The Great Plotnik

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Sisterhood at Temple Beth Kaq-ix-Qxj.

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik have a new favorite hotel room in the world, and that's Number 10 at the Mayan Inn in Chichicastenango. They knew it was special when they walked through the late Saturday marketplace in Chichi and spied a low yellow building with parrots in the patio, and they knew even more when they saw the room they'd been given, with the high Spanish exposed beams,cozy bed and window at street level, but they knew for sure when their waiter, Manuel, at the restaurant across the street, asked if he could bring them their coffee and hot chocolate and then go to their room and light the fire for them in their fireplace. When P and D got done with dinner they walked back across the street (no locks on the hotel room doors) and their room was cozy with a fire and the sheets turned back.

It was a good thing, because Chichicastenango is in the mountains and cold at night. Manuel thought to bring an extra blanket.

Then the next morning, yesterday, Sunday, the Mayan men and women started tramping past the hotel room at 3:30AM, setting up for the great Sunday Market of Chichicastenango. From their cozy covers, Plotnik and Ducknik could smell the incense from the church, and the tortillas cooking on the charcoal grills, and hear townspeople's sandals snapping on the cobbles, and the sound of chickens and pigs squealing in burlap bags, and poles being dragged for the kiosks, and kids running by laughing.

When P and D finally got out of bed, Duck went into the bathroom, so Plotnik decided to use the bathroom in the courtyard. The second he opened the door, "Hola!" said Manuel, just about scaring Plottie out of his pantalones. "Para servirle," he said, "How Can I Serve You?"

"Just let me go to the bathroom, please, Manuel," Plotnik said, thinking "OK, this is really enough now." He realized only afterwards that Manuel was making sure to hang close to his tip.

The superb Market of Chichicastenango is just that -- an indescribable collection of Maya sellers from across the region (you can tell which village the women come from by the color of their blouses and hats), mostly selling Mayan handcrafts (blouses, skirts, belts, shoes, jewelry, tablecloths, bedspreads and other Chotchkes a La Maya). It is too enormous to go through in one day, or maybe it's not, because you're basically lost the second you leave the main path. You have to find the church for your bearings.

The Church of Santo Tomas is pure CathoMaya. They call him Jesus, but everybody knows they mean Maximon, or Chac-Mool. Outside, the air is thick with more incense than Telegraph Avenue on Earth Day, while inside the earthen floor is filled with women on their knees supplicating before hundreds of burning candles. A fire burns on the steep stairs outside, which descend directly into the marketplace. On the bottom of the stairs Mayan women set up their tables and sell tacos and carnitas and chicharrones on little picnic tables. It's like the sisterhood at Temple Beth Kaq-ix-Qxj.

The bargaining process is the same in Chichi as elsewhere. They decide what you're going to pay them, and you do. Family members have been purchased for.

Plotnik and Ducknik arrived in Chichi on Saturday afternoon, but that morning they were on glorious Lake Atitlan, where they took a four-hour jaunt in a launch, blue water and sky, surrounded by great volcanoes. They visited three lake villages, all accessible only by boat. The two larger villages were touristy, but in the smallest, Jaibalito, there were no tourists at all, and very little village, only a few steep foot paths, but at the top of the village, where the forest began, Plotnik heard a tenor saxophone, or bassoon, coming through the trees. At the boat launch, someone told him it was Guido, and that Guido is the American who lives in the forest and plays sax all day. The locals shake their heads and smile at the thought of Crazy Guido.

It's amazing what you can see in six days. Today, Monday, back in Antigua, Plotnik will plan tomorrow through Saturday while Ducknik does her laundry back at the pension. Chac-mool willing, P and D should end up in Livingston, on the Mar Caribe, tomorrow night.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tuk Tuk con Chiltepe

1) Imagine a Bangkok 3-wheel tuk-tuk, driver in the front, bench in back big enough for two small people, engine whining like a blender trying to process an avocado pit, now add cobbled streets, and trade the snarled traffic of Bangkok for the relatively empty streets of Antigua, Guatemala, so the tuk-tuk driver can go as fast as he wants over the cobblestone road while the two people in back bounce up and down and keep counting to see how many teeth they have left.

