The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Is Getting To Be a Habit

Plot is flying down to The City That Used to Be Mannywood for two more days' work on Perfect Pitch, and he's feeling pretty good that he appears basically un-marred after yesterday's bike incident.

This makes three crashes in the last three or four years, after none for the first dozen years riding around up here. There is a trend and Plotnik doesn't like it.

Here's how it went down yesterday. Ducknik was at class. Plot got hungry at lunchtime and there was less than nothing in the house. The other day he printed out groupons for this Cajun place in the Mission, and for some reason he accessed that place on Google, only to find notices of a Gumbo Lunch Truck, with rave reviews, that is always parked on the corner of 19th and Dolores near Dolores Park.

Aha! said Plottie, gumbo for lunch! He threw on his helmet, thank the Lord, and the Peruvian thick alpaca sweater that has become his bike-in-chilly-weather overshirt, thank the Lord, and down 26th of October Street he took off.

He got through the traffic light at 30th and Dolores, but there was a big SUV parked so far out into the street that Plottie could not fit between him and the trolley tracks. Probably what happened is he wasn't careful enough to cross those tracks at a complete perpendicular, and he was probably going too fast, and his front tire got caught in the track. In a split second, the bike spun hard right as he wrestled it out of the track, and then smashed hard into the side of that SUV. He remembers how loud that was, and that louder still was the sound of him being thrown off his bike onto the pavement right on top of his head -- which is why we say Amen, again, children, for that helmet.

It was loud, and scary. He got up off the street, grabbed his bike, that had the front wheel mangled, and got up to the sidewalk, where somebody called from across the street: "You OK?" and Plotnik answered "Yeah, I think so, but I don't know why."

He saw some blood on his sweater and it was an abrasion on his arm where he must have fended off the side view mirror, but to his surprise he seemed able to walk without anything really hurting.

So he walked the bike back home and up the hill, soaked his arm in some astringent and hydrogen peroxide, took a couple Advils and waited for the other stuff to present itself.

Sure enough, this morning his right knee is pretty sore, so he must have banged or wrenched that too, and he didn't sleep too well because he kept seeing and hearing himself smashing into that car, but as these things can sometimes go -- little damage.

He remembers Dance-Nik asking him how many times he was going to do this before he stopped riding in the streets, and that was one or two accidents ago.

He knows traffic had little to do with this, but on the other hand what if the J-Church had been coming down those tracks too? He knows he was stupid when he crashed coming down the hill at home that time, and he knows he was REALLY stupid when he tried to change directions IN TRAFFIC on Lenox Avenue in Harlem earlier this year, and he is coming to the conclusion that he might have been stupid yesterday too, going too fast maybe, not looking at the track carefully enough maybe.

We get older, don't we. Our reactions are not what they were. Fortunately, our bodies appear to be resilient still, but how long does this last?

Monday, August 30, 2010

One More Actor Out of Work

It's great fun to sit in the open amphitheatre at Dominican University in San Rafael, crack open a Merlotski (they give wine and veggie chips to reviewers), take off the overshirt that you needed when you left the Little House in the Fogbank, put your feet up on the empty wooden bench in front of you, which is only two rows back from the actors, heave a deep sigh of contentment and then watch brilliant performers slog their way through a rather timeless piece of Shakespeare for the next three hours. Yesterday it was "Antony and Cleopatra" and that play is not considered one of the major Shakespearean masterpieces.

Plotnik and Ducknik must concur with this assessment. We call it timeless because you keep looking at your watch and time seems to have stop-oppppp-oppppppppppped.

But the tortas from El Taco Loco were delicious, that Plot and Duck brought in to eat during the intermission, and the wine and chips and birds overhead and all the Romans stabbing themselves to bloodless death and Egyptians putting poisonous snakes in their brassieres led to a very pleasant afternoon that only took maybe 45 minutes too long.

The snake was rubber. One more actor out of work.

Marin Shakes is an organization you have to love. The people are so enthusiastic and happy to have you, and you really couldn't watch Shakespeare in any better a setting, and that includes the Old Globe in London where you have to stand up the whole time. Standing up the whole time to watch Antony and Cleopatra would be cruel.

Plotnik looked around at yesterday's audience -- since it was a Sunday 4pm curtain the local retirement village had bussed in a good portion of the audience. Plotnik found it very thoughtful that although the official Press Opening had been the previous evening when Plot and Duck were down in Mountain View, they saved his little Thank You pack for him -- two bottles of wine, two plastic glasses, one bag of veggie chips, one bag of organic trail mix, press information, two free seat cushions and two free seat backs.

Take THAT, A.C.T.!


You may read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "Antony and Cleopatra" here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Even The Grumpy Guys Loved It

It's not

"If I loved You
Time and again I would try to say
All I wanted you to know..."

It's not

"When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark"

It's not My Funny Valentine.

It's not The Lady is a Tramp

It's certainly not Edelweiss.

But when you're Adam Guettel and you're the grandson of Richard Rodgers and the son of Mary Rodgers, an accomplished and successful songwriter too, what'cha gonna do? Write weird.

"Light in the Piazza" is weird all right, musically. It was a hit on Broadway, but there was the thought that Richard Rodgers's grandson could write music to the R and H sections of the phone book and have a success on Broadway, first time around. Plotnik had read a lot about it and expected to hate it. Instead, he was completely captivated.

