Cloister Commentary, Day 267: Movie Marathon with Mom

The vaccine is being shipped out. Frontline workers to be vaccinated early this week. May this operation be a success…. (I’m not up for an exclamation point yet.)

Yesterday, Jane and I launched a movie / TV marathon. She awakened feeling great (she was very talkative) and suggested we watch The Godfather! She’d never seen Part II, so we watched that as well, though we decided to wait for the release of Coppola’s re-edit of Part III. You know, those first two are pretty decent movies…

After some Mexican curbside deliciousness (I do love Acambaro’s enchiladas banderas), we resumed with a chunk of Springsteen on Broadway–she had to listen to him being blasted on my stereo when I was a teen, and she pronounced him good–and an episode of her favorite investigative series Vera. That show is complicated!

We closed with SNL, since Bruce was the musical guest; neither of us had heard of the guest host. Mom loves Weekend Update, and we struggled through a series of subpar sketches to get to it. A surprise appearance by Dr. Weknowdis made it all worth it. Springsteen: he performed joyfully but left me unmoved. Mom had no comment.

I didn’t read a page but it didn’t matter!

Streaming for Strivers:

Adios, Mr. Pride.

Cloister Commentary, Day 239: Horchata Days

Nicole put the finishing touches on our front yard cleanup with help from several neighborhood cats.

While she toiled away, I continued reading two highly enjoyable books, the original Walter Tevis novel The Queen’s Gambit and Mary Roach’s Stiff, about the different things that have happened and can happen to our bodies after we die (also, probably the funniest book I’ve read all year). Why am I telling you about these books again? Repetition is one of the most reliable of teacher tricks. I’m actually trying to get you to read? Yes.

For our lunch, the app Nextdoor led us to try the New Mexican food drive-thru Crazy Burrito on the Business Loop (where Zipp’s Burgers used to be). The place does not look too spectacular, to be honest; thus, I had not been that motivated to do research there. A Nextdoor neighbor sung its praises, and it is indeed excellent. I had a veggie torta that was splendid, and a tall horchata I later doctored with some rum. But folks: please wear masks! We didn’t see a single patron doing so, and they were definitely leaning in.

The rest of the afternoon was all Springsteen all the time (see yesterday’s entry) while Nicole whipped up some delicious Brazilian black bean soup. We were going to play chess after dinner, but in order not to be beaten I distracted Nicole with classic Bruce clips (“The River” at No Nukes, “Rosalita” from a show in Phoenix in ’78, the “Atlantic City” video).

It was a good day. It certainly beat golf.

Streaming for Strivers:

Pre-“Burn, baby, burn,” and very nice.

Cloister Commentary, Day 238: Talk About a Dream, Try to Make It Real

Physical labor? What is that? I was reintroduced to the concept yesterday as I cleaned up our front-yard landscaping (sedum, daisies, knockout roses, quince, catmint, and one other bit I can never remember) for winter in the afternoon. I was gonna just do half and let Nicole (who was working virtually) do the rest, but the new Aesop Rock album and some nicely remastered early Louis Armstrong pushed me on through. This morning, I can feel that not all of my musculature has atrophied.

Is it just me or did I feel some serious anxiety lift? I heard news from the courts and from the state of Georgia that made me snicker some away.

In the evening we completed Springsteen on Broadway (Nicole: “What a decent man!” Indeed.), which inspired us to watch Gurinder Chadha’s sweet, uplifting and quite powerful film Blinded by the Light, based on the true story of an aspiring teenage writer, a Pakistani living in Luton, England, whose life is changed when a Sikh friend loans him some Springsteen tapes. Many of the best sequences revolve around the character singing and quoting lines from classic Bruce tunes, which reminded me that, just like him, I had those early albums’ lyrics memorized within days of buying the records (and still do). We’ll probably be listening to those and watching videos for the next two days.

Streaming for Strivers:

Raise up off this pianist.