2) Imagine the acrid smell of a very resinous joint, now distill that smell into a powder and put it into a coffee filter and pour hot water over it. That's how the stuff tastes that they sell in the market place in huge cone-shaped piles that they call Toasted Coffee that Plotnik thought meant Roasted Coffee. Toasted Coffee is not Roasted Coffee. It is not coffee to drink at all, but is a reside from the coffee roasting process that is normally used as a filler for tortillas. It tastes exactly like that smell, or maybe like week-old milk you find under the bed.

3) Imagine a small, Cuban night club where P and D go to hear a guitarist and conga-drummer -- BZ, remember the little upstairs place in Cuzco with room for only a few sofas and a microphone for the guitar player? -- except the musicians' car in Antigua, Guatemala, has broken down, so they haven't actually arrived in the club yet, so they're playing Cuban records instead. Plot and Duck order mojitos and a Cuban Sandwich. The mojitos are in tall glasses loaded with fresh mint. At exactly 9AM P and D jump into the air as very loud church bells begin ringing outside, followed by a zillion firecrackers POP POP POP POP. The smoke wafts in the open windows, and the bells are ringing, but the records keep playing. So P and D sit back down and sip their mojitos, but five minutes later more church bells ring, this time accompanied by three zillion firecrackers with a few hundred cherry bombs. Bells and firecrackers. Bells and firecrackers again. Turns out it's a big Saint's Day celebration at the cathedral next door. The air smells like gunpowder. The Cubans never show up. Great night.

4) Imagine oil paintings as vibrant and unique and certainly more colorful than anything Plotnik has seen before, all from a village on Lake Atitlan named San Juan de la Laguna, that was completely buried by mud in Hurricane Stan, but the Peace Corp worker has managed to set up a show for the village's textile artisans and painters in a fancy Antigua hotel. In San Juan, the people are called T'zutzil, and both men and women paint. The artists are at the show, very short, dark haired men in jeans and long sleeved work shirts and even shorter women in long many-layered skirts. The hotel guests browse the exhibition in suits and look like amazons from Beverly Hills. Plot sees the show in the morning and runs to tell Ducknik in her class. On her lunch break they go back. They buy one from Gilberto, after a lengthy negotiation. Here it is, a T'zutzil oil painting, with the artist, painted from a bird's eye view of people harvesting coffee -- oh, boy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Antigua, Guatemala

The Great Plotnik left The Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen at 3:45pm, got to BART by 4, got to SFO by 5, left SFO by 7, got to LA by 8, left LA by 11, got to Guatemala City by 3:30am (5:30am Guatemala time), got into Jose Mario´s truck by 6, got to Antigua by 7, kissed the Duck hello many times, got to breakfast by 7:30, and here he is, back at the computer by 9:30am, after walking down one street to the end and turning around and walking back.

So far, it seems impossible to tell what the names of the little cobblestone streets are because they change every two blocks. What was Inquisition Street became Nazarene Street became Avenida Hugo Morales, but how anyone would know that is still a mystery. TGP has only investigated this one, long street, Avenida Sexta. Sixth Avenue.

Antigua is charming, but not like a set piece of a tourist village, instead it´s a working town with every street a narrow, cobblestoned, narrow-sidewalked, small Mom-n-Pop shop kind of place. Lots of iron workers and shoemakers. So far, there is little sign of indigenous culture -- it´s definitely not Cuzco -- but I have seen some fabulous manteles, which are wool weavings maybe two or three feet wide and five or six feet tall, and theý´re cheap and gorgeous. They´ll probably be cheaper when we get up to the mountains where they´re made. Anyone who wants to spend fifty bucks or so, or maybe considerably less, for a beautiful Maya weaving, better notify TGP before market day in Chichicastenango on Sunday.

There was an earthquake here last Sunday and last night Fuego, the second-closest volcano, erupted. Doña Quackabella and fellow students watched from a bar as bright yellow lava poured out with an enormous roar. This volcano is only two miles away.

Antigua was the old national capital, but they moved the capital to Guatemala City when volcanos and earthquakes destroyed Antigua for the n'th time. The problem is, they moved it to an area that is far worse.

In her class, Ducknik sits outside in a tiny room with her teacher, a short, large-smiled Guatemalan woman, in a beautiful schoolyard thick with bougainvillea and birds of paradise. We´ll meet up at lunchtime.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fresh Green Salad

Fresh Green Salad
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik is flying to Guatemala this afternoon, so, naturally, yesterday afternoon he did the most important thing: he made himself an enormous green salad. Romaine, spinach, carrots, radishes, leftover pilaf, leftover roast chicken, feta cheese and kalamata olives, with a vinaigrette heavy with dill and dijon. He made enough for eight people, but ate half of it himself yesterday and will down the last half right before he leaves for the airport. That'll be it for any greens or raw vegetables for the next 12 days.

