The Great Plotnik

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Speedy Romeo? Yes, Speedy Romeo

What IS it about Brooklyn Pizza? As each neighborhood gentrifies along every subway line (at a rate that is both frightening and astonishing), someone opens up a pizza parlor in a corner building that used to be a crack house or sell auto parts. Next thing you know, the place is packed with hipsters and the place is turning out fabulous pizza. When The Great PD and The Great 5H find one of these, they save it for Plotnik. Last night we got to Speedy Romeo's on Classon Avenue on the corner where Clinton Hill turns into Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The pizza was delicious. Really delicious. Plus, Patsy is in town so everybody got to try on her trick glasses.

The conversion to Dodger fan is going more slowly than Plotnik would like, but progress is progress. Big hair may be an impediment.

Guess who ordered a steak at a pizza parlor?

As for Speedy Romeo, we'd say it's a cut above Saraghina's, a lot less trendy-poo than Roberta's or Grimaldi's and possibly even better than Giuseppina's. (* Further research is needed to test this possibility. *)

Until they get a picture of the pope on the cash register it will not be able to touch Di Fara, but you don't have to line up for an hour on the street before the place opens and you can sit down in a comfortable chair. The smoked mozzarella, wild mushroom and egg pizza is seriously delicious; plus they have really good draft beers and the desserts are 'way better than the usual Layered Sugar trucked in from Eddie's in Hackensack.

At two or three trips per year, Plot estimates these newly trendy neighborhoods will all have decayed back to crack houses before he and Duck can try them all. Right now, if you're looking for real estate, Plotnik suggests looking for crowds inside the local pizza parlor, with a few confused old-timers standing around outside wondering why everyone is crowding into the auto parts store.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


If you're English and you say Brighton, you mean a resort in the Southwest. If you're from NYC you mean Brighton Beach, known as Little Odessa. Nothing but Russians - old Russians, young Russians, Russian mafia, Russian mamas, papas, grandpas and grandmas. Russian stores under the B-Train overpass, and one block away: the beautiful beach.

You sit at a table, order Chicken Pozharsky and Polish Beer, and sit and watch the waves, the barges, the people on the beach, the sand, the old boardwalk, the boat house.

The people.

It's only 25 minutes from Clinton Hill and a completely different world. Plot and Duck are asking themselves why in the world they'd never come down here before?

Then, last night, The Great PD and The Great FiveHead got home from Curacao. Guess who got herself a new dress?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Speed City

The guy is pedaling an old one-speed very slowly down the sidewalk on Waverly Avenue. He's  holding a heavy bag of groceries across the handlebars with his right hand, which he is also using to steer and hand-brake. In his left hand he carries aloft a large bag from the dry cleaners which looks maybe six slacks-and-shirts thick, while across the other side of his handlebars is another bag, contents unknown, but heavy -- it swings uneasily each time he stops for a light, or a bunch of approaching teenagers on the sidewalk, or an elderly woman in a walker, or a pothole with a construction barrier around it.

The dude is going to crash, it's just a matter of time.

Metaphor for New York? Maybe, but maybe the better point is that he's not going to crash, he's going to make it home, after all, despite a particularly difficult and complicated trip to the grocery and dry cleaner.

Did you hear me? A difficult and complicated trip to the grocery store and dry cleaner. Nothing is easy around here.

For one thing, it's very hot. You don't sleep when it's that hot, you just roll and roll, squirm and toss, get up, lie down, shake your head, think about that fog and wind you're always complaining about and how good it sounds.

On the other hand, NO sinus problems. No stuffed ears, no exhausting sneeze attacks.

Just sore feet.

At noon, straight up, the sun blasts on everyone's head, obliterating all shade. Concrete, stone, asphalt. The bus takes forever to come. And no one complains. Just the opposite. The owner of a closed pet shop sees little Isabella, sweat pouring off her face as she holds Bobo's hand, and opens the door of the pet shop so Belly can play with Midnight, the store cat, inside where it's cool, until the bus comes.

Plotnik used the car the other day -- mistake. When he got home, and found a Mush-spot to park in right across the street, the others got out first. Plot parked, then opened his door to exit and stepped in a pool of melted tar. They'd fixed the road -- who knows how long ago - but the heat had melted the asphalt patch. Sandals, did he mention that?