Cloister Commentary, Day 237: Musical Pharmaceutical

An explosion of COVID cases, over a week of 100+ new ones daily, has us reeling–“us” referring to the community as well as our household, as Nicole is currently teaching in person and battling with several students to get them to wear masks properly. I am fortunate to be very isolated in my tutoring work; I’ve found it surprisingly easy to tutor over Zoom, and the Stephens Success Center has actually experienced an increase in tutorial sessions and a decrease in cancelled appointments.

In other health news–well, let me first say that my friend and music-loving brother Bryan Stuart and I one strange night wrote and recorded a Johnny Cash parody entitled “Prescription Bound”; I’ve written and co-written a handful of songs in my life, and that might just be my favorite. Neither of our eyes were dry after knocking it out. Suffice it to say that “Prescription Bound” is what I was yesterday, rounding up refills to treat my high cholesterol and my sudden crop-up of afib. Our insurance won’t cover the best meds for the latter, so when my samples of that run out, I will probably be battling the side effects of the generic meds that are covered, particularly drowsiness, my least favorite state of being.

Speaking of music, friendship, and aging, Nicole and I spent our Thursday Movie Night on Springsteen on Broadway. I go way back with Bruce: he hung the moon for me from the time I was 15 to the time I turned 25–I remember once seriously hampering a date because my main concern was picking up Born in the USA at Liberty Sound in Springfield the day it came out in ’85–but we fell out soon afterward, and the combination of his growing self-seriousness and his shrinking sense of humor and fun kept me from making up with him (artistically speaking). It’s clear he’s a righteous dude, but that does not guarantee creative brilliance. I quite liked his memoir, and as a result sampled about 15 minutes of the show. I thought what I saw corny, strained, mildly self-aggrandizing, awkward, and strangely uncomfortable. However, and I’m quite used to this outcome, I was very wrong. We have the last 20-30 minutes to watch, but it is stunning in its myth-puncturing, passion, and nakedness. These days, I can’t much take the way he sings, but I love to hear him talk, and the balance is perfect. Highly recommended, and being an older gent myself who’s experienced some loss and self-discovery lately made the experience extremely real.

Streaming for Survivors:

Musical pharmaceutical, right here.

Cloister Commentary, Day 12: Zoom Bomb

Well, March is gone. Take a deep breath, friends.

Yesterday, I bombed my first Zoom class. Must have been something in the settings, but everyone received the invite, only one showed up as intended, I had to re-invite the rest, then only three more showed up after that, then I had to create a new session for the remainder, and only one made it to that (I only have six–it should have been a breeze). Plus, though I’d prepared them fully, my Bluetooth headphones wouldn’t stay connected (?), it was colder than a welldigger’s ass in the mancave, the cat kept interrupting, and…well, these kids aren’t exactly balls of fire at 8 am IN PERSON, but they were mos def cazsh on screen. At least I tried everything I could think of! Back to the drawring board…

I don’t take many naps, but–it must have been the stress–I went down like a controlled detonation in the afternoon and woke up feeling drugged. It took me two hours, a disc of a Springsteen bootleg (“Roxy Night 1978”), Nicole’s incredible red beans and rice with tasso ham, some ice tea, the news, and a neighborhood walk for me to fully return to the land of the living. While asleep, I dreamed (like I frequently do) of very mundane, everyday labyrinths. Does that make sense?

I am wondering what my Facebook friends are watching during their own sheltering in place. First episode of OZARK, Season 3 was better than I expected; I go back and forth with HIGH FIDELITY, mainly because of (plus) the lovably downbeat and charming performance of Zoë Kravitz and (minus) her character’s/the show’s weird idea of desirable men (Clyde’s OK but in reality would a woman like her give him a sustained glance?). The show also gets points from me for shining some brief but well-deserved light on Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams.

I was also delighted to be recognized as a good influence on a former Hickman student (early 1990s) who is now an outstanding school principal. Over 10 years later, I served as his subordinate in the short-lived Kewpie Tardy Office, where we laughed a lot but frequently bitterly.

Streaming for Shut-Ins: here is a good way to get to know (if you don’t) the music and mind of the sorely missed Gil Scott-Heron.