The Great Plotnik

Monday, April 30, 2007

Pink Iris to Baron Davis

The last bearded iris of the season is this pink prize. It is perhaps the coolest of them all. Plotnik can't remember where he got it, but this fall he'll divide the clump and keep dividing until he's got a collection of them. It should go well with the maroon and cream.

Yesterday, Blonde Bombshell and Mississippi Motorhead read at Bombshell's book release party at Borders, along with several other authors and friends. It was a great afternoon, and when Plot and Duck left they could see the editors selling books and signing copies.

Meanwhile, there is something amazing going on in Oakland:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday in the Park with Jose, Ivan and Kareem

Don't look for The Great Plotnik, because he's taking the pictures. Jose dribbles, Ivan dribbles, Mike and Matt battle for a rebound and Kareem takes a jump shot. Plotnik's team lost the first game, so they're sitting on the sideline until next game. They're gonna lose again. But go Lakers and go Warriors!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Plotnik Cooks: Cali Con Fusion

It's good to be home for lots of reasons, but one of them is you get to eat your own food. Not that there is anything wrong with any other kind of food, but The Great Plotnik enjoys best the food he is used to cooking, which is basically an Asian/Mediterranean/Sorta-organic/fresh tortillas blend that he calls Cali Con Fusion.

Last night he rode the Plotkicycle down to Sun Fat and bought a pound of fresh water white shrimp, then cooked them with a blend of garlic, ginger, chili powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, cucumbers, carrots, onions and a pinch of sugar, and served them over brown saffron rice. A glass or two of Buchtli Chardonnay washed it down. Man. No disrespect intended to broccoli casserole, but it is SO good to be home.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Terror of the Jenkins Women (It's Not Jihad, it's Yee-haw)

It always starts out so sweet...

But then degenerates into mayhem.

Clearly, the Jenkins women are homicidal.

One glass of wine, and they go straight for the throat.

And how does JJ really feel?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

From There to Here, with a Big Big Smile

The Great Plotnik took both these photos yesterday, the first at the Hermitage in Old Hickory, Tennessee, home of America's Seventh President Andrew Jackson, and the second somewhere above Arkansas only a few hours later.

It is nothing short of miraculous to realize that Auntie Melba's life has spanned horses to jets, and beyond. As Plot and Duck sat in her little den the other night...

...Auntie M talked about her earliest memories. One of these was riding on a horse, perched on a homespun blanket behind her grandmother with her arms around the older woman's waist, as they rode to town from their farm outside of Whitely City, Kentucky, to buy a few staples. She recalled how she never saw her grandma Elvira smile. The previous day, Duck and Plot had stopped at the Whitely City city hall to take a few pictures on their way into Somerset, now half an hour away up a busy highway, but back then several days ride by horse. If they had known, they could have walked behind the 'new' court house (build in the 1950s) to see the tiny old farmhouse, still standing, that Duck's Grandmother Vera and her grandfather Eli had built when they were married in 1913.

Then, a few hours later, the Great Californians hopped aboard their Southwest airliner and flew 2,000 miles home to Saint Plotniko, in the time it took Auntie M and her grandmother to ride a few miles down the road. Melba's life has spanned both these ages, from horses through trains and cars to airplanes and beyond, from postcards written in tiny, pristine handwriting that might take weeks to arrive, to blogs typed and sent 'round the world in seconds.

On Monday, Plot, Duck and Auntie M had stopped at the cemetery in tiny Science Hill, down the road from Somerset, to see Duck's great-grandparents Elvira and her husband Elza Becketts' graves, as well as her grandmother Vera's. No one is really sure where grandfather Eli is buried, as he ran out on the family when Auntie M and Duck's mother were little girls.

