The Great Plotnik

Friday, April 30, 2010

I Apologize to my Shirt

First TIAPOS meeting in awhile last night. Mississippi Motorhead couldn't make it but Sparky did, arriving on her bike. She read about the Real Man who tried unsuccessfully to keep her from walking. We got to see the cover of Chef Pickle's new book. Her name keeps getting bigger on the cover each time they make an edit. Blonde Bombshell saw a seer and this time she maybe believed him. Mush still doesn't like her customers very much and likes their cologne even less. PJ is doing beautiful new photos on a different more textured kind of paper. Plotnik read about Isabella and Brooklyn, of course. And The Great Large Pants had to go to the ER last week. Here is his new poem about it:

I Apologize to My Shirt

Manboobs. Whoever thought? But in the light
of that shaving at the ER, they cannot be denied.

Not yet a B-cup, but pendulous and feminine
not a pec in sight. And so I apologize

to my manly flannel, deserving of a young man's muscle
and plenty of fresh air. Instead, well, I offer

one uncertain heart, prone to bouts of free expression
threatening the body's complex symphony, mixed

with a dose of flop sweat pressed from my life's
simplest acts-writing words on paper, coaxing

my cello to a simple song, speaking to bankers,
grocers, and the occasional medical professional.

you deserve a lumber jack or perhaps a Gary Snyder
distilling the essence of mountain stream

and peaceful campfire into a few little lines flavored
with a tincture of Zen. Fuck it, you get manboobs

and a ride on a big-city bus lurching through
the day, home (one hopes) to only a crazy or two.

a teen with a voice shrill enough to shatter glass,
and one odiferous gentleman with the creepy

malevolent eyes that make you oh so interested
in staring at your own scuffed shoes.

--- Will Walker (The Great Large Pants)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good to the Last Slurp

This is Princess Tiana, a big ticket item in Isabella's household these days.

Want to know how Princess Tiana, aka IsaBellyJellyBone, gets the last bit of ice cream out a cone?

And what's the best way for a princess to ride the subway home?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Last Day in the East

Tuesday, on their last morning in NYC Plot and Duck met The Great PD on the lower east side for lunch at Katz's, completing the Big Apple Trifecta: Pastrami, Pizza and Bagels. These are fluid categories, to be sure, and Plotnik would accept other entrants into the Best Bagel category in particular, but any NY bagel is better than any other bagel, just as any East Coast pizza is better than any West Coast pizza. And Katz's is just Katz's. Year after year, since 1888, no other deli can match it.

There used to be a valid argument concerning the pastrami at the Second Avenue Deli, but then old Mr. Lebewohl was murdered by burglars in 1996 and they had to close his deli. Though Plotnik prefered Katz's even then, Ducknik was partial to the Second Avenue. Now even Duck says Katz's is the best. And it is.

Remember it's a West Coast guy who's telling you this. He's not one of these guys who thinks the world begins at the Hudson River and ends in Queens. At Katz's the counter guys toss you a few slices while you wait just to get your taste buds in gear and it's thick and tender, with enough fat for a burst of flavor and a crusty, almost burnt surface made from herbs and coriander seeds. Sure, it costs ya: $14.95 for a sandwich now and worth every cent.

Plot has already told you the best pizza in the world is at Di Fara's. But you never saw the photo. Here it is.

Plotnik had heard about Di Fara Pizza but never tasted it until this trip. Man. How do you take ingredients as simple as cheese and crust and tomato sauce and make it taste that good? And we're not talking about a velvet rope place with a line of hipsters three miles long waiting to get in. You'd pass this place a zillion times and never stop if you didn't know.

Not to slight Saint Plotniko: you cannot beat the tortillas from La Palma or the tacos at dozens of taquerias or the incomparable sourdough bread, and Shmalifornia cuisine/wine pairing has been adopted by the rest of the country for good reason: it tastes fantastic. Stiletto City has amazingly good sushi in Little Tokyo and entire blocks of fabulous Armenian and Thai and if you want a deep fried Twinkie you can always hit the boardwalk at Santa Cruz.

But here is where the rubber meets the road: Plotnik would stand in line for an hour in the rain waiting for the pizzeria to open and then wait another hour for it to come out of the oven. Happily. And he and Ducknik would schlep their heavy suitcases up and down countless subway stairways to get into Manhattan before their plane took off, just to split one Katz's pastrami on rye for lunch and take another on the plane for later.

He wouldn't work that hard for a loaf of sourdough or a spicy tuna roll.

(That meaty photo above was taken at seat 19-C on Virgin America VX95 JFK-SFO. The guy sitting next to Plotnik had thought he was pretty smart to order himself an airplane mystery meat sandwich and Plot waited 'til the guy was all done before he unwrapped his pastrami. You should have seen the look on Dude's face hahahahahaha.)


Plot and Duck are home now. Here is a word to the wise: If you ever want to have a great time, take a three year old to see dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Buy her a $4 chocolate chip cookie afterwards. Have her 'read' you Aladdin before you kiss her good night (she's memorized the whole danged story but pretends to read it and even turns the pages in the right places).

