The Great Plotnik

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The One You Love's Voice

It feels gloomy today. The Great Ducknik was up during the night, so she logged on to check BZ's Amsterdam-Nairobi flight: in progress. In Africa until July. Isabella's probably already playing on the beach and eating more bananas. Maybe even mangoes. In Mexico until next week. The Great Large Pants is leaving for Provincetown for the summer, so Tiapos will be a lonelier place, with only Plotnik to keep the other writers from lapsing into discussions of whose new shoes. Gone until September. Kobe asking to be traded. Still not gone, though.

Maybe PD and 5H are on the beach this morning, feeling blissed out like in Billy Collins's poem 'Bermuda':

"When we walk down the bleached-out wooden stairs
to the beach and lie on our backs
on the blue and white chaises
near the edge of the water
on this dot in the atlas
this single button on the blazer of the sea,
we come about as close
as a man and woman come
to doing nothing."

Of course, it's Billy Collins, so this bliss turns bleak at the end. He says:

" if every day we were not running
like the solitary runners on the beach
toward a darkness without shape
or waves, crosses or clouds,

as if one of us is not likely to get there first
leaving the other behind,
castaway on an island
with no pink houses or blue shutters,
no plum-colored ones trimmed in cream,
no offshore reef to burst the waves into foam,
and no familiar voice being bent in the wind."

Billy Collins's poems are probably laughed at by the poetry intelligentsia, because they are too easily understood, but he gets to The Great Plotnik, who used to dream about taking the last bus to the very end of the line and being forced to get off into a strange, dark place -- hmmm, it's the same beach, isn't it...

But that image -- the priceless timbre of the one you love's voice - there's a song there, for sure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Letters from Our Children

While The Great BZWZ gets ready to leave tonight on a 6PM flight to Amsterdam and on to Nairobi, The Great PunkyDunky and family are in Mexico to attend two good friends' destination wedding. Both kids have the knack of writing letters from their various travels that make this reader want to hop on the very next flight. Here's part of yesterday's letter from P-Dunky in Valladolid, a small town midway between Merida and the Caribbean, in the Yucatan:

"Suffice to say the baby has been the hit of the party. Everyone knows her at our hotel in Playa Del Carmen. She´s been sitting in the high chair and allowing her humble mother and father to eat dinner!!! She even slept well last night. Isabella LOVES the pool. She doesn´t like the taste of sand. The beach made her cry. She didn´t get sunburnt. She loves bananas. In the plaza tonight she turned her head up to the sky and watched and listened to the thousand birds singing in the trees and flying overhead. The stray dogs that live in the Plaza made her giddy.

"We´re once again remembering that life in Mexico is just great. I don´t think we´re going to be pushing very hard. This siesta speed suits us just fine and when the baby is happy, Mommy and Daddy are happy."

At the end, he says: "...We´re wonderfully removed from internet and phones and all that. It feels like we have an unlimited amount of freedom, even though we´ll be back in L.A. in about six days."

The Great Plotnik thinks that last sentence just might sum up the whole point of traveling to faraway places. Plottie hates flying for hours and hours, but loves being in the airport about to take off on a long journey. Why? It's liberating.

Getting off a dusty bus and looking for a place to eat. Staring at a placard in a train station written in an indecipherable language. Climbing a mountain and looking down on a new river...or paddling the river and staring up at a new mountain. Meeting three rappers with sagging pants and a new CD in a jungle hut. Finding the common bond (almost always music or food). It's all about that unlimited amount of freedom...even though you'll be back in L.A., or SF, or NYC in six days or six months or the rest of your life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The First Annual J-Whacky Food Fest

Many thanks to NotThat for noticing a geographical error in yesterday's post, which has been duly corrected. Like our local newspaper, the SF Comical, cutbacks in the once-proud Plotnik editorial staff have limited our capacity to check all geographical references for accuracy. But Nascar still rhymes with Madagascar, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, those chickens and roast potatoes at the inaugural of the Annual J-Whacky Food Fest were delicious and The Great Plotnik, as always, ate 'way too much. Brother J-Zim brought his portable snare top and brushes, and GP brought his guitar, but they never left their cases as the food was 'way too good and the conversation far too depressing.

Politics sucks and so does American health care. Period.

What is terrific, though, is to go out in the garden and discover bulbs flowering that you can't remember planting. Anyone recognize this one?

