Cloister Commentary, Day 53: “Dead Chicken ‘Round a Dog’s Neck”

Anyone else out there feeling a little slippage in the routine they’d established to keep themselves together during this mess? We are. We had a fantastically full day yesterday; the signpost of of one of those for us is being able to meditate and get out and walk both, and being able to work on school and read and listen to music both, which we did. However, inconsistency in sleep patterns, going to bed with and waking up to crazy shit from life in your head, feeling anxiety and anticipation about the future, frustration trying to get work or get work done, suffering from “skin hunger,” too much snacking, missing important people and trying to figure out how to see them? All that can throw a person off track. We’re doing fine, but I just have to acknowledge the steep challenges.

Teachers often run into youth they WISH they could have taught, both in the hallways at work and out in the world. Among many, I especially wanted to teach the brother-sister team of Mitch Carlin and Madison Dickens. They are dear family friends from Monett, Missouri, whom I’ve known since they were younger than tykes. I had a terrific Messenger conversation with Mitch last night about great books (the latest in our series, actually)–he seriously gets into reading–and he made the “mistake” of asking me for recommendations for his “classics stack.” My own students know this is a perilous query; you best know you have some spare time after you pose it. Poor guy asked for 10 recommendations (actually, I asked him how many books he wanted me to recommend), and I predictably gave him 33 (including the entire Flashman papers; Mitch is a history scholar, a soldier, and just a dab of a rascal, so they are a must). Clearly, I miss teaching. Did I mention I’m a more-is-more dude? The list (I’d already recommended some prior to these, by the way):

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination

Octavia Butler: The Parable books

Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

George Eliot: Middlemarch

Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man

Louise Erdrich: The Roundhouse

George MacDonald Fraser: The complete Flashman Papers

Ernest Gaines: A Lesson Before Dying

Joseph Heller: Catch-22

Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon OR The Bluest Eye OR Beloved

Flannery O’Connor: Wise Blood OR The Collected Short Stories

Tommy Orange: There There

Charles Portis: True Grit

George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo

John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Alice Walker: The Color Purple

Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Nicole is having a disturbing Facebook experience! Twice she has employed a deeply meaningful metaphorical quote from the great Texas writer and talker Molly Ivins, and twice the social media mandarins have wiped the quote. Nothing profane was expressed in it, and as far as I know they/it/him gave her no opportunity to make a case for it. It’s one of many things that make me question why I’m here (on Facebook, that is), but apparently the growing pile will not prevent me from writing more paragraphs. I’ll share the quote in the comments and see what happens. Look for the name “Molly Ivins” (and if you haven’t read her, look her up). And here’s the quote:

My friend John Henry Faulk always said the way to break a dog of that habit is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog’s neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad the dog won’t be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won’t kill chickens again.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

One of Nicole’s fellow Spartans emailed her excitedly that she had to hear this record, which caused me to remember I’d never played it for her. Mr. Danny Gammon, she gives it a thumbs up! If you wanna engage with the (now, not so) new thing in jazz–though that term doesn’t quite do justice to the sound–click play, and do some research on the band, and its talented spearhead Shabaka Hutchings:

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