The Great Plotnik

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Cheer

It's all about the cheer -- the way something exciting happens to your team and you jump up and scream and hug the person next to you and you're all one voice, ecstatic about the same thing.

Of course, the reverse is also true when you're not on the cheering side. Then, the bottom drops out of your world for a little while. And most of the time, you lose. Obviously, you've got to endure the one to deserve the other.

Not talking just about baseball here, though this past weekend started really awful to end up all right. And it's not only sports. When you and 50,000 people sing the national anthem, or you're at a concert and you know the song and realize you and the entire rest of the audience is singing -- this is the cheer too. It is one of the most powerful emotions we have.

Teams win, teams lose, but the lasting sensation is being part of it. Plottie's cousins, who often travel the country to see their favorite bands, understand this. All of we long-suffering sports fans understand it too. You have to buy the ticket if you want to get to cheer.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Early Birthday

Plottie found this Happy Birthday to BZ entry on The Great Plotnik dated September 14, 2005. Here, The Great BZWZ is posing with The Legendary R.L. Pussycat on the occasion of BZ's 22nd birthday.

Seeing as that date is rolling around again this weekend, here is a great sloppy kiss and Early Birthday wish for my girl, who has, since this picture, been to a lot of places and lived in quite a few.

Oh, look! There's a card! It says: Dear BZ, you are easy to miss. Love, Pops

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Downstairs Bill

Downstairs is on the left, Upstairs is on the right.

Plotnik's elderly cousin Downstairs Bill passed away a few days ago. Upstairs Bill died in 2006. Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill were first cousins. Their families had moved into a building in Brooklyn in the 1940s where Bill Plotnik lived upstairs and Bill Plotnik lived downstairs. Hence, Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill.

Not only that: Downstairs and Upstairs' fathers had married sisters. So Upstairs and Downstairs were not just cousins, they were Supercousins. They were also in business together, as printers in New York City.

But as all Plotniks do, sooner or later, they got into a feud. After some time had passed they stopped speaking to each other, and each forbade their children to speak to their cousins, upstairs or downstairs.

TGP found out about all of this when he and Ducknik went back east to a family wedding in the year 2000. He met cousin Helen, the oldest surviving member of the family, then in her nineties. Plot and Duck and two other cousins took Helen to Junior's Deli for lunch and she remembered everything. She said the wives had caused the disruption between Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill, but that it was also the wives who cheated and continued to speak to each other, and to let the other cousins into their houses, as long as they didn't mention it to their dads.

Downstairs Bill married a wealthy woman, heiress to a scotch whiskey fortune. It's said her father was a bootlegger who then turned legit. Downstairs moved to an exclusive and luxurious Park Avenue apartment, and was there when he invited Plot and Duck for Christmas not long after they had moved in with each other in Manhattan in 1969. You could have fit their entire tenement walk-up into the entry foyer of Downstairs Bill's palatial home.

"We're related?" Plotnik kept thinking. But the family resemblance was unshakeable. The eyebrows were the giveaway. Downstairs had only one, in those days, which stretched from one side of his face to the other.  Through the years, with careful pruning, Ducknik has made sure Plotnik has kept both of his.

Downstairs Bill was Godfather to Plottie's brother Schmeckl, though no one knew this but Mummy P. And that was long ago. Bill didn't remember, when Plottie asked him, and Mummy P. doesn't remember any more.

I guess I'm going to have to tell her Bill's gone.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I Hate the Post Office

Sending a package to Boulder for BZ's birthday. Ducknik spends a lot of time, wraps everything in an old Express Mail box from the Post Office. But I realize at the last moment that there is no way in hell that the Post Office will allow me to ship this package any way but Express Mail if it's in an Express Mail box.

Sure enough. I get to the Post Office where two men are working -- the Irish guy and the Chinese guy. The Irish guy has been there since we've lived here, I've never seen the Chinese guy before. The Irish guy always works with you. But I get the Chinese guy.

He's going by the book.

"$45.80 Express Mail," he says.

"Man, that's steep. Do you have a less expensive way?"

"Two day Express Mail. Cost $45.80."

"But that's the same as the first one."

"Yes. One day, two day."

"But can't you just cross out the Express Mail stickers and send it regular Priority Mail?"

He looks at the Irish guy. The Irish guy shakes his head very slightly.

"No. So you want or not?"

"You guys really don't like helping out the customer any more, do you?"

The Post Office is empty. I wonder why.

"You want?"

"Yes, I want. I want to get out of here."

