The Great Plotnik

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year: On the Way to Burbank

The airplane seat on US Air is bigger heading to Phoenix than the bus seat was from New York to DC, but only marginally so, but still Plotnik had to pay $38 extra, EACH, to be able to actually choose his and Duck's seats, instead of being assigned to a middle seat for free. Don't you just love air travel in the U S of A on the eve of New Year's 2011-12?

"We have snack for sale. Today we have, uh.,." begins the stewardess, "...uh, sandwich, I think, and and, um, Snack Pak. We accept Discover, Master Card or Visa."

Reagan (aka National) Airport in DC is as small as Oakland and Burbank used to be. It's so close to the beltway -- planes look like they're landing on the White House Lawn from a short distance away. Peter and Patsy were kind enough to give a lift to the airport. Such good friends are hard to find.

Ducknik and Plotnik got separated into different security lines. At hers, there was a teenage girl carrying a small poodle in a carry-on case. As the dog got ready to go through his screening, he dropped a turd onto the converyor belt. Everyone panicked and the entire line shut down. The teen cried "Oh, woe, woe, what do you want ME to do about it?" They finally told her to go get a paper towel and clean it up, which she reluctantly did, while everyone else waited.

This is how Plotnik actually beat Duck through the security line, for the first time in a long time.

He remembered, ahead of time, to remove his camera, which he always wears on his belt, from its case. But then they put him through the Hands Up MothaF***a X-ray Shakedown, and when they were patting him down they saw the empty case.

"Remove that," said the guard.

"But it's empty," Plotnik said, showing the empty case. "Here, feel it."

"Remove that," said the guard.

"But," said Plotnik and then "OK, OK." The guard didn't even look at it, but he won the faceoff. They always win. it took a couple of extra minutes, but, thanks to the turd, Plottie beat the Duck through the line, albeit barely.

The bus from New Shmork down to DC on Thursday took almost five hours, but it only cost $15 bucks each. The train would have been an hour and a half faster but it would have cost close to $200, or $400 for the Accela which knocks another hour off the trip.

These days, while traveling, Plot is into more comfort over less comfort, but there's a limit. $15 each is a lot better than $100 or $200, and in end, though Megabus was completely filled with every seat taken, and an Israeli guy across the aisle insisted on talking loudly on a cell phone to his mother, about all the current political twists and turns in every Israeli settlement, until Plotnik was ready to call Terrorists-R-Us to send up a jihadi to dispatch this loudmouth oaf, and though bus seats are small and there are no carry-on racks where you might store your oversized winter jacket, STILL, with all that, the bus isn't much more uncomfortable than a 737 or this Airbus 319, and, to be honest, train seats aren't exactly your living room sofa either.

So Plottie went for the $15 bus ticket and used the $170 he saved as a down payment on that amazing dinner at Pisticci the other night. It was a good call.

Plot bought two $20.00 Metro Cards in the Shmapple and used them both up. It's easy to do -- $2.25 per subway ride, each way, for two people. Brooklyn to Manhattan and back: $9 bucks. The Metro Cards go fast. But it's the greatest system and they're expanding it all the time. How can New Shmork afford to build new lines and expand old ones, when every other city in America is supposed to be broke? It's a mystery.

It cost $45 in the taxi to SFO the other morning because it was so early and we had to get to the airport by 6am so we could wait until 1:30pm to take off.

In DC, both Peter and Patsy's daughters (can you remember The Year of The Wedding? -- when both these girls got married? -- that was FIVE years ago.) live in different parts of Maryland. We went to see them both. Nellie lives in the middle of a home renovation project that is the largest, most complicated and surely the most difficult of any Plottie has ever seen. He knows he could never do it, and would never want to. But Peter is an architect and he and Patsy bought the old, concrete house so they and their daughter and son-in-law could work on something together, and in the end their kids will live in an amazing place. But when?

The house was built for a licensed clairvoyant in the 1930s. If they'd asked the clairvoyant, he would have probably said: "You will take many long trips to the Building Supplies Depot."

Hannah is 32 weeks pregnant. She looks so happy, though it has not been an easy pregnancy. It was wonderful to see both these girls, who Plot and Duck have known since they were born. Their mates got great ladies.

Plot is already counting the hours 'til they get home, but they're not going home. Not yet. Today it's DC to Phoenix to Burbank, so Mummy P. can have some company on New Year's Eve. Then on January 1, on what would have been The Chief's 101st birthday, Plot and Duck will stay over that day and night too, then come home on Monday.

So that's around 48 hours. LA, here we come. But first, Phoenix Airport. Happy New Year everybody!


