The Great Plotnik

Monday, October 31, 2005

Cracking the Code

Three Plotnikkies
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It has been suggested by more than one Newbie that The Great Plotnik's code is difficult to crack. Here are a few simple facts:

Saint Plotniko is the city in which The Great Plotnik and the Great Ducknik reside, where he rides his Plotkicycle, and roots against the home baseball team The Saint Plotniko Braindead Caribbeans. Saint Plotniko is the home and headquarters of the Plotnikkie Religion. Plotnikkies believe in OOPH: Our Own Personal Hell. Everyone has his own personal OOPH, and there's no getting away from it. Plotnik's OOPH currently includes Celine Dion, sweet and sour liver, Barney in Hi-Def and Dell Tech Support in Bangalore, but it changes all the time.

Some 5 hours South of Saint Plotniko is Stiletto City, the metropolis where The Great Plotnik grew up, along with Mummy Plotnik, Shmeckl Plotnik, Granny Plotnik and Grampie Plotnik. Stiletto City is famous for citizens who think glamour begins with them, to which end they employ height enhancers, width diminishers and hair enlargers. They spend their entire lives in their cars, talking on the phone while stalled in traffic, and screaming obscenities at anyone whose car is smaller than theirs. Stiletto City is the home of The Great Plotnik's favorite baseball team The Stiletto City Plotzers. It is also the home of The Great PunkyDunky and The Great FiveHead.

Further South is the most boring city in America, Saint Patooty, that everyone loves to visit, with the great weather blah blah blah. Plotnik despises the place, and its baseball team the Saint Patooty Piffles.

The Great BeeziWeezi lives in The Big Shmapple. She has moved into a sumptuous villa in the tony and exclusive neighborhood of West Shmarlem. The Great BeeziWeezi has two jobs and can now afford to buy food.

The Great Plotnik is hungry. He is always hungry.

The three Plotnikkies in the above photograph are among the following: Jennifer Lopnik, The Great Mushnik, Cait Blanchnik, The Great Ducknik, Clairnik Danes, Looziana Val.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Aztecs are Back

Plotnik was on the Dell Tech Support line all day Saturday, speaking with a man and a woman from Bangalore, where it was 2AM. Neither person could help him, but both were required to take down reams of useless information, and put him through the same worthless protocol. It was frustration to the extreme, but then Plot turned on the TV to read about the bombing attack in New Delhi. He forgot about the man and the woman in Bangalore and started thinking about the men and women and babies in New Delhi.

Muslims against Hindus in New Delhi. Muslims against Anglicans in London. Muslims against Catholics in Madrid. Muslims against Jews in Gaza. Muslims against Christians and Jews in New York. Muslims against Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, against teenagers at a disco in Indonesia, against women and children all over the world, and against other Muslims perhaps most of all.

Muslims are starting to feel like Aztecs, a bloodthirsty God at their shoulder.

The Great Plotnik tries not to take sides in religious struggles, because the problems are never as simple as they appear. But come on, folks. This is getting ridiculous.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It takes a while for The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik to find a parking place in Chi-nik-town within walking distance of Jai Yun Restaurant on Upper Pacific Street, but eventually one appears.

"Is this where we're going?" Plotnik asks. The dingy restaurant on the dingy street do not appear all that inviting. Inside there is only one other couple, sitting in the corner waiting for their food to arrive. No music, no service, no ceremony. Jai Yun is listed as one of the best restaurants in Saint Plotniko, but Plotnik has a few doubts.

Unbeknownst to him, however, The Great Plotnik Birthday Feast has already begun. The famous chef from Nanjing is already at work. The moment Plot and Duck sit down, the waiter brings four tiny courses to the table, each with maybe eight chopsticks worth of food.

"Tofu," he says, pointing to one, "smoked fish," "cucumber" and "jellyfish."

The waiter walks away, and Plotnik picks some jellyfish off the plate. It is succulently sweet, a little crunchy, filled with fresh ginger.

"Mmmm," he says to Ducknik, "wait 'til you taste this one."

"Oooh, this smoked fish is amazing," says Duck. The small chunks explode with flavor, not too smoky, not fishy, with maybe the texture of a piece of duck who liked water more than land. The tofu is every bit as good -- it is meant to look like slices of duck, even with a kind of skin on the outside, except it tastes of an herbal infusion -- is that fennel?

The cucumbers, oh man, sliced extremely thin, piled in a cone with lots of sesame, in the same family as Thai sweet cucumbers, but not so cloyingly sweet. The first four dishes are gone in a heartbeat, each one better than the last.

Plotnik and Ducknik lay their chopsticks on their plate, and the chef's wife brings more Tsing Tao Beer. The teenage waiter in the rock and roll t-shirt arrives with nine more courses.

By now, a party of eleven, celebrating a 30th birthday, has arrived in the restaurant. Everyone is getting the same food at the same time, and the moans of pleasure from the table of eleven match those coming from Plotnik and Ducknik.

Plotnik's greedy birthday eyes land upon some new kind of tofu, but dark and spongy and delicious, almost like bread soaked in dark gravy; a pile of very thinly sliced lotus with ginger and some mysteriously exotic thingamabobby; a pile of green pickled radish topped with fiery chili sauce; a plate of spinach with tiny flecks of tofu and shiitake mushroom; the most succulent Chinese cabbage in an herbal vinaigrette; thin slices of beef with azuki beans; sections of pork -- hoof? trotter?; something gluey, and another dish that has escaped into memory.

These are consumed down to the last milliscallion, and removed from the table. More beer.

Ducknik and Plotnik are already filled. Now the heavy artillery begins firing.

The teenage waiter is bored out of his mind. As he sets each tiny dish on the table he pronounces its name, but he stopped caring long ago and his accent is very thick, so from here on out, Plot and Duck are guessing.

All the while, his father in the kitchen is turning out these astounding dishes that arrive no more than ten seconds after the grand old man spills them from his wok onto the plates. He is famous for being a one man shop, without even a dishwasher because he has been unable to find anyone as meticulous as he is.

Abalone comes next -- not thick, stringy, tasteless abalone, but thin, pounded, delectable abalone, mixed with eggs and herbs -- oh man, this is maybe the best dish of the night. You can tell it lived in the sea, or maybe in a condo next door to the sea, but it doesn't taste of the sea -- well, yes it does. Kinda. Sorta. They could cancel the rest of the dinner, and just bring plate after plate of abalone, and Plotnik would go home feeling like King Plot I.

But then he wouldn't get the shrimp and gingko, with the shrimp cooked so fast they've shriveled into curlicues, so when Plotnik pops them into his mouth the taste jumps out in layers -- first the garlic, then a second later the ginger, and then the shrimp, still burning hot. It's like watching a good movie -- beginning, middle and end.

And he wouldn't want to have missed the Chinese vegetable stir fry.

And the mushroom stir fry.

And the (unrecognizable name) -- vegetable.

And the (unrecognizable name) - fish.

And the tiny strips of bacon with bitter melon (not all that different than honeydew and prosciutto -- proving Marco Polo brought home more than just pasta).

And the (unrecognizable name)- sweet thing with the hot, squishy, winter melon and a little, spicy (unrecognizable thing - vegetable?).

And several more courses that have receded into memory, preceding the tour de force:

The Fish O Copter.

