Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 182

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Brew

I got up early to go walking. I ran into a woman and her dog. The dog’s name was ‘Spock.’ I asked if he was an intergalactic traveler. She said ‘Yes.’ Spock licked my shoes.

It was a nice morning. People were out. Quite a bit cooler, overcast, waiting to rain. Later, after lunchtime, I went with E to Lazy Days in downtown Cary. It’s an art walk, a craft walk, a reason for the city to come together, and it happens each year but this is the first time I’d attended. Downtown was packed with people. There were only a few places to park. We walked by the old buildings swinging our umbrella and then we crossed the train-tracks and heard a proselytizer. He had a loudspeaker. He said ‘Give up your life of sin and reclaim your life of God.’

The food was alright. I had yuca fries for the first time. They were sweeter and softer than potatoes. After an hour, I had plans, so I left E with some friends and walked back across the train tracks on my own. I saw lots of people. Five women wearing pink on a Southern porch. A man in a Trump hat. Two college kids talking about oppression.

Next to my car were four more proselytizers, only these were buttoned up like Sunday and speaking Spanish. I don’t know if there’s a God. If you put my life on the line for it, I’d bet there isn’t. But today felt holy because everyone was out in the open – together – waiting for the rain.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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But I need to feel beautiful and holy things around me, always: music, mystery cults, symbols, myths. I need it, and I refuse to give it up… That’s my fatal flaw.

Herman Hesse, Demian

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 181

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I skimmed an article about homelessness in Atlanta because who’s got time to pay attention to someone else’s fight? At least not the details. At least not enough to name the faces standing for street-corner pictures. I’m a busy man. I pay top dollar to occupy my time.

I sat in the back with a co-worker who was having a panic attack. She’d just seen a video of someone getting crushed by a an elevator. Later in the day, she called her parents and talked them into taking her six-year old for the evening so she could run a hot bath and have some time kicked back with red wine. But that’s getting ahead of things. In the break room, she was two cents short of herself and trying to come up with it, paying down every fear for her fragile spot on top of a modest pyramid with sweat and tears, red like burnt butter, talking off and on about taking her daughter to school.

I filled a prescription for escitolopram which makes me less nervous. It cost me twenty dollars and would have cost more without insurance. The pills are packed in an orange bottle with a safety lid so kids can’t have them. When you shake the bottle, it sounds like a maraca.

These days, there’s always almost a thunderstorm. But like the man living under an overpass in East Raleigh, it’s never close enough to notice.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

One day, Goodman told me that she understood how some people could become homeless and never come back. When we talked, there were long stretches of silence. At times, she fixed on a certain phrase and repeated it again and again: “I’m tired. And when I say I’m tired, I mean I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m just tired …” 


Brian Goldstone, “The New American Homeless” in The New Republic, quoting Cokethia Goodman

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 180

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It was crowded in the Chipotle. Two pretty women were working the line. I ordered first, R was behind me. I tried looking a little taller.

“Would you like hot sauce?” she said.

“No thanks. Busy day?”

“I just got here. Guac?”

Thirty seconds to the checkout guy. He couldn’t read my order so I had to tell it back to him. Half my age and bright-eyed as his braces. I was happy to see someone with some possibilities in front of them.

I left the Chipotle with a veggie bowl and no-one’s number.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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It is my trade,” he said. “I work for the bean family, and every day there are deaths among the beans, mostly from thirst. They shrivel and die, they go blind in their one black eye, and I put them in one of these tiny coffins. Beans, you know, are beautifully shaped, like a new church, like modern architecture, like a planned city

Janet Frame, Scented Gardens for the Blind

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 179

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Tonight was the last night of the Third Wednesday Open Mic. It had bounced around to different venues and traded hands with hosts long before I started going a year ago. I saw one host and two venues. We’d been reading for a few months at Fig then Fig closed. It was a sign that none of us wanted to see but we all recognized: like a divorce, you can’t force it.

No-one read tonight. Instead, we sat around a table telling stories. I was between a poet from near Fayeteville and a teacher from all over, most recently Chapel Hill. We talked about the way the South has changed. There’s a lot of new construction in the triangle. They’re tearing down malls and selling off property. Every street in Chapel Hill is becoming a canyon with the sky-rises. Meanwhile, down in Dunn, retired guys still go to the Bojangles on their tractors.

We were back at Lucky Tree. I was a drinking a hard cider. They didn’t use to serve these. The ethanol got mixing with my blood and brought me back to February, 2018. It was a Wednesday. I’d been laid off from my job in a bookstore. I was petrified and flailing. I wanted money, I wanted time. I’d been spending twenty-four hours in the house eating instant ramen and scouring classifieds. I needed something to give me back some meaning.

That first night, I brought my roommate E with me to the Open Mic. I was too scared to go alone. We walked around and got dinner before it started, then grabbed some seats at the long table outside the cafe. S was up at the podium setting everything up. I walked up and asked her where to put my name to do a reading and she showed me. She said ‘Is this your first time with us?” and I told her it was. Eight months later, I’d spend an evening in her backyard carving pumpkins and watching horror movies before Halloween.

