The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dungeness Crabs, Christmas Songs and Belly Fat

It was a beautiful sunrise over Bernal this morning when Plotnik went out to get the paper. He had heard mournful meeows for much of the night in the vicinity of the Great Plotnik Crab Disposal Units, after the fabulous crab supper last night at the Mushnik Family Estate.

There were lots of crabs going in...

...but none coming out, except for the empty claws which ended up tormenting a bunch of local pussy cats.

Meanwhile, Ducknik is on a delicious roll. Last night's sour cream lemon pie came after the previous night's buttermilk corn muffins, made in the cast iron corn-cob-shaped muffin tins that The Great BZWZ helped Duck find in the Providence Flea Market.

It's time for Christmas songs and belly fat. Bring 'em on!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkins, Redwoods and Seasonal Ale

It was a crisp and beautiful day on Sunday, so Plot and Duck drove Captain Crow and Helmsman Finch down Highway One, past the pumpkin patches and San Gregorio Beach...

...into the redwood grove in Memorial Park above Pescadero.

The redwoods are so close to Saint Plotniko, in all directions, and yet after eighteen years of living nearby this was the first time Plottie and Ducknik had ventured up in that canyon. (Of course, it was necessary to stop for a pre-redwood lunch at Duarte's for Artichoke Soup and Anchor Steam Seasonal Ale.)

Saint Plotniko is the anomaly -- we sit in the rare coastal open space. North and South are still primarily forest and some of it is truly breathtaking. Plot and Duck need to get out more.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Belly Makes Parker House Rolls in Seattle

Note the Giants chef's cap. Plotnik is at a loss to figure that one out, but he suspects NotThat is responsible, somehow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and Look in Your Trunk

Thanksgiving was its usual Fun Self in Shmorange County. There are babies and little kids and the kids that were little yesterday are now men, and the men who were younger are now older and the guys who were older are becoming decrepit.

But not quite. Three sets of brothers got to play basketball yesterday in the park. Plottie and his brother Schmeckl, Nefnik and his brother Dominant and David and his brother Alex. Everything changes and nothing changes, except that David is now huge and Alex is going to be.

The Little Bear's house is still the perfect turkey carving house. Plottie carved one of the two turkeys, as always, but his cousin Cindy has moved into official Second Carver position, meaning her previous job as Turkey Kibbitzer, the job Plotnik occupied until he moved into the Carver slot previously occupied by Harry the Chief, is currently unoccupied. Cousin Michael was supposed to do the job but he appears to prefer playing with his baby nieces more, so an opening remains for someone who can stand next to both carvers, steal slices of turkey while barely keeping his or her fat little fingers from getting sliced off, make inane little comments and generally be a fingernail on the blackboard of life and one of life's great nuisances. With luck, the position will never be filled.

Life does go on. There's a new wrinkle every year, and people have troubles and joys and people come and go, but Thanksgiving at Ric and Paula's house seems eternal, at least as eternal as any of us can predict.

On the way down to Orange County yesterday Mummy P. informed Plot and Duck that she had no spare tire, because the company that had fixed their flat tire had made off with her spare. It made no sense, but plans were made to buy a tire today. This morning Plot looked in the trunk: tire.

So that's the guide phrase for today: Before you decide someone has taken your spare tire, look in your trunk.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Morning in Stiletto City

Last night's martini leads to Thanksgiving Morning in Stiletto City. Plot gets up early to peel and slice the apples from the Great Plotnik Apple Orchard.

Pecans from Whole Foods

The Golden Fat

Pie dough, made the night before and frozen

Pie dough, rolled out

Apples mixed with cinnamon and sugar

Pecans in a silly sweet slurry





Now the pies and the people hit the freeway for the next forty eleventeen hours. Dinner's at five. If the car breaks down one of those pies is history.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flight to Stiletto

4:30am, out of bed, into the shower, out to the street and into a cab (first time ever, but it was dark and cold) to the BART station, off Bart and on to the airport shuttle, get to Oakland Airport at 6am and the security line stretches around the luggage carousels and back. Plotnik took a picture of this girl's Christmas slippers, after reminding her it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, and she said "I don't care. I love Christmas."

