Cloister Commentary, Day 291: In the Chair, Happily

Most folks don’t enjoy going to the dentist. I’ve been going to the same one for almost 30 years (Dr. Shelly Lyle), and though I had one rough period when she seemed to keep the music tuned to “The Carpenters Station” and my usual hygienist liked to unsubtly trash Hickman even while knowing I taught there (“Aren’t there a lot of thugs there?” grrrrrrr), I have NO complaints, and I’ve actually been fascinated by how she’s kept the clinic up to date with the newest technology. Yesterday I had to go in for a cleaning (they open at 7 a.m., another cool thing), and it was actually a highlight of the day. My favorite hygienist of all-time, Jordan (John and Cecilia, she comes from great stock!), was back on the scene, she used a new anti-COVID aerosol suction that was more comfortable than the usual, and Dr. Lyle adjusted a crown replacement she’d done for me (free of charge; the original cracked), which made me feel like a new man–it had been quietly driving me crazy for months, and I’d written it off to my imagination. Also, Tina Turner was on the sound system.

Moral of the story: go get your danged check-up!

The other big highlight? I am sure some of you occasional fall asleep watching late-night programming, even when it’s fantastic, and because I rise before the sun and will occasionally have a late cocktail, I’m especially prone. I’ve raved in the past about director Steve McQueen’s masterpiece limited series Small Axe (available on Amazon Prime), but, after a long and stressful day, I’d zoned out for the middle 15 minutes of the final episode, “Education.” After putting it off for about a month, I re-watched it, and it hit me hard. It stands alone–every teacher should watch it–but the whole five-episode series, illuminating the experience of black West Indians in England, will ring through the coming years. I promise.

Thought about Georgia all day. Apparently those thoughts were not wasted….

Streaming for Strivers:

We are.

Cloister Commentary, Day 290: Reading is FUNdamental!

I’m reading a terrific book by Mary Gabriel, 9TH STREET WOMEN: LEE KRASNER, ELAINE DE KOONING, GRACE HARTIGAN, JOAN MITCHELL, AND HELEN FRANKENTHALER–FIVE PAINTERS AND THE MOVEMENT THAT CHANGED MODERN ART. Don’t you love it when a book’s so absorbing you have to–want to–read other books along with it? I previously had a decent knowledge of abstract expressionism, but Gabriel’s narrative, told through the experiences of these criminally undervalued artists, has energized me so much I put five books on hold at the public library and read one of those in an evening. I told Nicole I was teaching myself a course, which is cool because at the very least I’m teaching. Point of fact: I was hoping to find art books representing each of the women in the subtitle, but guess what? The book itself is virtually the only text in the library devoted to any of them. Good reason to read it, right there.

We got two brief neighborhood walks in, ate intelligently, and got back in our regular routine. Nicole had meetings (teacher work day), and I had hoped to work on a little curriculum for my upcoming on-line course, but only one student is enrolled and class starts Tuesday, so…I THOUGHT ABOUT curriculum for awhile. I’m tutoring for sure, as well as “virtually supervising” two student teachers for Mizzou–but I can’t do much in those areas yet.

Movie tip for the day: are you a fan of Andy Griffith, or director Elia Kazan, or writer Budd Schulberg? If so, and you haven’t seen A Face in the Crowd, check it out! You’ll get a charge out of it.

Streaming for Strivers:

Georgia on our minds.

Cloister Commentary, Day 289: Lists are Stupid

Favorite things Nicole and I went out and did in 2020


1. Visited Springfield, Illinois, with our friends Janet and David.


2. Toured Carthage, Webb City, and Joplin, Missouri, with our friends Janet and David, and met my mom and dad for a movie (COLOR OUT OF SPACE, at Bookhouse Cinema).


3. True/False Film Fest

April – December


Yesterday, we stayed in, drank piña coladas, and toasted 2021 (very tentatively).

Streaming for Survivors:

I need some blips, blats, blurts, and bonks.

Cloister Commentary, Day 288: Big Bad Breakfast

Nicole had the splendid idea to usher in 2021 a little further with a big Overeem breakfast: Rose Maddox Fried Potatoes, cheesy scrambled eggs (50% cheese, 50% eggs), thick-cut Burger’s bacon (my responsibility, plus I like to hover over it), and some slices of “illegimate” French bread, toasted and plant-based-buttered (yeah, I said it). That held us over until dinner, when we enjoyed some poblano-laced Texas chili Nicole made with a great mix my brother Brian and sister-in-law Myra put in our stockings. All of our spoons were dirty, so we just used Frito Scoops. What kind of meat did we use? Meatless Farm brand plant-based protein (I said it again!). I know it’s hugely bourgeois (and cruel–those adjectives are intertwined) to go on about food, but dang it, in a pandemic, that’s where the domestic spotlight shines quite frequently. And it’s not like we’re fartin’ through silk. Maybe in tomorrow’s entry you’ll learn whether I found a good way to cook cheese-curd and jalapeño-stuffed “real meat” hot links!

The evening was nice. In Netflix’s The Life Ahead, Sophia Loren competed with the Bari city- and seascapes for most golden, and Ibrahima Gueye and Abril Zamora were not far behind. We dug a fascinating TrueSouth episode focusing on the small but magnetic town of Brownsville, Tennessee–when it’s finally ok, we’re going–and we watched a ’77 SNL episode with Milton Berle and Ornette Coleman (those were the days).

Streaming for Strivers:

Evolving early Hag–one classic original, two killer Lefty covers, a nice choice by a young artist named Dolly, and a pretty great bunch of musicians.

Cloister Commentary, Day 287: Samo

2021 is here! Nicole and I celebrated like we do pretty much every day: we meditated, we talked to my mom on the phone, we read some great books, we morphed into human furniture for our cats, we listened to some terrific music, we chowed on delicious leftovers, and we caught some moving viewing (the “Oxford” episode of TrueSouth).

Outliers: a pot of black-eyed peas, collard greens and bacon, plus an underwhelming Nets – Hawks contest.

Streaming for Strivers:

RAZOR-SHARP rhythm from Dakar!

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.