The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fifty Ways to Leave this Planet, and Lots of Family in China

Nefnik delivered Plottie's belated Christmas present this weekend. It seems unlikely that this book was written for anyone other than Plotnik. It's really funny. Have a headache? You might have a brain tumor. Shoulder hurt? You may have myelopathy.

Meanwhile, Shmeckl, The Great Staubach and ED3 enjoy a visit with Mummy P.

No word from Cuz Seattle in China yet, but there is word from Deecie Neecie and family who are also in China. The Kazakh Desert Princess has flown to Beijing and met them there and at last word was washing a mountain of clothes and watching the Simpsons. DCNC found a purse for 7 bucks. Everybody's excited.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Two New Cousins

Yesterday The Great Plotnik met his cousins Marla and Alyce for the first time, though they lived in the same city most of their lives. How do these things happen? The ladies' father was Mummy P.'s first cousin and since Cousin David died, they have taken Mummy P. into their family, inviting her to family affairs and making sure she feels included. They are really nice people.

And they brought cookies.

Plot and Duck will be home this afternoon. Cousin Two, we'll catch Lyla Rose next trip. Can't wait to see her.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Walking on Shmullholland Drive above Mummy P's house yesterday, Plot and Duck passed a woman with a lap top in a bucolic little grassy dell, who if she had looked up from her screen would have seen the entire San Shmernando Valley spread out in front of her. When Plottie walks around these hills, the smells of dry native plants and woodsy gulches reminds him of the things he still loves about Stilletto. He can't help it.

Dinner at Shamshiri last night is another of those things. Thanks to Fefnik and Nefnik for turning the Plotniks onto this place a few years ago, around the corner from USSC (that's University of Shmalifornia at Stilleto City). Even Mummy P. loved it, cleaned every last bit of shirin polo, lamb shishlik and beef koobideh off her plate and started searching for more. Did we mention that hot bread?

Obviously, one of the recipes for success in this city is to avoid driving (impossible), walk a lot in the hills (impossible without driving, unless you somehow manage to live in the hills) and eat lots of lamb shishlik (not impossible, but probably not all that great for you in the long run).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Plotnik doesn't want to complain anymore about Stiletto City. It is what it is. And he is what he is -- still hazy after all these years.

Mummy P. seems fine and the weather is perfect. There is a basket of Birds of Paradise on the coffee table. The Jayhawks lost but the Lakers won. Nobody is pissed off at anyone else in the family, so for awhile we have some peace, ommmmm.

It seems to be all about your particular personal vibrations, about the place you live, the people you love, the friends with whom you surround yourself, the things you do. If we get lucky, we pick right in one or more of these things. If the last three aren't right, you could have box seats in Paradise and you'd still hate it. But pick numbers two, three and four well and you can probbly make out fine living on the bus bench at the Long's Drugs on Laurel Shmanyon and Ventura.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stiletto Bound

It was fine to be at Tiapos last night with the whole group. Domin-Nik took some more photos and when Plotnik gets them he will post the pretty ones, particularly of Chef Pickle and Domin-Nik herself, both of whom escaped the Wrath of Art the last time.

Nice things are happening. Bombshell had a story accepted in the new Chicken Soup. Pickle is working nonstop on recipes for her new book. Large Pants's book of poetry is coming out very soon and features one of Domin-Nik's photos. Plotnik is recording like a little beaver, though he needs to remind everyone that hearing someone play a song live with a guitar is always more personal than hearing a recording. This is always the hard part about recording -- keeping that sense of liveness. Life. You know.

In an hour it's down to Stiletto for the weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's About Time

Sure signs there are Peruvians on the block: "Dear Customers: After Thursday the 12th we will have guinea pig."

The cashier explained to Plotnik that the guinea pig comes in frozen. Would he like to see it?

Ah, no, gracias. He remembers it from Cuzco, and when he saw it on the plate it was all spread out with its head still on, remember BZ? Maybe it tastes like chicken. But again, gracias, no thanks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting that Guitar Solo

It has taken The Great Plotnik two days to record just the guitar solo to his song "Culiacan." It is always hard at first, when you haven't been playing live all that much, to play with the precision necessary for recording. And Plotnik is trying out an old recording technique which involves playing the whole thing three separate times, then splitting the takes along the stereo spectrum. So if he makes a mistake in the left year you're going to also hear it a split second later in the right ear. He's got to be careful.

