Cloister Commentary, Day 354: Futile IT/IRS Work Day

Turned a day off into a futile work day, IT- / IRS-style. The WiFi software and driver mysteriously disappeared from our laptop, so I tried everything suggested by about 10 forums to absolutely no avail. I have yet to return it to its factory specs…but that may be next. I also seemed to have successfully completed our fed and state tax forms (though, working on-line, my state work got wiped once in the process), only to get a late-breaking e-mail about a late 1099B that is on its way about five minutes after I wrapped it up. I’m never gonna get that work day back.

As if in compensation for both of our difficult days, Nicole and I went for another great neighborhood walk, enjoyed some chili-‘getti, and spread some Skippy on the coffee-chocolate brownies she made this weekend. I also defiantly rejoiced in breaking my New Year’s Resolution by buying a very scarce record that popped up on Discogs, The Supreme Angels’ If I’m Too High. That’s a gospel album, by the way…

Streaming for Strivers:

A great singer and lefty guitarist who was covered early on by The Rolling Stones. And she’s still at it.

Cloister Commentary, Day 353: A Room With A View

The fact that it was a slow day is best exemplified by how excited I was after cleaning up and rearranging my office. Smart humans would have, upon initially moving into it, immediately arranged it in the manner to which I changed it: I have a window view, yet I’ve had my back to it the entire time (it does look out onto a dormant chimney that is also reminiscent of a guard tower, so it is not exactly beauteous). Flipping my work station improved my Zoom appearance so much that, during our staff meeting, they thought I was in another location. Also, I swept the equivalent of a half-package of candy-coated fennel seeds off the floor. I don’t think my office had been swept since I moved into it in 2016.

One of the student teachers I supervise taught a lesson on Macbeth that I had the pleasure of observing. Her host teacher is a former student of mine to whom I taught that play; I do believe I forced the Scottish Play on students for almost 20 years, and about have it memorized. The intern did a very careful, thorough and enthusiastic job–in fact, made me miss it. That’s a by-product of supervising student teachers.

After a long walk, we settled in for an excellent dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches on Uprise Bakery Ancient Grain bread (Nicole made mine with pepper cheese), steamed spinach and taters, pickled beets, and chocolate coffee brownies made with Blue Plate mayonnaise. She bemoaned the boring nature of the meal, but what do you think? I thought I was damned lucky.

We fell asleep to the news that Columbia Public Schools will be fully in-seat April 5. Nicole should be fully vaccinated by then, and I hope all or most of the rest of the district’s staff will be.

Streaming for Strivers:

I can’t stand the rain, so I’m steeling myself for the end of the week.

Cloister Commentary, Day 352: I Beat a Headache

I battled a tremendous headache most of the day, but I managed to be productive. Updated both of my blogs and my resumé, though as far as the latter is concerned, I learned upon deeper inspection the job I was looking for I don’t quite fit. Nicole did some serious cooking, and I kept the dishes clean for each wave. Dipped into the three books I have going–their titles are Red Pill, Heaven’s Prisoners, and The Bear Comes Home–took a three-mile stroll with the cook (what a week for walks!), then came home, opened a window, and cranked up Glenn Gould’s glorious Goldberg Variations (both ’55 and ’81 recordings–a gift from my friend David) and was dazzled.

I was prepared to be disappointed by the NBA All-Star Game but it was quite entertaining, and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get used to players calmly sinking jump shots from around half court–again and again. Basketball’s come a long way from the set shot. My favorite moment occurred when, in succession, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul (!!!!!) each dunked (well, Paul’s was 80% dunk) off each other’s lobs. Also, Grambling’s and Florida A & M’s marching bands rocked.

Streaming for Strivers:

I’d follow Sandy Denny damn near anywhere.

Cloister Commentary, Day 351: To Be Old Enough to Have Been Young Enough

Switched to a larger BiPap mask for my CPap mo-sheen and slept like a baby. I know readers were waiting with bated breath to learn of my progress. Now, if it were fitted with headphones I could listen to KPop and JPop. Sorry….

Picked up our weekly Columbia Farmers Market order and overheard another pair of customers talking excitedly about Pasta La Fata: “Y’know, it’s the thing around Columbia!” It IS!

Dude next door was screaming profanities, kicking his car, and slamming and reslamming his car door and trunk. I was walking our recycling out to the truck and he muttered hatefully “What are you lookin’ at?” It appeared I was looking at a cross between Billy Bibbit and Mike Reno. Nonetheless I proceeded to complete my task and Nicole and I additionally took a three-mile neighborhood walk.

Cruised over to our friends’ house for conversation and snacks on the deck. We miss adventuring with Janet Marsh and David Truesdell. We snacked on scrimps and cocktail sauce, peanuts and cashews, and dark chocolate; we discussed the fallibility of human memory, Glenn Gould (David donated a nice sealed item to our collection), the Little Rascals, “cancel culture,” January 6, their spirited old friend Molly, and their early days together in Columbia. When they speak of those days, we always wish we were old enough to have been young enough to have hung out with them then.