The cabbie was probably from Pakistan. When Plotnik told him they were flying to LA to see Plottie's 96 year old mom, the cabbie said: "Oh. This is good. You must take every advantage to see her as often as you are able." Which hits it right on the head.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Treasure Island and Bay Bridge.

The Sunset District and the ocean.

And now we're here. It's time to drive Mummy P. to the beauty shop so she can be ready for tomorrow at The Hotel Schmeckl. Only 28 this year for Thanksgiving -- small for this crowd.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Belly in Her New Winter Coat and Boots

Can she really be this tall already?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Imminent Unknown

November 22 is one of those dates that when someone The Great Plotnik's age sees it, he goes: Oh. Wait. Something important happened today.

Forty seven years ago? Dallas, Texas? That's right. Plotnik had just walked up for lunch to the house where he lived a few blocks from the Berkeley campus, and everybody was crowding around the black and white TV listening to Walter Cronkite. At first, the thought was the president would survive the shooting, but the next announcement was that he was dead.

What a sense of dread we had. Before Obama's election there hadn't been another president who filled young people with so much hope. JFK did. In retrospect, you study Kennedy's presidency and you see an opportunist rich kid who was in it for the fame more than anything else, and who appointed the very people to power who brought us Vietnam.

But we didn't know any of that on November 22, 1963. We thought the world had ended. The man Kennedy hated, and whom he defeated for the nomination, Lyndon Johnson, took over the presidency and though he racheted Vietnam up to suicidal levels, he also passed Civil Rights legislation that has guided our country since that day. Who knew?

We were terrified. No, numb. Plotnik and his friends went to a movie in Oakland that night. We stood in the ticket line and nobody was saying a word. Can you imagine a silent movie ticket line? It was like, until we get into that theater and they turn out the lights, we are afraid to even think.

Plotnik didn't feel that way again until 9-11. And the feeling was immediately familiar to him. Never think that anything sears you as permanently as fear of the imminent unknown.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Post 1,853

After 1,852 posts, The Great Plotnik is coming to a close.

...well, someday. Just fooled ya. But nothing lasts forever, you know? Plotnik knows that even he follows the blogs he used to follow less than he once did. Bloggers now just seem to be people who are compulsive megalomaniacs who can't figure out how to tweet.

Comments are down. Most of his friends who once blogged faithfully now Facebook or actually have lives. For Plotnik, the idea has always been to chronicle the photos and events in his friends' and family's lives as a kind of living journal, where you take more care with your writing than you would if you were jotting things down in your private diary. You cross your t's and not your eyes.

Nope, no typo.

The good thing is, Plottie still enjoys the exercise. For him, it was good to be able to write about Mischief the last few days, and it's always great to post new photos of the various Plotnikkies in his life. It's not like it was when he first put the blog up, though, because all of us have moved forward. And this is all good.

Last night Plot and Duck saw "Coraline," which is an adaptation for the stage of Neil Gaiman's really scary kid's story, with music by Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields and other groups. You can read the review of Coraline here.

After the show was done, before the post-Premiere party, the Duck turned to Plotnik and asked: "Did you feel like I did?" Plot had been watching her squirm out of the corner of his eye so he said "No, I liked it more than that."

He and Ducknik have gone to a lot of shows for the past 10 years. They know how to read each other's theater body language now. You won't read about this in Plottie's reviews -- how, for example, he knows that if he sees the Duck staring at him in the middle of a scene, she has lost it. And she knows if he puts his pen back in the pocket of his review book, he has gone somewhere else.

But you can read it here. And you can read how Plotnik's eyes still water EVERY time the actors come out to take their bows and he doesn't know why. You can learn why the worst show at one playhouse might feel better than the best show at another -- the attitude you get from the production company. One is happy to see you. The other has figured out you're neither thirty nor gay.

You can read about how Plotnik's favorite moments of every show come when he and Duck are walking back to the car, talking about what they just saw, what they loved, what they didn't love, what worked, what didn't, what the seats felt like, what the actors wore, and how they wish they'd get new cookies for intermission. Talking to the actors or the writer after the premiere, seeing how they are one person on stage and another off. Plotnik knows about this -- how when performing you are bulletproof, but at the party you can get whacked by a comment from a stranger.

And of course, there's food. And family. And the garden. And politics. Shoot. I guess Plottie isn't going anywhere for awhile.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Skeeter, Brenda and Barbara

It's Saturday morning and it rained all night, but cleared up just now. Everybody is walking their dog. Life goes on, and it's going to be beautiful today.