Plotnik loves everything about traveling except for the part about missing healthy food. He never realizes just how Northern California he has become until his insides begin complaining about the boiled root vegetables and excess grease. The answer, of course, is to travel places where the water is safe to drink, so you can safely eat vegetables grown and washed in it, brush your teeth with it, drink ice made from it. But that's no fun.

Plus, travelers get to come back home. We shouldn't ever forget how lucky we are.

So, regardless of how good trucha (Peru), Mozambique prawns (South Africa), pancakes (Poland), the Imam's Eggplant (Turkey) and almond croissants (Rue Mouffetard) always are, by the time Plotnik and Ducknik get back they will be obsessing about quesadillas from La Palma and a fresh, green, tasty, huge, yummy, green, crunchy, enormous green salad, like this one over here.

El Gran Plotniko y la Doña Quackabella will keep blogging. Adios, amigos, hasta catorce dias.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Philly Cheese Steak

Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Black haired, gray haired, brown haired, bald headed. Old, young. Fat, skinny. The Great Plotnik wishes it would stop raining so he could play ball again with his guys. It has rained every Saturday since before Christmas.

The man in the red shorts is named Rico. He runs the Philly Cheese Steak place near Kaiser, so last Friday TGP stopped in to see him. It was lunchtime and the place was packed so Rico was taking a shift at the grill.

"Hey," Rico said when he saw Plotnik. "Almost didn't recognize you in civilian clothes."

"Hey, Rico," Plot said. "You gonna come down tomorrow morning?"

"If it stops raining," Rico said. "Man, I miss our game. You hongry?"

"Yeah, but no, thanks, Rico," said Plotnik, thinking about the two weeks of shortened life expectancy each Philly Cheese Steak guarantees.

"I miss our game, too," he said. But it didn't stop raining. So no game. And Plotnik was still hongry.

But it cleared up yesterday. So Plotnik took the P-cycle up to Diamond Heights and found a small game in the newly renovated Haas Park at the top of the hill. It felt great to run around -- but it's still not Saturday Morning at James Plotz Middle School, still not Rico and Sherlock and Bobby and Sam and Tony, still not Skip and Mike and Pete and Dave and Greg and Ron.

And the next two Saturdays Plot will be in Guatemala. It better not rain.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Piano in Pocket

Piano in Pocket
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Theater Reviewer The Great Plotnik and Film Critic Hanky Girl went to the New Conservatory Theatre last night to see 'Burn This.' Now, TGP understands this Gary Larson cartoon better.

The four cowboys are sitting around the campfire under the stars. One of them turns to the other and says "Say Will, why don't you pull that thing out and play us a tune?" We see that in Will's pants pocket is an enormous grand piano.

Thanks to 'Burn This' and 'Brokeback Mountain,' it is now clear that Gary Larson must be reevaluated in terms of his obvious pro-gay agenda.

In the first place, the man's name is Will.

In the second place, his friend says "Why don't you pull that thing out...," clearly a reference to Will's latent and questionable sexuality.

Thirdly, look at their hats.

Finally, we see that Will's grand piano is huge and black -- the piano clearly being a metaphor for Will's dangerous sexual organ.

How exactly Will got it into his back pocket remains unanswered. Also, what about the pedals?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Saturday Latte

Saturday Latte
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik opens his eyes on Saturday morning: it's raining again. This is more good news for the cymbidiums and bearded iris and more bad news for Plotnik. Rain on Saturday morning means a rainy plotzketball court, AGAIN, and no plotzketball game, AGAIN. There is only one thing that can get Plotnik out of bed on a rainy non-Plotzketball Saturday morning with Ducknik in Guatemala: latte.

He mopes upstairs, takes out his favorite cup and pours a few inches of nonfat milk into it, then fills the aluminum water carafe with Brita-water (does anyone have any proof that Brita filters work? Plot doubts it), opens the bag of French roast ground for espresso, takes a satisfying sniff, removes two large scoops of coffee and puts them in the filter holder and tamps them down, then fits the filter holder tightly into the coffee machine body.

