The Great Plotnik

Monday, December 31, 2012

Never Let a Six Year Old Near the Software

But do let her near the guitar.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Great Christmas

Standing at the edge of the world of NY3Ks, with Big Sister still just Belly the Bone and The Great FiveHead looking like she's got a Six or even Seven Head waiting for his/her grand entrance, Christmas this year was just about perfect. Isabella got lots of presents, including Noelle, the Christmas Kitty, who then kept everyone up all night ("will someone PLEASE get this cat off my face!!" screamed Isabella at 2am on Night One) until PD learned how to barricade all their doors.

The older you get the truer it gets that giving the perfect present is better than getting it. It's also lots better to have traveled during the year, so you can bring back presents from Barcelona, Sevilla, Cรณrdoba, Ronda, Granada, Lisboa, Jogjakarta, Honolulu. The Spanish boots of Spanish leather Plot had promised BZ actually fit her perfectly, and you should see the Indonesian batiks she brought home.

After dinner on Christmas Eve BZ and Plot sang "Big Sister" for everyone. Belly was entranced, and has been humming the song for days. We all have, actually. We sang it a few more times, and Plottie will mix in the new vocal snippet BZ recorded in Providence, plus the new vocal background part he now has to record himself, since every time you change one word it affects every other word down the line, and then he'll send out copies to everyone.

Yesterday, The Great PD recorded a new guitar solo on "American Joe," and The Great 5Head put down several bkg vocal parts on "Mandela." Maybe the best hour was Belly and PD singing and recording their new song about the kitten. Can Plot get a better Christmas present than this?

Yes, this one: last night, walking on the snowy sidewalk, Plot overheard Isabella singing "Big Sister" to herself.

With good fortune, the group gets bigger early next year. Alevai, Inshalah.

What will Plottie do when Plus is born? Will he fly back to NYC for a day or two? Will The Great BZWZ serve as a stand-in? Either way, Plot and Duck are on the calendar for several weeks in Brooklyn in February.

Last night's pizza at Giussepina's in South Slope was very good, but it is clear that a great, great pizza is an ephemeral thing. Not every pie from the same place can be perfect every time. The problem is pizza is dough and cheese and tomato sauce, plus toppings. Differences are subtle, and the second and third time you go to the same parlor and order the same pizza you might think some indefinable love is missing.

The guy wearing a hockey shirt, at the bar across the street, where you drink Sam Adams on tap and wait until there's a table available at Giussepina's, said we had to order his favorite pie: pepperoni, shallots and hot peppers. We did. But the plain old Margherita was even better, and the calzone was divine.

On the airplane the next day, it's even better.

Now we head for Stiletto City, where no one seems to remember that we told them we'd be there for New Year's Eve and the Chief's birthday the next day. "Oh, you're coming here?" Mummy P. said on the phone, like we were coming to install a furnace filter. "What time?"

That's because she forgets, but also because we don't dare make too much of an impending visit. She gets crazy, and drives Gloria and Lillian insane with constant worry. Last New Year's we found her on the front lawn, close to midnight, worrying we wouldn't be able to find the house, or that we would be late, or early, or any of the hundreds of disaster scenarios Mummy P.'s nervous brain can conjure. So we tell her, but we don't tell her in detail. So she forgets. It makes sense.

Isabella asked "Why are you leaving?"

"I'm going to see my mommy," I said, trying not to convey two conflicting emotions: one, that I will have to use my Emotional Crowbar to tear myself away; and two, that I understand it is time for the grandparents to pack up and ship out.

We did the Kitty Dance one last time, which is a lot like the Elevator Dance, and the Happy Kitchen Dance, but nothing like the Daddy and His Little Girl dance, which only PD and Belly can do, and there's nothing, trust me, nothing quite like it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Casey. Coffee. Cats

It's probably not colder in Manhattan than in Brooklyn but it feels that way because of the wind. All those east-west corridors of tall buildings on both sides of narrow streets means the wind blows off both rivers and chills you to the bone when you cross the street.

