The Great Plotnik

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

One Man Star Wars Trilogy: 3 3/4 Stars With a Wookie

Woke up this morning, staggered upstairs to get the paper and fell into this view. What a gorgeous place we live in, when the rain stops.

TGP and TGD had coffee yesterday afternoon with The Great Dancenik on her last day on the West Coast before returning to the Big Shmapple. She may look like a cosmopolitan N'yawkuh now, but she's still got California in her bones. It was cold and windy in Farley's, as always, but the company was grand, and the turkey/provolone/cranberry sauce sandwich from next door is Aces.

Now, back to business. Last night, The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik saw 'One Man Star Wars Trilogy' at the Post St. Theatre, which is heartily recommended to anyone who saw the first three Star Wars movies and memorized every line and every gesture, like Charles Ross did. The show is an absolute tour de force for one man performance and for Star Wars fanatics and for Ross, who also does a one hour One Man Lord Of The Rings show, or did, until the Cease and Desist Order, apparently.

Just one guy in a jump suit on a large stage, but he can do extraordinary things with his body and especially with sounds. He becomes Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia as well as Jabba the Hutt, Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, C3PO, R2D2 and Chewbacca, air battles, starship deflector shields, the famous Wookie bar scene and the famous through-the-trees starfighter scene and the famous LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER scene and, all in all, you really start to realize what an enormous effect these films had on worldwide culture.

The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division has been thinking about the rating for this show, and decided that 'One Man Star Wars Trilogy' gets 3 3/4 Stars with a Wookie. The performance itself is 4 Stars Plus, all the way around, and IF The Great Plotnik had seen any of the Star Wars films within the past twenty years he probably would have given Charles Ross 5 Stars. But he hadn't. So much of what was going on, and going on very, very fast as Ross spins circles around the stage, was only barely comprehensible. On the other hand, it didn't really matter, because Ross is so good and so funny, and boy, can he do that Wookie sound. The force is clearly with him, but not with the people in the first row, and that has to do with spit, you'll see.

'One Man Star Wars Trilogy' is a must see for all geeks, and for Danny, Barry and Brian when they were nine, but that's a story from a long time ago in a distant galaxy called EPark.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Recipist and His Yellow Clivia

The yellow clivia is in bloom, right on schedule. Plotnik leaves the clivias outside all year under the datura, in their pots, but when he spots a flower stalk almost ready to open he brings the plant inside to enjoy. Otherwise, the rain knocks the flowers off before they ever open. Same with the cymbidiums -- there's a huge stalk on one of the plants so that one will come inside in a week or so.

The Great Plotnik discovered last night that he is not a journalist, he's a recipist. As everyone knows, he writes about himself, mostly, and loves to make comments about the exploits of his blogging family. He is proud of them, and loves to crow about them.

Since his blog is akin to his own journal with photos, a record of his days and those close to him, he considers himself fair game for his own observations. But the buck stops there. Setbacks that occur to the people he loves are strictly off limits. No worries, mates.

So a better word for The Great Plotnik would be a recipist. Recipes can appear at any time in any listing, even at the bottom.

2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. frozen peas
3 large double handfuls fresh spinach
1 or 2T fresh mint OR fresh dill

In a wok, saute garlic and shallots in 2 T canola oil. Add peas, cook a few minutes, then add spinach. Stir as spinach wilts down to almost nothing. When ready to serve throw in fresh herbs. This dish is very simple and suprisingly tasty. Arugula instead of spinach would also be very good.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Song Bile

Although the newspaper is panning last night's Oscars, Ducknik and Plotnik tuned in somewhere in the middle, right around Best Supporting Editor in Shorts, and they enjoyed it quite a bit. Ellen de Generis was good! Plot and Duck had only seen 'Little Miss Sunshine,' out of all the nominated best films, so they didn't have any favorites one way or the other.

Well, Plotnik did, sorta. He always cringes at the Best Mindless Drivel Pretending to Be a Good Song category, and, at least for once, the very worst song(s) did not win. Man, that 'Dreamgirls' medley was SOOOOO bad, the songs so thin, the cliches flying around the Oscar stage like someone had forgotten Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson and all the Motown greats whose music is the whole point of this film, and instead done a pre-open on Lionel Richie and Wayne Newton's crypts to steal their lamest jewels.