LATER: the party has started up the hill from Mummy P. AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP. (screams.) AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP AhWHOMP. (shouts.) Gonna be a long night.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pastrami and Skating

New Shmork is hard to beat. Eisenberg's is just perfect. But it's crowded. Ice skating in Bryant Park had lines of up to four hours to get on the ice. But Belly ran into a friend in the front of the line so just The Great PD and she got out onto the ice while the rest of us watched. What a scene it is -- a rink in the heart of midtown Manhattan, surrounded by skyscrapers, and the skating is free.

Afterwards everyone posed in front of the Bryant Park Christmas Tree for a portrait snapped by a tourist. Belly and her friend Theo are down front.

Pisticci is still Plotnik's favorite restaurant in New Shmork. You just can't beat that food, and the atmosphere is perfect. It's a long way from Brooklyn -- all the way up near the 125th Street IRT station -- but it wasn't too far from the ice skating rink. He was too excited to take any photos, but you've seen the spaghetti and meatballs before. PD took some great photos on the way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Manly Muppet (or a Muppet of a Man)?

Are you a man or a muppet? If you're a muppet, you're a manly muppet. If you're a man, you're a muppet of a man.

What a hysterical and rewarding movie is the new Muppet Movie. The Great PD had the idea to go see it yesterday on a stormy and wet afternoon. Plotnik hasn't laughed so hard in a long time and he could hear Isabella Belly Laughs from behind him. All the songs are by Flight of the Conchords and every actor in Hollywood has a cameo part. The Muppet Movie is to L.A. what The Muppets Take Manhattan was to New York. You really want to see it, whether you're a muppet, or a man, or neither one.

We also went on a trip to the Met, where the Egyptian exhibit on the main floor makes you realize nothing changes, century after century, except pages on the calendar. Here, we see the graffiti that Napoleon's soldiers left on a temple more than 200 years ago when they tried to conquer Egypt. Isabella has been attached to The Great BZWZ's hand for several days, but she sat with her dad on the floor of the museum, sketching the temple.

The Great FiveHead gave a hat to both BZWZ and The Great Ducknik.

Plottie would like to meet the famous hatter-lady, but her stand on the street somewhere in Little Italy is sometimes there, and sometimes not.

There's been a lot of music around the house, but not quite enough yet.

We've had our pastrami from Cousin Josh at Eisenberg's, and our pizza and calzone with shallots from Giuseppina's. The only meal missing is spaghetti and meatballs from Pisticci and that comes tonight.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Glorious Christmas

Once we could see that the reindeer had eaten the carrots and Santa had drunk the milk and polished off the cookies...

and that there was a present with never-before-seen gift wrap addressed to the youngest member of the family... was time to get cracking on the rest of the presents.

The previous night, Christmas Eve, everyone had bundled up and gone into Manhattan to look at the decorated windows...

(JJJ: I know you remember:

""On the No Parking signs
There are icicles in lines
And the streets are deserted, everybody's home...
And in Bonwit's and Gimbel's
The decorated windows
Are shining like multicolored metronomes...")

There were hundreds and hundreds of people on the streets (the line to get into the Starbucks in the Trump Tower was fifty people long). The famous windows at Bergdorf and Goodman's, the chestnuts roasting on, propane burner, the suspended electrified snowflakes hanging over Fifth Avenue, the lit up tree inside the Plaza Hotel -- the only word that comes close to describing it all is "magic."

Last night -- Christmas night -- The Great Dance-Nik came over along with friends from in town and out of town. The hideous end of the Shmlaker game was watched with expected horror. Dinner was spectacular-- there was crazy-good pot roast and celery root remoulade and cole slaw, plus fresh seared tuna and Farahnaz's mango salad and orange-black olive salad, and delicata squash, plus apple and pecan pie and Chef Pickle's persimmon pudding which made a successful cross-country journey. And music -- Isabella playing congas, of course.

In the end, for whatever it's worth, it is just more Christmas-y in the East than in the West. We've got Halloween. They've got Christmas. That's just the way it is. But the key is being around people you love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Never Again Airlines

So, you can see how much good it did to get up at 4:30am to get into the cab by 5am to get to the airport by 5:30am to slog through the bag check line and then the security line, so that it would be easy to make the 7am flight.

The big mistake that Plot and Duck made was not to take the lady up on the offer to transfer over to another plane that was leaving at 8am for LA, and then would head directly to JFK, plus they'd give you $300 each to do it.

