Cloister Commentary, Day 179: All Too Evitable

Only my hatred of the inevitable, and delight at seeing the inevitable rendered unexpectedly evitable, could induce me to root for a Kroenke-owned venture, but such is life in the NBA bubble: I would happily witness a Denver Nuggets ride to the championship; there, I said it. But, truth be told, I’d be happy with any of the remaining four teams winning: the Heat, because I love their youth, team chemistry, defense, and spirit–damn, they would be a great Finals match with the Nuggets!–the Celtics, because I really wanted them, configured much like they were then, to beat the Cavs two years ago when they went Clipper-cold in a seventh game (I also like their youth, team chemistry, defense, and spirit), or even the Lakers, because as a colleague and I recently agreed, LeBron-Hate is a symptom of a very American reality-denial virus, and his winning a championship with a third different franchise as the key player (I love Big Shot Bob, but let’s be serious) is something, um, a certain cigar-smoking, golf-playing, bet-addicted, former-Hitler-mustache wearing person never did.

Reader, sorry I’m wearing you out about something as relatively insignificant as basketball in this entry, but IT GIVES ME JOY, we all need a source of that right now, and you’ll just have to endure it. As a long-time fan, I am luxuriating in the following: the level of play, the nail-biting aspect of so many of the playoff games, the various stories in the making–and the fact that, if fans who are not in support of social justice and don’t like people of color as anything other than athletes are going to watch NBA Bubble Playoffs, they are going to have to look at and listen to healthy messages all game long.

Streaming for Strivers:

I should be more humble in my joy-bounty, but I (and you) also have music.

Cloister Commentary, Day 165: Bakin’ That COVID Lasagna

Tuesdays and Thursdays are going to be a challenge to comment on, as–at present–I am not working on those days of the week. Yesterday, I made a futile trip out to the USPS Pickup location, caught up on some new music, read a bit from three different books, helped my mom with a equipment return issue (AT&T does not make that easy if you live in a small town), talked to my cousin Jim on the phone, ate delicious leftovers for two meals, talked to Nicole about her day at Battle, had a kitten attached to my lap for several hours, and watched a fairly exciting 80-78 NBA playoff 7th game–these days you have to really work at a score that low.

However, the most interesting thing happened at 3:15 this morning, which I’m going to count as yesterday because it feels like it. At that hour, the same kitten mentioned above sat in the hallway repeatedly “asking a question”: meowing with an upward inflection. Junior also has a very distinct whine to his meow that grates, so I was forced to get up and see what the issue was. Turns out that, since I’d WD-40’d the door to the basement stairs, it was slowly easing shut on its own, so when I swung it back open, Junior disappeared down the stairs like he was shot out of a cannon. I guess he really was making an inquiry.

But–the point is, Phil?–when I tried to go back to sleep, I encountered what I call COVID lasagna: layers of psychological stress that press down with a combined force that denies the ease required for shut-eye. I’m the layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan, underneath dread about November 3rd, worry about my family and friends and us as we continue to wrestle with grief, horror at what atrocities have become commonplace, even accepted, more worry about the health, safety and success of teachers, students, parents, families (other than my own), and those protesters indefatigably striving in this truly historical moment for social justice.

Just enumerating the topics on my mind took twenty minutes–at the end of which Junior had arrived back upstairs, hopped up on the bed, and positioned himself between my legs in such a way that, in order to get comfortable, I would have to have disturbed the young prince…which would only have added another lasagna layer.

Resorting to a technique that should have been my first resort (I always forget), I engaged in some deep breathing and fell back asleep in the midst, for about 15 minutes before the alarm dawned.

Maybe that isn’t much more interesting than the rest, but I suspect I am not alone at the bottom of the pan.

Streaming for Survivors:

Morning meditation music.

Cloister Commentary, Day 157: I Want My Crown

I received a new crown (on a tooth, to be clear) in January, a piece broke off of it in February and my dentist applied a temporary patch to it since the next crown appointment wasn’t available until April, COVID-19 hit and my appointment was delayed, and finally yesterday I sat for over three hours for a new, more durable crown (free of charge). I’ve been seeing the same dentist for almost 30 years–she’s excellent–and over that time her in-house music has improved: I even heard Freddy Fender at one point. I was able to read Zadie Smith’s excellent new pandemic essay collection Intimations while the new crown cooked, and overall the grinding was tolerable. Plus, my hygienist was into Jimi Hendrix and country music, so I tried to sell her on Mdou Moctar, Pistol Annies, and Tyler Childers, of whom she hadn’t heard. Now that I look back at that description, it almost looks like I had fun.

Nicole fixed me some miso soup when I got home–I was a bit numb, still–then I was sucked into The NBA Playoff Vortex. Waited several hours for the Culligan guy to show up and fix a leak in our water-softening system, then after dinner we kicked back and watched our new shows (Lovecraft Country–the jury is still out there–and Unforgotten, which rocks).

And…2020 poured more of its kerosene of ugliness, virus, and hate on the existing raging fire.

Streaming for Strivers:

Two young masters improvising.

Cloister Commentary, Day 151: Mayo a Mayo

What a wonderfully mild day for mid-August! We took a neighborhood walk in the morning and evening, finding ourselves like-minded with several neighbors during the latter.

Nicole and I have noticed there’s much division in this country…specifically regarding which mayonnaise is the best: Duke’s or Blue Plate. We decided to settle this roiling rancor (for ourselves, at least) by buying a jar of the former–we already had three of the latter–making a tomato, lettuce and mayo sandwich with each, and taste-testing. I was “blindfolded” for my test, and had concluded which one I preferred by a slim margin, but Nicole, without telling me which one it was, declared we had to default to double-redundancy and try a small unadulterated spoonful a piece to be sure. Since seldom does suspense appear in these reports, the reader will have to wait until tomorrow for the results.

I watched all or parts of four NBA playoff games yesterday. I am not proud; at least I read during commercials and took breaks to help with lunch and dinner. Random thoughts: the Bucks still ain’t gonna cut the mustard; Indy v. Miami might be the series to be glued to, providing ‘dipo returns; I dream of a day OKC fields a team that can drill 3s on the regz; that LeBron James can pass; I’m calling a Blazers upset of L.A. (I think they’re my new favorite team that isn’t the Thunder). I probably should be cynical, but I love observing a microcosm where health and social justice are in the unavoidable forefront. Plus, I just love basketball.

I taught Donovan Wheeler when he was a ninth-grader at Parkview High School during the 1985-1986 school year (I think). He sat on the front row by the window, and was never at a loss for words–a very enjoyable smart-alleck. This semester at Stephens College, I’ll be able to help his daughter navigate her freshman year. That’s the second spawn of a stellar former student from that school year I will have worked with at Stephens, right, Rebecca? Cross-generational family education is one of the great fringe benefits of being a lifetime teacher.

Streaming for Strivers:

Definitely one of the best jazz albums produced in these United States during the last half-decade. If you’re a fan of John Coltrane, you need to acquaint yourself with JD Allen if you’ve yet to.