So I take my box and go across the street to the UPS store, where they open my package, take a UPS box and pack our stuff into it, seal it up nicely and send it out, all in ten minutes, for half the price.

The Post Office is going to be a Starbucks before long. It's easy to see why.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Thoughts About Stiletto

Plotnik spent some time in Stiletto City this past weekend. Mummy P. is doing well and the city is what it isn't and what it is.

"What it Isn't and What it Is" will be a song about LA, don't you go steal it now.

Sitting out on Mummy P.'s back patio talking to The Great PD, who lives in the narrowest of cities, Plotnik realized this about his hometown: It's wider.

Not wilder, wider. Mummy P.'s lot must be twice as wide as Great World Headquarters's. This means when you sit out on her patio there is no one potentially only twenty feet away from you downhill or uphill. The difference, purely psychological of course, is that you can look out over the whole city and pretend you are a pioneer, that all that greenery below is the wild frontier, and therefore your choices are limitless and your personal horizon is as blue as the sky to the west.

That's a nice thing. And when it's hot, Plotnik feels like a kid again. Of course, he is sitting next to his mother which kind of seconds that emotion.

Do you remember the Popeye movie with Robin Williams, where Olive Oyl (Shelly Duvall) sings that great song about Bluto: "He's Large!"

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There you go: Stiletto City. Large, Wide, Endless.

This is also Stiletto City: the stink of the streets near the Tropical Cafe. What in the world has happened to EPark? Wasn't it gentrifying? It's a stinking mess, pocket malls half empty, paint peeling, the smell of pee on Parkman Street rivaling Market Street in Saint Plotniko. Jeez -- are even these concrete bungalows a million bucks and up?

Stiletto City has always been about hills. You need to be able look over life down in the flats, so you can stare straight into your romantic imagination.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Morning at the Tropical


 Had to go to the Tropical for a guyaba con queso and orange juice with Mom and Anna this morning before I got on the plane. Mummy P. couldn't remember ever having been there before, but The Tropical never was her place. It was the Plotnik hangout from the moment we arrived in LA until we all left. In the old days it was run by angry old Cubans who hated Fidel, now it's a hipster hangout run by younger Cubans who have Che and Fidel's photos on the wall.

Spent a delightful evening with Nefnik and Lillnik last night after Mummy P. went to sleep. This was a short trip to Stiletto, but a nice one. Home already, waiting until late tonight to go to SFO to pick up Ducknik who has been visiting the Great BZWZ in Boulder for the weekend.

Friday, September 05, 2014

This Old House

Last night Ducknik and Mushnik and Plotnik drove into Berkeley to see Mississippi Motorhead perform a fabulous story at The Monkey House. He was great and the other storytellers were excellent too. When one of his characters throws out his hip and says "You don't know how it feels to be a woman in love!" it brought down the house.

Before the show, we drove by an old West Berkeley neighborhood down by the water, where the Great PD had sent a picture of a house for sale. The house, as you can see, is probably not being completely torn down because building codes make them keep the outside facade, but it is basically a rip-'er-down-to-the-nails job. The neighborhood, when Plotnik was in school, was 100% black and one of those places you didn't go into unless you came from there or had a good reason.

Now -- this place was being offered the other day for -- get this -- $400K, which makes it a bargain, despite having to spend at least that much to be able to live in it, and when you're done you're still in this old neighborhood.

But guess what -- the street is full of old, apparently unrestored classic Victorians, the kind with old roses and wisteria bushes twining on beat up picket fences, and venerable churches apparently still in use with towering spires, and...there's a trendy bar. And there's a trendy pet store. And there's a yoga studio. And where are all the black people? They are certainly not on the street anymore, just young-ish white faces walking dogs and driving twenty-year-old Volvos.

The neighborhood has all the signs of being already past the discovery stage. Where do the old people go when they sell their homes to the newcomers? Will the yoga studio and bakery have the same staying power as the corner market and brake shop they replace?

Truth is, I think so. The old gives way to the new. Great Plotnik World Headquarters resides in one of these old cozy Victorians itself, not in West Berkeley but in Noe Valley, and not in a once-black neighborhood but a once-Irish neighborhood, and not in a neighborhood being discovered now but once that went through that twenty five years ago.

So think of this old house, or what remains of it, a generation from now, only a few blocks from the bay, when the ghosts of the people who lived here have all taken their clanky chains and slunk into the memories no one has any time for because the new people, like the old people, are all too busy working to make the mortgage.

$400K is not a bargain for this dump. But one of those cute old Victorians?