Not so in Brooklyn, which is far bigger than Manhattan and has few tall buildings and fewer man-made wind tunnels. Last night Duck turned up Plottie's collar as they walked up windy Washington Street in Clinton Hill, and he was grateful for an original Easterner's knowledge and aid. Cold weather still stumps him, especially when the wind picks up and the puddles on the street freeze. But so far Providence felt colder than New York, and in a few days it's bsck home to the Shamlifornia Sun.

Thanks to the Great Dance-Nik for allowing Plot and Duck to crash with her for two nights in her lovely co-op. Plot met Casey, her supervisor, the other morning, Casey has the worst job in New York. He can't really fix anything because the management company he works for doesn't want him to spend any money, but the people who live in the building, and who hire the management company, all want work done on their own apartments, just not anybody else's. Casey is like Boner, the House Majority Leader, who everybody wants to scream at but nobody wants to listen to.

In Dance-nik's building if it's comfortable on the top floor it's cold on the bottom floor. If it's comfortable on the bottom floor it's too hot on the top floor. When anyone on the top or bottom floor gets too hot or too cold, they call Casey. The best Casey can do is promise a vague future conversation with the management company, or perhaps a bouquet of roses and dinner at Hop Sing's on Myrtle Avenue.

Hey, it's New York. You get the Sublime and the Ludicrous. The Great PunkyDunky has an idea for a new Brooklyn Coffee Shop, called One Bean at a Time. They hand-pick organic coffee berries from inside the mylar all-weather tent protecting the coffee trees growing alongside the BQE. The barrista crushes each bean, one at a time, in a mortar and pestle, and then pours boiling water from a river of your choice (Ganges, Zambezi, Nile) over it. It takes 28 minutes to brew each cup and costs $28.

Isabella is getting wonderfuller and wonderfuller. Tonight The Great FiveHead said to Plottie: "You're going to love this next one just as much, right?" The answer is No, until Plus One is Born, and then Yes. It is one of those places where math lies. One plus one equals infinity.

5H is starting to feel things starting to happen down there. She is as big as a house, a lovely, magnificent house with a view of the ocean. Plot is starting to think earlier rather than later. Meanwhile Noelle, the Christmas kitty, has discovered she can rest her lower paws on 5H"s belly, then fall asleep with her front paws resting on 5H's neck. Plot is sure kittens have learned to practice mind control on humans. "You love me," the kitten thinks, and the human thinks "I love you, kitty." "You will now scratch me," thinks the kitten, and the human thinks "I'd better scratch the kitten."

We're big, but they're smart.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's The Day Before Christmas

It's the day before Christmas
And all through the house
BZ's cat Iggy
Is scared of a mouse
He came from a dumpster
His life's not been easy
He's frightened of everyone
Except maybe Beezie
He won't let you touch him
He's not into lapping
He runs when he's startled
Even when crapping
But he likes to play
With his bell and his feather
And he likes his pillow
When we're all together
Now Ma in her kerchief
And Pa in his scarf
And watch cap and parka
Like an oversized dwarf
Have covered their bodies
With woolens and fleeces
And mufflers and mittens
On this day before Jesus
Was born in a manger
Back in the day
And if he had a kitten
No one can say
But I say to sweet Iggy
Just trust in the Beezer.
Her lap is the warmest
You can't help but please her.
Great love, if it's worthy
Sometimes takes years.
Merry Christmas to All
And a scratch on the ears.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Xmas 2012: The Themomatuh Plummerted

Between the time I walked into the macket faw the third time today, this time to buy the pecans for the bourbon balls, and the time I walked out the bottle staw next daw, where you have to go to buy bee-ah in Rhode Island, the tempratcha dropped another ten degrees. Also, the wind picked up. It was cold this morning at the fahmuz macket, heavy on root vegetables and local chowduh, but it wawmed up encouragingly while we were in Seven Stars Bakery, wolfing down cherry/pistachio biscottis and almond croissants. Then, afta we dropped BZ at huh lab faw a few howuhz, the themomatuh plummerted. Cold, cold!

And den there were no pecans at BZ's house. TGD cannot make Kentucky bourbon balls without pecans, but with only one headlight functionin propahly until she goes back into the shop in January, guess who had to drive to get them?

