Cloister Commentary, Day 138: Takin’ a Ride

Took a ride with Nicole out to get some fresh peaches in the Chevy. Shabazz Palaces and Roky Erickson sounded great on the stereo. We fantasized about making an actual getaway.

Dropped off the recycling–one must get the timing right these days–and finally filled the tank all the way up. I am not used to having a 30-gallon tank.

Realized I needed to say here that I’ve been pushing Mrs. America relentlessly, but Gloria Steinem reminds us of the role of insurance companies in persuading politicians to oppose the ERA, which the show ignores, very unfortunately. It’s still a worthwhile series–just keep that in mind.

S’posed to be weaned off sports but I’m weak where the Oklahoma City Thunder are concerned, and they beat the supposedly mighty Lakers soundly. Chris Paul often gets on my nerves, but he’s a great leader and is still playing at an elite level. And he’s a quality citizen.

Still no word on how either of our schools are actually opening. It’s August 5th. We have PPE on the way and a house strategy, at least.

Streaming for Strivers:

Look for the Bo Diddley beat in all music and you will eventually find it.

Cloister Commentary, Day 116: Just Being Still

A kind of quiet day in Mask Ordinance USA.

Riding back up to Columbia, we listened to the audiobook of Marjorie Spruill’s Divided We Stand. You’ve heard me mention it while enthusing about the Hulu series Mrs. America, for which it served as somewhat of a guidebook for the series’ writers. In it, Spruill makes a great case for the seeds of today’s paralyzing, aggravating, and flat-out miserable division having been planted by the ’70s struggle over the Equal Rights Amendment. While the book is enlightening, it does not serve to lift much pre-existing dread with which one might be grappling.

In other highlights, when we got home, I lay next to Nicole on our bed in the dark while she napped, just being still, conscious, and calm. It was very nice. Also, there was a cat on my chest.

Later, I had a peach popsicle and again fell asleep exactly for the key moment of Episode 8 of The Great. As always, I awakened right after the key moment.

I did not listen to any music, but I heard much of the following in my head.

Streaming for Strivers:

Thank you for the nudge, Michael Corcoran. It’d been awhile since I’d been down to Marlin, Texas.

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 91: California, OK!

My Thursday classes are open Zooms: they serve as opportunities for one-on-one tutoring, clarification on coming assignments and grades, testing out fresh writing on me–basically anything related to comp. Three of my students hail from California, all of them are thriving, and one of them always takes advantage of Thursdays. She’s a delight, she always asks the best questions, and despite taking FOUR classes this summer, she is always full of cheer. My favorite quote from her yesterday? “Mr. Overeem, I LOVE writing!” She’s an equine studies major, too!

I have too many books on my stack, but that didn’t stop me from picking up National Book Award winner James McBride’s new one, Deacon King Kong, and, with Nicole, starting the audiobook of Marjorie J. Spruill’s Divided We Stand, one of the guides for the creators of Hulu’s Mrs. America. I know you were hoping I wouldn’t mention that again. It’s that good.

Amazingly, I handled a power drill and didn’t affix myself to the deck’s latticework, upon the posts of which I installed some doo-dads so Nicole could string some colored lights (we call ’em “joy lights”). I earned two fingers of Four Roses to back my cold beer.

Have a great Juneteenth tomorrow, and if you’re not sure about it, look it up!

Streaming for Strivers:

Pre-U.S. release Wailers with Scratch on the sliders and knobs.

Cloister Commentary, Day 69: Weaver Bird, Weave!

It was a nose-to-the-grindstone day. We both put in a full day of school work. Nicole will be “done” with 2019-2020 after tomorrow, though the dust of this school year will billow forth into the decade, and though a public school teacher’s work is never truly done. She had several virtual meetings. My summer school work starts Monday, and my on-line classroom is ready after I hammered on it one last time.

We’re far away, but we welcome Madison and Logan Dickens’ new child Presley into the world. This is not the most worry-free time to become parents to a newborn, and we wish them the very best. They are made from tough stuff, and they’ve got terrific support, too.

The Hulu limited series Mrs. America has ended–and did it stick the landing on the final chord it strummed! If you love modern United States history, have an interest in women’s political movements, and just appreciate smart writing and talented acting, you should watch its nine episodes. They’re inspiring, and we can’t wait to read the book that served as the creators’ road map (Divided We Stand, by Marjorie J. Spruill). And, yes, I promise, I won’t mention it again.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Soundtrack for a landscape.

“This morning I woke up in a curfew
O God, I was a prisoner, too.
Could not recognize the faces standing over me.
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality.

