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 162: So Long, Ol’ Splash

Are you someone who actively looks for things to worry about? Then, right after you no longer have to worry about those things, you seek the next gut-roiling concern? And often they aren’t even worrisome things in the first place? Come sit by me.

So long, Splash. The Stooges and SST stickers were the first I ever applied.

I awakened wide-eyed yesterday morning at 4:30 knowing I would be driving my ’93 Ford Ranger Splash 300 miles to Paducah, Kentucky, to hand it off to my longtime fellow Razorback best buddy, Kenny Wright (the first student I met in Fayetteville after my parents dropped my freshman ass off) and his cooler-than-cool wife Gwen, and have a Popeye’s picnic lunch with them in Bob Noble Park–then COVIDly turn around and drive back home. A) Though my garage had prepped the truck carefully for the trip, and the Wrights’ son Ethan (the actual new owner) had bought it new all-weather tires, I kept picturing an axle breaking on me on I-70 and sending me plummeting into the Mississippi to my death (not really possible–that exact accident, that is), or the truck just dying on that suspension bridge. B ) What if they truck crapped out on Kenny on an interstate highway in a torrential rainstorm? These are the concerns that had raised our relatively simple trip to the level of an mythological quest.

The old jalopy ending up hauling ass smoothly to Paducah, and Sir Doug and Chuck Berry helped quell my anxiety. Kenny did get the torrential rainstorm, but not the crap-out. Ethan now must send us pictures of the gradual restoration, and my former students must find another way to identify my presence at the package store.

Nicole, of course, drove our other vehicle to Paducah, too, so I could get back home, and Dead Moon powered us on our return trip. As delicious curbside food and margaritas from La Terraza eased our highway hypnosis, who should call out of the clear blue night but our old pal Bess Frissell! We yelled at each other on speakerphone for about two hours and had a wonderful time. All the time, I silently chided myself for being a worrywart after such a fun day.

But…don’t you think these next two are going to the longest months of our lives?

Streaming for Strivers:

Not bad as tribute albums go.


Cloister Commentary, Day 98: Funereal Pianistics

Dad’s funeral. I’ve been wearing the same two dress coats for two decades, it seems, and my favorite of those was not perfectly appropriate. Turns out he and I wore the same jacket size, so I wore his classy, sober, grey one. I’m also one to get out of dress clothes faster than Houdini got out of chains, so when I got back I realized my Dead Moon t-shirt (the last clean one I had with me) wouldn’t quite work; I ended up wearing his Pitt State Gorillas t-shirt the rest of the day.

When we planned the service Monday, my mom was adamant it not be maudlin (her exact word), and that resonated exactly with my wishes. Talk turned to the music: no singing, please, but a pianist would be nice. Mom and the officiant had the same one in mind, as well as the tune: Englishman John Newton’s immortal 1779 hit “Amazing Grace.” They feared somewhat mildly, however, the pianist might exercise her apparently “jazzy” tendencies. That adjective means different things to different people. Turns out she stuck the landing: she coaxed the very familiar melody through, really, the multiple moods that always visit funeralgoers as they reflect on the life of the deceased. I, of course, had an ear carefully cocked to her shiftings, and my two favorites were “rollickingly sentimental” (which matched Dad’s feeling about being in the midst of big family gatherings) and “stunned and suspended,” which fit my own deepest feelings this week. For the latter effect, she gradually slowed down the melody until she was striking notes and letting them hang, as if they were transplanted from a Morton Feldman composition. Seriously, Charles!


All participants were masked, and in fact some very close friends of Dad’s who were at risk battled their wills and stayed home, with our full support. Nicole, however, captured the service on my phone, and after we stepped outside afterwards to meet folks, I used those absent friends’ need as an excuse to dip out of the post-funeral lunch (would have been my third round of fried chicken in 36 hours–I love the stuff, but…) and upload it for them.

Now for the tough stuff.

Note: I must add that I also discovered and binged the YouTube sensations twinsthenewtrend.

Streaming for Survivors:

Blues you can use.


Cloister Commentary, Day 31: The Good, The Bad, and The Good

The good?

Laughing our butts off at Randy Newman and his wife on CBS Sunday Morning (sheltering in place is bringing them spatial and motivational challenges).

Mixing a couple of tequila sunrises, cranking up the 2-CD Dead Moon compilation ECHOES OF THE PAST, and realizing we were fortunate enough to see the Coles play seven times, and get to know them. They have always been an inspiration to us.

A Zoom session with my parents Ron and Jane and my brother Brian and his gal Myra. We got caught up and enjoyed some great views of Dad’s belly (low-angle camera work). My mom is busy making masks for friends and my dad is out in the shop a lot. (See pic in comments.)

Mom and Dad

Nicole’s lasagna, made with fresh spinach from the Columbia Farmer’s Market–their operation is a model for these times. And doesn’t lasagna taste even better the second day?

Relaxing with a book, some music, and the windows open, and enjoying a beer on the front landing with our cat Tuxalini.


The not-so-good?

Neighbors. A neighbor of ours already had three dogs they insufficiently controlled, and they recently added a NEW dog and a cat that had not been spayed and now appears pregnant. Yesterday, they gathered in their driveway with (at least) four friends for almost two hours, definitely not practicing social distancing, sharing smokes–and allowing the new dog to run freely in the street (stopping traffic twice) and over into our yard multiple times, though IT HAD A LEASH ON THAT WAS APPARENTLY DECORATIVE. Upon the dog’s last foray, Nicole stepped out and asked them politely to keep their dog in their yard. Response: “I’ll do whatever I want.” Animal Control does not operate on Sunday; a heads-up to the authorities went unaddressed. That unnerved us for the rest of the evening. It is really difficult, sometimes, to sit with things you can’t control. We will get better at it, but Animal Control is now on speed dial.

The good–on the rebound?

Tyler Keith of Oxford, Mississippi, is one of the States’ last dyed-in-the-wool rock and rollers. In the Nineties, he led The Neckbones, which were what the first version of The Heartbreakers (with Johnny Thunders and Richard Hell in tow) would have sounded like if they had been from The Deep South. But Tyler, solo and with his various bands (The Preacher’s Kids, The Apostles), has continued to make barbed-wire, hard-hitting music that’s continued the Southern tradition, most vividly exemplified by Jerry Lee Lewis, of watching the sunrise with God and closing down the bar with Satan. He performed a Facebook live concert last night to celebrate the release of his new album (see below), and that rescued the day for us, in a way. By the way, the album is great.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

This album has always done us good. Perhaps it will do the same for you!

Cloister Commentary, Day 8: In Vanessa Shanessa Style

As Vanessa Shanessa Jenkins would say, what was occurrin’?

An early morning nap.

Phone calls to cancel things.

A grilled cheese sandwich made with Blue Plate Mayo instead of butter.

Dead Moon, the Minutemen, Dramarama, and original garage rock blasting from the speakers.

Cats boxing 19th century style.

60% approval?

A board game.

More rain.

Mr. Show re-runs (oh, Senator Tankerbell…)

Thunder and lightning.

A late night power outage…

Power outages aren’t just power outages anymore.

Streaming for Shut-Ins: In their prime –>