Cloister Commentary, Day 343: Tucked Away

We both woke up bleary. My first night at home wearing a BiPap mask for my sleep apnea wasn’t terrible, but I woke up four times and had trouble getting back to sleep. Nicole was pestered by Tux, who can be a night-tyrant, as well as a few cat-scrambles by the others. We trudged through our Friday morning ritual (coffee, meditation, school prep, writing this, breakfast, hauling out the trash and recycling), and she was off. The rest of the morning appeared to be a rather sedate affair for us.

It was not to be.

About 10, I realized that, for several hours, I hadn’t seen one of our cats who is usually a pronounced midmorning presence. At first, I didn’t worry; they famously can tuck themselves away. Maybe she’d escaped outdoors, but she wouldn’t have gone far–I just didn’t see her anywhere on the house perimeter. But by the time Nicole got home, I still hadn’t seen her.

Increasingly concerned, we turned the house inside out, even searching the rafters of our partially finished basement with a flashlight: nothing. Suddenly, Nicole reminded me that she’d left a trash bag open in case I needed to put any remaining junk in there, I remembered that I was very sleepy when I finally tied it up and took it to the curb–had the cat climbed in without my knowledge…and been trash-compacted?

We felt sick to our stomachs; we had indeed looked everywhere in the house thrice, and eliminated every other scenario. Seriously bummed, we skulked around for an hour. In the bathroom, Nicole made one more reflexive check of the cabinet under the sink, which is seldom ever opened or left open. Out she sauntered, like she’d just come out of winter’s hibernation, with a sleepy “What’s up?” look on her mug. She had been compacted–into a tight ball in the back corner of the cabinet, with all the bottles of cleaning chemicals, apparently recharging after a night of mischief.

We screamed in relief, as we had pretty near accepted the fact that we had become unintentional cat murderers, even trying to rationalize it to ourselves by muttering, “It’s not like we are out of cats.”

Sleeping off the hijinks–again.

The rest of the day paled in comparison.

Streaming for Strivers:

Philly-born and -bred, and sallying forth here on multiple instruments.

Cloister Commentary, Day 342: Erasures

The thing about those screaming for schools to reopen fully: how come they weren’t screaming to get teachers vaccinated early so they could, more safely? Because teachers do want to teach, in person–badly. Shows you where those screamers’ priorities are. There’s a damn lot of folks who aren’t too concerned with the health of anyone, as long as they’re ok, Jack.

I spent most of the morning reading military history and being introduced to writer Charles Blow’s proposal for a reverse Great Migration southward (check out his book The Devil You Know), most of the afternoon picking up, assembling, and testing my new-dangled CPAP machine and BiPap mask. The thought of wearing it every night for a long, long time makes me fret against the imperfection and deterioration of my body, but it is supposed to improve my energy and memory as well as my respiration.

For movie night, Nicole and I finally checked out Shaka King’s film about Fred Hampton’s assassination by the FBI, Judas and The Black Messiah (currently on HBO Max). We knew the history pretty well, and were impressed by the acting and filmmaking, but one had best be fortified when taking it in. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, MLK, Hampton–all tragically erased from this plane within the space of six years of the 1960s, and at least one of them by government and law enforcement.

Streaming for Strivers:

Any time is the right time for Mr. Mayfield. This time in particular.

Cloister Commentary, Day 341: Coup De Grace

Work was a mite slow. I was able to complete one of my teacher intern’s evaluations–they are both really passionate and skilled!–before my tutoring hours began, and after that the highlight was a very enlightening webinar on ungendering the workplace. I was happy to offer a comment that was not dunderheaded!

My mom has been feeling better (a terrific birthday present), and she texted me yesterday to confirm she and some siblings and cousins are taking a road trip to Dallas to see my Aunt Patricia (make that Trish). Everyone involved, I believe, will have been fully vaccinated, and this is something that, under the circumstances of ’20-’21, she really needs.

In this house, we celebrate each other’s birthday all week long. The cookies were finally gone, but Nicole served up the coup de grace for dinner: delicious veggie stuffed peppers (by request)! She also kindly authorized a musical purchase. My resolution has suffered a couple shots to the torso, but is intending to be mending post-birth-a-versary.

In the evening, we finished The Durrells. Any suggestions for our next series binge?

Streaming for Strivers:

This isn’t a full album, but it’s longer than some, and it recently converted me to the wiles of this artist I just couldn’t seem to connect with.

Cloister Commentary, Day 340: I Love Capri

Started a few new books by folks last name of Le Carré, Blow, and Smarsh. Bodes well.

Observed the first lesson of a teacher intern I’m supervising at Battle. She was relaxed yet organized, precise and enthusiastic; she was knowledgeable yet open to student ideas; she navigated a synchronous classroom (virtual AND in-seat) with ease. And her first lesson was the same as mine was back in January ’84: Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath” tale–she, too, took a vocabulary sidetrack for students on the word “maidenhead,” but she was more chill (as they say) than I was.

Nicole and I went for another walk–what a beauty of a day!–but were somewhat distracted by our still seeking a COVID shot: she’s in-person with students four days a week, I have a heart condition that’s going to require a procedure in May. My phone pinged the minute we stepped back in the house: the state invited me to the Isle of Capri, but for something better than gambling. This time I didn’t mess up the appointment. Now, for my loved one….

Streaming for Strivers:

Brief but durably soulful.

Cloister Commentary, Day 339: The Show

Yesterday was my 59th birthday. The main observation I have to make is that time gushes on, and you need to make the most of your days and oppose forces that strive to turn others’ days into misery. It’s not a rehearsal; it is the show.

We started the day with some meditation, I dug in again to Ibram X. Kendo’s How to Be an Anti-Racist and finished it. I highly recommend it; it’s delivered revelation after revelation to me, and I’d previously thought I knew something. Nicole made some delicious turkey, mushroom, and pepper cheese melts that were so good we had them for lunch and dinner. We also liberated our back-deck duo Beebs and Gold from the garage, where we’d created a shelter for them against the frigidity that’s finally lifted.

Speaking of getting back into the sunshine, the best thing we did was get out of the house and onto the Stephens Lake Park trail. The weather was beautiful and fresh air like a drug. February has seemed like a month in captivity.

Sheepish admission I may have subconsciously left out of my last few commentaries: As much complaint as I’ve made about not being able to get vaccinated against COVID, I had a chance Friday to get a shot in Versailles, and accidentally closed the scheduling browser trying to look at a map, which recorded me as having passed on the opportunity. Then Sunday I received two separate invitations to get vaccinated in Boonville, but I was having so much fun in my birthday Zoom I didn’t look at my phone for five hours, and by the time I did, the slots had been filled. So I’m gonna be quiet about it for awhile!

Streaming for Strivers:

Ahhhh, celebrations…

Cloister Commentary, Day 338: Zoom Birthday Party

I’m hard to surprise. The multiple early birthday wishes should have been a hint; I assumed it was a social media glitch. But yesterday–the day before my birthday–Nicole set up an open Zoom from noon to five for my friends to pop in and say howdy. I had no idea what she was up to, but it was perfect, because, as I mentioned yesterday, a TV scene had really made me miss the (live) feeling of being in the midst of a bunch of interesting, funny, lively humans. I “saw” a great cyberfriend for the first time; I enjoyed a mini-reunion with two fond high school friends; I received a birthday serenade from Jacqueline Kelly; I convened with counselors and principals (one of the latter interviewed the other back in the day, didn’t hire him, but I guess he showed her (😂)–they were in the Zoom at the same time, so that was a wonderfully but gracefully humorous moment!); I hung out with my brother, aunt, and uncle; the first people to arrive were a wonderful couple of old marrieds who we’d be pestering every week if they lived here in Columbia; a fellow teacher and I reminisced about our very different teacher training activities; my most rock-and-rollin’ former student got to meet my most rock-and-rollin’ best buddy. I could go on–it was definitely one of my favorite birthday presents of all-time, and I recommend it! (We didn’t get Ken and Charles in the same room–they get the magic of birthdays, believe me–but there’s always next year.

We had so much fun were almost too tired to eat dinner! I usually mentally lash myself if I don’t read or listen to a record or two each day, but I was too pleasantly drained to even skim the paper, so “Men in Kilts,” SNL, and “All Creatures Great and Small” had to do. Especially “Men in Kilts”….

Streaming for Strivers:

…it’s my birthday, too (continued from yesterday). Into the morning.

Cloister Commentary, Day 337: Thaw Out

We have begun thawing out.

Made a run out to the Boone County History & Culture Center on a tip from my friend Brian Flanagin that they were selling official DVD copies of John Turner’s fascinating film, Korla, a documentary about St. Louisian/Columbian John Redd, a Black man who, passing for an Indian from Delhi, came to fame as keyboard mesmerizer Korla Pandit. I’d seen the film at Ragtag Cinema, been intrigued by the scholarly discussion (with fire and rhymes added by Tyree Paladon Byndom), and recommended it yesterday on Instagram as a great local Black history document. That’s where Brian learned of it, as he stood in front of the Center’s display class where it lay. It was the last film I loaned to my late friend George Frissell (I had a preview disc), so I had to snap up an official copy. My birthday’s coming, after all–I don’t think DVDs qualify under my New Year’s Resolution ban…or do they?

For Saturday Movie Night: J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot, on Netflix, with one of the most repulsive reptiles of a protagonist I’ve seen recently. At first, when I recognized hints of black comedy, I was fairly engaged; during the second half, when the film became ridiculous and was resolved by a deus-who-had-been-obviously-planted-earlier-ex-machina, I didn’t care very much.

A party during an episode of The Durrells really made me miss celebrating with people while records play, booties shake, bodies sweat, and liquor flows. Really made me miss it. Damn TV shows…

Streaming for Strivers:

They say it’s your birthday…

Cloister Commentary, Day 336: Restlessness

Early in the morning, I learned that a former student of mine had been killed, and another former student of mine was allegedly involved. Not a happy start. Teaching the former when she was 12 and the latter when he was 15, I had excellent experiences with both. I last saw the victim early last year when our paths crossed at Gerbes; as usual, she was full of enthusiasm and kindness. My heart is with her family and friends. The loss is a shocking one.

I was so restless for a project and a distraction that I engaged in something really pointless: I emptied my 16g iPod Nano (we have three MP3 players, and they are each meticulously programmed with a completely different set of folders of music–madness, I know), then refilled it with all the “miscellaneous” folders of single tracks I’ve created in each genre folder on my external drive. On top of those, I dragged in some of my favorite various artist comps. I did not create any folders; my intention was to create a random jukebox of favorite but not necessarily famous songs. As soon as I was finished, I was immediately unsatisfied. Back to tinkering today. I didn’t even try it out.

When Nicole got home from school, we made up for our postponed Valentine’s Day with a Shakespeare’s pizza, some homemade vanilla ice milk, and both a new and an old movie: Nomadland and Thelma and Louise. Two terrific road movies–we didn’t plan that–that are seemingly quite different but with strong similarities at their hearts.

Streaming for Survivors:

Why hadn’t I heard of this until this morning?

Cloister Commentary, Day 335: COVID Snow Day

Nicole had a snow day. In a COVID mode, they ain’t quite the same, but I enjoyed having her home, and? She did excellent work anyway! Like 98.6% of the teachers I’ve known, she really cares about her students, and that feeling doesn’t just turn off when she has a day off. On a pretty consistent basis, she makes me wish I was still in the game full-time! Then I remember how I loved grading 125 essays at a time….

I spent much of the day immersed in great writing about rap and race. Because Nicole was indeed working, I couldn’t really bring the jams, but I have De La, Stetsa, and Digable Planets in the changer for today. And some folks known as Spillage Village.

Kurbside Kudos to Barred Owl Butcher for their stellar service and their medianoche sandwich, pimiento smashburger, and sour dough bread pudding! We celebrate each other’s birthday for at least a whole week, so it clearly has begun.

Also, thanks to my cousin Jenifer and our pal Isaac for directing us to the Lost & Found Grief Center.

Streaming for Strivers:

So long, Prince Markie Dee.

Cloister Commentary, Day 334: 4WD

I had never before piloted a four-wheel drive vehicle, but, due to the additional snow and our need to get one of our cats her feline leukemia booster shots, I locked in the Chevy Silverado I inherited from my dad and had a smooth trip to and from the vet on pretty nasty roads. I thought it was going to be complicated but it was easier than shifting gears. I’m not a car guy. Even less a truck guy, though I’ve driven one for over a quarter century.

After the urology lab kind of forgot about the results of my month-ago prostate biopsy, I finally got the results: negative. Cool! I asked why my PSA levels were so high, then. “We don’t know.” Oh. Follow-up in August.

Started up a Facebook fundraiser to benefit the Equal Justice Initiative for my birthday. EJI is primarily dedicated to providing high-quality legal representation to individuals unjustly incarcerated or otherwise unfairly trapped in the legal system–plus the memorial the organization has established in Montgomery, Alabama, to recognize the victims of the thousands of lynchings that have been perpetrated on this land is powerful.

Dinner was Parmesan portabellos, fresh spinach, and baked potatoes. We finally finished the gargantuan batch of cookies Nicole made–just in time for the Girl Scout cookies we bought from our wonderful lil’ neighbor.

My former student from eons ago, Alex Pulley, tagged me in a post: when I taught him and his gang of dudes as Parkview ninth graders, I frequently made them mixtapes. Alex, now middle-agéd, just discovered The Minutemen (accurately referred to by my friend Mike Rayhill as “The Minutestuds”) and couldn’t understand why I’d not hipped them back in the ’80s. I responded with several comments and replies in rat-a-tat fashion without waiting for responses. Once your teacher, always your teacher, dude….

Streaming for Strivers:

Owed T’Alex (that allusion’s a nudge in another musical direction)….