The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One or Two a Year

That's all we get, but you can't beat a Floral Gem for color and fragrance. The bush is stunted, and always gets some kind of rose shmutz that comes with trying to survive without that blistering morning heat that roses love, but early in the warm spring we always get a few red beauties to cut and bring in the house for a week of aroma.

Who knows? Global warming might mean more heat for the Bay Area, but for us that will bring even higher winds as the interior alleys heat up. We've seen it already this year -- gorgeous mornings followed by winds so strong in the afternoon that you can't really go for a bike ride or even walk comfortably. And it's only April.

Would Plotnik prefer muggy heat or wind? He'll take wind, thanks. Not complainin' just sayin.'

And Madame Coo Bird has taken her two babies and flown the coop. This morning the nest is empty. Congratulations to parents and children.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Big Bad Tech Support Wolf

You'd think this was Manhattan, but it isn't -- it's Saint Plotniko under a crescent moon, shot from Treasure Island a few years ago. Plot has installed a new solid state hard drive in his MB Pro, meaning everything had to be reinstalled. When that happens you run into old IPhoto libraries. You also spend a lot of time on the phone.

Imagine that you're here and Grandmother's house is there, but to get from here to there you have to pass through the Forbidden Forest where the Big Bad Tech Support Wolf lurks. He won't eat you but he will tell you, in a language you cannot understand, to do very simple things that you cannot figure out. But eventually you will talk to sub-wolves and sub-sub wolves and eventually you will find one who speaks English. And then you will arrive safely at Grandma's with your basket of freshly baked solid state hard drives and lightning fast connectivity.

Grandma will be watching Jeopardy and won't be the least bit interested in your modern booshwah. But you will convince yourself the journey was well worth all those wolves.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Almost Ready

Finally, the padron pepper and hanging tomato seeds from Barcelona have sprouted and are a week or so from being ready to put in the ground, where they can grow until June or July when they will become permanently stunted by the fog and lack of heat. Like most good parents, we are keeping this news from them until they get a little older.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Old Time Food in Stiletto

Schmeckl Is on a boat somewhere in the Greek Islands and Lillian is visiting her mother in El Salvador and Plot and Duck are in Stiletto City. Something is wrong with this picture. Still, we had fun last night taking Mummy P. to Taix, a venerable Echo Parque restaurant where we took our kids a million times in the old days. The place has been there since 1927, and the food has never been better.

It's the kind of place we never go to anymore. For one thing, there's a valet who parks your car right there in the restaurant's own lot. For another thing, they pretend to be French. Still bring you the same huge tureen of soup that you share around at the table, and it still tastes every bit as good as it ever did. The waiters all say bonjour, but really they prefer if you speak to them in Spanish. You eat comfort food in padded booths that are a little bit too small and they keep the lights low enough that you can't really read the menu without holding the candle close.

Mummy P. and Plotnik split the best rack of lamb he's eaten in years. Duck had a seafood tagliatelle. We got atmosphere and memories and great food and the bill came to way less than that place on Ventura Boulevard she always likes to go.

It's good to be here. Short trip this time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Category Three

Driving to Shmerkeley last night, stalled in the merging bridge traffic, as BMWs flew by, one after the other, careening into Plot's lane at the last possible second, Plot and Duck came up with this Order of Preference, as applies to shows we are about to see:

(1) Short and Entertaining
(2) Long and Entertaining
(3) Short and Boring
(4) Long and Boring

Sometimes you get a hybrid, like the other night at Theatreworks, where Act One was such a drudgery that if Plotnik hadn't been seeing the show for free, and felt obliged to stay for the whole show in order to write an accurate review (and if Ducknik would not tie him to his chair after his twelfth squirm and seventh glance at his watch), he would certainly have bolted for the car at the intermission. But then the show took off in Act Two and the eternal question arose: "Doesn't anybody use an editor any more?" 

We call this

(5) Long But Worth the Slog.

