The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tell Me Again Who's Winning?

Like everyone else all across America, The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik stared at the screen last night and waved good bye and bon voyage to a bit of their life savings. Plot and Duck will be fine, as will most if not all of their friends, but there are many others, particularly those who tried the most recently to wedge themselves into the middle class, who will find themselves losing some of what they thought they had gained, or at least losing plenty of sleep over it.

It's like every pyramid scheme ever devised. If you get in and get out early, you make a bundle. If you're still holding up the building when it collapses, you get crushed.

Several years ago, people were buying real estate in the desert. "We can't lose!" they all said. They came to Plot and Duck. Plotnik said "if you want to live in the desert, buy houses in the desert. Don't invest in something you can't use, because when the bubble bursts you'll still own your houses in Alkali Flats or Seventy Seven Palms and you won't be able to sell them and the renters will trash them. You'll end up living out there. If that's what you want, do it."

Of course, this is the same Plotnik that told PD not to get publicity photos taken with Leonardo DiCaprio when they were kids, because Leonardo's career most likely would never go anywhere. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don't.

The Great Plotnik played a lot of poker when he was younger, and he was always a good poker player but never a great one. Gambling successfully demands that you understand the odds and play accordingly. You must bet when the odds require it, whether or not you have the money in your pocket. If you can't do it, you shouldn't play.

Plot couldn't. His pockets were never deep enough. He feared losing big, which made it impossible for him to win big. But at least he recognized it.

Nothing has changed. The fear of losing big makes the chance to win big less appetizing. Plot and Duck just don't like taking financial chances. When you've got Wall Street and the Pentagon running your country, it's not an unreasonable attitude to have.

He wishes the government felt the same way. He would have given them the same answer about the biggest dice game of them all: Iraq. "Unless you want to own a country in the desert, don't invest in it. You're not going to be able to sell it and the renters will trash the place."

The longer we stay, the more it costs us, to the tune of billions of dollars a day. Meanwhile, our financial markets are in collapse. And now listen to this: John McCain has the balls to say we're winning.

Talk about lipstick on a pig.


Monday, September 29, 2008

So Long, Beanie

Mummy P's neighbor and good friend, Beanie Wolin, died last Friday. The funeral was yesterday in Saint Plotniko, and was apparently a beautiful one, as those things go.

Beanie's last few months were not great -- she had congestive heart failure so she was hooked to oxygen tanks day and night. At least she got to stay in her home until the end.

She was a character -- Plotnik has written before about the politics of the Friday Hair Appointment, whose unspoken rules were rigidly obeyed. She was always very nice to Plottie and family, all of whom learned that at Beanie's you took one candy, not two, when she passed around the blue ceramic dish. In her later years, her living room was the hottest place on Earth not surrounded by sand, but one look at Beanie in her chair, covered with a blanket but every hair in place, and you thought not of your temporary discomfort but of this once invincible lady now confined to her chair and her blanket and her oxygen.

Her passing leaves one fewer of the generation of home owners who moved into the neighborhood in the 1960s when Mummy P. and The Chief did, when the homes were new. These homes are often purchased now by immigrants, many from Eastern Europe, Armenia, Lebanon, Russia, as well as younger families who usually have something to do with the entertainment business, since Mummy P. lives just up the hill from Universal Studios.

Beanie and her sister Lillian, and their two husbands, and Mummy P. and The Chief once spent a lot of time together, went to movies and out to dinner, had lives that included one another. Now, Mummy P. is the only one left. What a tragedy it must be to look around and see your friends disappearing, one after the other.

Tonight is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Perhaps it is not an accident that tonight is also the first night of the Plotnikkie celebration called De Playoffs. But whereas De Playoffs is only celebrated once every few years, New Years is forever. Plotnik is truly thankful that new friends down the street have invited Mummy P. to their home for Rosh Hashana dinner tonight. The brisket is always tastier when prepared by a new friend.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

News about Wally and Maya

Tiaposians, be alerted: starring at The Magic Theatre, in her first major San Francisco performance, in a completely captivating role where she plays at least a dozen characters, is none other than (trumpets): Maya Lawson. Who is Maya Lawson? Well, she's Wally's grand-daughter, Candyce's daughter. Maya was around fifteen when we were hanging around Candyce's house holding Tiapos meetings lo these many years ago, when Wally was writing all those wonderful stories about Julie.

Plot didn't know anything about this when he and Duck arrived at the theater. It was one of the nicest surprises ever, but made nicer yet in that Maya is so danged good. Hanky, hope you're reading this and head on over to the Magic. You can all read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "The K of D" here.

Incidentally, after the show Maya mentioned that Wally has not been well and is about to have gall bladder surgery. He apparently cannot get email right now, but we can write to him care of Candyce. Here is her address:

Wally Aron
c/o Candyce Rappaport
2251 McMillan
Eugene, OR 97405

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Where are Kucinich and Ron Paul?

The first debate was a waste of time and wasn't even interesting. The country's finances are going to hell and these two are arguing about who said what in 2003.

The moderator went out of his mind to try and make the candidates face each other. You stupid shmuck. Every candidate knows you lose points when you don't stare straight at the camera. Who appointed you, Richard Nixon?

The election is coming down to where it's been all along -- one candidate is young and vibrant and the other is old and tired. One is confident and one is grumpy. The rest -- issues, race, politics -- don't matter much.