Returned and watched the quietly stunning film Minari (see trailer in comments below). It is movie in which, as a cousin once described another excellent movie, “Nothing happens,” but a) actually plenty does, and b) sometimes those are the BEST films.

Streaming for Strivers:

This classic country singer sometimes gets lost in discussions of the great honky-tonkers, but she belongs.


*not that we all won’t continue to need sources of both

Every 50 days of the pandemic, I’ve tried to highlight material that’s been helping Nicole and I up the mountain. I’m leaving off with this commentary on Day 365–a not-so-nice far-from-round year–so here end the awards. But I live to share on Facebook, so that doesn’t much matter!


Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom
Dolly Parton: A Real Live Dolly
The Supreme Angels: Drinking of the Wine
Showbiz & AG: Runaway Slave


Kim’s Convenience
Men in Kilts
Sweet Smell of Success
The Durrells of Corfu
All Creatures Great and Small


Stephanie Soileau: Last One Out Shut Off the Lights
Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Anti-Racist
Hubert Selby, Jr.: Requiem for a Dream
Brian Coleman: Check the Technique–Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies
Thich Nhat Hanh: How to Fight


Barred Owl Butcher

Yes, I know it’s not over.

Streaming for Strivers:

Top of the line arrangements and sliding!

Cloister Commentary, Day 349: On Ice

Since I’m on ice teaching-wise this semester, I am “free” Tuesdays and Thursdays–it doesn’t feel like freedom, however. I tried to make the most of it: did some chores around the house, dug into a birthday-present box set of New York/St. Louis/Fort Worth jazz master Julius Hemphill’s rare recordings, finished a book and made progress on three others, contemplated applying for a new part-time job and participating in a music writing workshop, chased cats, and reconnected with a former student I last chatted with 31 years ago.

That final event was very cool: I had wished another former student, Shawna Hayes, a happy birthday, and her classmate Mike Nichols did as well–we noticed each other’s wish, greeted each other and, together, tried to remember everyone who was in that first-hour English class in 1990, my first year in Columbia and at Hickman. That class was epochal for me: it was my first experience team-teaching with a learning specialist (Karen Downey and I would remain a team until 2015!), Hickman was a next-level teacher culture from what I was used to, and the first morning I walked in the students had self-segregated accorded to their melanation. The intensity of my engagement and striving was so strong it is no wonder I instantly remembered the names (and specific seating chart spots) of 75% of the class! I would give myself a B- in that striving, but grades don’t mean much; I learned a ton. And Mike and Shawna were so kind and accepting of my trying it’s no wonder I remember them well (I even taught Shawna’s daughter Quasha many years later at Hickman). And Roshawn Hayes has published a book!

Just remembered! As a result of being tagged on Facebook, I got to catch up and reminisce with two other former students who were part of the wildest and wooliest middle school groups I ever taught. Jennie Ling and Lauren Hill were both straight “A” students, but what we actually looked back on were their very rare 7th grade missteps; to have missteps rarely at 12 and 13 is to be well on one’s way. They’ve turned out to be pretty damned solid adults.

When Nicole got home, we got in yet another neighborhood walk (what great weather this week) and again turned to TCM for our movie night choice: Sweet Smell of Success. Watching Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis play slimy tabloid purveyors was fascinating (and disturbing) enough, but James Wong Howe’s black and white cinematography alone was worth the time we spent.

Streaming for Strivers:

Black History Month –> Women’s History Month transition a touch late. Music + poetry in a big way.

Cloister Commentary, Day 348: Palpability

So now I hear the feds are ordering states to vaccinate teachers. I guess educators just needed to suffer the requisite existential anxiety and local blowhard hostility first. We’ll see if that news holds up–it’s only 12 days ahead of the current educators’ tier, so big effin’ deal.

Ok, I’ve breathed. Our first day after having received a COVID shot felt mildly lacking in burden, unsurprisingly. Just doing mundane things–dropping off a package at the P. O., picking up a book at the library and food from a restaurant–seemed breezier. And it’s not just us; I sensed it while out and about. I’m not ready to discard my mask (maybe in 2022), but a further touch of that relief I mentioned yesterday was in the air.

Started a new book, Hari Kunzru’s Red Pill. If the whole thing’s as great as the first three pages I’ll be finished by the weekend.

Nicole and I took another long walk and communed with our neighbor Shireen on the back porch. I decided to take an evening’s break from my CPap mo-sheen and we fell asleep watching Kim’s Convenience.

Streaming for Strivers:

An ice cube rubbed on life’s bee stings.