It's been that kind of a week. He thought he'd like "Dreamgirls." No way. He wasn't sure what he'd think about a 55-year-old play like "Trouble in Mind." He loved it. He was sure he'd dislike "Light in the Piazza." He really loved it. Today he's going to see Shakespeare in Marin. He is pretty sure he'll either hate or love or not care or care a lot about this one.

JJ-aka-PP next year when the seasons all open for all the theater companies here, will you PLEASE take two weeks off and get your silly rear end out here? If we wait for you to retire all the shows will be in Chinese.

In the promo for "Light in the Piazza" it says that Adam Guettel only wrote one song that his grandfather heard, from his sickbed in the next room. The house piano was on the wall adjoining grampa's room. Rodgers's reaction was: "Could you play that one a little louder?"

Pretty slick eh?

Plotnik has no idea if anyone else will love this play as much as he and Ducknik did, but if this is an indication: The Grumpy Guys BOTH loved it! "You got me this time," they said, when Plotnik grabbed R's shoulder during intermission. "We can't believe it," they said.

(You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "Light in the Piazza" here.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Zeroes and Fives

Plot and Duck's kids have birthdays coming up and they aren't easy ones. The Great PD and Great FiveHead have had so many mice in their apartment they have taken to naming them. Today PD caught Virgil and Willem. Xavier will be next, followed by Yves and Zed. These little buggers are like hurricanes and nobody seems to be able to stop them. And then there's work.

The Great BZWZ is in the worst part of any PhD program, where there is little going on but hard labor and lots of questioning with few answers. Then you have a birthday.

And more work.

With birthdays and anniversaries there are eight good ones for every two bad ones. You can't help it -- when the number ends in 5 or 0 it marks you. Where am I now, compared to where I was the last time I had one of these (five years ago)?

NOBODY likes the answer. It doesn't matter WHAT you're doing now, five years ago things were easier.

So PD has one of those ends-in-5 birthdays this year, and the next day is Plot and Duck's Anniversary, which this year rounds into an 0. And an o. The 0 we know about. The o is what other people's mouths do after they say: "You're HOW old? ooooooooo.

BZWZ has several years until she hits one of these markers again, but this year's birthday is not an easy one either, and hers always comes before everybody else's. In Kindergarten she walked into the classroom on the first day of school and the teacher said "Happy Birthday BZWZ!" She broke into tears.

(Plot suggests a RX for his children: a short talk with Mummy P. 50? 60? 70? 80? 90? 95? HAHHH! Mummy P. was married longer to her THIRD husband than Plot and Duck have been together. She can remember what she was doing in 1920.)

And don't forget The Great Plotnik himself, who in October will stagger up to a birthday with a 5 on the end of it too. He can't remember where he put his keys.

So what's the message here?

Feel good. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel good. Then laugh at the stupid markers. What are the odds that you will drop dead on your 40th? 50th? 60th? birthday anyway? Play those odds. Then hide in the house, under your bed, the rest of the year.

Plot and Duck saw a great play last night ("Trouble in Mind" by Alice Childress) that was first shown in 1955. It could have been written yesterday. The play is eye-opening but what is even more eye-opening is this piece of info from the press-pak: Childress was the first black woman in America to have a play professionally produced. The FIRST. The year: 1952. How about that?

So we're all making strides, faster, sadly, than the country is, but everything takes time. And time is the one thing none of us has in unlimited quantities.

Plot to his kids: "You are HOW old? ooooooooooooooo!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Old Friends For Dinner

The Plotniks invited old friends for dinner last night: guacamole, requesón cheese, fresh tortillas, iced radishes, rice with achiote and cardamom pods, mango salad with scallions and cilantro, barbecued chicken and cold ESB.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Existential Dilemmas As Concern Songwriting and Success and What People Really Love and S--t Like That

The Great Plotnik and Great Ducknik saw Dancing Rotund Early Animal Milton Greg Insufficent Really! Lexus Studebaker last night. Plotnik wrote a scathing review, then a less-scathing review, then toned that one down, then got mad at himself for not stating the obvious so he went back to the scathing review, then edited it down to a less-scathing review, then remembered all the good points of the show, and there are many, so he added them in, and now he's wondering whether this review will finish him as a reviewer or if anyone really cares or if he should just follow his heart. If he follows his heart he may get shot so that is not an option.

(Time passes.)

He thinks he will be fair. Fair is good. Fair is better. So he probably won't say that this show would be 'WAY better if it were a signed production for the deaf, and if it were in Japanese, or if you speak Japanese, in Urdu.

(More time passes.)

Christ on a crutch, this is a musical. How in the world can you screw up, uh, Money Orange Thomas Only Worldwide Numbskkull? How can you take that ebullient, ecstatic music and turn it into something so deadening? More to the point, let's be honest here, how could so many people around the world love this show? It played on Broadway for five years and the movie was a smashola with star power and two Oscars.

(More time passes.)


DICK: Oh, relax, shmuck. It's just show biz.

TGP: But...

GEORGE GERSHWIN: I f'd up Porgy and Bess too.

TGP: Sorry about that brain tumor.

(More time passes.)

There are existential questions here. Issues to be examined. Reasons for the passages of planets through the universe and gravity and how those big faces fit through those little wires to come out on the other side of the world if you're using Skype.


Oskie: You wish you could have written that show, don't you.

TGP: I don't know WHAT you're talking about. Why I...

Lorenz Hart: Me too.

Kurt Weill: Me too.

Lerner and Lowe: We do too.