He unscrews the water/pressure holder lid and pours in the carafe of water, then screws the the water/pressure holder lid back and places the carafe under the coffee spout. With a smile he pushes ON.

He thinks: Did The Great Plotzer in the Sky push the RAIN? WHY NOT button with the same smile this morning?

No bike ride. No ball. But here comes the coffee. As soon as the first drips emerge from the spout, The Great Plotnik takes his cup and places it under the frother, turns the ON button one stop to FROTH. Well, the button doesn't say ON or FROTH anymore, because long ago the cheap writing on the knob steamed off, but TGP knows where ON is and where FROTH is, even though all the stops are counter-intuitively placed, so that OFF is somewhere in the middle, which has resulted in some badly scalded empty carafes, but this is another story.

Perhaps Frau Braun herself, when designing this little machine, said to herself "So! Das Plotniks af dis wurld vit dis OFF svitch ve gonna mess vit dere little brainz Ho Ho Ho!"

Now the frother begins to, well, to froth. Steam shoots out of the nozzle while Plotnik positions his cup to wait for the milk to turn into the nice white foam in the picture. In thirty seconds or so, it does. As soon as the cup has a nice head of milk up to the brim, TGP turns the switch back to ON and the froth stops and the coffee finishes brewing.

Mmmmmm, espresso! When it has finished dripping into the carafe, all that's left to do is pour the coffee into the frothy milk, check to make sure there is no more pressure in the machine, then turn it to OFF (Ha HA! Gotcha AGAIN Frau Braun!), remove the filter holder, tamp the coffee grounds into the trash can, wash out the empty carafe, place them upside down in the sink and head downstairs to...wait! A photo! TGP needs to take a photo for FLICKR to add to his blogsite!

Photo done. Entry posted. NOW it's a very nice Saturday. Plotnik looks outside. Rain. No biggie.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lentils and Feta Salad

Tiaposians, please be aware that Will is fine. He says it took him five minutes after arriving home to feel better. Poor guy missed Chef Picklenik's yummola persimmon upside down cake, though.

Mr., Ms. or Mrs. Anonymous has requested a recipe for Lentil/Feta Salad, so here it is. Please use balsamic vinegar in the amount called for, because that's where the dish gets its flavor. Many lentil dishes taste like the bottom of a pot of split pea soup looks, but this one is really yummy:

For 6 servings (easily doubled)

* 1 C lentils (French Puy Lentils or other lentils or even split yellow peas work fine)
* 1/2C diced carrots
* 1/2C finely diced red onion
* RECIPE CALLS FOR a bouquet garni -- a bay leaf, a dozen peppercorns and a few whole cloves tied in cheesecloth and discarded after cooking, BUT I USE: 1 bay leaf
1/2tsp ground red pepper (black pepper is fine)
1/2tsp ground cloves
* 2 large garlic cloves
* 2 1/2C water

* 2T plus 1t balsamic vinegar
* 3T olive oil
* Small chunks feta cheese -- maybe 4-6 oz. Use French feta if possible, it's milder.

Combine lentils, carrots, red onion, bay leaf-pepper-cloves, garlic and water in a large pot. This is the only part of this recipe to watch over. Different lentils or split peas take different amounts of time to cook. Check after 20 minutes, then maybe every ten minutes after that. They should hold their shape but be cooked through enough that your mate won't say "Yucko! Hard Little Rocks!" This should take roughly half an hour.

(HOWEVER, if you're listening to the Laker game and you forget to check the lentils, all is not lost. You just have to change the name of the dish from SALAD to SPREAD. It still tastes great. This is why French chefs use blackboards, chalk and erasers to announce their table d'Plot.)

Drain off excess liquid, season with salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Let cool, then add small chunks (3/4" inch) of feta -- use enough so that each serving contains plenty of feta. Refrigerate and serve the next day. If you didn't finish it in one serving it would keep for a week in the fridge, but that won't happen.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The other day, as Mrs. Mushnik and The Great Plotnik were enjoying their afternoon delight (OK, OK, so it was just latte, and non-fat at that), they tried to recall the name of the Paul Giamatti movie about wine. Neither could.

"It's two words, one of them has a 'w' in it," said Plotnik, and Mushnik said "Oh, I've got it, it''s..." But nothing.

As they walked down Church Street, Plotnik said "First one to think of it, wins." "You're on," said Mushnik; still, neither of them could recall the title. They separated at Cesar Chavez and Plotnik started home.