But Plot figured: Hell. Right now, they're announcing our plane will leave at 8:20. What happens if that other plane has trouble or there's a problem at LAX? So, they turned it down. Five people rushed the counter, received their vouchers and new tickets, ran for the other gate and were probably in New York by late afternoon.

The next second after the voucher offer was off the table, they changed the 8:20am takeoff delay to 9:20am. And then to 10am. And then 12:05. And then 1:05.

Did we mention that the Duck, in the cab on the way to the airport, contracted stomach flu? So she had to wait for 6 1/2 hours at SFO looking and feeling miserable and running back and forth to the ladies room every few minutes.

Meanwhile, we met Siggie.

He was the kind of guy who is really fascinating for half an hour -- an eighty year old one-armed, partially-legged German from Australia who was traveling by himself to JFK and then to Rio and then onto a ship to the Falkland Islands and lower Patagonia, and then onto another ship across the Beagle Channel to Antarctica.

For the next six hours he wouldn't stop talking. Plotnik kept getting up in the middle of his long winded tales about his ex wife in the Mercedes dealership. Duck would be left to cope with this nice but - lonely? - man while she labored not to pass out. Then Plot would come back and Duck would disappear.

What makes people glom onto you at an airport and then talk talk talk talk talk? 5H and BZ say this happens to them all the time.

But he was a nice guy so Plot hopes he got to his ship on time.

What had happened, by the way, was the first plane broke down so they needed to find another plane. But Never Again Airlines (recently known as American) didn't have any planes that weren't already in use so they had to track one down. The did, in a hanger in LA. By the time that plane could assemble a crew and fly up to SFO, several hours had passed.

But it was a smaller plane. That's why they let the earlier 5 people escape.

Then: the new plane also malfunctioned. Un - be - freaking- believable! Finally, they flew the new part up, also from LA, and fixed the first plane. The plane was due in at 3pm. We got in at 10.


Next to him, a father, who had been waiting at the airport all day for his son, and the son, who had been waiting with Plot and Duck and everybody else all day, got into a rip roaring fight about the luggage carousel. Finally, the son said to the Dad: "DAD! STOP IT! WE'RE HAVING A NEW YORK FIGHT! I MOVED AWAY! STOP IT!"

The bag finally came, PD picked Plot and Duck up, and off to Brooklyn we went.

This morning BZ and Plottie walked for bagels. The world is back in its place and Duck feels a lot better today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thanks Nel

Another of those nice seasonal surprises -- our friend Nel the Bell sent this link this morning.

Plotnik forgets his songs get sung by choirs, because he never gets to hear any of them. There are a lot of them on U-Tube now so he'll maybe invest a little time today and see what's out there.

These kids are really cute. And the way a composer figures out where he got a little bit too inventive with his melody is to listen to the way they changed it for kids to be able to sing it. This simple way, just about no matter what the composer thinks, is the way a song will be repeated and remembered.

It's also fun for Plottie to hear the pianist playing his piano line, which is usually not changed much at all. He can barely remember how to play these songs any more -- maybe he ought to go buy the sheet music.

And now he knows it's pronounced "Ha-Nick-Ah."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ai Yai Yai I'm Dreaming...

The question of which Christmas songs would make it onto a list to be taken to Brooklyn and played during the potential upcoming White Christmas -- it's a serious question. After great thought and consideration, however, and of course including several written by The Great Plotnik himself, this has got to be Number One, but only this version:

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Year of the Coconut

Plotnik wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to import a photo onto a Word label, when all he had to do was go over to the Avery Label site, where they're all set to guide you easily through the process using their site and their labels. Now his The Tower of Plotnik hot sauce labels are finished.

Yesterday it took all day to collect and arrange in a book the best photos of 2011 photos. The book is called "2011: The Year of the Coconut." You can see why.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best Of 2011

Spent all day working up a Best of 2011 Photo Book. Man, we sure had a lot of fun. It was hard to get those handcuffs off, though.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Let's Give The Cave a Little Less Love

2011's last TIAPOS meeting was the most fun of all. Everybody was in a great mood, looked good, sounded good and ranted like Serbian sailors. The topic was "rant about something." Champion Ranter of the evening was without doubt The Great Domin-Nik aka WantzaNewName. She may or may not be somewhere in the above photo. If her clients ever hear a word of this it is possible that business will fall off. Like, down to nothing, coupled with police dogs.

We laughed and laughed and laughed some more, managing to stuff in plenty of food at the same time, while drinking a lot of red wine. A writing group should never be composed of such good friends, because nobody ever really wants to be too harsh a critic. But Christmas parties are a lot more fun this way.