Unless there's another 9-11 awaiting us, this election is over. But good luck to the winner. He will inherit an unmanageable mess. Why would anyone in their right mind want this job?


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Powerbook and the Candy

Plotnik has forgotten to mention another addition to his life: an Apple Powerbook G4 laptop. He bought it used from his partner D-Blue. It's a few years old and, except for the catch on the front and a few minor dents, is in pretty good shape. It's a whole lot more -- well, portable than the Dell desktop. It'll be fun to have on a trip. And the icons are cute. I guess.

But the deal is: you shouldn't have two computers. Plot has to make up his mind which of the two he is going to use most of the time. The laptop's keypad is a pain in the ass to use and the email program is usable-at-best. On the other hand, it boots up twenty times faster than the desktop. But the monitor is much smaller. The icons -- so what?

But let us not forget one MAJOR difference between Apple and Dell: When you call Apple Care you get a person, fast, who speaks your brand of English, knows your problem, doesn't ask you a zillion useless bureaucratic questions, and fixes your problem immdediately. When Plot got off the phone with Apple Care, he shouted up to Ducknik: "You won't believe what just happened!"

Plot and Duck are used to calling Dell, waiting for half an hour to talk to someone named Uh, Ed from Bangalore who sometimes resolves the problem and sometimes does not. Uh, Ed is always trying to sell you a newer version of the very thing you're calling to complain about. That by itself argues for the Mac.

Meanwhile, who says you don't get percs when you're a hotshot reviewer.

'Wicked' is coming back. Plot and Duck saw the first San Francisco run and it was a fabulous show, well worth spending the money for. Now, it's back for a second tour and the p.r. company is sending out chocolates! And green glasses!

As for the first question, Plot is pretty sure he'll dump the desktop in favor of the laptop, and maybe hook up the laptop to the larger monitor. But then he'll have a crappy keyboard with a clearer picture. Perhaps some of you have had this same issue?

Memo to Cousin Brother Two: No plans to see the Plotzers in S.P. this weekend. They don't need help right now. Next week, help and lots of it. They'll play next weekend in Stiletto, right? Hmmm...

Thursday, September 25, 2008



Here's what The Great Plotnik wrote on Aug 29, approximately one month ago:

"Oh man, the Plotzers are not only through for the year, they may not win another game until Spring Training. True, a 40-game losing streak may be asking for a lot, but this team seems capable of it."

Here's what he's writing at this exact second, Thursday afternoon, Sept 25, on The Great PunkyDunky's birthday: WAAAAAAA - HOOOOOOOO!

The Plotzers have done it! They are the Western Division Cham-peens!

How do ya like that! Plotnik was convinced his team would head into Saint Plotniko to face the Braindead Caribbeans, get knocked off three in a row and then have to play a playoff game against the Phoenix Snake Oils. But it's not to be. No sir. Keep your steeeeenking playoff games.

Now it's on to the playoffs, where Manny has to keep himself and everyone else firing. It looks we'll play the Phillies.

So let The Great Plotnik be the first to officially give up on the Plotzers in the playoffs. They are not only through for the year, they may not win another game until Spring Training. Ommmm.

First Posting: George and John are Back

It was just like the old days this morning. George and John were back at the fruit stand, bantering in Greek to the bread delivery guy and their various old school friends who just happened to be walking by. It had been an every-day morning ritual for the neighborhood, to cruise down the hill for a carton of milk or package of strawberries and listen to George and John and Nick and Gus and all their buddies, smoking cigarettes and laughing hysterically at jokes we couldn't understand -- but yes we could.

George and John sold the fruit stand to two guys from their home town in Greece, who are a generation younger and more able to handle the work load. The new guys have spiffed everything up -- you look for the Acme baguettes in baskets on the floor where they used to be but now they're packed neatly onto shelves. There's parsley where the sign says 'parsley' instead of a nicely mixed up mess of two kinds of parsley and cilantro falling into the kale and chard. The sales clerks still speak to us and to each other in Spanish, which neither George or John nor the new owners can understand. They stay open until 8pm now, an hour past the old closing time.

One thing that hasn't changed is oranges. Juice oranges are outside, larger juice oranges are inside in the corner, Australian oranges are in the middle of the store and fancypants oranges are over by the honey tangerines.

John pulled Plotnik to the side. "I want to thank you for all you did for us," he said, probably referring to an article or two Plot wrote about the men and their store for various publications. The truth is this fruit stand slash meeting place has boosted the quality of life of the entire neighborhood. No supermarkets for us. The only thing you can't buy here is meat, and that's not completely true -- they've got Molinari and Greek salamis in the cooler.

John and George are retired gentlemen now, but George still is wearing the same blue sweat shirt and nice brown shoes. His Beamer is still parked in the driveway. John's got that same oversized jacket and ratty tennis shoes. You can't work as hard as these two did all their working lives and not miss it. They'll probably be hanging around more and more.

While neighbors passed by, saw George and John and gave them big hugs, the new owner stood by quietly in his red t-shirt. No hugs for him. Yet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Selling the Saab

The Great PunkyDunky and family drove their 1995 Saab to Saint Plotniko, filled with stuff to store at World Headquarters until...well, probably until after Plot and Duck's funeral when the attic's feng shui is being inspected for the new Chinese owner.

