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 52: The Beguiled

Having closely read my Day 50 commentary, Nicole broke out her very accurate imitation of What We Do in the Shadows‘ beguiling Nadja (played by Natasia Demetriou). It very nearly persuaded me to quit reading and get off the couch.

The chef needed no mimicry to entice me to dig in to the aloo gobi she prepared for Sunday dinner. Her excellence in the early stages of her exploration of Indian cuisine bodes poorly for me getting down to my high school graduation weight.

Trying Desperately to Stay Hip Department: Seriously, I do enjoy yute music, and yesterday I sampled and very much enjoyed the new Kehlani album, meaningfully titled It Was Good Until It Wasn’t–trials and tribulations, but the gal is tough. Some smart students from a 2018 Stephens class of mine insisted then that I listen to her work, and I’ve truly not ever been disappointed. Also delighting me was the current release by African supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique, Amazones, which ranges across several textures and moods in dance music yet holds together exceptionally well. I would have experienced the surprise release by Bad Bunny, but my very new Bluetooth headphones were also bad: they broke. I was taking them off when the right “wing” just snapped in half. What does one do with broken headphones?

Watch Call the Midwife. I ain’t gonna tell you again.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Your turn.

Cloister Commentary, Day 45: Snackery

It was a terrific, peaceful Sunday. A segment on “CBS Sunday Morning” reminded me to ask my small band of readers a question of great importance: since I know all of you, like us, are snacking to beat the band, would you mind commenting with your go-to munchies? Nicole and I are about to turn into Geisha-brand wasabi-coated peas (we’re already like two peas in a pod), we cannot make a bag of Backer’s plain tater chips last more than a day (The Girl with The Golden Curls has her hooks in us), and I believe we’ve gone through five containers of Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts since mid-March. I am warning you: do not buy peanut butter creme Oreos. Don’t do it.

Apropos of nothing except maybe we caught the bug from a vintage concert broadcast Friday night on our favorite community radio station, WWOZ, we cranked up Louisiana music virtually all day long. It. Is. Balm. For. The. Soul. Roll call: Sidney Bechet, Beausoleil, Professor Longhair, Ricky “Shake For Ya Hood”B, Allen Toussaint and Wynton Marsalis (forgive me, but it was his Jelly Roll Morton album, and he can be charming).

Zoomed with my parents, my brother Brian and his best gal Myra. I hope we get to see each other in person soon. Is a 450-mile round-trip drive-by visit silly, or not? It would be 34 hours to Houston and back, though.

My grandpa used to cry watching soap operas, so when I quietly wept watching last night’s wrenching episode of Call the Midwife, I guess I was coming by it honestly. If Nonnatus House gets demolished and that ends the show’s run, I’m going to get mad.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

I’m dedicating this one to my very sharp former student Amann Woldeghebriel in the hope he’s never heard it. Amann loves jazz and is frequently in search of something great he hasn’t sampled. Dig this, friend. You will be asking about the guitarists: John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock. And Miles is ON.

Cloister Commentary, Day 24: Tributarial Developments

This is really a great time to share music with friends. My pal Clifford, whose hatches are battened down on The French Quarter, recently prepared for me and other folks a four-volume musical companion to Charlie Gillett’s classic The Sound of the City, which traces the tributarial developments that led to an ocean of rock and roll. The highlight of my day was simply sitting with Nicole at the kitchen table, enjoying lunch and beers to the tune of Bill Doggett, Cecil Gant, Wynonie Harris, Ruth Brown, Hank Williams, Merrill Moore, The Everlys, Ray Charles, and so many more. We already had their music in our library, but Cliff assembled his compilations so wisely we had to listen to it that way.

We tried to go for a walk to the park–quite a beautiful day!–but of course someone was out with an unleashed dog. I understand that some unleashed dogs are better trained and friendlier than others, but that’s no guarantee they’re going to interact with leashed dogs that aren’t. Just sayin’…

We binged on two of our favorite snacks. Binging on favorite snacks is a requirement during a plague. If you can get ’em.


Sunday isn’t Sunday without Call the Midwife. Seldom does an episode pass without teaching the viewer something new about the way women’s bodies are tortured for our species to be propagated, and last night’s episode was no exception. Nurses Crane and Anderson: now those are heroes.

Speaking of, in the morning on CBS, I also marveled at the ability of Cuomo and de Blasio to look directly at their respective audiences and speak with eloquence, leadership, clarity, respect, inspiration, compassion, concern, power, truth, and preparation. Hearing that was on the level of experiencing Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally”with the stereo turned up to about 7.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Celebrating the birthday of a true original.


Cloister Commentary, Day 17: Everybody Disco!

Work: Nicole made delicious buttermilk biscuits out of Southern Living as well as some spicy hummus. I put together an order for us from Powell’s Books (is that work?) and drifted into a project I had not planned: moving these over to one of my blogs to improve their readability.

Play: When I came up from the man cave after finishing said project, Nicole was playing disco songs from her computer. Without really discussing it, we switched the sound over to the stereo, turned it up, and danced until we got tired–about 15 minutes, probably, but it seemed longer, and that’s a positive statement.

We didn’t even shut the blinds, so any neighbor watching got to see me mincing like ’70s Jagger (scolding, pointing, wrists on hips) and helplessly gyrating. Partial playlist: three Hot Chocolates (“Emma,” “Every 1’s a Winner,” “You Sexy Thing”), Chic’s “Real People” (the greatest song of all-time), Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”–I forgot how great that one is!–two “Last Dance”s (George Clinton’s answer to Bowie, and Donna Summer’s), James Brown’s “Super Bad, Parts 1, 2, and 3,” Sylvester’s “Mighty Real,” Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back to Where We Started From,” and Trammps’ “Disco Inferno.” Those are the ones I remember, as cognac Old Fashioneds were involved. But it was the definite highlight of the day. You should try it!

Disco did not and does not suck, even though I was once kicked out of high school for an afternoon for hypocritically wearing a t-shirt that said as much. At the time, I was regularly crossing state lines to dance under the glitter ball in Columbus, Kansas, and that shirt was tight and black, with the offensive message decorated in glitter and colored pink and green.

We made contact with Planet Earth again with “Call the Midwife”, which we never miss. You shouldn’t, either.

Streaming for Shut-Ins: