The Great Plotnik

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Day of Red Tail Lights

It is very nice to be home, though it took a lot longer than we'd expected. Since we were in Thousand Oaks already we figured we'd just jaunt straight up the 101. Nah. You don't 'jaunt' on the 101, not on a holiday weekend.

It was the Day of Red Tail Lights. After sitting twenty minutes without moving, the first time, we got off the freeway somewhere near Santa Paula and drove blindly down streets of auto repair shops and taco stands, all named "Taco Mexico," until a sweet and gracious Indian family operating a 7-11 pointed us back to the 101. We had outflanked the blockage but I made the mistake of exulting at our tactical brilliance. Five minutes later: More red tail lights.

It was stop-and-stop until Santa Barbara, and then it was clear until Prunedale-San Juan Bautista-Gilroy-Castroville. Since every one of those towns is mentioned in my song "Watsonville," I think it is proof of God's cackle. Clearly, I deserved to sit on that highway awhile. Call it my royalty to the region, even though I TOOK OUT this wonderful rhyme:

Gilroy is known for its garlic
Castroville, baked artichoke
And San Juan Bautista's
Where Jeee-eee-sus
appeared in a bottle of coke. 

But I didn't notify the Karma Department. How were they to know? So we sat out on the 101 for awhile. My bad.

DS is my niece-once-removed-by-marriage. It was her bat-mitzvah that had brought us to Thousand Oaks. She has grown up so beautifully and her ceremony was lovely. Thankfully, the synagogue where her brothers had had their barmitzvahs has gone out of business and this new synagogue has a more ecumenical vibe. In the old place we had to listen to the old rabbi who was intent on using a barmitzvah to lecture about Middle East politics -- we still talk about the man's statement that Gazans deserved to die because their government didn't build bomb shelters for them. The new synagogue features a cantor with a guitar and a rabbi who is not only female but completely deaf. It is astonishing to imagine what courage it must have taken this woman to learn to speak and preach in front of a congregation.

Our no-longer-little DS made us teary with pride. And they even included us in the ceremony, which was quite gracious of them. They didn't have to do that.

Step- and by-marriage- families have fragile links. They fracture easily, once the person who has united them is gone. This is what holidays are for. But you have to make the effort.


NEVER order a frapuccino at a Starbucks. I tried my first and last outside of King City. It tastes like a marshmallow dissolved in liquid glucose.

The Great PD, The Great BZWZ and The Great We all started driving home yesterday, PD from Washington DC to Brooklyn, BZ from LA to Boulder and we from Stiletto to Saint Plotniko. BZ and Chris are still out there somewhere.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Business schools around the country ought to study the guy at the Carnitas Michoacán stand inside Grand Central Market. Everybody who walks in off still-Latino Broadway today, on the day after Thanksgiving, is handed two hot tortillas filled with carnitas from an enormous pile of meat in front of the best businessman in town. After you find the lady at the spice kiosk back by the stairs where you can buy six different kinds of spice pastes for mole, and you buy some avocadoes and a few bags of white beans, you head back to the front and order more carnitas tacos for lunch. Students, when you have the best product give some of it away. You'll sell a bunch more.

BZ and Chris, and their friends Marissa and Joe, and Ducknik and me, that's twelve tacos, two horchatas and one jamaica. Green salsa on one, red on the other, a handful of onions and cilantro on both. Downtown is spiffying up for sure, but thankfully not too badly around here.

How old am I? My grandmother took me downtown on the Santa Monica Boulevard red car when I was around eight to buy me my first baseball mitt, right around the corner from where we're sitting. We got it at the Broadway, when there was only one Broadway and it, like every other department store in LA was right here, downtown. All the buses and streetcars came here. They still do.

The 44 ran on Beverly and the 35 was the Freeway Flyer out to the West Valley and the 81 ran down Ventura and Hollywood Boulevards and I can't remember so many simple words and people's names today but I can still tell you about the 44 Beverly.

