The Great Plotnik

Friday, March 31, 2006

Delfina's and The Magic Hat

It's not Pazzia's pizza, for sure, but Delfina's is a fun place. The pizza is very good, but the antipasti are even better, especially the
...Tricolore Salad, which has radicchio on the left, endive in the middle and arugula on the right, dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and slices of Gran Padano cheese.

Sometimes the Magic Hat works. Plotnik does not get reimbursed for the food he eats when reviewing a restaurant, so he and Ducknik always try to order food that won't cost more than what he earns for photographing and writing up the place.

They ordered a Pizza Margherita and Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, filled with ricotta, almost like the inside of a calzone on top of a very thin pizza crust, plus a yummy tray of warm olives and a small dish of spicy cauliflower for antipasti, and two glasses of wine. But when the waiter and owner saw the Magic Hat ...they began to ply the Plotniks with complementary platters. The delicious pulled mozzarella cheese with more arugula and crostini. That fantastic Tricolore salad. The Hazlenut Cannoli for desert to go with the Meyer Lemon Crostada.

Ah, The Magic Hat. Often when Plotnik puts it on, the first person that sees it walks up to him and starts complaining about his internet service. Other times, restauranters are nasty and too busy to notice.

But if they're smart, and nice people, they understand that being nice to reviewers can often lead to reviewers feeling nice about the place they're eating, and that may in itself turn into excellent, free publicity for the restaurant. On those rare occasions, good things happen to the gentleman wearing the Magic Hat. Last night good things happened, yum. They are really nice people at Delfina's Pizzeria, and oh man, that cannoli.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Pineapple of Perfection

The Great Plotnik is thinking that his good friends and Co-Reviewers for NoMoreCommasPeriod must have encountered two bad pieces of pizza before going to see The Rivals the other night. Far from the snoozing bore for which Plotnik had been prepared, he and Ducknik loved every second of Sheridan's play. They not only stayed through the intermission but purchased a large bag of peanut M&Ms, hoping the second act would last forever. In the end, only two blues and one green remained.

OK, not every second was great. Mrs. Malaprops's malaprops, though hysterical in the 18th Century when the play was written, were indeed the weakest link (although it's hard to fault 'he's as stubborn as an allegory on the banks of the Nile'); and, true, Mr. Akers's Scottish accent lapsed periodically into something closer to Louisville, Kentucky.

But, zounds! Gregory Wallace as Falkland was even more amazing than he was as Sheriff Ceasar in 'Gem of the Ocean.' The entire cast was brilliant -- and Sheridan's convoluted Georgian English takes fabulous actors. You wouldn't want to see The Rivals performed by Everett Middle School. It's witty. It's wise. The staging is ingenious. The costumes are over-the-top perfect.

We could talk, and will, about which drugs were used by the people who designed blue M&Ms. It's wrong, it's just wrong.

Reviewing is funny business. The other night when Plotnik saw 'I Just Stopped By To See The Man,' he was put off by the amateur guitar playing of the actor playing the supposedly world-famous rock and roller. But the next day's Chronicle lauded both the play and that guitar playing. Robert Hurwitz must be blissed out on blue M&Ms.

Once again, The Great Plotnik recognizes his undeniable advantage. One's attitude can be more ecumenical when one sees a play for free with good seats and a press kit in his hand. When you pay hard green you want instant satisfaction. Maybe. Or maybe it's just that you can't expect every play to be the Pineapple of Perfection.

The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division awards 'The Rivals' Three Stars Plus All the M&Ms except the Blue Ones.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Birds Eye View

This afternoon, Mike-san dropped off the oil painting that Plotnik and Ducknik brought back from Antigua. Mike is an old friend who has his picture framing shop on his houseboat. He is leaving for Japan tomorrow, but managed to find the time to frame the painting despite endless work for the BrainDead Caribbeans, in advance of Opening Day next week.

Now the story begins: where to hang it? Plotnik holds it up in the parlor. "No," says Ducknik. The living room. "No." The dining room. "No." Duck's office. ".....hmmm. That looks pretty good."

The truth is that the Plotniks are running out of walls. They're already using the stairway bannister for the Guatemalan manteles and the pool table for the Peruvian weaving and the Turkish rug is folded over an arm of the sofa in the parlor.

The painting is a birds-eye view of men and women picking coffee. It was painted by a man named Gilberto from the village of San Juan de la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. It'll look great on that long wall.

Right now Gilberto's painting is the Plotniks' favorite. Or maybe it's just the newest.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Waiting for Jonny

Last night, Plotnik put his head down on his pillow as he turned out the light, and tried to imagine what it must feel like for Jonny, doped up on morphine, weighing 90 pounds, barely recognizing his family, with a metastasized tumor the size of a football in his abdomen? Plotnik thought that with the lights off he might somehow tune in to his old best friend, that maybe he'd channel Jon's thoughts, or send him a message...but he couldn't. Maybe the thirty years that have passed since New York have been too many.

Jon was 19 when he walked into Plotnik and Ducknik's tenament apartment on East 65th St. with his bass and Grateful Dead T-Shirt, a big kid with a lot of hair and a huge heart. He was the bedrock of the bands that followed, and Plotnik's only real confidant, the little brother he'd never had. Ducknik fell for him too, and just as fast.

But Jon was never too fond of Jon. Lots of pot, coke, freebasing later on, endless rounds of Analysis, pills...Plot never could go there with him. The last band broke up and Jon went out on the road.

One summer afternoon, when Jon had gotten back from a gig in Louisiana, he told Plot about a blonde singer he'd met, that he was crazy about, but didn't really think that a beautiful woman like Bonnie could ever fall for a guy like him. He and Plotnik walked up and down West 8th St. in Manhattan, licking Carvels, talking it all out, and at the end of the day Jon decided he'd give it a try and see what happened.