Tell her you'll miss her but come back really, really soon.

She got a bite on her finger and it was bothering her, but all you have to do is kiss it and that will make it all better.

When you get home, sit back and think about her laugh, and that will make you laugh too, and that will make everything all better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hot Dogs and Edamame

Belly's new umbrella in the rain, taking the subway to the Natural History Museum.

Lunch and dinner.

The Mets-Plotzers game was rained out last night. Must mean it's time to come home.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two Classic Cures in the Adrenaline City

The two classic cold remedies stand next to each other. You need to take more of the one on the left but it tastes a lot better.

Sometimes Isabella will stand in front of the fan and let you take her picture.

But most of the time she laughs and runs away.

Only two more days here in Brooklyn and then it's time to come home. Plot and Duck feel like they've been on the run for months -- they're getting very comfortable living out of their suitcase -- but it's worth every second to get to spend time with BZ in DC and PD, 5H and BB in Clinton Hill.

This is the equivalent of Plot and Duck's Church Street Fruit Stand. It's a little like going to another, wealthier country where your dollars don't go as far.

There really is no other city in the world like New Shmork. It's true. There's here, and there's everywhere else. NYC is a city. The others are small towns. Plot can remember how it felt to live here, in the belly of the very beast, and he understands how tempting it must be to figure out how to stay. Especially when you're young.

You give up your garden. You give up peace and quiet. You give up saving money.

What you get is adrenaline and diversity, where people from all over the world are crammed into the same few square miles. Many strange languages are spoken on the streets and they're all English. You can get anything you want to eat, except decent tacos.

What you don't ever get is a sense of belonging. You come here for opportunity, not because you love it. You may grow to love your neighborhood, your block, but NYC isn't about that. NYC is motion. People come, people go, good ones and terrible ones. You live in the center of a bulls-eye. You also live where the world gathers to have fun.

And no one is older than thirty five, because everyone else has moved away. Plot and Duck made friends in their years in the Apple that are their friends still today, but only one couple stayed in Manhattan. Sending your kids to school becomes an impossibility -- even preschools are often selected because they will feed into the proper kindergarten, which gets you into the better elementary school, and on and on.

And it ain't cheap. Preschool. You spend your time worrying about preschool.


Plotnik sounds like Alan Iverson.

Eventually you, like all your friends, say: "Enough."

But until then, what a fabulous place to be.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Saturday in Brooklyn

The Great FiveHead and The Great Ducknik went up to the new Highline Park the other day. It's an old New York Central elevated track, long abandoned, that the city of New Shmork has made into a really innovative and peaceful place to walk, right in the heart of the city.

They also use the Highline now for fashion shoots.

Yesterday the Brookniks went to the Clinton Hill Flea Market where they park a zillion bicycles next to the baby strollers and a lady slices up delicious fresh prosciutto for sandwiches.

Tanorine Restaurant in Bay Ridge has moved to a newer, spiffier and larger space now, but the food hasn't changed a bit. It's Palestinian food like at Old Jerusalem in Saint Plotniko, only with a lot more choices, like this lamb feti and a really delicious eggplant casserole.

It's raining in the East. How is back on the other side of the continent?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fried Chicken and Dance-Nik

Plot got into an argument yesterday with Lenox Avenue and was lucky not to have been smashed flat. De-leavened. Stupid stupid Plotnik.

That was at the midpoint of Plot and PD's epic ride across the Manhattan Bridge and into Manhattan, then through Soho and up the West Side Bikeway, then across into Central Park and up into Harlem.

They were heading for lunch at Aunt Maudie's Fried Chicken on 137th Street and when Plotnik found the little storefront he waved to PD who was riding a short way ahead of him. There was a lot of traffic on Lenox Avenue. As Plotnik waved he must have swerved a bit to the left, just as a large black limo roared up behind him trying to beat the traffic light.

Plotnik saw the limo at the last second, slammed on his bike brake. When you do that there is always one outcome: the bike stops on a dime and you fall over. So he didn't get hit by the car, but he fell into the street. Lenox Avenue concrete is good old fashioned hard as hell concrete. It is only through blind fortune that a taxi or truck was not also trying to beat that light or...well, let's not think about that.

The end result is simply a few scrapes and bruises, one of them moderately embarrasing but invisible, and a very sore right hand where Plotnik fell on it.

The fried chicken was amazingly good, the best in the whole wide world.

You'd think Plot and PD would have ridden back to Brooklyn somewhat more carefully but the opposite was true. Heading down Fifth Avenue was a sea of rush hour traffic using every lane to try and get...somewhere...faster, and Plot and PD weaved through them like they were a video game. It was SO much fun, and not really very dangerous because everybody was behaving normally, except for the cabs, but then their abnormal start/stop/weave, open car doors into traffic pattern is normal for them.