The Great Plotnik is happy to be home, but amazed to ponder the distance from there to here, wherever here is, and wherever there was. There is something inside some of us that makes us uncomfortable in any one spot for too long, and also something equally powerful that calls us home. As Plot and Duck were riding BART home last night from Smokeland Airport, Plot looked up at the faces entering the train at the Embarcadero Station: black, white, brown, tall, short, young, old, talking on cell phones, listening to I-pods, going over the events of the day with their friends in Spanish-y or Chinese-y or Tagalog-y English. Inside The Great Plotnik, World Traveler sat down and Lord Almighty-It's-Good-To-Be-Home stood up and smiled, big big smile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Athens of the South

Last night Plot and Duck took a walk down Broadway, not the Theater and Times Square one but the Music City one. Nashville, Tennessee, conjures up many memories for both Plot and Duck because both lived there once, before they met each other, Ducknik first, when she was doing her year of graduate school at Vanderbilt, and Plotnik a few years later, when he arrived by himself with two guitars and left with a new band but only one guitar.

The Great Plotnik was the Lesser Nobody the day he arrived in what was then a very small city, still unaware of the hugendous Country Music waiting in the wings. Nashville still displayed the recent remnants of segregation – the Colored Only water fountains in the park, the churches where blacks still had to sit upstairs. Duck had been there the year of the first sit-ins to attempt to desegregate the Municipal Pool. When the Supreme Court enforced desegregation, the city went along with the ruling by closing the pool.

When Plot lived in Nashville the Parthenon out in Centennial Park didn't look so spiffy (did you know Nashville is known as the Athens of the South?)and downtown's Music Row consisted of nothing but one block of record stores, a few curio shops and the old Ryman Auditorium, from whose moldy stage they broadcast the Grand Ole Opry, live, every Saturday Night, just like they had done for the last fifty years.

All of that is hard to find now – they have ringed the city with freeways and a belt parkway and torn down practically everything that Plot and Duck knew. Music Row still looks the same, as long as you don’t look up. The old three story brick buildings remain, but in back of them all are enormous, brightly lit skyscrapers and hotels and a convention center and a Country Music Hall of Fame. It looks a lot like a very small Bourbon Street or Westwood Blvd.

When Plot once took his two guitars down to Broadway to play and sing, hoping to have a few tourists throw coins into his upturned cowboy hat, there was no live music in clubs on the street, none at all (and nobody gave him any money either), but lots and lots of kids with guitars and upturned cowboy hats. Last night Plottie counted at least fifteen clubs offering a gaggle of guitar players, each with their Fender Strats playing in the same key (E), competing to have the tinniest-voiced singer drawl out a tune. But there was only one skinny mandolin player busking for change, in a dark doorway out of police eyesight. When Plot passed by, he hissed “Thanks for nothin.’”

Duck met her Grad School boyfriend near a tree in the park in front of the Parthenon. Three summers later Plot probably sat under that same tree. Last night, though, there was little familiar left. The old apartments where Plot and Duck had lived have long been torn down. It was fun to tell the old stories again to each other, though, and to reflect that it was a good thing they didn't meet 'til both had moved away from the Athens of the South and into the Big Apple.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Dear Plotnikkies, The Great Plotnik has discovered there is Wireless and there is WireLess, or Wireless Lite. Here in Somerset, Ky., once sleepy and now starting to boom (the home across the street from Auntie Melba's, seen above, is now on the market for $95,000, but the guy says he'll take $85K -- he bought it at a tax auction last year for $26K)(that was not a misprint), Plotnik found a delicious cranberry scone and double latte this morning and feels like he is starting to wake up. But there is no editing software available, and blogs do not post accurately, and everything takes a very long time, so until return to SP, the red-eye has to stay. SOON there will be lovely pictures and a real accounting of Erin's beautiful wedding.

In the meantime, Plot and Duck Slept Lite at Auntie Melba's last night. 'Sleeping' in that back bedroom has been a family joke for years, but things have improved since the Coca-Cola plant moved. Auntie M, Duck's Mom's only sister, is delightful as always, but she had the misfortune to go to a hospital for an MRI a few years ago, and ended up with a Staph infection that hospitalized her for months and just about destroyed her health. She has that iron will, still, but she is very short of breath and is about to go in for dialysis. So things move slower than they used to.

Driving in the rented Chevy from Chattanooga yesterday, Plot and Duck realized you could drive from Miami to Alaska, and if you were to stay on the Interstate you’d get there in a hurry and see nothing. But get off and drive on the old highways, usually paralleling the Interstate, and you begin to get a taste of the country you’ve been driving over, under and around.

