The Great Plotnik

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Friday, September 26, 2014

Forty Four

All these years under the bridge, and also standing on the bridge. Forty four years ago today I discovered how nervous I was maybe twenty minutes before we said I Do. Or I think we said I Do. We could have said anything at all, I can't remember.

I feel sure my new wife promised to honor and obey me, but she says it never happened, especially the obey part. I remember how hard we searched to find a clergyman who would not use the word "God," but in the end he did.

My friend and best man locked himself in the flower freezer at the nursery and barely made it out alive.

The fool across the street tied tin cans on our rental car and chalked "Amateur Night" across the rear window.

I remember my new mother-in-law, so ill and trying so hard to smile, which she most certainly did, as she talked with my mom. We are so much older now than they were then.

Plandome, Long Island, Sept. 26 1970, me in the white suit and Barb in the white dress. She had made all the clothes, ours and her sister's too.

And then, BAM, out to the farm. And then Dan. And then to Miami and then to L.A. And then Bron. And then, BAM, Staci and Bellybone and then San Francisco and then Desmond. And Cuban food tonight. And there you have it, the whole works in one short paragraph. Up to here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Orange, and Giants, but not THOSE Orange Giants.

There's a movie in Half Moon Bay on October 12 called "Rise of the Giants" which deals with not the Capital-G orange Giants,, but the huge pumpkins they grow for the Giant Pumpkin Contest every year. The night starts with a bbq and all the growers will be there to talk about how in the world you manage to grow a 1700 pound pumpkin. The Great Plotnik thinks this one has his name all over it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Two Steves

Stevie Wonder is in Oakland on December 5. Won't miss that. Got us listening to old Stevie tunes this morning. When we got to "Superstition"  -- how many better records than this have ever been made? -- we were struck by that amazing trumpet line, with the tremolo and the crazily perfect intonation. This was done, of course, in the days when you played it, you didn't correct it with electronics in the studio.

The trumpeter's name is Steve Madalo. Credit where credit is due.

So where is Steve Madalo? According to the internet, no one knows. Once one of the busiest session players around, when last heard from he was another great musician hanging out in Palm Springs, sitting in on the occasional gig, doing who knows what.

In the heydays of live recording, busy session players made a lot of money. I hope he's tanned, satisfied, happy and living well on residuals. It doesn't usually work out that way.

Meanwhile, Stevie Wonder goes on and on. Thankfully.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Worth a Little Traffic

It took us two and a half hours to drive the fifty miles to Chef P.'s house in Napa last Saturday morning. Since two-thirds of that drive was at 70 mph on the wide-open freeway, it kind of defies logic that the rest of the trip, mostly on Route 29 between Vallejo and Napa, could have been that clogged with traffic.

But we were there. It happened. The reason appears to be the traffic lights they do not sync up for drivers on that highway. Twenty cars go through a green light and then the endlessly long red makes hundreds more wait, stretched out for miles along the two-lane road.

(This will not be news to Blogmaid or anyone else who ever has to try to get through that awful light in Half Moon Bay on a weekend.)

Which is to say, Napa and Sonoma counties are beautiful places where TGP and Ducknik could happily spend 'way more time than they do. But living there, if you want to come back and forth to the city?

But geez, it's nice at Pickle's. Reading TIAPOS stories and eating great food out on her back patio is a really cool way to be artists. Can't imagine how it could get any better.  Dexter thinks so too.

Thanks for these photos PJ.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

TIAPOS at Chef Pickle's House

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dad's Making a Cake

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Cheer

It's all about the cheer -- the way something exciting happens to your team and you jump up and scream and hug the person next to you and you're all one voice, ecstatic about the same thing.

Of course, the reverse is also true when you're not on the cheering side. Then, the bottom drops out of your world for a little while. And most of the time, you lose. Obviously, you've got to endure the one to deserve the other.

Not talking just about baseball here, though this past weekend started really awful to end up all right. And it's not only sports. When you and 50,000 people sing the national anthem, or you're at a concert and you know the song and realize you and the entire rest of the audience is singing -- this is the cheer too. It is one of the most powerful emotions we have.

Teams win, teams lose, but the lasting sensation is being part of it. Plottie's cousins, who often travel the country to see their favorite bands, understand this. All of we long-suffering sports fans understand it too. You have to buy the ticket if you want to get to cheer.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Early Birthday

Plottie found this Happy Birthday to BZ entry on The Great Plotnik dated September 14, 2005. Here, The Great BZWZ is posing with The Legendary R.L. Pussycat on the occasion of BZ's 22nd birthday.

Seeing as that date is rolling around again this weekend, here is a great sloppy kiss and Early Birthday wish for my girl, who has, since this picture, been to a lot of places and lived in quite a few.

Oh, look! There's a card! It says: Dear BZ, you are easy to miss. Love, Pops

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Downstairs Bill

Downstairs is on the left, Upstairs is on the right.

