Coffee Log, Day 264

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; tastes like the pine needles you used to watch your mother bunch around the trunk of every tree in the yard.

There’s a ridiculous corner of the apartment building just outside my window. It’s a hodgepodge of laminate vinyl siding, wooden bracing and brick. A few kids with Legos might come up with it. I’m pretty enamored with the corner.

2018 has felt fragile. People and places you loved have had .45 barrels lowered at them or have been consumed by political flames. In some cases, the flames are more visceral. How many times have the California fires trumped themselves for ‘most deadly’ this year?

I think it’s important to keep your eyes open to the tragedy. Even more important to keep focused on the tragedies you could prevent. However, sometimes it’s also necessary to step back and find yourself amazed at the vast, human complexity that we’ve built up and are scared to lose.

Take my apartment corner: how many hands had held her before she was born? There were architects, designers. There were the workers who shaped the bricks. Someone chopped tall trees in the Amazon for this corner. A woman in a labcoat theorized the perfect vinyl. All those pieces ticked away independently until they came together, only to realize everyone had set their clocks the same. Now I live inside it, the product of so many simple, honest, hard, human labors.

When you’re brushing your teeth or straightening your tie in the mirror, realize that you’re looking at one small, essential part of a triumph.

Novel Count: 8,314 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” – Winston S. Churchill

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Coffee Log, Day 263

Hi.

Coffee: French Drip from the lobby at Johnson Hyundai; I took my car in for inspection and an oil change. They have a snack bar for you while you’re waiting. The coffee was better than it had any obligation to be.

You always expect something else to save you, or at least I always do. Life doesn’t work that way.

I lost five dollars playing poker on Saturday. It was a gregarious get-together of mismatched people. It was hosted by some friends from an open mic. There were two games going – a big group board gaming in the den, our small-betting poker scene by the kitchen – with just a black dog running checks between them. I was up early on a Full House but lost it all as the night went. I gave my money to a Christian and a probation officer.

On Sunday, I tried talking up a Persian girl. We met at the Cocoa Cinammon off Greer and I couldn’t help thinking of all the other women I’d met there already. It was a stacked deck and I should have known better. The girl was an architect and talked about creation. She motioned how you work the laser cutters around steel models. She had a pound cake and let me try a bite. Sweet, too much for me. At a little under an hour, she said she had something to take care of and that was that.

I met Sally again today. She’s getting fatter in her winter fur. We walked around the apartments together and sat on the steps petting. Six months ago, I helped this cat down from a tall tree. I wasn’t the only one to help her and I’m sure she would have jumped if we’d left her long enough. Still, I get the sense that she remembers me, the way I worried about her, that feverish and unnecessary effort. I think she appreciates the saving, whether she was in need of it or not.

Novel Count: 7,803 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“Look. You are playing poker (I assume you know poker, or at least—like a lot of people—anyway play it.) You draw cards. When you do that, you affirm two things: either that you have something to draw to, or are willing to support to your last cent the fact that you have not. You dont draw and then throw the cards in because they are not what you wanted, expected, hoped for; not just for the sake of your own soul and pocket-book, but for the sake of the others in the game, who have likewise assumed that unspoken obligation.” – William Faulkner, Knight’s Gambit

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Coffee Log, Day 262

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; the last brew of the batch, kind of sad, kind of frustrating, kind of capitalist – grocery store, here I come.

There’s specific calm to petting a cat’s fur on cold mornings. He rolls around. He’s been hunting bees and birds before they hide away in Winter. His paws have gotten fatter. He’ll lick you now and then.

Here’s this thing with energy – crisp, static – while you huddle in your coat.

You lose your fingers in his coat. Both your breaths are fogging. A patch of sun, the night that froze the concrete, nowhere else you need to be. Cold friction of a life. You take a bit of him with you. He’s hair on black trousers.

Suddenly, you like the cold.

Novel Count: 7,500 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

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Coffee Log, Day 261

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I watched someone’s backyard for eight hours yesterday. You could see through the drive-through window at the branch. They had a small shed between trees. The shed had a window on it, though I got the impression that window is never opened.

Across the lawn, the house was propped with scaffolding that hasn’t come down for six months. There’s tiles on the top for a roofing project but maybe these days fixing your roof is the last thing on your mind.

Pretty soon, it started to rain. Cold cloud cover. A marginal fog. The shed light popped like a shipping beacon. Puddles grew in grass. It stayed like that all afternoon – fits and spasms, cold and damp, a hibernating storm. When the cars drove by they’d kick some of the water up so it looked like they were spitting.

My colleagues called it ‘dismal.’ I had to disagree. There’s something about a cold rain that locks you in place. Uncomfortable but preserving. I watched the stranger’s yard in a slow freeze. It was a beautiful thing so I just wanted to share.

Novel Count: 7,262 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“It was a rainy night. It was the myth of a rainy night.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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Coffee Log, Day 260

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

We took a family trip to Williamsburg, VA when I was about 9yrs old. They’ve got this preserved, colonial town, a sort of streetcorner museum. I loved it. Back then (and lets be honest, even now) I was enamored with fantasy. I wanted to get lost in other people from other times.