Woooo, and let's not forget Celine Dion. Is Plotnik the ONLY ONE who realizes this woman cannot sing? How has this average-at-best performer managed to worm her way into the heart of the white bread?

OK, that was harsh. Sorry, Celine, sorry Beyonce and Jennifer and all you tuxedo-d up Dreamgirls buffoons being forced to turn your entire art form into a caricature of itself. At least we got to see Al Gore on stage with Melissa Etheridge, and that's nothin' but good. Maybe he'll like the stage. Maybe he'll take the next step.

Ah, that's nice, Plotnik feels better. Nothin' hits the spot like Sour Grape Soup. Can't wait 'til next year's Oscars!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Dock of the Plotnik

Several hours before 14 Plotnikians gathered around the Dock of the Dining Table at the Great Plotnik World Headquarters, Meatball Kitchen and Whipped Cream Repository, Chef Pickle arrived with a cooler. In the cooler were cookie dough, whipped cream, lime curd, a pineapple, a mango and a bunch of blood oranges. On top of the cooler were baking sheets, spatulas and knives.

First she cut up the fruit, then she whipped the cream, then she took out a little paper circle, lay it on the baking tray and pressed a thin, textured coconut-y batter into it. When she was done, she moved the circle to the next spot, ending up with six buttery circles on each baking sheet. Then she put them in the oven and they came out very thin, very crispy coconut cookies.

The Great Plotnik was pleased to assist Chef Pickle by standing there staring at the process, his tongue lapping on the floor. OK.

Stage One: a big dollop of whipping cream goes on each plate.

Stage Two: a cookie goes on top of the whipped cream.

Stage Three: Another dollop of whipping cream plus a huge schmeck of lime curd go on top of the cookie and the other whipping cream.

Stage Four: The cut up fruit is spooned on top of the lime curd, whipping cream, cookie and other whipping cream.

Stage Five: Another cookie goes on top of the fruit, lime curd, whipping cream, other cookie and other whipping cream.

Stage Six: There really was a stage six, but by the time Plotnik could get his camera out the plates were on the table and Pickle's creation was being consumed greedily by starving writers, poets, singers, artisans, teachers and at least one retailer.

It was great to see folks who don't appear very often any more, like Dancenik, Suzy Lolapaloozy and Motorhead. After dinner five people read, and the interesting thing is three read poems and one sang a song. Only Suzy read a story, which was, as always, funny and insightful. Then, the music began.

Going around the table, people chose a song for everyone to sing, but nobody ever knew any more than the title and maybe half the chorus. There were lots of songs that went like this: "I'm a Traveling Man, Got A Lot of Ummmm, All Over De Dum, Dum de doo doo be doo, uh."

Oh, there was dinner too:

And here are the two verses nobody could remember, sent in this morning by The Great Large Pants:

Oh my sweet fraulein down in Berlin town
makes my heart start to yearn,
And my China doll down in old Hong Kong
waits for my return.
Pretty Polynesian baby, over the sea,
I remember the night
When we walked in the sands of Waikiki
and I held you oh so tight...

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The Salsa Negra is in the pan, cooked down by half, another quarter to go, until it turns thick and black. Then you cool it and put it in a jar, to spoon out by tablespoons to make everything hot and delicious. Tonight for the TIAPOS party it's going to get mixed with white beans, tomatoes and cippolini onions.

But the amazing thing about Salsa Negra is that Rick Bayless, whose recipe The Great Plotnik follows almost faithfully, calls for 50 chipotle chilies. Plot uses 8 and it's at the edge of pain. Five times hotter than this? Rick Bayless must have burned the rubber off his front tires.

Duck is doing her circuit class and will start the pie doughs for the quiche when she gets back. Plot will start peeling cippolini, broiling tomatoes and chopping garlic and ginger in a little while, so he can get the flank steaks marinating. He may make a pilaf, just to be sure there's enough to eat -- everyone is bringing something but only Smiling Bill (salad) and Sarah (dessert) have told Plottie what that is. So ya never know.