Somehow the chef has fashioned a fish into an airplane, with fins for wings and cherries for eyes. The whole thing has been deep fried and finished in a sweet sauce so you can eat the entire animal, and be sure you know what heaven tastes like. The table of eleven gets one too, only three times bigger. They also get a smoked pork hock, which brings up the other interesting thing about Jai Yun -- you don't order food, you only tell the chef how much you want to spend per person, and he brings you the corresponding amount of food.

Obviously, the table of eleven spent at least one pork hock more than Plotnik and Ducknik.

Finally: eggplant slices.

"I can't possibly eat any more," Ducknik says. Plotnik is groaning.

On cue, the waitress brings the final course: the check.

That's it. No ceremony. No conversation. Food. Beer. Check. Thank you, and good night.

One more interesting thing: a plain table with absolutely no spices, no salt, no pepper, no sauces, nothing. 28 courses of food, which stand entirely on their own taste merit. You can't add anything to them, because there's nothing to add.

Chopsticks. A pot of tea. That's it for table decor.

Birthday Cake? You've got to be kidding.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Back in Stiletto City

You wait a long time at stoplights here. Then, every little shop has one parking spot in the back, and one only, and if you park in their spot, they come out with uzis and assassinate you. Plotnik parked to pick up Mummy Plotnik at the hairdressers. It was a harrowing experience.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kanji Blackboard

Kanji Blackboard
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
On his way home from Japanese Kanji class, The Great Plotnik has picked up several tacos at La Corneta. The salsa is very hot, and it makes him sneeze. He could walk away from the table and blow his nose. He could. But it's his birthday. KA-SNARRRKK, he goes, into his napkin.

"Plot!" says Ducknik. "I'm still eating, for God's sake!"

"It's my birthday," says Plotnik. To his amazement, she lets this one pass.

"I'm onto something," thinks The Great Plotnik. "I could try 'it's my birthday week,' and 'it's my birthday month' and maybe even 'it's my birthday quadrant.'"

It didn't work that well an hour before, in Kanji class. Plotnik is once again standing, facing the blackboard, chalk in hand, with Matsumura-sensei seated in a chair behind Plotnik and his five Level One classmates.

"Chuukosha," she says. "Chuukosha."

The five others begin writing rapidly. Line. Line. Line. Cross. Line. Cross. Hook. Circle. Line. Done.

Plotnik is still thinking: "I know this one. There are three characters -- chuu, ko and sha. Half old car. Used car. Just write chuu, you know that one -- he starts with a horizontal line.

"Ehh," grunts Mrs. Matsumura behind him. He erases the horizontal line with his fist and tries a vertical line.

"Mmmm," she says. Plotnik now draws a horizontal line with a corner on it, another horizontal line completing a box, plus a vertical line that goes through the center. He waits -- she says nothing.

"OK, Chuu. Done. Now Ko. Ko.'s's coming...

"Purotniku-san," says Mrs. Matsumura, approaching the blackboard. She draws a vertical line.

"Mmmm," she nods to him, indicating he copy her. He draws a vertical line. She crosses the vertical line with a horizontal line. He crosses his vertical line with a horizonal line. She draws a box under the cross. He draws a box under the cross.

"Ko," she says. 'Ii, desu nee." This means 'good.'

She sits back down behind him. Everyone else has been done for two minutes. Plotnik still hasn't drawn sha, but he knows sha. He LOVES sha. Sha is fun and a half to draw. He draws sha.

"Purotniku-san," says Mrs. Matsumura.

Plotnik got excited and put sha to the left of chuu and ko, It means nothing this way. Abashedly, he erases sha on the left and draws sha on the right.

"So," she says. "Ii desu nee. Now, class: 'koo ko.' 'Koo ko.'"

'Koo' is not pronounced 'koo.' It is pronounced 'ko.' 'Ko' is also pronounced 'ko.' Maybe you can hear the difference between them but Plotnik cannot.

God, he hates these goddam Japanese double vowels. Is she saying 'koo ko' or 'ko koo' or 'koo koo' or 'ko ko' or some other yet-to-be-determined inaudible variable, each sound meaning something different, with a particular kanji that applies to each one, whether Plotnik can hear it or not?

"Ko ko," he says.

"Not 'ko ko,'" she says. "Koo ko."

"Ko ko," he repeats.

"Right," says Mrs. Matsumura.

It probably means 'High School.' Plotnik is pretty sure she said high school. So he draws a horizotal line.

"Ehhh," grunts Mrs. Matsumura. He erases the horizontal line with his fist and draws a vertical line.

"Ehhh," grunts Mrs. Matsumura. He erases the vertical line with his fist and draws a diagonal line with a hook on the end. He is beginning to despair.

"Ehhh," grunts Mrs. Matsumura. Plotnik pulls out the heavy ammunition: "'s my birthday."

His five classmates are glaring at him again. No one cares about Plotnik or his birthday. So Plotnik draws a circle. In the circle he draws a bulls eye, then he sneers and bangs his head on the blackboard, in the physical and metaphyscial center of the Japanese Language.

"Purotniku-san," says Mrs. Matsumura. "Here." She approaches the board, drawing "Koo" and 'ko.' Plotnik copies her, stroke for stroke.

"Ii desu nee," she says.

"Kyoo wa boku no tanjoobi desu," he says, to the blackboard. This means "Today is my birthday."

"Happy Birthday, Purotniku-san," says Mrs. Matsumura, and follows it with many words that probably relate to birthdays or blackboards or barracudas or who knows what? Who will ever understand this demonic language?

Plotnik calls Ducknik on his cell phone as he's leaving class.

"I'm an idiot," he says. "I'm worse than a monkey. Next week they're going to shoot me. I'll never learn Kanji."

"Yes, you will," she says. "Pick up a couple tacos, will you, Birthday Boy?"

"Ii, desu nee, my dear," says Plotnik.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bring Me My Breakfast

Our Back Yard
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
So here we are, today's the day, October 26, 2005. Guess what: The Great Plotnik feels great! And why shouldn't he? The first half of his life has been a blast.

My Back Steps

The sun is hot and warms the redwood stairs
The poppies great with expectation
Coffee in my favorite mug
Before the latest renovations
Once these yards had lilacs, pears

Can’t help adding, building, changing
Making green this rock-hard outpost
Broke my back with five-gallon tubs
Soil amendments, dirt and compost
Muscles sore, shoulders complaining

Ancient rented rototiller
First pass laughed
But each new pass did connect us
A loamy homie growin’ my breakfast

Sanchez Street once had cobble stones
In the fifties the Highway department
Ripped ‘em out and neighbors took ‘em.
Now our garden’s an assortment
Of rocks and cobbles, bricks and bones

The sun feels sweet, this Indian Summer
doesn’t leave much room for heat
We long to sweat like other Cali people
I drink my coffee, bare my feet
And dream of something good to eat

On Dasher, on rasher! On sausage and bacon
From all of this thin-ness we all must awaken
On Benedict eggs and sauce Hollandaises
And all of the issues that eating them raises
I think we’re all wusses
Our sins are not vices
I won’t feel guilty
I won’t pay those prices
Bring Me My Breakfast On My Back Steps!

The avocado shades the rhododends
It’s perfect in its pure simplicity
The plant that needs the sun just takes it
Puts on lush leaves in its complicity
Grows guacamole and shields its friends

In the spring the Iris God Opened up a vein
Poured out purples, pinks and teals
Anarchy upon the color wheel

The sun is hot, it warms the redwood stairs
I drink my coffee, close my eyes
and dream about the world that gardeners see
This year’s harvest, next year's surprise
Once these yards had lilacs, pears

On cherry, on iris! On pansies, on mums
Throw open the gates, and bring on the huns
We’ll wait for our season, we’ll take what comes
While I drink my coffee and sit in the sun
I think I’m a wuss, I’m lazy, that’s it
I don’t feel guilty I’m happy as shit
Bring Me My Breakfast On My Back Steps!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Black or White?

So, the issue of birthday present arises. Should Plotnik get a black ipod or a white ipod? 60g or 30g? Camera attachment? Power adapter?

That's 30 or 60g, as in gigabyte. A gigabyte is a million megabytes. How many gigamegablastos does anybody really need?

And why does he want an ipod anyway?

How much music does he ever really listen to? How many photos does he really need to store on a trip? What's the purpose of having another piece of electronic miscellanea?

The world is wiring itself into itself, if you ask The Great Plotnik. Do we really need to listen to our own music as we walk down the street? What about the other music out there that we're missing? The cabbies beeping, the people laughing, the thugwagon bass, the treble of police sirens? Does all music have to be OUR music?

And yet, The Great Plotnik never leaves the house anymore without his tiny digital camera. He likes it. He likes trying to record the moments that come and go at the drop of a dime, and if you don't snap the shutter immediately they may as well never have happened. You've already forgotten you took the picture. Only the memory stick recalls.

So, what's wrong with one more machine to break down photos and songs into 1s and 0s and bits and bytes and reassemble them when you want to hear them or look at them or even look at the photo bits while listening to the music bits?

Therefore, the question still is: Black or white? 30g or 60g?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Take Stock Week ENDS!

Take Stock Week has ended a few days early, proving there is a God. Reflection is good, but enough already. Once every six decades ought to be enough.

The Great Plotnik tuned into an archived radio show this morning about Kwaito, the intoxicating South African urban music that has swept that country ever since it awakened from the nightmare of apartheid. The interviewer is standing amongst a huge outdoor concert crowd, where the posted hours are 6PM-6AM! He says: "Young people in South Africa party like there is no tomorrow, or rather, like there never was a yesterday."

Wake up, Plotnik! Life is Good! It's time to have fun. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is a guess. Celebrate now. Celebrate now.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Take Stock Week Day 4: Love Is All You Need

Cape Point Smoochers
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It is Day 4 of Take Stock Week at Great Plotnik Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen, and Plotnik will admit he's getting bored with the whole process, and strongly doubts pontificating like a blind rabbi is making it any easier to find his way all the way to October 26. Nonetheless, children, today we shall remember that All You Need is Love -- Love is All You Need.

It's true, it's true. The trouble isn't needing love though, it's getting it. People often feel unloved, or better yet, underloved; disrespected, or more likely not respected enough. Finding the right mate is a matter of good timing most of all, with large portions of luck involved. But you've got to be ready for it, and you've got to want to be loved - uh uh, not (assume Eric Cartman Voice): 'ooh, I'm so lonely, I want to be loved yadda yadda.' You've got to WANT it. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Do you really want to make the effort to love back? It can be exhausting. How sure are you that you want to let someone else get close enough to find out about all your secret places? It's easy to fall fall for your beautiful eyes and your razor-sharp wit, but you're pretty damned moody and your expectations are 'way too high, you assume the worst about people and in your heart of hearts you probably don't think you're all that hot anyway -- right?

When he was a young Plot, The Great Plotnik went out with poetry girls, long blonde hair trailing behind their trilling voices, girls who confused his pretty music for his unburdened heart: in other words, women who were easy to fool.

The Great Ducknik was unfoolable, though. If Plotnik, at age 18, or 20, or 22, had filled out a questionnaire which asked the most desirable traits he would seek in a mate, he would hardly have thought about including self-reliant, brilliant, feet-on-the-ground or reliable in a crisis.

Beautiful, yes, he would have thought about that, and he's sure somewhere in some subconscious, primordial gland in his monkeybrain, Plotnik realized right away that Ducknik might make one crackerjack potential mother of his children. Nonetheless, he was amazed at how fast he fell -- and he fell first. Ducknik took more time. She was not convinced. In some ways, she might still not be, and, you can trust ol' Plot on this: she is still extremely hard to fool.

There is always something each partner in a relationship knows about his mate that he or she is the most self-conscious about -- her height, his hair, her lack of education, his lack of education, she doesn't dance, he doesn't make enough money. You can disagree about anything you like, but you know where that line is. Don't cross over it. Once you do, you can't ever go back. And it's never an accident.

Kids are wonderful, but kids grow up and you're faced with the same old face on the other side of the bed. Plotnik is very, very lucky because he still gets a chuckle out of Ducknik's sleeping dimple Not Such A Big Deal. He knows she'll be happy when she wakes up BIG Deal. But most of all, most most most of all, he's pretty sure that she knows him better than God and still loves him, even as he ages and his toenails get longer and nastier with each passing year.

Jesus, are we done? Good. Tomorrow, if there is a tomorrow, we shall discuss something shorter, funnier, anything at all will do. Did you hear the one about the minister, the rabbi and the kanji leson?


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Take Stock Week Day 3: A Great Gig

A Great Gig
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
October 20-26, 2005, is Take Stock Week at Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen. Our subject for Day 3 is: Work.

If you're lucky, you find a job to do that you love. If you're really lucky, you find a job that you love that pays you enough money to stop worrying every month about the rent or the mortgage. If you're really, really lucky, you not only find that job but someone who is willing to hire you to do it, and the jackpot is if they hire you and then disappear to allow you to do what they hired you for.

The older you get, the more you realize most people never even get to step one. They complain about their job, they hate their boss, it takes too long to get to work and even longer to get home and they're sick to death of all the same old jokes and the lunchroom smells and nobody loves them and they're underutilized, overworked and underpaid.

The Great Plotnik is here to tell you loving your job is the key. He has done many things, but never has come close to the charge of finding that last rhyme that turns the Chorus into a piece of art, or discovering that musical phrase that makes the Verse melody memorable.

It ain't easy. It doesn't happen often. When it does, you can't imagine ever wanting to do anything else. That's the place to shoot for.

Plotnik has loved other jobs too. He loved driving a cab nights in NYC. His time was his own, he could work as much or as little as he wished, he could use his wits to figure out how, where and when to discover the best fares, and he could learn everything about the geography of a wonderful town. It was perfect, indeed, until after the third time he got robbed, when the one-legged Dominican felon threw the sledgehammer through the window into the cab's backseat trying to hit the poor man's estranged wife who sat, wide-eyed and paralyzed with fear, surrounded by broken glass. Plotnik decided then and there he'd enough of driving a cab in NYC.

Playing piano in the unemployed miners' bar in Wilkes-Barre had its moments, but in the end it was not a jovial place.

Playing Middle-Eastern music with a band at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach had its moments too, until the band got fired on New Year's Eve and had its equipment thrown into the alley. They deserved it. And it was quite an education to work with the five Russian magicians who could steal food from all the hotel dining rooms and make it reappear in their dressing room every night after the show.

The Hollywood songwriter business was not to The Great Plotnik's taste. It took him a long time to figure that out, because he thought he knew what he was doing. But ultimately there were too many unwritten rules, and 'way too many drugs, and you can only bend over so far until your back breaks.

Playing music for corporate parties and fund raisers and dances and fund raisers and barmitzvahs and funerals was OK, but it was always a little weird to realize, from a songwriter's perspective, that the song the people loved best of all was "I Just Called To Say I Love You." Plotnik hated "I Just Called To Say I Love You," but sang it 500 times. He still hates it. He's getting pissed off right now. Whose goddam idea was this Take Stock thing?