They got married on top of the World Trade Center. How about that.

Now, these many years and two kids later, and after separation and divorce and chemical dependencies and God knows what else on both sides, Bonnie is back by Jon's side. The kids have come home. Everyone's waiting, or so Plotnik imagines, as he lies in bed lost in his inability to talk to his friend.

Jon's Uncle Bob says Jonny can't talk anymore, he can't hear, one eye is white, he looks 100 years old. The family asked Plotnik not to come, so he won't. He'll wait here.

Nothing good can come from this. Nothing good.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sprinkle Cookies

They're not very good but they remind The Great Plotnik of wonderful days at the Tropical Bakery. Hiya, BZWZ. You're not seven anymore.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I Just Stopped By to See The Man

We're listening to a guitar being played. It's a well made instrument and the guitarist is playing as well as he can, but one of the strings is defective. It just won't stay in tune. So, in the end, it doesn't matter how dextrous and clever and full of ideas the guitarist is, if he doesn't tune that one string nobody will be able to hear the other five.

'I Just Stopped By to See The Man' is that guitar. The bass string, the heart of the story, is the old bluesman. He is solid, a terrific center to the story. Next to him is his daughter, his counterpoint. She's terrific too, and helps explain the story's dilemma. Then comes the surprise visitor to the Delta: The English rocker. He's also very good. He shakes things up. So far, so very good.

But each actor also has to negotiate a separate string for the way the playwright has written his part. The old man's character is believable and interesting, the girl's character is strong and gets better as her secret is revealed...but that last string -- the English rocker -- hooooo boy. What the HELL is he doing here? Is he good? Is he evil? Is he the Devil? Is he the cruel Music Machine? Is he bringing salvation? Is he seeking salvation? Is he salvation itself?

Because if he is, can it be that a famed English rocker who is supposed to be based on Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page or even the ghost of Robert Johnson could POSSIBLY be this awful a guitar player?

Once Karl, the rocker, starts playing Campfire Girl guitar, which is supposed to be down-home blues, the story goes out of tune and stays that way. The whole elaborate setup stops making sense. Like old Jesse says: you can put lots of pretty paper around skunk meat but nobody is gonna want to buy it.

It's a pity, because the old man Jesse, played by Charles Branklyn, is positively hypnotic. He could turn his back to the audience and speak Hamlet in Chinese and we'd be spellbound. He is that good.

They loved the show in England. Yeah, well.

The Great Plotnik asks: in a production about music, in a city where every other waiter is a guitar player, could they not have found a single musician to consult?

Maybe musicians should maybe not review musical theater. Keep that in mind, as The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division awards 'I Just Stopped By to See The Man' Two and a Half Stars (one for the old man, one for his daughter and a half for the set) and then SNATCHES AWAY the half star just because it's the next morning and he's still pissed off about it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Aloha and Mahalo

The Great PunkyDunky and The Great FiveHead just got back from Maui. Brother Schmeckl was just there too, and The Great Plotnik and the Great Ducknik are heading for Waikiki in two weeks for a conference.

But the person who should be going is Mummy Plotnik. Mummy P. was a travel agent in the 1950s, who traveled back and forth to Waikiki from L.A. on the Lurline. Plot can remember going down to the harbor to see her off and join the hundreds of other people on shore waving hands as the ship bedecked-in-flags disappeared slowly into the horizon.

Mummy Plotnik remembers the Old Hawaii. She remembers tiki torches off the old Matson Line pier at the Moana Hotel, and Hilo Hattie's when there really was a Hilo Hattie, and the excitement of landing in a tropical paradise, not yet a State, after long days at sea. Her brother, Plotnik's Uncle Nate-Nik, was at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Uncle Nate-Nik is 89 and Mummy Plotnik is 91. Plotnik hopes he gets some of that.

The Plotnik family went to Hawaii together only once, when PD and BZWZ were small.

You can see Mummy Plotnik on the left with Ducknik, and The Great Chiefie and Some Dark Haired Guy, and then the same Great PD seen above and the Great BZWZ next to him. What a day this was, at Hamoa Bay at the end of the Road to Hana.

But Chiefie has said Aloha, and Mummy P. can't take five hour plane rides anymore, and the Lurline has been out of business for forty years. That's one more check mark in the column that says: Do It While You Can, Aloha and Mahalo.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Winning and Losing

This is winning.

This is losing.

In the end, this is why men and women who love sports, love sports. It's the absolute bottom line. To get to the top photo you have to go through the bottom photo. One hurts terribly, one feels incredibly good. It's worth enduring one to experience the other.

Yeah, it's fun to dribble and shoot and play defense and rebound, or hit a ball, or run over a bridge, or swim a leg of a triathlon. But to get good you have to practice, and practicing is not fun. The only reason you do it is to get to Photo One.

Even armchair quarterback TV couch potatoes get to feel like this, when their team finally wins something after losing year after year. The beer is colder! The chips are crunchier! The pigs feet are moister! The biltong is chewier! Go Bruins!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shutternik is Not In Love.

The Great FiveHead is in town which means Lady Shutternik came to World Headquarters for dinner last night.

FiveHead prefers no-meat meals, which is a lot more fun than grilling a slab o'ribs. Chef Plotnik went down to Hong Fat and bought Canadian river trout, then walked out to the Back Forty, picked arugula, mint and parsley to go in the cabbage-red onion salad, added brown rice (made with Mr. Moodley's Durban rice seasoning mix and Fefnik's Persian saffron), another salad made from chilled fennel bulb and pecorino cheese, and some Indian chickpeas. Here is a photograph of what is left over.