True, dey had wine tastin ovuh at da bottle shop, so perhaps there was a bit of dawdlin involved. The guy pourin the wine was trying hard to be cosmopolertan, but dat RI accent just does you in every time.

"Dese wines takes a lotter labuh. You can't fit no machines in dah-buh."

You've got to love Providese. If a word has an r, you drop it, like in 'arbor.' Ah-buh, and the 'ah' is the 'a' sound in 'bat.' If a word has one r but two syllables, you put the r where it shouldn't be and take it away where it should, like in 'water' -- "war-da."

Anyway, by the time I walked out of the bottle staw it was bittuh. Cold as a witch's tit.

Why did I say that? My friend Minko used to say 'cold as a witch's tit' all the time when we were teenagers, living in Encino, where 'cold' meant the low 70s.

So how cold IS a witch's tit? If she is in Providence every part of her is as cold as my miserable ears are right now.

I've become my brother. He used to come to New York, when we lived there, and he'd stand on the corner hugging his jacket against himself, face red and nose running, crying out "How can you two stand living here?"

We laughed. Now, 35 years of depleted warm blood cells later, I get it. Ho farking ho.The wind hurts. If I hadn't survived once, for seven years, in the cold cold East, and actually come to enjoy parts of it, like October and April, I'd wonder why anybody stays out here at all.

And forget Providence, how about Chicago? St. Paul?

All this after the last ten years of Global Slow Incineration in Stiletto City, trying to survive 48 hours in a house where it is 120 degrees in the den, they can sun-dry raisins on the living room carpet and the local inhabitant can't stop asking "Are you cold, Honey? Why don't you put on a jacket? Shall we turn up the heat? Do you need an extra blanket?"

Right now: sounds good.

If we get some clouds ternight, it might snow. Wowzuh.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cold, Rainy, Snow on the Way

Cold, horizontal rain, streets flooded, water pouring out of overtaxed storm sewers, one minute, then sunny the next: Welcome to Providence.

But we missed the disaster in Chicago where the airport shut down, stranding people who didn't get off the plane we were supposed to be on. Good old Las Vegas, hot, dry and no blizzard-Las Vegas.

Being a grad student seems to be a little like being President. You spend a few years figuring out what you would like to accomplish, then the rest of the time you look for your next job.

Cold, eastern Decembers make us want eastern food. Last night Plottie made Carbonnade Flamande, which is basically beef stew cooked in beer. There was coffee left over from breakfast so that went into the pot too. Carrots, small onions, and, to balance out the geographical essence, a California salad of tangerines, pomegranate seeds, walnuts and butter lettuce, with a dressing of white balsamic vinegar, tangerine juice and zest, and olive oil.

Some people can wrap presents and some people can't.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas 2012: The End of The World

It is December 20 and the world is ending tomorrow. The Yellow Cab driver has PBS on the radio as we slide down the freeway towards SFO. Their science editor says he has been inundated with calls, tweets and emails from people actually concerned that the Mayan calendar might have gotten things right. He can't believe so many people are taking it seriously.

Why is this so? The commentator has lots of spurious reasons, people feel powerless to change the world as it is, people want to punish themselves, some people will believe anything, dumb people should not have babies, all of it. They are all missing the point.

Here's the reason.

Many years ago I was stuck in a long line at the West L.A. Federal Building. 100 people were on line to get a passport. Directly in front of me were a middle aged woman and her teen-aged daughter. They were Born-Agains. The mom kept talking about the upcoming End of Days, when only The Elect would be chosen to ascend into the Kingdom of Heaven.

By 'elect,' she meant people who went to her church and believed exactly as she did.

"But what will happen to everybody else?" her daughter asked.

"Well, Honey," the mom chortled, "their flesh will burn in Hell for eternity and their misery and suffering will never cease."

She laughed, then smiled with enormous joy. She had no idea how bizarre it was to cheer for the destruction of the universe. "They all had their chance," she huffed, putting a period on the discussion.

Then she turned around in line and happened to stare me right in the face. Her expression said: "Well?"

I shook my head and, with no sound issuing from my doomed heathen lips, mouthed these words: "Go. Fxxk. Yourself."