He almost had it. He could literally feel the two words in his brain, but it was if a very thin, gauzy drape hung over them, keeping them from view.

Then, in front of St. Paul's, at that bizarre spot where the cement cross in the ground commemorates the exact spot where the Irish stone mason fell from the steeple to his death while building the church in 1908, the words almost landed on Plotnik. They were....right there. SOO close.

"Oh, it's ___.eze. Or ___ -aze. It ends in a 'z' sound." So he started through the alphabet. "___-beze. ___-ceze. ___-deze...oh wait, the 'w' sound. ___-weze, -waze. SIDEWAYS!"

When he got home, the phone was ringing. "I know, 'Sideways,'" said Plotnik. "Where did you think of it?"

"Guerrero Street, before you did," she lied.

What is it, this slowly advancing monster lurking in front of all of us who have the audacity not to have fallen off the steeple yet? What exactly happens to memory? Why do we remember words in such a compartmentalized fashion, by letters, by the amount of words, by sounds? Why do we remember lyrics from a song we last heard in 1956 but forget where we put our keys? More importantly, what can we do about it? Fish oil is not helping. How about beer?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Making Do

The Great Ducknik called yesterday morning from Antigua. She's having a wonderful time. For dinner in her guest house she has eggs, rice, beans and tortillas.

Meanwhile, while Ducknik is in Guatemala, poor Plotnik is wasting away to nothing. Sunday he made Mauritanian Shrimp Curry and Monday he made French Lentil Salad with Feta Cheese and Herbs and Tuesday he made Muhammara with walnuts and red peppers and pomegranate juice, and while he was at it he also grilled a steak. So last night the poor boy had only a simple dinner of Mauritanian Shrimp Curry over rice, French Lentil Salad with Feta Cheese, rare top sirloin, muhammara on fresh pita bread, a spinach salad and a beer. It's tough, but The Great Plotnik is a survivor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Self Involved Cymbidiums

Cymbidium 1-17-06
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik fell in love with cymbidiums the same way everybody does -- he saw one at somebody else's house. If they can grow one, I can grow one, he said, and thus began a decade-long oddyssey in frustration.

There are a million theories about cymbidiums, but only this year has The Great Plotnik seen the light. You can prune 'em or not prune 'em, fertilize 'em or not fertilize 'em, watch the exact shade of green carefully to determine how much sun is too much sun or not enough sun or almost enough sun, and you can do all these things at once or in alternate years and it won't make a damned bit of difference.

...UNTIL you ignore the little suckers, stick 'em out in the back yard and let 'em go. THEN, and only then, will they flower.

Remember. They hate you. Only once they know you've completely abandoned all hope of nursing them along, will they open up and flower like the little jewels they are.

To a cymbidium, you and your meaningless, flowerless, humdrum life mean less than nothing. It's all about them.

Remember, though, when you abandon them, that in Saint Plotniko full sun works best, regardless of what the books say.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Mauritanian Shrimp Curry

Mauritanian Shrimp Curry
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The thing about Mauritanian Shrimp Curry is you can't make it less hot, or it loses its flavor. The Great Plotnik substitutes his Johannesberg Curry for the curry spices in the original recipe, and throws in a few Rangpur Lime leaves from the backyard, and adds several cut up tilapia filets as well, and those changes work very well.

But he can't use less than 2TB curry powder, or the tomatoes or nutmeg predominate. And since this luscious meal gets even better over the course of the next few days, he needs all the curry flavor to remain in the dish, as the heat naturally diminishes.

A deep bowl of brown rice goes under the ladle of thick curry-shrimp-fish-tomato broth, and then fresh grated nutmeg and lemon zest go on top. A cold Anchor Steam washes it down. This is eating, friends, and there's a ton left over.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Stormy Saturday

Stormy Saturday
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
What could be sadder than a grown man, standing in a raincoat with a camera, taking pictures of how the rain has made it impossible for him to take part in his favorite Saturday activity?

Worse yet, he thinks he caused the rain in the first place. On Thursday night, when TGP sliced the tip off his thumb with his santoku knive, as the blood was spurting into the parsley, his first thought was "DAMN! Now I can't play ball Saturday!" and his second thought, Please Forgive Him, was "IT DAMNED WELL BETTER RAIN!"

So now it's raining. The theology is too complicated to get into. It's probably not Plotnik's fault, entirely.

