Cloister Commentary, Day 258: Zeus on Veggies

Nicole was working in her office during the day, so I was left to my own devices: swept the basement, organized the recycling, finished that danged Basquiat biography (it ended up being pretty good), finally sampled a few minutes of the Hendrix DVD that came in the new “Live in Maui” set to see it was more for solo or duo viewing (verdict: not just for Jimi junkies!), did research on high PSA levels since two straight blood panels indicated that was my story, and took a nap. The best I can do, really, with a free day in COVIDland.

It was our movie night, so we picked up a veggie Zeus at Tony’s Pizza Palace-Columbia and tried out Netflix’s Wu Assassins on a tip from The Week. Two episodes in: B+. Perfect for simple entertainment and martial arts satisfaction.

Streaming for Strivers: A terrific trio.

Cloister Commentary, Day 286: Hey 2020–Don’t Let The Doorknob Hit You in the Ass!

What were you doing on New Year’s Eve?

Well, for myself, I can see I over-posted! And I didn’t even wish people a Happy New Year–instead, I let loose with a Gene Vincent “quote.” I’m odd.

I got in a friendly cyber argument with my friends Kevin and Eric (definitely not Tim and Eric)! Evil Kevin was trying to make me pick between the Stones and the Velvets; my stance was “Why do I have to choose?” as well as “Why even compare these bands?” You cannot win an argument with anyone who has Eric’s backing (he’s that smart), and I guess I argue so infrequently they thought I had a case of the red-ass, which I didn’t. To get Kevin’s teeth out of my leg, I chose VU because they seem less colonial to me.

Nicole and I sampled the amazing cuisine of Pasta La Fata here in Columbia! You order, they make the pasta and sauce and everything and run it out to you, and you get to have the fun of assembling and cooking it! We had not had authentically Italian food in forevz and Pasta La Fata’s was scintillating. What did we order? Mostaccioli in Sugo sauce with salsiccia meatballs and cheese tortelloni in a brown butter and herb sauce. How’s that grab ya, darling? We will call them up again.

Nicole beat my butt in Scrabble as usual. My game-long paucity of vowels eventually led me to resign–can you resign in Scrabble? Seemed like the only thing for me to do to stop the bleeding, as I was also holding a Q and a J.

We also mourned the just-revealed Halloween passing of Daniel Dumile, the skilled rapper and producer better known as MF DOOM. I’m still somewhat skeptical due to the unusual announcement, but 2020 just had to be an ass one more time. His music kept the blues at bay for us, though.

No one karaokes like my old pal Brock, and we got to watch him “do a show” for his family in the Boland lair. He appears to be training his talented daughter Fay to take over her dad’s business; it was almost as fun as being at a club!

We didn’t call anybody. Nobody called us! It’s fun to do on New Year’s Eve, but apparently not that fun.

Though time and calendars are constructs of human beings, I am damn glad 2020 is over. It was the worst year of my life, easily. I’m not even totally sure what the damage is; I know there is some. But, I tell you what (what’s the origin of that phrase? it cracks me up!), in our 30-plus years together Nicole and I have seldom been apart–this year, we were more together than ever, and not only did I truly enjoy it, I’m not sure we ever argued seriously, and I am sure I’d have not made it without her. Also, I think thumbing out these entries helped, too. It’s not like I ever bare my soul; it’s just a record of what happened, plus a way for me to keep pushing music. But when things seemed to be falling apart, I could write one, read it back, and see some order. Thanks for bearing with me.

Streaming for Survivors:

Everybody / Loves a winner!

Cloister Commentary, Day 285: Futzin’

One thing we’ve started to do frequently at this stage in the pandemic is just sit at the kitchen table, listen to music, have beers and futz around (browsing the Internet, reading the paper, sharing opinions, and planning plans for when we can plan again). We did that for a few hours yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I must have had one beer too many, as, realizing my experiment in self-denial is about to begin and hearing Nicole’s words (“You do realize I’M not asking you to do this, right?”) pinging off the inner walls of my skull, I tipsy-bought, um, a few music items. I do not really need a “Gary Stewart King of the Honky Tonk” ballcap, but one’s on the way.

My long-time pal Kenny Wright was doing some cleaning yesterday and discovered that, over the years, I’d made him around 200 mixtapes (cassettes, that is). And those are just the ones I made him. I really, really miss the process of making those; I still have a working cassette deck and some blank tapes, so I thought I’d just make one for kicks. Then I had another beer instead.

Show Me a state that has a wilder, more avid predilection than Misery does for schmucky, supercilious, workout-obsessed white men who prove over and over that you can emerge from an Ivy League school (or the military) principle- and character-free, and I’ll…never mind, don’t.

Streaming for Survivors:

For Kenny, Nathan, and all other celebrants.