Monday, May 28, 2007

The New GP 7500 Filter

On Wednesday, The Great BeezieWeezie leaves for Africa. Fortunately, when The Great Plotnik scrolled through his EZ Parent On Line Ge-Filter Catalogue, he found the marvellous companion to his GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter. Now that he has purchased and installed his new GP 7500 What? Me Worry? Filter, Plotnik and Ducknik are not the least bit concerned for her safety. This is a business trip, basically, though in her business these trips take five weeks and involve flying to and from Nairobi, with stays of several weeks in villages in Rwanda and Uganda.

Yes, Rwanda and Uganda rhyme. So do Mali and Bali. So do Nascar and Madagascar, but, like, so?

The great thing about the GP 7500 What? Me Worry? Filter is that it automatically and seamlessly filters out any concerns, so you don't even know it is in use. For example, Nairobi is a fabulous, cosmopolitan city, capital of Kenya, a country known for its limitless game reserves and the boundless energy of its people. Rwanda, as everyone is aware, is famous for its common border with Rwanda adjoining the glorious body of water known as Lake Victoria.

Normally, Plot and Duck, who have made a career out of following their children's adventures, would be planning a trip to join up with BZWZ, but since she still doesn't know how her travel schedule will be shaping up, and since she will be working most of the time, it hasn't been easy. But there is that week at the end. Maybe? If it works for her, maybe it will happen.

Namibia rhymes with tibia, taco with Morocco and Nigeria with diptheria (GP 7500 What? Me Worry? Filter engaged.) I mean hysteria (GP 7500 What? Me Worry? Filter engaged.) I mean Syria.

BZ ate a lot of potatoes in Peru. Looks like it'll be corn in Eastern Africa. By the time she comes home she may even think fondly of Plotnik's granola. Possibly. It could happen.

In truth, Plot could not be prouder of The Great BZWZ, but, see, she is still his little girl and will always be. This never stops (talk to Mummy Plotnik for confirmation on this issue), which is why GP has signed up for Automatic Upgrades on his GP 7500, including the still-in-beta Stop Worrying Even Before You Start Worrying Patch, with the Sweet Dream upgrade, which filters out all dreams of Nuclear War and substitutes them with Hello Kitty. Plotnik REALLY hates Hello Kitty, though, so for now he'll take his chances with the nukes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Thank God for the GP 5000

Quick, somebody turn on the GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter before Plotnik chokes on his own cutesy pootsies.

Thanks to Grandma Joy for these photos. Joy is heading for Johannesburg in two weeks but Plot and Duck will see her in Stiletto City before she goes. Then, she'll be the one receiving the photos.

The Great Plotnik has discovered the truth to the universe, and it has to do with Isabella, because she is SO (GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged.) (GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged.) (GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged.) CUTE!

(GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged.)(GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

First Person Shooter: Three Stars (Keep Rapping) * * *

You know how you're listening to the Star Spangled Banner at the start of a baseball game and the singer is going all Chaka Khan with the melody? That's because the singer thinks its all about her. But it isn't. It's the National Anthem. That's why you might hear The Great Plotnik screaming at his TV: THE MELODY! JUST SING THE MELODY! PLEASE!

This is also true in the theater. After seeing 'First Person Shooter' last night at SF Playhouse, The Great Plotnik has decided director Jon Tracy may need to scale back the gimmicks. Aaron Loeb's fascinating story of a small video game company trying to come to grips with a real-life shooting in a school yard, whose perpetrators appear to have been influenced by the company's uber-violent video game, is marred by constant directorial decisions that make little sense. For example, every time a scene changes the characters slam -- and I mean slam -- metal chairs onto the metal stage. This is very, very jarring. The purpose is probably to heighten the audience's discomfort with a difficult subject, but it destroys the flow of the narrative. The only justification Plotnik can thing of is that the production team hasn't realized yet just how strong a story they have. The gimmicks are totally unnecessary. Just sing the melody. Please?

Now, the author may have written in these gimmicks, in which case an apology to the director is herewith offered. Also, World Premieres always need some tweaking, and with a cast made up of the amazing Craig Marker as Kerry, the sinister Chad Deverman as Tommy and the perfectly underplayed Adrian Roberts as Daniel, father of one of the victims in the shooting, plus a story that forces us to dig deep to grapple with the issues raised, all the pieces are there. What 'First Person Shooter' needs is just a little more time, and more faith in what's already on the page.