And then: the furnace turns on. WHOOOOOOOOOOSH! Cancel the take, start over. The doorbell rings. BA-DANGG! Cancel the take. Then -- it's perfectly quiet -- and he's almost finis...clank. He drops the pick. Flubs a chord change. Cancel that take and the next one and the one after, until...

...this is the beauty of home recording. Nobody's charging you. If you don't get it, you just keep doing it until you do. It'll take awhile to get the rest of the guitar, bass and vocals on Culiacan, but that'll make three: "100 Years," "Who Will Be Our Mandela?" and "Culiacan." After that: "So Long, Foghead."

When Plot is done he'll have tracks recorded except for drums. That's when it starts getting interesting. After drums: sweetening (if Plot is smart, he'll figure out how to use doorbell, furnace and someone screaming at himself "GET IT RIGHT GOLPHLURSH IT!").

Monday, March 23, 2009

"The Story" and a Few More Stories

Lately, Bob Hurwitt and the Great Plotnik have been disagreeing about plays. Rabbi Sam is a good example. The little man jumped off the chair in Hurwitt's review while Plot and Duck thought it was...pretty good.

But not this time. The Witt and the Plot agree about 'The Story' at SF Playhouse. It's spectacular. You can read the SF Theater Blog Review Here, or go see the little man jumping off his chair in this morning's Daily Dog Walk Bag.

But that wasn't necessarily even the best show of the weekend. The Word for Word performance in Berkeley of Tobias Wolff short stories was brilliant too. (Sadly, that run was a short one and the company is already in France.) The Julia Morgan is always a flashback for Plottie, since he lived just up the block his last year in Berkeley.

Actually, Plot had graduated from Cal by then and was doing his perfunctory year in Graduate School across the Bay at SF State, while continuing to live in his glorious cottage on Garber Street. It was one of those years when Plottie knew perfectly well life was not going to get any better than this and, if he got drafted, a whole lot worse. So, what's the hurry?

He was right and wrong. Life didn't get any more fun, that's for certain, but it did get a lot more interesting. At 22, Plot hadn't been anywhere or done anything yet (though he had gotten maced in a few demonstrations - that counts for something, and there's the "kidnapping" and pie fight, and he had been to NYC on New Years Eve the year before and seen snow for the first time. But he didn't know his world was so small yet. And he hadn't even met his family! HOW CAN THAT BE?)

Plot remembers the hot sun of 1967-68 in South Berkeley, a lazy year, filled with flowers on the table and in the hair. Plot and his room mate Rich played guitar for all the girls and Rich hasn't spoken to Plotnik since. Something happened. Plotnik has never figured it out. But it was either over a guitar solo or a girl, and Plottie thinks he knows who.

But it doesn't really make any sense, does it, after all this time? So last year, out of the blue, he called Rich, who still lives in Berkeley. Rich answered the phone and said, after 40 years: "Plotnik? I'm busy." Must have been the girl.

Plotnik never went to the Julia Morgan when he was in school, even though he passed by it every day, because theater was not in his meager budget then. And even today $40 bucks a ticket, to see 'The Story' at SF Playhouse, is still a lot of bucks. And you're not going to go alone either.

This is, of course, the number one issue with modern theater. It has priced itself just about out of popular consideration. Talk about an age gap? That's why there are more wheel chairs than I-Pods in every major subscription house in America. Live theater may go the way of the songwriter. And that's another story Plotnik has no answer for.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Girl Power

How in the world can little Fee be playing T-Ball already? Yesterday was her first game, and here is the team picture.

The best part is Fee is a natural lefty, which means she is a step and a half closer to first bass, plus the girl can run. All she has to do is hit the ball on the tee and she's gone. That may not be so easy, though.

Soon, Fee will be selling these, and Isabella will be right behind her. You know it's Spring when it rains on Sunday but the girls and their moms are out on the corner. Ducknik couldn't miss buying a few boxes when she got out of Circuit class yesterday. 1: Build core strength. 2: Eat cookies.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lyla and Her Dad

Here she is, all (corrected weight) 7 pounds 8 ounces of her. Mom and Dad and families are doing well. It turns out hiccups are 'hipos' in Spanish, a good word to know.