PD wanted to sell the Saab while here and use the money to defray expenses in Brooklyn. But the car didn't sell quickly, so Plot agreed to sell it for him after they'd gone.

The battery was having a little trouble turning over but Plot figured it would last at least a few days. Which it did.

And he almost sold it too. A guy took a taxi down from Marin County to buy the car, but before he drove it he walked to the front and said to Plotnik: "Why didn't you tell me about this?" When Plot went to see what the man was talking about, he saw the whole right front headlight assembly had been smashed and the hood dented. Glass and plastic lay all over the street. It was probably one of the many construction trucks on the block who did it, and the perp had driven away quickly without saying a word.

See that big white smile on the car in the picture above? It's now more like missing teeth and a cracked jaw. Obviously, the car didn't sell. Then Plot and Duck went to Stiletto City. When they got home they remembered the Saab.

This morning Plot went to take the car to get a damage estimate. You knew this was coming: the battery wouldn't start.

So he popped the clutch, drove down to Don's Auto where the cheapest battery that a Saab can handle ended up costing $139 installed. Everything on a Saab costs double what it should.

Duck followed Plot down to Tony's European Auto on 11th Street, and the estimate is $1,466. PD's deductible is $500. So is it worth fixing, or should they just take the $1,466 cash, minus the $500 deductible, and sell the car as damaged?

No no no no. They're fixing the car, or else Plot will have to sell a damaged vehicle. Selling damaged autos on Craig's List puts you in contact with a whole new category of scumsucking human-like rodents and nobody needs that.

The sad part is that it's a great car. It's a whole lot more fun to drive than a VW Golf. Somebody's gonna get a bargain. And it's got a new battery.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The View from Mummy P's Front Door: There's No Place Like Home

Mummy Plotnik was scheduled to fly back up to Saint Plotniko yesterday, with Plot and Duck, to bask in one of the glorious three weeks we call Summer. Plot had figured it was at best a 50-50 chance she would make it, but when Saturday came and went, and everyone spent a great time at Schmeckl's, and Mummy P. hadn't gotten sick yet, he might have raised the odds a bit.

But no. Sunday, she came down with a toothache, which led to an emergency trip to the dentist, and an antibiotic, and antibiotics always mess up her stomach, which leads to the runs and no sleep, and here come the headaches. This is a familiar pattern which appears to be caused by an equal combination of illness plus a disinclination to leave the safety of home.

What a pity. Mummy P. is bored out of her mind at home, and the one friend she has left is on her last half a leg. A change of venue would seem to make a lot of sense, but this observation comes from the vantage point of being younger. As Plot noticed with The Chief not so long ago, the marker between 'older' and 'old' is you start losing control over basic things. You desperately want to hold on to all those you can, especially if you've been as independent your entire life as Mummy P. has.

Being home means you have your own coffee, your own coffee cup, your own sink to put the cup in. Being home means you eat the food you are used to, listen to the radio when you want to and keep the heat on as high as you want. Being home means if you aren't feeling great you don't have to smile and pretend everything's fine.

Plottie is not criticizing here, not one bit. It's very easy to understand. Plot and Duck's house is old and has steep stairs. It's colder in the house than Mummy P. is used to. Hell, it's colder in a tent in Saudi Arabia than Mummy P is used to. Plottie's Mom has traveled all over the world and she has a lot of pride. She is afraid that she'll get sick when she's at World Headquarters, and then she will be a burden to her family. More than anything, she does not want to be a burden.

One way to make sure she won't get sick when she leaves home is to get sick before she leaves. The illnesses are real -- the bad tooth is real, Plot and Duck saw it on the X-Ray -- she's got a pocket behind the last molar the size of a meteor crater -- but we're talking about her reaction to it. Today, she's home in Stiletto City, lying on a sofa with an ice pack. She could do that anywhere. But it's better to be home.

There's no place like home. Dorothy knew it. So do we.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yes, it Did Happen. Sigh.

It used to be more intimidating to see another plane that looks exactly like yours, right out the window, landing at the same time and same speed as you are. But these days, that's nothing. You need much more to scare a pro traveler.

Right? Flying down to Stiletto City last Friday, the following really did happen:

Just before takeoff, the new trainee flight attendant announced: "Please, we need to know if this person is on board. We have no record of him or her. I can't pronounce the name so I will spell it: A-C-H-M-E-D B-I-N A-C-H-M-E-D H-U-S-S-A-I-N. First name: V-I-T-A. If you are on board, please raise your hand."

OK, Plottie is exaggerating a bit about the name, but it was definitely not 'K-A-T-Z.'

V-I-T-A! It means 'life!' The perfect name for someone about to commit suicide to win eternal paradise! The genius of this name made Plotnik's stomach turn over. Would anyone answer the stewardess's call?

Yes! Plot and Duck were sitting over the wing. Somebody in the rear of the plane, WHERE BOMBERS ALWAYS SIT SO THEY'LL BE CLOSER TO THE BATHROOM, must have raised her hand, because the stewardess nodded her head and smiled and the purser said "OK, then. Have a safe flight." He got off the plane. Plot had to stay on.