Plotnik's elderly cousin Downstairs Bill passed away a few days ago. Upstairs Bill died in 2006. Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill were first cousins. Their families had moved into a building in Brooklyn in the 1940s where Bill Plotnik lived upstairs and Bill Plotnik lived downstairs. Hence, Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill.

Not only that: Downstairs and Upstairs' fathers had married sisters. So Upstairs and Downstairs were not just cousins, they were Supercousins. They were also in business together, as printers in New York City.

But as all Plotniks do, sooner or later, they got into a feud. After some time had passed they stopped speaking to each other, and each forbade their children to speak to their cousins, upstairs or downstairs.

TGP found out about all of this when he and Ducknik went back east to a family wedding in the year 2000. He met cousin Helen, the oldest surviving member of the family, then in her nineties. Plot and Duck and two other cousins took Helen to Junior's Deli for lunch and she remembered everything. She said the wives had caused the disruption between Upstairs Bill and Downstairs Bill, but that it was also the wives who cheated and continued to speak to each other, and to let the other cousins into their houses, as long as they didn't mention it to their dads.

Downstairs Bill married a wealthy woman, heiress to a scotch whiskey fortune. It's said her father was a bootlegger who then turned legit. Downstairs moved to an exclusive and luxurious Park Avenue apartment, and was there when he invited Plot and Duck for Christmas not long after they had moved in with each other in Manhattan in 1969. You could have fit their entire tenement walk-up into the entry foyer of Downstairs Bill's palatial home.

"We're related?" Plotnik kept thinking. But the family resemblance was unshakeable. The eyebrows were the giveaway. Downstairs had only one, in those days, which stretched from one side of his face to the other.  Through the years, with careful pruning, Ducknik has made sure Plotnik has kept both of his.

Downstairs Bill was Godfather to Plottie's brother Schmeckl, though no one knew this but Mummy P. And that was long ago. Bill didn't remember, when Plottie asked him, and Mummy P. doesn't remember any more.

I guess I'm going to have to tell her Bill's gone.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I Hate the Post Office

Sending a package to Boulder for BZ's birthday. Ducknik spends a lot of time, wraps everything in an old Express Mail box from the Post Office. But I realize at the last moment that there is no way in hell that the Post Office will allow me to ship this package any way but Express Mail if it's in an Express Mail box.

Sure enough. I get to the Post Office where two men are working -- the Irish guy and the Chinese guy. The Irish guy has been there since we've lived here, I've never seen the Chinese guy before. The Irish guy always works with you. But I get the Chinese guy.

He's going by the book.

"$45.80 Express Mail," he says.

"Man, that's steep. Do you have a less expensive way?"

"Two day Express Mail. Cost $45.80."

"But that's the same as the first one."

"Yes. One day, two day."

"But can't you just cross out the Express Mail stickers and send it regular Priority Mail?"

He looks at the Irish guy. The Irish guy shakes his head very slightly.

"No. So you want or not?"

"You guys really don't like helping out the customer any more, do you?"

The Post Office is empty. I wonder why.

"You want?"

"Yes, I want. I want to get out of here."

So I take my box and go across the street to the UPS store, where they open my package, take a UPS box and pack our stuff into it, seal it up nicely and send it out, all in ten minutes, for half the price.

The Post Office is going to be a Starbucks before long. It's easy to see why.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Thoughts About Stiletto

Plotnik spent some time in Stiletto City this past weekend. Mummy P. is doing well and the city is what it isn't and what it is.

"What it Isn't and What it Is" will be a song about LA, don't you go steal it now.

Sitting out on Mummy P.'s back patio talking to The Great PD, who lives in the narrowest of cities, Plotnik realized this about his hometown: It's wider.

Not wilder, wider. Mummy P.'s lot must be twice as wide as Great World Headquarters's. This means when you sit out on her patio there is no one potentially only twenty feet away from you downhill or uphill. The difference, purely psychological of course, is that you can look out over the whole city and pretend you are a pioneer, that all that greenery below is the wild frontier, and therefore your choices are limitless and your personal horizon is as blue as the sky to the west.

That's a nice thing. And when it's hot, Plotnik feels like a kid again. Of course, he is sitting next to his mother which kind of seconds that emotion.

Do you remember the Popeye movie with Robin Williams, where Olive Oyl (Shelly Duvall) sings that great song about Bluto: "He's Large!"

(Copy this link: )

There you go: Stiletto City. Large, Wide, Endless.

This is also Stiletto City: the stink of the streets near the Tropical Cafe. What in the world has happened to EPark? Wasn't it gentrifying? It's a stinking mess, pocket malls half empty, paint peeling, the smell of pee on Parkman Street rivaling Market Street in Saint Plotniko. Jeez -- are even these concrete bungalows a million bucks and up?