Cousin EG looks like Dan looked when first holding Isabella - and Plot remembers himself feeling the same with BZWZ -- like you've been handed this amazing package and she is yours from here on out. There are no words for that particular Dad-little girl tenderness.

It's the same with a son, of course, but...different. With a son, you're connected in the brain, forever and ever. With your daughter, it's all that plus you've got to protect her, even long past the time when it's necessary. Twenty years after. Fifty.

Cousin EG knows all this already, you can see it in the photo.

No photos of Cuz Two Names yet, she'd kill me if I posted the one I love. More will come.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lyla Rose is Here!

Cousin Brother Two Names has just sent this message:

"Lyla Rose was born at 5:02am. 7lbs 2oz."

The Great Plotnik hopes you didn't read this sentence as he did: a 71 lb. baby?

She might have been, because Poor Cuz Two was in labor for close to 36 hours, if Plotnik understands the stories correctly, and Lyla Rose is gonna hear about it a lot over the course of the next 50 years. It's so nice to have her finally arrive safely, and well done Cuz Two!

The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik will open a very special bottle of Zinfandel this evening and drink to Lyla Rose, Cuz Two and Cuz EG, and to all the rest of the Greenbergs and Garzas. Special thanks to The Great Plotnik's stringer on-the-scene, The Great Little Bearnik, who reported directly and exclusively (almost) to the Late Evening News Desk at GPWHQ.

Now all we need is a picture. We just googled Lyla Rose. Nothing yet. But she's only four hours old.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pigment Envy

Plotnik has given up trying to make his Dan Armstrong electric bass (above) stay in tune. He has accepted John the King's generous offer of a temporary loan of John's bass (below) instead. As anyone can see, John the King has a Man's bass. It reeks Metal Band. The Great Plotnik's bass, though cool looking, is clearly lacking in testosterone as well as proper pigment. And he should have coiled those string ends.

One can imagine real live bass players using John's bass on huge stages in front of adoring millions, whereas the only person Plotnik has ever seen play a Dan Armstrong bass is Dan Armstrong himself, a bunch of years ago, and also Plotnik in the Streisand/Elliot Gould movie, and Plot wasn't actually playing it, he was just pretending to play it.

Both basses are a ton of fun to play. In fact, there is no instrument that is more fun to play than electric bass. You get to feel it in your feet, and you also instantly recognize that without you there is no band. Guitar and piano players cream to play with a great bass player. Maybe in the next life Plotnik can return as an electric bassist, schooled in funk and jazz so nobody will ask him to play a polka, though to be perfectly honest Plot would rather come back as Wilson Pickett.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick Never Ate Corned Beef

(Cousin Two Point Nine, we remember what a drag it was when things were moving along more slowly than anticipated and everyone was calling and saying "So? Any news?" So we won't ask. But we're thinking about you.)

St. Patrick's Day came and went, and there were only four for corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes and brownies. But with four people you can get to talk to one another easier than with a crowd. A year ago, BZWZ was here and we went to the miserable O'Doul's downtown for the very worst overcooked malodorous cabbage to go with barely edible corned beef but really good beer. Last night we had O'doul's Near Beer, and it isn't bad at all. By the bottom of the glass your brain, if not fooled, is at least contemplating.

And you don't really want another. So it's got to be the alcohol in real beer that calls you back again and again, duh. It's hard to imagine wanting three or four O'doul's, and then you probably wouldn't want to get in a phone booth with fifteen other guys and sing the greatest hits of The Four Tops.

Ducknik made Mark Bittman's brownies, proving once again that Bittman is the champion-bar-none for simple recipes with few ingredients that taste the very best.

The Irish don't eat corned beef and cabbage in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. Hanukkah doesn't exist in Europe or Israel. Kwaanza was made up in the 60s. America seems to be the repository for all unreal holidays that supposedly celebrate the Old Country, but that the Old Country never heard of. Well, why not? By world standards, we are all living in a holiday over here, present economic jolts notwithstanding.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Divine Light of the Curmudgocene

"Thou shalt growest in thy multitude and makest baked artichokes with garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs," said He (She), before sendingest down the light. On the first day there were artichokes but on the second day we got kale, arugula, rosemary, potatoes and peas, and it turned out they all taste great cooked together.