Following dinner was a conversation about wonderful, almost-impossible-to-believe things.

FiveHead looked gorgeous, as always. So did Shutternik, but Plotnik knows that when Shutternik is smitten, she looks like she's two steps from Death's Door. "You must not be in love," Plotnik said. "You look great." Shutternik reluctantly agreed, sopping up the last of her rice and chickpeas.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tectonic Nookie

She WON'T shut up. He WON'T toss her sorry, scheming ass out into the desert. Once you've got that straight, you just may love 'The Ice Breaker,' David Rambo's new scientific drama at the Magic Theater. It's cleverly written, directed and acted -- still, it's DAVID Rambo not JOHN Rambo, there is very little action and only two characters, so it may be one of those shows you're either going to love or you'll squirm the vinyl off your seat cushion.

Criminy, Sonia won't shut UP! And Lawrence, the laconic loser, doesn't seem to realize that God has just allowed a grand and sexy gift to walk into his pathetic, seedy, wine-bottled, empty Chinese food containered, freezer-iced-over get-a-life life. Well, until the end of Act One. Then, KABOOMY! Tectonic Nookie!

That's what she says, anyway, looking g-o-o-d with those long legs as Act Two opens, but -- look out! She breaks his priceless Anasazi vase KAPLOWEE! In Act One, Larry would have gone all scary at her, but now -- ah, sweet nookie -- he doesn't seem to mind. The boy's in love.

One part of The Great Plotnik's mind is going "LOOK OUT, FOOL! SHE'S USING YOU!" while the other part says "nice legs."

OK, it's kind of TV soap opera, but The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik liked it anyway. You buy these two or you don't, and P and D did. They also loved the sets and the music. But in the elevator coming down after the show, Plot asked two other theatergoers if they'd liked the show?

"NOOOO," said one. "Too many cliches."

The other just shook his head, as if disgusted.

Clearly, these guys needed some tectonic nookie.

This is not an easy show to rate. The Great Plotnik's hunch is Three Stars, but let's add it up: one star for the acting, one star for the set, half a star for tectonic nookie, but take away half of that because they didn't let us watch, add 3/4 of a star for the writing, but take away half a star for the lame attempt to be Sideways with the Meritage and the White Zinfandel, but add back a full three quarters because they were not afraid to be intelligent. That's 3 1/4 stars, but Plotnik is afraid Sonia reminded him of an old girl friend, so take away another quarter. Like he said: Three Stars.

The Great Plotnik Theater Review Division awards 'The Ice Breakers' Three Stars with a Test Tube.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Three Mob Figures With Hands Over Faces

Today Southwest Airlines announced $99 cross-country fares, which means that in May Plotnik and Ducknik can fly from Smokeland to My Slip, Lawn Goyland for $500 or so, once you add in the taxes. It's still a lot cheaper than all the other airlines, but the Saint Plotnikians will have to stop in Chicago, and once they land in My Slip, Lawn Goyland, they'll have to take a shuttle bus over to the A Train, which adds on another hour and a half or so to the trip, then transfer to the Eighth Avenue Local and get off in Greenwich Village. From there, if Plot remembers correctly, they will hoof it past all the Coolness until they arrive at The Great Dancenik's apartment.

Dancenik is going to...well, she hasn't said where she's going, except to offer her apartment to the Plotniks for the she won't be there, which is the one bad thing, except it's also one good thing because that saves somewhere in the neighborhood of $750-$1,000 that hotels would have cost.

No, it doesn't. Get real. If the apartment hadn't been available, P and D would probably have stalled and stalled and maybe not have gone at all.

So Dancenik's apartment being available costs Plotnik a small fortune for airfare and all those yummmmmmy onion bagels with smoked whitefish and chive-cream cheese, yum, and pastramis on club roll with sour tomatoes at Katz's, yummm!, and real Italian sausage sandwiches, drooool, and subways and taxis and plays and movies and trips down Memory Lane.

But the best part is they'll get to see The Great BZWZ too, and Plotnik will finally discover how an apartment in Harlem can cost so much, unless you pay extra for the mice and roaches and absentee landlord.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Rainy Monday, Daijoobu.

Yeah, yeah, it's raining again. BUT, it was sunny all weekend. Saturday morning b'ball: Sunny. Saturday Julie's Memorial: Sunny. Saturday Night Poetry Slam: Sunny. Sunday morning work in garden: Sunny. Sunday afternoon Plotkicycle down to Farmer's Market: Sunny. Sunday night, clouding up.

Monday morning: Rain. Japanese Class: Rain. Who cares? Daijoobu. No problem. Daijoobu. Ame ga furu soo desu. Who cares? Purotniku wa getsuyoobi no ame ga furu tanoshii deshoo. Doyoobi no ame ga daikirai desu.

Plotnik enjoys rainy Mondays. It's Rainy Saturdays he hates. Let it rain until Thursday night. Then we need a clear Friday for the court to dry off, and a clear Saturday morning to play ball. After that, who cares? Daijoobu, daijoobu, daijoobu.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Day of Poetry

Saturday was a day filled with poetry, not the convoluted kind that touches only the brain, but real poems spoken by real people about our shared world. Ezra Pound is dead. Demetrious Jefferson is alive and so are Collie, Maya and Basho.

Julie's Memorial was touching, teary, heartfelt. It was so good to see Wally's family, all grown up, little 5-year-old Collie now a sophomore in High School in Eugene, and taller than certain religious leaders, beautiful, glowing Maya now an actress in L.A., and Basho holding his baby daughter, together with Wally and Julie's kids and many friends, gathered at the school next to Wally and Julie's Inverness home to tell stories about how everyone misses their Grandma and Aunt and co-worker and wife and irreverent Bad Girl.

