Cloister Commentary, Day 304: Good Morning, America?

One ritual my mom and I observe when I’m visiting is watching Good Morning America together. The show’s hosts are relatively down to earth, seldom seem to be forcing bonhomie, and exhibit actual personality. Also, I’ve observed that people with diastemas have special qualities, and Michael Strahan seems to support that observation. Still, they have great difficulty maintaining the tone suggested by the show’s title when video, audio, and stills from the Capitol Insurrection are laced through it like concertina wire. I give them credit for trying.

I traveled the road back home to Columbia, where Nicole met me with a kiss, a hug, and spaghetti. She was tensely preparing to return to in-seat teaching in the midst of what every credible source is calling a pandemic out of control, but she had time for warmth and humor in welcoming me back. I’m nervous, too. As per usual lately, I resorted to sports as an escape; I’m disgusted with the Harden trade, but somehow I’m still drawn to watch the Nets. I’m that much of a Durantula fan, I guess.

We learned mid-evening that Nicole’s mom’s devoted and spirited rat terrier Jack passed away. When Lynda died in 2013, our friends George and Susie Frissell agreed to adopt him and were great parents for his remaining seven years. George regularly took him on walks, encouraged him to chase squirrels, and sent us “fireside fotos” (Jack loved that spot). The last time we saw him was in early 2020, when we took him and our recently departed hound Louis for a walk around Stephens Lake Park. Tell me, is it still 2020?

Streaming for Strivers:

Suffering and smiling–that seems to be the ticket.

Cloister Commentary, Day 264: Essential Missions

With great care and forethought, I reluctantly left Nicole and our feline team yesterday morning to hit the road for two out-of-town visits. This is not the greatest time to be venturing out, but some missions are essential and I’m taking the fewest possible risks.

On my familiar highway chain–70 to 63 to 54 to 5 to 44–I jammed to some relatively new music I’d not yet heard, three rap albums that dazzled me by serengeti (with help from Greg the Deerhoof drummer), Backxwash (hear below), Bktherula. I thought I was fatigued by the first MC’s set-up (I’ve long been a fan, and almost snagged him for a free show at Hickman High School)–I was wrong; the second MC simply stunned me with her aggressive delivery and strong worldview (we’ll call it); the sonics of the third MC’s album (Nirvana). The morning was one of my favorite musical experiences of this calendar year, and you may not like critics, but they DO care–and I got the tips from a goodun.

My first visit was with one of my lifelong best friends, a former housemate and (once) bandmate, and a stellar groomsman, Mike Rayhill. We talked Ebo Taylor and Fela, Taysom Hill and Patrick Mahomes, fatherhood and fathers, public and social parochial education, and cruelty and love. We also ate six delicious Taco Bell tacos.

My second visit was with my mom, with whom I’ll be staying for a few days. I helped her with a Zoom church business meeting, we enjoyed pork loin and baked potatoes, and took in a sweet and fun movie, The Fishermen’s Friends, which I’d seen before but she needed to see (thanks again, Clay). It’s recommended to fishermen, friends, and lovers of sea shanties.

Streaming for Strivers:

Been awhile since a rap album has injected my body and mind with pure caffeine like this record by Backxwash.

Cloister Commentary, Day 205: Busy Doin’ Nuthin’

Do you have trouble doing nothing? I do. Even when under the guidance of the seldom-wrong Thich Nhat Hanh, I feel guilty if I am not “working on something.” In addition, continuity is very important to me; if I don’t get a running start and a few laps in, I feel I will not get whatever I’m trying to do satisfactorily accomplished. However, yesterday morning I was actually successful in just cooling down my attitude inertia: I drank coffee with some Irish creme, chomped on a bagel, read the paper, and took a nice nap. Now, that seems like I actually did a couple of things right there, but those don’t count.

The afternoon was a little different. I excitedly fixed the massive tagging problem presented by a set of digital albums a friend shared with me, Nicole and I Zoomed first with mom, my brother, and his lady then with members of our Facebook group the Flying Saucer Landing Pad Support Group, which is what it says it is. But even those I did not lock into. More accurately, I drifted into and out of them.

Later, I fell asleep watching grass grow (aka watching a baseball game) and woke up to find a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate balancing on my chest. That was my cue to finish watching the Watchmen film.

I think Thay would give me a little credit for inching toward being still. A little.