Stiletto City has always been about hills. You need to be able look over life down in the flats, so you can stare straight into your romantic imagination.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Morning at the Tropical


 Had to go to the Tropical for a guyaba con queso and orange juice with Mom and Anna this morning before I got on the plane. Mummy P. couldn't remember ever having been there before, but The Tropical never was her place. It was the Plotnik hangout from the moment we arrived in LA until we all left. In the old days it was run by angry old Cubans who hated Fidel, now it's a hipster hangout run by younger Cubans who have Che and Fidel's photos on the wall.

Spent a delightful evening with Nefnik and Lillnik last night after Mummy P. went to sleep. This was a short trip to Stiletto, but a nice one. Home already, waiting until late tonight to go to SFO to pick up Ducknik who has been visiting the Great BZWZ in Boulder for the weekend.

Friday, September 05, 2014

This Old House

Last night Ducknik and Mushnik and Plotnik drove into Berkeley to see Mississippi Motorhead perform a fabulous story at The Monkey House. He was great and the other storytellers were excellent too. When one of his characters throws out his hip and says "You don't know how it feels to be a woman in love!" it brought down the house.

Before the show, we drove by an old West Berkeley neighborhood down by the water, where the Great PD had sent a picture of a house for sale. The house, as you can see, is probably not being completely torn down because building codes make them keep the outside facade, but it is basically a rip-'er-down-to-the-nails job. The neighborhood, when Plotnik was in school, was 100% black and one of those places you didn't go into unless you came from there or had a good reason.

Now -- this place was being offered the other day for -- get this -- $400K, which makes it a bargain, despite having to spend at least that much to be able to live in it, and when you're done you're still in this old neighborhood.

But guess what -- the street is full of old, apparently unrestored classic Victorians, the kind with old roses and wisteria bushes twining on beat up picket fences, and venerable churches apparently still in use with towering spires, and...there's a trendy bar. And there's a trendy pet store. And there's a yoga studio. And where are all the black people? They are certainly not on the street anymore, just young-ish white faces walking dogs and driving twenty-year-old Volvos.

The neighborhood has all the signs of being already past the discovery stage. Where do the old people go when they sell their homes to the newcomers? Will the yoga studio and bakery have the same staying power as the corner market and brake shop they replace?

Truth is, I think so. The old gives way to the new. Great Plotnik World Headquarters resides in one of these old cozy Victorians itself, not in West Berkeley but in Noe Valley, and not in a once-black neighborhood but a once-Irish neighborhood, and not in a neighborhood being discovered now but once that went through that twenty five years ago.

So think of this old house, or what remains of it, a generation from now, only a few blocks from the bay, when the ghosts of the people who lived here have all taken their clanky chains and slunk into the memories no one has any time for because the new people, like the old people, are all too busy working to make the mortgage.

$400K is not a bargain for this dump. But one of those cute old Victorians?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Grade Three? Can it Be?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Today is the Second Day of the Rest of Your Life

...if yesterday were the first. So the First Day is the party and the Second Day you clean up.

Notes from yesterday's annual Snowy Valley Voice Labor Day Party:


1) The older people get, the more they drink.

2) Small bottled Pellegrinos are 'way better than large bottled Pellegrinos. Same is true for sodas. Small ones mean you don't have to throw away large ones with two sips taken out of them.

3) Beer on a hot day.

4) Next year, don't forget to bring out the Limoncello.

5) It's amazing how many empty wine bottles can fit in the blue can.


1) You can never have enough chicken sate or green curry mayo.

 2) The same is probably true for hamburgers.

3) Use the giant flat kubiddeh skewers for the chicken. Not only do they cook the sate an inch or so off the bbq, but they are sharp on the end, so you'll have them to force your way through the crowd to get to the butcher block.

4) Two blueberry-nectarine-strawberry cobblers is about right, but you need to get to them fast or you're out of luck.

5) Serving dishes and serving utensils are nice, but after five minutes around the buffet table it's every plate for itself. Chaos reigns. Might as well serve everything on a flat rock.

General Comments

1) Ususally, it only takes one person to play a guitar.

2) People from out of town take up more space than people from here. This is not a value judgement, just an empirical observation, year after year.

   2a) Never forget that we live in The Bubble.

3) The party isn't as much fun without Officer Lorraine. No stories this year of chasing the naked man through the cheese store.

4) RSVPs that say "Yes" and "No" mean something. The ones that say "Maybe" mean "Yes."
   4a) Most people don't bother responding.

5) When your friends' little kids, who came to the party as infants, bring their own children, you're old.
6) A party is the most fun when you know and like everybody.

   6a) But when it's too crowded, you don't get a chance to talk with your special friends.

   6b) People who take pictures never take pictures of themselves, so you don't have any of them.

7) You have to remember to charge up the Jawbone the day before.

8) Your Second Day is the First Day for skunks and raccoons and your garbage.

9) Noel and Evan have been bringing their guitars to the party for years and we're going to have to get Evan a guitar case.

2014 was the record-breaker for most people in World Headquarters at one time. So we need to get working on the Avocado Tree House.