Oh yeah, the vacuum. And the mop. Still, it's a PAR-TEE!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nicole and Brown Rice Pilaf

It was nice to see Nicole last night, for only the second time since Africa. She was part of the student group from USC that went to Capetown to intern for six weeks in their last year of graduate school. The Great PD interned at Bush Radio north of Capetown on that trip, and afterwards he, 5H, Plot and Duck drove all over South Africa and Swaziland for another month. Nicole has moved to SP and discovered one small sort-of room in a decent enough neighborhood for which she is fortunate to pay only the price of a 2-bedroom house in most other cities.

For dinner, Plotnik made zaatar chicken and fatoush salad. He wanted to make a brown rice pilaf, so he went searching for one. He found the above pilaf on Debbie from Brooklyn's blog ( He has no idea who Debbie from Brooklyn is, but he is thankful for her fabulous recipe. The step of toasting the rice until it almost burns makes all the difference in the world. The only drawback is it takes about an hour to finish.

Isn't the internet amazing? A cook in Saint Plotniko in 2007 wants to make rice so he googles a recipe from Brooklyn put up in 2005. Last week he tried an eggplant recipe from Istanbul posted in 2002. The world is getting not only smaller but tastier.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy Baby and a Brand New Song

The Great Plotnik knows its out of focus, but ain't that a smile?

Plotnik has finished 'Don't Cry, Isabella.' This is Baby Song II. Since Baby Song I was written before she was born, and Baby Song II at three months old, we should expect the album to be completed by the time she takes Early Admission to Harvard (Third Grade).

Here's the lyric:

-baglama- key of G (concert F#)

Don't Cry, Isabella

You'll be a brain
Sweeter than sugar cane
You'll be so cool
I'll bet you own your school

Don't Cry, Isabella, Mommy hasn't gone too far
Don't Cry, Isabella, love is everywhere you are

Doctor, lawyer, traveler of the world
Nothing's too much for my baby girl

So Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I

You'll be so wise
You've got your Mommy's eyes
A little wild
'cuz you're your Daddy's child

Don't cry, Isabella, all your lights are turning green
Don't cry, Isabella, life is just a bowl of cream

Pilot, poet, Princess of the Nile
Not one tooth but such a pretty smile

So Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I

Baby cry, baby pout
Mommy jump, Daddy jump
You're gonna wear them out
Mommy jump, Daddy jump
Brown eyes boo hoo hooin'
Mommy jump, Daddy jump
You know just what you're doin'
Mommy jump, Daddy jump

Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I
Don't Cry, Baby I

(c) Feb. 2007 DAK

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From the Sublime to the Gross

Mommy and Baby share a sublime moment. We then move to...

...the Gross. This is the Fudge Cake at Bob's Big Boy. The closest ingredient to natural is the Artificial Red Number 8 on the fake cherries.

Nephew Dominant Force-nik got his birthday present on the nose from The Great Punkydunky.

The boys then went to play poker.

Afterwards, DF-nik got his car towed away. In Stiletto City you can't park within 100 yards of anyone having fun. Nefnik and little Vashnik had to drive DF and Shmeckl Plotnik all the way to Strathern St. to retreive the Lexus from the Northern Alliance. At 2:30AM they returned to Mummy Plotnik's and at 6AM DF-nik left to fly back to Boise for his three hour drive home to The Town That Sounds Like a Wide Receiver (La Grande Oregon).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sausages and Salsa Shakti

Salsa Shakti ought to be called Salsa Negra because The Great Plotnik prefers to put into it a dark, chocolate-colored salsa made with chiplote chilies and piloncillo (unrefined sugar cones), but since he didn't have any of those ingredients lying around last night he used a heaping TBS of Shakti's roasted red pepper sauce and it turned out pretty darned good.

You have to saute the onions a long time, which seems to be one of the bloodstone secrets of any good cooking, until the chopped up beauties stick their sweetness to the bottom of the saute pan and you can steal it for yourself by adding a little beer and swirling them together.

As far as garlic and shallots, never do what the cookbooks tell you to do, but instead saute the onions by themselves, deglacee the pan with the beer, and then and only then add raw, chopped up garlic and shallots, so their flavor is still distinct when you finally get to the sausages.

