Cloister Commentary, Day 307: Mengele Clippers

I have been preoccupied over the last few days with the prostate biopsy I underwent yesterday. I’d had a cardiology appointment the day before that the biopsy actually overshadowed. I have some advice for those of you who may have one in the future:

1) Don’t read up on the possible after-effects. I realize this may be difficult if you’re trying to decide to assent to one–I was pretty much ordered–but they mess with one’s imagination, wake you up in the middle of the night, and make you paranoid. Besides, after the procedure they will tell you about these effects in detail anyway. They are rare, you take meds before during, and after to prevent them, and the ones I experienced were dwarfed by my imaginings.

2) You will be told about a device that is used to collect a sample of your prostate. What you will not be told is that this device, when in use, sounds like something invented by Josef Mengele (I am not kidding). As it is used on you, you may be skeptical that you will emerge with a prostate at all. Its snap is worse than its bite, however. It smarts, but doesn’t last that long.

3) I didn’t read the instructions on the required Fleets Enema until it was time to use it. Absence of specific pronouns in the directions plus concerns about my flexibility caused me to consider, with great trepidation, whether I would need to employ Nicole. I am happy to say that, though I am only slightly less stiff than Mike Pence, I managed. And if I could, you can. If I couldn’t have? I am fortunate enough to be loved enough.

4) One of my biggest concerns was having my agéd butt stared at, not just by a doctor but also the inevitable nurse. Don’t ask me why I was worried the urologist’s assistant would be a woman (I do not assume one would be)! However, I should have been more worried about a different part of my anatomy. She indeed was a woman, and, to my instant horror, she first asked me to take off my shoes and socks. I had not treated myself to my annual toenail clip, and when she saw my naked feet, I swear I saw her freeze. Nicole had reassured me prior to the procedure when I told her I was worried about farting, “Phil, they’ve seen everything, believe me!” Maybe not quite everything.

5) You will be numbed up, but “just to take the edge off,” the assistant corrected me; I was hoping to go under, but no dice. It is not like getting a crown or a filling; you are much less numb. Still, you are asked to have a ride to and from the procedure. In spite of my being completely unaltered as I walked out of the clinic, the echo of the Mengele Clippers was ringing so loudly in my ears that, when I walked out to Nicole’s car and tried to open the door, I heard the locks click. “This isn’t your car,” the horrified woman’s bulging eyes yelled to me. Oops. Nicole had not yet arrived. I awkwardly waved, bowed in apology, and crawfished hurriedly back to the clinic doors. Words of wisdom: stay focused when you’re in the parking lot!

The events of the day, even William Zabka‘s brilliance in Cobra Kai (Nicole calls him “The Lost Overeem Brother), paled in comparison to my trip to the urologist. But as I told my friend Rex, I basically Samantha-blinked and it was over–it hurts more than a colonoscopy (which does not hurt at all), but lasts a fifth the duration. Bottoms up!

Streaming for Strivers:

Message from the cosmos: “Send more Gil Scott Heron!”

Cloister Commentary, Day 305: Doorknobs and Derrières

It’s a busy morning now, so I will make this brief.

I spent much of my day intending to sample Euphoria to see if it would be a good series for Nicole and I to adopt in the future–and ended up bingeing. Then because I was caught up in how her day went (first day back with in-seat education) and getting dinner prepared (a Pasta La Fata kit of ravioli and arancini), I forgot to tell her. That show is…an adult dose, which is an ironic phrase, but its compassion far exceeds its extreme vision. I think she will like it–plus she once sampled a show for us that she and my mom called “historical porn,” the name of which I can’t remember, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I should have much more to say tomorrow. I recall what my dad said when we got married: “Don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass.”

Streaming for Survivors:

Needed something for just the right energy this morning. Found it.

Cloister Commentary, Day 250: The 5th Sustenance and Succor Awards!

Every 50 days of the pandemic, I’ve tried to shine light on the stuff that’s been getting Nicole and I through these difficult days. Here we go again–times gettin’ tougher than tough, as the man sang.


Kaiser, Watt, Golia, Peet, Hanrahan–A Love Supreme Electric

Various Artists–Daora: Underground Sounds of Urban Brazil

Prince–Sign o’ The Times (Deluxe Edition)

Various Artists–Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story

The Brothers and Sisters–Dylan’s Gospel


The Queen’s Gambit

The Fisherman’s Friends (thanks for the tip, Clay Thomas)

The Witch

Emma (2002 version)

Blinded by The Light


James Lee Burke–The New Iberia Blues

Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry–Billionaire Island

Octavia Butler–Bloodchild and Other Stories

Yaa Gyasi–Transcendent Kingdom

Jorge Ibargüengoitia–The Dead Girls


Crazy Burrito

Uprise Bakery

India’s House (still killin’ it!)

Bangkok Gardens (still killin’ it after three decades)

Streaming for Strivers:

Happy Thanksgiving, and let the man remind you…

Cloister Commentary, Day 12: Zoom Bomb

Well, March is gone. Take a deep breath, friends.

Yesterday, I bombed my first Zoom class. Must have been something in the settings, but everyone received the invite, only one showed up as intended, I had to re-invite the rest, then only three more showed up after that, then I had to create a new session for the remainder, and only one made it to that (I only have six–it should have been a breeze). Plus, though I’d prepared them fully, my Bluetooth headphones wouldn’t stay connected (?), it was colder than a welldigger’s ass in the mancave, the cat kept interrupting, and…well, these kids aren’t exactly balls of fire at 8 am IN PERSON, but they were mos def cazsh on screen. At least I tried everything I could think of! Back to the drawring board…

I don’t take many naps, but–it must have been the stress–I went down like a controlled detonation in the afternoon and woke up feeling drugged. It took me two hours, a disc of a Springsteen bootleg (“Roxy Night 1978”), Nicole’s incredible red beans and rice with tasso ham, some ice tea, the news, and a neighborhood walk for me to fully return to the land of the living. While asleep, I dreamed (like I frequently do) of very mundane, everyday labyrinths. Does that make sense?

I am wondering what my Facebook friends are watching during their own sheltering in place. First episode of OZARK, Season 3 was better than I expected; I go back and forth with HIGH FIDELITY, mainly because of (plus) the lovably downbeat and charming performance of Zoë Kravitz and (minus) her character’s/the show’s weird idea of desirable men (Clyde’s OK but in reality would a woman like her give him a sustained glance?). The show also gets points from me for shining some brief but well-deserved light on Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams.

I was also delighted to be recognized as a good influence on a former Hickman student (early 1990s) who is now an outstanding school principal. Over 10 years later, I served as his subordinate in the short-lived Kewpie Tardy Office, where we laughed a lot but frequently bitterly.

Streaming for Shut-Ins: here is a good way to get to know (if you don’t) the music and mind of the sorely missed Gil Scott-Heron.