It was also so very nice to see a few faces from the Old Tiapos, like Hanky Girl and Beth, and also to go get a bite to eat in Point Reyes Station with Big Blogs and Large Pants and Mistress Domin-nik and J-Wacky. Friends have their own poetry together but they have to see each other to keep setting the bad puns in all the right places.

Later last night, The Great P and The Great D went to the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, home of Rigoletto and Carmen and The Barber of Seville, for God's Sake, to see nothing less than the Grand Slam Finals of the Northern California Poetry Slam Competition. When they arrived in the Opera House, it was already so crowded with the Hip Hop Generation that Plot and Duck had to keep walking up, and up, and up, and up, one stairway after another, until they found two seats at the very tippy-top of the house, from where each poet's face and body were illuminated on a screen in back of him or her so they would be visible to more than 3,000 paying customers!

One Opera Usher said to Plotnik: "I wish we could get half this many people for the ballet."

Plotnik thought: "Try charging $5 bucks a ticket and see what happens."

These courageous kids! One girl was 19, the others 17 and 18, from San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro, Berkeley. Three out of four were women. Black, white, Asian. The poems were all in Hip Hop cadences, but their subjects were all over the map. The audience shrieked in delight each time a poet rang out a particularly meaningful rhyme, or blasted War. A DJ tossed a few beats after each contestant. By the time Plot and Duck left they'd heard thirty poets and each had something unique to say.

Of course, the best performers scored the best. The girl in green talking about her little brother, the big girl in the white blouse talking about why white women wearing corn rows was such an insult to her (huge cheers of recognition from the audience), the big good looking young man from Berkeley recounting the huge psychological distance between San Pablo Avenue and College Avenue, the lovely woman torn between the career in dance for which she longed and the successful academic career she knew she was going to end up choosing.

At Julie's Memorial, Collie recounted how he and Grandma Julie used to play Pirate, by going into Julie's closet, finding some costume jewelry, and then the two of them would bury it in the backyard. The next morning, or the next time Collie came over, they'd go dig up the jewels. What a nice thing to remember. What a rich poem.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Meeting with The Great Fate-nik

Plotnik found a wonderful guitar riff this morning for his new song 'Burrito Corrido,' written with a large and grateful bow in the direction of Lila Downes. He had that riff "da da - da da da - da dum dum" in his head as he and Ducknik left to go see The Great Fate-nik, their financial advisor. The riff remained in the front of Plot's mind as Ducknik and Fate-nik had their two way conversation about the financial future of the Plotnik Organization.

"Your M.U.A. has outperformed your D.U.I. and your incontrovertibles and mid-caps demonstrate elasticity," said the Great Fate-nik.

"But should we transfer our T.T.O.s to the Klompf 336 or maintain the after-tax marginal 28% at 20.5, given volatility and OoptyDooptity?" said Ducknik.

"Hmm hmmm," said Fate-nik, pondering.

"Yes, yes," said Ducknik, making notes.

The Great Plotnik made sure to nod his head each time Fate-nik and Ducknik stopped to breathe, but what he was actually thinking about was "Da da - da da da - da dum dum."

When their appointment was finished, Plotnik and Ducknik bought a sandwich on Market Street and got back on Bart. They walked up the hill and into World Headquarters.

"I'm glad we went," said Ducknik.

"Me too," Plotnik said, but he had already grabbed his guitar.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Chef P.'s Surprise

This is a long story. What comes first is the preamble:

People who feed The Great Plotnik know not to put anything in front of him that contains liver or liver products, no matter if you hang a fancy French name on it like Pâté. Once, in Paris, Le Gran Plotnique brought a restaurant owner to the point of tears over refusing to sample his Pâté d'Maison.

No matter how hard Plotnique tried to explain that, yes, he was sure the restaurant owner's Pâté d'Maison would be the very best in all the world, but it was only that Plotnique did not care for Pâté d'Maison and would rather NOT sample it, in the end the restaurant owner put his fat foot down and insisted that no one had EVER left his (Unknown French Swear Word) restaurant without sampling his Pâté d'Maison and all THOSE people had told him his Pâté d'Maison was the BEST Pâté d'Maison they had ever eaten. Therefore, he signalled for the Garçon to bring a plate of Pâté d'Maison to Plotnique and Ducqnique's table, and if Plotnique did not think this particular Pâté d'Maison was the best Pâté d'Maison in the long history of force feeding geese until they puke so their fattened livers can then be turned into disgusting, jiggly poop being held under Plotnique's nose, well then Plotnique would not have to pay one penny for it.

The Pâté arrived and the owner and the three waiters crowded around Plotnique, a look of expectant pride bubbling just under their red-faced black moustached countenances, as he was forced to stick his fork in to the bubonic, billious bilge, raise it to, and then into his mouth. They four men smiled as one, tilting their heads back a fraction, as if to give themselves slightly more space for the huge Gallic shouts of approval that were imminent, as Plotnique would have to admit, surely, that THIS Pâté D'Maison was unlike any OTHER Pâté D'Maison, not only here, in Paris, on the Rue Mouffetard, but also in all of la belle France and other French departments the world over, including Martinique, Mauritius and the lamentedly lost but once grand colony of l'Algeire.

God, it tasted awful. Plotnique was now faced with the choice of swallowing the putrid, rancid, dogshit smelling garbage tasting speck of mucilaginous moo that was in his mouth, and delighting his hosts and host country, or thhpppaaaa ing it into all four of their fat, red faces, one at a fucking time, thpa thpa thpa and thpaa! In the bargain he would bring shame upon his country, his city, his sex and his wife and possibly get Duck and himself killed, but it might be worth it.

Ah no. He swallowed. The Gang of Four waited. Plotnique grabbed the bottle of mineral water.

A waiter removed it from his hand, smiling, poured a quantity into Plotnique's glass, smiling, and handed it to him, smiling. Plotnique drank until that French Goose Crap was out of his mouth, and then stood and nodded his head...and smiled.

"Aha! Aha!" they shouted, slapping each other on the back, shaking each other's hands wildly. They began yapping at each other in words Plot could not understand, but the gist was surely that their Pâté de Maison had conquered yet another American Heathen Pig Dog, and that perhaps Marcel could call Armand to tell Pierre to whip up another ten thousand pounds of Pâté.

There is a reason you are hearing this story today, and here she is:

Chef Pickle-Nik knows perfectly well that Plotnik hates liver. They have had this discussion many times. In her heart, Pickle is always true to her Inner Fried Chicken, but she has acquired this Gallic overlay that makes it difficult for her to comprehend how a perfectly normal Head of a Minor Western Religion would not coo in ecstacy for rabbit livers, pig livers, horse livers, squab livers or freaking mastodon livers, but there it is. The girl can't help it.

So, when Plotnik and Ducknik arrived at Tuesday's Grand Luncheon at the Winery, prepared totally by Chef Pickle-Nik, Plot walked surreptitiously to the table and checked the printed menu under the napkin, just to make sure. And on that very fancy, tastefully printed menu, HERE IS WHAT HE FOUND:




For one, no, three seconds, she had him. The first two courses were possible. The Liver Sorbet gave it away -- but Plot still ran to the next table over to see if liver sorbet was on their menu too: it was rhubarb sorbet. Relieved, Plot and Duck started to laugh, and they laughed into yesterday and now into today and they're still laughing over Chef P.'s Surprise.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Plotnik's Dilemma

The Great Plotnik found himself in the middle of a Great Dilemma. Chef Pickle-nik's Second Course had been outrageously delicious.

But now, he had come to this:

Only one asparagus stalk, one piece of duck breast and one roast potato were left. Although the appetizer had been delicious, and the dessert was still to come, he was loath to finish these three morsels, because once he finished them, see, they'd be finished.

He looked over at Ducknik's plate. It was cleaned off completely (although her name is Ducknik and therefore eating more duck breast could be seen in some quarters as an unnatural act).

He reasoned it out this way: His favorite of the three was the potato. Oh yeah, the potato. There was some secret ingredient in there, besides the rosemary, that had elevated the potato a teensy bit higher than the asparagus and the duck. "Mint?" he wondered. "I don't know," said Ducknik, "maybe lemon?"

He didn't know what that ingredient was, but potatoes are Plotnik's soul food, reminding him of everything good in the world. These were perfect. The potato would have to go last. But the asparagus and the duck breast were equally fabulous, so what to do, what to do?

I mean, what would you have done?

In the end, Lance, the waiter, said "Eat the damned asparagus." Plotnik grabbed the asparagus, ate it. Lance nodded at the duck breast. Plotnik ate the duck breast. His work done, Lance left, muttering under his breath.

Plotnik then ate the potato, sopped up the gravy with the olive bread, then the rest of the olive oil with another piece of olive bread, then finished his cabernet, which had come after the fume blanc, which had been preceded by the chardonnay, and the moscato was still to come.

Later on, the dessert arrived. Ai, ai, ai, chihuahua.

After dessert, Chef Pickle-Nik came out and sat down with Plot and Duck. They both asked her: "What was the secret ingredient in the potatoes? Was it lemon? Was it mint?"

"Duck fat," said Pickle-Nik.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Zhorsha's Ice

It was a very nice cake. Chocolate, strawberries, layers of tasty goo. Rachel rocked the house, she was still signing books an hour after her presentation was over. Many Tiaposians were in attendance, including Mistress Domin-Nik and Blonde Bombshell, who eschewed cake, and The Great Large Pants, Looziana Val, Mississippi Motorhead, J-Wacky and the Greats Plotnik and Ducknik, who did not.

When Plotnik picked up the cake that morning at Dianda's on Mission St., the store was packed. People stared at the inscription and said: "Ooooh, Zhorsha's Ice. Zhorsha's Ice. Ooooh. Little gorl name Zhorsha's Ice?"

Rachel began her presentation without saying TIAPOS or TINAPOS. She was smooth as silk, comfortable in front of a lot of people. Here she is:

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pulitzer, you know, Prize

Another play to review. Last night Plotnik and Ducknik drove to Shmalo Alto to see the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama 'Shmana in the Tropics.' It won a Pulitzer. A Pulitzer Prize, it won.

"Steamy," is what the press release said, and therefore Plotnik's Preview, which was written, like all his Previews, before he had seen the play, because this is what his Boss requires him to do, also used the word "Steamy."

Now, what other word woulda shoulda coulda he have used to describe a production (of a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which, incidentally, won a Pulitzer Prize) which is as steamy as a flat tire, as steamy as an ice cream sandwich, as steamy as Aunt Booty's relationship with her soup? I mean, the soup may be creamy, it may even be dreamy, but steamy it ain't. (Interestingly enough, this play, you know, won a Pulitzer Prize.)

The music was very good, especially the really cool guitar-vocal Cuban son that was playing before the show started, and at intermission. The actors were good, yup. The story was not bad, not bad at all. The set was cool, uh huh. True, there were a few flaws, such as the bad guy who was actually pretty nice, and the way they diddled around with the political theme, but then again didn't want to offend anyone, so they backed off it, and clearly knew what they were doing, if I may say so, you know, Pulitzer Prize.