What I’m trying to say is that the nerves wore off. Before long, Third Wednesday was a part of me. The women and men who read each evening were my kin. Whether they were regulars or one time readers, we were a part of something together.

Everything ends. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have a reason to make it matter. I’m a better writer and more full of friendship thanks to my 18 months at Third Wednesday. In the bitter winter cold I was looking for meaning, and, sure enough, I found it.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 178

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

My roommate was skinning chicken on the kitchen counter. She had a long sharp knife, a pair of rubber gloves, and a trashbag for the bones. Little pink lumps like a bunch of beetles turned inside-out. They crawled around the counter and registered for a one-night residency teaching anatomy classes in my head.

I’d been thinking about cooking something tonight, but instead I went with cereal.

My thumb’s mostly healed from where I’d cut it chopping onions two weeks ago. The skin’s a little lower like a crater and it’s very red and smooth. I imagine I’ll have a scar for a while. Call me twisted, but there’s something seductive to me about having small scars. Knicks and marks that only you and people closest to you will ever notice – notching on the wall of a body prison.

I talked to a man today who’s moving to Wilmington. It’s got good business for him and he wanted to be closer to the ocean. Eventually, that plastic bag full of chicken bones might find itself in the same Atlantic waters. It’ll travel on the back of a garbage truck, settle in a landfill, let in enough light and moisture for the bones to decompose (but only partially), then, during a bad thunderstorm or errant hurricane, it will wash off the heaps of trash and run from creek to creek to the nearest river, tumbling in the waves, occasionally getting caught on overturned trees or submerged boulders, but finally – inevitably – it’ll get swept out to sea. One morning, years from now, the man who moved to Wilmington might find it, but will he recognize it for what it was? Or will all that time in the ocean have stripped it so clean that it’s barely a trashbag, much less a bag of chicken bones?

There’s no telling what comes back to you. And often, we don’t even recognize it when it does.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN\

I am always trying to convey something that can’t be conveyed, to explain something which is inexplicable, to tell about something I have in my bones, something which can be expressed only in the bones.

Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 177

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

We ended up at a Chinese sit-down that had yellow walls, thick menus, and the word ‘love’ done up in streamers two times across the western wall. They were serving duck. Half the menu was duck, it seemed.

I had a view of the windows. I thought it might be raining but it was just the air-conditioner fogging up. We shared the place with two other tables, bigger groups, and they were speaking Mandarin or maybe Cantonese. The proprietress got excited when E said I was a vegetarian. She was sure to point out the part of the menu just for me.

I don’t often end up at new places on weekdays. We tried getting takeout from our old standby but it’s closed on Mondays, a fact none of us can ever remember. Sometimes it takes poor luck and bad planning to shake the dust and cobwebs off you. I settled on the House Tofu. It was good.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

The only time they ever throw anything away is when it’s really and truly broken, and then they make a big deal about it. They save up all their bent pins and broken sewing needles and once a year they do a whole memorial service for them, chanting and then sticking them into a block of tofu so they will have a nice soft place to rest.

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time-Being

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 176

Hi.

Coffee: Bottled Cold Brew Coffee, Trader Joe’s Brand; for bottled coffee it had a good taste; hell, it had a good taste to cupped coffee too; quick like late nights you spend on the town; full-bodied as a stranger’s bed

I got in a drinking contest with a two-year old. He had a fizzy water and I had a beer. Every time he drank, he made this face that said ‘what is this,’ squinted eyes, wrinkled nose. Then he’d point at me and I’d take a swig of pale ale, doing my best impression of him. This went on a while. Finally, though, the kid beat me. I had to put the can down. When he saw I was finished, he pointed at me again, only this time he was laughing. Fair game, buddy – you won.

We went in the woods this morning, me and E. She was hunting mushrooms. I tried to be her spotter but all the ones I picked out were wrinkled with white maggots. It made me think I might be haunted – drawn to the dead decomposers, the ghosts of ghosts. It was hot in the morning but not too hot. There were other families in the woods. I watched a dad strap his daughter in a backpack and take off running. She bounced like a dropped coin all caught in the bar lights, bright and happy, two white teeth, no older than my drinking buddy.

At a table under a black locust tree you showed me videos of the two-year-old playing ‘freeze.’ He watched over your shoulder and smiled at himself. It made me wonder what it must be like to grow up knowing your moments are there to dance with at the press of play – that the slippery little details of who you are have been saved to record. His eyes went wide to shots of himself splashing in a tub. You held the phone like the suds might slip out.

Where’s all the heat go when nights rolls in? Does it board a train headed southbound, knock on crisp red doors in Florida suburbs, lounge around with a TV dinner drinking hot coffee? Does it stay awake in Caribbean state bedrooms, red-eyed and frustrated, seeing itself in a thousand stars that are too far to get in touch with? I don’t know.

Midnight comes in, old dead bark, growing mushrooms.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

Like locusts shall they gather themselves together, the servants of the Star and the Snake, and they shall eat up everything that is upon the earth.

Aleister Crowley