You can use gourmet sausages, and you can also drive a Lexus SUV with a huge sound system so your Barry Manilow records can be played at atmospheric volume, if you like. But it's really foolish. Drive a small car that's easy to park, get PD to make you a tape with Waldemar Bastos on it, and just use the best quality traditional Italian sausages you can find. TGP likes to mix up hot and sweet -- maybe two hot Calabrians and two sweet with fennel.

Fresh herbs ONLY. Do NOT denigrate Salsa Negra or Salsa Shakti with dried spices. It doesn't matter which you use, basil, parsley, tarragon or all three, but they have to be fresh, and added with the garlic and shallots, not before.

A larger, textured pasta is best -- farfalle or trofie are really good.

If humanly possible, and this is never easy, don't eat the salsa and sausages until tomorrow. They'll taste twice as good. Go for a taco today. Tomorrow you feast.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Baby I is a Hundred Days Old

Baby I turned 100 days on Friday. She looks exactly like PD one second and exactly like 5H the next. Well, not really. Like they looked when they were babies. Well, not really.

One thing is for sure: Baby I seems a lot older than three months. She can make her eyes go to the sounds she hears now. She sees her Mom and licks her lips. She sees her Dad and laughs with joy. He is going to tell her SO many jokes. Grandpa gets a few laughs too, and Grandma is on the top of her list.

This was a wonderful weekend, and a lot of that was due to Uncle Nate-nik.

The Great Plotnik had never spent this much time with Mummy Plotnik's 90-year-old brother from Michigan. He's one of the most delightful people in the world -- sweet like Grampy Plotnik was, intuitive, Midwestern to the core and devoted to his sister. He's also still in great shape. Sunday afternoon Nefnik, Vashnik, Nate-nik and Plotnik took a walk in Runyan Canyon, walked all the way down to the bench and back, and Uncle Nate had no problems at all with the walk down or the walk back out.

His comment about Runyan Canyon: "I've never seen so many dogs."

Mummy Plotnik is well too. She gets tuckered out easier than she used to, but late Saturday night/Sunday morning, when the Great Car Tow-away had been resolved, there was Mummy Plotnik, at 2:30AM, tucking people in on the sofas, bringing extra blankets and making sure everyone was comfortable, all the while smiling and saying: "All my chickens have come home to roost."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday at Mummy P's

It's Sunday morning in the City of Stilettos. The Great Plotnik remembered the camera and the computer but not the cable, so he can't post baby pictures. He understands his page readership just dropped from 4 to 0, but it can't be helped. He and Duck should be home late tonight and the situation will be rectified.

In the meantime, Saturday was a gorgeous day, which began with playing with Isabella at around midnight and then playing with Isabella again around 7:30AM. Plottie and the Great PunkyDunky rode their bikes up to the newly renovated observatory in Griffith Park, then back down to pick up pastries at the Hipster Bakery and Orange Pineapple licuados at the UnHipster Salvadorean cafe, brought them back to Isabella's house and sat around eating, drinking, and playing some more with Isabella.

In truth, Plot still feels very comfortable in his old neighborhood. Echo Park Lake is beautiful, if gone-to-seed, and there is always a lot of hubbub and garbage on the streets, but it's his garbage. Plot understands things here. They make sense.

Not that Saint Plotniko doesn't make sense, but let's be honest here: Plot still roots for the Dodgers and the Lakers. In August it will be 14 years at the Meatball Kitchen, but his heart did not transplant. If he were forced to keep score, his Northern California scorecard would probably look like this:

Lifestyle: Way better.
People: Way more in common.
Community: Prefer the north.
Weather: Prefer the North MOST of the time, except at night.
Friends: North by a landslide.

However: Miss the heat. Miss the smells of dry chaparral, juniper, lemon blossom, pittosperum. Miss the Latino hubbub, the easy targets of ridicule (the car port with the Lexus, the Ferrari and the Prius). Miss growing tomatoes, chilies, oranges.

Not that Plottie ever did grow very good tomatoes, or chilies, or oranges, but he could have.

Worst of all: miss PD and BZWZ. Miss 5H and Baby I. But that has nothing to do with North or South. This is an issue of life and growth.

We start out with great ambition. This involves moving, aquiring, moving again, beginning a career, settling in.