Since plays rarely have intermissions anymore, (2), (4) and (5) have almost been eliminated, except for famous playwrights. Last night we saw a (3), written by an Austrian playwright that we suppose is famous in theater circles, which is a little like saying The Best Fish Tacos in Beverly Hills. Plotnik had never heard of him. The play was like Ionesco Meets Your Middle School Acting Recital.

How Much Can We Overact? Let Me Count the Ways.

A Greek Chrous made up of firemen? With hoses?

But at least it was relatively short. Ducknik was the one looking at her watch this time. 

When you leave a show like this one, in a theater you enjoy most of the time, and you know you are going to be forced to file a dubious review, you tend to be silent. When Plot is not talking, Duck knows he hated the show. When Duck is not talking, Plot knows she felt the same. They didn't say a word until after the Street Spirit guy.

By the way, what is with the Street Spirit? Is this an East Bay Street Sheet? They look like the same paper, offered for sale by the same folks but The Street Spirit has the front page in color! And what happened to that guy with the amazing, deep basso voice, who we've seen out in front of Berkeley Rep, before and after each show, for at least five years?

Where was he last night? Hope he's OK.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Mad?

How pissed off do you have to be to put nails into an explosive and set it off in a crowd? Isn't there some moral point beyond which a person won't tread? Angry at someone? Confront him. Angry at the world? Who is your target?

The scariest part is that within a month or two we will have put this event into our file with all the other half-forgotten crazy person stunts. But while we forget, how about the families of someone who had their legs blown off? They won't be able to forget, will they?

Religion? Ideology? Politics?

Rage? Frustration? Twinkies?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Two Methods for Telemarketers

The Duck is onto something.

Ring. Ring. Ring.


"May I speak with uh Missus Barbara uh Plotnookly? Plontookee?"

"She does not live here anymore."

"Do you have a forwarding..."

"Just cleared out in the middle of the night, by God. Never paid her rent."


"Total loser that Mrs. Plotnookly. If you find her, let me know."


This is probably better than the way Plotnik handles it.

Ring Ring Ring

"May I speak with uh..."

(paraphrasing): "(Have Sex) you! (Have Sex) ALL you people! (Make puckering noise with lips) my (hindquarters)! You (wet, slimy detritus found on the bottom of ponds) suckers are (Having sex) up the whole (diety)(condemned) world!"


Monday, April 15, 2013


On a beautiful, sunny Monday in Saint Plotniko, The Great Plotnik gets to do what he has looked forward to doing for years: return all his Comcast stuff to the Comcast office, cancel his service and tell them all to have a really nice day. The one and only good thing about going into the Comcast office is when you get back outside it's like getting discharged from the hospital.

AT&T is hardly Mother Teresa, and their "customer service professionals" are forced to read the most hideous corpo-speak. We switched just to dump Comcast, halellujah!, but supposedly we will pay less for more stuff.

This morning's 'Help Line Professional' at Hewlett Packard (new internet provider: you have to reconfigure the wireless printer) was the most sarcastic and nastiest tech support guy ever. But he was WAY better than "thank you so much for your kind patience, uh, because the world's best service is our most important, uh..." that you get from AT&T. This dude actually said: "If you don't have the USB cable that came with your printer when you installed it,  I can't help you. I don't know what you people actually expect us to do sometimes."

Really. And it's only Monday morning. But since Plotnik was so surprised to hear someone say what they were actually thinking, he laughed. And the guy eventually started warming up, did a few things, made a few suggestions, and got the printer working. So Plotnik's message for him is:

"Thank you for taking my call, dipsh*t. Your dipsh*tiness made me laugh, AND you fixed my problem. So I'm giving you a 10. But I'm still never buying another HP product. How long were you in that gulag?"

Sounds like Plotnik is already peeved with Comcast, Hewlett Packard and AT&T this morning. Now he has to call Avid and that will be the worst of all. Avid, who makes the music software Plotnik uses, makes you hold forever. And their hold music is always VJL-GS:  Vaguely Jazz-Like Guitar Stylings.