Playing for weddings was another story. A wedding is a joyful occasion, when everyone in the room wants to be there. Being a part of a bride's memory album is an honor. There were few weddings that did not have magical moments.

And then, when a curious turn of events led to The Great Plotnik being asked to play for really, really, fancy weddings in really, really fancy hotels in really, really wealthy communities in far away countries on exotic continents -- playing for weddings became even more fun.

Until they didn't. They got boring too.

Which, Plotnik supposes, is the message for today: Work at a job you love, but don't expect to love it forever. People change. Circumstances change. And don't ever do a job only for the money, unless you are honest with yourself that making money is the reason you're doing it. It's a perfectly acceptable reason to do something, as long as you don't lie to yourself about it.

I Just Called To Say I Love You. I Just Called To Say How Much I Care. I Just Called To Say I Love You. And I Mean it From the Bottom of My Heart.

Can you believe this shit?

This serving of bile ends today's sermon. Tomorrow we shall talk about love.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Take Stock Week Day 2: Children

Tower of Power
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It is Oct. 21, 2005, Day 2 of Take Stock Week at The Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen. Today's subject is children.

There is no way a person with children can be understood by a person with no children. Things seem so simple to those who still have the same amount of brain cells they started out with, unlike the parents of this world who have felt so much of their native intelligence wither before the
onslaught of kid-logic:

"But Barry's Mom says it's OK."
"I AM studying!"

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik are blessed with the best children on Earth. The Great PunkyDunky and The Great BeeziWeezi are unique souls, each, thankfully, with a mix of the best of their parents, as well as, sorry Kids, a smattering of the shortcomings of their parents.

Certainly they've each got better hair. While The Great Ducknik complains about her thin hair and
The Great Plotnik bemoans his grayness and bald spot, the Great BZ and the Great PD effortelessly run combs through their thick, wavy locks. The Great Plotnik would have killed for
wavy. The Great Ducknik dreamed about thick. It didn't happen, until both their kids.

Both PD and BW have hard heads, which was tough for teen discipline, but serves them well now that one is in her twenties and one is in his, well, you know, the next notch up. BW probably worries a little more about things than PD, but as a result she is somewhat more disciplined than he is. PD probably spends money easier, but a brick in a pizza oven spends money more easily than BW. They're both smart, funny, cool. If one could repair computers and the other work on cars, they'd be perfect.

And, speaking of hard heads, The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik aren't exactly chopped chipotles. Ducknik, of course, is far more stubborn than Plotnik, but that may be because you're reading his blog and not her blog.

The Great Plotnik, taking stock, can say that he was concerned about only a few things for his children:

One, that they would learn to think for themselves about themselves and about other people.

Two, that they didn't do something idiotic as teenagers that would eliminate the choices
they would otherwise have before them later on.

Three, that they didn't pierce their nipples. OK, Plotnik must admit he really likes the one person he knows who has done so, and anyway he's not really all that sure where the piercings, you know, attach, you know, so to speak, where were we?

Four, that they use their educations for good but that they keep their minds open about what 'good' is, and that they always mistrust anything that comes after "Everybody says that...".

Five, that they see the world, as much of it as they can, and bring as many people with them as possible.

Six, that they love good food, and learn how to cook it.

Plotnik never thought about it when his kids were young, but there was probably always a Number Seven too. Now that The Great PunkyDunky has met and married The Great FiveHead,
Plotnik knows he and Ducknik always secretly hoped they would love the mates of their children every bit as much as their own flesh and blood. FiveHead has made that a no-brainer. No one in the world could be easier to love than The Great FiveHead. There must have been a time when she wasn't an integral part of the Plotnik family, but neither Plotnik nor Ducknik can remember when that could have been.

So, as far as his children go, if The Great Plotnik tried, he could not be prouder of any of them.

But this is about taking honest stock, so The Great Plotnik will now admit something his children perhaps have not realized before, but from this moment onward should occupy many of their waking moments:

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik COULD, given the right set of circumstances, learn to love one of their children ever so slightly more than the other. Let's just say it's possible. However, due to corportate and legal ramifications, neither parent would ever admit which child that might be at any one moment, and the distance between children would not be so great that it could not be overcome by continual displays of affection by all, such as coming home for all holidays, remembering how important
Mommy and Daddy are in their lives, homemade jams and cookies and enchiladas, maybe some cool, perfumed soap, and so on. One child may be slightly ahead, but that lead could evaporate in a hearbeat, and another could catch up with extra slobberings of loveydoviness. Forewarned is

This, brethren, is today's lesson. Tomorrow we shall take stock about work.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Take Stock Week Day 1: Psychic Inventory

6 Strings
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
October 20-26, 2005, have been designated Official Take Stock Week at Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen.

For the next few days, The Great Plotnik will be taking psychic inventory. He has not been forced to do this on a regular basis since the years when he was hired each season to play the Two Most Depressing Gigs in the History of Music. One came two weeks before Christmas, and the other was on New Year's Eve.

The Christmas gig was for an association of funeral directors who never smiled. They wore the threadbare black suits with the white shirts and thin black ties. They did not dance. They did not tell jokes. They ate their Chicken Kroopy (the house specialty) like they were burying your Uncle Mannie. It was thoroughly depressing, but nowhere as bad as New Year's.

On New Year's Eve, The Great Plotnik and a succession of saxophone players (no one but Plotnik could abide the gig two years in a row) entertained at a mobile home park in Carson, an industrial neighborhood south of Stiletto City. While his fellow musicians were working for triple-scale in Malibu penthouses and Las Vegas hotels, eating Lobster au Beurre Blanc and drinking Manhattans with olives and tiny onions, Plotnik's eyes were fixed on the buffet line at the mobile home park, where the bill of fare was liverwurst, olive loaf and Mrs. Wright's white bread spilling unevenly out of the supermarket bag.

Orange soda was available in thin, crinkly plastic cups, as was champagne from Safeway. Their color was the same, but the champagne had more bubbles.

The party started at 9PM. The inhabitants of the mobile home park were old codgers. By 11PM, many of them were already sound asleep, gray heads grinding on aluminum tables, waiting for Rusty Crutcher (1984), or Ron Robbins (1985), or Jimmy Reeves (1986), or Paul Seaforth (1987) to play 'Auld Lang Zyne' on his alto saxophone at the strike of midnight. Once that was dispensed with, they could stumble back to their double wides and drop over dead.

Although The Great Plotnik knew it is never a good idea to make important decisions while holding an olive loaf-on-white and drinking Safeway champagne in a plastic tumbler, by no later than 9:15PM each New Year's Eve he would promise himself, with teeth clenched and fist-to-heart, not to accept the inevitable invitation to return again the following New Years Eve, no matter how hard the social director of the mobile home park, who was a different person each year but whose name was always Ed, might cajole and no matter the size of the tip.

Perhaps Plotnik was, even then, refining the concept of OOPH (Our Own Personal Hell), now a central tenet of the Plotnikkie religion.

All night long, as each hour passed, a succession of requests would issue from the two or three guests still awake, for country and Western songs from 1956 or before. Plotnik would find himself singing and playing them despite having never heard nor heard of the songs before that moment, and as he did so he would watch the poor saxophone player, who had started out the evening on a positive 'Boy! It's great to be working on New Year's Eve!' note, now becoming visibly buried under an avalanche of mind-altering questions like "You went to music school for this, Rusty Crutcher?" and "This party is the highlight of your musical year, Ron Robbins?" and "Olive loaf again, Paul Seaforth?" (Paul played the gig two years in a row).