Then, the older we get the more we realize the grand truth: We are who we always were. Our families matter. Our memories are frozen in time. No one knows us better than the people who annoy us the most. We still want to please our Moms.

It'll be good to be home tonight, but in truth The Great Plotnik wishes he could stay a little longer. He didn't realize it until just awhile ago: He's lonesome.
He won't lie to you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Tamale Pilgrimage

If you need to get from Point A to Point B in Stiletto City, and you have to use your car, it can be a trial. Last night, driving back to Mummy Plotnik's house from Baby Isabella's house, The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik had to use the Hollywood Freeway. There is a point where the highway bends around to the right and your eyes collide with eight lanes of traffic flowing in each direction, and off to the right there are four more lanes, off the freeway, with cars also moving in each direction, and at night this means being surrounded by red tail lights and white headlights, thousands and thousands of them, all moving at the speed of a head-on collision, and yet smoothly, if that makes any sense, until one car thirty miles down the road has a flat tire, at which point the entire 24 lanes of traffic yawn to a halt, horns honking. Everyone says at the exact same time into their cellphones: "Dunno. Something must have happened up ahead. I'm not moving. I'll call you when I get a little closer."

On the other hand, when the plane touches down at LAX, you can walk over to the Flyaway Stop, and a big tour bus comes along, picks you up, and for $3 takes you all the way downtown to Union Station. It's so convenient and well thought-out the Great Plotnik wonders why Saint Plotniko couldn't come up with something so obvious, in a city 1/1000th the size of Stiletto City?

And then, there are the tamales. The Great 5Head and The Great Angel picked up Plot and Duck at the Flyaway Terminal and drove straight to Mama's for tamales and horchata. All the time he was eating (the first good food he'd gotten next to in two weeks) he was thinking how nice it would be if all Plotnikkies could make a pilgramage to Mama's Tamales down by MacArthur Park. It could be a yearly thing, like the hajj. We could call it the Tamalajj.

But that could be seen as insensitive, so Plotnik would never suggest it; still, how about April?

P.S. Is she cute? Ohmigod. Wait 'til you see.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Feeling Fine Yippee Woopdee Dee


Worry not, ye friends and faithful readers. Symptoms have disappeared -- and Plottie lost 5 pounds.

Blonde Bombshell and Molly Ivins said it best -- it's hard to concentrate on the world's problems when the only thing you can think about is where to place your next footstep and how to stay awake. Intestinal ailments do that to you. But mmmm, that sushi was good last night and Plot just polished off the rest for breakfast.

Coffee, Mush? No, doesn't sound good yet. Fortunately Plot and Duck are leaving for Isabellaville today and they drink freeze dried mocha mix there.

What Plot is guessing is that he caught a little something and multiplied it by worry, then took psyllium which almost killed him and therefore he now could worry a bunch more. Ai yai yai.

We're never out of the woods, kids, but there's a beautiful baby down there gurling and waiting for Grandpa, so, like, yo.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day, Come and Gone

Valentine's Day and a very sour stomach. They don't go well together. But The Great Plotnik remembered that when ill, always call another hypochondriac. Lovely Fefnik, thankfully still part of our family, is someone you can always count on to have already had every disease you're worried about. She called Plottie back and her kindness and knowledge made him feel much better.

Ever tried to call your doctor at Kaiser? What in the world happened to Dr. Sawbones, the grand old man you went to and took your kids to and he knew their names (and yours too) and had an answer for everything? We didn't know Dr. Sawbones was a Cadillac. Kaiser is like riding a Greyhound to Honduras.

Piece of advice: Don't EVER take psyllium (metamucil) unless you've got a Russian novel in the cabinet.

Plotnik would love a steak. He's going to eat chicken broth, maybe, if he's lucky. He'd even go for beet kvass.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shmekkl Shmookl Ai Yai Yai

What a great Pre-Valentine. Baby I is holding her head up, snuggling against her bearded Pops who looks freakily like his bearded Pops at the same age doing the same snuggle. There is an old Plotnikkie expression for a moment like this: Shmekkl Shmookl Ai Yai Yai.