As far as ratings go: Hmmmm. The show has a Four Star Plus potential, but it's not there yet. The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division grants 'First Person Shooter' one star for the acting, one for the story and another half for Craig Marker's fabulous rap with headphones on as the show opens, plus one more half just because they're taking chances with the subject matter. You can't understate how important a point this is. Three Stars (Keep Rapping) for 'Shooter' and a memo to go back again at the end of the run.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Saffron Pasta: May Your Stomach Smile and Your Heart Be Full

For two or three people, first you take half a teaspoon of saffron threads and soften them with one tablespoon of hot water in a bowl. Break one egg into the bowl and blend the saffron and egg together, then add one cup of flour and knead it with your hands until you have a firm dough. This shouldn't take more than five minutes total. Divide the dough in quarters and feed it through your pasta machine that you bought on Mulberry Street in the Shmapple 35 years ago.

Use the thicker blade to cut the pasta sheets into fetuccine.

Make a simple sauce out of a sauteed onion, half a dozen plum tomatoes and two tablespoons of capers. Throw the fetuccine into the pan and let them cook together for five minutes. Put the finished pasta and sauce into the cracked blue bowl Little Bear-nik bought for you in Oregon.

Next, head on out to the arugula patch in the Rear Forty. Pick you a few handfulls.

Toss the arugula with a simple shallot vinaigrette (1 shallot soaked for ten minutes in 1 T red wine vinegar and half a teaspoon salt, then combined with 3T olive oil), and add a small chunk of chopped up French Feta.

Cover half of two or three dinner plates with saffron pasta and caper sauce, and fill the plates up with arugula and feta salad. As the ancient Plotnikkies said: "May your stomach smile and your heart be full."

Next week, PD, 5H and BI as well as The Great BZWZ will all be in different countries. Food will help.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summit Conference and Pudding

This is Father Jeff, an ex-Special Forces career army man who got the calling in his late 40s, retired from the army and went into the seminary. He performed his first wedding for DC Niecie in Alabama last month and did a fine job. He's a very interesting man, and, both being men of the Cloth, one Wholesale and one Retail, Plotnik and Father Jeff had several engaging conversations.

Of course, Father Jeff always referred to Plotnik's heritage as 'you people' and 'your sanctified traditions,' as did others in the congregation, which most of the time made Plot wonder if he had a huge PL tattooed on his forehead. How did they know Plottie is Plotnikish? Was this part of the pre-wedding conversation? Was this why several people felt it necessary to walk up to him and say things like 'You know, we all feel your people and our people are just the same.'

See, if you really felt that way, you wouldn't have to say it. Plot recognizes the sentiment is sweet, but all it made him think about was that The Great FiveHead must endure this kind of thing a hundred times more than Plottie ever does.

People really do mean well, most of the time. The problem is that most folks are not at all used to being around those whose upbringing was not exactly the same as theirs. So they stammer...and stumble...and then just have to launch into their story about the Plotnikkish friend of their boss's wife's dog groomer. Not the boss, not the boss's wife, not even the dog groomer, but a 'friend.'

Don't misunderstand: Plottie's family does it too. It's no big deal. That's Just the Way It Is. Tupac and Bruce Hornsby said it, and they wouldn't lie.

Now, if you want to talk about intercultural communication, this is Chris's Banana Pudding. The boy made it for his own Pre-Wedding party, and his dad baked a cake. What a family! Chris's Banana Pudding was every bit as good as FiveHead's Aunt Pearline's Banana Pudding, last tasted in Chicago a few Thanksgivings ago. Plot has long maintained that the way to the world's heart is through its pudding, so God Bless Chris and God Bless Pearline and please pass two forks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Water This Time, But Don't Press Your Luck

The first thing The Great Tomato Farmer did when he got home from Maryland was to glance at his tomato plants in the tubs on the Upper Forty (inches). They looked...well, good...except for these brown spots.

The brown spots turn out to be little tiny bugs. They are probably relatives of these little buggers:

Clearly, they are hungry. Plot will have to do something about them. The organic guides say to wash them off the leaves with a strong spray of water.

OK, Plottie will try the water, though in his heart he would like to pick up a box of Bug Dead.

This time, it's a bath. Next time: Let's just not go there, OK, bugs? Amscray.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BZ in a Dress

Plotnik apologizes. He has no photos of The Great BZWZ in her new dress that it took her many $*%&@!)(#*%!! months to find. The best he can do is show her the next morning at the brunch. Yes, yes, he knows, the dress is not in the picture. In Plotnik's defense, BZWZ is not the easiest person in the world to collar for a photo. Please note that the fellow sitting in back of her has blue pants on his right leg, white pants on his left leg and two different shoes.