And then, despite his vow, each new year at 1AM, as if the Eds had all practiced together in front of the mirror from January to December to make sure to get it right, the Current Ed, soul dripping palpably from his pencil mustache, would grab Plotnik's arm, hand him a white envelope inside of which lay a check for the night's entertainment, and say: "We are so proud to have you boys. You make our whole year. Our people ask about you from New Year's to New Year's. I wish we could afford to pay you more, 'cause by God you deserve it! But here's a little extra just to show you how much you mean to us. Now, you WILL come back to us next year, won't'cha?"

The Grand Patsy, we mean The Great Plotnik, with his brain screaming "NO, NO, GOD, NO!" would then find himself shaking Ed's hand while saying, "Well, I guess, oh SURE we will, Ed...though I'll probably have to hire another horn player."

Why, you might ask? Why turn down other lovely, lucrative New Year's gigs, year after year, where people were having, like, fun, only to headline the Prozac-Proof Evening of Gloom at the mobile home park in Carson?

It wasn't Ed's fault. The mobilehomies were nice, simple people. The problem wasn't even their execrable buffet, because Plotnik figured it was the best they could afford, and the reason for that was probably that they were paying him their entire entertainment budget for the year.

Plotnik was the problem. If he was going to agree to do the damned gig, then why let it lay him out so emotionally low, each year worse than the last, as a result of which by 1986 he was practically in tears during Auld Lang Zyne, and in 1987 a trailer trollop who, in her day, was probably the finest looking fox in Carson, which is only a little bit like saying the finest tamale in Afghanistan, saw the tears running down his face and grabbed him into her olive loafy arms and bestowed upon him a kiss with more tongue in it than a Number Three Combo at Stage Deli, all the while saying "there, there, Baby, don't you worry, Momma's here." It was then The Great Plotnik knew he had died and gone to Hell and Carson was Ground Zero.

As the minutes counted down, the Taking Stock would begin. Each year, with 1985 or '86 or '87 or '88 lurking just on the other side of Auld Lang Zyne segueing into Twist and Shout followed by In The Mood, there was always one question that would not, could not be avoided, no matter how hard Plotnik tried, no matter how much olive loaf or bad champagne he consumed, just to be busy chewing or burping instead of having to deal with it:

(Prelude) "You, The Great Plotnik, you who refused to change your music because you believed in its purity...

(Second Prelude) "You, The Great Plotnik, you who held out for so many years refusing to allow scabrous producers to skim credit on your songs, leaving you with an honest 100% of nothing when they went and chose your friends' songs instead...

(Third Prelude) "You, The Great Plotnik, who decided to learn and perform the songs people love who give weddings and funerals and barmitzvahs and triathlons and Christmas and New Year's parties because at least then you could earn enough money to feel decent about yourself, EVEN WHEN you could feel the vital soul of your own creativity, the kernel of uniqueness that had always made your songs stand out, oozing from your own heart like a dagger removed from a corpse...

(Chorus) HOW IN THE WORLD has THAT led you to THIS Mobile Home Park, in the toxic and polluted geo-epicenter of the Southwestern Rim, on what is supposed to be an exciting and confidence-inspiring holiday?

How? It took Plotnik five years to figure out what every show biz executive and every unhappy housewife already knows: because, whether you mean it or not, it's easier to say Yes than say No.

That's all it is.

It took Plotnik five years, but when he really couldn't take it any more, and when he had run out of horn players anyway, he finally said: 'No, Thanks, Ed.'

Ed smiled. "Well, that's OK. You let us know if you change your mind, hear?"

And that was it. Starting in 1989 The Great Plotnik discovered that Lobster au Beurre Blanc is, indeed, far better than olive loaf. It just is.

That, children, was the subject of today's reflection. Tomorrow we discuss family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Take Stock Week

It is October 19, 2005. Tomorrow is the beginning of Official Take Stock Week at Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen.

Take Stock Week will end on October 26, 2005, at approximately 7:30AM. This promises to be a fun exercise, kind of like the Christmas Gig for the Association of Funeral Directors where Plotnik played for several years. You'll read about that tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Plotnik and his five classmates stand in a line, facing the blackboard, chalk in hand. Mrs. Matsumura says: 'Otona. Otona.'

Plotnik's five classmates nod their heads and begin drawing on the blackboard the two kanji, or Japanese/Chinese characters, that make up the Japanese word 'otona,' which means 'adult.' The first is for 'big,' and the second for 'person.' It's one of the easiest-to-remember combinations.

Plotnik makes a squiggle here, a squiggle there, erases the first with his fist, stares at the smudge, makes another squiggle, erases it with his fist, then draws the first again, stands back, satisfied.

When the six have finished, Mrs. Matsumura says: 'Purotniku-san.'

She walks to the blackboard and draws the correct 'otona' next to the deranged and lopsided snail tracks Plotnik has drawn. When Plotnik sees how Mrs. Matsumura has arranged her strokes, so perfectly and beautifully, he copies her. 'So,' says Mrs. Matsumura, and moves back to her seat. The six students pick up their chalk.

'Kyuujitsu,' she says, 'kyuujitsu.' 'Kyuujitsu' means 'holiday.'

Plotnik's five classmates draw the first kanji and the second kanji for kyuujitsu. Plotnik remembers 'jitsu,' because 'jitsu' is the Chinese pronunciation of the very first kanji they teach you, an easy one, just a box with a line in it. Sometimes it means 'day.' Sometimes it means 'sun.' Sometimes it's pronounced 'nichi.' Sometimes it's pronounced 'hee.' Sometimes it's pronounced 'jitsu.' Plotnik KNOWS 'jitsu.' Plotnik OWNS Jitsu. He draws 'jitsu.'

He forgets about 'kyuu.'

He knows something's wrong. 'kyuu'...'kyuu'...'kyuu' means a million different things. Lots of different words are pronounced 'kyuu.' Which one is...wait! That's right! THIS 'kyuu' is the Chinese pronunciation for 'rest.' Rest plus today equals holiday! Easy! Except...Plotnik cannot remember how to write 'rest' either.

He shakes his head, frustrated with himself. He is 100% certain that 'jitsu' without 'kyuu' will not cut Mrs. Matsumura's mustard. Like his classmates, he lays his chalk in the chalk railing.

'Purotniku-san,' says Mrs. Matsumura.

She walks to the blackboard to write the kanji for 'kyuu' next to Plotnik's kanji for 'jitsu.' Plotnik copies her 'kyuu,' and she says 'so.'

But she's lying. The Japanese are very, very polite. She would never say what she really thinks, and for this, Thank You Jesus.

When Plotnik looks at his 'kyuu' and her 'kyuu' he can see that his 'kyuu' is sick, twisted, squirmy, and, come to think of it, his 'jitsu' ain't so hot either, it doesn't have her crisp, square corners, but looks a little like the international symbol for NO -- a sort of circle with a line through it, but not even that, no, he hasn't even drawn a firm 'no,' he's drawn a flaccid 'like, maybe not.'

But Mrs. Matsumura has moved on. 'Ooame,' she says, pronounced 0-0-a-may, which means 'heavy rain.' Plotnik knows this one, because the kanji for rain actually looks like rain - a little temple with raindrops inside it. He draws it firmly and quickly. But he cannot remember the O-O, even though IT'S THE SAME KANJI HE ALREADY DREW ABOVE FOR 'OTONA.' 'BIG.' 'BIG,' YOU LUMBERING, ATHEROSCLEROTIC, HOPELESSLY WESTERN NUMBNUTS! BIG! DRAW IT! DRAW IT!