You get VJL-GS at the dentist too, or sometimes VJL-PS, and Plot has to go there Thursday. This means he has to floss 200 times tomorrow and Wednesday.

By the way, why do they have to ask you: "for account verification can you please state your address?" and when you give it to them they say "can you also please give me the last four numbers of your social" and when you answer that they say "will you please answer the following security question: "what month and year did your first dog die?" Isn't one question enough? I mean, who in the world but me would call up Comcast to discuss my bill?

Plotnik should get rough mixes of the weekend's recording sessions this afternoon and that's something exciting to look forward to.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


That was a tight little rhythm section we put together this weekend. This was my view from the glassed-in booth where I sat with a vocal mike and my acoustic guitar. Jamie's on the left playing guitar, Scott is in the middle of a drum fill. And J.P. the bass player is waiting to play.

I learned a lot technically in these last two nights, and they are not necessarily lessons I wanted to learn. This meant starting from scratch on three songs that I had hoped we would be able to record more easily -- to simply finish my original demos. But work done in my house is just that -- a scratch pad for the real thing.

The end result is some fantastic rhythm tracks that will be easier for me to finish since I already have written all the parts. But of course the process slows down when you start again from scratch, so I had to make this decision: fewer songs done better, or more songs done not so well. I took the first option.

It's the best feeling in the world to play with a great rhythm section. It just is.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jeez. No blog for four days. Plot is busy drawing up charts for recording this weekend, and when you do that you have to look extremely closely at your songs, and when you do that you always feel like saying something on the order of "What the hell piece of crap is this? Why am I bothering? Me? A songwriter?"

That only lasts until the second the tracks come over the headphones and Katsy hits his first snare.

At the same time, the Direct TV guy was here this morning and installed a dish on the roof. We now can say adiĆ³s to Comcast. Will it be any better? It certainly appears to be a lot more confusing.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Hell Rules the World of Tech

There is no way to live in the modern world without hating your cell phone provider or your cable company. Here is the difference between AT&T and Comcast:

1) You walk into an AT&T store and the people are friendly and willing to help. They are pathological liars but they are decent pathological liars. It's not a nice experience but it's not a terrible one, either. You want to help them. You want to buy things, fancy things with lots of lights that will never work.

2) You walk into the Comcast office and it's the DMV with better TVs. No one looks up. There's a long line and the people in it are there to pay their bills and complain loudly about a dispute of some kind, real or imagined. It's dark. The company probably didn't pay its light bill. When you get to the front the woman doesn't want to help you, she wants to smite you. You resent every penny you pay them.

But Comcast's overpriced shit works.

This all started because the Plotniks got new I-Phone 5s. They are great. As Plotnik explained this morning to Domin-Nik, he now has a new theory of Modern Life. I-Phones will do that to you. Here it is: The greatest thing about an I-Phone is you are never alone. People will do anything to pretend they are having a good time.

Plot went to have lunch yesterday on Church Street. While he waited for his food to come he took out his I-Phone. He checked his email. HE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT HIS EMAIL. But he checked it anyway, and then sent one, and then the food came.

It was delicious: curried noodles. He ate for a few minutes, then his phone beeped. HE DIDN'T CARE WHY THE PHONE WAS BEEPING but he pulled the phone from his pocket and checked it, but he couldn't figure out what the beep meant, so he never found out who beeped or why. He ate some more. He tried to get the Giants game. HE HATES THE GIANTS. But he wondered if he could get the broadcast, even though he knew he wouldn't be able to see much of the game on the I-Phone screen. He couldn't get the game. He put down his phone. He finished his lunch.

Wasn't THAT special!

I-Phone: data package. The salesman, NICE guy, friendly, helpful, told Plot and Duck they should buy the Mega Confusion Package. It sounded good, especially after Plot walked around the corner to the Comcast office, to compare prices, and then vowed never to darken that door again, tipping the Devil on his way out.

