Cloister Commentary, Day 180: Sammy & Rosie FINALLY Get Laid

I know I’ve been wearing you out not only on the NBA, music, books, eating, and mourning, but also, lately, on Albert Camus’ book The Plague. I know it might sound insane to read THAT book right now, but if you have been taking this pandemic seriously, it can make you feel less out of sorts. Though Camus was mostly writing about a different kind of plague than COVID-19, that different kind of plague is perhaps more damagingly in effect right now. I’m re-reading it and it has had a calming (not reassuring) effect on me. As his narrator describes how the citizens of Oran respond to the virus that’s hit them, you’ll find many points of commonality with your own experience–I promise. And it’s not a doorstop tome: it’s an absorbing 300ish pages.

On a less ponderous note (perhaps), I: a) lost my campus ID when it apparently flopped out of my lanyard (I hate those with a passion, which compounds the absurdity), though there’s only about 100 feet where it could have landed that I’ve retraced thrice (I suspect one of the crumbsnatchers in Stephens’ early ed program found it and ate it); b) received my used VHS copy of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid in the mail; c) tried to help Nicole bake a plate of enchiladas and, in doing so, attempted to RE-shred some jack cheese; and d) intentionally slept on the couch in the “TV room” to watch our dog, who is showing signs of age that are bedeviling him.

Streaming for Survivors:

For the formalists in the house, and fans of Illinois power pop.

Cloister Commentary, Day 177: Draggy Magic

More from Albert Camus’ The Plague (1948 Stuart Gilbert translation):

“The evil that is in the world always comes from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, is not the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.”

Other exciting news?

*We halfsie-splitsied some bagels from the downtown B&B Bagel Bakery (asiago cheese v. everything, with scallion cream cheese).
*We Zoomed with family and friends.
*We happily revisited Ron Howard’s Beatle documentary Eight Days a Week (did Nicole and I originally see at Ragtag, or did George and I see it there, or did we all see it there?), and enjoyed it even more than we did the first time. What a time, what a band; I’m thinking Nicole may need to read Rob Sheffield’s Dreaming the Beatles.

Streaming for Survivors:
The draggy magic of this album fits my Monday morning.

Cloister Commentary, Day 176: Dr. Rieux’s Neighborhood

The other day, I had a Facebook exchange with an old friend about reading during this pandemic–it’s difficult, because it’s hard to concentrate for numerous reasons. Even I, who reads 4-5 books at a time, sometimes with ugly noise cranked on the stereo, find myself living out Lou Reed’s words, which haunt me: “Every time you try to read a book / You can’t get to page 17.” But…it’s essential to hunker down. It pays off. I think Pynchon once wrote that the key to our current problems is in the literature of the past; Faulkner wrote that the past isn’t gone, it isn’t even past; and I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t keep reading, because I’ve lately vowed that I’m not arguing politics or history with anyone who isn’t well-(widely, omnivorously, deeply, compassionately)read. If you’re going to be well-read, you can’t ever stop plumbing the wisdom of our sages.

Case in point: a passage I read yesterday in Albert Camus’ The Plague, a book I’m re-reading after first feeling it rock my world in Winter 1983 in a “philosophy in literature” class at what was then called Southwest Missouri State (this is from Stuart Gilbert’s 1948 translation):

Dr. Rieux: “[S]ince the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn’t it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence…?

Tarrou: “…Yes. But your victories will never be lasting; that’s all….”

Rieux: “Yes, I know that. But it’s no reason for giving up the struggle.”

Tarrou: “No reason, I agree. Only, I now picture what this plague must mean to you.”

Rieux: “Yes. A never-ending defeat.”

This may seem grim, but it can also seem (in fact, I think it is) heroic. The plague in question is both literal and figurative. You really should read it–a new translation is due out soon.

Elsewhere in the day, Nicole cooked an amazing pan of baked chili poblanos, and we, still on a Beatles wave, watched the very McCartneycentric Yesterday (hell, he could have written it). It was cute, and we both enjoyed it.