How many rivers do we have to cross
Before we can talk to the boss?
All that we got, it seems we have lost–
We must have really paid the cost.

That’s why we gonna be
Burnin’ and a-lootin’

…Weepin’ and a-wailin’ tonight!
(Ooh, can’t stop the tears!)
Weepin’ and a-wailin’ tonight!
(We’ve been suffering these long years!)”

Cloister Commentary, Day 62: Spartan Strong, Class o’ ’20!

Well, we didn’t go on a Vehicular Victory Tour for Battle Valedictorians yesterday–but we did mirror the InnerTubes to our TV and admiringly watch the school’s virtual academic awards assembly. Besides getting to celebrate the recipients of a nursing scholarship we’ve given for seven years in Nicole’s mom Lynda’s memory, we were gobsmacked by the sheer brains, skill, and diligence of the Spartan Strong Class of ’20. Through the storm, they (the kids and the school) DID IT.

Also, watching the show reminded me how much I miss teaching high school and attending such events. Jacob Biener, my former student Adam Taylor dubbed you a rock star for making the assembly a reality, and he is quite correct.

I continued inching through my book stack. Reading 20 pages a piece of Yuri Herrera’s Transmigration of Bodies and JoĆ£o Ubaldo Ribeiro’s Sergeant Getulio felt like a major accomplishment, and those very engaging books are ones I could normally burn through in a day. By the way, the world fictionally presented in the former title resembles, too closely for comfort, our own, with its denizens either masked or striving to find one.

I spent the afternoon setting up my summer class’ Canvas site, shooing cats from between me and my computer monitor and keeping them from burning their fur on my trusty work candle. Anyone else have a work candle? Or work cats?

If you haven’t checked out Mrs. America and you’re able to, I ask you, why not?

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

I’m not sure this is a “full album,” but Brother Cliff, thank you for inspiring its posting here.

Cloister Commentary, Day 55: The Thing with Feathers

Talked to my mom on the phone, and I am trying to sketch out a plan to safely visit her and Dad–I can barely remember when we last saw them in person. They’re 3.5 hours away, we’ll need to kennel the dog, and we feel an overnight stay is pushing it: we’re not putting anyone at unnecessary risk. Also, we’ll need to think out our distancing, dining, and rest stops very carefully in advance. It’s enough to break the brain. My dad’s also made me two much-needed record crates, so that just increases my desire to visit. Any advice or ideas? It seems like the masses are just relaxing and rolling out, but my mind and gut are telling me to hold steady. It’s enough to wake you up at 3 am.

We’ve been trying anything Jamestown’s Happy Hollow Farms has to offer. They deliver to Columbians via our Farmer’s Market. Our recent experiment, after devouring their purple radishes, was with black radishes. Damn. Talk about strong. VERY strong. Nicole soaked ’em in sugar water and vinegar to tone them down after we tried them raw and discovered their health benefits, and that helped, but, when we opened the container they’d been marinating in, we were tempted to look askance first at the dog, then at each other.

Hope is indeed the thing with feathers; every day the news seems to bring more proof. A step forward, three steps back, each a slap of insult, degradation, and smugness upside the head. But it was fun, on Hulu’s enlightening limited series Mrs. America, to see Phyllis Schlafly (played astonishingly by Kate Blanchett) get a pie in the face. Did it really happen? Yes, it did. See the link in the comments below. The only issue I have with the series–it’s really my issue–is it helps explain a bit of where we’re at right now, and while that’s helpful, that’s also somewhat depressing.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

NEVER depressing.

Cloister Commentary, Day 34: Cat Fights

A quiet, shoulder-to-the-wheel day. Nicole had three Zoom meetings and I edited two student’ papers remotely. We received a delicious pastry ‘n’ soup delivery from Love Coffee, via our old Hickman comrade Karen Morgan, and ran some books out to our old friends Dennis and Denise Ferguson. Nicole broke up a big (literal) cat fight in the front yard, and we watched an iteration of the political cat fight ploy in an episode of Mrs. America. Finally, after a great five-day run, the big plate of delicious spinach lasagna Nicole baked is no more.

It was our Uncle John Waters’ birthday, but we’ll have to celebrate it belatedly along with Wild Bill Shakespeare’s today. We’d also planned to throw a listening party for ourselves with Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, revered in this house, but we were too focused otherwise.

Some very good news: Missouri’s governor granted well-earned clemency to Columbia businessman Dimetrious Woods, and our longtime heavy-rotation punk rock faves X released their first album of new material in many a moon. Reputedly, these things come in threes, but lately one might next expect a kick in the teeth…

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

You think you’re well-dressed?