Streaming for Strivers:

This is one talented Fela. Sorry…

Cloister Commentary, Day 149: Misanthropy and Grief

Simply watching the morning headlines, reading about the fight to stop the Equal Rights Amendment, and observing flags and bumper stickers on travelers’ cars on the highway was enough to activate a tiny bit throbbing bulb of misanthropy within me. Misanthropy and grief: a toxic cocktail.

Which makes me realize that one way I’ve always broken that bulb in the socket is through being in the midst of young folks across four decades. Most of my fellow public school teachers would agree, I think, though outsiders might think we’re crazy. Daily exposure to a cross-section of the public as their coming into their own, as you’re challenging them and they you, as they find their place in a group, talk about their lives and connect them to subjects under discussion–it’s a pretty good antidote to the humans-are-a-virus malady.

But that’s just another reason why this pandemic sucks, because daily exposure is viral roulette.

Streaming for Strivers:

On that hopeful note?

Cloister Commentary, Day 66: Afraid of The Braid

I think both of us would say our favorite moment yesterday was reading with the cats downstairs in “the office.” Junior is still oddly “afraid of the braid”; when Nicole simply flips hers, that kitten’s like shot out of a cannon. Accompanying our time was Fela’s The Best of Black President, Volume 2, and besides having Cleocatra glued to me, I had the work of two of my favorite writers, Octavia Butler and Louise Erdrich, in hand. My reading is starting to recover from sudden loss: I managed a little over 100 pages and suffered much less drift than the last four days.

We waited too late to partake of live Shakespeare from The Stratford Festival (via YouTube), but we did finally take in Judy. “She wore out,” Ray Bolger said at Garland’s funeral, and Renee Zellweger did a convincing job of illlustrating both that and the flame that was snuffed. I may have to seek out a book.

My gut is still churning regarding my upcoming virtual comp class for Stephens. It’s a week away, I’ve taught comp for 36 years, I’m totally prepared in terms of course material and my on-line platform, I’ve been using educational technology since ’02, I am normally chomping at the bit to be unleashed on students, but for some reason the specter of appearing via Zoom, trying to communicate my energy, manipulating digital controls, striving to get to know my students so I can individualize a bit, wondering what part of me will be missing from my presentation, and fighting the light reflecting off the lenses of my reading glasses just gives me the fan-tods. I need to accept it; if I want to teach decently in the fall, I’m gonna need to have it down. Yes, I’ve done it before, back in April, but it felt like an emergency and only three-four students showed up each session (I had a very small class as it was). I hate this boorish sentence but I will say it to myself: “Get over it.”

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

On Memorial Day, I always think of this great jazz violinist, who fought in the Vietnam War.

Cloister Commentary, Day 44: Out Where the Buses Don’t Run

Picked up another robust order from Happy Hollow at the Columbia Farmer’s Market. Up in this mess, we could not live without them.

Dropped by Love Coffee to snag some java, muffins, and scones from their tent in the parking lot. Please patronize them if you do chance to get out–they’re one of the good ones. Methinks it’s a touch early, though, for some of the casual interaction we saw among the patrons, but what do I know?

Worked on both of my blogs, the one I transfer these to in slightly modified fashion, and a music site that pretty much exists for a monthly list of goodies. Why do I need TWO blogs? (Calvinist overtraining as a youthman.)

Had a dirty martini. I’d like to recommend Missouri’s own Pinckney Bend gin.

Chauffeured Nicole out to a drive-by celebration of one of her Columbia Area Career Center peers. Stacey lives out there where the buses don’t run!

Devoured a bowl of a fresh batch of Nicole’s red beans and rice with tasso ham. I have been trying to commit to vegetarianism, and not faring poorly, but we are slowly working through some specialty meats we have in the freezer. Next up: the boudin.

Messaged back and forth with my “nephew” and National Guard stalwart Mitch Carlin, who has discovered The Kinks and The Sopranos. He’s always fun to “talk” to, and he has a nose for the finer works of art.

Beat Nicole in a single game of Scrabble to even my tournament record at 2-2. We played until the last tile was used–my favorite kind of game. Musical accompaniment: Carmen McRae, The Coasters, and Hound Dog Taylor (if you’re a fan and you don’t know Release the Hound, change that pronto).

Had trouble sleeping (I’m struggling with that a bit), and found myself, at 3:15, in my head, planning out the weekly class structure for an on-line composition class I may be teaching this summer for Stephens. Hey! I have a plan! Once a teacher…

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Please enjoy more of the expert percussion of the late Tony Allen.