And Ducks love rain. Ducknik leaves this afternoon.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dumb Thumb

Dumb Thumb
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Halfway through chopping up the parsley for the tabboule, The Great Plotnik sliced the tip of his thumb into the salad. It bled, hoooo boy, it bled.

This is the temporary contraption Ducknik improvised so the salad could be completed, to go with the lamb chops (in lime, garlic and a pinch of cardamom), baked carrots, avocadoes, the tabboule itself, seasoned with thumb and kalamata olives, and a glass or two of the delicious Italian Barola that Plotnik scored from the fabulous Chef Picklenik.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Solitary Man

Solitary Man
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great Plotnik is looking forward to some time by himself when The Great Ducknik leaves for Spanish immersion school in Guatemala on Saturday. He will watch endless TV sports and eat whatever and whenever he wants to and turn up the stereo loud and read great books. He's always been a kind of solitary man.

But then the first afternoon will be over with and he'll be bored out of his mind for the next 9 1/2 days.

Plus lonesome. TGP is not afraid to admit it. As Joni Mitch-nik once said, "When you're gone these lonesome blues collide. The bed's too big, the frying pan's too wide."

So Plotnik will turn on the microphones and try to get a few songs recorded. That can take up, oh, 2, 3 days easy.

Work, another 2 days.

Packing, channel surfing, cleaning wax from his ears, pulling weeds in the garden, a few more days, and then he can fill up the rest with worrying.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dr. Les Pain-Nik

Dr. Heinik
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Although Dr. Heinik has a Natural Plotnik Name, his Great Plotnik Name is Dr. Les Pain-Nik. Dr. Les Pain-Nik is dentist to the entire Plotnik family. The best part is that he earns his name. He causes no pain, zero, when he uses his Deadly Plaque Remover (DPR). Plus, he writes down the right answers in his book.

Dr. L P-N: "So, Mr. Great Plotnik, are you flossing?"
TGP: "Uh..."
Dr. L P-N: "What?"
TGP: "Yes."

He writes down "Yes."

Dr. L P-N: "Good. Every day?"
TGP: "No..."
Dr. L P-N: "What?"
TGP: "Yes. Every day."

He writes down "Every day."

Dr. L P-N: "Excellent. Do you use the rubber-tip gum massager I gave you?"
TGP: "No."
Dr. L P-N: "What?"
TGP: "Yes."
Dr. L P-N: "Good. Once a day?"
TGP: "No."
Dr. L P-N: "What?"
TGP: "Yes."

He writes down "Yes. Every day."

Dr. L P-N: "Good. You're done. See you in four months. Can I see the picture you took?"
TGP: "Sure. Do you like it?"
Dr. L P-N: "No."
TGP: "What?"
Dr. L P-N: "Yes."
TGP: "You're the best, Doc."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fish Stew on the Rio Dulce

Rio Dulce
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
In a few weeks, The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik should be riding on a little launch like this one, staring out at the view of the Rio Dulce, which is a short, tropical river which flows to the Caribbean, in Eastern Guatemala. The town of Livingston will be their destination, where the black, Spanish-speaking Garifunas live. Livingston is accessible only by boat. Plotnik and Ducknik's goal will be the famous fresh fish stew called 'Tapado.'

Well, that and hiking up the side of a volcano (can they turn volcanoes OFF when tourists climb up them?), trekking through rain forest, seeing Maya ruins, indigenous markets and colonial churches, you know, that kind of stuff, but let's not forget the Tapado, which is supposedly made from some super-yummy kind of extra-special --- well, fish.

Otherwise, it sounds like tortillas, rice and beans, which ain't too bad. Plotnik has yet to determine how much chile the Guatemalan Maya employ in their cooking. If Guatemalan Maya food is anything like Yucatecan Maya food, look OUT for the itsy-bitsy teensy weensy half-a-fingernail-size red chile that can boil the oil from your carburetor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lestat: Half a Star with a Catheter

The Great Plotnik shouldn't have mixed the Tasty Bites Pav Bhaji into the can of minestrone and wolfed it down in one gulp, but it was an early curtain. Plus, Ducknik had a cold and he couldn't get anybody else to go with him to the Press Premiere of Anne Rice's 'Lestat,' with music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, so he was on his own, which made it less embarrassing in the car to the theater when the Pav Bhaji and the canned minestrone started backing up in Plotnik's interior like the homeless guy on Geary Street trying to cadge five bucks from two people at the same time. By the time he got to his middle seat ("excuse me, sorry, excuse me, sorry") at the Curran, Plot's insides were threatening to become his outsides.