TGP: Both of you? You'd rather write

Walking down that wrong road
There was nothing I could find
All those years of darkness
Could make a person blind
But now I can see


All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air.
With one enormous chair,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?
Lots of choc'lates for me to eat,
Lots of coal makin' lots of 'eat.
Warm face, warm 'ands, warm feet,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?
Aow, so loverly sittin' abso-bloomin'-lutely still.
I would never budge 'till spring
Crept over me windowsill.
Someone's 'ead restin' on my knee,
Warm an' tender as 'e can be.
Who takes good care of me,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?

LERNER AND LOWE: Abso-lootely-tootely. We'd be rich.

LERNER: Hey, shmuck, we're dead.

LOWE: I am SO sick of your negativity.

TGP: Collaborating ain't easy.



(Time passes.)

Do you think you collaborate with your collaborator even after you're dead? Do both of you have to die? Do you think there is a heaven where good songs go and a hell where bad songs go? Who judges? What if Dancing Early Animal Rotund Milton is the intergalactic standard?


Shlomo: You have no chance.

TGP: Your name is Shlomo?

Shlomo: I LOVE "Horse with No Name."

TGP: Does ONE great song get you in or do all of them have to be great?

DICK: You need around fifteen. We're in a room, John Lennon and me. Nobody else.

TGP: Have you ever heard BODY BODY PARTY PARTY?

JOHN LENNON: Oh, yah! That's great! Got any more? Just like that one? Ehh?

(More time passes.)

OK, Plotnik will just post the f'ing review now. But you'll have to go find it on SF Theater Blog. Don't want to post the name.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two Day Summer

Summer's here at last. Shrimp on the barbie and then the moon and Jupiter hanging large next to each other.

They said if you put the binoculars on Jupiter you could see her moon too, but Plotnik could not. Still, it was a huge headlight, even next to that Mama Luna.

Mama Koo and her two young children think it's all pretty cool.

Everything changes when it's hot here. Neighbors hang out on their stoops talking to each other. Usually we're inside wearing sweat shirts. Plot finally met David, who now lives in John the King's house across the street, and David's dog Huxley, a big, beautiful golden something or other. David and his wife are both veterinarians and were happy to hear that their house used to be the cover home for Disabled and Disoriented Pets Inc. There was no three legged cat nor distressed dog that John and Margo would not adopt and give a good home. You walked in their door and a cat usually fell down the stairs.

Hey, John are you reading this? Halloween is soon, bucko. Who's supposed to be Elvis this year?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Plotnik's House He Can See Smokeland

(You will have noticed that the Great Plotnik staff received an official World Headquarters Furlough yesterday, which accounts for no posting. Well rested and sun-tanned, they are all back at their desks today, consulting with editorial staff and fielding international calls from foreign correspondents.)


Plotnik is on his mother's sheissliste today, and has been for several days. He will probably continue there until somebody else does something unacceptable, like try to give her a cane for her birthday, or be whoever it is who is forced to tell Mummy P. something nobody wants to say and she doesn't want to hear.

It has been awhile since he was able to kick other family members off the top rung and assume the ultimate position himself. Yes, this is true in all its meanings.

It's good to be da king. The view from the top is priceless. From Plotnik's house he can't see Russia but he can see Smokeland.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Yacht! And Good Times in Mill Valley

That Russian yacht you've all read about is really, really, really big. From famed children's book author Nguyen Goldschwartz Jackie Robinson Lopez Woo's summer home in Mill Valley, you can see this obscene creature sitting in Sausalito harbor, attempting to dazzle all the minor creatures surrounding it, before swallowing them whole.

These photos are taken from miles away. This thing must be the size of a cruise ship, but it belongs to one guy and costs $20,000,000 a YEAR just to maintain.

Meanwhile, Lopez Woo's books are being translated around the world. Here are Gaudi in Korean and Georgia in Chinese.

Being invited to a soiree at N.G.J.R.L.W.'s house means you get to see the Most Beautiful Salad in the World again, made by Sue and Alan Perlman and harvested from their house in the avenues. Blond Bombshell was there and several other humans and animals, all from the amazing supply of Lopez Woo's fabulous and well-traveled buddies. Alan brought one of his handmade guitars and played for awhile and then Plotnik sang -- oh, you know which song -- the one about the three greatest cities of the world.

And if you're reading this, Sister Great Dance-Nik: Bombshell and Ducknik and Plottie each remembered: "Remember when Karen was here and we were standing on that deck and she announced she was moving to New York? Can that really be that many years ago?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Old Fat Guys Versus the Young Skinny Guys

This morning was the latest reunion of the Old Fat Guy Basketball Game, only this morning it was The Old Fat Guys versus the Young Skinny Guys and the old guys didn't stand a chance.

Plotnik played b-ball at the local middle school every weekend it wasn't raining for many years -- well, since the first weekend the Plots lived at World Headquarters. Then the game broke up, as most of you know, but every once in a while LaBan has a Saturday off. LaBan is the day man in the red Beefeater suit who helps people in and out of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel downtown, and he is also the guy with the rolodex and everybody's phone number. When he's free on Saturday he calls everybody up and down to the school we all go.

Each time everyone is a little older. But hoo boy, now people are putting on weight -- and not just weight but WEIGHT.

What it means is that the guys who used to be able to carry that weight and still be quick, can't do it anymore. The moves that work at 200 pounds and 30 don't work so well at 300 pounds and 40. You fall down. You trip. You bounce the ball off your knee. You bounce your knee on the pavement. You slam the ball onto the pavement in frustration.