Every Spring, same pictures. The artichokes fan, the potatoes jump out of the tubs, chives spread their tasty little fingers, arugula is everywhere, kale and rosemary are already in flower. Cut off those flowers and the plants just keep pumping.

When Plotnik grew up in the suburb of the Suburb, he didn't know from these things, and if he had he would have considered them boring. But once he got to Catawissa, PA, he discovered how amazingly cool it is that the ground is hard as a rock one day and the next day it is riddled with green shoots and then every day after that you get to watch the renewing process in action.

And now that he is in his Early Middle Old Age (geologists call it the Curmudgocene), it's still a surprise, every Spring, every year, every plant. Bang! Hi There! I'm a potato vine! Bang! And I'm a clivia! Mucho gusto!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Better Tiapos Photos

The Great Domin-Nik took these terrific photos at TIAPOS the other night, but, of course, being Domin-Nik she chose to post the worst shots of everyone on her own website. So The Great Plotnik is choosing to post these. In order they are: The Great Plotnik, The Great Mushnik, The Blonde Bombshell, The Great Large Pants and Mississippi Motorhead. Sadly, Chef Pickle did not attend and Domin-Nik took no self portraits. If she had, she'd have put the very worst shots of even herself on her site. Sheesh.

By the way, Cousin Two.Nine ought to just about be ready to pop. Are you, Cuz?

Also, we hear through the grapevine that Cousin Seattle is about to go to China on a geological project and is dragging her parents and sister along too. This is very good news.

There is other news on the geological travel front, but no posting until it's official.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Charlie Varon and a Reflection about Hotels

Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox Plotnikkies alike will cringe when they see Charlie Varon's latest one-man show "Rabbi Sam." It may remind some about everything they dislike about all religion with an emphasis on the religion being featured. It may also make some feel proud. The Great Plotnik, though his empathy with the board members of the fictional suburban Temple Beth Am would only be measurable with an electron microscope that can make out the tattoos on a bacterium's butt, nonetheless felt he understood Rabbi Sam's dilemma. Sam wants to be the Messiah, but he has ended up in San Jose.

If you know the difference between a pickle and a shmeckel, you will probably want to see Rabbi Sam. You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review here. Charlie Varon is a theatrical genius for sure.

Saint Plotniko is a marvelous theater town. You can get big ones and little ones, glitzy ones and plain-wrap ones, fabulous costumes or none, fantastic music or none, brilliant sets or none. This weekend Plot and Duck got the None spectrum. The acting was no less spectacular.

Sometimes Plotnik thinks theater is like a hotel. His taste in hotels leans towards the bare bones. You spend as little as possible for a place to sleep and then you splurge on a few meals. Most people he knows feel the opposite: if you're going to stay in a hotel, they say, stay in the finest. Take the room service. Tip the bellhops. Eat the buffet. Buy the Hawaiian shirt.

These folks go to Cats or Phantom. They enjoy the fact that it costs two arms and a kidney. Plotnik and Ducknik are as cheap as Pharoah's accountant but they like the Hawaiian shirt too. Plot has a closet full of 'em. When it comes to theater, they also enjoy the big ones, but they truly love the little ones. These theaters are the loading zone, the place where the artists arrive. It has been a nice Little weekend in a great town.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Earning that Extra Half Star

Last night, Plotnik and Ducknik saw 'Thom Pain (based on nothing)' at Exit on Taylor. (You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review here.)

Plot has been avoiding the Exit Theater, because it's in the heart of the tenderloin, which is to say even the more established bums have their own newbie bums. The community is growing. You and other neighborhood activists may think it's a vibrant, pulsing heartbeat of Saint Plotniko, but Plotnik doesn't think chronic, druggie and alkie homelessness is scenic. He doesn't think people screaming at each other is cute. He doesn't think cadres of overcoated citizens lining up filthy sleeping bags on the sidewalk smacks of civic pride. The last time Plot reviewed a play at the Exit, a bum was peeing on his rear tire when he got out of the theater.

When Plot, senselessly, said: "What are you DOING!" the man answered: "Hold on. I'm almost done!"

