The Great Plotnik

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blue Skies, Green Lights, Lots of Dreams and Huge Smiles

It's snowing in Seattle where Grandma Joy is, but it's only a bit cloudy on the last day of the year in Saint Plotniko. Plotnik's forecast for 2009 is blue skies, green lights, lots of dreams and huge, fat smiles.

The economy will rebound, eventually. The war in Iraq will end, eventually. Maybe we'll all get it through our heads that our calendars contain only a finite amount of days, and if we don't use them well we will have wasted the only thing we own that means anything at all.

Maybe Plotnik will finish The Perfect Pitch. Maybe he'll write another great song or two (plus all the others that ain't so hot).

Maybe the Duck will figure out a fine new way to use her Spanish.

Maybe the NY Plotniks will blossom in Brooklyn and discover a new life.

Maybe the West Coast Plotniks will spend a ton of time with them.

Maybe the New England Plotnik will treasure her time in Providence and discover a new rock.

Maybe the West Coast Plotniks will spend a ton of time with her.

Maybe we'll all get a house on some shore or other this summer. Maybe Plottie and Belly will build a sand castle.

Maybe Duck and Plot will get off the sailboat with Finch and Crow in Grenada, then decide to spend the next month taking cumbia lessons in Barranquilla.

Probably not.

Up until last night, Plotnik would have said he hopes to sell the Saab next year. But somebody showed up, bought it, paid cash and drove it away. The phone didn't ring in the next hour, so that's one less item on the wish list for 2009.

Plot hopes somebody saves the Magic Theatre. They may have the ultimate Theater Attitude, but it's one of our great showplaces.

He just looked at San Francisco Theater Blog and noticed he wrote 45 theater reviews in 2008. That's not enough -- let's go for 52 next year, even though Ducknik isn't always crazy about seeing three on a weekend.

What else?

More sausage sandwiches from Rosamunde and more bahn mi from Saigon Sandwich Shop. Maybe a bit less carne asada from El Gran Taco Loco and the discovery of a Serenata de Garibaldi-style fine Mexican restaurant somewhere in the Bay Area -- great, regional Mexican cuisine and a really tacky mariachi.

More time in Mexico. Another round of mole in Puebla for sure.

More, more, more, how about less?

Less waking up at 3 in the morning to worry. In fact, less worrying in general: the kids'll be fine without Plotnik's eyes glued to the ceiling in the dark.

More time spent with JJ-aka-PP who lives too far away.

Manny Ramirez?

More good stuff.

Less not good stuff.

Alevai. Inshallah. Happy New Year! May God's auto-dial have your phone number on it.

Love, TGP

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Planning a Better Party

The Great Plotnik has said only positive things about this Christmas, because he had such a good time, but he doesn't want his readers to think the Plotnik family is all peaches, cream, macapuno and sugar cones. There were arguments when none were needed, acrimony, appallingly rude and inappropriate behaviors, comments made that would lead to a fight in any bar in America, a general lack of appreciation for the efforts the two people who were doing the lion's share of the work were making, and, on top of everything, a 94-year-old woman who, when she gets too tired, can end up saying things she later regrets. Bombs fly and land on whomever happens to be standing in the neighborhood.

The people who have known her for a long time realize Plotnik's Mom has more courage than the rest of us put together. That she was willing to take herself so far out of her comfort zone and travel to Saint Plotniko for four days was a holiday blessing for us all. Our mixed-up mongrel family lit candles and sang prayers and opened Christmas presents and ate lots of meals and we all got to do it together.

Most of Christmas 2008 was a ball. Christmas Eve Dinner was memorable. Opening presents on Christmas morning took most of a delightful day. Everything Plot and Duck got to do with The Greats PD, BZ, 5H and BB was hysterically fun. Little Bear and Fefnik and Nefnik and FiveHead really pitched in, as did PD and BZ. Vashnik spent countless hours with Isabella. The dinner at Chenery Park was fabulous and last night at Hamano Sushi Plottie drained a lot of hot sake. Hot sake is always good for laughs.

Maybe this is the answer: more hot sake for everyone.

Early in the day on Sunday, Plot DVR'd the Lakers-Warriors game, and later in the evening he sat down on the sofa to watch it. PunkyDunky came in, tumbled down on the sofa, put his head on Plotnik's chest and snuggled up into nap position. The Great FiveHead covered both men with a blanket. The TV rolled on and PD fell asleep while the Great Plotnik stroked his son's beautiful hair (where DID he get that hair, anyway?), barely paying attention to the TV screen. If he could have felt more contented, he doesn't know how.

