Cloister Commentary, Day 291: In the Chair, Happily

Most folks don’t enjoy going to the dentist. I’ve been going to the same one for almost 30 years (Dr. Shelly Lyle), and though I had one rough period when she seemed to keep the music tuned to “The Carpenters Station” and my usual hygienist liked to unsubtly trash Hickman even while knowing I taught there (“Aren’t there a lot of thugs there?” grrrrrrr), I have NO complaints, and I’ve actually been fascinated by how she’s kept the clinic up to date with the newest technology. Yesterday I had to go in for a cleaning (they open at 7 a.m., another cool thing), and it was actually a highlight of the day. My favorite hygienist of all-time, Jordan (John and Cecilia, she comes from great stock!), was back on the scene, she used a new anti-COVID aerosol suction that was more comfortable than the usual, and Dr. Lyle adjusted a crown replacement she’d done for me (free of charge; the original cracked), which made me feel like a new man–it had been quietly driving me crazy for months, and I’d written it off to my imagination. Also, Tina Turner was on the sound system.

Moral of the story: go get your danged check-up!

The other big highlight? I am sure some of you occasional fall asleep watching late-night programming, even when it’s fantastic, and because I rise before the sun and will occasionally have a late cocktail, I’m especially prone. I’ve raved in the past about director Steve McQueen’s masterpiece limited series Small Axe (available on Amazon Prime), but, after a long and stressful day, I’d zoned out for the middle 15 minutes of the final episode, “Education.” After putting it off for about a month, I re-watched it, and it hit me hard. It stands alone–every teacher should watch it–but the whole five-episode series, illuminating the experience of black West Indians in England, will ring through the coming years. I promise.

Thought about Georgia all day. Apparently those thoughts were not wasted….

Streaming for Strivers:

We are.

Cloister Commentary, Day 274: Leeks, Parsnips, Cannellini Beans

We took a walk in the morning, which turned out to be somewhat abortive, as the neighbor’s cat enthusiastically joined us for half of it, then–because someone had her dog unleashed–freaked out, so we picked her up and walked back home. At least we got out of the house.

Nicole created a new crockpot dish, a vegetable stew with lots of good stuff including leeks and parsnips, that was fan-damn-tastic! The inspiration was via Betty Crocker, but she improvised, then added some cannellini beans for good measure after we ate to cook in for an hour or so. She also made a low-salt, high-garlic hummus that we pretty much finished off. As Bob Dylan once sang, “I can’t help it / If I’m lucky!”

In the afternoon, we spun a couple great records: the Beasties’ Paul’s Boutique and Clifton Chenier and His Red Hot Louisiana Band. That’s some good sh*t right there.

Evening (Son of Movie Night): Surprisingly strong Ian Dury biopic (Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll), final, unsurprisingly powerful and moving installment of Small Axe (“Education”)–do yourself a favor and watch that, ok?

Streaming for Strivers:

Man vs. self musical conflict?

Cloister Commentary, Day 272: The Immediate Present

I awakened feeling a ton better physically, but still a bit stressed mentally and emotionally. I mean, December usually weighs heavy at the same time that one is about exhausted from the (albeit arbitrary) year, but this one has been a doozy. I was worried about a claim that had hit a snag, about my mom’s arthritis, about my decision to kick a clinic visit can down the road…Nicole could see it on my face, hugged me around the neck, messed up my perfect part, and told me she understood. My favorite moment of the day, and it moved me into the immediate present. I knocked out another 20 holiday cards, mailed ’em, and read four CDs’ worth of sleeve notes that I’d been putting off.

Thursday is Movie Night here, of course. We ate Bangkok Garden leftovers (does anyone else send holiday cards to your favorite eateries?), popped some poopity-popcorn, poured a couple ginger beers with bourbon and lime, and watched episodes 3 and 4 of the amazing, hard-hitting, and seriously educational Steve McQueen series Small Axe. I cannot recommend it enough. I told Nicole that we are sure to look back on this series of films as major cultural landmarks; I hope we will have another Zoom discussion about them with Rebecca and Frank!

Streaming for Strivers:

Relative to Episode 4 of Small Axe. I was wondering when LKJ would make it onto the series’ stimulatin’ soundtrack–it was inevitable–and last night was the night. Final track from this record (I may have posted it previously, but it’s worth it–it isn’t streaming on Apple Music and I wonder why)…

…and I’m not forgetting your full album stream!

(6) Linton Kwesi Johnson : Reggae Greats (Full Album) – YouTube

Cloister Commentary, Day 260: Rituals To Be Continued

I have come to love a COVID ritual that I will probably extend into the next world (if we ever get there). I drove Nicole to the grocery store ultra-early for provisions, before it got too crowded, and just sat in the truck cab meditating and thinking (those aren’t always the same thing). I know it looks like I’m lazing there blissfully while she’s endangering herself, but it’s not what it seems. My spouse would probably agree.

The blower–the telly-phone, as Elvis once sang (he stole the phrasing from Jackie Wilson)–has become a welcome alternative to Zoom for many lately, I just read in The Week. I spoke to two loved ones who are suffering via that technology myself yesterday, and I definitely understand.

I don’t mean to torture readers with constant reports of my good fortune due to my wife being an incredible cook, but she spent the afternoon preparing delicious black bean-stuffed poblano peppers with queso fresco and they delivered serious satisfaction. We bought some fresh tortillas from the Tortilleria ” EL PATRÓN ” Group and, as is my wont, I spied an improvisational opportunity to combine the stuffed peppers and the lettuce, onion, and avocado salad she’d also prepared into a scrumptious soft taco. I am not completely culinarily worthless!

You no doubt have heard of Steve McQueen’s limited series on Amazon Prime, Small Axe. If not, you’re hearing about it now. How many of you learned about the lives of black men and women in England when you were in school? I didn’t, either, and you can catch up here. The second installment, titled “Lovers Rock” (after the warm and romantic strain of golden-age reggae of the same name), is simply beautiful. There is no plot; it’s one night in the life of a group of (mostly) young black youth at a blues dance. The performances, soundtrack, and cinematographical brilliance of the episode will dazzle and inspire you, possibly to joyful tears. That’s what we watched last night; it was just a shade better than dinner.

Streaming for Strivers:

Up for sampling some lover’s rock?

Cloister Commentary, Day 253: Fabulous Finds

Nicole and I made some fabulous finds yesterday. In the world of pages, Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds is a quirky and surprisingly enlightening delight; she writes like she seems to be, and so far she earns George Saunders’ blurb. She is a fine humorist, but more is going on than that in her work.

We had been eagerly waiting for an opening to begin Steve McQueen’s perfectly-titled limited series Small Axe, and yesterday one presented itself. If the remaining episodes are as great as “Mangrove,” it will be a landmark that stands the test of time. Stories of black resistance to systematic British racism have been rarely told on the screen, and in this case one is told with pure fire. Can’t wait for “Lover’s Rock.”

Nicole tried her hand at vegetarian moussaka out of the Moosewood Cookbook, which has been a culinary presence during our entire time together. She’d made it before, but this time she nailed it. I had thirds if you count me scraping sauce and mushrooms out of the pan before she put it up.

We are happy to report that our Russian blue feline Smoky, who is a bit of a basement recluse, has been gingerly extending her perimeter into the upstairs. She is fearful for no reason, but she’s struck up a sunbathing friendship with her elder, Miss Cleo.

Cleo can’t wait.

Streaming for Strivers:

One of the great strivers in political music, whose work I fully expect to appear in Small Axe.