The Great Plotnik

Monday, June 30, 2014

Leaving Burbank

Friday, June 27, 2014

What A Week

Going to doctors is hazardous to your health. This was a bad week.

If you stay out of doctors' offices the worst thing that can happen is you drop dead unexpectedly. But once a doctor examines you, two things can happen: they can find something, or they can scare the pants off you by telling you they might have found something. They can call in a specialist, and the two of them can stand around talking medical shop to each other, and then the first one says to the second one "mmmm, we'd better do a biopsy, mmmm, just to be sure, check it more closely…" and the second one says "mmmmm, um hmmm…"

Then they say they'll call you and it takes ONE F***ING WEEK to get an answer and every day you are going over and over what they really said and what you think they said, and then when the doctor doesn't call you figure "Oh, Christ, they've got really bad news and he doesn't know how to tell me."

And you imagine the worst, because it's one thing if this thing they found were on a piece of you that you can live without when they cut it off, but it's another thing if it's in a place where there is nothing to cut off, you know?

And it turns out that it's the worst of all when it's your wife.

And you think of the heartbreaking stories your friend in your writing group writes about losing his wife and you say that's it. I've got to quit that group. I can't take it any more.

And you think about how you both stay in shape, and you work out and ride your bike, and you eat healthy food, and all those ice cream comes you didn't have, and for what?

And you wake up at 2am and you're awake until dawn, thinking: Damn. I always figured I'd be the first one to go. So then it starts.

You sit on the sofa watching TV, both of you scared out of your minds, and you put your arms around her and say "I love you."  And she says "I love you." And you say to yourself "I don't tell her that nearly enough." And it sounds like a cliche from the Women's Network, but it's true. So you say "I love you" again and she says "I love you" again and, slowly, it starts to make you smile.

And your friend tells you to count your breaths when you can't sleep, that fear is like a tiny pilot light you can't put out, and you must keep it tiny or it can ignite and consume you.

And you go for a hike like you've been promising. And you both lose a bunch of weight because you're too frightened to eat and anyway nothing sounds good.

That's when the doctor e-mails and says "let's set up a telephone appointment tomorrow at 11:15," and you think, "Oh, God, that's it! He'd give me good news by email, but he wants to talk. He can't face giving us a death sentence by email."

So you think it's time to call your kids, but one's on a plane coming home from Israel, so you call the other one, and now she's petrified too.

And then the doctor cancels the phone appointment because he says he hasn't gotten the pathology report back yet. This scares you too. Maybe he's out getting drunk so he can face up to giving this kind of news to a faithful, long-time patient.

And NOW you are a total wreck, so the two of you lie down on the bed at three in the afternoon, the day before yesterday, and then the phone rings. You are listening by your wife's side, and you hear the doctor's voice, and then the expression "Benign Freckle."

And, because this is how sick you are, the first thing you think is "Freckle? F**K you, freckle. This is no little freckle!" But then you remember "Benign."

You hear "I wouldn't worry about it."

You hear "Sorry it took so long to get the report."

You hear "We'll look again next year."

And you hear your wife say "We were really worried" and he answers "Ha ha, well, nothing to worry about."

And then she hangs up the phone and you both start to laugh. And laugh. And you call your daughter and she laughs too. And you dance the chicken dance around the room with your wife and tell her you love her several more times and she says so too and then you go straight to Mitchell's for a toasted almond on a sugar cone, chocolate dipped.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rough to Sweet

It was a rough weekend, besieged by dreams. This happens sometimes and I just wait for it to go away.

But this morning I received the most wonderful piece of mail, answering a blog post I had put up several years ago after the New York Marathon.

"V.C. has left a new comment on your post "Brooklyn Day Four: NY At Its Most Optimistic": 

Hi, I don't know if you still maintain this blog, but I just wanted to thank you for your mention of Vinson Cunningham in the first paragraph. He passed away in 1995, and was my father. I'd love to hear more about the time you met him and heard him play. If you're interested in sharing I'm at (his email addess). Thanks!" 

