Cloister Commentary, Day 268: The Road Home

Road trip back from my mom’s–listened to Black Thought’s first two “Streams of Thought” EPs (strong stuff), then Robert Calvert’s Lucky Leif & The Longships and Hawkwind’s Quark, Strangeness & Charm (strange and wonderful stuff). Switched to Chiefs game for my last lap only to hear them in “we’ll-spot-you-some-points” mode.

I was glad to see Nicole. She fixed me a titanic grilled (pepper) cheese sandwich and some tomater soup, we had a couple beers, Zoomed with a couple of friends, poopity-popped some popcorn, and closed out the day with the documentary Fantastic Fungi. Serious food for thought, right there.

Streaming for Strivers:

This random selection from a stack of things I was curious about entertained and fascinated the hell out of me when I was on the road yesterday! It is a concept album (I think) both wacky and wry.

Cloister Commentary, Day 264: Essential Missions

With great care and forethought, I reluctantly left Nicole and our feline team yesterday morning to hit the road for two out-of-town visits. This is not the greatest time to be venturing out, but some missions are essential and I’m taking the fewest possible risks.

On my familiar highway chain–70 to 63 to 54 to 5 to 44–I jammed to some relatively new music I’d not yet heard, three rap albums that dazzled me by serengeti (with help from Greg the Deerhoof drummer), Backxwash (hear below), Bktherula. I thought I was fatigued by the first MC’s set-up (I’ve long been a fan, and almost snagged him for a free show at Hickman High School)–I was wrong; the second MC simply stunned me with her aggressive delivery and strong worldview (we’ll call it); the sonics of the third MC’s album (Nirvana). The morning was one of my favorite musical experiences of this calendar year, and you may not like critics, but they DO care–and I got the tips from a goodun.

My first visit was with one of my lifelong best friends, a former housemate and (once) bandmate, and a stellar groomsman, Mike Rayhill. We talked Ebo Taylor and Fela, Taysom Hill and Patrick Mahomes, fatherhood and fathers, public and social parochial education, and cruelty and love. We also ate six delicious Taco Bell tacos.

My second visit was with my mom, with whom I’ll be staying for a few days. I helped her with a Zoom church business meeting, we enjoyed pork loin and baked potatoes, and took in a sweet and fun movie, The Fishermen’s Friends, which I’d seen before but she needed to see (thanks again, Clay). It’s recommended to fishermen, friends, and lovers of sea shanties.

Streaming for Strivers:

Been awhile since a rap album has injected my body and mind with pure caffeine like this record by Backxwash.

Cloister Commentary, Day 128: Home Again

H – 44 – 5 – 54 – 63 – 70–back home. I had a great time at my mom’s but I was very happy to see Nicole and the animals. A tomato and mayo sandwich and a beer awaited me.

We Zoomed a couple times with family and friends, grabbed some curbside, came home and talked about our hardest times after dinner, about whether intense experiences are easier to remember in detail than mundane ones. We decided, “Not necessarily,” but that didn’t keep us from revisiting a few in detail.

We watched a Key and Peele episode to chill and hit the sack. Apparently Nicole had trained Louis to sleep in the living without being confined by a gate and without getting us up at 2. After 12 years, it’s about time….

Streaming for Survivors:

Reggae got soul.

Cloister Commentary, Day 121: 63 – 54 – 5 – 44 – H

I am spending a week with my mom and yesterday hit the ol’ 63 – 54 – 5 – 44 – H trail that I could drive in my sleep. Broke in the new car stereo with mid-’70s Miles, Beatles, VU (’68 stuff–damn), Gary Stewart (yelled all the songs: I wish I could sing like him), and PE.

Road observations:

Had to stop at the Wal-Mart in Camdenton because I drank a cup of tea before I left. Plusses: all employees were masked, plus IF you are a dude, need to take a leak, and don’t mind sanitizing back in the jalopy, you can enter, do the biz, and exit without touching anything foreign. Minuses: maybe 2 in 10 customers were masked, and the rejiggering of the entrances and exits just seemed to create massive bottlenecks.

On I-44, I once again mourned the impending sale of “The Den of Metal Arts.” I’d always hoped that, one, some former students of mine would form a metal band and use a photo of it as an album cover, and, two, it would someday be converted into a metal recording studio or venue. It’ll probably end up an evangelical church.

As I passed 65, a maroon van merged onto 44 beside me, into a crowd of vehicles we traveled with for several miles. Spray-painted crudely and legibly on its driver side was “Honk if you love Trump!” No one honked.

We had a nice afternoon and evening. Mom and I got caught up, we chatted with my brother Brian on the blower, I Zoomed with my Sunday regz and my sweetie Nicole (who’s minding the feline farm), and we had BLs with fresh Ts. Closed down the day by watching the terse but somewhat trance-inducing Apple + series Defending Jacob.

I read a few pages of Michael Corcoran’s great book on Ghost Notes: Pioneering Spirits in Texas Music. I’m supposed to know a ton about American music, but how come I never knew the great pianists and singers Charles Brown and Amos Milburn were not only likely gay but also a couple? Amazing, cool–and damn difficult for their glory years.

Streaming for Strivers:

Speaking of Texas music…

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 42: Weather Reps

One of our shelter rituals has been watching the local and national news at 5 and 5:30. Alas, to that we must put a stop. After 30 minutes of local “coverage’ during which we saw the same advertisement three times, had the weather POUNDED into our brains via four reps–I got it the effin’ first time, people–and consumed maybe 30 seconds of actual information during the last 10 minutes of the program, WE CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I assure you, enough vital news (not even counting pandemic stuff and the beginning of campaign feces-flinging) is out there to fill 60 MINUTES. I’m not naive; I know the TV exists to sell, that it’s the “shows” that support the ads, not the other way around. But still. What a waste. We can always use more time for books and music, I guess.

Ok, then. Perhaps in response to this frustration, Nicole and I jumped in the car and just drove: out to her workplace, Battle High School, past her mom Lynda’s old house, down 63 to the AC exit, up Providence to downtown (sad to see Lucky’s lights still on but no cars in the lot), through the Stephens College campus (“Look! There’s where I park! And there’s the library window I’d jump out of in an emergency!”), onto I-70 and across the Missouri River bridge, then back home, the last 20 minutes accompanied by a mellow but vivid sunset. Soundtrack: Novo Baianos’ Acabou Chorare (a late-Tropicalia masterpiece from Brazil), Thelonious Monk Trio (if you don’t know Monk’s brilliance, a great starting point), and Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus. It was a redemptive little trip, but it left us sad to think we have no clue when or where we will actually be able travel to see people and places.

A ritual we are practicing that I’ve forgotten to mention is periodically ordering something neat to give ourselves something to look forward to arriving. I think we’ve made four Powell’s Books orders, I have some Soul Jazz-labelmusic coming from the UK, and Nicole got a box of nice stuff (soap, incense, a Shiva scarf, and a cone incense diffuser) from Nag Champa. We are fortunate to have leisure capital to spend, but at least we are spending it with quality merchants and avoiding Amazon like the plague during the plague.

Still keeping your eye on the ball regarding our Republican “legislators”‘s ongoing attempt to subvert democracy and overturn Clean Missouri while we’re distracted? Creeps. Not much noise about THAT at all on the TV news. Cheating in plain sight is the new political normal.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Curious about that Novo Baianos record? Here.