The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ducks and Three Birthdays

The ducks who have decided to breed and teach their ducklings to swim in Schmeckl Plotnik's pool remind Plottie 'way too much of the opening of The Sopranos.

Little Bear's birthday dinner was at Morton's Steak House in Newport Beach's "Six Expensive Restaurants in a Row," as the Dominant Force calls it. Think private wine lockers for Special Patrons, leather booths, power lunches and creamed spinach, steaks and chops, plus impeccable service and very good mojitos. L.B. looked wonderful and received a Big Bauble at the end.

Ducknik went shopping for Mummy P.'s birthday, which is next weekend, and brought her four tops to try on. One made the cut. The big problem is we all forget just how thin she has gotten. She liked the white one. There must be a pun about the Four Tops here somewhere. Help me, someone.

For reasons unknown, Cousin Seattle chose these two colors.

In the Continuing Saga entitled "How Not To Get a Hearing Aid," Mummy P. went to her old g.p., who sent her to an ear doctor for (yet another) hearing test. Lillian took her, after Mummy P. promised that this time she would listen to whatever the doctor might suggest. But when the two women got to the office, the doctor would only consult with Mummy P. and would not allow Lillian into the consulting room. Mummy P., of course, told the doctor she didn't need a hearing aid and didn't want one and had no idea why she was there in the first place and no one has any problems hearing her.

That was fine with him. He billed Medicare for two visits and sent the two home with no information, no results from the testing and certainly no hearing aid, in addition to being a demeaning little twit.

So when Plotnik heard this story he asked Mummy P. about it. "I don't remember any of that," she said, and maybe she does and maybe she doesn't. Plotnik called the doctor and he hemmed and wheedled and then promised to mail the test if anyone needs to see them. Mummy P. can't hear a word anyone says. Now, when she says "I didn't catch that," Plot answers "no shit, Mom."

Plot and Duck are home and packing for Minnesota, where Plot and Duck hope to celebrate her birthday in Glacier National Park, staring up at the meteor shower.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Great Plotnik and Great Ducknik walked in on The Little Bear yesterday, sitting in her living room. Brother S. Plotnik had told her he was going to get something to eat, but instead drove to John Wayne Airport and picked up D and P.

More news later today, including how Mummy P. managed once again to avoid getting a hearing aid. Everybody has given up, though the ol' girl can't hear s__t.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Everybody's A Little Slower...

Everybody is perhaps a bit wider than he used to be, though Laban is still a terror in the middle and Sherlock did hit the winning shot in Game Two? Three?

Bobby still defends with his stomach and Rico hasn't lost too many steps.

Cadillac still has that smile.  And Plotnik still has his headband.

The Dream Team that was assembled for game one, consisting of Cadillac, Plotnik, C.J., Laban and Sherlock appeared to be unstoppable. They were. They couldn't stop anybody. They lost by an unspeakably large margin.

A younger Plottie wouldn't have even noticed the cold and fog of an early Saturday morning, but now -- after you lose your first game and if you miss your next free throw and have to sit out one more game -- that's it for the hip flexors and the knees say Nuh Uh.

He hates playing like an old man, but oh man he still loves to play. Nothing has replaced it. All the guys say the same thing -- even when they don't play at all for months at a time. There's still nothing in the world like it.

And it's really good to hang out with the crew. Laban says late August for the next one, which probably means November. But whenever. Plottie will be there.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Do NOT Mess with the Skinny Leg Jeans!

Plotnik came close to his first fist fight today since the eighth grade. It started when Ducknik spotted the newest bunch of Air BnB renters in the downstairs apartment next door, all from New York, pounding on the gate with a frying pan trying to get it open.

"You won't believe this," she said, not knowing she was waving a red flag in front of this bull.

This has been happening for months. The neighbors travel a lot, and rent out every room in their house when they're gone. Plot and Duck share an entrance with those who rent the downstairs apartment, through a gate with which there has never been any problem, at least when there was one long-term renter living there.

Now, Air BnB rents to any fool who gives them the money and these people come from all over the world. The gate is in constant use, and, apparently, there are parts of the world, such as New York, where if you just push hard enough on a solidly built piece of lumber and iron, you will be successful in opening it, even if you're pushing it the wrong way. It's that positive thinking shit.

You'd think if somebody tried pushing and it didn't seem to work, they would next try pulling. But no. Not the people Air BnB and Plotnik's neighbors rent to.