Here is the letter I sent back to him:


Dear Vinson

Please forgive me for calling you Vinson, but your dad said I should call him Vinson, and so I figured maybe you wouldn't mind.

I can't tell you how honored and pleased I am that you would write to me. I am not going to ramble on, so perhaps we will have other exchanges in the future. I hope so. But let me tell you the little bit I remember.

It was 1969 or 1970. I was a young white kid who had been told Vinson was leaving his job at the church and they'd need a new piano player. I thought I could play any kind of piano, but I was disabused of that notion when Vinson sat down to play. I was new to New York but here I was taking the subway to a historic black church in a black neighborhood with a black congregation in a fiery time. Would I be welcome? I was anxious, to say the least.

The first thing your Dad said to me was "Don't worry. You're welcome here."

Then he asked me to play, but I deferred to him. When he sat down to play, with the choir, his hands, his power, the way he listened to the choir, the way he could answer them without waiting for them -- I don't know how to describe it, even now, but I never really heard anyone like him, before or since.

Anyway, I knew it would take feet far larger than mine to fill Vinson Cunningham's shoes, so I was content to sit during the rehearsal and listen to this marvelous choir and the man who could make the piano growl and cry.

I have had a career as a songwriter and modest pianist. How about you? Did you take after your father? I am quite sorry to hear he has passed, and so long ago too, but please take heart that I am sure I am not the only other musician who was touched and blessed by this man. His voice lives on in hundreds of piano players. Imagine! This happened to me in 1969 and here it is 2014 and I remember it all vividly. Hallelujah!

Thanks, and please write back, anytime.


Remember: anything you publish on line takes on its own life, and you never know who you will reach. How marvelous is this?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need Regent Thai

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

No Dad photos to post, so how about the two who call me Dad?

Friday, June 13, 2014

God Speed, See it All and then Hurry Back

Gonna miss my boy while he travels through Israel and possibly into Palestine over the next few weeks. Pops is always nervous when he can't keep the exact whereabouts of his kids firmly in his head at all times. Add in one of the world's danger zones, and then finish it off with a good touch of jealousy.

I wish The Great PD God Speed, See it All and then Hurry Back.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Apple Clusters

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Duck is In the Kitchen

For years, The Great Ducknik has been talking bout the oxtail ragout from the Officer's Dining Room that occasionally filtered down to the Employee's Cafeteria at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. She has threatened to make that dish herself, but until a few days ago this was nothing but idle quacking. Now, however, we all see exactly what she has been talking about. It's a French braise, but with this whole extra level of texture and flavor from those oxtails, which, incidentally, you can buy at Costco.

Thanks to TG Mushnik for this photo. Wow, was that good.

Monday, June 09, 2014

First Ripe Tomato


The variety is Sasha's Altai, a Siberian potato-leaf variety, all of which seem to do better in Saint Plotniko than the normal varieties. It was planted on March 21 so that means 10 weeks from planting to first fruit, and that's very good.

You sharp-eyed gardeners will notice that Comrade Tomato is posing in front of his neighbors, the padrón pepper plants, who appear to be two or three weeks from harvestable fruit. The other two potato-leaf tomato plants, a Japanese variety called Trifele, are a good month away from ripeness.

Meanwhile, these babies, two plants who just volunteered in the pot they are in, appear to be a traditional cherry variety, perhaps a Sweet 100 clone. There are tons of little green tomatoes on the vines so we'll just have to waIt and see.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

What the Immediate Greats Are Doing

The Great PD takes off in six days for ten days in Israel with other educators. The Great 5H will be home with the family but hopefully will get to spend a good part of that time in Spring Glen. The Great BZWZ is starting to look for a more permanent place to live in Boulder, which will mean heading back to Atlanta to get the rest of her stuff. The Greats Plot and Duck will be in Boulder in a few weeks to visit, then head NE into Western South Dakota to visit the monuments there and allow The Great Ducknik to cross off Wyoming and South Dakota, thus lowering her US Life List to One: Alaska.