Now, look. Plotnik knows he shouldn't even THINK about stuff like this anymore. He flies all the time, doesn't get nervous anymore, doesn't even think about it. But there you have it. Break the skin the tiniest bit and DAMN! Look what's still festering not very far down.

He had to find out for sure. But how best to do that, now that the plane was taxiing backwards? Well, he thought to himself, if someone is going to blow up a half-empty Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank, they are probably going to want to get the best coverage, and that would happen in Stiletto City, wouldn't it? Who's going to even notice a little more wreckage in Oakland?

So he made himself sit still until the sit belt sign went off, then immediately got up and walked deliberately towards the back of the plane, searching for women in burkas with cartridge belts. Here? Nope. There? Nope. Sigh. There weren't any. There was one slightly-suspicious woman in the very last seat, but she wasn't really very suspicious looking at all and, anyway, she was sound asleep. If you're about to blow yourself up, you''ll stay awake. You'll sleep later.

Yes, Plottie can think crazy thoughts, but he found himself wondering whether or not other people, lots of other people, like, millions of other people are like this too? Is this the source of John McCain and Sarah Palin's popularity? Plain and simple almost-concealed subconscious fear?

By the way, did she really charge women in her town to have rape checkups? Somebody must have made that up. It's too impossible. Right?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

3,000 Years and a Five Run Lead

Plotnik hopes you all saw translator Leelo's comment on the Estonian Mistletoe blog of the day before yesterday. How can you not love the internet? And music too, of course. And how in the world did Leelo find The Great Plotnik to comment?

Meanwhile, it's almost scary down here. Nobody in the family is feuding with anyone else. What's wrong? Plot, Duck and Mummy P drove down to McCain County last night to have a great dinner at Brother Schmeckl's house. There was barbecue, and fun conversation, a lot of laughs, a ballgame on the big screen and also an afternoon's visit to the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Shanta Shmana.

Say what you will about our religions -- and except for Plottnikism they are all pretty loony -- the fact is nothing has changed for a jillion years. Old King Qin had his entire army built out of terra cotta, in full armor and in battle positions, to protect his crypt in the afterlife. If we did that, somebody would have cheated on the contracts and the soldiers would have been dust in a year an a half. King Qin's warriors have been there for 3,000 years.

So roll around those rosary beads and don't eat any pork. We're all just scared little humans, frightened even with a five run lead in the Ninth.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Pit Bull in the Black SUV

It's hot down here and Plotnik forgot to pack his shorts.

The traffic is endless, but he's kvetched about this before. Yesterday, Plottie was trying to ease Mummy P's Lexus out of the Shmellson parking lot and into the street, but the traffic would not let up and there was a disabled school bus in the way. So when he finally saw a slight opening, in front of a black gigantic SUV, he went for it. The SUV, of course, when he saw that Plottie's move could cost him a minimum of one and a maximum of four seconds of his pathetic, meaningless gas guzzling life, sped up. Plottie got there first, eased around the disabled bus and turned right at the corner.

He was ready for Act Two: The SUV also turned right at the light, sped around Plottie to the left and then dropped right into The Great Plotnik Lane and hit his brakes. Plot knew this was going to happen, so he had already slowed down. No blood, no ambulance, no harm, no foul. The SUV then accelerated out of sight, probably barking like a pit bull.

AND the Plotzers got beat by Barry Zito! Yes, his initials are BZ, but NOT BZWZ. Only need 6.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Cat Moseys. It's in No Hurry.

The first act has got to be entertaining. If it makes you feel like your socks are on fire, it's not doing its job. If the second act is Hamlet but the first act is a walk in the park with your cat, you don't review Act Two.

So, all you Tom Stoppard fans. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Ma Soovipuust Vist Nägin Und..."

Well, well, well! Plotnik received an email this morning from his copyright company in Nashville, asking him to approve a translation of "It Must Have Been the Mistletoe" into Estonian!

This is a blast. The original first four lines are:

"It must have been the mistletoe
The lazy fire, the falling snow
The magic in the frosty air
That feeling everywhere..."

Here's how they sound in Estonian:

"Ma soovipuust vist nägin und.
Täis valgust toad, ja õu täis lund…
On õhus jää ja maagia,
ja jõule ootab maa."

And here's the English translation of the Estonian translation. In Estonian, the song is called "A Tree of Wishes."

"I may have dreamt a tree of wishes
Rooms full of light, yard full of snow…
There’s ice and magic in the air
And the land is waiting for Christmas..."

(Plotnik hopes the word 'toad' in the second line sounds different than it does in English.)

How amazing. It was 1979, in the Plotniks' first Shmalifornia stop, in the added-on back room of a rented house in Glendale, when Plotnik's then-partner Justin Wilde called Plottie up and said "Why don't we write a Christmas song?" So Plot sat down at his rented upright piano and instantly the melody and the first lines of the song poured right down his fingers and out onto the keys, along with the words. And now, almost thirty years later, the song has reached an Estonian translator who wants to use it in a show he (or she?) is preparing.

By Plotnik's calculations, songs travel East at approximately 400 miles per year. But it may have gone West.

Is this cool or what? Music is truly the rhythm of the Universe.

The translator's name is in here somewhere: Tõlge: Leelo Tungal

Is it Leelo Tungal? Or is it Tõlge?

Jeezo, what a lot of fun Plotnik is having this morning.