They had already jammed the gate so hard yesterday that they had to call the neighbors' handy man to get them out. Today that ol' frying pan tore the corner post away from Plotnik's house. He could see the bent nails when he went over to help them get out of the apartment. He couldn't help -- they really screwed it up this time.

He and Duck are friends with their neighbors, and have been since the house was purchased two years ago. They are nice people. But they're never home. They're teaching in Maine right now and before too long they will be in Berlin for a year. What happens then?

Is it really going to come down to lawyers and threats and bad blood? What a shame.

Oh, the fight -- well, there were four women and one man arrayed on one side, and Plotnik on the other. As Plot was trying to get the gate open, Doofus said something like "Just do it. We want to get the hell out of here." It sounded like "Hurry, dipshit! We're wasting valuable time!"

Plot is not going to repeat the next verbal exchanges. He will tell you he strode manfully towards Doofus and, amongst other phrases used, Doofus said "Oh, yeah?" and Plotnik said "Yeah!"

The poor yokel had no way to know that Plotnik had just been to the Levi's store downtown and purchased not 1, not 2, but 3 new pairs of Skinny Leg Jeans. EVERYBODY KNOWS you do NOT mess with someone wearing Skinny Leg Jeans.

The guy finally looked down, recognized the threat posed by Plotnik's comely ankles, and got the message. Plot told him to call the people he rented from to figure out what to do next, but exactly two minutes later the guy was walking through Plottie's yard, with his suitcase, looking for some other house where there might be people home, who he probably figured might have the secret key to unlock The New York Doofus Frying Pan On Gate technique.

So where are we? The gate is screwed. Plot and Duck can fix it in a few hours but don't want to until they absolutely have to. When the wind comes up this afternoon it may tear the gate completely off its hinges. The neighbors are supposed to send somebody.

But, hey. It's gorgeous in Maine.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is See's the Same?

The good news is See's Chocolates has brought back dark-chocolate covered marshmallows. Mummy P. has a birthday coming up and she loves marshmallows practically any way at all, but these had been her favorite until See's discontinued them.

But they're back, and Plottie bought a big box for her today which he will give to her when he sees her.

The bad news is that maybe it's just Plottie's taste buds, but See's doesn't taste the same. It's 'way better than Ghirardelli's and Godiva, for example, but that dark chocolate doesn't jump up and kiss him on the lips like it used to, not like any number of smaller, artisan chocolate makers that are turning up all over the place.

On the other hand, a one pound box of See's costs about the same as two or three truffles from that Snooty-to-the-Max place down at the Embarcadero. So maybe we get what we pay for.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Cutback on Paddy McEye

No posts in the last few days -- Plotnik has a feeling he's been Paddy McEye'ing too much lately. That little screen, or the position you're in when you use it -- well, when your eyes start to hurt it's time to cut back.

Plot and Duck are going to Spain and Portugal in the fall. With a little maneuvering they can fly from SF to Madrid, and Barcelona back to New York on the last of their frequent fliers, and then will only have to get back home on their own dime. After that, though -- well, that nice airline free ride has lasted a long time.

They could skip NY and fly all the way home for free, but -- y'know. A stop for real food will be nice after eating ham and squid for several weeks. And they know a few people in Brooklyn.

It is surprisingly easy to book United frequent fliers these days -- why is that? It used to be you had to go out a year to find a free seat anywhere, but now that they've merged with Continental they are either allowing more seats per plane (very doubtful) or people are just traveling less (more likely). Plotnik had forgotten about his Australian gigs, which accrued miles on Continental, that just sat there in his Continental account until United revitalized them. Thank you very much, dear merger mania.

He's thinking about making these delicious looking empamosas -- a combination of empanadas and samosas -- for the party Saturday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Yesterday, the guy who sells Redheart strawberries at the Farmer's Market wanted to go home, so he sold Plotnik all the berries he had left for $5. Plot weighed them when he got home: 4 pounds, or six quarts.

What do you do with 4 pounds of strawberries if you're not going to make jam? You turn on Paddy McEye.

(Ok, that's just a first try. Still looking for an IPad name.)

By the time the day was done Plot had met a bunch of women's blogs, all who had had the same problem. He steeped a bunch of Strawberry Vodka, made agua fresca de fresa, put a bunch of berries into glass jars in the fridge and made strawberries with balsamic vinegar and mint for dessert.

But he still had two pounds left and Plot is constitutionally unable to waste food so this morning he puréed the rest and we'll just see.