So yesterday afternoon, when the Plots took Auntie Melba to visit the old relatives in several local cemeteries, including laying white roses from Erin's bouquet on Duck's parents graves, Plotnik took the Old Old road. Instead of well-paved and graded Route 27, which is filled with Burger Kings and Hardee’s and Krystal Burgers, or the parallel Old Route 27, where the asphalt is a bit more bumpy, where you see Luke’s Auto Repair and Roberson’s BBQ stand and Hair by Cheryl, Auntie Melba directed the little gray Chev a quarter mile beyond that to Old Old Route 27, which was probably an Indian path once and is where the old country cemeteries are, amidst well-mown fields and beat-up blacktop passing over ridges and in and out of hollows.

Antie M showed off the Somerset she knows so well -- like the house her mother, Duck’s Grandmother, rented for 65 years. Yes, Vera Cross Crabtree paid rent on the same small house in Somerset, Kentucky, for 65 years. Plotnik asked Auntie Melba if she knew how much the rent was when Mother Crabtree first rented it and how much it was when she died.

“Well, Honey,” said Auntie Melba, “when she first rented the apartment she gave twelve dollars and a half a month. When she died it was twenty six dollars.”

Aunt Melba says "hafe" for half and "full as a tick" and lots of Kentuckyisms, but her son Jimmy Murphy, the fabled Murph of Murph's Speed Shop and Off-Road (ask to see the t-shirts), stayed up with Plot and Duck last night talking about hunting for turkeys, and his lilting voice and his long stories about -- well, turkeys, usually -- made Plot want to pick up a camera and head right out into the turkey blind with him. If he'd asked, Plot would have gone.

But back to Mother Crabtree's house -- yes, the landlord raised the rent a TOTAL of $13.50 a month in almost seven decades. Oh, those rapacious landlords.

Yesterday afternoon was spent showing Melba Baby I photos. “I have nay-ver seen such eyes,” Melba says, and neither Duck nor Plot could disagree.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Erin Gets Married. Lots of Food Pictures Too.

It's Sunday night and Plot and Duck are in a motel along Highway 75-North just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. They are on their way to Auntie Melba's in Somerset, Kentucky for a short visit, carrying wedding cake and part of Erin's floral bouquet to share with Auntie Melba.

It was surprisingly unsettling for Plotnik to find himself out of internet range. No blogging for three days? It was like having peanut butter and no milk. So many things came and went and couldn't be blogged-about. It felt very weird.

Before the photos, a few explanations: Melba is Duck's Kentucky Aunt. JJ-aka-PP is Duck's sister, but she may as well be Plot's sister too because she has been his best buddy for years and years. One of the J's stands for Jennifer. Plot and Duck's two nieces are Niece Erin, who is short and just married into a family where everyone is at least eight feet tall; and Niece TPW-RS, the first part of whose Plotnik name (TPW) stands for Toilet Plunger Woman. It's a name, though, that comes from an earlier time, because Niece TPW-RS has long since grown into a stunning young woman.

Plot took pictures. Duck took pictures. Jen took pictures. We've got a lot of pictures. But you're gonna have to wait, because the Internet Connection just died. Later.

Chattanooga, no Choo Choo

We're back -- in Chattanooga, anyway, where there is internet access. The wedding was wonderful. Beautiful bride and her little sister were in great spirits, as were all the rest of the family. Much more in a little while, after Duck and Plot pick up their rental car.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Atlanta: Son's Place

Son's Place is in Inman Park, one of the classy in-fill areas near downtown Atlanta. Son is the son of a famous purveyor of fried chicken, collards, cabbage and banana pudding, but the Dad is gone now and Son's Place is where you go. Chef Pickle can explain the details.

The meatloaf is great, the fried chicken pretty good (maybe a bit too deep fried for Plotnik), and the banana pudding is through the roof. Note that pancake-like cornbread -- delicious and not ponderous. To tell the truth, the cornbread and everything else would have been better if it were a little warmer.