But the worst offender of all was: z-e-r-o chemistry. The show rises or falls, heh heh, on sexual heat. It just wasn't there. Maybe it's the director's fault, maybe the actors, maybe the playwright, maybe the venue. Blame it on the Bossa Nova. But Plotnik promises to never use the word 'steamy' again until he's felt it, tasted it, wiped it off his forehead, drained it out of his shirt.

The Great Plotnik Theater Review Division awards 'Shmana in the Tropics' Two Stars: a Star and a Half for the story of the very cool relationship between Tolstoy and the cigar factory workers, a Half Star for the Cuban music and a final Half Star for the principal actor's VERY cool white suit. But, goddamit, subtract Half a Star because but if they'd had any chile at all, or one ounce of cojones, this show woulda, coulda, shoulda been much more.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Milking the Elk

Last night it hailed at The Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen. Hail drifts more than 6 feet high piled up in the Lower Acreage. A neighbor child (OK, she was under forty five) erected a beautiful hailman, with an old bottle of pinot noir for a nose and small, organic black truffles for the buttons on his jacket. The Great Plotnik attached his hailshoes and managed to repair to the Rear Forty to milk the elk.

On his return, with a mischievous sneer, he gathered handfuls of fluffy hail and rolled them into a huge hailball inside his woolen mittens. Seeing The Great Ducknik staring at him, and sensing that this opportunity, given, you know, global warming, and the fact that it rarely dips under 55 degrees, may not come again, with all his might he hurled his missle, fully 1/16" in diameter, and melting fast, at The Great Ducknik, who continued to stare at him, either in gleeful comprehension of their shared experience, or perhaps wondering what strange conjunctions of the stars and weather patterns and just plain weird luck could have brought her to this spot.

"Rats," said The Great Plotnik, as the hailball evaporated before taking air.

Later on, Plot and Duck conspired, as they sat by the fire, to face unafraid the plans that they made.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Funniest Night of the Year... when Laughing Sal gathers her cohorts around the dining table in The Great Plotnik World Headquarters, Meatball Kitchen and Humor Depository to plan the Annual Lampoon/April Fool's Issue of the Best Local Newspaper in the World. The BLNW has continued to flourish since 1977, making Sal a wealthy woman many times over and a candidate to take over several local industrial conglomerates, but it would have to be a friendly takeover because Laughing Sal is just not very hostile.

The best stories, of course, are the ones she can't publish. This year's items may or may not include a cartoon of the Doggie Diner dog with a bomb on his head, the new supermarket Dubai-Rite arriving on 24th Street, a rewrite of the Oscar-winning song of the year (not sure yet whether it will be It's Hard Out There for a Wimp or It's Hard Out There with a Limp), an actual photo of the Real Estate Bubble bursting, and hard news stories of the rebel insurgency in Glen Park and possible Civil War with Bernal Heights.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Meter Maid is Starving

Plotnik doesn't only review theatre. Another part of his difficult job is to review restaurants. Yesterday he tried Lilly's Bar-b-que, which is the new name for the old Brothers-in-Law BBQ shack on Divisadero. As a rule, 'BBQ Shack' and 'Customer Service' are usually not written in the same sentence, but Brothers-in-Law took this rule to an extreme, and the workers got surlier and surlier as time went on. Where once the lady would have said 'OK, Baby,' after you ordered, she now usually just grunted, threw your order at the pit man, and stuck out her hand for your cash.

Plus, there was that damned meter on the street. The Meter Maid must have been local and she must have loved her cue, because every time Plotnik parked at that meter he got a ticket. It was the Barbeque Meter of Death. So a rack of ribs could easily cost you $50.

Still, that all was tolerable, until the cue began tasting old, and started to smell a little bit, and you noticed a few extra days of mild stomach disorders. One had been de rigeur, but now maybe three?

So Plotnik and Ducknik had abandoned B-I-L's. But in Saint Plotniko you don't have many choices for downhome bbq. The Tony Roma's places serve expensive, tasteless ribs with the texture of oatmeal, Big Nate's is good, but not all that great, and Smoke Land across the Bay is a long way to drive.

Plus, last year Plotnik discovered Burrell's, in Orange County, which is 400 miles away, but serves the best ribs he has ever eaten, bar none, AND has a picture on the wall of Mr. Burrell with Magic Johnson. That too, however, is a long way to go for a meal.

So it's with pleasure that The Great Plotnik can report that Lilly's Bar-b-que is using Brothers-in-Law's old smoking and sauce recipes, and the food is wonderful. Plot suggests a combination of hot links and rib small ends. Don't look for the Peach Cobbler, though, because it's gone, and so is the Sweet Potato Pie. But the counter people speak Spanish and they don't quite get it yet. They will.

And the parking lot is nicer too, so you can avoid the lurking, starving Meter Maid. Right now, the counter man still says "Gracias, amigo," which is a lot better than a sneer, a grab at your cash and a parking ticket.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Love Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre.

"When I grow up, I want to be Marcy Park," says Plotnik.

"I loved Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre," says Ducknik. "With the two Dads, Schwartz and Grubenierre. And Poor Olive Ostrovsky."

"What about Leaf Coneybear?" says Plotnik. "I mean, his sister Marigold Coneybear knocks Chip Tolentino right out of the competition."

"Yes, but he gets to sing 'My Unfortunate Erection.'"

"And what about my boy William Barf-ay? The Magic Foot?"

By now Plotnik and Ducknik are laughing again, thinking about this magical show at Post Street Theatre. They were laughing as they left the theater, laughing in the car, laughing when they got into bed and they woke up laughing. Hallelujah, this morning Plotnik gets to write a review for once about a show he really loves.