It was cold on Friday and Plotnik got the Cook Something Warm urge. So he emptied out his supply of dried chilies, some from Peru, some from Oaxaca, some from Guatemala, some from 24th Street, and turned them into chile con carne, also known as 'a bowl o' red,' and then took another bunch and made a very tasty beef rendang. Nowhere as good as the rendang from Singapore but well worth the effort.

The name 'Skeeter Davis' seems to have stumped a few Plotnikkies. For Plotnik, Skeeter, Brenda Lee ("I'm Sorry") and Barbara Lewis ("Hello, Stranger") are the female singers who moved him when he was a snap of a whipper. You can look them up too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanks a Lot, Skeeter Davis

The thing that feels the strangest about Mischief being gone is the sense of tense. It's hard to describe. I can't put him into 'was' yet.

But ride the painted pony and life lurches forward. We sat around a dinner table with friends last night and they were talking about their lives and I wanted to talk about Mischief.

But nobody really cares about your sadness, unless it relates to them, unless it's someone they knew, or --- well, let's face it. A person.

Good, Plotnik just got home.

"Hi, I see you're back."

"Yeah, Doug, thanks for taking over yesterday."

"No problem, see you next time."

Today it's gloomy and Plottie has to face weatherproofing the decks, cleaning up the iris mess, getting his hair cut. It's cold already. It gets dark too early. Plotnik feels a little cut off from reality.

He doesn't feel all that sad, still he woke up singing that old Skeeter Davis song "The End of the World."

"Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don't they know it's the end of the world?
It ended when you said goodbye..."

Last night, he kind of picked at his Thai food. Duck said afterwards he seemed distracted.

It's just that song. It made him cry when he was a teenager and when he hears Skeeter's voice it still goes right through him, like a puppy through a garbage can you forgot to close, and there's food all over the floor, and he's smiling and his tail is wagging a million miles an hour. That's what it is. That song.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Squirrel Nation Rests Easy

The Great Plotnik is not going to be sad, even though he knows the drill. If you don't feel sad when a creature you love dies then you didn't really love them enough. And since Mischief was a dog, not a person, and since everyone has known this was coming, and since Plotnik kind of said his teary good-byes in the elevator in Clinton Hill the last time he brought the old pooch in from his walk, there is no reason for sorrow.

So why is Plotnik having so much trouble writing 'was' instead of 'is?' Oh, forget Plotnik for the time being, no hiding behind third-personage this morning. This is Doug. It's warm outside but raw in here. I really did love that dog. That's why it hurts.

But damn! The squirrel nation rests easier this morning!

My grand-dog was only my second dog ever, and Stormy ran away in 1962. I don't know if Mischief was Staci's first, but I know he was Dan's. We always had cats. I love cats. It hurt when Fluffy and R.L. and Crystal died -- yes it did. But they weren't dogs. It's not the same. Cats love you as much as they can -- and they have plenty of love to give. They're just not built to enthuse about it. They'd rather carry your picture around in a locket under their flea collar than hang it up on the refrigerator.

Cats are patient -- they can't wait for you to get home to throw up on your shoes so you won't ever go away again. Dogs can't wait for you to get home because every time you walk in that door, every night, it's love at first sight.

Mischief's tail wagged, even when he felt rotten. Dan says it was still wagging happily a few days ago. I am happy to hear that.

I remember how terrible it sounded to have to get a packing crate for him so he could fly on the plane with them when they moved East. I felt bad enough about them moving and the packing crate seemed excessively cruel to me. But Mischief just climbed on into it, fell asleep and woke up in Brooklyn.

Kind of like now, except he's back in New Orleans, I think, in my head anyway, running with Danny down below Bayou St. John. When Mischief got finished running he jumped right into the bayou and Dan followed him in. That memory is as sweet to me as red velvet cake.

Yesterday, Dan bought Isabella some candy and gave her the news. I think it doesn't really register when you're four.

Poor Staci. She found him as a puppy with a "Lost Dog" sign around his neck, one ear up, one ear down, tail wagging happily. Like Dan, Chief was one lucky guy -- he found Staci. And then she found the rest of us, and Mischief has always been along for the ride.

