Cloister Commentary, Day 100: The 2nd “Sustenance and Succor” Awards

I had thought I might quit this enterprise on this day, but from the looks of things? NOPE.

I am proud of my brother Brian and me. We have fallen naturally into a cooperative relationship working through our father’s after-effects, much of it instinctive. The division of labor’s even, and understandings are unspoken and keyed to eye contact. But we’d forgotten, really, to deal with Dad’s truck–I had barely thought about it–and since I’ve been driving the same vehicle for almost 30 years, it made sense for me to inherit it. I took it out on the highway, zig-zagged through my old hometown (Carthage, Missouri) and past some significant sights, and this morning gassed it up, cleaned out the console and glove compartment, washed, rinsed, and waxed it. Hey, Brian and Greg Carlin: he had four tape measures in there, a set of chains, very lovingly packaged jumper cables, and something else huge behind the passenger seat I forgot to unzip. Cartel materials?

On my drive, I truly enjoyed Gary St. James on 99.7 FM “The Bull” introducing some classic country by Waylon, Merle, Reba, The Possum, Willie, The Statlers, Keith Whitley, and Dwight. Some people think I’ve heard every piece of music recorded, but would you believe I’d never ever heard “The Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”? I’d heard OF it, but it had never slithered into my ear. Now it is a fave rave.

Among the sights I visited was the location of the old Carthage High School art annex where my art teacher Howard South taught me to think abstractly and believed in my intellectual potential, despite me being a frequent dipshit. Below, I stand in front of that location; it’s no longer an art annex.

Since my sweetie Nicole has returned to Columbia to tend to our own domicile, it’s just Jane and me hanging out right now. We kept binge-watching Truth Be Told (Octavia Spencer rules!) and had margaritas. I think I could hang with her on the regz.

It’s time for the 2nd “Sustenance and Succor Awards,” which I will give out every 50 days of the pandemic. These artifacts helped get us through


*Hamell on Trial: Pandemic Songs
*Run the Jewels 4
*79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected


*Mrs. America
*Gavin & Stacey
*What We Do in the Shadows (repeat winner!)


Lisa Sandlin: The Do-Right
Octavia Butler: Kindred
Chester Himes: The Harlem Cycle, Volume 3


La Terraza (ohhhhh, those 32 oz. margaritas!!!)
India’s House
Tiger Chef

Streaming for Sustainers:

Something mordant, lively, and wry.

Cloister Commentary, Day 2: “Humbled” (March 22, 2020)

I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day; he’s 84 and Mom’s 82, they’re down in southwest Missouri, and we’re keeping close tabs on them, of course. I was expressing my concern, when he very evenly, very matter-of-factly, very stoically replied, “Well, it’s just nature’s way of thinning out the population.” The wisdom of an elder: so comforting. But…yeah. Perhaps we require some humbling, just as a reminder of our essential insignificance to the overall works.

Speaking of, I am really enjoying the budding of the plants in our landscaping this year. I did the fall clean-up and pruning myself, and apparently didn’t KILL ANYTHING! But watching those buds pop out made me a mite envious: they’re outside opening up to the sun and sky, we’re hunkered down inside and…well, we don’t need to close up, for certain, but you know what I mean. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Mary Oliver. We did walk the old pooch up the block to drop some books off at a neighbor’s curbside loaning library (on Leslie, if you’re curious), but I locked us out of our house–during a pandemic, well-played! Fortunately, a friend has our spare key and we were able to recloister ourselves.

Yesterday was also our wedding anniversary, and we celebrated with the following: a great “quarantine concert” on Facebook by Edward Hamell (he’s playing another show Thursday we will also check out); some powerful music from the Sahel (see below); a couple beers; breakfast dinner (poached eggs, bacon, fried taters, grapefruit–I ate that under duress–and waffles with real maple syrup); and a further episode in Hulu’s adaptation of Celeste Ng‘s LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE. Not bad for being locked in with each other.

Rituals are good. And necessary.

Anyone else out there more beset than usual by thoughts of how the rest of the billions currently breathing are navigating this? When I start thinking about that, and reflect on my blessings–I’m coming back around full circle here–it brings me a sense of near-relief of how very minor my suffering and anxieties (right now, calculating what many months of this could be like, plus a danged pinched nerve in my hip that almost cripples me at times) really are. That may sound strange, but there it is. Comforting. The world doesn’t revolve around me–it takes a little pressure off.

Streaming for shut-ins (seriously, this is a beautiful album, recorded inside a dwelling in Bamako while outside a militant human plague was running rampant–it might inspire you):