Cloister Commentary, Day 317: Road Catalysts

My day got off to a great start. Nicole and I did some very early shopping for essentials then snagged a half-dozen bagels at Goldie’s with which to finish off our smoked sockeye salmon. I’m tellin’ you, if you’re in Columbia, Missouri, and you love bagels, hit ’em up.

I hit the road late morning to visit my mom, get her to a surgical procedure, and help her during recovery (that procedure was canceled–more on that tomorrow). The day was cold and gray, so I needed serious musical fuel to power me for the three-plus-hour drive. Few rock and roll bands catalyze me like Dead Moon and Wussy. Who are your musical catalysts?

My mom and I watched Netflix’s The Dig (Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan on point, plus the story and camerawork are fascinating) and most of All Creatures Great and Small–Mom’s surgery was scheduled for 6:15 a.m., so we retired early.

Streaming for Strivers:

Black History Month is every month, because it’s everyone’s history. I always celebrate it to the best of my ability, and largely through music. Don’t know J. B. Lenoir? I invite you to click.

Cloister Commentary, Day 316: Shawn, Out of the Blue

I was sitting at the table having coffee when, out of the blue, my friend from childhood, Shawn Baugh, lit up my phone. His first question? “What do you think of this political situation?” These days, such a query via telecom might cause one to have a sudden outage, but we’ve known each other for almost 50 years, so we pitched right in. We would seem to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but as our highly enjoyable discussion revealed, we have much in common regarding what we’d like to see fixed. We also laughed a lot about the absurdities of life, found ourselves remembering the world of our youth, and pondered our future road as oldsters. Neither of us are entirely sure we are excited to see what happens during the next 25 years, but this quote from Shawn sums up both our attitudes: “I love life.” He always has! And so have I, and I’m going to pursue measures to sustain that philosophy. That call was a great boost for my day.

Elsewhere, Nicole and I drove to the Columbia Farmers Market and picked up our usual weekend haul from Pasta La Fata, Uprise Bakery, and Happy Hollow Farm. I as usual picked the wrong basketball games to half-watch (Tide v. Sooners, Auburn v. Baylor) and mopped up a basement leak; Nicole made red beans and rice and some stir-fry to go with the smoked sockeye salmon we ordered from Sea Bear–I could almost have eaten the whole filet!

Movie Night: we finally watched Netflix’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Horatio Alger-goes-to-India / Bildungsroman from Hell novel The White Tiger. The director is Rahmin Bahraini, one of our top five faves. Nicole’s side-eye review: “This is intense.”

Streaming for Strivers:

Mmmm…Goldie’s Bagels!

Cloister Commentary, Day 315: Three Highlights

One of yesterday’s highlights was finishing Hubert Selby, Jr.’s blazing Requiem for a Dream. I almost re-watched the film adaptation, but ended up deeming it a bit too much, so I watched the first special episode of Euphoria instead–which tied right in. One of the best post-COVID productions I’ve seen.

Another was participating in a post and thread started by Alyssa O’Day, whom I taught when she was a 6th grader and when she was a senior. She has always been sharp, spirited, and fearless, and we were discussing the difficulty of convincing some folks (particularly elders) that they’d demonstrably drunk the Kool-Aid (recalling that a former colleague once thought that phrase was an occupational compliment, I must clarify that IT IS NOT). We did not solve that problem, but I thoroughly enjoyed the attempt.

The capper was a FaceTime with our dear friends Kenny and Gwen Wright, of Helena, Alabama. We talked about politics, pets, and pain, as well as sports, sons, and salmon. I wish they lived next door.

Streaming for Survivors:

A trailblazer who has departed too early.

Cloister Commentary, Day 314: Art Immersion

Yesterday was somewhat of an art immersion. My mind and body call for one every so often. This episode featured a continued cruise through the oeuvre of Daniel Dumile, better known as MF DOOM (remember: all caps when you spell the man’s name), a master of improbable, poly-internal rhymes and sustained flow in spite of the jaw gymnastics who passed back in October. The man could craft thunking beats and allusive soundscapes as well. I’ve long been a fan–enough to buy a DOOM lunchbox and still be wearing a t-shirt I bought in the ‘oughts (Atlante Guarardo can testify)–and my cruise was stimulating. Also on the artistic menu was Hubert Selby Jr.‘s Requiem for a Dream; the best books can shut down mind-drift even in a burning world, and this one did for 75+ pages. I know I’ll have to revisit the film when I finish it (today), but neither tome nor flick are for the faint of spirit.

I received the data from my recent sleep study in the mail. Any other sleep apneaiacs out there? I drew a 43.2 AHI, and have another study next week.

My mom, who’s 83, reported that she will be getting her first COVID vaccine Tuesday, the day after her shoulder surgery. That’s some terrific news.