Plot hasn't put on any weight but he is at least twenty years older than any of these guys. He used to be able to make up for it by stealth and conditioning. Now none of that works anymore, and neither do his joints. He favors his right (shooting) shoulder and left (driving) knee. But he's not alone. Orlando (knee), LaBan (knee), Chiyuka (shoulder), Skip (back) and probably everybody else on the court older than 35 is favoring something.

Two of the guys, Bobby (neck) and Rodney (ankle) were talking about their dental problems. "Man, I hate going to the dentist," Bob said, "but when your teeth sting when you try to brush them..." "Tell me about it," Rodney started, but Plotnik, who was sitting on the bench next to them, said: "No, don't tell him about it. And I don't want to hear about your digestive issues either." And he didn't say 'digestive issues.'

Maurice, who for years used to bring to the game his little fat son, at whom Maurice yelled constantly, conditioning the boy to be tougher than everyone else while making the boy and all of us extremely uncomfortable, drove up in a big black SUV with four others. They were all kids, and one of them, Maurice's son Kokkari, has morphed into a very large, very fit young man with fabulous basketball skills. Reese brought Kokkari to the game with three of Kokkari's friends, all young, all sleek, all without joint, back, knee or ego problems. They were nice kids.

The little bastards KILLED us. They SMOKED us. They MURDERED us. One team after another of old fat guys went up against the young guys. It was like Pickett's Last Charge and they were the Union army with the guns.

So naturally, the old fat guys did what old fat guys do: they fouled the hell out of Kokkari every time he touched the ball. Kokkari never said a word. He took it like a man as his father beamed.

Well OK, one time only he had enough of Sherlock hitting him in the knee and Orlando pounding him in the face and Rodney shoving him from the front and Adili pushing him from the back. He rose up and heaved the ball to the opposite end of the playground.

Everyone on both teams came down on him for that, especially his dad. They insisted he go chase the ball and bring it back. But Kokkari wasn't going to chase any damned ball, and there wasn't a soul on the court who could make him.

Someone else ran and fetched the ball. Looks to me like Kokkari hasn't grown up completely yet. He's 19 now and Reese seems to have done things right. This boy knows the difference between good and bad. Now it's up to him to decide to live the right way or not.

Ai, yai, yai, these young punks. What do they know?

What they don't know they'll learn fast enough. Plotnik wishes he didn't know it either. Advil, where's the Advil?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cold Weather, Warm Mangos, Three Terrific Solo Artists

It's summer all right. You wouldn't know it by the fog and shmutz outside, but when you get to the Farmer's Market you see what sunshine can accomplish.

Three great performers at Stage Werx last night, but for one night only. Saint Plotniko is turning into the crucible for fabulous solo performance. We've got Dan Hoyle, Ann Randolph and Don Reed at the Marsh(es) on Valencia and in Berkeley and for two weeks the Solo Performance Workshop at Stage Werx on Sutter St. Last night we saw "Dis-Oriented": brash Thao P. Nguyen, ridiculously limber Colleen "Coke" Nakamoto and hysterical Zahra Noorbakhsh. Vietnamese, Japanese, Persian. What a town we get to live in.

Cold in summer. But great fruit.

You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "Dis-Oriented" here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fairy Tale World

The new seasons are beginning at local theaters, so Plot and Duck will be Mr. and Ms. First Nighter quite a few times in coming weeks. JJ-aka-PP, wish you wuz here.

Last night they saw the new road company version of "Beauty and the Beast" at the Golden Gate. Plotnik is on the fence about this one -- on the one hand, he hates modern Disney musicals, the music is pathetically derivative of other, older shows, the songs are shamelessly stolen from 'way better composers (notably Richard Rodgers), the characters are formulaic and the stereotypes make your wife want to lose her breakfast.

On the other hand, Act II does everything a musical/fairy tale/romance is supposed to do. Beauty/The Princess/Snow White/Cinderella/Meg Ryan realizes she really loves the guy/beast/frog/lonely widower at the beginning of the act, then there is much more undeserved misfortune that she/he/they/it must overcome, and then they do, and the spell is lifted (thorn removed from paw/they look deeply in each other's eyes) and everybody is happy and walks out of the theater with tears in his/her eyes.

Beauty in the Beast is a happy fantasy. It gathers you willingly into its arms, but then it has to discharge you from the Golden Gate Theatre, a 1922 baroque beauty, into the beast of a Shithole Modernist Streetscape; from the world of castles and princesses you seek your carriage parked on Sixth Street in Saint Plotniko, helped along not by fairy godmothers or talking teapots but a barrage of Non-Beauties/Beggars/Junkies/Crazy Black People/Screaming Chinese People/Toothless White People/Overflowing Garbage Cans//Drunks/Smell of Pee/Cackling Loonies. It feels like you're still in the play, only it's Act Three, Four and Five, where the characters live out the rest of their lives, and they are even more familiar than the ones you saw on the stage half an our ago. You know you've seen THIS show before and they really ought to write some new songs.

Inside the Golden Gate Theater were lots of excited little girls in Princess costumes. We only saw one little boy, and he was with two buff gay dads. Gay men seem to worship this story -- after all, it's the tale of the redemption of the huge outcast who nobody loves because of his, uh, defect.