This is the sentiment of what I think is happening this year, as the world once again doesn't end, despite the ecstatic exhortations of a few live people and maybe half a dozen dead Mayas. People have become more egocentric than ever before. They think that they, not the sun (and not anyone else either) are at the epicenter of the universe's great plan and that they are entitled. They want the apocalypse to come now, on their watch. They figure they will be among The Elect, and if not, what the hell, we all have to die sometime, so why not now, while I can watch it?

If I can't last forever, nobody else should either. Or Goxj. Fxxkgzl. Xyoursgblves. In Maya.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bless You Mr. West

Bless Southwest for once. They texted to notify us about blizzard connections in Chicago, in time to switch flights to go through Vegas instead. Nice.

Now that our flight connections and reservations for the next few months are all made, I suppose it's time (turn head, spit to ward off Evil Eye) for crap to start disrupting the neat schedule. Or maybe it will just be this one little blizzard in Chicago.


We can either protect our clothes by carrying that  suitcase on the plane, or protect the Christmas presents by carrying that one on instead. Clothes will lose. Nice stuff from Spain shouldn't be running wild in some lost luggage locker.

Hmmm. Change planes at McCarran Airport: SLOT MACHINES! It's been more than twenty years since Plotnik won a big jackpot of quarters there and then zeroed in/spaced out so completely that he missed his connection to L.A. by two and a half hours.

When he finally rejoined the real world he walked to the counter to ask the woman if his plane had arrived yet, and she said Sir, it left a long time ago and another one came in after it and that one took off already too. Where have you been?

Well, Plotnik said, and pointed to the row after row of slot machines. He got a big Tsk Tsk. But he got home with a thick wool sock filled with quarters.

Our old friend and Bron's longtime buddy See-Mo-Nay is here and will house sit while we're gone. Plot is already thinking ahead, to pizza. But he's also considering that Italian place in Massepequa Park on Long Island, a feature of which appeared recently on the Glutton Channel: a 7 1/2 POUND plate of rigatoni, sausage and meatballs.

I mean, come awn! Whatchoo talkin bout! Thass half a bowlin ball a soo-ausages!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rockin' After Hours with The Loosies

The Loosies are an a capella female vocal group who was singing carols on 24th Street last night. It was cold out and hard to keep from squirming, let alone listening too carefully. So Plottie was not displeased when they announced they were taking a break. We did too, and went with friends Bev-Mo and Jim Zim to get something to eat at Savour, inside where it was nice and warm.

We didn't pay much attention when we sat down next to a table reserved for 13.

But when we were just getting our food the Loosies, all 13 of them, walked in and sat down at their table, gig over, hungry. As we were leaving, we thanked them for singing on the street, and they were so grateful to actually hear that they had been appreciated that the leader said, "Why, thank you! One, two, three, four..." and they broke into the coolest 'Here Comes Santa' medley of songs, complete with rapping on glassware and all kinds of subtle vocal inflections we never could have heard outside.

Soon, the cooks and waitresses were peeping out of their cubbyholes and sneaking around the corner to listen. Before long, the Loosies had everyone snapping their fingers and singing along. A certain person with a questionable basso voice nonetheless tossed in some vocal bass lines.

The restaurant then gave us all a free dinner.

OK, that last part is a lie. But what a treat, anyway.

Monday, December 17, 2012

God Gets Even

The streets of Saint Francis are warmer than those back East, but it's still rainy and blustery on Powell Street. Between the St. Francis Hotel and the cable car turnaround homeless people abound. One old guy looks dazed, holding a Street Sheet upside down alongside his empty styrofoam cup, another is in a wheel chair wearing a Santa Claus jacket, the next hurls his arm forward to stick his DONATIONS cup in anyone's face who passes, the next is nicely dressed but drooling. Nobody is making any money this morning. Even the Powell-Mason cable car clanks up the hill half-empty. It's too cold for tourist generosity.