Meanwhile, The Great Aging Plotnik is feeling like himself this morning for the first time in what seems like ages. Food tastes good again. This cup is holding coffee, real Samiramis coffee. OK, superstition still reigns, so we're not assuming anything, but still. It doesn't hurt that the sun is shining. Shmekkl Shmookl Ai Yai Yai.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Rainy Weekend

Who says Saint Plotniko does not have tree-lined streets, or at least streets with trees on them? Stand at the wall at the top of Duncan St. and you can see all the way down to the water. The next photo even has smoke coming from a smokestack, and a ship or two in the Bay.

That said, it was not the most picturesque weekend for The Great Plotnik. Maybe it was the rain and gloominess. It certainly was the upcoming Yearly Physical (three hours ago). The Lakers keep losing. Put 'em all together and there have been plenty of occasions in world history that were more fun.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Papaya, banana, pineapple, apple, ginger

All of these... get one of these.

Seems like a lot of work, but it is energizing for sure. On weekends with rain forecast every minute, The Great Plotnik needs energizing. Baby Isabella should provide all that and more next week.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Whose Big Blogs are These?

So, which Tiaposian Emerita has been caught by papparazzi camera deep in the forests of Costa Rica, with only a few wires keeping her suspended in the air while in constant danger of falling to the earth and being ravaged by gorillas? Or German tourists?

Yes, yes, it's Big Blogs Herself. She, like The Great Plotnik, was knocked off line by their employer On Line for Idiots, only instead of worrying about it Big Blogs went to Costa Rica.

She sent another photo too. First, she and husband Jorge went to the Rent-A-Hunk in San Jose and hired two large men to stand next to them and pretend they are their own children.

The tip off is the yellow hats. Everybody knows Gringos get blue hats. Ha ha, nice try Big Blogs, but nobody's buying. Sam is still a little guy and Drew may be large, but not this large. You almost fooled us. And welcome home.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

No Boston

No, The Great Plotnik is not going to play a nice-paying gig in Boston, followed by one in Cleveland, followed by another in Ottawa, just because they all happen to take place on the weekend of an upcoming happy family wedding. Perhaps if The Great Plotnik had ANOTHER blog he could write down the exact phraseology, brilliantly conceived and delivered, that flowed from The Great Ducknik's steaming bill when Plotnik suggested he could possibly accept the gigs, see, just to make the money, see, and then, see, later he could, you know, join up with, uh.

Uh uh. Nyet. Nein. If you think it's cold where you are, you should have been here.

The Great Ducknik is right, of course, and The Great Plotnik would not miss the wedding for anything in the world, even bags and bags of cash, and The Great Ducknik was well within her rights to point this out to her husband, if for no other reason than to help him keep his priorities in line. Truly.

He does wish he had another blog, though, because what she said was really funny, and you would get a lot of laughs out of it, like Plot does, now that he has come out from hiding under the bed.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Forty Dollar Yogurt

Ooh, don't you just hate that? Plot and Duck were supposed to go see 'Legally Blonde' last night at the Golden Gate, but Plottie's stomach has been a mess for days and he just didn't feel like going out. But Duck, earlier on Tuesday, had parked the car in the Wednesday zone in front of the house because they planned to use the car that night.

When The Great Plotnik woke up this morning he remembered the car, ran out to the street to move it -- no ticket! But, Fool That He Is, he decided to drive down to the corner to get some yogurt. Checking the parking meter, which read HOURS: 9AM-6PM, he figured he was safe, since it was only 8:30.

Wrong. Walking out of the fruit stand, there was the evilly grinning Pissenpoopen in his blue and white Tyrantvagonticketshpieler, lights flashing, just having put the ticket on Plot's windshield. "But but but..." Plot sputtered, "the meter says 9AM-6PM!"

"Ja," said little Pissenpoopen, "but das SIGN on der STREET says NO PARKING WED 8-10."

He was right. Plot had moved the car from one NO PARKING WED 8-10 zone to another NO PARKING WED 8-10 zone. Nice going, Dummy. Forty Bucks. It better be damned good yogurt.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Moscow? Fresno? Hmmmm...