Now, for all of you who wish to delve a bit deeper, here's the new English translation of "A Tree of Wishes" ("It Must Have Been the Mistletoe") by Douglas Konecky and Justin Wilde, translation by Tõlge or Leelo Tungal.

Tõlge: Leelo Tungal

I May Have Dreamt A Tree Of Wishes

I may have dreamt a tree of wishes
Rooms full of light, yard full of snow…
There’s ice and magic in the air
And the land is waiting for Christmas

The road is lit by stars like a necklace of light
That shines through the holy night
And the beaming star may be the thing
That brought you here

Our Christmas –
Who could have hoped them to be like this!
The Angel of Christmas had his fingers crossed
To join us together!

The Christmas brought us two to countryside -
The midnight road, the sleigh ride
All roads and trees are covered with snow
And a snowball is frolicking about…

Was that the sleigh bell
to sang that way, tendering one’s heart?
Why your lips were then touched by mine,
Blame it on the tree of wishes only!

Our Christmas –
Who could have hoped them to be like this!
The Angel of Christmas had guided the kiss
And so joined us together,
Because I dreamt a tree of wishes.

Rooms full of light, yard full of snow…
There’s ice and magic in the air
I fell in love that way

On Christmas Night your dreams can come true –
And, my love, so I found you.
Just one more kiss – no more I ask
Just you and the tree of wishes!
(Because) our tree of wishes will always be genereous,
Our tree of wishes will always be generous,
Our tree of wishes will always be generous.

Just one more kiss – no more I ask!

For all his friends, Plotnik wishes that their tree of wishes always be generous.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aprons and Raggedy Andy

The Great Ducknik made this apron for baby P-Dunky, back when she was thinking about designing and making toys and children's clothing for a living. For awhile, she made playhouses out of fabric that went over card tables, turning the tables into beautiful little forts inside, with strong windows and cute pockets for storing stuff. She made hand puppets and aprons. One of the first things Plot and Duck did, when they first moved back to California from Pennsylvania, was to take Duck's wares to gift shows and try to sell them. They learned the hard lesson: Add in your own labor time and you're making a nickel an hour if you're lucky.

Years later, Plotnik repeated this mistake. He and his partner produced a Hanukkah CD, which sold very well. But before there was a CD of eight songs there was only the first song. So they named themselves Blue Star Productions, mounted a cassette of the song onto a tall, blue card (with a gold star), along with the story of recording it and various other tidbits, and took it to Hanukkah Gift Faires (the extra 'e,' always the extra 'e') to sell as a Hanukkah gift. They priced it at $8, then $7, then $5, but no matter the price people would always ask: "Five dollars I'm giving? One song I'm getting?"

(All around their Hanukkah Faire gift table, people would be stampeding to buy beaded belts for $85 and purses for $135 and a box of plastic dreidls for $11 each but they could not, would not fathom $5 for a cassette with only one song on it.)

Anyway, after the gift business was put away, Punky ended up with an apron and a few playhouses and quite a few hand puppets. (And several Hanukkah single-song Cassettes mounted on a blue card with a gold star.)

Last week Ducknik dug the apron out of the attic and gave it to Baby Too.

Ah, the Raggedy Andy.

Before they moved to Stiletto City, when the small family of three still lived on the farm in Pennsylvania, the mother of Plot and Duck's good friend made a Raggedy Andy doll for Baby Punky-D. He was attached to that doll for years, it seldom left his side. Until the move to California.

Now he was a big boy and didn't wan' no steenking dolly, but he knew before Plot and Duck knew. He would try to lose it. He'd hide it places and Plot would find it and bring it back to him, not seeing the child's apparent lack of gratitude. This happened several times.

The last time was at the supermarket. PD took the doll over to a canned goods aisle, removed the cans, stuck the doll behind the cans and then replaced the cans, effectively hiding the doll from sight.

But somehow a grocery clerk spotted him, and as the three were exiting the supermarket, the clerk ran up to the car with the doll, breathless. "Your son almost left his Raggedy Andy!" Plotnik will never forget the look of clenched teeth frustration on his son's face.

But the message had gotten delivered. The doll was put away until BZWZ came along, but she didn't want anything to do with dolls. So it went out into the carport, and after the move to Saint Plotniko, was taken in an unopened box up to the attic.

Ha ha! Revenge! Last week Duck found it and gave it to Isabella! She loved it! "Are you hungry, Isabella?" people would ask her, and she'd say "No. But dolly hungry." Then she'd feed her doll. Like, a face full of scrambled eggs.

And yet -- yet -- the revenge is PD's. The Plotniks East are in Brooklyn and the doll was left here. We've still got it. Obviously, Raggedy Andy is a Kalifornia Kid now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Organic? Well, Yeah, But...

Ah, the confidence of the organic movement! This fine looking box of loose leaf lettuce is placed outside the front door (and presumably near the kitchen) of a designery-looking house on Randall Street. The homeowners probably grow bumper crops of salad greens in this box using organic cottonseed meal and kelp harvested by hand from the Sea of Japan.

What they are not taking into consideration is Mischief.

As we who have enjoyed many long walks with boy dogs know quite well, all it takes is one dog to pee someplace and then every dog who comes down the pike for the next six months will pee there too.