In Dr. U-Flossem's office the Christmas music is unbearably loud. All the dentists in this office are Israelis but the receptionists are Latinas. Latinas and Christmas trump Israelis. It's December 17 and I must announce I officially hate all Christmas music except for a few of my own tunes, none of which I have heard even once on Muzac this season, but on the other hand I have also managed to keep out of stores where they play Muzac.

The Connecticut massacre has fucked up Christmas 2012. This skinny Lanza kid with the bad Beatle haircut is an unlikely Osama Bin Laden. But he has scared the bedtime story out of every parent. We count our stockings, hanging on the chimney, then we count them again.

This one is surreally bad. Ministers, priests and rabbis in that little town offer up homilies of faith and understanding. But their hearts aren't in it.

Why does no one just say "We don't get it! God must have had his back turned!"

Because if we say that, then we have to answer: "If we can't trust this blind and deaf old fart anymore, who can we trust?"

The answer is we trust who we always trust: our own better natures. We stop at red lights. We pay the Muni driver when we get on. We respect our teachers and we trust our schools. We work. We come home. We might not be ecstatically happy, because there is only so much happy to go around, but  99.9999999% of us buy into the system that sustains multiple humans in crowded environments.

More and more, we recognize that the statistically too-small-to-count contingent of lonely, alienated and angry suburban boys are nonetheless well armed these days. Their rights to kill us all are protected by another, larger bunch of fat old suburban men terrified their penises are too small. Weaponry makes them feel like paleolithic providers of fresh meat for the village. They go deer hunting in huge SUVs with halogen lights to blind the deer so they can run over them.

If God wants to make up for his monumental fuck-up in Connecticut, He could arm the deer.

Or, He could dust off one of his old plagues and visit it upon the NRA. We wouldn't call it even, but at least He could feel useful for one more Chistmas, and let us get on with our lives armed with a sense of delayed gratification, or even justice.

While He was at it, He could drop a few bills in these poor homeless guys' styrofoam cups. But, of course, I could do that too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The shootings yesterday were on people's minds this morning at Treasure Island. The tough, tattooed kids with the gold teeth, along with us older, more traditional-looking dudes, all of us just kept shaking our heads the way all of you are shaking yours.

Basketball is a leveler. The young guys and the older gents, that's who comes to the T.I. gym on Saturdays. The kids live on the island, a lot of them are in the jobs program sponsored by the government, and the rest of us drive in. Plot's the only one from Saint Plotniko, everyone else has moved to the East Bay. And no matter how fast a young kid is, no matter how much better he thinks he is than you, if you play in the game you are on the team. The respect team.

And a shooting like yesterday upsets everyone's apple cart. You've got to explain it to your kids. How do you do that? These murderers are always young white men. That fact is not lost on young black men, themselves usually blamed for most of society's ills.

Nobody gets it. Like Orlando said, "I can see getting mad and shooting somebody, if that's what you've got to do. Then you can kill yourself and it's done. But shooting your mother? Then getting in the car, going into an elementary school? Five year old kids? Nahhhhh. Nah. Nuh uh."

We run and run, no one argues, no one calls fouls, no one complains. One game glissandos into the next. Everyone smiles. It's not anything like playing at the HLFJCC.

Plotnik can't help thinking: Did this young lunatic ever get to play basketball with his buddies? Did he have a game like this to look forward to every week, so next Saturday could be a brand new day, and last Saturday just a prelude to the one that's coming up?

The Great Plotnik is grateful beyond words that he still gets to do the thing he loves best. If there were one prayer in his heart, he would offer this feeling of being part of a team to the lost, tortured and troubled souls on our big, blue, and often impersonal planet.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fewer Chestnuts Roasting

It's TIAPOS Christmas Party time tonight at Great Plotnik World Headquarters. Sadly, Chef Pickle is working and Sparker is living in a survivalist cabin somewhere up in Lake Tahoe, but the rest of us will be here.

Plot baked some Caribbean ribs last night to be glazed at the last minute. The Duck, feeling better now from the adjustment of her left front headlight, will take care of dessert. We'll all read stories and drink a little too much wine and that's the way it's supposed to be.

This year is the first year since Plot and Duck have been part of the Snowy Valley Voice crowd that the paper is not holding their own holiday party. Times are apparently harder than they look in the local publishing industry. The December issue is thick with ads. But then comes January.