He can't remember how to draw it. His brain has siezed up like a twenty year old Mac Plus. Nothing comes. Plotnik stares at the chalk in his hand, then at his five other classmates who have put down their chalk and are waiting for him, then at their correctly drawn 'ooame,' then at his ame-minus-o-o. He sets down his chalk. He bangs his head against the blackboard. Once. Twice. Three times. The four-level class, normally noisy and anarchic, hushes to a whisper.

He hears footsteps behind him. 'Purotniku-san,' says Mrs. Matsumura, in a kind voice, trying very hard not to chuckle, and almost succeeding.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ice Cream Mariachi

Ice Cream Mariachi
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It is a tradition in Saint Plotniko for street mariachis, small groups of men carrying accordions, guitars, bass guitarrones and drums, to roam the streets looking for work. They adhere to many unwritten rules, but the
most inviolable one seems to be: there is only one ice cream cone and the biggest guy gets it.

When The Great Plotnik first screeched his Plotkicycle to a stop, after spotting this mariachi band taking a break at mid-day in front of Bombay Yums on Valkyrie Street, the fellow in the middle still had a huge, white scoop of ice cream on top of his cone, but by the time Plotnik snapped the shutter, the song was gone and nothing but the melody lingered on.

It reminds Plotnik of a wonderful, old mariachi song called "Perfidia." This song is no doubt performed often by our friends in this photo, to be sung, with a kiss, to the more ample singer's late and lamented triple-dip vanilla-ginger-kulfi cone from Bombay Yums:

"Amor, si quieres tu con Dios hablar
Pregúntale si yo, alguna vez
te he dejado de adorar?"

Love, if you wish, speak with God
Ask him if I ever
have stopped adoring you?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Limon: Large Plates, Small Food

Plotnik and Ducknik went out to dinner last night at a Peruvian restaurant Plotnik had photographed a few months ago. Plotnik noticed three Danger Signs the moment they walked in the door: 1) Restaurant Packed with Well Dressed Yups, 2)Blaringly Loud and Shrill Conversation, and 3) Large Plates.

1) Restaurant Packed with Well Dressed Yups isn't alarming in, say, a burger joint or French bistro, but in an upscale ethnic restaurant it is poison. If there are no Peruvians in a Peruvian restaurant, or, at least, a few Panamanians or at least somebody besides the busboys who speak Spanish, trouble lurks nearby.

2) Blaringly Loud and Shrill Conversation means the management wants to be a Trendy First Date spot, not a place to linger over delicious, memorable food. Plotnik should have realized this when the doe-eyed hostess announced: "Lindsay will show you upstairs to your table. Please be aware you have only an hour and a half to complete your meal."

Plotnik thought: "Until what? Do the microgreens re-freeze at 9:30?"

3) Large Plates. This is the worst offender of all. 'Large Plates' is shorthand for 'Pathetically Small Portions on Hugendously Large Plates.' Sure enough, there were more words on the menu describing Plotnik and Ducknik's appetizer than there were centimeters in the chow. The tiny circle of potato-y glop arrived on what looked like a Buick hubcap, if they made Buick hubcaps in huge white crockery, so that the miniscule and round chunk-o dough was forced to sit naked, quivering on a plate ten times its size.

Sure enough, all the danger signs were warranted. None of the First Daters trying out the Peruvian food could ever have ventured South of South of Market, because they seemed to be loving this bland, not even French -- make it Belgian, maybe Dutch, or Flemish, yeah, Flemish, certainly not close to Peruvian or even Latino -- fare.

"I THINK I'LL HAVE THE PARIHUELA," Plotnik screamed, and Ducknik screamed back: "YOU'LL DANCE A TARANTELLA?"

The parihuela, a shellfish soup, and the lomo saltado, a mix of beef and vegetables, while vaguely tasty, came on huge plates, but there wasn't enough there to keep either Plotnik or Ducknik from aching to fly home, starved, to dish several scoops of Mitchell's fresh peach ice cream into a bowl just big enough for the ice cream to barely fit but small enough that each spoonful sends ice cream to the floor for the cat.

Now, The Great Plotnik Restaurant Division would normally award a pretentious place like Limon Restaurant One and a Half Stars, One for the decent-if-miniscule portion of Lomo Saltado, and Half for reminding Plotnik and Ducknik that Mi Lindo Peru up the street is so much better, half as expensive, with customers who know the difference between Lima and FEMA, where one order of parihuela feeds two or three, and if you need a few hours to savor your meal, they'll smile and bring you another Cusquena Dark to wash it down.

We said 'normally.' But SUBTRACT THE HALF STAR. There was no aji on the table! A Peruvian meal in a Peruvian restaurant without a bowl of delicious, garlicky, hot, spicy salsa on the table! YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING! One Star ONLY, and that's putting that star on a platter far more generous than it deserves.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Om Pikka

Saturday is a Holy Day in several religions, but not to Plotnikkies, who celebrate every day as sacred, especially at the dinner hour. Still, The Great Plotnik loves Saturday the best of all days, because he gets to play plotzketball in the morning, go to the farmer's market and bagel shop afterwards, then come home, take a shower and stuff himself with a Plotnik Combo # 2: Poppy seed bagel, toasted with cream cheese, tomato and onion, plus a large latte. Oh, Mama Pajama, it doesn't get much better than that.

Today after plotzketball, Plotnik took his usual ride to the bagel shop. As reported on August 27, after Dave and Daisy retired, their helpers, who are Filipino and Korean, took the shop over. Today, Manhattan Bagel was empty.

Plotnik walked in, and the new owner, a man in his thirties, said: "Ah! 5 poppy 1 chedda!"

"Right," Plotnik smiled. He looked around, saw only one other person in the shop, whereas in Dave and Daisy's day there was always a long line.

"Where is everybody?" he asked.

"Don't know, don't know. Weather bad maybe. You shoulda seen Thursday."


"Oh, yah, place packed all day. All day. We run out of bagels faw thutty."

"Really! Thursday. Why do you think that was?"

"Om Pikka."


"Om Pikka. Om Pikka."

Plotnik racked his brain. Om. Hindu word. Pikka. Flicka? Picture? Hindu movie? Om Pikka?

"I'm sorry, I don't understand. What is Om Pikka?"

"You know, holiday. Om Pikka. Om Pikka. People buy bagels all day long. Can't get enough bagels. Sell jalapeno. Sell chocolate chip. Every bagel. All gone. Om Pikka.

The light goes on. "Yom Kippur! You mean Yom Kippur!"

"Yah, yah, Om Pikka. Holiday. Bagels fly outa here."

"That's great. Well, I'm sure business will pick up later."

"Oh, yeah. 5 poppy 1 chedda. Faw Twenty.

Plotnik pays, hops on his plotzkicycle and rides back, uphill, wind in his face as always, already dreaming about all the shots he made and the bagels he will consume.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Unfortunate Lambnik

The Unfortunate Lambnik
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik stares at three boneless lamb filets cut from the leg of The Unfortunate Lambnik. The filets stare back:


"Shut up. I'm going to barbecue you, I just don't know how yet."

"Have you thought about yogurt?"

"Good idea. I'll get some from the fridge."

Plotnik takes a cup of nonfat yogurt and puts it in a bowl.

"On me, not in the bowl," suggests the lamb.