They started carving Crazy Horse's monument in 1948. Apparently they're blasting rock below his head right now, to form his horse.

The Great Mummy Plotnik's birthday is upcoming, and this isn't just a Big One with a 5 or an 0 on the end. This is a Double Big One. The celebration is still in question, but many options are being considered, not including rock climbing.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Plotzers are our New Hot Water Heater

Woke up this morning to a blown-out hot water heater. But not like JJ-aka-PP's marathon experience, because we were lucky. Only a few hours later the new hot water heater is in and hopefully that will be that.

This is analogous to the baseball season.  The Plotzers are through with the pennant race, but they are still in the Wild Card Hunt. The pennant race is the old hot water heater, aka The Giants. We hauled away that dream and are now concentrating on the new hot water heater, which is the Cardinals, Braves, Rockies and anybody else.

Our team is really mediocre -- that's our warranty from last year. Good for three months and then tough noogies.

We can't hit at all. We have three exciting players in the lineup, Gordon, Crawford and Puig. After that we have Mr. Ground Ball, Mr. PopUp, Mr. Strikeout With Runners in Scoring Position and Mr. Triple A Calling.

Luckily, all we had to do to get a new hot water into the space where the old hot water was, was to dismantle the pantry cabinet. We had to remove all the cans of hope, bottles of excitement and boxes of baseball fun. Watching the Plotzers these days is like taking that cabinet apart and moving the oatmeal.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Ugly But Doesn't Hurt

So far, Plotnik has been lucky -- the side of his head doesn't hurt very much. So they couldn't have gone in very deep, though the wound (see yesterday's post) certainly looks like it.

Last night Plottie watched the first quarter of the Stanley Cup finals, probably the most hockey he's ever paid any attention to at one time. It was suprisingly exciting, high speed and pleasurably vicious, with cool basketball-style stuff like breakaways and no visible crybaby boo hoo hoo like soccer.

But one quarter was plenty. You really do have to care about one or the other of the teams to watch much longer. Brother Two Names loves the Kings so I'm for the Kings, but old buddy Jon loved the Rangers so I'm also for the Rangers.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Wear Sun Block

Otherwise, you start getting these little suckers, and they have to take them out, and you end up with your face looking like Dr. Frankenstein's monster.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

I Voted

Yes, I did. I'm not really sure if I voted for Campos, or Chiu, and I hate to admit that the whole process seems so pointless as to be embarrassing.

I know this would not be so if I had grown up in a country where people's votes didn't count at all. This isn't Syria. Our votes do matter - at least, they used to.

Now, I don't think the people who are running the country ever stand for election. I don't think our representatives represent us. Here in our city, the only vote that matters very much this election is to limit developers from disregarding height limits on building on the Embarcadero. 

I mean, that's it. Height limits. We are not talking about homelessness, our failing education system, even getting potholes fixed. We're not close to utilizing our vast reserves of tech money to do something major with our city. We could do it. 

Nope. Campos versus Chiu. I mean, who the f*** cares? I think they've got us where they want us.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Nowhere, and Certainly Not on Frontier

Wow, almost a week since a GP posting! Well, we got home from Providence, I fell immediately into fixing my computer, or, rather, restoring my computer to a sweeter time before I'd tried to update it, then when I got it back working better than ever I became so ecstatic to see it again that I've been holed up in here working on projects ever since.

Plus, we saw two plays, one beautifully written and acted, and one mediocre and overacted, had lunch with friends and dinner with other friends. So it's been fun since we got back.

The Great Plotnik finds himself planning new trips, though right now he'd prefer to sit on his computer chair in front of his functioning computer and drink his coffee and go absolutely nowhere.

Frontier Airlines: CHUCK FOO! They have the cheapest fare to Boulder, so you book it and at the very, very end, after you've entered all your information, they tell you they're going to charge you $20 and up for a carry-on! A carry-on! And a minimum of $1.99 for any beverage on the plane, including water.

Nahhh, Plottie don't play that. We're paying more on United and Frontier has joined American and Ryanair on our DO NOT FLY EVER list.