Cloister Commentary, Day 132: Purply Passionate Pomp, for Hours

What it’s often like to live in the same space with me.

So, I was about to finish Maurice Waller’s lively biography of his father, the contagiously ebullient pianist, singer, songwriter, performer and human, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and had been stunned by the number of classic sessions on which he’d backed up other masters, particularly blues empress Albert Hunter. Hunter’s marvelous late recordings, made in her eighties after she retired from music and worked for years as a nurse, are hallowed in our house, but I realized I’d not heard (or not heard much of) her early material, specifically the stuff with Fats. Normally, I would blindly just buy such recordings, but I demonstrated unusual good sense and chose to stream them (honestly, I just couldn’t wait for a parcel to arrive).

So, as Nicole was trying to wake up and make peanut butter cookies, I ran Hunter’s Twenties records from my phone through our house stereo, at medium-loud volume–sometimes, you have to crank up early twentieth century music, and, like I sugggested, Hunter is vaunted enough in our abode, I didn’t feel the need to…touch base. However, and I’m bound to get some blowback on this assessment, Alberta’s youthful singing style was, shall we say, robust, full-throated, maybe occasionally a bit…purply passionate with just a thread of quasi-operatic pomp running through it, while in her eighties, singing mostly with her mind (and, with surprising frequency, from below the waist), she came off like a sly, wise, randy, and totally irresistible great-granny.

BUT: I was listening through the difference, to the players, keeping my ears pricked for Waller’s piano and pipe-organ (he considered the latter his first instrument) and the contributions of other masters (like Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet) who also backed her. I can concentrate right past even the most conspicuous noise. And I kept listening for a few hours–through Hunter’s complete Twenties output–while Nicole tried to get caught up with the news, struggled to take a quiet, meditative shower (the stereo volume was such that it infiltrated the rain room’s sanctity), and with eyebrows furrowed, gamely put herself together for the day.

Suddenly, she emerged in the hallway.

Nicole: “Who is this?”

Me, wary: “Uhhhhh, Alberta Hunter?”

Nicole, gently, but succinctly and firmly: “A little of this goes a long way.”

Me, snapping back to the world of other humans: “Yes. Indeed. It’s Buddy Guy’s birthday?”

Nicole: “That will suffice.”

Streaming for Strivers:

She wasn’t kidding.

Cloister Commentary, Day 126: Earthseed Graphics

Took a long early-morning walk into the Monett countryside listening to Rolling Stone writer Joe Levy’s Spotify playlist, “Uprising 2020.” That was better than three shots of espresso, and lasted longer.

Nicole, Mom, and I Zoom every morning for 10 minutes or so before we get on with our days. Yesterday, though, we got pretty engaged in our subject matter and almost talked for an hour. And here I thought I was done with Zoom “classes” for a while. For myself, I think I just miss my wife a wee bit.

Graded the first wave of research papers that arrived from my summer school students: three As and two Bs, plus they had some zip to ’em. They aren’t due til Sunday night, but today’s authors are of the TCB variety.

Started two new books, a so-far nice bio of the contagiously joyful and mischievous jazz master Fats Waller (written by his son) and Duffy & Jennings’ second graphic novel adaptation of an Octavia Butler novel, Parable of the Sower. If any of my readers know that book, well–you’ve probably thought of it once or twice since March. The team has an adaptation of Parable of the Talents on the way.

My mind and body forced me to nap in the afternoon, but I was ready to go for a nice dinner with Mom and my chosen brother Greg Carlin. We spent a good three hours talking about Monett family trees, his health-wrestling, complicated dogs, and oblivious neighbors. As a lineman (not the football kind, the electrical kind), he interacts with a cross-section of the public in their home environments, but when he discusses certains folks’ unusual living habits, he is never mean nor does he consider himself superior to them. That’s the sign of a good man.

Streaming for Strivers:

For this instrumentalist, an album could not be better named. The band’s pretty talented as well.

Cloister Commentary, Day 122: A Very Smart Phone

Advice for those who survive a spouse, partner, or parent: keep their smartphones active for awhile. Retrieving website passwords for departed loved ones is a well-known plague for families already not feeling so great, but remember: when you forget a password, what do you do? You have them send a link for creating a new password to your phone or email! Apply the same technique to your posthumous struggles–you just need to have the access to their phone.

This happened to us. My brother Brian and I beat our heads against a customer service wall for several days, trying simply to transfer ownership of an account from my dad to my mom, get a stray bill paid, and convert an autopay preference to paper billing. We didn’t have a passcode, we couldn’t answer a security question (What the hell was Dad’s favorite restaurant??? We tried umpteen thousand possibilities and still don’t know, and we’ve asked around!), having Mom present for the call wasn’t good enough, and the account owner (and stockholder) wasn’t, um, available to authorize any of the changes. Told we’d have to descend into the underworld (aka an AT&T Store in Joplin) to make any progress, I punched a couple of inanimate objects and in fuming futility sat down at the computer for some desperate password stabs. As I failed and failed, I looked at that “Forgot your password?” link, and gave birth to a Athena-like lightbulb: Dad’s phone was deactivated for calls, but still plugged into the wall! Within five minutes, I’d sent “Dad” a re-set link to his email, changed the password, replaced that dang security question, and solved the other issues. I felt like drinking to my own triumph, but it was only 10 a.m.

We did celebrate, however. I drove my mom to our old hometown of Carthage to visit with her best friends, Kay and Bruce Vaughn and the always-perfectly-named Sunny Michel. She hadn’t seen them since weeks before Dad’s death, and I felt privileged to witness their reunion. I had asked Mom how long she wanted to stay, and she’d replied, “Oh, we only need to stay an hour at most.”

We spent a deeply enjoyable three hours in conversation, than jammed Carmen McRae on the way back home. I hope I have friends like that when I grow up.

Streaming for Survivors:

Foolproof cure for the blues. This stuff will stomp ’em.