In case you were wondering, the freezer is already filled with frozen whole strawberries and blueberries. And BZ has all the jam.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

B-Ball in Two Weeks

The old guys are getting together again in two weeks. So Plottie, who hasn't played any serious b-ball for well over a year, has started practicing again.

MAN! The ANKLES! There is nothing like running around on concrete to make you remember how careful you've been for the past year not to run or even walk on concrete, ever since your tight left achilles led to a little plantar fasciatis that hurt like hell but now is thankfully gone.

And, the same night of the morning game, Plot and Duck are driving to their friend's vineyard in Napa for a great party with great food and dancing in the barn afterwards. Plot may be doing a lit of sitting instead.

And, the next morning they fly to Stiletto City.

But, hey. What counts here is ol' Plot can still nail that jump shot. What he probably can't do is dribble for more than twenty feet without coughing up the ball. The two important words will be: Pass, Stupid.

TOMORROW: An Announcement!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wally's Gone, One More Round.

Wally Aron is the first Tiaposian to actually be able to test the meaning of the word TIAPOS. From his side he can now tell us if This all really Is A Piece Of Shit or whether or not there is some kind of meaning, some reason for it all, or maybe if there are readers and listeners over there who pore voraciously over our blogs and stories and songs, maybe they even publish them amongst themselves and pass them along to anyone who has a few free hours, or maybe all the hours are free hours and they have some different kind of leisure activity they love to partake in, like sex or bowling.

My bet is that if Wally got to pick a leisure activity it would be tinkering around with old cars, preferably convertibles. I may be wrong. I only knew him for a dozen years or so, and he'd had a really full life before that. But -- you know -- in a writer's group like TIAPOS, you find out a lot about people, things they don't tell other people, things maybe even their mates or kids have never heard. We keep an unspoken pledge to listen, to comment and then to shut up about anything we should shut up about.

But -- we've never had someone abandon us like this. Do we really have to keep quiet now? Because I'm dying to talk about Wally's story about discovering oral sex. OK, I won't.

I'll say this: None of us knew quite what to say while he was reading it, I mean he was probably past 80 by then, but we all looked even more lovingly at his wife Julie after that. And when she died it was clear part of Wally was now someplace else too.

Wally's pledge to us was to love every story he ever heard, every one anyone in the group ever wrote. You could read "My dawg haz fleez" and Wally's comment would be: "That's great. Keep going. You've got a book there."

Criticism? Go someplace else. Ask Doug. Ask Jane. Ask Laura. If you want "You're the best writer since Shakespeare," Wally's your man.

He wrote a lot about his mother, who he called The Spitfire, and his dad and his uncles, who were strong men from the old Jewish neighborhood, which was McAllister Street in San Francisco, and his life growing up here, when SF Seals baseball players worked the docks during the winter, when he went to Galileo High School, when he was the editor of the Daily Californian and when they were just starting to build the Golden Gate Bridge. All so long ago, in another age.

Wally was already in his late 70s when I met him and you could think of a lot of words to describe him but "old" wouldn't be one of them. What a dude. "Tall," "regal," "kind." "Irreverently elegant."

Barb and I are going to a play tonight, Wall-Ass, but I promise we will drink a hefty toast to you before we go. If you need to get through to me for some editing on a story you're working on, try Facebook. They're everywhere.

Your old buddy, Doug

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken Bus

The 49-Mission is San Francisco's chicken bus. Everybody in Latin America knows about chicken buses - the cheap ones that poor people ride, bringing along their shopping bags full of fruit, onions and live chickens. 

On Mission St. the chickens are crutches, walkers, oxygen tanks, wheel chairs, service dogs and hobo dogs. It's only 10am but everyone looks worn out. They work hard to manage themselves up the obstacle of the stairs from Mission Street onto the bus.They plop themselves down, painfully, in the front seats, that are reserved for the elderly and handicapped. Everyone is elderly or handicapped.

One man, gray-bearded, weathered-faced, blank-eyed, dressed in many layers of mismatched shirts and windbreakers, walks down the aisle of the bus behind his ancient black Lab. The man finds a seat and tugs on the dog's leash. She sits down on the floor at his feet. When he exits the bus, only two stops later, he pulls the dog by the chain to get her to stand up so they can get off the bus together. She leaves a puddle of pee on the floor of the bus.

"Dog peed all over your bus," says an older man to the bus driver. "Hnnn," says the bus driver, eyes straight ahead and on the road.