Passing home across the Williamsburg Bridge the centuries fell away as gray bearded Hasidic men and their wives and children walked across the bridge towards Manhattan, each family pushing a baby carriage. Plot and PD weaved through them and ended up at Steinberg's Bakery in Williamsburg, so they could buy two challas, one for themselves and one to bring to The Great Dance-Nik's new house as a kind of strange but delicious-smelling housewarming present.

Dance-Nik's place is on the 15th Floor and has a terrific view. Isabella played with Chloe who mostly sat on the bed as the adult humans ate apples and cheese and drank wine. Dance-Nik seems very happy in Brooklyn and Plot and Duck are ecstatic to have her only two blocks from PD, 5H and Belly.

Riding a bike is the absolute best way to get anywhere in New York. But you have to be determined not to be stupid. Stupid can cost ya. So can bad luck. Plottie was stupid but lucky yesterday. May we have a loud A-men, sisters and brothers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Songs in Play Circle

At Isabella's Day Care this morning, The Great PunkyDunky played three songs for the kids while they sat in their morning circle: 'Oh Susanna,' 'I've Been Workin' on the Railroad' and 'Just the Two of Us.'

It's such a wonderful, nurturing place. Too bad the kids can't stay there through High School.

The neighborhood used to be Bed Stuy. Now it's Clinton Hill. The school hasn't moved but the Real Estate Agents have moved in. Soon all of Brooklyn will be known as East Manhattan.

You can keep Manhattan. Plotnik loves Brooklyn.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pizza, Coney Island and a Big Black Nose

Hot dogs for lunch and pizza for dinner? How much better can it get? And not only hot dogs but Nathan's Famous hot dogs for lunch AT Coney Island, and not just "pizza" but PIZZA -- maybe the best there is, at Di Fara's in Brooklyn.

It's sad but probably true that one of the reasons the pizza tastes so good is you have to work so hard to get it. Every pizza that has come out of Di Fara's for the last 41 years has been made by one man -- Domenico DeMarco.

He's got a small nondescript pizza shop on a corner in Midwood, Brooklyn, with the Q train elevated rumbling by outside and Jacob's Kosher Bakery across the street. Four pizza ovens raise the heat inside the shop and Mr. DeMarco has a box to stand on so he can reach the top oven. The shop fills up with the smell of fresh basil and singed crust every time he opens one of the ovens and reaches his bare arms into them to pull out a round or square pizza. He's 74 years old and slight, he's got gray hair and a nice smile and his English consists of "who gotta gah-lic?" or "t'ank a you."

He slaps the pizza on the counter, tosses more cheese on the top and then snips fresh basil all over it with a scissor. Toppings are minimal. And the pies are expensive!-- $25 for a large margherita (just cheese and basil, the garlic and pepperoni are extra) and, get this, $5 for a slice! $5 bucks for a slice!

And that's not all. The pizzeria doesn't open until 6:30 for dinner. You line up on the street under the overhang of the 99 Cent Store next door to keep out of the rain until the lady who will take your order really does push open the door, and then you walk in, place your order and sit down to wait, with a lot of other people. Maybe you order one of those slices. Or two. Or three. DAMN! that is good pizza!

Why is it so good? Plotnik can't tell you but he can tell you this: it is as good or better than any he's ever had. It puts Grimaldi's to shame, is 'way better than any he's ever had in Manhattan and his and Duck's favorite pizzas in Shmalifornia (Pazzia in Saint P. and Casabianca in S. City) are only imitations. The crust is kind of black around the edge but that makes it even tastier (except for the part you can't eat) and maybe the Italian 0.0 flour and special mozzarella really do make a difference.

And you really do have to love the I Love The Pope cards on the old cash register.

But Plotnik thinks it's just Mr. DeMarco. When he's gone, Di Fara's is done. The man seems to be making a fortune but he can't last forever. You'd better just drive down there and get in line.

Oh -- the Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs aren't much anymore. And all the rides are Closed Until March 28. Wait a minute, it's April 21st. Too bad, still closed.

Poor old Coney Island looks like hell but the memory is still alive in anyone who knew it once. Ducknik grew up going to Coney Island and has 'way fonder memories than Plotnik does, but she and Plottie rode the Cyclone and ate Hot Dogs together down there when they first met -- probably in 1969 or 1970. It was sketchy then too but got worse. Now they say there is about to be a rebound. It has to happen. The beach is too nice. Getting there on the subway is so easy. How can this place not thrive? It doesn't make sense.

Plot, Duck, 5Head and BBone spent a lot of time yesterday sitting near the water, listening to music and dancing on the boardwalk. When the weather is nice it's hard not to love Coney Island. And the area is depressed. And it's a subway ride away from everything. If Plotnik was planning to move back to The Apple, Coney is where he would look to buy.

But then they were back in Clinton Hill. Plotnik took Mischief out for a walk and a lady yelled at him for letting Mischief lie on the grass.

"This is a private apartment," she said.

"This is a dog and this is grass," said Plotnik. "What's the problem?"

"Yaddayaddayadda" she yelled, but Plotnik had already tuned her out. He scratched Mischief's nose. He wasn't listening either. It's really easy to get back in NY Mode.