This will be a difficult review to write, because we are supposed to deal with the PRODUCTION, not the show itself, which after all is almost twenty years old. They are hard to separate. The story is treacle but the production was pretty good. And outside, afterwards, sadly, it felt like home.

In Beauty and the Beast, it's a spell by a wicked witch, laid upon a self-centered Prince who refuses to recognize that beauty is only skin deep, that is at the heart of all that follows. And here comes The Great Plotnik, his mind once again waylaid by the horrid refuse of our modern world, looking not at whatever beauty may lie within the grotesque bodies of these broken-down human beings. Instead he finds himself counting his steps until he and his wife can get to their car, throw open the doors and flee across time, away from reality, back into their own fairy tale world.

He doesn't like feeling like this, he can tell you that.


You can read the SF Theater Blog review of "Beauty and the Beast" here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Actress, You Know, There's Two Actresses With the Same Last Name and One's Pretty and The Other One's Glamorous And Who's the Pretty One?

The Little Bear sent Plotnik this photo this morning, taken, we are presuming, by her in Paris recently.

Plotnik looked at the woman in the photo and wanted to write back to L.B. that she reminded him of...of...but he couldn't remember the actress's name. But he remembered she was in that movie, that movie...and he couldn't remember the movie's name either.

The names were R-I-G-H T there -- of course the harder he tried to remember them, the further they receded.

However, he remembered that movie had a theme song and the theme song came right up into Plottie's brain. "Da da da, da-- da da da da, da da da da da da, da da --- and then the chorus -- da da da da da DAAAA! Da da da --- Waiting 'round the bend, my huckleberry friend MOON RIVER!"

Moon River! Right! Audrey Hepburn! Right! Bang Bang Bang, once he remembered the theme song.

(He also remembered Henry Mancini wrote it and that he plays it in the key of A.)

So it appears that Plotnik is one of those people who remember melodies and lyrics, but not faces or titles, and we knew that already.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Genius of Great Lyric Writing

"Body Body Party Party
Party Party Body Body
Body Body Party Party
Party Party Body Body

Goin' to a party
Gonna take my body
Party with my friends
Party with my friends' bodies

Body Body Party Party
Party Party Body Body
Body Body Party Party
Party Party Body Body"

---- Barry Shallow and the Hole in the Soul Patrol

Man, they just don't write lyrics like that any more.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whoo and Haaa.

Two days of work at Cross Cables North began this morning. Mr. Dave is in town for a lot of electronic whooo haaaa. It's actually a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blue Sky? Say What?

This is called Blue Sky. We saw some yesterday when we drove Molly and Drew around Saint Plotniko. This patch of no clouds-no fog-no drizzle was spotted in the air above the Allemany Farmer's Market.

A trip past the noisy stadium (Braindeads won the game in extra innings we heard later) and onto Treasure Island followed.

...and then up to the Headlands and out to the ocean, then back to the Cliff House and home for dinner. Very nice day. Mol is done in the Bay Area and now it's back to Michigan to finish her Masters, while her boy friend Drew continues lawyering in Nashville.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Room with a Pew

Plot has been walking a bit more lately and riding a bit less, in an attempt to take it easier on his occasionally barking back. Yesterday he walked by this church, which is the Church of...the Church of...wait a minute. It's the Church of Nothing. There is no religious symbol, no signs up, not even a No Parking During Services sign. Nothing.

It's in the middle of the block. Probably this is a private house now, purchased from some obscure church who went out of business. Wow! What a great place to live. Think of the acoustics!

This morning Plottie put on his bike sneakers to hit the Saturday Morning Hill Run and -- wait a second! His back started hurting immediately, before he'd even walked up the stairs. It hasn't hurt for quite a few days before that, so 2 plus 2 = aha! The shoes!

Could it be? Everytime he comes home with a sore back he's been wearing those old beat up shoes. So this morning he did his bike run with a different pair and: voila! No back problem.

The Great Plotnik will keep his parishioners posted. Wish we'd bought that church for World Headquarters.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Belly to Bobo

The Duck (aka Bobo) got a fantastic birthday present in the mail yesterday from Brooklyn. Phone calls from kids and presents from BellyBone. Now, that's livin'.

For her birthday dinner Plottie and Duck walked down to Incanto. They hadn't been there since Plotnik reviewed it when it first opened -- or maybe they'd been back once. Incanto has morphed into a destination restaurant now, probably because Chef Chris Cosentino has become a celebrity chef, appearing on all the food channels.

Dinner was delicious and the experience is also part of it -- it's about food and wine there, nothing else, and the way they make sure things work is professional, friendly and attentive service.

Quality of meal? -- Very good. A few big hits, a few kinda-sorta-pretty-darned-goods. Ultimately, there's just so much you can do with a radish salad, though Plot is glad they ordered it on the waiter's recommendation. The interesting part wasn't the radishes but that they made a pesto for it out of the radish leaves (instead of using basil). Local sardines also had a delicious sauce but -- well ya gotta like fresh sardines. They're nice and briney, like enormous clams, but pretty durned strong tasting.

Oooh, but the ragu on the handkerchief pasta and the lamb-three-ways and don't forget the best tapenade and the very very very best ice cream Plotnik has EVER eaten -- coffee ice cream with cocoa nibs and some saucy thing and crunchy thing and man alive was that good!