Sure, no big thing. Plot always wonders how many neighborhood activists try to walk on these streets after dark? Even the Press Agent told Plotnik last night: "I parked a dozen blocks away. I'm not gonna leave my car outside at night down here."

The play was pretty good and the actor, Jonathan Bock, is fabulous. Plot awarded an extra half a star because nobody peed on his rear tire. Tonight: Charlie Varon at the Marsh. Plot is really looking forward to this one.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Dan Armstrong Leaves the Attic and the Emergence of Jaco Plotztorius.

Plot has been recording "A Hundred Years," the song he wrote for The Great Ducknik, and he decided it needed some bass. So he went up to the attic to look for his old Dan Armstrong clear plexiglass electric bass that he got after he pretended to play it for a bit part in "The Owl and the Pussycat," which was shot in 1969 on 45th Street, just a couple of weeks after he arrived in The Big Apple.

This is one gorgeous instrument to be sure, and it is a little smaller in scale than most electric basses, so it is easier to play for a guitar player like Plotnik. It's been sitting in its case a long time, but sure enough three of the four strings tuned up perfectly. That bass E...well, it's a lost cause until Plottie buys new strings.

There is no instrument on Earth more fun to play than electic bass, unlike stand-up bass, which is a production to play, and it has no frets, and really, really thick strings. It's hard to keep it both upright and in tune. The Dan Armstrong is the heaviest electric bass you'll ever shoulder, so it would probably be a nightmare to play for a whole night, but this is one sweet sounding instrument, even with three strings. Plot's going to keep it downstairs for awhile.

And thanks again to John the King for offering Plottie the use of John's old bass. This is why Jaco Plotztorius had to decline the offer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snaps from the Flip

The unforseen advantage of the Flipcam is that you can capture a HD-quality snapshot from any of the zillions of frames you shoot every time you attempt to make a video. The videos themselves stink, and Plot can't even play them on his computer because of whatever bad mojo exists in the world, but he can go through them slowly, frame to frame, and capture nice shots.

Of course, the best one, on top, came from The Great PD's I-phone. Belly would not go anywhere without holding BZWZ's hand and Plotnik got to joyfully push the stroller.

Here is Co-Captain Deborah Finch, CSS QFTDAC.* It took Plotnik sticking the camera in her face repeatedly to get this shot.

(CSS QFTDAC: Cackling Sheet Stealer Queen of French Toast and Developer of Alliance Cocktail)

Captain Charles Crow CIC HMTDIHTETTY ** smiled a lot too, especially when his tasks were done and an Alliance Cocktail in his hand (rum, lemon-lime with bitters, papaya juice?)


(CIC HMTDIHTETTY: Commander in Chief, How Many Times Do I Have To Explain This to You?)

Here are two shots if Pim, who is Romeo's cousin. Romeo and Pim motored up at the Tobago Cays, one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, and succeded in selling Plotnik this freshly caught 8-pound tuna. While Romeo fileted the tuna, Plot talkled with Pim about reggae music, that he and his band play in clubs on nearby Union Island.

This is Romeo.

Here is The Great Plotnik AKA Stubbleface OSIGYMTNE* (a sailor's reference), a good man to sit next to during Alliance Cocktails because he could never drink more than a third of one. Here he displays his expertise in Step One of tying a bowline, pronounced 'bowlin.' This step is called "Hold the Rope."

(OSIGYMTNE: "Oh Shit I Guess You Meant 'Trim' not 'Ease.'")

Here is one of the rasta fruit and vegetable sellers on Bequia. These were wonderful guys, ready to taqke a sharp knife and cut up a cherimoya or mango or passion fruit for the strangers to taste and hopefully buy. But the Rasta Market. It was worth it just to walk through a couple of times. Oooh! Look at those seeds! Oh God! I've never seen anything so beaut...what?

Monetary exchanges at the rasta Fruit Market took awhile too. Prices seemed to be based on how much they knew you would spend. But before a price for pineapples could be agreed upon, Jimi and Ducknik had to pose, right after he told her he was the incarnation of Jimi Hendrix, though he played drums, not guitar, and suggested she could use some fresh basil.