I read how the elderly all want Mitt Romney. Not on the 49-Mission. Voting is not in anyone's thought balloon. Their best aspiration is to get off the bus with the same amount of pieces they came aboard with.

They say that love changes everything. Mission Street needs to fall in love. The place needs a hurricane, some force of nature to wash off the pee, clean up the peeling paint, repair the cracked sidewalks, heal the sick, repackage the random detritus of modern life hanging around the street corners, and either fry that chicken until it's golden brown and tasty, or let it go, turn it loose, let it run free, or, better yet, throw open the doors of the 49-Mission and allow all the other chickens to fly away to someplace better.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What a Spectacular Show

Ya gotta get tickets to see My Fair Lady at San Francisco Playhouse.

SF Theater Blog Review of "My Fair Lady"

I wish I could give it six stars. Well, I guess I could, it's my site, right?

How do you get a 24 year old to play Eliza Dolittle like she's been doing it all her life? Wow.

Meanwhile, the July garden is still looking pretty. You can see that The Great Plotnik did his burro imitation and loaded in many sacks of compost to build a raised garden, in an attempt to grow something where previously only large crocosmia bulbs had colonized. He dug out at least 100 of them but there are still probably that many left, they're just a little bit deeper now.

The Stella D'oro daylilies have been here for weeks and show no signs of disappearing yet, while the Asiatic lilies in front of them seem equally happy.

One thing about the fog we have whenever everyone else is burning up -- it keeps the plants moist and we don't have to water them.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"No More Water"

When Plotnik wrote that song, he wasn't thinking about carpet. This morning, finally, the de-humidifier was unplugged downstairs and hauled away. The carpet area in front of the washing machine and at the entrance to the guest bedroom appears to be dry, though Plot and Duck will have to replace the pad underneath and hire an installer to stretch and re-tack down the old carpet and new pad.

But at least it doesn't seem to be necessary to replace the carpet. Man. Always watch that hose coming out of the washer. Gray water is not your friend.

Tonight, we get to see My Fair Lady. Actually, Plot has never seen the show on stage, only the movie, but Ducknik's parents took her for her 16th birthday to see the original production on Broadway, with Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins and Julie Andrews as Eliza Dolittle. What a delight that must have been.

Poor JJ-aka-PP. She was only three. She didn't get her mind blown by the theater until she was four.

When people ask Plotnik to choose his favorite musical, he always has to name at least three: My Fair Lady, West Side Story and ________, depending on how he's feeling that day. Number three might be Oklahoma, or Carousel, or South Pacific or even Annie, because after all the Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow, but My Fair Lady and West Side Story always go back and forth as Plottie's absolute favorite.

JJ-aka-PP might choose Phantom or Cats or even Les Miserables or any of the more modern Andrew Lloyd Weber shows, but for Plotnik these are in a separate category. There is Great Show with a Dozen Great Songs, and there is Great Show with One Song.

Of course there is also Good Show with No Songs, and Boring Show with Embarrassing Songs, and Childish Show by Disney. But we're not talking about those.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

They'll Call Again in September

The jury duty selection process took a long time but Plotnik got a two month stay of execution so he can accompany his family on the upcoming family reunion in Minnesota. In September he'll have to go through it all again.

The judge seems to be a nice woman who takes her job seriously. And it's true that anyone would rather leave their fate to twelve jurors than to one judge who only could have gotten his or her job by being an insider in the world of political horse trading.

But Plotnik can't help feeling like he's just one of the tokens in a game of Legal Eagle. The litigants lie, the lawyers lie, the witnesses lie, the judge has his or her own favors to repay, and the jurors are left to sort it all out. In the meantime, everyone in the system continues to draw their salary. They have no incentive to change a thing. If you're a lawyer, you win the game if you win the case, period. Justice and honesty have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Plottie doesn't have a suggestion for a better system, but he can't imagine a worse group of people than lawyers to control the destiny of a country's citizens. On the other hand, what happens when everyday people take over? You get the French Revolution.

Dreary boredom or the guillotine? I guess the choice is easy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Two More Converts, Well, One More.

It was impossible to coherce Ralph, a long suffering Padres fan, to put on a Dodger cap, but he agreed to the Laker Net. Meanwhile, his wife Funde had no idea of the lifelong committment involved in the Wearing of the Cap.

Their six year old, Yaz, who is not named for Carl Yastrzemski ('Yaz' is the Turkish word for 'summer'), was even harder to catch. She ran up the stairs instead of putting on the cap and posing for Plottie.