Happy Birthday to Bobo for sure, and it doesn't end in 0 or 5 so it doesn't even count.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The City Guide

It had been a while since Plot had ridden the Plotkicycle down to the Tenderloin for a couple of delicious bahn mi sandwiches to take home for lunch. When he got there he noticed they've put some new, kind-of-Christmasy lettering up in the window, along with their AOL City Guide CITY'S BEST certificate from 2007.

Plotnik, of course, is the guy who gave them First Prize when he was working for AOL and digging up new out-of-the-way treasures for the City Guide, and he felt great handing the sticker to Mrs. Nguyen. So he was happy to see his certificate in the window yesterday. There probably isn't another one like it anywhere else in the Bay Area.

AOL -- that was such a plum job for the five years or so when the entertainment page was being established. Plot's office was a high rise on Bush Street and it was filled with noise and jealousy and crazy people, all intent on riding a wave towards -- what? No one ever really knew if the wave was growing or sinking. Nobody ever figured out how the company ever made any money.

But times and salaries were great. Then AOL bought Time Warner. That was the end of that.

Now not only AOL's offices but the entire skyscraper at 333 Bush has been closed and sold. The company exists -- kind of -- they have their headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, but just for email and a few other barely-working applications. Maybe you all heard what happened to the Dot Com Wave?

Mrs. Nguyen doesn't care. There are lines out her door day and night, seven days a week, 6am to 6pm. She and the two other women still make the best sandwiches in town for the price. Ask for extra jalapeños if you dare.

The smartest thing Mrs. Nguyen did was not to acquire Time Warner. It's hard to say where she could have put it in that tiny shop.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Crazy

I met Paul Simon in a downtown bar.
I think he was drinking cherry schnapps.
So I said "you are my favorite,"
As I drank a glass of port.
"You're bald, and you sure are short."

He said, "excuse me, do I know you, dude?"
I said, "I believe you come from Queens?"
"And your grandma's in Hadassah
And your mother works for ORT
"You're bald, and you sure are short."

"Oh, you do bridges
Such great bridges
You are the King of Bridges
Where do you get such nutty rhymes?
"I'll bet you tried 'religious.'"

I followed Paul Simon to his Porsche Carrera
The kind of car a shrimpy guy would drive.
And he called his fat attorney
As he hauled me off to court
"You're bald, and you sure are short."


Don't ask.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DO NOT BEND the Chilaquiles!

Silent Bill's chilaquiles were the best of all. Lunch at Nopalito with Bill, Duck and Mush for Duck's birthday was as much fun as always.

Here is how UPS interprets "DO NOT BEND!" Note the smash right above the DO NOT BEND sticker.

You can see Joe the tree trimmer standing below his handiwork haircut of the avocado tree. There will be more light in the rear garden now for a few years until we have to do it again.


Monday, August 09, 2010

The Cheapskate Chronicles Continue

We hope this isn't Time To Buy New Everything Week. Yesterday the stove started making weird noises. When you pull up the stove top there is a plug inside, which, when you pull it out, stops the noises, but then you have to use matches to light the burners. $45 for a service call, Plot estimates $100 for a new electronic part for a 20 year old stove. Is it worth it?

Ducknik's computer was made by Steve Jobs's grandfather back in Poland. It's an oldie and needs to be replaced. So the question: PC or MAC? Now that Plottie is in the MAC world he finds it hard to recommend buying another PC, but it's hard to fault a fast 500 gig Gateway for around $500. It's like driving a nice, clean Yugo. Is it worth it?

Avocado tree must be trimmed. It's shading the entire back half of the Royal Acreage. Also: it doesn't give any avocados, not enough sunshine during the flowering season to attract pollinators. $475 is the cheapest estimate Plot has found, because he's not gonna climb up in that 60 feet tree. Is it worth it?

The closer Plot comes to finishing his Gettem Done Afore You're Old projects, the more the same question comes up. What's this for, anyway? Musicians, recording time, mastering it worth spending the money?

Plot is thinking: Stove? Sure. Fix it. Don't need a new one. Computer? Buy the best one you can afford, don't settle for less on something you use every day and rely on for practically everything. Tree: sun is at a premium here. Trim it.

Music? Go for it, Dude. Stop being such a cheapskate.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Apples, Tomatoes and Freddie's.

The tasteless and unjuicy apples have arrived! It has taken Plotnik more than ten years but he has finally trained these beauties to grow up and over the deck where he can pick them off easily to eat with his bagel, cream cheese, onion and tomato lunch.

Of course, the apples are a bit...dry and, honestly, kind of...astringent...and, it's fair to say, really not good for anything but apple sauce; still, it's good to know that the fruit tree pruning lessons Plottie learned all those years ago in Pennsylvania are still valid.

And the tomatoes in the tubs are going nuts this year. Or at least they were until summer arrived, brrrrr.

Meanwhile, last night Plot and Duck went to The Great Fate's house for a birthday dinner, and all the food was brought in by friends who just happen to own and run Town's End Restaurant down near Braindead Stadium. It was all delicious. There were lots of (hungry) Jewish guys there so the talk, naturally, soon turned to the best pastrami sandwiches everyone had ever eaten. Nothing in Saint Plotniko, of course, but Langer's in Stiletto City got very high marks, along with the usual suspects: Katz's in New York, Maxie's in Chicago and the late Wolfie's in Miami.

So Plotnik, who hasn't been to Langer's in several years, started reading up on the place, which sits on a corner of MacArthur Park where delis are not exactly a household word because you can't put pastrami into a Nicaraguan tamale. The thing Plot had forgotten about the Langer's pastrami sandwiches is that Langer's has always bought its rye bread from a bakery called Fred's.