Don't let "Pianos" fool you. Look closer. It's a restaurant. This is what the Apple calls "recycling."

Ducknik just got back upstairs from doing the laundry downstairs. Plotnik had bought a new large bottle of the fancy-shmancy organic detergent which appears to be in favor around here. But he bought it at the Associated Market down the street.

The anise - anus -- remember?

Duck is seething -- there was a giant hole in the pour cup of the detergent bottle and they'd just covered it up with a perfectly disguised piece of tape. So when she went to pour the soap into the cup, it leaked all over the downstairs laundry room, and the bags, and the floor.

So Plot can go back, angry as hell, to get his money back. What will they do? Shrug.

See previous entry waxing poetic about this marvelous city. Scratch it out. No, don't. Just, you know, like -- shee mon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

She's Still the Prettiest

True, the World Trades were taller, but nothing was ever prettier than the Empire State.

These grand old girls on Washington Avenue, around the corner from the Brooklyn K's, are mighty fine too.

 Isabella still thinks Papa's jokes are the best.

Riding the R (air conditioned) and the N (air conditioned) on Memorial Day was a lot cooler than the heat on the streets above ground.

After lunch of blintzes at Veselka's Papa and Bobo had to show Belly Bone their old neighborhood and the house where they lived. That Wiz Kid Management is our old front room window.

The neighborhood doesn't look so hot these days.

Have you ever heard of a worse idea than astroturf basketball?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Belly and Marley

What a beautiful day. We took a 10 minute ferry ride (after a 45 minute wait to get into the Quik Park), with Belly's friend Marley and her family,  to Governor's Island on the opening day of the Brooklyn Ferry. It's a surprisingly beautiful place, once a colonial navy base, then a Coast Guard base, and now full of open spaces and open to the public. 

In a large open field the New York Gothams baseball club came out to play a team from Elizabeth, New Jersey. They use rules from 1864 -- no gloves, balls that you catch on one bounce are outs, and the pitcher pitches underhand. And yet, with all this -- look in the background and you see the rising new World Trade Center with its glass skin two-thirds in place.

And then, from the blanket next to Plot and Duck, Belly and Marley's family, came a voice that said: 
"Isn't that Isabella?" 

Indeed it was -- The Great PD's old old friend Eli, who Plot and Duck hadn't seen since he was a teenager. He and The Great PD have connected again so they know each other's kids. Eli was a great kid and he's a great young man now. He's the piano player in the Saturday Night Live band so he and his family are living the good New York life.

Then last night Plot, Duck and B-Bone walked through a thunderstorm the few blocks to Lulu and Po, which is the brand new restaurant run by Matt, Po and their daughter Lucy. It's Matt's dream to have his own place, and now he has it. Food's delicious, prices are right. During dinner, Isabella and Lucy played out on the street and in the fire station next door. The weather could not have been more beautiful -- that rare sweetness you get right after a huge storm.

You can't escape it. You just can't. Life is better here. Not more comfortable, not more sensible, and certainly not forever, and definitely not for everyone. But Plot thinks everyone should live in New York at least once in their lives. If you don't, you miss something you can't get anywhere else.

Friday, May 25, 2012

And Now it Begins

And now it begins. Belly was sad this morning as her dad took her to school (Papa and Bobo were requested to stay home). When PD got back, he checked their flight info to discover their plane to Miami is delayed enough that they will possibly miss their connection to Curacao. So they just hopped into a car service to get to La Guardia and start the harangue to get them on another plane.

Plotnik thinks they will hold the second plane in Miami, since there's only one a day to Curacao. He's thinking 50/50.

This afternoon Plottie and Ducknik will pick Isabella up at her school and then decide what to do next.

Her friend Luci's dad's new Brooklyn restaurant will be opening this weekend. Maybe we'll go there?

Maybe we'll go into Manhattan and have a hot pastrami at Cousin Josh's deli? Or blintzes in the East Village?

Maybe we'll go to the Bronx Zoo?

Maybe we'll go the Statue of Liberty?

The Brooklyn Museum?

The playground in Union Square or the playground across the street?

Maybe there will be a few tears, but not too many.