Mom struggles with the ends of most thoughts. She starts off sentences but doesn't finish most of them. Names really trouble her. I've been "Ric," my older brother, a lot this trip. She seems to be frightened easily, but mostly I think she's scared to be alone. 

Driving home last night from Ricky's, she was squirming around a lot in the front passenger's seat. I asked her "do you need something, Mom?" and she said "I don't know." So I put my hand on hers and she immediately relaxed. We drove the 50 miles back home that way, my one hand on the wheel, the other on hers. She fell asleep and didn't wake up until we were almost all the way up the hill.

Today BZ and Chris came back to grandma's to say good-bye, they are driving back to Boulder tomorrow and we are driving home tomorrow too. 

Things seem well here. Mom's four caretaker ladies seem to have formed a little team. That can fall apart at the smell of an insult, but at least now everyone is smiling. So I am too.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

If You Only Knew How Good This Picture Smells.

BZ and Grandma in LA

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks Nancy

The new shuttle from the Oakland airport BART station to Oakland airport takes half the time as the bus did and is 'way nicer. Plus, with senior fares, it's cheaper than before. Thanks, Nancy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nobody Swings This Hard

This photo was taken from my seat last night at the Jazz Center, the piano player's dream seat. Allen Toussaint occupied the piano bench for most of the night and Rickie Monie started and finished there when he wasn't playing B-3 organ. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band swings harder than ANY band ANYWHERE, especially with that tuba on the bottom.

And Allen Toussaint is a lot more piano player than I realized. From my perch I could have taken a video and then woodshedded for the next three years or so just to figure it all out.

They played a lot of Toussaint songs, including "Workin' in a Coal Mine" and even 'Southern Nights," which they managed to rock hard, but the highlight was definitely "St. James Infirmary," which they did twice, back-to-back, in completely different versions.

Without doubt, this was the best concert we've seen in ages, and it makes next Spring's trip sound like a no-brainer: NOLA and JazzFest. We haven't been there in nearly fifteen years. Time? Overtime.

PS -- this one row on top of and in back of the stage -- there can't be a better seat in any concert venue in the world.  'WAY better than those hard benches in the real Preservation Hall. And the band sounds a lot better here too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Good Rebels

That's gonna be the name of my band, if I am ever foolish enough to put together another one. The Good Rebels: we're the guys you give money to so we can support you in your goals. We believe in you, and you believe in us. We currently control one small house in Saint Plotniko and spend our days drinking espresso while compiling our latest manifesto. Please make check payable to THE GOOD REBELS or CASH.

Monday, November 17, 2014

6:30am Out The Back Door

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Belated Birthday Lunch at Kokkari

The Guests
The Hosts

 The Calamari

 The Galaktoboureko

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Elsu. Wade, Scott, Louise


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Keep On Keeping On

"Keep on Keeping On" is a really good movie, and would be more inspiring if Quincy Jones hadn't helped produce the movie and, coincidentally, hadn't signed up one of the two musicians for a world tour on Quincy's label. Ya know.

It's a little puff piecey -- but trumpeter Clark Terry and his wife are so real that it makes you pass over the rest of it. The featured pianist, Justin Kauflin, is just not as superb as they make him out to be. He's young, he'll certainly get there, but not if he watches this movie too many times.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Denial and Escapism

We can't bear to watch the election returns tonight, so we're going to the movies. "Keep on Keeping On," the story of the great trumpeter Clark Terry with Justin Kauffman, his blind pianist disciple, sounds like just the thing to raise the spirits.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Halloween 2014

In the three years since we have been home for Halloween, it's gotten twice as big as before, which really doesn't seem possible. Three enormous bags of candy from Costco were gone in an hour. There must have been 1,000 kids on the streets and that many parents. This is Saint Plotniko at its finest.

 Our favorites were the Mona Lisa, The pencil and his wife the eraser, and the cute little giraffe. And, of course, Duckster Posey.