Freddie's! Fred's Bakery, which is down on Robertson around the corner from Brother Street's old house, definitely does have the best rye bread in the world. Fred's is the location of Plottie's story "Plotnik's Perfect." In the story the bakery is called Freddie's and the baker is named Plotnik, except he is also...well, God. Everybody takes a red plastic number and it sometimes takes a thousand years for your number to get called. When it does get called you get to order as much as you want and take as long as you like to eat it. Then, when you can't handle any more...well, you have to listen to the story. Plot recorded it a while ago and is now rummaging through his archives to find it.

(NOW Plotnik reads that the owners of Fred's sold out last year and that rye bread is no longer what it was and that Langer's has changed suppliers. As Billy Pilgrim said: "So it goes.")

(And Plottie found the story.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Plot and Duck finally saw "Crash" last night. WHAT a film, but how bleak a vision of Plottie's home town.

The scenes with the Persian shopkeeper and the gun and his attempt at revenge and then redemption -- this is movie making at its very best. People are probably already studying that arc, from buying the gun and the bullets to that astonishing and totally surprising sub-plot climax.

Plot will probably watch this one again, a rarity for him.

And it is true to the layered society of Stiletto City -- Persians in the west, Latinos in the east, blacks in the south, Asians here, whites there, wealthy politicos and movie producers up here and shopkeepers down there, with the LAPD attempting to keep everyone from murdering each other, when the cops are not battling with each other for power.

If you haven't rented this movie yet -- it won the Oscar as Best Picture of the Year in 2005 -- you should.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Don Music

Two lines, two lines. There are a hundred lines in this new song and ninety eight of them are fine, but the last two, the last two...

Remember Don Music slamming his muppet head on his piano? "Zippety Doo Dah, Zippety...Zippity...hmmm, Zippety..." SMASHES HEAD ON KEYBOARD "Oh I'll NEVER get this, I'll NEVER get this!"

Don Music was Plottie's all time favorite Muppet, along with The Count. "One lovely shrunken head, two lovely shrunken heads, three lovely shrunken heads..."

And Grover. Of course Grover has been replaced by Insipid Elmo now but we O.G's still love Grover.

Not to short change Oscar the Grouch or Ernie or Piggie. But Don Music was Plotnik's main man, even though he almost never made it onto the show.

Lat night Plotnik went to sleep working on his new song, so it twirled through his brain all night long and when he woke up this morning he had one of the lines. ONE! WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER?


"Oh I'll NEVER get it, I'll NEVER get it!"

BULLETIN: HE GOT IT! All he had to do was rhyme 'choir' with 'Jambalaya.'

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hawk, Wave, Shawarma

This bad boy was sitting in the Monterey Cypress Tree below World Headquarters the other night. Plot and Duck hope he is in town to take a course on Pigeon Cuisine.

Here is the work area at Wave of Groove Studios, Stiletto City. Computers, gizmos and a baby grand piano. Note Plottie's dimly lit computer with the screen saver of Bellybone sitting at her Great Grandma's piano.

The chicken shawarma at Carnival Restaurant on Woodman. Thanks to Cuz LilaLee for this one, though for the sake of your digestive comfort level you should probably consume somewhat less than Plot, Duck and Mummy P. did.

It's an interesting phenomenon that in Stiletto City, where there are more Lebanese than in Lebanon and more Armenians than in Armenia, many second or third generation Armenians actually grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, before coming to America.

So you get Lebanese food, Armenian food and Lebanese/Armenian food which is probably the best of all. This chicken shawarma at Carnival was maybe even better than the tarna (chicken shawarma in Armenian) at Zankou, and that, my friends, is not a small compliment.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


(Photo on cellphone but Plotnik doesn't have smart phone so YOU can't see it!)

Baby Madison Kate Garza burst onto the Southern Shmalifornia scene last night around 8pm. Her Mom, Cousin Two Kids, is doing fine and everyone is quite excited.

Interestingly, earlier in the day Cousin Two wrote on her blog: "I'm sick of all this. Madison, this is your First Eviction Notice!"

Madison apparently very intelligent for a one day old, read the blog and said, like, "OK, Mom. Get ready, here I come."

Congratulations to Cousin Two and Papa E and Uncle Two and Grandma and Grandpa Only Two? and Grandma and Grandpa G. All is well in South Babyland.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Venus, Saturn and Mars

The other day Plot, Duck and The Great PD were talking about cities -- which one would you like to live in? What about New York? What about Washington D.C.? What about L.A.?

"Dad," TGPD said, "L.A. is ugly."

He's right but it's not alone. Some cities are old and worn out. Trenton, New Jersey comes to mind. Gary, Indiana. Newark. Detroit. They are so torn up their patina of age has become a toxic pothole. Their chief industry is despair. L.A. is not like that.

You can't despair in L.A. You don't have time. You are running late for your 10 o'clock with that agent's dog walker who knows a woman who was married to Harvey Keitel's second wife's chiropractor.

Some cities are new and awful. Phoenix. Houston. Dallas. Denver. There is absolutely nothing there except sprawl of the highest order and pollution to match it. Even the suburbs are ugly, carbon copies torn from some magazine they glanced at a decade ago then threw it out and started building. L.A. is not like that.