"Calm down. How about..." Plotnik stares at his spices... "cardamom?"

He cracks open a dozen green cardamom pods, mashes them in the mortar with his pestle, or maybe it's in the pestle with his mortar.

"Maybe it's Colonel Mustard with the Lead Pipe in the Billiard Room," says the impatient Lambnik.

"Oh, eat me," says Plotnik.

"I wish."

"Yogurt and cardamom and...garlic. Can't have lamb without garlic." Plotnik bangs his flat cleaver on half a dozen large cloves of garlic, peels off the skin, chops the garlic fine and throws it on top of the cardamom. More pestling.

"I'm gonna be hella tasty," says the lamb.

"You bet you are. Yogurt, cardamom, garlic...lemon, of course, no, make that lime."

"Good choice. The limes from your back yard?"

"Yeah, they're really juicy." Plotnik zests one and squeezes two, throws zest and juice into the yogurt, adds the garlic and cardamom and a touch of salt, and tosses it all on top of the lamb.

"So? What do you think?" The Great Plotnik asks the Unfortunate Lambnik.

" know, you could use some alfalfa. I like alfalfa."

"Past tense, pal. Sorry, but you are about to become The Great Plotnik Combo 1,130: Lamb Filets in Yogurt and Cardamom, Curried Brown Rice, Grilled Red Pepper and Onion Salad and something green -- maybe arugula with oranges."

"Mmm, I like arugula," says the lamb.

"Thanks for your help," says The Great Plotnik.

"That's what I'm here for," says the Unfortunate Lambnik, his voice dripping yogurt, garlic and sarcasm.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
We see a child playing in the red dirt in front of the aluminum shanty where she lives in Soweto, South Africa. We see the incongruous dollar sign painted on the door. If the entire scene were expanded we would see many such shanties and many more children, and heavy-set women dressed in layers carrying water on their heads in plastic buckets, and unemployed men in thin windbreakers walking to the shabeen to drink home made beer from a communal bucket.

But no matter what we would see in reality, the dollar sign dominates the frame. Soweto is impoverished, but relatively well-off compared to most of the rest of Africa, or to people digging out of the earthquake in Pakistan, or abandoning their entire city under the mud in Guatemala, or escaping genocide in Rwanda.

How does anyone make sense out of this picture? The Great Plotnik has never seen urban poverty like he saw in the black townships of South Africa, but...this little girl has a shanty, cramped as it is, with a door on it. The door has been graffiti'd with a dollar sign. What is the message here?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Tour Bus for Martians

Pillows and Rave
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plottographer was out last night taking photos of Saint Plotniko's newest and trendiest spots. His employer loves 'new and trendy.' Also, 'sexy,' and 'kooky.' Sometimes the Great Plotnik feels like he's working for Interplanetary Gray Line, driving adolescent Martians through Early Twenty-First Century Earth.

"Here is a kooky club."

"What do they do here?"

"They act kooky."

The truth is that Plotnik will be back in six months or a year or two, to take another picture of the newer and trendier spot that replaces this one, when the even wealthier and far kookier new owner rips out everything here and puts in his own trendier, sexier and kookier club.

You are staring at the 2005 version. This is the "private party room." It is nothing but pillows and video terminals. Hear the DJ spinning at one end of the room. See the omnisexuals sipping rare cocktails.

Omigodomigod! Did you hear...? Grab your camera! Chewbacca and Han Solo have a 10:30 reservation!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ghetto Boyz or Muni?

Ghetto Boyz
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
All through South Africa, combies like Ghetto Boyz above, seen on a street corner in Durban, are the means of transportation for most people. As you can see, Ghetto Boyz is in great shape. Most aren't. Many are death traps, but they're all cheap and fast. A boy sticks his head out the window and announces the route: "Sea Point! Sea Point!"

If you stand on the side of the road and raise your arm the combie screeches to a stop, the door opens, you step up, and off you go, squashed between a 300 pound woman and a kid coming home from school. The dominant language is Xhosa.

Today, The Great Plotnik took the 26- bus from the car service shop back to Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen. The ride was a mile and a half at most. The dominant language was Spanish. The riders were primarily women. One man in a wheelchair wore no pants but nobody seemed to notice. Two gangsters sat in the back playing Latino hip hop while everyone else refused to make eye contact.

Plotnik asked himself: Would he rather have waited half an hour for this plodding city bus, or hopped into a privately-owned combie that would have come along every two minutes, calling out "Plotnik World Headquarters! Plotnik World Headquarters!"...?

Of course, the guy in the wheelchair would have had to wait for the plodding city bus. The combies wouldn't have time nor hydraulic lifts, nor, maybe, brakes.

Still, it's a no-brainer. Ghetto Boyz or Muni? Ghetto Boyz every time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Brothers and Friends

Being home is great. This seems to be a recurring Plot.
Traveling the world is fabulous. This also seems to be a recurring Plot.

Family is wonderful. This seems to be a recurring Plot.
Family is a pain in the booty. This also seems to be a recurring Plot.

So, which is it? Are they wonderful or do they drive you nuts? Should Plotnik go or stay?

In his youth, The Great Plotnik wanted his whole clan to be perfect, because he was. Now that he is as old as petrified wood, and has spotted imperfections in himself the size of Bette Middler's nose, Plotnik realizes his family does the best it can. The fool is the one who thinks they'll change, or that they should, or that he'd like it if they did. Imagine your brother or sister exactly like you. Two of you in one family? Please pass Plotnik the Kool Aid.

Never. Plotnik and Brother Shmeckl drinking strong, black coffee together with the cup half filled with blackberry syrup? Schmeckl and Plotnik moving to a high rise in a Saint Patooty suburb and adopting a crippled dog? Nah. Shmeckl and Plotnik are brothers,

On the other hand, friends are wonderful, but unless you are very, very lucky, friends can't go back with you to the beginning like your family can, like your brother and sister can.

Some people have friends who are like brothers. Some people have brothers who are like friends. But friends can't be brothers. Brothers might aggravate the Boopie out of you, but when the going gets rough, and friends discover they have their own lives and their own problems, brothers will be there with a smile and a pickup truck. Your problems will always be your brother's problems, as his are yours.

If you're lucky. Sometimes Plotnik isn't sure, either.

Sometimes he thinks it would be a lot easier to just fly away to Buenos Aires and let the whole stew simmer on its own. This also seems to be a recurring Plot.

But sometimes he figures his family needs him, that they value his opinion, that his outlook, though different than everyone else's, counts, and that everyone, in their heart, speaks Plotshk.

Then again, Plotnik also thought J.D. Drew might play the whole year.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mistress Red Hat with Mistress Domin-nik

Mistress Red Hat came to Mistress Domin-nik and The Great JackyWacky's combined Birthday Party last night. In addition to Red Hat, Domin-Nik and JackyWacky, several other Plotnikkies were there, including The Great Plotnik, The Great Ducknik, The Great Mushnik, the harmonicist and cellist Large Pants, Mississippi MotorNik, LoozianaVal, Silent Bill...maybe more.

It was goobers of fun. Pizza. Live music. Wine. Funny hats. Two birthdays at once. Not one person mentioned Iraq.

Happy Birthdays to Mistress Domin-nik and The Great JackyWacky. Sorely missed were other Tiaposians, especially she who usually brings the great cream cheesy sundried tomatoey herby spready thing, not to mention Manolo Big Blogs, and The Great Wallacenik, and The Great Blonde Bombshell who is now Officially On The Mend.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Deep Fried Fat of The Ninth Ward

Deep Fried Fat
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik has to admit that there was a moment when he wondered if all the liquid filling the streets of New Orleans was water, or if a substantial amount was deep fry oil or crab boil.