Nicole and I dined on #9s with curry and tofu from Bangkok Garden, then finished Season 1 of The Durrells in Corfu. I’m chompin’ at the bit for The White Tiger….

Streaming for Survivors:

He wasn’t totally comfortable performing live, but he had aching hands from breakin’ in mic stands. Hear below.

Cloister Commentary, Day 313: Pandemic Silver Linings Playbook

Nicole and I awakened to snow, beautiful and dangerous like human beings. Dad’s truck did pretty well without being put into four-wheel drive, and the snowfall was a calming backdrop to a few hours of work.

When I returned home, I networked with some former Hickman colleagues regarding the upcoming May scholarship in memoriam to the life and work of the only materially departed George Frissell. We have some very deserving candidates.

Dinner was smoked salmon, fresh spinach, and a baked potato. We read for a couple of hours with a Jimmy Smith soundtrack.

As promised (and it’s not that I am enjoying it or ever want to experience a repeat), here are…

The Ten Best Things About Being Isolated by the Pandemic:

  1. We have been eating far more healthily.
  2. Nicole and I will have been together 31 years in May. We have been in each other’s presence more in the last 313 days than we ever have, under stressful circumstances, and we feel strong. I guess the honeymoon period isn’t over yet.
  3. Oddly, being stranded from work has made me more available to respond in-person to tragedy and need.
  4. The virtual freshman comp class I taught for Stephens College this summer was truly one of my favorite educational experiences and I learned a few skills that will probably increase my professional lifespan.
  5. I have been able to talk to my mom almost every morning since mid-June. I have no love for talking on the phone, but I have enjoyed that, even though we’ve had to talk through hard things.
  6. We have been able to meditate and reflect on our days more consistently than ever.
  7. I’m not sure a new president would have been elected with the last one’s predictably cruel and inept response to the pandemic, and I’m happy that change happened. I should have included January 6 on yesterday’s list, because that’s always going to be tempering my optimism.
  8. Though I complained yesterday about being sucked into whirlpools of self-involved thinking, another perspective is I’ve had the quiet in which to really come to terms with realities about my self, which I think is always in flux but has some stable attributes.
  9. In the category of domestic felines, I have improved my relationships with Goldie, BB, Cleo, Tux, Smoky, and especially Spirit. Junior and I have always seen eye to eye.
  10. This. I have always enjoyed writing, and knocking these out every day has been good for me in many ways. When the project was suggested to me by a friend, I was skeptical and scared–I really didn’t want to do it–but (as with many things) once I got rolling, I truly took to it. Early on, after I’d already begun, the local historical society called for pandemic diaries, and I let them know what I was doing. Maybe one day these will be a primary source for a researcher trying to shed light on these times from a historical distance. In truth, I know I am unaware of much of what they really say; I just hope it’s been valuable.

Streaming for Strivers:

I’ve been DOOM-scrolling.

Cloister Commentary, Day 312: Listing Through the Day, Part 1

Yesterday really was a slowwwww news day. Other than sampling The Durrells in Corfu, reading portions of six different books, taking the recycling to the center, and going on a Beefheart binge (yes, I’m an old ‘fheart-heart), I was in a bit of what I think they call stasis. Thus, it’s list time.

The 10 Hardest Things About The Pandemic (So Far–I’m Braced 24-7):

  1. Mourning without proper closure.
  2. Missing friends’ handshakes and embraces.
  3. Having to regularly confront how much I am my job (occasional self-loathing and sadness stemming from the fact that I’m not in a catalytic in-person classroom several days a week).
  4. Trying and failing to sleep seven hours / at least five consecutively. (Bad this week.)
  5. Sitting on my ass far more than I prefer.
  6. Adjusting to an almost totally immutable routine (teaching is hard but always unpredictable).
  7. Falling into a self-involved thought-whirlpool far too often for my liking.
  8. Slipping into cynicism about human beings in general (was it Charles Schulz who quipped that he liked people, it was the human race he couldn’t stand? “You stupid a**h**e / Baby, I’m one, too!” – Angry Samoans) since the great corrector (a public school classroom) isn’t available.
  9. Experiencing moments, even days, when I look at stacks of books and records and have no enthusiasm for plunging in.
  10. Resisting the charms of a well-made martini or a perfectly toxic margarita.

Tomorrow: The 10 BEST (?) Things About the Pandemic.

Streaming for Strivers:

Mood these times can bring…

Cloister Commentary, Day 311: What If?

My brother called yesterday morning to tell me Mom has shoulder surgery scheduled for Monday. She sustained a tear in a wind-and-rainblown fall in November that’s gradually come to torture her, and the news that the procedure’s just around the corner was the best we’ve received lately. Also, barring an emergency between now and then, she’ll be the first surgical patient ever at Monett, Missouri’s new hospital. Not exactly the thing one longs to be known for, but hey–she’ll take it. If only COVID vaccinations came that quickly….

