Cloister Commentary, Day 110: Blown Off, Not Blown Off

List of things I blew off: shaving, grading rough drafts, weeding, trimming back vines, hauling off the recycling, reading Deacon King Kong, listening to music very actively, figuring out how to use a neat Bluetooth mic by brother gave me.

List of things I didn’t: showering, eating Nicole’s special avocado toast, calling Mom, teaching, taking a nap, attending to some financial and beneficiary details, drinking a bourbon and Coke, eating some brisket from Lockhart,Texas, helping Nicole trap that sad little stray so he can get some health attention, visiting with our neighbor Shireen, checking on our neighbors the Knowleses, lazing and luxuriating through the pages of Duffy and Jennings’ graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

I HAVE to grade essays today. I HAVE to grade essays today. I HAVE to grade essays today. Don’t I?

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Another severely underrated rap record. For Joseph.

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

BEST ANTI-COVID-BLUES ALBUMS:

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

BEST ANTI-COVID-BLUES SHOWS:

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

BEST ANTI-COVID-BLUES BOOKS:

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

BEST ANTI-COVID-BLUES CURBSIDE EATS:

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

Streaming for Sustainers:

Something mordant, lively, and wry.

Cloister Commentary, Day 70: “Familiar”

It was Nicole’s last day of school, but I am sure she would say it did not feel like the others. She had several Zooms (I will be glad when that’s out of my daily vocabulary); however, the familiar bittersweet release teachers feel when students file out for the summer did not pervade. Usually, we crank up Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” or Gary U. S. Bond’s more formally titled “School IS Out,” but we drifted into the odd but satisfying combo of dirty martinis and George and Tammy’s greatest hits. We also mourned the fact that no one has as yet created the perfect Wynette album that inimitable, fabulously sultry voice deserves. She never found the perfect writers to create for her, and she didn’t write much herself, but an A+ record–yes, I know most of you don’t care about records anymore–lies in the ether ready to be compiled. We also marveled at how the greatest country singer of all-time always humbly deferred to Tammy vocally (and to great effect!) on their duets.

I am closing in on finishing Octavia Butler’s chilling and too-relevant (how I wish it weren’t!) Kindred. I’ve never read a more effective time-travel novel: the blurring sensation the main character experiences while being thrown back and forth between 1976 and 1819 was familiar to me yesterday in an extremely immediate way. This is yet another book I wish I could have taught, and which should be in every citizen’s library.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

“Rome, Georgia / Athens, Texas / and Paris, Tennessee….”

Your turn.

Cloister Commentary, Day 66: Afraid of The Braid

I think both of us would say our favorite moment yesterday was reading with the cats downstairs in “the office.” Junior is still oddly “afraid of the braid”; when Nicole simply flips hers, that kitten’s like shot out of a cannon. Accompanying our time was Fela’s The Best of Black President, Volume 2, and besides having Cleocatra glued to me, I had the work of two of my favorite writers, Octavia Butler and Louise Erdrich, in hand. My reading is starting to recover from sudden loss: I managed a little over 100 pages and suffered much less drift than the last four days.

We waited too late to partake of live Shakespeare from The Stratford Festival (via YouTube), but we did finally take in Judy. “She wore out,” Ray Bolger said at Garland’s funeral, and Renee Zellweger did a convincing job of illlustrating both that and the flame that was snuffed. I may have to seek out a book.

My gut is still churning regarding my upcoming virtual comp class for Stephens. It’s a week away, I’ve taught comp for 36 years, I’m totally prepared in terms of course material and my on-line platform, I’ve been using educational technology since ’02, I am normally chomping at the bit to be unleashed on students, but for some reason the specter of appearing via Zoom, trying to communicate my energy, manipulating digital controls, striving to get to know my students so I can individualize a bit, wondering what part of me will be missing from my presentation, and fighting the light reflecting off the lenses of my reading glasses just gives me the fan-tods. I need to accept it; if I want to teach decently in the fall, I’m gonna need to have it down. Yes, I’ve done it before, back in April, but it felt like an emergency and only three-four students showed up each session (I had a very small class as it was). I hate this boorish sentence but I will say it to myself: “Get over it.”

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

On Memorial Day, I always think of this great jazz violinist, who fought in the Vietnam War.

Cloister Commentary, Day 54: “Stuff”

School stuff: Nicole worked on enrollment and I laid out an Excel schedule for assignments and activities for my upcoming virtual dual-credit comp class. I’ve never had a more mysterious picture of my audience so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Food stuff: I bet we’re not alone in this mess in preparing big batches of food to be eaten across several days. We were sad to see the end of a stellar pot of red beans and rice. Also, we both recommend the Burmese restaurant Tiger Chef to Columbians searching for good curbside.

Cat stuff: Since this pandemic started, we’ve watched our kitten Junior, who turns one in a couple weeks, become the longest, tallest, leanest cat of the bunch–and we have a bunch. If he grows into his tail…

Clothes stuff: We’re still not comfortable going into a store and shopping for clothes (I’m not comfortable shopping for them period), so we ordered some items on-line. My favorite going-on-20-year-old slippers bit the dust yesterday after we determined the strange here-and-gone funk we’d been sniffing was emanating from them. They’d also worn through in three places. But that’s a sign they were just getting perfect.

Music stuff: Nicki Minaj is on point on the new Doja Cat remix.

Book stuff: I awakened having cleared the reading decks, so I read the first 20 pages of each of four new ones. Octavia Butler and Louise Erdrich are the level of writer that you can (if you have no obligations) read all day long. Butler’s Kindred and Erdrich’s new The Night Watchman have their hooks in deep already.

Film stuff: Inspired by weird Facebook prohibitory actions, we spent two powerful hours remembering the great and painfully missed Molly Ivins in a Hulu documentary called Raise Hell! Do we need her, but are we also glad she didn’t have to see what she predicted. Reading her kept us sane during the last half of the ’90s and the beginning of the ‘Oughts.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

I’ve been staring at a compilation of this band’s work from our couch every morning. Time to act. Their debut album wastes no time kicking butt.