Crab boil, as it was explained to TGP by Whitey, who ran Whitey's Tavern, was a huge vat of water and spices in which Whitey's family had been 'bilin' crabs n taters. Hell, we haven't changed that crab boil fer fifty years.'

My, the crabs were delicious, as were the crayfish and the little red potatoes, and it was all served on a piece of newspaper and you ate it with your greasy, fat little fingers. But when Whitey's flooded, what happened to that crab boil?

And how about the grease the whole city saved after they made chicken fingers n French Fries n fried oysters n turduckin? Yes, turduckin -- a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, and all deep fried in a kettle the size of Rhode Island. You know those frugal Cajuns were not going to throw out all that oil. Where do you think it ended up?

TGP and The Great PunkyDunky once went to a strawberry festival South of New Orleans, in a town completely ringed by refineries. They served deep fried strawberries. Consider what happens to a strawberry when you deep fry it. They didn't throw out any of that oil either.

Still, ain't nothin' like a plate-o chicken fingers, fries, potato salad and mustard sauce. There is a rumor circulating that TGP ordered a veggie burger instead of the above, but it was deep fried too. So sue me.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Same Hamam as Billy Collins

It being Poetry Friday, it is proper to point out that the above photo of an intinerant rug merchant in Istanbul was taken in the same Turkish bathhouse (hamam) that is mentioned in the Billy Collins poem 'Istanbul'(from the collection Nine Horses). On a Friday night, the Muslim holy night when the body must be thoroughly cleansed, the merchant and his family scoured the dark streets of the old city until they found the hamam.

Collins writes:

'And it was a pleasure to drink
cold wine by a low wood fire
before being directed to a small room in an upper gallery,
a room with a carpet and a narrow bed
where I folded my clothes into a pile
then came back down, naked
except for a gauzy striped cloth tucked around my waist...'

Observe above gauzy striped cloth.

Collins writes:

'I felt like the last of the sultans
when the man returned and began to scrub me
to lather and douse me
scour and shampoo me
and splash my drenched body
with fresh warm water
scooped from a marble basin.'

Ah, the rug merchant remembers. He also remembers the pummeling he got from Abdul, the Turk assigned to rearrange the merchant's muscles and internal organs. Why don't we just take this arm here and put it down next to this leg here? He remembers fresh-squeezed orange juice and hot, sweet tea. He remembers feeling as wonderfully cleansed (see above otherworldly grin) as he has ever felt in his entire life. He remembers the shish kabobs and eggplant salads and warm Turkish bread that followed.

Billy Collins probably went out to dinner afterwards too. Collins finishes his poem by saying, and The Great Plotnik echoes:

'I thanked everyone whose job
it ever was to lay hands
on the skin of strangers,
and I gave general thanks that I was lying
facedown in a warm puddle of soap
and not a warm puddle of blood
in some corner of this
incomprehensible city.'

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Plate-o Clyde's Ribs

A Plate-o Clyde's Ribs
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Last night, Chef Picklenik read us a story about growing up in Hotlanta. For six months, as an eleven-year-old, she was taken off food by her mother in order to lose weight. Instead, all day long she swallowed pills, and could drink only water, while all her friends were scarfing down barbecue, butter beans in fatback and home made peach ice cream. A plate-o Clyde's ribs was out of the question.

The diet worked, all right, but what Chef Picklenik said about it was the interesting part. She said that to someone who loves food as much as she does, "it was like taking away my paints." An artist without brushes. A writer without a pencil.

The Great Plotnik has been thinking about that, because, duh, he loves to eat too. He would rather read a cookbook than a novel, go to a wine and food pairing than a World Series, prepare dinner for friends than go the movies. Most often, he'd rather eat that dinner than go to the finest restaurant in Saint Plotniko.

It galls him to pay $17.95 for a piece of goobered-up farmed salmon when he knows he can make a far better meal for a fourth of the price, to pay $25 for a $7 bottle of wine, to have the whole dining experience be as uplifting as a flight to Stiletto City on Ted.

Chef Picklenik, now thin and gorgeous, is required to bring food to writer's group. Mmmm, key lime pie. Mmmm, cream cheesy sundried tomatoey herby spready thing. Mmmm.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ichi Nichi Juu

Studying Japanese is humbling. Studying kanji (the Chinese characters that form the bulk of Japanese writing) is humiliating. Humbling and humiliating. Fun!

The Great Plotnik has become convinced he has no Japanese or Chinese ancestors, or, if he does, they did not bother to transmit any knowledge into his genes. He does not mind feeling like a brain-dead buffoon in class, but he wishes Mrs. Matsumura would not sit down next to him before he has to answer a question in his gringo dog accent.

Sometimes you just have to do what's hard, because it's hard. Also, it's fun to order in a Japanese restaurant, and to say the Japanese word for 'every day': "ichi-nichi-juu. Ichi-nichi-juu." He he he. "Ichi-nichi juu." Plotnik is having a wonderful time, for a blithering numbskull.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Red-Eye from Hotlanta

Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It wasn't exactly a red-eye, but Plotnik's and Ducknik's flight left Atlanta at 7AM, which meant getting to the airport by 6AM, which meant getting into a taxi by 5:15AM, which meant turning off the alarm in the Hermitage at 4:50AM, which meant Plotnik and Ducknik rolling over and checking their watches at 4AM and 3AM and 2AM because that's what happens to both of them when they have to get up early the next morning to catch a plane, and since they didn't get into bed until 1AM, due to an advanced round of saying goodbye to Annie, it may as well have been a red-eye.

And anyway, Plotnik and Ducknik always have red-eyes when they say good-bye to Annie. Annie is family. She and Ducknik have known each other since they were babies, decades before her widowed Mom married Ducknik's widower Dad.

Annie gave a speech on Friday in Atlanta before a packed house at the National Ovarian Cancer Association. People laughed, cried, hooted, howled and snarfled their kleenexes. At the end, everyone bought at least one copy of 'Bearing Up With Cancer,' which Annie wrote in the midst of the most heinous bouts of radiation, chemo and nausea, to say nothing of clinical trials, hospital screw-ups, incomplete diagnoses, Doctors who were clueless and infinite questions about her treatment for which there were no available answers.

Her speech and her book are told by teddy bears. Believe it or not, these bears are very, very funny. When you're done listening to Annie, you're convinced she and her bears will outlast all the gremlins that have been trying to get her, quite unsuccessfully, for the last 25 years. Hers is a wonderful story, and her book should be required reading for anyone facing odds they're not sure they can overcome.

As in all great stories, in the end the good girl wins. She's winning right now, despite almost nonstop chemo these days. She looks great, sounds great, drinks lots of scotch and makes everyone around her feel alive. When you say good-bye, your eyes are red, and you've got a bunch of great new jokes.

In his previous entry, Plotnik quoted the last line of Annie's speech, and her book: "Cancer Will Never Get Me, Not While I'm Alive!" She leaves the stage to thunderous applause.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

You Need To Meet Annie

You need to meet Annie. You may not know you do, but you do, because Annie's got the power. One of these days she's going to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, and The Great Plotnik will not be surprised. They've been trying to wear her down, but it's a waste of time. She's indestructible. You have to meet Dr. Annie Smith. One thing's for sure: cancer will never get her, not while she's alive.