Ralph is still Plot's favorite bass player. 'American Joe' now lacks only one short 16 measure electric guitar solo and it's done!

Done! Done! Bwaaaa haaaa haaaaa haaa! Done!

It's too bad Ralph and Funde live so far away (Izmir, Turkey), but, on the other hand, they're part of the International Travel Family now. And that's the way it should be.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Mime Troupe and Greek Tycoons

The Greek Tycoons were delicious as was the cobbler, and the early part of the day at the Mime Troupe was too. It's a wonderful show this year, with Dick Cheney back. (Well, not the real slimebag but the actor (Ed Holmes) who played Cheney so well for all the years of Bush Two.)

The Greek Tycoons were too big. Plotnik had nightmares. But it might have been thinking about Dick Cheney again.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Marilyn Really Was Magic

Now that HBO has arrived at Great Plotnik World HQ, we never watch it. But STRZ has lots of movies to choose from. Who ever heard of STRZ?

Last night we saw a half hour of Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier in "The Princess and the Showgirl" -- is that the title?

Anyone who saw that recent movie about Marilyn knows the real or close-to-real version of making this movie in the late 1950s. Marilyn Monroe just jumps off the screen, even in a ridiculous film where everyone is using fake accents so bad you have no idea where they're supposed to be from.

The truth is she was a great, natural comedienne, forget all the glamor stuff. What a pity.

Think how we've changed in fifty years. You couldn't make a movie like this now. It'd either be Borat or Judy Dench. Satire is required to smash you over the head now.

Of course, without Marilyn Monroe this movie would be unwatchable. It still is, really, and yet...there she is.

Friday, July 06, 2012

What a Shot

First off, look at all that hair. Not quite 25, wearing the white suit his bride had made for him, playing his Martin 12 sting guitar that was the not-nearly-as-good replacement for his beautiful Gibson that had been stolen the previous year in Nashville. His feet rest on one of those giant old trees in Central Park while his friend and best man Jamie Parslow empties his camera with this shot then pauses to load in another load of film. Remember film? Jamie always used slow Kodacolor.

The woman who would become The Great Ducknik is just out of camera range, wearing her glorious wedding dress that she had also made. This was a few days before the wedding in Ducknik's back yard on Long Island.

The hair stayed dark until The Great BZWZ became a teenager, more or less.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

God Bless Costco, Hypothetically

Always, when you do a DIY cleaning the lint out of the dryer and the dryer vent, which involves taking it apart and then putting it back together again, and since you're back there anyway why not vacuum the whole area, which involves tipping the washer forward to vacuum behind it, and look, these old bricks haven't been cleaned off for a long time, let's get them too, just move that hose, there!, now everything's clean, so let's put it all back together again, tip the washer back down, re-attach the dryer vent, climb out, turn it on, everything works great!, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, always, I repeat always: remember to put the washer hose back into the washer drain.

Or else, when your wife goes "Oh My God!" you'd better have a lot of towels and, if you're lucky, one of those 36-packs of sponges from Costco.

God Bless Costco. Of course, we're talking hypothetical here. Nothing this dumb could ever happen at Great Plotnik World Headquarters. But you all know that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Raspberries on the Fourth

The purple Heritage raspberries are still out there on the Fourth of July. The rest of the country is baking (105 in Atlanta?) but not here. Plot and Duck are even thinking of going downtown tonight to see the fireworks under the Bay Bridge. What's everybody else doing?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Level P: The Battle of Boom Gardens

Plotnik used to love Baron Davis, when he played for UCLA, and then for just about all the NBA teams. He had a few good years with the Warriors and a few good minutes with the Knicks.

Then he got kind of silly. But now he has taken silliness to Level P(lotnik). Baron has redeemed himself in Plotnik's eyes. Baron Davis is THE MAN!

Watch this: Baron is my Hero again

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Duck Strikes Again

Raspberries, blueberries and apricots from Alemany turn into Really Good Stuff.

We hear it's broiling in the southeast, but not here. Misty the whole weekend, just the kind of weather we sick Saint Plotnikians call "Summer." Good for going to the Farmer's Market and making cobbler. 

You bring it to hot Marin to have dinner with your friends, and you sip a bunch of wines before the cobbler, and then Ms. Zinfandini makes espresso in her new $10 Goodwill Espresso Machine.

Are we effete, or what?