So when Staci took him to the vet and the vet told her how sick Mischief was and said "You can keep him around if you want, but realize it's for you, not him" -- they all knew it was time.

Lots of stories, but I'm laughing thinking about when Barb and I drove him down to L.A. after he'd spent quite a few weeks at Camp Grandpa while Dan and Staci were traveling in Vietnam. I stopped at a Burger King near the grapevine and asked Mischief what he wanted. He said a Kids' Meal. So I got him a Kids' Meal.

Barb and he and I sat outside on the grass and he couldn't believe it when I actually unwrapped the burger and gave it to him. He was so Northern California by then. He swallowed the hamburger whole, one bite, gone, and he didn't care at all about the toy.

This is better. I'm feeling better. We''ll all be fine.

But yesterday I found himself thinking about Grandpa Ben, and how as a young man I would drive over to his apartment, after Gram died, and walk with him around his neighborhood. Of course it wasn't the same, because old ladies wouldn't come up to Mischief and offer him cookies like they did to Grampa Ben, but the thing that was and is the same, is that taking time out of your day to walk with someone is a really beautiful thing for both of you to do, especially if every time you do it you are both so happy to get outside and smell the grass and the sky.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ai, Caramba

Ai, caramba, you never want to get unhappy news. We'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


Meanwhile, Plot and Duck saw an extravaganza last night in Rivendell at Arwen and Elrond's house. It is spectacular. It involves horses. It is held under a huge white tent.

Parking in Rivendell, however, is truly awful. The production company forgot to remind people that parking was free for the Premiere, and they also forgot to put up a sign that said FREE. All the street parking around Saint Plotniko Medical Center, near where the show is being held, is for two hours only until 10pm. The show lasts nearly three hours and started last night at 7pm.

Plot and Duck chose the nearby lot where it said EVENT PARKING TEN DOLLARS. This is against the tenets of Reformed Plotnikkism, technically speaking, which proclaims:

"If Bill Stein Wouldn't Park There, You Shouldn't Either."

When they got into the lot, they discovered the only place to pay for your parking was at the one ticket machine, located on the far opposite corner, between San Leandro and Lake Tahoe. When they trudged over to the machine they found 100 people already in the line. The machine went very slow, and the line did not move. Meanwhile, show time approached.

There was a number hahaha to call hahaha.

A voice said "Please state name, address, phone number and size of ammo belt around waist."

No it didn't, but it was a recorded voice that led to an answering service. It was now 6:55pm.

Plot and Duck and half the crowd in line gave up. Plot wrote 'meter busted' on a piece of paper, stuck it on his windshield and went down to the tent.

When he got into the tent, the press agent said "Oh, didn't we tell you parking was free tonight? Didn't anyone put up the sign?"

When he got back to the car after the show he and everyone else in the lot had a $75 ticket on the windshield, from a private company, which Plotnik has no intention of paying, JUST TELLING YOU IN ADVANCE COLLECTION AGENCY YOU CAN KISS MY HORSE!

The show is an astonishing fantasy for eleven year old girls and rodeo riders and other people who truly love horses. In his early Big Apple years, Plotnik put too much money on those stupid, plodding oat-hogs to have any love left over, but even he had to admit the stunts pulled off by incredibly trained horsemen and horsewomen, at very high speed, while turning cartwheels and spinning on trapeezes, were worth every penny.

Of course, he got in free. Don't know if the show is worth $69-$134 EACH, plus baby sitter and ammunition to slay the meter maid before she slimes her crinkly paws around her ticketbook and...oops. Hold on. Repressed anger. Deep breath. Om and ahh.

Plotnik just re-read what he has written. He realizes he is just marking time here, refusing to feel sad yet about his best animal pal in the world, who is not doing well back in Brooklyn. Sigh. Animals. They're just animals. Right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tiaposian Emeritus

So, Tiaposians, here is Tiapos Emeritus Wallace J. Aron, now 90 and living a mile from his daughter Candyce in Eugene, Oregon. He's got a buddy who drives him around -- if anyone remembers Wally's candy apple red Firebird you'll appreciate how important this is.

Plotnik heard from Candyce with some details, including her own calamity -- she married her long time boyfriend, moved to Oregon, took a vacation to Maui and Steven had a heart attack and dropped dead right there.