Cloister Commentary, Day 347: The First Shot

My COVID-19 vaccination appointment was at a mass event yesterday at the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Boonville. Due to a heart condition I had not realized qualified me for the Tier 2 group currently being vaccinated in Missouri, I was fortunate enough to be there; though I’m not a gamblin’ man, it was not my first time. A few years back, Nicole, Susie and George Frissell, and I traveled there to see (and meet!) the legendary country singer Ray Price. The band swung their music in the same space where folks were getting their shots, so now I have two great memories of the exact spot. And not simply because I got a dose of Pfizer.

The operation was very well-organized. I arrived a half-hour early for my 9:00 date with the needle, and was so smoothly ushered through the stations by the National Guard, volunteers, and health professionals in charge that by 8:37 I’d been vaccinated. Chatting with the nurse who was attending me, I told her how elated I now felt, explained my experiences with this commentary project, and casually mentioned that Nicole (on Tier 3) was now teaching in-person and had been waiting nervously to get her shot for several weeks. I really didn’t wheedle, or at least that was what I was trying to project.

“Is she out in the car? We can vaccinate her!”

I replied, “Well, she’s 30 minutes away–what if I can get her here soon?”

“Can she be here by noon?”

Instantly, I was on the phone with Nicole. Fortunately, her work was flexible enough to allow her to leave, and 30 minutes later we were walking through the stations together (I was allowed to be her vaccination support person).

Besides being a great experience–how often does one say that about getting a shot?–we were moved by the kindness, organization, and humor of the site team, and I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me as we walked out of the casino. We still must proceed carefully, and it occurred to me that relief has become a very rare feeling in my life. I’m not taking it for granted–and I hope if you have not yet had the opportunity to feel that particular feeling, it will come soon.

Streaming for Strivers:

O’ Day = “Dough” in Pig Latin. One of my Top 10 favorite singers.

Cloister Commentary, Day 346: The Conversations

Conversations. Had two excellent extended on-line chats with Hickman grads from different eras: Tyree Paladon Byndom (we discussed podcasts and destiny) and Donnie Harden Jr (we affirmed–as usual–the genius of Prince and pondered the possible pitfalls of the Jam-Lewis firing). Those two are unique humans. Also explored with other Kewpie vets Como Dave Sherman, Joseph Kenney, and Alex Fleming (the latter two survivors of my English class while I was still a mite green) was the fine line between ’90s hip-hop hollerers M. O. P. and Onyx. When Nicole got home, we went on a long walk through the neighborhood, got caught up on each other’s day, and applied salve to the “Living in Missouri Blues.”

Dinner: one of my cloister-era favorites! Raw veggies, toasted pita and Uprise Ancient Grain bread, and homemade hummus and pimiento cheese. Simple but delicious, and whatever’s left over we can snack on during the week.

Reading: I’ve long enjoyed Charles Blow’s writing, from his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones through his pieces in The New York Times, and his new book-length proposal for a reverse Great Migration, The Devil You Know, is fascinating and challenging. Among many arguments he makes (and supports meticulously) is that Black Americans are in more immediate danger from white violence (physically and institutionally) in the northern states than the southern ones.

Streaming for Strivers:

I’ve probably listened to this master’s music more than any woman’s during this pandemic. It’s helped. She’s inventive, sassier than Sassy (her take on “Send in the Clowns” is bold), witty, flexible, and…in control.

Cloister Commentary, Day 345: Sunday Morning Coming Up

The highlight of the day was a Bear Creek trail walk during which Nicole and I discussed fascinating future possibilities. It’s been hard during the last year to visualize the future as usual when the moment itself has so frequently been too critical to inhabit casually–and imaginatively–so…that was cool.

I’m sure I’ve made many comments here that have justifiably caused readers to roll their eyes and exhale a “Really?” but my taste-curiosity has had me exploring the current round of craft non-alcoholic beer. Before, I’d raved about WellBeing Brewing (we still love their Victory Wheat), but Athletic Brewing Company and The Brooklyn Brewery are hot on their heels. This is not sage wisdom anyone’s going to beat my door down to get, but I have a knack for that kind. Needless to say, I’ve been doing research–at least I can have a guilt-free beer for breakfast with Sunday Morning coming UP.

My mom went to her “great-granddaughter”‘s basketball game AND church this weekend; that makes me happy. I am sure she took precautions.

After the walk, Nicole made pimiento cheese spread and a delicious salt-free hummus, while I finished The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (!!) and listened to Miles’ Jack Johnson and Get Up With It on headphones. I also became dissatisfied with the two MF DOOM mix CDs I’d made for Josh Slates that I kept those for my truck and made him two new ones. I owed him a couple anyhow; he’s always been a terrific source. That was the productivity part of our day.

My heart hurt a little when I realized Season 1 of All Creatures Great and Small was over; singing and dancing on Men in Kilts assuaged my pain. I really need to visit my family line’s castle, Kisimul, in the Outer Hebrides.

Streaming for Strivers:

“Sound” in more ways than one.