So we're in Hell. Sunday morning: second and third installers. Nothing works. Alarm system disabled. Internet currently working, but only because we're still using COMCAST.

The Devil is a bastard but he's got better technology.


Friday, April 05, 2013

A Groupon for Roxy Cafe

Twenty years ago, ten years ago, probably three years ago Plotnik would have disenjoyed last night's dinner immensely. He is not all that fond of large plates bearing small food, nor with waiters who insist on informing the world where they source their mizuna and baby arugula and whose kumquat tree grew that teensy, round piece of citrus next to the organic Malaysian guava. He has never enjoyed waiting a long time for his food, and when the portions are extremely small, and the wait time between all the courses is extremely large, the Old Plot would have probably blown out an earlobe by Course Three.

And God help us if The Chief had been there: soup, fury and back to the car.

The difference maker is that the food at Roxy Cafe is REALLY GOOD. That little kumquat, that Malaysian guava, the blood orange vinaigrette on the greens, that spinach-potato-leek broth, and the two two-bite ravioli stuffed with some kind of delicious buttery squash were all first class. Then, the wait for the last course was the longest of all, but it turned out to be the best fettucini bolognese ever. EVER. 

The Groupon only covered four courses but Plot and Duck were still hungy so they split a dessert, which was of course made to order, DUH. Zzzzzzzzz--wake up! It's here! And it was terrific -- a Venezuelan sweet arepa with white corn, guayabana ice cream and mango sorbet and toasted pumpkin seeds and some other tiny things also, sourced no doubt at the freaking Fountain of Youth.

"Hello, I'm Ponce de Leon. I'll be your waiter tonight. I am 900 years old. And I still haven't gotten my Course Six."

Because of the Groupon, the tab was only for the dessert, plus a buck and a half for a tall can of Miller Genuine Draft that Plottie bought at the corner convenience store.(OK, he admits he bought a can of Miller's instead of something fancier because he figured Chef Manny Gimenez needed to see someone walk in with a lowbrow can instead of an artisan bottle.) Plot left a hefty tip, which you have to do, because you used up a lot of Ponce's evening, sitting in your chair for twenty minutes at a time of  thumb-diddling waiting followed by forty five seconds of enthusiastic slurping.

So Plot is going with this summary: he is maturing. Great food sometimes takes a long time, especially when the chef makes, like, ten Course Twos at a time and then moves on to Course Threes, and if you're only on Course One you wait until he gets back to make ten more Course Ones.

His question is: would that dinner have been as good if it had all arrived on one plate, and took fifteen minutes to eat and then we were done? No. Taking a long time over dinner is a good thing. God, please don't strike me dead, but the food tasted better because of it. 

Plot is seeing himself today as The Smartest Man In the World. Sophisticated. Cool. And to prove it, he drinks Miller Genuine Draft.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bum and Bummer

Well, JJ-aka-PP snookered us all. She announced on Facebook that she was retiring from her job after 30 years. All her friends and family wrote and congratulated her, because we all know she works too hard and can't keep it up forever. Plottie got excited about being able to get JJ out to S.P. for a special event that might be coming up.

Then, when Ducknik phoned her, JJ-aka-PP announced it was all an April Fool's joke.

Jeez. Facebook is not a cute little message board between you and a few friends -- your messages go around the world in a heartbeat. People are still working out how to deal with the Social Monster, which does not know the difference between reality and jokery.

And anyway, look at her. We need to see more of all three of these people. One's writing a dissertation. One's having a baby. That leaves -- well, add it up.

So we got taken in. Bummer. And she's still working. Bummer.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Organic Opening Day

Watching Opening Day. Of course we'll lose.

Brother Street is in town. His cruise ship leaves this afternoon but he'll sail down to Santa Barbara, Catalina and Ensenada before he heads back next Sunday, when Plot and Duck will get to go on the boat, have dinner and listen to the band. This morning he and Plot walked around the embarcadero, easily avoiding an organic donut.

Can you imagine someone who wants a $3 donut caring about whether or not it's organic?