Plot is ready with his story about how his mom left him and his brother with her parents when she sailed on the Lurline to Hawaii. Plottie remembers getting to go aboard the ship but having to get off when a bell rang. Then he watched the huge ocean liner sail slowly away from San Pedro and out to sea, and he felt sad, but then he doesn't remember a thing until she got back a month later. So there is precedent here.

Maybe Belly will buy it. Or maybe she'll believe Plot and Duck when they say they're sad too that they don't get to see their kids, but they're lucky because they get to spend time with her. Doesn't she think so too? Of course she does.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brooklyn in the Rain

The Great Papa and Bobo timed it perfectly this morning -- walked Isabella to school and sat in the auditorium with The Great FiveHead as the kids all sang "This Land is Your Land" and "The Ballad of Martin Luther King," accompanied by a young teacher with a beard and a guitar. Then P and D walked down Myrtle Avenue to Bergen Bagel, sat and ate their toasted pumpernickel bagel with scallion cream cheese, drank their New York Coffee Light which is light on the coffee but heavy on the attitude, then walked down Hall, Lafayette and Willoughby to the dry cleaner to pick up a zipper so Ducknik can repair a dress for 5H who needs it for their trip to Curacao which begins tomorrow, and then they walked home, and THEN the skies opened up, thunder and lightning began, and the playground down below turned into a small temporary pond.

It usually works the other way around. In NYC you tend to start out composed but end up frazzled. But so far, we're high (fourth floor) and dry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Greenville to Brooklyn

Counselor Joe's grand-dog Wylie, who actually belongs to D.C. Niecie, stopped sniffing for squirrels long enough to pose with him and his sister The Great Ducknik. Plot and Duck spent a wonderful three days in a pretty little corner of South Carolina with Counselor Joe and his Dodger fan wife, The Great Pat-Nik. They couldn't be more gracious people.

True, she prefers the Atlanta Braves, and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks even more, but put a Dodger cap on the girl and she blends right in.

 Five pounds of shrimp feeds four hungry people. But nobody used the barbecue sauces seen below.

Now it is true that politics in the Carolinas comes in a different color than back home in Shmalifornia.

True, Plotnik believes those numbers you see are just a telephone number and a wrong one at that.

But he also thinks that family, which is the most important thing there is, trumps politics, which in the end is just about shuffling the deck every four years to deal out the same old cards.

At this moment Plot and Duck have made it up to Brooklyn, New Yawk, and it's wonderful to be here. Everyone is a sight for sore eyes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Photos from Sally and Barry's Farm

Our last full day in Atlanta we spent at Barry and Sally's farm, which is half an hour east of JJ-aka-PP's house in Eastlake.

They've got chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and three llamas. Sally raises Egyptian Salukis and Azawaks (dogs) and occasionally gets paid to transport them back to Egypt, plus she works full time with JJ-aka-PP at Georgia Perimieter College. Things are tight at the college these days so it's good to have the farm to get away to.

Plot and Duck lived on their own farm, lo these decades ago, but never got into it as deeply as Barry and Sally. These days it looks like a practically endless grind of being subservient to the feeding, watering, health, welfare and eventual dispatching and selling of animals. But it's a choice, and they're lucky to have a beautiful spot to live on which is only a short drive from a huge city.

Shmalifornians look at rock-bottom real estate prices in the South and have to put their hands on top of their heads to keep their brains from exploding.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Baseball is Supposed to Feel Like

There is nothing more fun than minor league baseball. Yesterday, Kheury de la Cruz of the Greenville Drive drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th Inning. 

He drove in Jose Garcia, Number Three.

You baseballeros will have already realized, by the Green Monster left field wall above, that the Greenville Drive is a class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. So all the concession stands in the park are named for great Red Sox players, like this one below: "The Splendid Splinter," that was the nickname for the great Ted Williams.

Beer's cheap. And not watered down. Keep your sushi, Pac Bell Park. And we all sat it the First Row.

Plus, you get to take a trolley to the game from the parking lot downtown.

We're talking Class A here -- this means the lowest grade of the minor leagues, where players just signed from around the world all start their careers. The big difference between them and older and better ones is that these guys really can't catch the ball. Past balls, wild pitches, errors, bobbles, dropped throws, botched run-downs, coaches tearing their hair out -- gotta love it, don't ya?