What a salad this will be! Organic? Well, yeah, but...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Full Moon Over Saint Plotniko and Twenty Five Years

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik appreciate all the kind words from friends who wanted to make sure no veins had been opened after the kids left. This is what happens when the blogger shares his personal angst. Perhaps it would be better to hide behind clever turns of phrase, and Plottie knows how to do that, but you'd see through it.

Actually, everyone's doing great. The truth is that Plot and Duck's kids long ago started living their own lives in their own unique ways. They learned to do that at home. It's all good.

Yesterday, Sunday, was BZ's 25th birthday. How in the world is this possible? But Plotnik has always had his problems accepting that his little girl is no longer ten or twelve or fifteen, despite all signs to the contrary, despite her having already traveled the world and accumulated life accomplishments most people twice her age can't even imagine. He is so proud of her, already, but he also knows she's only starting to mark out her spot, to count her steps, to figure out which of her many talents to use at any one time.

And yet, he was there when she was born, he saw her first, he heard her little cry, he remembers thinking that he now had a little girl and how could it be that God had smiled on him like that?

Twenty five years ago? In that nursery at Kaiser in Stiletto City where there must have been thirty babies born that night and the nursery was filled with kids named Lopez, Ramirez, Gonzalez and Garcia, and they were all beautiful but no one was a match for the kid named Plotnik?

So she's now in Graduate School at a great University in Providence, Rhode Island. What's to be sad about?

Same with PD, 5H and B2. They texted early yesterday morning, to say that Isabella and PD were at a small nearby park in Brooklyn, where it was already really hot and humid, New-Orleans-in-September hot and humid according to 5H, and Belly was running through a sprinkler in her diaper and laughing with all the other kids. Talking on the phone last night, Plot and Duck learned that Mischief had had no problem with the canine carrier on the plane and was already fond of his new back yard, that PD had found a store nearby that was open at midnight to buy Pad Thai and a 6-pack of beer and that their new neighborhood is diverse, exciting and beautiful. Nothing to be sad about there either.

And Saint Plotniko? A full moon creeping around the avocado tree with the night blooming jasmine tossing bouquets onto the back deck? A city of trees and errands by bicycle, of organic pinot noir and pomegranate juice, of lemon and lemon grass? Not too big, not too small, not too hot, not too cold? No whines here. It's hard to imagine living anywhere else.

So Happy Monday! Yes, a certain team seems to be defying Plotnik's lowest of basement expectations. We'll just see what happens.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thumbs Up! Adios, Toddler Belly. Hiya, Baby Too.

So it's thumbs up to the Brookloneckys. Last night Plot, Duck, PD, 5H and Baby Too ( the former Toddler Belly who was the former Baby I ) went out to the avenues for the most marvelous Vietnamese food at PDQ Dungeness Crab Restaurant on Clement Street.

Her new name is Baby Too because everytime she thinks she hasn't been included in the conversation, she says: Baby Too!

But that's easy to understand. As long as she knows Mommy, Daddy and Mischief are moving, she's happy to move too. Baby too? Yes, honey, Baby too.

The point is to keep smiling, you know? This was Plottie's toast last night:

From golden sand dunes in Brazil
to bright, bright stars under African sky
Some day, I pray that we all will
More adventures come to share
In San Francisco, Brooklyn or anywhere


"Baby too!" said Isabella.

Sorry, Honey. CLINK!

Thumbs up! Today we needed two cars to carry all the stuff to the airport. While waiting in line behind the mountain of bags, packs, stroller, dog kennel, baby and dog, one person in the line said: "You look like you're moving across country."

"Baby too!" said Isabella.

See that mountain next to the few pieces of beef short ribs? It's all garlic. ALL garlic. Never has there been more garlic consumed than at PDQ Dungeness Crab Restaurant. It was a feast for the ages, too. It's really a shame Plotnik doesn't like crab all that much. Neither do Duck nor 5H. This means The Great PD pretty much had to eat that whole buttery, garlicky crab. These would be his hands.

And tomorrow is BZWZ's birthday! Six weeks from now all the Plotniks will be together again on the East coast, and six weeks or so after that is Christmas and they'll be here in Saint Plotniko. So, for the time being, it's a fairly simple transition.

And what a great week. The Great PunkyDunky, The Great FiveHead, Mischief Puppy, and who are we missing? Oh, yes. Baby Too!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Indians on the Sand with Surfers Behind Them

The Great Mushnik was certainly correct about the fabulous wooden Indians and horses on display on the sand at Ocean Beach. The closer you walk to them, the more detailed and interesting they become.

The show is closing this weekend, and the artist is trying to sell each individual Indian, some with price tags up to $12,000. This next one, displaying the famous leader of the Plotnik Tribe, wouldn't cost you anything.

The Great FiveHead Tribe, from Brooklyn, NY, is not well known but is certainly eyecatching.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Babies and Sacred Names

This morning Plottie finally got a few photos of The Great FiveHead with Toddler Belly. That half hour early in the morning is the best time of the day.

Last night Elsu and Nova brought over their new jewel Ishaan. Everybody is having babies. It must be contagious. Plot and Duck look forward to a house full of all these beautiful new families.

Speaking of which, many thanks to Brother Two Names for taking on the responsibility in advance of becoming PlotzerFather to Cousin Three Names. Teach her/him all the sacred names: Don D. Kirk. Sandy. Duke. Maybe even...dare we think it...Manny?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hooray for Cousin Three! And Adios Bus!