It now seems that the trip to Moscow will not happen. The invitation to play seems to have been on the level, but the logistics of putting a band together for little pay besides expenses, on short notice, for a l-o-n-g journey into Deep Winter, may have proven insurmountable. Or, put another way, The Great Plotnik has the tropics on his mind. He has not been looking favorably upon schlepping for two days on several airplanes to freeze his ass off in the snow without at least coming home with some cash in his pocket.

Still, he would do it in a heartbeat if he and his partner had a little more time to line up some other gigs somewhere else on the other side of the world. So they have suggested to the Moscow-niks that they invite the band again to play in the summer. Now, THAT would that be cool, and it might be possible to find work in Poland, in Ukraine, in Lithuania, in Bulgaria, maybe even in Paris.

Don't think The Great Traveler hasn't asked himself if he would have jumped harder at this opportunity when he was 21? Don't think it was a cheerful realization that he feels relieved...say 30% sorry and 70% relieved. But there is still hope. He doesn't wish he were playing shuffleboard on the Queen Mary. He and Ducknik have not reserved a Winnebago to go visit the Fresno Raisin Museum.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hail to The Queen

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik sat on the sea wall at the Marina for an hour and a half, with a couple thousand other people, but the sun shone for the most part, and it was well worth it when The Queen Mary 2 steamed through the channel. Even more surprising than the sight of this magnificent ship was the noise -- choppers in the sky and power boats and ferries and the Jeremiah O'Brien on the sea and people shouting and whistling and waving flags on land.

This ship is sooo--o-o huge. It really is worth heading down towards the docks today (it's berthed at Pier 27) to take a look -- late tonight she takes off for a Trans-Pacific passage to Australia. What a great day. Wasn't there a football game or something?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Goin' to See the Queen

This afternoon, Plot and Duck are heading down to Crissy Field to watch the Queen Mary II glide into port, surrounded, so it is said, by low flying planes and fire boats shooting water in the air, and with quite a few thousand other people lined up along the shore to watch. The QM2 is the largest ship ever to sail into San Francisco Bay.

Duck saw the Queen Elizabeth II arrive in NY some thirty years ago, and says it was one of the most exciting things she's ever seen. The good thing about today is it's Super Bowl Sunday, which should diminish the crowds somewhat.

The Super Bowl is SO stupid.

Plotnik is not as excited as Ducknik to see the QM2, because the very thought of The Queen Mary gives him the shivers. He worked at least a dozen times on The Queen Mary 1, which is now a hotel docked in Long Beach Harbor. Loading equipment onto the old Queen Mary and into the proper salon for a gig was a nightmare. You had to use a freight elevator so small only two people could stand in it at one time with their guitars pressed against their bodies (to say nothing of loading a PA system, a piano, a bank of lights), while dealing simultaneously with an officious and status-conscious staff that managed to bring the Queen Mary into a tie with The Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach for the honor of Hotel That Most Needs To Fall Down and Start Over. That ship drove many musicians to a life of selling shoes.

The Queen Mary 2 only will be here for 24 hours, and 2000 of its 2800 passengers will be getting off before the ship sails for Sydney, Australia, with stops in Pago Pago and Auckland. Wow.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cup on Top of Helmet

The red and white band goes around the head, to keep sweat out of the eyes.

The black and yellow strap goes around the right cuff, to keep jeans out of the bike chain and to reflect light backwards.

The helmet goes on the head.

The coffee goes into the Plotnik after he gets home, takes off the helmet, yellow strap and red headband. This really is the best part.

It's been cold and the Plots have had lots of company. TGP hadn't ridden in awhile. Noe Street doesn't get steeper, but some mornings it feels like it. This was one of those mornings. Great coffee cures many ills.

Plot is thinking about the Beezer this morning. A few weeks ago, Beezer's old bicyle was given to Emma, who lives across the street. The bike had barely been ridden -- the tires still had the new stubs on the rubber. It was too small for BZ from the beginning, but she was uncomfortable with a bigger one at the time. Emma is in 4th Grade.