You never can tell about volcanos, as the Little Prince said. But Wally looks great, doesn't he?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh, Smokey. Oh, Carole. Oh, Plottie. Welcome to the 23rd Century.

So, this guy in the projects in Chicago breaks into another house and attempts to rape a woman who is sleeping in her bed with her small child. She calls her brother, who runs in and becomes a superstar.

No kidding. If this is old news to you, just move on to "Things To Do With Shrimp" or wherever your next stop takes you, but if you haven't experienced it yet, please clear out fifteen minutes and prepare to be flabbergasted. All of this is courtesy The Great PunkyDunky.

His comment is: "Welcome to songwriting in the 23rd Century."

FIRST watch this entire 1 minute news story. Don't fast forward through it. It's on the level.

NEXT, the people who create this 'band' software get wind of the news story. They are called 'Auto Tune the News.' They take this guy's voice and run with this. Check this out.

Next, the world takes over. Who knows who has made all of these, and there are hundreds more available on U-tube.

(Each of these following links is unique.)






The Great Plotnik World Headquarters crackerjack Legal Affairs team has issued the following statement, in regard to the future of songwriters in the 21st Century:


Translated, this means "we dare you to try and stop singing this tune."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Appliances Have Feelings Too

Plotnik keeps wanting to run this gorgeous photo of his gorgeous daughter. It has nothing to do with anything that follows.

One of the philosopical tenets of Plotnikkism is that household appliances have feelings too. When one breaks down, the others like to break down too. It's a solidarity kind of thing.

First it was Ducknik's new computer, which with all that processing power is about as fast as a Kaypro 1. Something's wrong. The dishwasher heard about it, and pooped out in the middle of a cycle, but before it went South it sent a message to the printer, which then refused to have anything to do with any of the house computers until some yet-to-be determined point in the future.

Plotnik's phone heard about it, and decided to lose its charge even though Plottie had had it plugged in the previous night. The DVR was weird too -- when Plotnik got home from TIAPOS the other night he turned on the Laker game that he had saved to watch later -- but the DVR showed the Lakers losing to the Nuggets. The electronics are all screwed up in this house.

The Warriors have a player who elbowed another player in the mouth during the previous game. The player on the receiving end lost two teeth, and the Warrior player, David Lee, has had to have surgery to clean out an infection in that arm, which he presumably got from the other player's teeth.

And then there's "Watch your husband, watch your wife," which Plotnik keeps meaning to tell you all about. Tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Birthday and Gus Grunk Speaks

The other night Plotnik was watching Grow Up Before You Throw Up, otherwise known as Check Please Bay Area, on PBS. The hostess seems like a nice person who tries her level best to find guests who will not stab each other with a fork, while describing their favorite restaurants, which the other guests invariably hate. Each guest also has to defend his or her own choice, which they tend to do with barely disguised venom.

There is almost always one Asian woman with gaudy jewelry, one gay guy with an earring and one I.T. man or woman from the peninsula who regards Saint Plotniko with suspicion. Occasionally there is a guest who has actually been out to dinner once or twice in his life in someplace other than Chili's. All are on their best behavior, but you can read the balloon over the hostess's head: "Where's the !!*&@^ wine!?"

So Plottie was astonished the other night to see all three guests enthuse over Zazie in Cole Valley. It was Mush's birthday lunch time so off we went. Everybody was correct. It's a cross between a French bistro and a great cafe. They're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there's always a line, but it moves fast.

Mush had the croque madame.

Silent Bill had the burger interred under bacon.

Plotnik's alter ego, Gus Grunk, would love to go on that show and recommend a really, really awful restaurant, like "Ed's Liver Pudding Shack" or "Meatloaf R Us." Then, he would rip the insides out of the other guests' choices. You might ask why The Great Plotnik would harbor such aggression, but it's not him. It's Gus Grunk.

Last night Mush brought her own birthday cake, to celebrate her own upcoming birthday and also Plottie's, Will's, Domin-Nik's and Mr. Chatoyant's recent ones. J-Whack lit the candles with a blowtorch. All the readings were great, but maybe the best part of the create-and-tell was a photo Domin-Nik had taken which looks like Boticelli about to jump out of a clam shell and land on a leaf in Bernal Heights. It is quite extraordinary. If she ever posts it, Plot will show it to you all.