Cloister Commentary, Day 284: Nasty Weather of All Kinds

Dismal weather was moving in to cruelly combine with the continued COVID wildfire, so we headed out for enough curbside provisions to get us a few days into 2021. Speaking of cruelty, our political leadership continues to find ways to withhold economic relief from struggling Americans; I had thought this time a winning combination had been found, but where do I get this optimism from?

We had a very nice evening, finishing the deeply powerful Wright Thompson book Pappyland (last time I will mention it, but I’m trying to hypnotize you into buying it), enjoying some butternut squash soup and some locally baked batard (courtesy of Uprise Bakery), toasted and garlicked, and spreading out in the living room for a few hours with books, cats, beer, and the intense, painful honky tonk music of Gary Stewart. We closed down the day with three episodes of TrueSouth, which focused on the terrific cultural cuisine of Nashville, Shreveport, and New Orleans. In all our trips to the Crescent City, how did we miss Mandina’s?!!

Streaming for Strivers:

Is there such a thing as a bad Bob Wills – Tommy Duncan album? I think not.

Cloister Commentary, Day 283: I Will Buy No More Forever

As New Year’s Day approaches, like a dork I’ve been considering resolutions. But I’m very serious about this one, and maybe if I make it public that will add to my resolve.

It will come as a surprise to no one who knows me that our house is teeming with books and music. Some who know me are also aware that I struggle with this, suspended between the desire to own every great album there is (and many of the great books, but that’s different) and the clear awareness that my life is finite, the rage to “possess” is ridiculous and very likely colonial residue, and I can enjoy so much great music and literature without having the concrete thing.

So. I’m going to try not to buy a single piece of music next year. My fortune is such that I have enough records here (beyond 10,000) to enjoy for the rest of my life. What about things that aren’t streaming, you wisely ask? I have a network of friends who are adepts and might be persuaded to swap. If that doesn’t work? It won’t kill me. Books: if I can’t find ’em in a library…I’ll live. Maybe, just maybe, if I learn about a great book that’s out of print and can find a cheap used copy, I’ll buy it. But isn’t that like that ONE cigarette that won’t hurt?

Wish me luck. Nicole and I had a great, relaxing day, got a neighborhood walk in, and discovered a “new” food show called “TrueSouth,” which was executive produced by Wright Thompson. Beebs seems to be feeling better. I drank a porter and it didn’t mess with my stomach. And my new nerdy Inspire watch revealed that my previous night’s sleep was “excellent.”

Streaming for Strivers:

A great singer whose life was cut terribly short, as was Sam Cooke’s, his boon companion and artistic admirer.

Cloister Commentary, Day 282: Home Again

Nicole and I headed back home yesterday after a holiday with my mom and my brother and sister-in-law. I knew Nicole would do so with no problem, but I’d worried how successfully I would be able to stay masked (other than being outdoors and sleeping and eating) for the whole visit. It’s not that I didn’t want to; I’m simply too present-minded, meaning my mind’s so full of everything important I need to attend to that I can forget the most important task. I would give myself an A-. It has been a very, very hard year for all of us and we needed to be together.

On the ride home, we listened to the audiobook of Wright Thompson’s terrific Pappyland. I’ve recently mentioned it, but if you have a gift card for a bookstore, think about this one. It’s about the famous Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons, but it’s also about fathers and sons and so much more. I was dazzled and stunned by a passage in which Thompson links Rick Telander, Bruce Springsteen, and Thomas Merton as if that would be as natural as spring water running downhill.

We kicked back in the evening with a Shakespeare’s pizza, a glass, some music, and Christmas gifts. I fiddled with a new Inspire “health watch” as Nicole warned, “Nerd Alert!”

Streaming for Strivers:

I have the cassette.

Cloister Commentary, Day 281: Race and Rear Ends

Nicole and I took another long walk into the Monett country. The sun was out, the temperature was in the 50s, and we covered around three miles. I guess the overall holiday activity had been too much for me, as I went down for a solid nap in the afternoon.

Our good friends Hiedi and Greg Carlin came over for delicious fajitas my brother Brian prepared with fresh local meats, sauces, and tortillas. We gender-segregated out of space concerns and explored many topics. By the end of the evening, the boys had killed the bottle of Overeem Whisky my brother had scored from Tasmania, and the ladies had solved some of the problems of the world. My mom was particularly delighted with the gathering; my favorite part of the night was an honest and insightful discussion of both race and invasive male health procedures.

I knew I would snore, so after convening with Nicole about our regrets, joys, and hopes, I went out to sleep on the couch (I have always been able to sleep on any surface), and dreamed of trying to hug my recently deceased dog, who did not really allow that action.

Streaming for Strivers:

John, I finally got ahold of this. Thanks for the push.

Cloister Commentary, Day 280: A Nearly-Complete Yule

A fine Christmas Day after a frankly terror-ridden calendar year. Our highlights?

Food (of course)! Morning: The family’s famous sausage, cheese and egg breakfast casserole. Afternoon: hot pork tamales. Night: ham loaf, macaroni and cheese, GREEN BEANS! All day: Nicole’s peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies (as I thumb this out, only one remains). Nightcap: egg nog with a dose of Four Roses.

Exercise (two days in a row)! A long park jaunt capped by some meditation by the water.

Entertainment! Nets and Saints victories (Durant! Kamara!), the intense Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the warming but also unsparing Christmas staple episode from Call The Midwife.

Gifts! My favorite that someone else received? Tie between Jane’s Apple Watch and Nicole’s Bryant Terry cookbook Vegetable Kingdom (yes, that’s my gift, too, and would you be surprised I gave it to her?). My favorite gift I gave (only they might not know it yet so no tag)? A gift subscription to The Week. My favorite gift I received? I’m sorry, I just love gift cards (from Mom, Myra, and Brian), which I used to get vinyl (Belle & Sebastian, X, and Moor Mother/Billy Woods)

My favorite thing was our unit was able to be together safely. My regret: my dad would have enjoyed this Christmas, but his spirit and his ethos were definitely in play.

I hope yesterday made you forget the calendar year, for at least a while.

Streaming for Strivers:

She was real.

Cloister Commentary, Day 279: Tasmanian Devils on the Eve of Yule

Christmas Eve doings, with my love, my brother and sister-in-law, and mom all healthy, happy and in tow. (Well, Myra has a boot on, but at least she didn’t have to use it on anyone)…

Enjoyed a slowly unfolding morning with family company, coffee, good books, and Nicole’s cookies (both peanut butter and chocolate chip).

Got bundled up and took a long walk (I’d estimate around three miles) even though temp was in the low twenties. It was bracing and wonderful, as the sun shone on us.

Broke into the annual bottle of Tasmanian single malt whiskey my brother Brian brings that bears our name, then hopped onto the “International Overeem Facebook Group Page” (not its real name), posted a selfie, and got caught up. I wish I understood Dutch, but I appreciate the translations.

Played a fun round of Five Crown, finished last as usual, and played deejay. I hope Mom appreciated Mojo Nixon and The Toad Liquors’ Horny Holidays, as it is not exactly Andy Williams style! Opening line: “It was the night before Christmas / And everything was all [effed] up!” And it gets better/worse from there.

Supped upon Brian’s chicken and andouille gumbo–delicious, had to have two bowls!

Closed down the day with Netflix’s Dolly Parton documentary, Here I Am, which was a perfect way to end the day. I recommend it.

We agreed to stay masked except for when outdoors, eating, and in our bedroom. It was difficult, but we did it, and it was worth it. We were all missing Dad, but he’d have been happy we didn’t linger over it much.

Have a great holiday, readers, and thanks for following this project!

Streaming for Survivors:

An all-time favorite.

Cloister Commentary, Day 278: Beebs Returns!

I had trouble concentrating most of the morning since Beebs, one of the two strays that adopted us several years ago and live on our back deck, hadn’t been around the previous evening and didn’t show up for breakfast. He is a very special cat to us: he first appeared as a phantom, then I very carefully employed my cat whisperer talents and finally, after several weeks of distanced treat offerings, persuaded him to let me pet him. We’ve been buddies ever since. He’s got a near-silent meow, “hurt”-looking eyes, and a playful streak epitomized by his batting at my ankle if I walk away from him before he’s done with me. He climbs everything, and early on he badly injured himself doing so and suffered an infection that threatened his life, and we and some great vets nursed him back to health. Currently, he guards the backyard, but he’s also kind and serves as a Eskimo-kissing big brother to our other deck-stray, Goldie. ANYWAY, I made “lost cat” posts on two social media sites, and since this year has been the straight pits, began preparing myself to accept another loss. Then, after lunch, he showed back up, limping but otherwise looking healthy. Exhale.

Also, Nicole and I started a book by an author one of my former students and very good friends, Regan Schoengarth, insisted I get very familiar with: Wright Thompson. Thompson’s got local connections (right, Steve Weinberg?) and, indeed, writes indelibly, ostensibly about sports, but most powerfully about fathers and sons and the way culture is mutated by time’s changes. He’s special: his sterling collection of features, THE COST OF THESE DREAMS, was the last gift I ever gave my dad (who loved it, but we didn’t get the chance to talk about it in depth–in a way, I gave him the book as a way to talk to him), and his new book, PAPPYLAND, is scintillating even if you’ve never heard of Pappy Van Winkle. We listened to half the audiobook yesterday and might just finish it today. Note: Thompson’s also an unabashed Southern writer, a breed for which I have a weakness.

Streaming for Strivers:

As my friend Ken often says, “Sometimes, nothing else works.”