But you can't blame it on the soup. Plotnik didn't even make it to the first intermission. The vampires have won: 'Lestat' is an unwatchable bloodbath.

Here we have the first theatrical combination of Anne Rice, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, which has been eagerly anticipated by Bay Area theater lovers for months, and it can't decide whether it's a parody, a serious drama, or a nightschool production at Transylvania Tech. Give it its props though: the well-meaning vampire has great hair.

Those who love vampires, or are vampires, might get some kind of erotic buzz out of watching Lestat drinking his own mother's blood, while pausing to face the audience and croon tunes like 'From the Dead' and 'The Thirst' and, no joke, 'The Crimson Kiss.' Yes, the big song of Act One, that Lestat and his Mommy Deadest sing as a duet, after he has drunk her blood, for God's Sake, but she is STILL kvetching about being somehow dissatisfied with her life, is called 'The Crimson Kiss.' A love song, yet. He just murdered his mother and drank her blood, and he's crooning. Plotnik hit the aisle, and he wasn't alone.

Elton, Bernie and Anne must have drunk the Kool-Aid. Plotnik warns his faithful readers to stay away from this kitty-litter. It's bloody awful.

The Great Plotnik Theatre Review Service awards 'Lestat' One Half A Star with a Catheter.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Not So Fast...

The Great BZWZ left home two days early to get back to the Big Shmapple to take a Civil Service Test...not so fast. After waiting on the runway for an hour, United Airlines announced their plane to Denver and on to La Guardia had a mechanical problem. The flight was cancelled. Their were no other flights available. Hours of mayhem ensued. Eventually, they booked BZ on a redeye to Phoenix and on to JFK. Instead of getting to La Guardia at midnight, she got to JFK at 7AM, just in time to take the 7-hour Civil Service Test at 9AM.

And for her trouble: United Airlines was gracious enough to grant BZ and her fellow passengers the princely stipend of a $10 meal voucher, good for ANY RESTAURANT IN OAKLAND AIRPORT! She chose a slice of pizza and a coke.

OK, it's good they cancelled the flight if the airplane wasn't in perfect operating condition. But a $10 meal voucher? The Great Plotnik is thinking that the next time United Airlines tries to charge him $100 for changing his flight to a different day, he will send them, instead, a $10 voucher for a meal at his house: A Tasty Bites and a piece of toast. $10 bucks. Butter extra.

Friday, January 06, 2006

TGD, BZWZ, New Pillow

TGD, BZWZ, New Pillow
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Great BeezyWeezy leaves this afternoon. Though she's been camping in Joshua Tree for the last four days, Plotnik and Ducknik knew she was coming home afterwards, which meant she was still here, even though she wasn't. See?

It's not easy to explain. Kids are like cats. They live in the sunny spots, and they take you there with them.

True, in many ways it's easier on Plotnik and Ducknik now that BZWZ lives out of the house. Life is eaiser, less stressful. Plotnik doesn't have to worry like he used to (unless she takes trips high into the Andes, say). He can close his eyes at night before he hears her key turn in the front door.

But it's sure great when she's home. It's great when The Great PD is home too. There are familar rhythms in the house, noise bounces off the wall differently, different music plays, the washing machine never stops, the kitchen even smells better.

Dads have a bond with their daughters that is different than Moms have. Same is true for sons, too, but Dads understand everything about their sons and less about their daughters -- except for the stuff they know deep in their bones.

Daughters fight with their Moms until they become best friends. There doesn't seem to be much in the middle. Dads don't fight so much with their little girls, until they bring home Snake from the bowling alley, with the tattoo on his neck and the parole officer.

And even then -- Dads don't have to fight with their daughters. That's what Moms are for.

The Great Plotnik already misses BZ and PD. It's been raining for a week. But it's still sunny in the house.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bahn Mi Lady

Bahn Mi Lady
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Can you believe these three ladies turn out the best sandwich in town?

Forget the rows of mysterious packages with Vietnamese writing on them, forget the extremely strange black sausages in the refrigerator case, forget the line out the door packed with MUNI drivers, cops, nurses, street people and gangsters, avoid the Plotkicycle parked at the front door, just call out ROAST PORK when she looks at you and wait a few minutes. Your sandwich will be stuffed into a French roll with yummy roast pork, jalapenos, julienned carrots and cilantro, wrapped in wax paper and tied down with a rubber band, and will cost $2.25.