Plot remembers this syndrome well. Musicians love hard-working December. But cold, jobless January always follows. In December, musicians are like squirrels. They take every job and bury the checks in the bank to be eaten in January and February.

Plot's buddies who are still hanging on trying to scrounge live gigs tell him things are far worse now than they used to be. Plot complained and complained about the misery of The Queen Mary at Christmas or (OhMyGod) The Trailer Park in Carson for New Years, but they all paid very well. Now, live jobs are fewer and fewer and they pay half as much.

Musicians and bands have been losing ground to DJs for years, but last night Plottie was talking to his nephew Nefnik, the drummer. Nefnik and his brother Dominant Force are planning a party for their parents' upcoming Big Anniversary with the 0 on the end.

Plot asked Nefnik what they would do for music?

"Oh, we'll just use an IPOD and a playlist. It's easier," said Nefnik, the drummer, to Plotnik, the piano player.

He's right. It is easier and a lot cheaper.

So it's over.

They don't have Christmas parties in China.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beezie, Grammy Pants and Endeavor

Monday, December 10, 2012

First Candle

First Candle

One Tower

$7 tea at Slanted Door

Four Lit Up on the Embarcadero

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Just like the Good Old Days

 The Great MandyBandy was The Great BZWZ's best friend through most of their childhood. Now she's 30 and she's got little Dorothy.

Mandy is in town with her significant other Chris, who is a guitar player, may the ghost of Jimi Hendrix smile upon them. Today they are at Great Plotnik World Headquarters hanging out with the Beez, like in the good old days.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Swag On The Door

The Great Plotnik World Headquarters maintains a full-time Decorative Universal Christmas Kurator (D.U.C.K.). She is in charge of door swags, wreaths, trees, Bourbon Balls, gift development and delivery, good cheer, Peace on Earth and other seasonal necessities, including stockings.

This year's Swag's is up!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

42 Years Whoooooosh....

42 years had passed since Plottie had seen his old friend Pete Weiler. Pete and Plot had been part of the Stiles Hall group at UC Berkeley, some of whom, like Captain Crow, spun into lifelong friends.

Pete was a filmmaker in those days and he made a short gag film starring The Great Plotnik, probably in the spring of 1968, and Plottie got to see it again last night when Pete and his wife Eileen came to GPWHQ for dinner.

As far as the film goes, Plotnik certainly had a lot of black hair and a most comely moustache. If anyone knows how to take a screenshot off a quick time movie, let Plot know. We really do look better at 22 than many decades later.

Also in the film is Plot's old Corvair, which was still a few thousand miles away from its demise on the Ohio Turnpike in early 1969.

And a pair of perfectly plaid bell bottoms. What ever happened to those pants?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Blasted MUNI

This is what the back of your J-Church streetcar looks like when a transformer blows out in front of you, and you're stuck in the tunnel, and the driver is trying to signal the driver of the N-Judah behind you to back out of the tunnel so you can back out too, and meanwhile your daughter is about to perform at a cabaret and you left 45 minutes early just to make sure you'd have plenty of time if MUNI were to be delayed. "Delayed," that is, not "Shut Down Until 5AM."

So we missed the show. Cousin Seattle was there though, and she texted us that it all went great.

Might have driven, but the car is in the shop, due to the pond of water in the back seat due to the bi-yearly VW sunroof issues. It may be time for ol' Fritz to be heading down to the biergarten in the sky.

Spoke to The Great FiveHead today. Tomorrow is 35 weeks. Yahoo!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Pinning Party 2012

The Great BZWZ and Cousin Seattle, our two favorite rockheads, got to The Great Plotnik World Headquarters last night. Both their planes were delayed in the rain. Of the two, one was more tired than the other.

Dinner came first: Pomegranate Chicken Wings, two Cousin Seattle salads and Mexican Chocolate and pumpkin ice cream from Mitchell's.

Finally, it was time for the Pinning Party. The Great BZWZ put Indonesia, Manchester and Glasgow into the map and Plot and Duck added Glacier National Park and just about every square inch of Spain.