Reviewers do nothing but bitch. It's too long. It's too 'Broadway.' The music sucks. The lyrics are worse. They didn't give us good enough seats. Water costs two bucks. Waaa Waaa Waaa.

Not this time. 'Spelling Bee' is too short. Plot and Duck could have sat through two more acts. Belly laughs are good. Tears are good. Sondheim-like lyrics and Bernstein-like chord and tempo changes are good. OK, that's going over the top. It's not West Side Story. There is no "Maria" or "I Feel Pretty" and there aren't any Sharks or Jets, though there is a great throwaway line about the Warriors.

But it's funnier. Nobody kills anybody. Only one person's parole almost gets violated. You get to leave the theater laughing and humming the tunes. The Great Plotnik Theater Review Division wishes he hadn't brought up West Side Story, because now it can't award 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' more than Three and a Half Stars. Still, that's a bundle in these days of Lestat (Half a Star with a Catheter).

'Spelling Bee' gets Three and a Half Stars for the show, PLUS half a star on top for Marcy Park's 'I Know Six Languages' and a quarter star for Jesus and ANOTHER quarter for the little kid they pulled out of the audience who kept fouling things up by spelling all his words correctly. This is the show to take your Moms and Dads to.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Man in the Middle

The man in the middle, flanked by two musicians, is probably what The Great Plotnik looked like in a previous life. Put a Dodger cap on him, and you'd probably see the resemblance.

These people are standing in the middle of a banquet room in a huge hotel in the island nation of Singapore. It never fails to amaze Plotnik that he and his partner Yosi have managed to get fabulous jobs playing 'Twist and Shout' for Jews in Asian countries where there aren't any Jews. Barmitzvahs in Bangkok. Weddings in Singapore.

In the future, when The Great Plotnik again looks like the man in the middle, he hopes to be able to dine exclusively on the Beef Rendang at the Singapore Sheraton. Wanna know what that night was like? Try going here, and when you get to the bottom, keep going:

Monday, March 06, 2006

This Disembodied Head

This large, disembodied head is all that's left of a very nice photo of Plotnik and Ducknik at a Braindead Caribbeans Game last summer. Plotnik has had to find a photo that is 50KB or less to put up in the upper right hand corner of this blog, and it's not easy to do. Every photo he takes has many megaboozles of information and he has had to crop and crop and crop to find any photo that would be small enough for the space.

But he thinks...THINKS is the operative word here...that he may have done it. Now, all he has to do is download the photo here...and if you're looking at it, he's done that...and then transfer it, s o m e h o w, to the upper right corner up there.

He's sure there are problems remaining and conversations with Gupta, I mean George, in Bangalore. But don't think TGP has not noticed how blahhhhgy his blog looks in comparison with everybody else's. He is trying. The Great Plotnik may be the leader of a minor Western religion, but he doesn't know bits and bytes from chopped elk salad.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Two Star Evening, Like a Plate of Kebab

The Great Plotnik should have a small problem this morning. He saw a play last night that wasn't too hot. TGP earns a living as a reviewer -- for theater, his job is to write a preview of the play a few weeks before it comes out, distilled from the few micrograms of truth hidden among the pounds and pounds of bald-faced lies the press agent has pulled out of her rear end. Then, Plottie goes to Press Night, sees the production itself, and does one of three things: a) He writes a Glowing Review, updating his Preview, if he LOVES the play; or B) Writes a FLEE! FLEE! AVOID AT ALL COSTS! Review, updating his Preview, if he HATES the play; or C) He does nothing, if the show was just pretty good or pretty bad.

The Great Plotnik truly loves legitimate theatre, sees actors and directors and set designers and playwrights as heroes, as underappreciated artists who are willing to put their hearts and egos on the line and work for no pay, just to get a chance to display their love of the medium. So he's not about to pan a show just because he knows how to write a clever negative review.

For Plotnik to really pan a show, it has to be AWFULLY WRITTEN, HORRIBLY ACTED and, preferably a MAJOR PRODUCTION THAT GOOBERED AWAY TONS OF MONEY.

Last night's show, honestly speaking, had plenty of (1) and a quantity of (2), but, thankfully, they obviously had no budget at all, so he doesn't have to pan it.

Still -- it was pret-ty pret-ty bad. He doesn't want any of his readers to go see it. It wouldn't be fun to spend money to see it. It was dreary enough for free.

The problem is that one of his daughter's oldest friends is involved in the production. He loves this girl, he has known her since she was in grade school. Her boyfriend was IN IT. He can't give her company a bad review. He won't do it.

And, anyway, it was raining. That can't be good. Plus, the leads were all locals, and most likely had their parents in the audience, and that has to be hard. And two of the fifteen cast members were quite good, no, three. Three were quite good, and how can you expect a dedicated production team to pull off a show without money for staging or costumes or...well, drugs?

So TGP has decided to say nothing to his Boss, to let his Preview ride the way it is. The Great Plotnik Theater Review Division therefore awards (Play Whose Name We Won't Mention Here) Half a Star for good intentions, Half a Star for his daughter's beautiful friend, Half a Star for the fantastic Turkish dinner Plotnik and Ducknik had before the show and Half a Star because it wasn't too hard to park, and that adds up to TWO STARS!

The Great Plotnik always adds one paragraph that can be pulled by the production company to hang in their office, if he likes them and if they need one. It might say:

"It was a beautiful, Two Star night at the theater. Joel Rainwater, Jamila Webb and Ann Farrarr stole the show. This reviewer ended the evening with a delicious taste in his mouth, like a plate of scrumptious kebab."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Playing a Tun

When a drummer gets a new drum, he realizes it is part of the broad instrumental spectrum. When a piano player, like The Great Plotnik, buys four tunes (pronounced toon-es) at the Sunday Market in Chichicastenango, he brings them home and begins to Bonk and Bink and Blonk on them until his wife covers her ears and runs from the room.

