Cloister Commentary, Day 362: When the Rain Comes

We awakened to pouring rain, flashing lightning, booming thunder–and some dude screaming epithets into the pre-dawn dark from the driveway next door. Nicole thought it was happening in her waking dream, but alas it was not.

We celebrated St. Pat’s with soda bread and a pint of music from that talented nutcase Van Morrison and The Chieftains (their team-up is passionate and evocative), with a Pogues chaser. Somehow it was fitting that I ran out to the truck through a thick downpour and drove to work accompanied by more sudden flickers of electricity. It may have been St. Pat’s (and Biden Bucks Day for some), but the main news was horrifying and unfortunately nothing surprising.

My recurring tutoring appointment did not materialize inside the Zoom Chamber, so applied myself to two alternate tasks (damn, I have the to-do bug!): attending to more fine details regarding a scholarship George Frissell’s family is giving to an outstanding David H. Hickman High School senior in May (thanks to many donors via GoFundMe), sprucing up my office further (updating my monthly Top 10, dusting books–first time I’ve done that, rearranging furniture for imaginary visitors), checking in with my teacher interns’ host teachers about their stellar mid-term progress.

When I got home, I had to mop some water out of the basement “Kitten Room”–we need a sump pump. More rain’s on the way. We squeezed a long walk in between downpours, discussed a home improvement future, ate more corned beef and cabbage, read and scrolled, and faded into Hypnos’ land with a couple of episodes of Kim’s Convenience. You may have noticed I use the simple teacher-trick of repetition quite frequently in these commentaries–on purpose. This show is consistently entertaining.

Streaming for Strivers:

Spoon ‘n’ The Brute. Their chemistry made my day and night yesterday, and is gonna make it this morning. Jimmy was Arkansan; Webster was KC-born.

Cloister Commentary, Day 109: Strode Rode

Dropping off some checks for our fundraiser for the late George Frissell at Hickman High School, I had a delightful conversation with the school’s long-time administrative assistant Sharon Dothage–actually, she runs the school. We got caught up on gossip, the future, Hickman history–and I found out she was once a Stephens Star! I also chatted with financial secretary Heather Croy, who put my mind at ease about several nerve-wracking fundraising concerns. AND I logged a Dr. Andrew McCarthy sighting. AND I was excited to learn my good friend and former colleague Leia Brooks is moving into a) the ol’ Frissellian lair on the second floor, and b) a new home on the north side, with her boyfriend. AND I previewed for all the new city mask ordinance (better late than never).

I came home from that jaunt to discover that our long-time pal and stalwart Seattleian Beth Hartman had sent us a care package that included pickled Brussels sprouts (once branded by John Waters “those little balls of hell”). She wisely intuited that I would enjoy such an oddity, and I did, though I did not make a dirty martini with them as threatened. My brother Brian sent me a Bluetooth mic that I can’t wait to use but need to figure out how.

Accomplished: the Chevy Silverado Dad left behind and Mom and Brian gifted me is now officially mine. Next up: accidental death insurance labyrinth, and getting my old Ford into the Wright hands.

I am sick to death of gun violence.

Speaking of Fords, Nicole and I chillaxed and watched the first half of John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

A truly great film with serious star power but also entertaining support from crafty veterans like Woody Strode, Andy Devine, and Edmond O’Brien (all of whom made me think of my friend Rex Harris, who appreciates such memorable characters). Our fatigued bodies and minds forced us to our pillows at 9 pm.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Testifying tunes from a West Coast pianistic prince.

Cloister Commentary, Day 89: A Sand Grain

I’ll admit, I ran myself through a ringer yesterday.

Before I took a sip of coffee at 4:55 a.m., I found myself in a quagmire we all know too well: an irresolvable on-line tangle with someone. Why did I insist on engaging? That drained me of almost all the energy that sleep had restored to me–and more significantly, it left me distressed. Finally disengaged and recovered just in time to teach, my students graced me with the most enjoyable class I’ve overseen in over a year. Did I mention I’ve often been called “Mr. Overseen”? That’s the power of my gaze! They made me laugh with pleasure with their insights. After class, I couldn’t just be grateful for the nice session and bask in it; I had to revisit the previous briar of a conversation, fret about a technical GoFundMe issue, revisit the previous briar of a conversation, and perseverate over a lost package until my surging stress level merged with a very strong cup of tea and brought me to the edge of explosion. Nicole, as she does reliably, talked me back about 10 feet from the ledge and onto the couch, where, despite my heart pounding, I eventually lapsed into a 15-minute five-fathoms-deep nap. I awakened not very Van Winkle-like to resume worrying and wishing my old friend was on this plane to talk to–until I checked the GoFundMe to see an anonymous $1000 donation in his memory, the sheer generosity of which (quite seriously) brought me to tears. And joy. Then my high school chum Marcy plunged me into the abyss of depression by reminding me that we graduated from high school two score and about a month ago (does that sound longer ago or nearer to now than 40 YEARS?). Then my good friend Henry called and restored my emotional equilibrium and acceptance of mortality with compassion and humor. Finally, enchiladas, two cold Budweisers, and a dive into the work of Jeff City’s Chester Himes brought me back to myself.

Anyway–it was a day. I am now thankful I was alive for it, and today I am going to try act like I just read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I just did, and also act like I understand that my troubles are like a sand grain in my shoe compared to so many others I know and don’t know–as I should. I hope you all have a better day than yesterday, too.

Streaming for Strivers:

How I’m starting the morning THIS morning. This is for the Carthage High School Class of 1980.

Cloister Commentary, Day 85: There Is No Sweeter Sound

Nicole and I opened the day with our 68th slice of pandemic peanut butter and jelly toast since March 17th, and hiked from Cosmo Park to the start of the Bear Creek Trail. We met Bess Frissell, in her role with Columbia Parks and Recreation, tending to the health of the trail behind the wheel of a monster tractor. We’ve either seen or talked to her at length four times in the last week, and it’s always a joy.

I have written in the recent past about our work trying to establish a proper memorial for a great friend and teacher, Bess’ father George Frissell, who passed unexpectedly on May 14. Yesterday, through a fantastic group effort, we were able to finalize the project and launch a GoFundMe to make it a reality. It’s my first to help organize, and I’m filled with hope, excitement, but also tinges of fear, as our goal is ambitious, the times do not lend themselves to free funds, and momentum has grown very quickly in the first hours of the launch. The generosity shown by contributors so far has been overwhelming.

The mailbox issued forth an amazing but apparently out of print post-World War II gospel collection entitled There Will Be No Sweeter Sound, compiled by the near-infallible expert Opal Louis Nations. I immediately loaded up the CD player, and we were lifted and gifted as we read on the couch.

The evening: burritos, quesadillas, chile rellenos, sorbet, margaritas, Netflix’s Michelle Obama documentary (a companion to her excellent memoir), and a word or two of wisdom from Dave Chappelle. If you missed that, it’s less than half an hour, and it’s right here:

Streaming for Strivers:

I can find no full album link for Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray’s new album Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove, but it is absolutely hypnotic. This sample is 15 minutes–it might just center you if you need that.