On the boat trip into the Caroni Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad, everyone jumped at the same time whenever a flock of scarlett ibises flew overhead. The front of the boat was filled with birdwatchers whose binoculars all flew up at the same time, like a well synchronized ballet. The two in the black t-shirts were German bikers who were sitting next to Plotnik. She looked so Irish, with her freckles and pug nose but her English had a German accent. She and her boyfriend had the identical wall-art tattoos up and down both arms. The birds flew over, they pointed in unison.

And lastly, this is JJ-aka-PP, who we wish could have come with us on this trip. She is exhibiting the rare Russian Eagle to Plotnik, something about all the soldiers sit down except the czar in the middle. It all had something to do with him taking a Flipcam video of her immaculate home. Hah! You KNEW I'd use this, PP, din'tya?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Afterlife Facebook

You don't realize how many emails you get until you leave town and forget to put on your OUT OF TOWN signal. Finally, the Great Plotnik has worked this way through a virtual stack of messages, some for business or pleasure, most for ads. None were from the Bob Marley Zion Boutique on the island of Carriacou. A lot were friend requests from Facebook.

Is Plotnik alone in feeling a little smarmy when he browses through his Facebook page and looks at photos put up by friends of friends of friends, people he doesn't even know? It's kind of like rummaging through someone elses's underwear drawer. Should he care what someone he doesn't know posted on someone else he doesn't know's wall?

In this morning's paper, there was a notice for a new startup that wants you to sign up with them so that after you die they can remove things like your Facebook page. BZWZ and Plottie were talking about that the other night in Brooklyn.

The conversation came from another one that The Great FiveHead had started, when she was talking about a mutual friend whose mother has come from Nicaragua to live with her daughter in Maryland. The mom is an ardent Evangelical Christian and the daughter is not. Mom is concerned about how, after she and her daughter and her daughter's husband die, they will all keep in touch, seeing as the Mom will be playing shuffleboard in Heaven and the daughter and her husband will be roasting in Hell.

Plot suggested Facebook -- a new application called Afterlife Facebook, so you can find out once and for all who went where.

(If you have drunk the Kool Aid, you will already be sure they will be using old IBM PCs in Hell and the very latest Macs in Heaven.)

(The Help Lines will all still be handled from Hell, though. Some things never change.)

This led to the real-life issue of how on-line info tends to stay there long after you do. It has not been an issue yet, because most users are still relatively young, but it is going to become one. We have all read, say, undated restaurant reviews that were written five years ago, and make the place sound great, but when you get there the restaurant has been out of business for three. Nobody took down the review.

But how about people?

Plot has wanted to get in touch with his Dad for years. Can you imagine how many Friend Requests John Lennon gets? Afterlife Facebook. It's going to happen.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Scarlett Ibises, Plots in Brooklyn and Back Home

Monday, 3-9 SF

Brooklyn Belly is lookin' beautiful and so are her parents, and so are The Great BZWZ and Ben. Plot and Duck arrived on Saturday afternoon during a heat wave -- temperatures were up into the 50s and NewYawkuhs were thronging the streets. Saturday night the six adults and Isabella waited in a line at Grimaldi's Pizza that -- no exaggeration here-- was easily 100 people long, all queuing up on the sidewalk, laughing, happy to be outside after what has been a long winter already. (And Belly waited too, for at least an hour on the street, without complaint -- whenever she started to squirm a bit, someone would say: Isabella, what's for dinner tonight? and she'd say "I'M having PIZZA!")

Actually, the pizza is not the attraction -- it is very good, but it's the huge crowds and the fun of being in the line and then inside the packed restaurant with so much pizza-theater going on, that draws people here. Plus, it's inexpensive -- maybe half the prize of Saint Plotniko for an equally-sized pizza and probably five times better. They've got that yuppie thin-crust disease, though, so it's not Chicago, but that home-made pepperoni is really a standout and it was even better the next morning. Before the bagels.

After dinner, everyone walked over to the water to see the view and remain outside a little longer. It really was a gorgeous night. When you drive from JFK through rough-and-tumble neighborhoods in Brooklyn, it feels like you're back in a third world country (with first world traffic. Kind of like Port of Spain). It's not a pretty sight. Then you go to DUMBO and stare out at Manhattan and there isn't anywhere more beautiful. This is NewYawk. Glorious. Hideous. And glorious again.