Now, if you really need to see BZ in a dress...

...this might help. You may not recognize The Great PunkyDunky on the right, or Hannah who just got married, two from the left, or Nellie who is getting married in September, on the left, but you most certainly will recognize The Great BZWZ in her cute little white dress so cutesy cutesy oooopsy doooopsy (GP 5000 BabyTalk Filter engaged).

There is also this photo of Baby Isabella eyeing GP's food, which is, in retrospect, quite meaningful, seeing as Baby I ate her first avocado this past weekend. It was also her first solid meal ever, not that her Mom isn't solid, you know what Plotnik is trying to say here. You will also be happy to know that The Great 5Head reports that the avocado looks pretty much the same after as before.

She's eating food! Dang she's cute! Cutesy whiffle whaffle tootsy (GP 5000 Baby Talk Filter engaged).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hannah and Ben Got Married

Hannah and Ben got married! It was a glorious afternoon and evening, the kind of party you dream about -- touching, chaotic, elegant, heartfelt and crazy. When Hannah recited her vows to Ben under the chuppa, saying "I promise to always hold your hand on airplanes," The Great Plotnik dissolved into liquid.

They were led down the aisle by Luci and her gorgeous daughter Aiden, who tossed rose and lavender petals from her wheelchair. Aiden is almost three, and there could not have been one heart left unbroken after seeing her maneuver her chair with a joy stick.

Then Peter and Patsy walked Hannah to where the chuppa was set up overlooking the water, and the...shall we say unique...Quaker-Jewish ceremony began. There was a moment of silence observed for the Quaker part, which took on special meaning later when Plotnik led 150 dancers in a Quaker-Jewish hora-in-the-square. More about this shortly.

Patsy was all smiles as she walked off with John, the groom's dad, after the ceremony. There could be no finer tribute to her previous compulsive attention to details, than to say no one had the slighest idea how hard she had worked to put it all together. The only f-word was Fabulous.

Peter gave a toast that he had been practicing for days. The keg of beer really helped.

Then the dancing began. The Great Plotnik was asked to lead the assembly in a hora. He began by telling the audience the traditional Jewish circle had been changed to a square for the evening to accomodate the Quakers. There was another Quaker moment of silence observed in the middle of raucous dancing and screaming, with the bride and groom being hauled through the tent on precariously tilting rocking chairs. Everyone danced so hard they had to fix the dance floor afterwards.

Earlier, Plot had picked up The Great BZWZ at the train station in Baltimore... later in the wedding evening Plot and BZWZ got a chance to dance quite a bit. BZ did not look particularly embarrassed except for once or twice, when The Great Plotnik did his famous Chicken Wing. And my oh my, did BZ Plotnik look gorgeous on Saturday night.

Speaking of gorgeous, The Great Plotnik does not look particularly graceful while bowling, but The Great Ducknik does. Why is that?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Good Morning. F*$! You. Have Some Coffee.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Plotnik is sitting in Coffee East in Easton, Maryland, 10 miles from where the wedding will take place this afternoon, and an hour and a half from Baltimore Airport Train Depot, where he is driving to pick up BZ who is training down from NYC. The train must be on time and the highway must be open for them both to make it back to the wedding on time, and this is going to happen, because the sun is shining.

Bowling last night was fun. The hole in the wall didn't really amount to anything and Plot and Duck got to see their old friend Emily. Emily used to go out with Dave. Plot and Duck stayed with Dave earlier in the week in McClean, Virginia, and spent the evening shmoozing last night with Emily. Both Dave and Emily have different mates now, and both Ellen and Al are very nice people, but you know how it works...the newbies are newbies, even after decades. Your old friends are your old friends, and they're still together, in some way, in your head.

Eating in a bowling alley means a combination of every junk food known to man. Last night the Three Course Special consisted of donuts, french fries and beer. For a little extra, you could also get fried Buffalo wings, fried oysters and fried chicken fingers. Still don't know where a chicken hides its fingers.

Plot's pathetic basketball-jammed fingers don't really fit in a bowling ball anymore. After 9PM they turn down the house lights and turn on the strobes. Nobody over 50 can even see the lanes anymore, so there are...accidents. Patsy's brother's wife threw her first ball, overshot her mark, the ball got stuck in her fingers, she flew up into the air and landed on the back of her head. After that she took off her bowling shoes and sat on a chair with an icepack, next to the chicken fingers.