You can see that big brass bell next to Son's cash register -- the counter man says "Now, you be sure to tell Son you're from San Francisco," so that's what Plotnik does. Ten minutes later, as Plot, Duck and PP are eating their chicken and meatloaf, Son CLANGS that brass bell and yells "TODAY WE'VE GOT ALL THE WAY FROM SAN FRANCISCO DOUGLAS AND BARBARA WE'RE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU!" and everybody sort of looks up from their grits and one or two people clap once or twice and then it's back to the feedbag. Son many be a better showman than chicken frier, though it was all very tasty.

Meanwhile, it's a pleasure to be back in JJ-aka-PP's house in Eastlake.

Saint Plotnikians forget just how green the South can be. We don't have any of these trees -- oaks, maples, pecans and sweet gums. Cardinals swarm the bird feeders to be chased off by Atlanta thrashers.

And yes, NotThat, there is a Santa Claus and his name is Don Nelson. Good-o on the Warriors.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maroon Iris, Bride on the Horizon

Last time the Plots marched through Georgia, TGP blew the surprise by blogging about it in advance. This time it's no secret. Tomorrow night is Opening Night for JJ-aka-PP's new play and Plotnik and Ducknik will be in the audience. During the day tomorrow there will be some walks through Decatur and Eastlake and probably some fried chicken-and-three, while Jen bites off the last threads before opening. Then Friday it's on to 'Bama, NOT O-Bama and NOT the Ba-hamas, as some have surmised, but ALA-Bama, home of Bear Bryant, NOT Kobe Bryant, and two or three days devoted to a beautiful bride.

First maroon iris in 2007: April 16.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April Evening

Last night, The Great Plotnik went out onto his deck to take a picture so he could make sure the software into Ducknik's laptop was working correctly. This was the view, the view that the Plots never take for granted. Usually, they sit outside at night, on the few nights a year that it's not too windy, and say to themselves "if we were in Argentina, or in Turkey, or in Portugal, we'd think this was the most beautiful sight we'd ever seen. Tell me again, why do we ever leave here?"

The answer, of course, is for the empanadas. It sure ain't for the coffee. Tomorrow the Plots head out for Fort Payne, Alabama, Chatanooga, Tennessee and Somerset, Kentucky. Fly into Atlanta and out of Nashville. Mmmm, bbq. Erin, are you all set?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hard News on Monday: 2 More GBPs

Plottie has been told, by more than one person, that on weekends he tends to run lots of pictures of bagels. It's true. There must be less Hard News on Sundays. Or maybe it's that Plotnik lovvvvvees that Sunday cream cheese.

Anyway, it's Monday, so today we've got Hard News: Two more GBPs (gorgeous baby photos)!

Big week in the P-Dunky household: The Great FiveHead is back in the workforce. She has a five day shoot, on the first couple of which she can take Baby I with her. Then what happens? Not sure, not sure. Plot and Duck can't help out this time because they'll be in 'Bama in their 'jamas.

By the way, one more Warrior victory and both St. Plotniko and Stiletto City will have teams in the NBA Playoffs for the first time since Plot and Duck have lived up here. Pretty cool.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Morning Bagels

Sunday morning cream cheese, sweet onion and tomato bagels are the best cream cheese, sweet onion and tomato bagels, now that The Great Plotnik only plays basketball on Sundays. This morning was the first time in over a month that he's attempted to run his sore heel out on the concrete, and it was largely successful. That is...he didn't hurt anything. It felt good to run, using an orthotic heel-gel in his sneakers, and afterwards he's only needed a little ice and an Advil or two.

Can't have Sunday morning bagels without Sunday morning latte.

BTW: It is rumored that one of these three people can now sit up by herself. Which one is it? Perhaps proof will arrive, soon, in picture form?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's Pazzia Time

Sometimes, you just have to get in the car and drive down to Pazzia, though you really should get there around 6PM when the street parking restrictions go off. The pizza is the best there is. Period.

Pazzia Pizza is in the Thin Crust Mode, very popular in Saint Plotniko, but unlike most other thin pizza emporia Pazzia is not the least bit hippified. This is crucially important. Thin crust pizza has to be perfect; the crust, though thin, must have heft and weight and not have the consistency of a matzo. The topping must never have even heard of artichoke hearts or feta cheese or pineapple or black olives or jalapenos or anything at all except mozzarella, sausage or mushrooms. The pizza chef cannot have tattoos or piercings, unless he was in the Italian Navy. He should be fat as the Vatican.

