Cloister Commentary, Day 278: Beebs Returns!

I had trouble concentrating most of the morning since Beebs, one of the two strays that adopted us several years ago and live on our back deck, hadn’t been around the previous evening and didn’t show up for breakfast. He is a very special cat to us: he first appeared as a phantom, then I very carefully employed my cat whisperer talents and finally, after several weeks of distanced treat offerings, persuaded him to let me pet him. We’ve been buddies ever since. He’s got a near-silent meow, “hurt”-looking eyes, and a playful streak epitomized by his batting at my ankle if I walk away from him before he’s done with me. He climbs everything, and early on he badly injured himself doing so and suffered an infection that threatened his life, and we and some great vets nursed him back to health. Currently, he guards the backyard, but he’s also kind and serves as a Eskimo-kissing big brother to our other deck-stray, Goldie. ANYWAY, I made “lost cat” posts on two social media sites, and since this year has been the straight pits, began preparing myself to accept another loss. Then, after lunch, he showed back up, limping but otherwise looking healthy. Exhale.

Also, Nicole and I started a book by an author one of my former students and very good friends, Regan Schoengarth, insisted I get very familiar with: Wright Thompson. Thompson’s got local connections (right, Steve Weinberg?) and, indeed, writes indelibly, ostensibly about sports, but most powerfully about fathers and sons and the way culture is mutated by time’s changes. He’s special: his sterling collection of features, THE COST OF THESE DREAMS, was the last gift I ever gave my dad (who loved it, but we didn’t get the chance to talk about it in depth–in a way, I gave him the book as a way to talk to him), and his new book, PAPPYLAND, is scintillating even if you’ve never heard of Pappy Van Winkle. We listened to half the audiobook yesterday and might just finish it today. Note: Thompson’s also an unabashed Southern writer, a breed for which I have a weakness.

Streaming for Strivers:

As my friend Ken often says, “Sometimes, nothing else works.”

Cloister Commentary, Day 143: Charming but Treasured, Boring but Important

The day began with a simple task–try again to get Scrappers, the seriously runty stray that our two backyard cats have brought into their professional learning team on the deck, to the vet for an exam. He’s about six pounds soaking wet, and he’d shown enough trust for me to pet him and pick him up. Not to mention that fact that he looks worse for wear. I figured we could easily get him into a cardboard carrier and to the clinic on time.

It was not to be. On Try # 1, I foolhardily tried to grab him gloveless (I did have on a hoodie for arm protection) and got my hands mildly shredded when he exploded out of my hug with the strength of three toms. On Try # 2, which Nicole executed perfectly and we teamed to get him into the crate, the little fart literally TORE his way back out of it and hid stubbornly under the bed, at which point we gave up and shooed him back out of the house with a broom. A few hours later, he was forgivingly figure-eighting around my ankles when I came out with food; at least he knows what side his bread’s buttered on. He may have to tough his way into full health.

We each got mail: Nicole, a package of KN95 masks, I an autographed copy of the newest record by master alto saxophonist Charles McPherson (as well as an autographed photo of him–a charming throwback move I will treasure). I know what you’re thinking: “That defines the difference between their priorities!” Not quite. I have a collection of masks that I wear regularly when I’m in company and I’ve been trained by the last five months to wash and sanitize my hands in timely fashion. But supporting my heroes’ work I am still committed to!

Together, we watched the school board approve a delayed start for the public school year and the use of hybrid scheduling for a tool against COVID-19. I had forgotten how riveting school board meetings were, but seriously speaking it fell under the heading of “Boring But Important.” And it wasn’t that boring: sounds like we have an intelligent and supportive group of critical thinkers on the board. The district and the city have their work cut out for them–what lies ahead is fairly uncharted territory.

Streaming for Strivers:

Did Duke ever go bossa? Mildly, but seductively.

Cloister Commentary, Day 136: Paid Off

Thanks to Nicole’s grandfather’s generosity upon his passing, we were able to make a humble down payment on this, our first and only house in 1996. It’s served us well, and, despite the numerous upgrades it needs, we are still fond of it. Yesterday, we were able to pay it off. We probably should have kicked out the jams to celebrate, but this IS a pandemic.

We failed to get Scrappers, the latest stray to wander up to our deck, into the clinic for a feline leukemia shot and an exam (our local spay and neuter project neutered him and gave him a rabies shot a few weeks back). A very runty Yoda-like tabby who has been through the mill–he’s missing half an ear, sports numerous battle scars, and has a hitch in his get-a-long–Scrappers has been a regular visitor for breakfast and, of course, The Beebs and Goldie have peacefully accepted him as a guest. He must have seen a crate in his future–but just before I started to tap this out, he yearningly reappeared at the back door. No, we’re not keeping him….

I eavesdropped as Nicole mirrored our school district superintendent’s Zoom with teachers to our TV. The questions from educators were very apt, challenging, and engaging (too many, perhaps, produced no answer), and I had to keep reminding myself I was retired. This is not going to be an easy, or safe, semester, and I hope the leadership consistently makes the best hard decisions as the school year begins.

Ever noticed Monday isn’t the best night to dine out? We had little in the cupboard since we’d been out of town for a few days, so we just struck out to “find something,” and struck out is what we did on our first five (?) swings, until after what seemed an hour we happened upon Chim’s Thai Kitchen On Broadway. We ordered curbside and brought home some masaman curry, pad bok choy, and crab rangoon–we shall return!

Our good friend and fellow educator Greg Soden, host of the always-edifying Classical Ideas Podcast, presented his audience with a new episode celebrating the late great sage George Frissell. It includes an interview with George and reminiscences from those who were lucky to know him.

Streaming for Strivers:

Today ought to be a national holiday so we can all celebrate the life and work of this birthday kid.