Some cities have a lot of history and have maintained it. Boston. New York. Charleston. New Orleans (despite God's continuous jealous rages). These are cities whose age adds to their charm. L.A. is not like that.

Some cities are just unique, like Las Vegas. It has managed to transcend hideousness and come out smiling on the other side with only a few teeth missing. Say what you will, there is nowhere on earth like Las Vegas, Nevada. L.A. is not like that.

Some cities are beautiful, historical, great places to live and also boring. Saint Plotniko is like that. But it's easy to live there. L.A. is not historical and the living is not easy, but it's not boring either.

But man, this is one ugly place. UG-LEE! Sure there's a park over there, in back of the Starbucks under the billboards behind the DMV in front of the strip mall. There goes that actress, she was in, you know, the movie with that guy, the hat? You remember the guy with the hat? You don't?

Hey! Is that Tim Roth? Yes, it, it's not. It's not Tim Roth, it's a Tim Roth impersonator who works infrequently at parties. He can also do Abe Vigoda.

Some cities give us nothing back. L.A. gives us our face. All those movies, all those commercials, all those beach blanket bingos, all those sit coms, so many of them shot here that people in Argentina think they can find their way around town. The world thinks America looks like Bay Watch. They really really do.

Some cities are like Oakland, Christ. Oakland's last name is Christ. Everybody says Oakland? Christ.

Honolulu's last name is Oh Man! It's not all beautiful, it's kind of built up randomly, but it's got those amazing green hills and crazy beautiful beaches and maybe there are too many hotels but that's just in one spot. The rest of it is old mango and breadfruit trees in back yards and tiny houses up on blocks and you can't leave your bicycle on the street because the meth heads will get it but you can get a smoked tuna fusion or a meat-and-three Korean barbecue that you can take with you up one side and down the other into paradise.

L.A. is not like that.

Brooklyn is 'way cool. But it's concrete. New York is 'way cool. But it's frantic. Chicago is kind of cool. But the weather. Atlanta is the San Diego of the South. A little smoke, not much fire.

Cities Plotnik has heard are surprisingly nice to live in: Kansas City. Minneapolis. Toronto. But he's never heard that from people who actually live there.

Places Plotnik has lived in and loved: New York. Miami. Berkeley. Catawissa, Pennsylvania. L.A. (at times). Saint Plotniko (at times).

Places Plotnik has not lived in but loved anyway: New Orleans. Boston. Tucson.

Right now he needs one more set of eyeballs, because he's got one eye on Providence, one eye on Brooklyn, one eye on Mummy P's house in L.A. and one eye on La Palma Mexicatessen and Huaracheria in the Mission.

Tonight he and Ducknik held Mummy P's hand and walked her onto the grass in her backyard and they all looked up in the sky. There, right above their heads were three planets within a few inches of each other: Venus, Saturn and Mars. Mummy P. could see Venus. It was bright like the headlight on a train coming out of a dark tunnel.

This felt very nice.

Planets Plotnik has lived on and felt quite attached to: Earth.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Mummy P's 96th. To Paris! (Clink!)

Yesterday was Mummy P.'s 96th birthday so a few Plotniks got togther to drink mimosas and eat frittatas. Schmeckl Plotnik posed with his Mom and Plottie got both his nephews on his lap with Mummy P. behind him.

Lila Lee and The Great Ducknik were looking beautiful, and so were Small Shaun (girl friend of Tall Shawn) and The Little Bear, notwithstanding the unfortunate Stripes Miscalculation.

The waiter took the obligatory Bad Group Photo.

Somebody (Ducknik) asked Plotnik today if he remembered that yesterday, in a stroke of generosity, he invited everybody at the table to Paris to celebrate Mummy Plotnik's 100th Birthday, on him? Plottie says from our lips to Bud's ears. Let it happen and start pouring the mimosas.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Wanted, Dead or Alive, We Think

The Plotniks only go to the movies -- the real ones, with popcorn -- when their children are in town or when they take Mummy Plotnik. Last night, on the Great PD's final night of his whirlwind trip to The Bay Area, he, Duck and Plottie went to West Portal to see 'Inception.'

Maybe the tip off was with the previews -- all of them for High School movies. It's not that the movie is immature -- or bad-- it's just preposterous. It's the kind of summer blockbuster movie where you are supposed to revel in your nice healthy jolt of fantasy, with endless car chases and gunfights where nobody can actually hit anybody with their blazing fusilades from pistols, rifles, automatic weapons, grenades and bazookas, and with a plot so convoluted that afterwards you don't even know if any of it happened or it all was a dream within a dream within a dream within a...oh pshaw, Hepzibah, are we too old for this?

The analogy is the other summer fantasy: Disneyland. Inception is Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. You have fun while the ride is going on and then when you come slamming through the wooden doors into the sunshine you realize you've been riding in little cars on little tracks built for little people and you feel a little foolish.

But then you talk about it., She wasn't actually dead, your son says and you say she wasn't? But then why this and why that? Well, he says, because this was a dream within a dream, and that was only a dream. Well, you continue, why didn't the son of the tycoon just throw Leonardo Di Caprio out of the hotel on his ass in the first place, and your son says, well, that's because the old tycoon had programmed his son to have guards in his dreams to protect his ideas and if you want to talk about the runaway train, well, that was his dead wife, but not really, because the dead wife wasn't dead. Was she?

Don't really know. Don't really care. It was fun. But not as much fun as playing a little basketball earlier in the day. Plottie didn't dream that one up.