very old school: the Italian versus the Jew. Johnny Montello had been a cook in ‘Nam. He was punchy and foggy-headed. Maybe he boxed too much in the Pacific. Johnny got into my face verbally, Ali-style, saying: “You’re always talking about Jewish shit.” Johnny pointed at the Star of David on my trunks.

I said, “You should know one thing about me, Montello. Being Jewish is who I am. Everything I do is a part of that.” I had just graduated college. I used to box in Waterman Gym at Michigan — with myself mostly. Existential stuff.

Everybody came to the Montello fight. My friends looked like Hair extras. Montello’s friends were like from Grease. Montello broke my nose and gave me a concussion, and I was done. I got a real job right after that.

I miss the ring. I play tennis now, and contrary to what Agassi says, tennis is not boxing. I still dream about boxing: Babe Triscaro, Jimmy Bivins, Tony Mulia, Herbie Becker. Unfortunately the Senior Olympics is not happening this year.

[fake profile]

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May 13, 2020   6 Comments


I’ll tell you one thing. I had this old car, couldn’t get it to do nothing. I pushed and pulled and beat on it. Then I throwed it over a cliff. I said, “Let’s throw over a car.” Me and my boys done it. My old lady was against it. She thought she was better than me.

She was something else. The biggest woman for churchgoing you ever seen, and full of crap. She wouldn’t eat things like, hey, meat. She was skinnier than a stick. Totally emancipated. And ornery. And when that heifer got a few bucks from her rich daddy, watch out. I didn’t dig her. She came at me with a mouth full of beer. Got all over me, the floor, and walls. She got claws. They all do.

There’s a lot of good-looking heads out there just waiting to nail you to the cross, I’ll tell you. She made me sick, just thinking of her. I got ferocious of the liver, and that’s a bad situation. Nobody comes between me and my beer. That broad tried.

It’s all in the numbers. I ain’t asking for much, just a little. This upcoming repression is going to be so bad it’ll shake your teeth loose. I want to be reborn the poodle of a rich lady.

[fake profile]

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April 8, 2020   6 Comments


There’s a lot I don’t like about you. For one thing, you are rude, like you fist-bump everybody — even before coronavirus — and way too hard. Also, you insist on driving a red car so everybody will notice you. You eat too fast. You’re done before anybody else starts. Disgusting. That word has your name on it. Nothing transformative is going to happen to you. Another thing, you’re too macho. Try an ounce of femininity. Watch half a whole football game instead of a whole game. What are you doing for sports during this shut-down?

You know who you are. I probably shouldn’t post this.

A remedy for you, right here:

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March 18, 2020   8 Comments