This morning, Patsy's phrase, as she sat drinking her coffee, was: "Good Morning. F*** you. Have some coffee." She's pretty much fried, but only has the entire wedding for 175 and tomorrow's brunch for 60 left to deal with. This really is a monumental undertaking.

Friday, May 18, 2007

They Put a Hole Through the WHAT?: Patsy Enters the Zen Phase

"Ma'am, I just wanted to tell you that the contractors put a hole through the side of the bowling alley and there's plaster dust everywhere. Would you like to cancel?," asked the bowling alley lady a few minutes ago, when Patsy called to verify tonight's pre-wedding party for 50 people.

Got to hand it to her: Patsy didn't swear even once. She seems very calm today, perhaps sedated, perhaps she has just entered the Zen Phase of wedding planning. Let it rain, let it snow, let it hail F*$%ing gallstones. "NO problem," Patsy said. "NO problem."

These things keep happening, but Hannah's Wedding just plows forward. Yesterday Ducknik and Plotnik and Peter and Patsy filled these little jars with water and plunked a cutdown spider mum into each one. It doesn't seem like a huge job until you see how many needed to be done. What you're looking at is only one side of the room.

Tonight everyone is damned well going bowling, regardless of the plaster and the hole in the side of the bowling alley. Plotnik and Nufu 5 have brought their bowling shirts.

Look again at that house in the top picture. It's like Larry Ellison's yacht, except next to the water instead of on it. Plus, there are ducks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If They Don't Like the Vases, They Can Just Go F___ Themselves

The wind is swirling and the breeze is a cold one, so no one is wearing shorts as the wedding party prepares to leave for the beach. No matter. If it rains, there is a tent and as long as nobody forgets the rings, this wedding shall truly be.

There is a van filled with cokes, hooch, glasses, food and piles of various other wedding-oriented paraphernalia. There is a beach house waiting to receive all the stuff. Theologically speaking, it's a combination Quaker-Jewish wedding, so the minister (the groom's brother) has been instructed not to mention the word 'God.'

Yesterday, many errands were run and cars filled. Today, more errands will be run and cars emptied. The phones keep ringing. Patsy was just talking to someone about the vases, so today appears to be the IF THEY DON'T LIKE THE VASES, THEY CAN JUST GO F*#! THEMSELVES day.

Haven't eaten a famous Washington Half Smoke yet, but there's still breakfast.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ethiopian Food, The OH F___ Stage, Pianos and Indians

Restaurant reviewers like to eat three times at any particular spot, to make sure their feelings and opinions are accurate. Plotnik has now eaten Ethiopian food three times in recent memory, in three different cities, the last having taken place last night. So he feels justified in reporting that although he loves the toppings on an Ethiopian plate o'grub, that gloppy, spongy, cold and clammy, pancakey stuff that you use to sop up the lentils and ground nuts on your plate, is, in fact, kinda, well.

You can’t escape it either, it’s not like you can pick up the food with your fingers. You have to sop it up with something, and that something has the texture of a sea creature. And it’s too bad, because the toppings are reminiscent of South Indian food, redolent of cumin and cinnamon. Basically, it’s a crying shame that Mexicans didn’t discover Ethiopia first. Someone in LA is going to make a lot of money some day putting lamb and lentils onto hot corn tortillas. Wait for the Addis Ababa Taqueria and put Plottie down on the reservation list. DC Niecie, the three of you are coming with us. It was wonderful to see y'all last night.

Meanwhile, the wedding planning here at the Chick Plantation has now entered the Oh, Fuck phase. Everytime the phone rings, which is all the time, somebody screams Oh, Fuck! There is a ridiculous amount of stuff that needs to get done, given that eloping is no longer an option. Duckie is helping her friend Patsy by sewing the last bridesmaid’s dress. It’s nowhere near finished. Plotnik just got back from the florist and bagel shop. The hair and makeup person just called to raise her price and Patsy cancelled her on the spot. This, with two days to go before the wedding. So new arrangements must be made. There is brunch for 50 on Sunday to get food ready for.

Plot may…repeat may…be responsible for playing horas on his ukelele. Horas on a ukelele. This is truly terrible news, but.

Rinnnng. OH FUCK, someone calls from deep inside the house, and they haven’t even HEARD Hava Nagila on the ukelele yet.

Yesterday, Plot and Duck went to the Portrait Gallery. It's a treasure. Plotnik likes this piano. It would fit nicely next to the silver service for 200. Anyone who loves history could spend their lives on these three floors. Plus, it's free.