So Plotnik, especially, who talks a big story about living an isolated, reclusive life, needs to look at the man in the mirror. He and Duck have wonderful friends in this town. If Plottie decides to live in a cave, he shouldn't blame the cave.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bad Breaking Bad

Plottie had two episodes left to watch of "Breaking Bad," but that first one, which would be Episode Twelve, Season Two, has got to be the saddest, most heartbreaking piece of episodic TV that he has ever seen. Criminy, how low can these people go?

(Calm yourself, Plotnik, these are actors. None of this stuff really happened. She was not dribbling vomit, it was probably soap bubbles. Get a grip.)

The scene in the previous episode, where they glorify the buzz of heroin, had already put Plotnik on the edge about this show. Not that you're supposed to lie, not that you shouldn't tell the truth about whatever it is you're writing about (in this case the drug trade and the thin line between right and wrong), it's just that Plotnik doesn't really need to see it. He knows about it, thanks.

Hitler made the trains run on time. Right, he knows about that too.

But he'll probably keep watching, just to see if it's truly possible that a show can have only one person who Plotnik likes, and that's the lawyer. Plotnik must be hooked too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Great Sounding Gig

Though for the first time in at least 15 years, The Great Plotnik and NoeValSal did not write a new lampoon Christmas song for the party, Sal had the party anyway and it was as much fun as always. Amazingly, the woman next to Barb is Jeff K.'s daughter Natalie, who you will notice is now taller than everybody else, including her Mom Louise who is hiding in back of Heidi.

Hiding in back of Heidi. This is called an Euphonious Accident.

Why didn't that new Christmas song get written? Probably because Plot and Sal always wait until the last moment, but this year the party was questionable until the very very last. We ran out of time. But Plottie promises two new songs for next year.

Nice people. Because of the Noe Valley Voice, Plot and Duck have made some good friends, friends they see every Labor Day and Christmas, while always making solemn promises to hang out together more in the coming year. But it never happens. Why is that, anyway? This reclusive way of living made sense when kids were small and there really was no extra time. But now there's no excuse, just bad habits.

There was a woman there last night named Corrina, once Sal's neighbor, who got a job as an acupuncturist on a small luxury yacht that took her all around the world for over a year -- LA to Tahiti to Indonesia to Australia to Singapore to India to the Middle East to the Mediterranean to England and finally to New York. How about that for a gig?

How many times could Plotnik play "New York, New York" before he jumped overboard and drowned himself? The number is probably higher now than it used to be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Plotnikkie Regulation 397846-T

One of the reasons that Plotnikkie membership is increasing around the world at such rapid rates is that we believe if you've gone to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned in the morning, and he's poked you and prodded you and made you close your lips so he can suck your blood and spit into the stupid little hose, and then he's scraped off the gunk with the pointy metal things, and you didn't cry even once, and then he has polished you and flossed you and pronounced you good to go -- well, you have endured enough. Plotnikkie Regulation 397846-T from the Tall Mud states that after that you don't have to floss for a minimum of 24 hours and you can go eat as much sticky caramel candy as you like because how the hell much gunk can accumulate in 24 hours anyway?

We've also got one for Hindus to justify eating cheeseburgers. But we can't figure out how Congress can ban abortions for servicewomen who have been raped. There can't be any holy book that can justify that one. Maybe we need more Plotnikkies in congress.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No More X-Rays

Dr. U-Flossem was in fine form this morning. "Are you still flossing the same amount?" "Oh, yes, Doctor." (Translation: "When I remember.")

"Are you using the rubber-tipped dingus?" "No change there, Doctor." (Translation: Never.)

Then they got around to x-rays. Plotnik feels like a crash dummy in that office -- why do they need to take so many x-rays every year? Why not NOT take them unless Plotnik complains about some tooth problem?

When he mentioned that to Dr. Flossem, the doctor said "Let me tell you about my father. My father had colon cancer. He refused to have a colonoscopy, so they never found it until he already had cancer."

"I'm not worrying about cancer of the bicuspid."

"Yes. I only tell you this to say it's good to have more x-rays, just to be sure."

"Just to be sure of what? What are you looking for? Bone loss? People lose bone as they get older. I'm not going to let you fix anything until it hurts. So what's the point?"

"Have I told you about my father?"

Anyway, Plotnik gave in, this time, so Dr. Flossem could have a complete set. Now he's got it. Let him sell it on E-Bay. That's it for a few years. No más.