Pazzia makes a very good Ceasar Salad too, though maybe not as good as Serenata de Garibaldi in Stiletto City. Of course, Serenata is Mexican, and Cesar Salad is Mexican (which is why it is not weighted down there by an extra 'a'), so this makes sense. One pie for two, two Ceasars and two glasses of sangiovese makes for a delicious evening. Plus, you can call your friend Smiling Bill and he'll always order the bresaola.

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Cheesecake

Last night we laughed and laughed and then laughed some more. There were six of us at Tiapos, because Mississippi Motorhead was available, though Mush was not. Somehow, everything was funny, and everyone's stories had something to do with the last one and the next one. Bombshell brought her new books and we got to run our hands all over them and feel them in our fingers. Pickle brought mascarpone/vanilla bean tart and Jeez Louise that was good stuff. Plot and Domin-Nik were in agreement all night. Large Pants wrote about marriage, sort of, in a way, you know, not.

You hear stories about how writers groups ostracize and terrify their members. Tiapos doesn't terrify anybody, though you do have to take chances when you write stories and read them out loud. Most of the time, somebody finds something nice to say about what you've written, and then it's time to eat more cheesecake.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"CallBack": Four Stars with a Dictionary * * * *

Last night, The Great Plotnik, theater critic who secretly loves movies, though he's too cheap to ever really GO to any, took The Great Ducknik to see a screening of Eric Wolfson and Michael Degood's new feature film "CallBack." Since Wolfie is best friends with The Great PunkyDunky, and adopted UWG (Uncle With Gifts) to Baby I, and since The Great FiveHead did the costuming for the film, and since Eric's Mom and Dad and Stepdad and lots of friends were all going to be at the screening, Plottie was hoping he'd enjoy the film, so he wouldn't find himself smiling and saying stuff like "Uh, very very special, um hmm, enjoyed it a lot, yes indeedy, first films are difficult, of course, harrumph." The problem turns out to be very different.

The problem is it's impossible to believe this can possibly be a first film. "CallBack" is so funny, so inventive, so enticing, so well directed and acted, and above all it's such a great yarn that you keep waiting for a door to open and Hitchcock or Tarantino or Louis Malle to walk out for his cameo. But no, that's Eric in the cameo, shot in the club in L.A. where he actually works tending bar.

We've got an inside story here, which is to say it's about actors, and acting, and cynicism, but also -- kinda -- about redemption, if you call being forced to direct a talking carrot redemption.

You've got a movie-within-a-movie, where three actors, who have actually assaulted one another on the street at various times, are cast in a film (great name: "Bloodstain") directed by a woman who has been mugged coming out of a convenience store by the actor she has then cast as her lead. Payback time?

Oh, yeah. Big time.

You're going to laugh yourself silly, while gasping for breath, when you see "CallBack." Hope it's soon. A decent theater distribution deal is not so easy to acquire when you're first-timers with no name actors.

Hey, but no biggie. The point of being an artist is creating art and Eric and Michael have already pulled off what some people spend a lifetime trying to accomplish. "CallBack" made The Great Plotnik laugh and squirm, and he kept pulling for all the characters to succeed. That's not easy to do.

The seldom-used Great Plotnik Movie Awards Division has been dusted off, and awards "CallBack" one star for the writing, one star for the directing, one star for the acting and one special star for Johnnie's face while he's being kapowed by the Evil Tony. Tony earns the extra Dictionary, for his dialogue during that same scene, in which he uses some kind of Proto-Pacino dialect where you can just...about...understand a word he is saying. That's Four Stars with a Dictionary, and remember "The English Patient" only got One Star with an Extra Half if they'd give Plotnik his money back.

Way to go Wolfie. Ninjas next time, 'aight?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Four Generations of Beautiful Women

Here are four generations in action, all photos taken on the South Side of Chicago: Above, Baby I with her Great Grandma Ruth; in the middle Baby I with her Grandma Joy and on the bottom Baby I with her Mommy Staci. Ruth to Joy to Staci to Isabella. What a lineup. Priceless.

And here we discover the girl likes Snak-Paks on Southwest Airlines.