Remember this wedding in 2007? Very good news from Stiletto City: Cousin Two Names and Cousin E.G. are expecting their first baby. Cousin Three is due to arrive in March, 2009 and The Great Plotnik has put in his order for a Computer RepairPerson. These two will be beautiful parents and their child has to be gorgeous. Nice, nice, nice.

Meanwhile, Isabella week continues.

Everyone is trying on the hat.

It's so much fun to have three Former Stiletto City residents spending time in Saint Plotniko this week. When they are here the house is packed solid with people and things. When PD and 5H go out, Isabella looks at Plotnik and Ducknik, cries for Daddy and Mommy, then when that obligatory complaint is done, settles in to sing songs or play with puzzles or take a walk to the park with Mischief. She is so bright it's scary -- yesterday, she was walking on 30th Street with Mischief on the leash...

...when the 24-Divisadero bus went by. She watched it leave and said: "Adios, bus." When Ducknik stared at her, Isabella explained: "Adios. Goodbye." She's 20 months old.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shoulder Belly

Monday, September 08, 2008

Belly and the Stairs -- Ai Yai Yai

Just as Plottie was posting these photos of Belly, taken this morning at World Headquarters...WHAM! Ka-Thump! (5Head screaming) Ka-Thump! WHAM! (Baby crying)

Yes, Belly fell down the stairs. Plot ran so fast that he must have hit something sharp and now he's got a few bandaids on his hands, but that seems to have been the only damage. Wheeewwww. She appears not to have noticed, but it took a few weeks off every one else's life.

This sweater belonged to baby Olivia. Plot and Duck bought it for her when they were in Peru, but now Olivia has outgrown it and it has come back to Toddler Belly. She'll need it in her new colder climate, starting next week.

The pup's getting older and grayer. He doesn't run up Miguel Street now, and he kind of lumbers up those same stairs Belly just fell down. But he's doing fine. Today they've got to find a travel cage for him, because the vet told them it's easier on him to have 5 hours of discomfort in a plane than a week holding his arthritic bones in a car crossing the country.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Bargain at Rainbow?

Plotnik has been shopping at Rainbow Grocery for many years and never gotten a bargain. In fact, it's never been close -- Rainbow Grocery is the best health food grocery in the world, hands down, but the produce is, shall we say, precious.

That's why Plottie was so pleased to see a produce lady getting ready to dump these perfectly good heirloom tomatoes. "Would you sell them to me?" he asked, and she said. "Well, I'd have to mark them down. How about 99 cents?"

So! Plottie got nine huge heirlooms for 99 cents and he's got to admit that it almost makes the $7 for a pathetic little package of blueberries worth it.

Yes, that's Plotnik's home grown cherry tomato on the side of the Heirloom. But size ain't all that matters, boys. That cherry is sweet as sugar. Looks like gazpacho tonight.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


The Country's going to hell, but Andre Ethier got five hits.

Plotnik opened the Morning Bird Cage this morning and scanned the first page. At the bottom was the article about the government having to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to the tune of $10 BILLION!

This is mind-boggling! Our economy is in free fall and John McCain keeps pumping smiles with that one chubby cheek. Will anyone care? The Bird Cage has the story at the bottom corner of Page One, under endless crap about Schwartzenegger's No Budget and Gay Activists and Dead Chimpanzees.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, let's be honest. Plotnik glanced at the headline and immediately grabbed the Sporting Green. The country can collapse but first things have to come first. Five hits! Five RBIs! Guess we all can use some good ol' Republican denial.


Friday, September 05, 2008

The Parties Are Over

OK, both conventions are over and America sits in the middle holding out a cup. All the delegates who went to Denver and Minneapolis are excited, though the Dems are a lot more nervous now than they were last week. But in the end, absolutely nothing changed. The Republican candidate says he's the man for change and requests that America ignore the fact that his party raped the country for eight years. He's for more war and his VP wants to teach creationism in the schools. It's a dream ticket.

Meanwhile, not one Republican speaker ever mentioned the scandal of America's National Debt. They look at the photo above and see America's prosperity, symbolized by that beautiful green cup.

But it plays. John McCain's message is very tempting to people of the WW II -- Korea generation and those tens of millions of others who long for the good old days. It glorifies America. It's calming, it's reassuring. It's a very simple proposition: America is great. Where's that voting lever?

So here's what we have: Young versus old. White collar/no collar versus blue collar. Both coasts versus the middle. College students versus veterans. Freer thinking versus a more fundamental view. A new social paradigm versus the status quo. The possibility of real change versus a few systemic tinkerings.

And of course: Mixed up brown versus lily white. Don't ever forget that. One of the candidates 'looks like us.'

The Great Plotnik comes away from these two weeks of balloons and buffoons with an interesting thought, one that perhaps you will ponder with him. Most Democrats feel if you place McCain and Palin on one side of the scale and Bush and Cheney on the other, McPale doesn't seem so bad. Whoever wins in November is a major improvement over what we've got.

But Republicans don't feel that way. They are so fearful of Democrats and blacks and gays and immigrants and Bill Clinton and electric cars that, to them, a nation led by Obama is far scarier than four more years of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Abramoff. Remember that above all other human emotions, one ranks highest in motivating people: fear.