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Go For Arugula, You Bring Home a Banjo

Imagine Plotnik's surprise. He took his colander down into the garden to pick some arugula, where he heard his name being called. It was Cheryl, Plot and Duck's wonderful neighbor of eight years. Cheryl told Plottie that she and her husband Keith are moving to Boston, that of course they will keep in touch, and to prove it would Plotnik like to have Keith's gorgeous banjo? Plottie protested to no avail. This is no department store banjo -- it's a glorious, inlayed instrument with a beautiful sound.

So now we are a two banjo family. The other one is in Providence, but the banjoist just happens to be in town, so Plottie put the banjo on her lap and went and got his melodica. The Great BZWZ sang "Ingrid Bergman," apparently an obscure Woody Guthrie song, and The Great Plotnik played along on melodica. This is how you put a smile on Plotnik's face.

Now, if only a bagpiper had showed up.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Plotnik is finishing with this crazy laryngitis -- or so he thinks. This morning he was feeling better so he decided to do his Saturday bike ride on Sunday. Half way up the second hill his throat started hurting again and just got worse and worse until he got to the top, panting. But he's got that part figured out -- it's cold out in the morning, and when he goes up hills he gasps in a lot of cold air. That cold air can't be good for the voice box, right?

By the time he got back home, showered, had some hot coffee and a bagel he was back to normal. He's sure this thing will go away sooner or later, but in the meantime he's sort of enjoying the lower octave in what is passing for his voice.

BZ is home for a few days. Last night we watched the kind of movie Plottie would never bother with on his own, but it was, in fact, entertainingly idiotic: "The Crush," with Alicia Silverstone and Cary Elwes. Ooooh, is she ever evil, that Alicia. CARY! IDIOT! DON'T GO UP THAT STAIRWAY INTO THE ATTIC! HEY! DOOFUS! DON'T YOU HEAR THAT SCARY MUSIC?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One More Only In Saint Plotniko:

Drag Queens on Ice in Union Square.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Basketball News

Crap. Everybody knows. You're sitting down at the court in the park and the guys are choosing up teams. They look around, find the guy whose head sticks up the highest and pick him. The next biggest guy gets chosen second. After that they can take whoever they want because they've got size on their team now and that's what counts most.

So you're telling me that nobody in the Stiletto City Shmlaker organization ever played pickup basketball in the park?

You don't trade two seven footers for one six footer. Magic Johnson said it best: "you can teach defense but you can't teach 7 feet tall."

So, since everybody knows this, there can be only one explanation: Kobe.

Kobe remembers when the Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and three extra pairs of sweat sox. No other players of note were ever on those great teams. And still Chicago became World Champs year after year, because Jordan was that good.

What else can it be? Kobe wants to be Jordan. There can't be any other explanation. Trade away your big men to get a fast small man, then tell everyone else to get out of the way.

OK, Kobe. It's your time now. I guess.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hey Diddly Dee

Wowzer! You've got to see "The Wild Bride." What a romp. It's at Berkeley Rep through January 1.

Plotnik got to sit up close last night -- Row 1. No matter how you slice it, it's really better to be up front. He is asking himself this morning whether the show would have been so spectacular in the balcony. Don't think so.

He sat next to a very lovely young woman who is probably 22 and is a drama fellow with Berkeley Rep. She was all big eyes about the glamorous life of a reviewer. Ducknik being ill and not in attendance, Plotnik was freed up to lie gloriously.

"How many shows do you get to go to? I mean, lots?"

"Oh, harrumph, well, I, ahmmm, yes. Lots. San Francisco is a fabulous city for theater!"

"Oh. You are so lucky!" (Eyelids batting)

"Well, luck is the residue of design, according to Branch Rickey," Plotnik didn't say. If the market had been open he would probably have said something stupid like that though.

Plot sat in front of his buddies who are usually The Grumpy Guys, and they remained so during Act One, but Act Two changed everything. This is a hard show not to love.

Every actor and theater owner in town was there for the premiere of this one. What a hoot. Yes indeed, such glamour! Such excitement! James, please call the Limo.

"Hey Diddly Dee! It's a Reviewer's Life for Me!"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Five Per Cent of The Old Home Town

Most of you know how The Great Plotnik feels about 95% of his old home town. But there are places he loves, and Venice Beach is one of them. So, how did Dave the Blue manage to move into an apartment on the beach, where all he has to do is place his camera on his balcony railing and take these photos?

Venice Beach, Santa Monica Canyon, The Dodgers, The Lakers, EPark, Watts Towers, The Gamble House, Griffith Park Observatory, Mission San Fernando, Olvera Street, the hobo trails in Elysian Park...that's around 5%, isn't it?