My favorite part of the trip was the militia trainer. He was this big guy in boots and stockings with a long, messy beard. He got us kids in two lines. He gave us wooden toy muskets. We were led on drills to fill the powder, stuff the barrel, aim, fire. I hadn’t known that kind of power before. I took the toy gun home and played with it religiously.

America plays with her guns religiously.

The news is plastered with the shooting at the Thousand Oaks nightclub. Not so many details yet, but the guy comes in with a .45 pistol and picks targets. It’s awful, a tragedy, to be sure. Middle class white pundits wail and scream.

But the sad or sobering reality is: this shit happens everyday, it just doesn’t dress itself up for a captive audience.

There were 11,004 gun homicides in America in 2016. Most of those you’ve never heard of because they’re small, one-on-one, domestic. More importantly, they tend to happen to people in the margins: Jon and Chuck who hustle opioids in the podunk town the mills foreclosed on; all those black or brown kids in the urban south whose schools you keep defunding. What makes some lives matter more than others? Is it prejudice, greed?

America wants to watch the show. We want to see rich white purity cast in red horror so we can find someone to rail against. Freddy and Jason, a slasher flick. We want a cause, a commotion, an anxiety bigger than ourselves. But when the answer is right beside us – as simple as putting more dollars to the most marginalized of our neighbors, funding food security and infrastructure instead of a flailing gun debate that only acknowledges dramatic victims – we get bored and turn the TV off.

Novel Count: 6,839 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“I flashback on that shootout at the beach, twenty deep
You tried to squeeze, your gun jammed and they released
Blood on your tee, how many stains? I see three
The bitch started to panic so I made her switch seats
Drivin’ now, police chopper ahead flyin’ now
Really not too spooked, calmly asked me, “Am I dyin’ now?”
All I know is keep you calm and collected.” – Nipsey Hussle, Blue Laces 2

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Coffee Log, Day 259

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

It’s light in the mornings after the roll-back of daylight savings. I’m sitting here with the curtains open. It’s been a busy morning, it’ll be a busy day. Manageable, though.

A North Carolina autumn is a fickle thing. I’ve been working in Apex this week. That town’s about ten miles west of Cary but over there the leaves are vanishing in fits of red. Outside my window, it’s mostly green.

Every year, I tell myself I’ll chase the seasons a little more. I’d like to be the kind of person that takes a trip to the mountains just to watch the world change. Instead, while fall drives by in it’s pick-up truck with new rims and a fresh paint job, hollering at the cities and chasing down the summer birds, I’m stuck in my apartment with the blinds drawn and some music going thinking about a few separate seasons from now, what I’ll be doing and how I’ll get there.

Ambition is a bad flu – unavoidable until you get over it.

Novel Count: 6,376 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” – Salvador Dali

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Coffee Log, Day 258

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I can’t know what it’s like to be a black man or woman in America and see Gillum or Abrams lose. In their respective races, Gillum was accused of ‘monkeying around’ and Abrams was told it would be a ‘cotton-picking shame’ if she won. To those who don’t know, Gillum was the black male candidate for Governor of Florida; Abrams was the black female candidate for Governor of Georgia; they were both running against white men.

How long does it take to put out the fire of your demons? And can you, even?

I grew up in the era of ‘code-switching’ as some kind of prescriptive answer. In school, anyone who wouldn’t talk ‘proper’ was called out. This was nominally raceless – the country hicks would get mentioned for saying ‘ain’t and ‘y’all’ – but like many American institutions, it disproportionately targeted black dialect.

Then I grew up in the birth of the internet. The birth of the internet meant the birth of memes and so many of the early memes were funny at the expense of stereotyped blackness. The leprechaun song, anyone?

And now I live and participate in the dominance of hip-hop as the cultural standard for the country. That should be a humanizing expression of American blackness at a large, visible scale. In some ways, it’s exactly that. But look at the lyrics dissecting a history of black trauma and then look at the white kids listening to those lyrics and thumping their heads (myself included) and you don’t see a bunch of white fingers rushing to push progressive keys on the ballots. If you did, maybe we’d have a couple more black governors.

I think this is what’s been going on: the white liberal community wanted its court jester.

No, Mr. ’90’s man, Clinton voter, Democrat for life, you’re not part of the lynch mobs; yes, you have a few black friends in your monthly office steak dinners; but when push comes to shove – when you could give your voice to advance the cause of black Americans whose oppression your skin is responsible for – you can’t be bothered to vote.

You want to revel in the products of a disenfranchised community and pretend that when it dances, it’s only dancing for you.

Novel Count: 6,064 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“It seems like a lot of black artists right now, at least from a critical standpoint, are forced into either bearing witness or putting forward an ideology through their work, which kind of reduces it to documentation or protest signs. But you seem resistant to both.

Nina Chanel Abney: That’s my goal, to resist that stuff. Early on, when I was doing more portraits, I had noticed how so many assumptions are put on you. If I paint a black figure, it’s already read a certain way. It’s going to be assumed that I’m trying to do something different by painting a white figure. So I just try to create dualities and mix the races and genders of the figures. That’s my way of giving myself the freedom of being able to paint whatever I want without it being for a specific reason.” – interview of Nina Chanel Abney (visual artist) by IndyWeek (link)

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