I’m deeply enjoying an old book I picked up used a couple years ago called What If?, in which esteemed historians look at the possibilities had major events in world history happened just a touch differently (example: what if Alexander the Great had died at 22 at the Battle of the Granicus River, as he nearly did…or what if he’d lived into middle age?). I might have ended up a history major if high school teachers had taught the subject the way these experts frequently do. I found myself wondering whether a similar entire book couldn’t be written about the past year.

We finished Season Three of Cobra Kai (the series needs to be roundhouse-kicked at this point, but a future season looms) and sampled Kim’s Convenience, which frequently drew explosive laughter from both Nicole and me. It felt a touch…broad, but perhaps my Korean-American friends can weigh in with a perspective if they’ve seen it. Also, I wonder how good the book from which it’s adapted is.

Streaming for Strivers:

Slip inside this house.

Cloister Commentary, Day 310: Dumbfounded but Standing

I catch myself looking at that number of days and what’s happened in their passing, and I’m dumbfounded we haven’t spent any of them (quite) on our knees. Not through them yet. And we’re not interested in the old normal anyhow. The thoughts you think, I tell ya.

Sunday’s bounty? Columbians, Goldie’s Bagels is the bomb. It’s in the Pizza Tree spot Tue-Sun 7-11 am, and you best bring an appetite: normal human couples could split one; we were excited about trying something new and ordered three. After finishing them and watching CBS Sunday Morning, we felt like hibernating. Nicole and I recommend their Everything Bagel with either scallion or “dilly lox” spread–we venture to say they’re the best bagels in town!

I did a Herculean amount of reading and watching football. I got all of what I needed from the former and half of what I wanted from the latter. We went on a long walk, finished those dangerous oatmeal ‘n’ cherry cookies, Zoomed with our “Flying Saucer” friendship support group–ohhhh…that’s why we stayed off our knees!–and dug John Waters learning about his dark and disturbing roots from Henry Louis Gates.

Streaming for Strivers:

Remain in light this week, ok?

Cloister Commentary, Day 309: Jazzy Indoctrination

What was occurrin’? Not much–but that’s ok.

We awakened early to hit the grocery ahead of the crowd (6ish). Indeed, it was a graveyard, though Nicole witnessed a customer haranguing a poor shelf stocker because he didn’t know where the new city trash bags. If I’d been there, I’d-a harangued her because she didn’t know where the new city trash bag contactless pick-up was. Undoubtedly, that would have inconvenienced the harridan.

One of the first student teachers I hosted was Tasha Terrell. Besides being smart and professional, she had a dry, quiet sense of humor (I was dealing with a case of labyrinthitis at the time, which she dubbed “David Bowie’s disease”–I still laugh every time I think about it). Tasha and her husband Ryan have two crumbsnatchers that they desire to be acculturated, and to that end she asked me to send her a list of jazz songs with which she could start their indoctrination. I heard/read that as “construct a streaming playlist,” so I put together a “Tiny Terrell” Jazz to 1960 compilation for them. I hadn’t been commissioned in awhile so I was like a pig in slop. Sample it for yourself; you may consider Louis Jordan a ringer, but “Beans and Cornbread” is a must for wee ones. Ornette Coleman? Really? Hey, I like to embed a few challenges–though “Lonely Woman” is sheerly beautiful.

For dinner, Nicole continued to perfectly perfect her chana masala recipe. We’re trying to cut down on the salt, but the other spices she blended in made that seem easy. After, we had tea, homemade oatmeal cherry cookies, and Cobra Kai Season 3 (again). I have to support the work of my other brother William Zabka!

Streaming for Strivers:

Gabriel go home.

Cloister Commentary, Day 308: Slow News Day–And Why NOT?

You know it was a slow news day when my highlight was driving to Cosmo Park (maybe three miles round-trip) and picking up my 2021 official city trash and recycling bags via drive-through contactless pickup. Hey–it was stimulating to actually see an incredibly efficient delivery system! I also dropped by the mulch site with some dead (tree) limbs and cranked up MF DOOM-alias Viktor Vaughn’s Vaudeville Villain 2 in the truck. Beats and rhymes: very phat.

(6) Venomous Villain – Viktor Vaughn (full album) – YouTube

My afternoon could be summed up as enjoying feeling no side effects of my procedure from the day before (don’t worry: I’m not going to describe it all) and just reading and listening to music with no immediate goals.

It was nice to see Nicole get home in one piece from a nerve-wracking first week of in-person teaching. We have been holding our connubial breath (not quite literally). The day was completed by a Cobra Kai mini-binge.

Streaming for Strivers:

My second-favorite Hank next to the senior Williams.