The Great Plotnik does not like John McCain, but he's not afraid of him. Republicans are terrified of Barack Obama. When you think about crossover voters, think about that.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Juneau What's The Capital of Alaska?

She's angry. She's feisty. She's unafraid to attack. She'd probably make a fine President. And that's the truth.

But Hillary Clinton didn't get the nomination. Now, the Democrats can see the chance they lost by playing it safe, like they always do at the exact wrong time. With Hillary as VP no one has ever heard of Sarah Palin and the Republicans have difficulty attacking for the same reasons the Democrats will now have to overcome.

Governor Snowmobile is seriously lightweight, but Plotnik thinks so because Plotnik already thought so. He, like millions of other Obama supporters, have got to stop with the Palin jokes and start realizing what she taps into.

Patriotism? Not so much. Republicans are no more or less patriotic than Democrats and everybody knows it.

Gender? Nah. Republican women will love her, Democrat women won't. Her positions are beloved by Conservatives and despised by Liberals and that was the same before anyone ever heard of her.

Nope. What she's got is Anger with a Capital A. This woman is your cousin from Colorado, your sister in Mississippi, your Aunt in Indiana. She's your gym teacher. She's your friend who never stops talking about conspiracies. She's your brother's best friend in Texas who sends you all those long email strings about Obama being a Muslim.

She might be Harry Truman. She might be.

But she also might be Pat Nixon. Just because you're pissed off at the New York Times doesn't mean you're right.

With the exception of pie, she is suspicious of everything you treasure. When Joe Biden asks her "Who is the President of Iran?" she will be able to say "Here's what I do know: I love America." 49% of the people in America will applaud her for that while an equal number have their jaws drop to the ground in dismay.

But above all: she's furious. This is good for an attack candidate. We buy cars and choose presidents on first glances.

A lot of this is sour grapes. Plotnik wishes she was on our side.

The truth is that Plotnik guesses 80% of America feels the way Governor Palin does, but politicians usually don't like to talk about it. She couldn't care less. This is her job. And she's not faking.

Plotnik likes Sarah Palin. It's Republicans who infuriate him, because they have the stone-cold gall to infer that they and only they speak for our country's core values. Like lying to the American people to declare war on a far away country and bankrupt ourselves in the process. Whose core value is that?

Anyway, Governor Palin may speak for a lot of people. One thing's for sure: she attacked the media, and they don't like that. If she's got a skeleton hanging in her closet it will come back to life soon, arms and hips swinging.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Rabbi Wins a New Chandelier

Plotnik watched some of the Republican National Convention last night, to see which rabbi would win the Rabbimobile RNC 3000. It was Rabbi Ira Flax from Birmingham, Alabama.

But first there was the Christian singer and the crowd shot of the one Republican delegate dancing in ecstacy. Then came Joe Lieberman. Plot actually thought he was pretty good and that the Talking Heads afterwards did not do him justice. Lieberman may not have a penis, but what would a Democrat/Republican do with one anyway? Everybody hates him. If he's going to get funky in Minneapolis, he's going to have to find an Orthodox Jewish Independent.

Then came Rabbi Flax, who actually closed his remarks with "...and God Bless John McCain." It was a theological moment to remember, but it worked. He won the Rabbimobile RNC 3000 and his synagogue got two new chandeliers and a generous donation to the Building Fund.

What a putz. So much for inclusion. But remember that Barack Obama had a rabbi give the benediction at his coronation too. Plotnik didn't see him. Did the Democrat Rabbi also ask God to bless his personal Presidential choice? And did he win the Democratic Vehicle -- the KIA Wind-Powered Kruiser with enough trunk room for two Torahs and a pound of whitefish?

Ooooh, it's early to be this cynical.

The Republicans say they want unity, but they don't want it any more than the Democrats do. What they all want is total, landslide victory, a spike in the end zone and a dance at the fifty yard line. They will pay any price, including lifetime tuneups on Rabbi Flax's Hummer.

One of the CNN Talking Teeth (female Talking Head) asked one of the delegates how Senator McCain, at 72 years old, could possibly pick a veep with absolutely no knowledge of foreign affairs, and the delegate answered: "She is an excellent candidate because she can sell our message."

And there ya have it, fellow Plotnikkies. The Presidency of the United States is an ad package. It's Tastes-Like-Butter. It's This Bud's for You. It's dancing frogs and bouncing breasts.

The Current President spoke earlier, by satellite from Washington DC, where he is busy scouring Craig's List under "Furnished Caves-Pakistan," still trying to locate Osama bin Laden. Plotnik actually was looking forward to hearing the President, but the Republican National Committee sandwiched him in between the Christian singer and the Rabbi from Hell.

In his remarks, the President blamed America's problems on angry leftists. At least he's got the courage to say what he thinks. He may be the only one.

Memo to Democrats: don't sell these people short. They don't care one bit for anything you believe in, nor, for that matter, in anything they themselves used to believe in. Big government? FINE! No experience in leadership? NO PROBLEM! Rampant Corruption? BOYS WILL BE BOYS!

But they will do anything at all to get elected. Don't think they can't do it. It's already 49-49 and tonight Governor Palin will charm the country with that good ol' Alaskan Charisma.

Jeez it's gonna be a long two months.