Streaming for Survivors:

Who says there ain’t no decent hip-hop anymore?

Cloister Commentary, Day 156: Estate of Being

Following her mom’s passing in 2013 and its aftermath, Nicole and I decided to get our estate in order and create a formal will. We consulted with a lawyer, worked through about 3/4ths of the paperwork–and then it ended up in our to-finish basket, where it stayed until this month. Evidence of our mortality through the fate of others has been very plentiful over the last couple of months, plus we our starting school in a bit, which now has something new and fearsome taking its place there next to the specter of school shootings. ANYHOW…we just about got the paperwork finished when we remembered, should our own passing come more quickly than we would like, that we couldn’t just leave our pets hanging. So we sought out potential takers via a Facebook post, but a few folks may have misunderstood our intention: we are not planning to die soon, we’re just taking precautions in case the unexpected happens.

Elsewhere, Nicole spent the afternoon seeking clarification on some school meeting points, I watched Luka Dončić stick a dagger in the Clippers’ hearts and started a couple books (including Albert Camus’ The Plague, which I last read in the winter of 1983), and we both dug into some navratan korma, Zoomed with our pals Jill and Rex, and socialized safely with our neighbor Shireen on her back deck.

Streaming for Survivors:

To lighten the mood…

Cloister Commentary, Day 38: “Our Happy Hollow”

Even though we don’t really have a “family” in-house (well…pets), we eat at the table on a regular basis. We almost–almost–did so thrice yesterday; the oatmeal came off the stove right as “CBS Sunday Morning” came on in the living room and we like to watch that live (Note: I am not a fruit eater but Nicole has seduced me into enjoying blackberries, raspberries, and bananas in my hot cereal–one fringe benefit of sheltering). But lunch and dinner were magnificent efforts by the chef: vegetarian enchiladas made with Tortilleria El Patron‘s tortillas as well as Happy Hollow Farm‘s purple radishes and sweet potatoes (of which I’m not normally a fan unless they’re in a pie) for the former, her long-time staple and specialty peanut butter curry for the latter. The windows were open all day, the music was flowing, and no neighbors were screaming at each other.

I understand it’s rather bourgeois to linger too long over food (Luis Buñuel made that point powerfully), but a) I may actually be rather bourgeois–more so than I’d prefer–and b) home-cooked meals have been one of the most sustaining rituals of this mess, and I’m fortunate to live with someone who cooks with love, skill, and imagination. For the record, I always and zen-happily wash and dry the dishes promptly; I seldom use the dishwasher, but as a mercy to my chapped hands and wrists, since the thing began I’ve leaned on it a bit. My goal since we moved in together has been to never allow her near a stacked sink, and to assure her every implement’s clean for her to make as big a culinary mess as she needs to. I’m not very romantic, but those are my dozen roses, I suppose.

I dug Albert Camus’ The Plague out of the basement library in the early evening. How cliché at this point, I know, but that paperback has been with me (physically and spiritually) longer than most of the books in the house. The novel was required reading for a fantastic “Philosophy and Literature” class I took as a senior at what was then Southwest Missouri State, and the prof was superb. I can’t remember his name, but he had long gray hair, a mustache, and muttonchops, and always sported the same cigarette-burned corduroy jacket–Clay Thomas, you recall him, by chance? The Stranger and “The Myth of Sisyphus” were splashier reads, but The Plague seemed much more adaptable to the lived life of a 21-year-old, and warmer (if that makes sense). Time for a re-read, even if (maybe especially because) millions of other humans are also picking it up. I encourage you to, as well; there’s more than one plague we’re dealing with, after all, and this book will help.

The Plague

Oh, and Tux finally used his $100 house after many months (including a fall and winter) of turning up his pink nose! Instead, he’s turning his nose up at the lunch that he did not eat at our table.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

This may not actually be the greatest jazz concert of all time, but with Bird on sax, Diz on trumpet, Bud on piano, Max on drums, and Mingus on bass, it is mos def no disgrace.