Each tun has two notes. You play them with little mallets. If The Great Plotnik places all four together on his lap, and uses two mallets, he can make a Bonk, a Bink, a Blonk, a Blink, a Blap, a Bloop, and another Bonk and Bink (two of the tunes sound pretty much the same).

He thinks he will use at least two of the tunes (perhaps three) to accompany himself as he tells a story about Guatemala, perhaps about climbing to the top of Temple Four in Tikal to watch the Sunrise, or perhaps about hanging out with the Garifuna hip hop Spanish rappers, or perhaps about watching the steamy volcanoes in Antigua or perhaps about the young, grim teenagers in army uniforms with huge automatic rifles guarding every bank and jewelry store in the country, but he will have to write that story first. Then it's time to Bonk, Bink, Blonk, Blink, and perhaps even Blap and Bloop.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fried Chicken

After leaving Mistress Domin-Nik's house last night, The Great Plotnik had a long talk with Chef Pickle-Nik. It was very nice to talk to her about her trip to the land of Dogs-Sniff-for-Truffles. Chef Pickle-nik is an artist, the rare artist who gets to work in the medium people love best: food.

Plotnik can sum up his and Pickle-Nik's conversation as follows: 1) Fried Chicken. 2) Rabbit livers. 3) The Front of the House vs. The Back of the House. 4) Life. 5) Fried chicken again. 6) Edna Lewis, The Grand Dame of Southern cooking. 7) Chef Scott Peacock, who is not Miss Peacock in the Kitchen with a Lead Pipe. 8) Inspiration. 9.) Big Decisions. 10) More fried chicken.

What it is, is that life can't only be about the breading or the temperature of the grease or the weight of the cast iron skillet or the spices or whether or not you salt it before or after. Sooner or later you've got to deal with the chicken. You've got to have you a good chicken. If you got a problem with your chicken, well you've just got to go out and get you another chicken.

TGP was thinking about fried chicken, and about the story Chef P wrote about a long-ago kiss, and about Blonde Bombshell and how her writing sometimes leaves him in mouth-gaping awe, when he saw the 24-hour convenience store on Mission St. The light was green, but Plotnik stopped his car in the middle of the intersection and stared at the people inside the market, at headlights approaching and tail lights receding, at the rain pounding his hood, at the 14-Mission bus hissing steam from its tires. He took this picture and then thought: Where am I going?

I mean, he knew where he was going. But where could he get him some fried chicken?

He went home, rifled the fridge in vain. He wished he could go over to Pickle's Chicken Shack for a chicken-and-three...make it macaroni n' cheese, greens and white beans. Maybe slaw. Hold the rabbit livers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Yesterday, Hanky Girl sent GP a link to a site called, which is a blog search engine. Naturally, The Great Plotnik immediately typed in 'The Great Plotnik,' and several of his blogs came up. But he couldn't stop there. He then typed in the Name His Mummy Gave Him and that's where it got interesting.

Looking down the list of Technorati blogs with his own name in them, he found one from Tonawanda, New York, in which the blogger mentioned liking two obscure songs from the middle of one of Plottie's albums of a few decades ago. There was an e-mail address, so Plotnik emailed the unsuspecting blogger, identifying himself as the co-writer and producer of that project. A few exchanges followed, and two people connected. Plotnik felt good about that.

When GP went back to Technorati again today, the link was gone. The site changes constantly. Yesterday's connection has been blasted into the ether, though Plotnik found himself mentioned on a Peru/Bolivia travel blogsite which is unfortunately written in Czech.

Here's the interesting thing from an artistic perspective. That particular CD, which Plotnik and his ex-partner sold and distributed on their own after the record label to which they had signed the project went belly-up (after the label owner built a five million dollar home, put it in his wife's name and declared bankruptcy so he wouldn't have to pay his artists), received much praise and two of the songs are still played every holiday season. But two other songs on the CD had never received much mention -- Plotnik doubted anyone had really ever heard them: the very two songs our New Blog Friend had heard on the radio and liked.

So, Blogniks, blogging is cooler than we think. It's about more than JournalDoodling. Everyone of us is looking to connect to the big wide, outside world, and what better way is there than through stories and songs?

The Great Plotnik sends thanks to R. E. of Tonawanda, New York, which, if memory serves, is DAMNED cold in the winter and there's a great Italian restaurant on the highway heading to Niagara Falls. Baked Ziti, mmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The First Native Iris

It rains. It's windy. You can't grow big tomatoes. The fog. Whiny whaa whaa.

Then, it stops raining and the first Native Iris opens up next to the cobblestone path, and one yellow daffodil is standing proudly right behind it. The day lilies are ready to burst and there's already arugula and Tuscan kale in the vegetable patch.

A destroyed tear-down 90 year old house goes on the market for three quarters of a million dollars. Neighbors file through, clucking their tongues, shaking their heads, as the Real Estate Zombie remains aloof, dreaming of the condo payment in Maui that will come from unloading this dog. "It makes no sense," we are all dutybound to say, filing down the rickety stairs.

Yes it does. It's gorgeous here. The air is sweet. You can walk over green hills to buy organic produce. The corner convenience stores carry grand Sonoma cabernets. Our afternoon light gives us Van Gogh, our evening fog brings Goya. Our sourdoughs put Tuscany to shame. We're all ridiculously lucky to live here.

Bearded iris follow the Natives. Snow peas twine up the poles. Baby artichokes are already setting and asparagus ferns lace through the agapanthus. Sure it makes sense.