Plot felt funny giving it away, especially when Emma took possession with such a thankful look on her face:

But Plot has been there before. He knows about the expressions little girls use to convey a zillion messages at once. She'll enjoy that bike, or she'll give it to someone else down the line, rubber stubs still hanging off the tires.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Weekly Cuteness Report

"I have turned over now, quite a few times, all by myself, from my back to my belly. Last week I grabbed a toy monkey and stuffed it in my mouth. I weigh 13 pounds 13 ounces (I am very advanced for my age). Best of all, my GRANDPARENTS are coming to see me soon. Hee Hee Gurgle."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Miserable

After reading Ms. K's post about happiness this morning, The Great Plotnik commented that it's easier to be happy if you expect to be sad. Perhaps it's also true that Deliriously Ecstatic must first pass through Certifiably Miserable. Maybe not. But maybe.

Yesterday, Plotnik planned out four stops: Bouchaine Winery, Chateau Potelle Vineyards, the town of Yountville and dinner at Mustard's. Of the four, he expected Chateau Potelle to be the pinnacle, Mustard's next, Yountville itself a fun place to walk around and Bouchaine Winery to be a waste of time -- Plot was looking for a winery in the Carneros that specialized in whites, and that didn't charge for tasting, and Bouchaine was the only one he could find. Expecting little, he decided the four travelers should go there first.

The people at Bouchaine are as nice as they can be. When they saw Plot and Duck and Joe and Pat carrying a bag of sandwiches, they directed the group to the picnic area, overlooking the vineyard, and insisted that the women running the tasting room be permitted to bring the wines to-be-tasted to the table. The salami, prosciutto and tomato went excellently with the Buchtli Chardonnay. The hospitality, sandwiches and wines were perfect. A case of chard went into the trunk. Expectation: 0. Result: 4.

Next, the road wound into the Mayacamas to bucolic Chateau Potelle. Plot and Duck had stumbled across the vineyard five years or so ago, when the wines were inexpensive, tasting free, and the zinfandels yummy. Now, you have to pay $10 for a tiny taste of any of the zins and the wine steward looked like he had been interrupted from his nap. Has the Napa Valley vibe climbed up into the Mayacamas, or was it too much anticipation? Even after the long drive, no one wanted to stay. The four got back into the car and took off. Expectation: 4. Result: 0.

The next stop was the town of Yountville. The only people there were merchants talking to other merchants on cell phones. Historic Jefferson Street is -- well, short. There's a pretty church there. It would be a nice place to nap.

Everyone wanted to eat at the French Laundry, but, lacking the $200 cash each would need, they did the next best thing. Pat took a mint out of her pocket, and split it in four pieces, which the group swallowed while each put a foot on the French Laundry sign. The mint: Priceless. Yountville -- Expectation 3, Result: 1.

Plot had been looking forward to eating at Mustard's for years. They do have a lot of wine. Here's the menu.

The food was good, the service was good, the selection was good. But for the whole night, something was missing for Plotnik. As he tasted Ducknik's not bad aji sandwich, he got it. Mustard's was probably at its best when everyone expected it to be the roadhouse it resembles. But now that chef Cindy Pawlcyn has ascended to Food Celebrity-hood, you expect more. It's not the restaurant's fault. It's the fault of impossible expectation.

The fried calamari under a mountain of curried cole slaw looked fantastic, but the tastes really didn't go together very well. The roast chicken was good. The red snapper was good, but tiny. It came with 3 teensy weensy carrots and a few shmeensy wedges from maybe half a small potato, and cost $25. Dunno. Seems excessive to Plottie.

OK, most restaurants seem excessive to Plottie. We'll grant that.

The aji sandwich would have made a great burger. But it wasn't a burger. The lime tart with Huge Meringue had way too much meringue and not nearly enough lime tart. Clyde made a lemon tart the next night that put this one to shame.

Coffee was good, but they blew the not-all-that-complicated order of one regular and one decaf. When both cups looked identical, Plot asked the busboy who brought the coffee if one was de-caf, and if he was sure which was which. He smiled. Pat was up all night.

Here's the deal: Run into this place on a ski trip in the Hoozyagoochis and you'd be singing its praises to the skies. But Napa is not the Hoozyagoochis, it's Napa Valley. Stakes, prices and expectation are 'way higher, perhaps impossibly so. Expectation: 3+. Result: 2+.

So, Ms. K., the answer, clearly, is to expect little. Don't Worry, Be Miserable. Or start off that way. You'll probably have a ball and you'll swoon over that calamari.