The two little girls with Belly are her upstairs neighbors.

Note The Great Ducinik's sun-bleached hair.

Plot has not written yet about his and Duck's last day on Trinidad, last Friday, which started snarled in an enormous traffic jam as they attempted to get into Port of Spain, the capital, where it also happened to be the big day of a five-day cricket test match between the West Indies and England, kind of like the World Series down there. Plot and Duck had met two guys in Grand Riviere who were as nutso about cricket as Plot is about Plotzer baseball -- after several beers, however, Plot still doesn't get it, except to say that being a fan bypasses your brain. Your sport is your sport.

After a long, hot morning drive, Plot and Duck arrived in Port of Spain, which --- well, let's just say the town may have had its heyday when Blackbeard lived there, but those days are over. The old pirate stronghold, then colonial headquarters, now nation capital, has a few tourist attractions, but -- ehh. There are seven huge houses bordering the Queen's Savannah, a park in the center of town, that were once the homes to merchant princes, but today they're mostly boarded up, plywood on the windows, paint peeled off.

Like everywhere else in the West Indies, you can get a good roti for lunch though. And the Trini equivalent of taco trucks are cold coconut trucks. Nothing is more refreshing in the heat. You can also get a bus-up shut.

In the afternoon, it was another slog through traffic to get out of Port of Spain, and then Plot drove right past Caroni Swamp, where he and Duck were planning to take a boat tour to see Trinidad's national bird, the scarlet ibis. Getting completely lost in the rain and traffic, they managed to turn a half hour drive into a two and a half hour slog, but they got there, with the help of a Muslim halal meats cart, whose owner patiently directed Plot to the swamp. And where they ever glad they got there.

Neither Duck nor Plot were able to take pictures that can even suggest to his faithful readers how magnificent these flocks of bright scarlet birds are, seen from a boat with twenty other tourists. Here is what one feather looks like, and following that are a few shots, from a distance, of the birds soaring in to nest for the night in the mangrove. Perhaps you can imagine v-formations of perhaps twenty birds at a time, shooting low across the horizon and heading for the trees, at the same time equal sized flocks of white egrets and blue herons are arriving in the opposite direction.

Let's put it this way: Plotnik saw nothing in Africa that could outmatch the elegance of these glorious birds. And Trinidad protects them fiercely. They should all be OK for a few more years.

The last night at Pax Guest House was a little anti-climactic. Everyone Plot and Duck had met during the week had already gone, and there were only a few guests that night and by 6:30am the Plotniks were up and already heading for the airport.

It turned out The Great FiveHead had been workiing in Stiletto City for two weeks, so she arrived at JFK only ten minutes after Plot and Duck did. PD and BellyBone picked everyone up, and by the time they got back to Brooklyn BZWZ and Ben were just driving up.

So now it's 10am and Plot is back at his desk. It's nice to be here. But this trip was so unique, so unimaginably much fun that it's not quite as good to be back as it usually is. But God, that cup of coffee this morning was good.

One more antecdote for NotThat and the other bustiers:

When Plotnik and Ducknik were in Grand Riviere, Ingrid White was making them dinner (they were her only guests that night) before they planned to head to the beach and spend the night awaiting the leatherback turtles (who never did show up). Dinner was served in a funky little outside dining room where there were a few linoleum tables and a small TV up on top of a cabinet. The TV was turned to CNN so the Plotniks watched the news for the first time in three weeks -- you know, the woman with the octuplets and some celebrity dating some other celebrity. Same-o-same-o drivel.

UNTIL: A talking head interrupted the news to make an announcement: "Dodger fans will be excited to know that Manny Ramirez has officially returned to the fold!" There was a photo of a smiling Manny in his Plotzer uniform.

Plotnik jumped up and screamed: YAAAAHHHH! HOO HOO YES YES YES!!!" He pumped his fist in the air. He turned to Ducknik...and Ingrid...who were staring at him pitieously -- and he saw his food on the plate and smelled the salty ocean and the coconut palms and banana trees next door, and the old dog with the purple foot and the funky abandoned church with tropical vines growing into the windows -- and, yes, he realized this baseball news was no more meaningful than OctoMom. But. Still. He hasn't stopped feeling good about it since. And now he's home.