So here is how this all relates to planning a better party. What getting together is all about, in the end, is managing to get to that moment of supreme contentment, of rubbing someone you love's hair, while they snuggle on your shoulder. If you don't get to hang with the people you love, if you don't work it out so you will have that quiet time with them, to talk, to relate, to understand what their year has been like and they yours, then what's the point? The food is great and the presents are great but they are means, not ends. The purpose is to retie the knot, each person with each other person.

Some people won't want to do that, they're not built that way. That's OK, too. But if Plotnik and Ducknik really want to plan a fun party, they have to change a lot of things. They've been doing too much and expecting too much in return. Less will be more. Shorter will feel happier. For Plotnik's pleasure, he has to spend more time with BZWZ, more time with his brother and less time trying to figure out who is mad at him and why.

Perhaps in this way the Southern Cal Plots could take something out of Christmas other than frustration and relief that it's over. Plot loves each and every one of them, but always ends up feeling like he caused a fight instead of throwing a party. It would be nicer not to feel this way.

On the other hand: Isabella singing "I love you Papa, oh yes I do." BZWZ hanging up her "The Hands that Cradle the Rock" (Association of Women Geophysicists) refrigerator magnet. Nefnik and Plotnik walking down to get bagels on Saturday morning. Belly's never-to-be-forgotten bath. Fefnik's mango/onion/avocado salad. Little Bear's constant smile. The Great FiveHead's sweet, supportive heart. Watching the Lakers whip the Celtics. And, of course, Ducknik, who gamely tries each year to recreate the Christmases she remembers as a child, for a family who knew basketballs on Christmas Day, not sleds. Plottie is a lucky man and he knows it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Two Questions

So, after the family has all gone, if you have one container of 2% milk with 5 ounces of milk inside, and you have one container of whole milk with 7 ounces of milk left, and you have one quart-sized container of half-and-half that is three quarters full, and one unopened half gallon of non-fat milk, and you take those four milks and combine them into one, what percentage fat will the milk end up?

So, if Belly is standing at the door as she and her family are about to get in the car to drive to the airport, and The Great Ducknik says to Belly that Papa and Bobo will have to say goodbye at the airport because they are not going on the plane back to Brooklyn, and Belly turns to Ducknik with a very serious look on her face, and circles her hand over her head several times, and says: "No, Bobo! ALL of us!" and then circles her hand over her head again and again and repeats: "ALL of us, Bobo!" ...and after telling the story to Plotnik for the fifth time Ducknik and Plotnik are still tearing up and wondering how in the blind wonderful world they are going to last until they get to see her again -- wait, what was the question?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Bourbon Balls, Please

There were so many wonderful things about Christmas 2008, chief among them the fact that Mummy Plotnik not only said she'd try to come, but actually did. She got in some real Isabella time, and the entire family was together for the first time in many years.

But Mummy P. is 94. She has very little vision and she never feels all that chipper. She worries about every headache and is generally cold all the time. She knows she won't be allowed to smoke in the house so she'll have to stand outside in the cold wind to have a cigarette. So it took her 'way out of her comfort zone to get on a plane, fly to Oakland, then stay for four nights in an apartment by herself next door to Plot and Duck. She gave us all her own special blessing just by showing up.

Of course there were issues. There are always issues, because families are families. We seem to be unwilling to tolerate the same behaviors by family members that, if our friends committed them, we would laugh it all off and say: "Hah! There goes Ol' Buddy Melvin again!" We'll do this for friends, but we won't do it for family. Our expectation levels are set impossibly high, even though we know with certainty that our family members can't meet those expectations, and if they could, would probably refuse to.

None of it matters.

The Plotniks saved the presents from the South Carolina Plotkinses for last (the Plotkinses are the Plotniks from South Carolina whose original name ended in 'kins').

The blanket for Belly is beautiful, as is the portrait on world class embossed plastic of famous brother in law J.M. Plotkins, and of course the Piggy Park BBQ sauce was highly appreciated, but nothing was better than the Screaming Monkey Slingshot. This will be a gift that will keep on giving. Especially when they get it back next year.

All holidays matter, but Christmas is better. And it is official that Traditional Honey Buns are now history. They have been replaced, hopefully forever, by Traditional Bourbon Balls. You can write it down.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

This is the first year since before The Chief passed away in 2004 that Mummy P. has been in Saint Plotniko for Christmas. Pretty much everyone is here -- The Great Plotnik in his Obama 2009 YES WE DID shirt --

... The Great Ducknik wearing her new scarf...

...The Great BZWZ and The Great FiveHead modeling their new hats...

...The Great PD and The Great Nefnik on the living room sofa...

...The Great BellyBone still in her Christmas Morning Pjs (which she had on until 4pm)...

Vashnik is Belly's new Best Friend. They go everywhere together.

Ducknik, Little Bear-Nik, Fefnik and 5-H.

Families have their normal dynamics all year long, but at Christmas you also get to give each other presents. You eat many meals and you tell many jokes and then you get to raise your glasses of Frivolo and toast everyone's good health, happiness, good fortune and the next year's prosperity. You hope everyone will be back again next year. Plotnik leans over and kisses Mummy Plotnik on the forehead, does the same to Isabella, and says: "I just kissed 96 years of forehead." How much better does it get?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Brotherly and Sisterly Love

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Time! Christmas is Here! Almost!

Christmas can begin now! It's time to buy the tree!

Tomorrow we'll wait for Mummy Plotnik and then we'll put all the ornaments on the tree. Now it's time for a bath.

Now that she's all clean it's time to play with plastic funtainers.

The only thing missing with this posting is some really treacly baby talk, so oogums boogums and Belly welly smelly jelly. There.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Will Start Soon

Two Sundays in a row rained out on the b'ball court. Plotnik got down there this morning and found two other guys, and then one left. Did it make any sense to play 1 against 1, full-court, in the rain? This is desperation.

The first year Plot got to Saint Plotniko, it rained every weekend for several months. Is this season shaping up like that one? There was also a hard frost here that year, and there hasn't been one since.

Ai, yai yai. The Eastern Plots have been in LA for a few days and now they're on the plane heading up here. Christmas starts when they get off the plane and we buy the tree.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chinatown Tacos

The best part of Chinatown is getting there. If you come from Russian Hill, you climb up a narrow street until you get to the top and then there's the Bay Bridge at the bottom of the final hill. Halfway down that next hill, turn left onto Grant Street and there's Ten Ren.

Of course, there's nowhere to park, so you have to go out onto Columbus Avenue for 6 minutes per quarter in the meter. But when you do that, you're parked right next to City Lights, the greatest bookstore in the world. That's two hours at least. If you never knew that books have a sweet, spicy smell, just walk into City Lights. It's the most intoxicating landmark in the city, especially downstairs.

Then, once you walk back outside, turn down the alley and slide into Chinatown, you can stop at Ten Ren and get the lady to let you smell the 50-year-old Pu-Ehr tea in the metal container that sells for $285 per pound. You say " thank you. I'll buy the (cheap) tea bags instead."

But Plotnik did buy Pearl Jasmine and dark Wu Yi and a bunch of other really good tea too. Everyone loves tea these days. Plottie still is hooked on Martha Brothers French Roast.

Last night was the last RockHeadz Dinner, so it had to be tacos. Today, everyone except BZWZ disperses back to the East, that is if planes can land in snowed-in airports in Milwaukee or Chicago. Plot and Duck have loved having them all here. Maybe the tacos will bring 'em back next year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Socks and Underwear


Start with hard mangoes, preferably green ones, and a ton of ginger.

Grate the mango into a bowl and slice the ginger into thin strips.

Add the ginger to the mango.

Add garlic, white vinegar or cider vinegar, and sugar.

Cook the sweet and sour slurry at various temperatures until it reduces and solidifies a little bit. At this point, the kitchen smells really good.

Pack it into jars. Give it away or use it on anything from English Muffins to an accompaniment for grilled lamb.

The problem is when you remember that the people you were making the chutney for can't take the chutney back with them on the plane, unless they pack it in their luggage, and oi, if a jar should open inside the suitcase?

Guess it's socks and underwear for the Back Easters.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweets For the Sweets

RockHead Cousin Seattle came over for dinner last night with RockHead Illinois and RockHead Saint Plotniko. Afterwards, of course, everyone had to go to Mitchell's, since ice cream dates from the Sweetozoic Age, after dinosaurs but before tofurkey.

There was a time when The Great Plotnik would have, and we kid you not about this, ordered, like, a non fat sorbet or even nothing at all. Those days are over. We are looking at 2 Thin Mints, a Grasshopper and a Mexican Chocolate.

You might ask if the lovebirds above exchanged bites of each other's cones. What, are you nuts?