Add some rice and shrimp or Spring Rolls from one of the packages by the cash register if you must, but the three ladies don't make those. They make the sandwiches. Go for the Roast Pork.

Tell 'em The Great Plotnik sent you. Watch confusion spread across three faces.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Notice that bright green? The calla lilies stretching towards the...yes, towards the sun? That's because this morning there actually is sunshine for the first time this year. OK, it's only January 4, but Saint Plotnikians are really spoiled out here.

Sun changes everything. Remember smiles, the ones with teeth? Put away the hot soup, dig out the charcoal, stow the Camus for another year, where are those tennies, got to get out on the Plotkicycle before another downpour arrives.

The Plotniks need to find a cat. If the cat is sleeping in the sun that means four weeks more January, followed by 28 days of February. If the cat is not sleeping in the sun, that also means four more weeks of January and 28 days of February, but you need a new cat.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
The Plotniks are heading for Guatemala!

The Great Ducknik is determined to do two weeks of Spanish immersion in Antigua, so The Great Plotnik will have ten days by himself back in Saint Plotniko, to eat his way down the disgustingly huge pot of yellow peas, green lentils and brown rice he makes the day she leaves and then doesn't even bother to heat up until the slop is all gone.

Meanwhile, Ducknik will be quacking merrily to language school for four hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, one-on-one with a teacher who Plotnik figures will turn out to be the only Bilingual 6-foot-6-inch Heartthrob-Renaissance-Man-Ferrari-driving-Fluent-on-Horseback-and-In-the Ways-of-Gringa-Love Instructor in all Antigua.

Then, Sr. Gran Plotnico plans to hook back up with his Now-To-Be-Called Doña Duckinez, and they will head off together to the highlands, lowlands, jungles and Maya ruins for ten days.

What, you may be wondering, does Purotniku plan to do about Kanji class while he's galavanting around Gu-a-te-ma-ru? And what about his (shh-h-h, the editors have ears) job?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Rain in California

Rainy Day
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
It's a rainy day. Yesterday was a rainy day. Tomorrow is a rainy day. Rain is for writing lyrics. This one was written on a rainy day a long time ago:

Rain in California
Maybe someday
I’ll be your hero again
One after another
Maybe someday
I’ll be your hero again

I look at you, asleep
Baby, I am worried
you're drifting in your dreams
the rain always takes you away
Yo no soy marinero
I can't navigate these choppy seas
I guess I’ll have to wait
for another summer day

‘til the boats come back to shore
and you love me like you did before
‘til the boats come back to shore
and you love me

Rain in California
Maybe someday
I’ll be your hero again

I wonder what went wrong?
When did you stop believing?
Baby, how we used to burn -
Two bolts of pure energy
You know por ti seré
But I must find the sun somewhere
‘cause this rain is gonna kill me
I might wash out to sea

When the boats come back to shore
will you love me like you did before?
When the boats come back to shore
will you love me?

Rain in California
Maybe someday
I’ll be your hero again

* * * * *

No, don't worry. Remember, it's only a lyric. The music isn't sad at all.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The New New Year Tradition

The New Tradition
Originally uploaded by thegreatplotnik.
Last night was Year One of The New New Year Tradition at Great Plotnik World Headquarters, Meatball Kitchen and Ravioli Factory. Plotnik, Ducknik, BW and E2 made homemade ravioli, using the pasta machine Plotnik bought maybe 35 years ago on Mulberry Street in the Big Shmapple. BZ made the dough, E2 kneaded and rolled it out thin and flat using the pasta machine, GP mixed up the butternut squash/ricotta/nutmeg filling, BZ filled the ravioli and cut them out using Plotnik's new ravioli cutter, and Ducknik set the table and poured the Groth merlot that had been sitting down for five years awaiting this opportunity.

OK, so it's easy to see who tried making the first two or three ravioli by hand until his daughter pushed him out of the way.

Later on, at midnight, the fireworks went off over the Bay with stars peeking through the rain clouds filling the sky, and 2005 was now 2006.

Happy New Year to all Great Plotnik readers and also to the other 99.99999 percent of the human population on Earth. May 2006 be a healthy and creative year for us all. Amen.