Cloister Commentary, Day 232: Piss and Rain

I’ll be honest with you: I despise louts. I’ve never liked them, period, and I’m suspicious of those who do. Also, I don’t take direction well, especially from loutish “authorities”: my negative model for that was Mr. Harrison, my high school biology teacher–arrogant, smirking, strutting, possessed of no empathy but ironically instantly aggrieved. He helped turned me into an anti-authoritarian, though when I met adepts like Howard South or Kay Lederer, I was all ears. As a professional, most of my “bosses” have been women, none of whom were loutish and all of whom were interested in honest feedback on their performance (props to Mike Jeffers, the one male boss I’ve had who didn’t have a fragile ego). All of this is to say that yesterday I was thrilled that (apparently) I no longer have to be embarrassed to live in country that has been “led” by a lout. Say what you will in contradiction, but, to do so, you will have to do excruciating mental gymnastics to deny it, and even that effort will fail to convince me. I know the difference between piss and rain.

We cranked music, quaffed alcoholic libations, embraced, danced, cranked the music up more, and felt our eyes water, whether from the lifting of strain, the acknowledgement of dissipated despair, or, hey, maybe simple happiness. I was reluctant to think it was the latter, because, again, this is a snatch-away regime, and I didn’t fall off the peach truck yesterday. But, by damn, we deserved some joyous release, and we indulged it.

Shireen, I hope in the future you will remember you spent the night of November 7, 2020 huddled with Nicole and me around our fire pit hashing out the meaning of the day.

Streaming for Survivors:

For joyous indulgence one cannot beat disco.

Cloister Commentary, Day 221: Slow “News” Day

Ten new things I’ve tried and liked during this pandemic:

  1. Twining’s Extra Bold and Irish Morning Teas (pretty much every morning since I first tried them–I now fully understand the word “restorative”)
  2. Zoom instruction (dragged in against my will, kicked and screamed a bit, then started to figure out how to exploit it for constructive educational ends) (it helps that I teach English)
  3. Disco obscurities (really, as much fun as garage rock and rockabilly obscurities if one does one’s homework)
  4. Public notarization (from afar, or when you get something notarized, it seems a snap–but it’s surprisingly nerve-wracking until you’ve done a few)
  5. Almond milk (I’ve never really been a milk fan anyway, but even our cats have no major issues with it)
  6. Studying WNBA box scores (those kids can hit from the charity stripe, now!)
  7. Burmese papaya salad (actually, Nicole ordered it for us rather impulsively, I thought I would dislike it, but then I loved it and she wasn’t sure–best served spicy!)
  8. Judging a short non-fiction “Best of the Net 2020” contest with a bunch of other folks (I love to read, but I thought this might take the fun out of it–however, it’s been a bit of trip reading bad “good” stuff!)
  9. Changing out a bathroom faucet (such undertakings normally fill me with fear–and loathing–but I actually did a good job and solved a problem in the process that the YouTube training didn’t prepare me for)
  10. Eating multiple fruit items regularly (I’ve never been a big consumer of fruit–so unreliable! so easily damaged! so…complicated!–but I have actually eaten an apple–hello, honey crisps!–AND a banana 95% of the last two months’ worth of days)

Obviously, yesterday was a “slow news day” even for living in isolation. Such occasions are what lists are for! In the comment section below, share something you’ve tried and liked in COVID Time.

Streaming for Strivers:

Dedicated to my girl. She is the biggest Otis Rush fan I know!

Cloister Commentary, Day 214: Big Surprises

The two best moments yesterday involved music. Big surprise, huh?

First, I finally started reading disco expert (he was there at the beginning, too) Vince Aletti’s The Disco Files, which collects pieces he wrote for Rolling Stone, Record World, The Village Voice and other publications. The main reason I’d sought it out a few years ago was that it collects his “Disco Files” columns, in which, with the sharpest DJs in NYC, he recognized the hottest dance floor tracks of the week (’73-’78)–I’m always on the lookout for great records I haven’t heard; however, the think pieces and interviews interspersed throughout are excellent as well. I even made a 75-minute mix of the songs Aletti vaunted in 1973 in the prototype piece for “Disco Files,” and, listening back to it, I was stunned by hard-hitting it was. Even the cats were impressed. Though some readers’ eyebrows might be climbing at my enthusiasm for these records, I was, as much as a southwest Missouri kid could be, an original disco club kid. That’s right! I never had more fun in high school than when my friends and I would cross over into Kansas (“Dorothy, we’re not in Missouri anymore!”) to dance and drink 3.2 beer at the discos in Galena and Columbus, Kansas. Mirror ball, colored lights, continuous mixes, sweat, soul, and kisses–almost all the pieces were in place. We first started making the trip in ’77, if memory serves, and reading Aletti’s book, I was pleased to realize our joy was contemporaneous with club kids (and adults) in NYC–and that we weren’t as reactionary as one might have exepcted, though, to be honest, gay, black, and Latino patrons were not exactly the majority at the Icehouse or The Liberty Palace Disco, which made it easier for at least some of us. I’d like to think it wouldn’t have stopped me.

Second, after a long-ass day, Nicole needed a helping of cuisine from our very favorite COVID-era restaurant, India’s House, so, too exhausted to ride along, she sent me on a mission. On the way back to the house, with rain falling in black sheets, the Drive-By Truckers CD I was listening to in the truck, The Dirty South, clicked to “Lookout Mountain.” I thought back to a conversation I had with my old colleague Brock Boland; I wasn’t a big fan of the band at that point, and Brock advised me to seek out the song, crank it up, then come tell him they didn’t move me much. It worked, and later we would rope the Hood-Cooley-Isbell version of the band (who happened to be touring The Dirty South at the time) to play at our high school. That’s a long story to be told in full later, but as I turned up the volume in the truck, I again was transported by a song that, besides being a complete artistic success (playing, writing, singing, production, always reaches directly into my consciousness and flips the “ALERT” switch. That’s not a bad thing: Patterson Hood voices…delivers a particular package of fears that haunt most of us–his singing and the guitarists’ forked-lightning bursts sell the song.

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain
No more for my soul to keep
I wonder who will drive my car
I wonder if my Mom will weep.

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain
No more pain my soul to bare
No more worries about paying taxes
What to eat, what to wear
Who will end up with my records?
Who will end up with my tapes?
Who will pay my credit card bills?
Who’s gonna pay for my mistakes?

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain who will ever hear my songs?
Who’s gonna mow the cemetery when all of my family’s gone?
Who will Mom and Daddy find to continue the family name?
Who will stand there taking credit, who will lay there passing blame?

Who will lay there passing blame?

It’s actually a bit scary, but hearing it always gives me strength, simply from knowing I’m not alone in my most troubled moments.

Why am I so obsessed with listening to music? Why aren’t you?

Streaming for Survivors:

This mix has some obvious and some bogus choices, but also some unusual and wonderful ones.

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: