Cloister Commentary, Day 78: Gut-Shot

Critical readers should be prepared to look askance on occasion at The New York Times‘ coverage, but yesterday it offered two items that left me gut-shot. One was a meticulous reconstruction, from multiple recorded sources, of George Floyd’s final eight minutes and forty-six seconds of life; the other was culture writer Wesley Morris’ reaction to the same tragedy, in which Patti LaBelle’s ’85 live version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” undergoes a shattering recontextualization. If you know Harold Melvin and The Blue Note’s (really, Teddy Pendergrass’) original hit version, or Simply Red’s hit remake, I promise you will never hear them the same way again after reading Morris’ piece. You must listen to Patti’s version either before or after reading it. I am for damn-sure building a class around it next week.

In addition, a classic StoryCorps episode, in which a black father and his nine-year-old son discuss their life together in Mississippi, and a revisiting of George Perkins and The Silver Stars’ “Crying in the Streets”both ensured I would remain a sentient being for the day. I know I am constantly pushing media here but it keeps me human, and if it can help you, too, then my seconds have not been wasted.

In the late afternoon, I had a great, wide-ranging phone conversation with the spirited Bess Frissell. Once, when she was very young, she ran at top speed from one end of a Hickman High hallway to the other, where I happened to be standing, and at full force leaped on me like a mad monkey. That is one of my favorite memories of being a Kewpie. We laughed, kvetched, speculated, commiserated, traded theories, and compared dilemmas. And planned to get caught up soon.

Nicole and I closed the day with a trip to Tony’s Pizza Palace’s curb, a kat klatsch, and a chasing of last night’s strawberry moon. We caught it for the best possible view at the Hickman labyrinth. What do you know?


Streaming for Strivers:

Something never to give up on. Here’s your chance to dance your way / Out of your constrictions.


If any of you have spent much time around either of us, this installment of our breakfast medications might well seem the most characteristic. Literally before I even got in George’s car, I began nerding out on Columbia’s upcoming Dismal Niche Festival and didn’t stop until we pulled into Bleu‘s parking lot. Along the way, George almost crossed the double yellow line thrice, either because I was so effectively enthralling him with my banter about music from the Sahel that he couldn’t concentrate or because he is a terrifying driver. At any rate, I sold at least one ticket, Matthew!

Upon arriving a few minutes before the restaurant opened, we noted we were both wearing the same color cargo shorts. Once the restaurant opened, the absence of other diners somehow made it difficult for us to choose from among ALL the available seats, and when we finally grabbed a table, I sat next to George rather than across from him (???). Then after I clearly stated what I wanted (eggs Benedict–wait, do I capitalize both words?), Frissell violated one of our few rules and decided to order the same thing, forcing me to order beef hash that was distinctly not corned. He also ordered a side of four pieces of bacon (“very, very, VERY crispy”–I’ve never heard him triple up on it before) and told me I’d be eating two of those. Fine.

We proceeded to revisit “Hickman Tales from The Dark Side” and our respective student teaching experiences, pondered the origins of the phrases “knocked up” and “ass jack” (scroll down to the second definition), cleaned our plates–then, thorns amongst the roses, realized our setting was more posh than that to which we are best fitted. Bleu–note spelling–is the anti-JJ’s, which we should have realized by the presence of avocados on the menu. Something had seemed afoot, and that apparently was it. Posh we not. Excuse me, are not. However, the food was quite good, the service was very, VERY, VERY crispy, and at least we were not brunching (I believe those are illegal in the country of Texas, anyway). Rating? 8 (food 9, plus environment 7, divided by us 2).

We forgot to take a picture. I think we were both a shade fogged over.

See you in two weeks. George is going to Chicago where he is–apparently–going to be engaging in athletic activities with his young relatives. Have you seen this guy move lately?