Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 275

Hi.

Coffee: Corporate Office Medium Roast; the coffee came in a carafe that sat on a hot plate, just like you’d have at an anonymous diner; the executives pointed us to the pot before our regional meeting; the pot was in a different room; so we filtered in, one by one, pouring styrofoam cups, adding cream or sugar or nothing, careful not to spill on our nice clothes, our long dresses, our suits; during the meeting, we sipped quiet enough not to interrupt the important speakers, but not so quiet that they wouldn’t notice us, showing our gratitude for this opportunity in measured slurps; I finished one cup and it was weak; I wanted another, but never found the chance to get up and pour; the coffee was like old water, something with stories, but ones you probably don’t want to hear

Last night, I went to bed early. It was nine and I was tired, I missed writing the Coffee Log. I’ve been missing the Log off and on lately and at first that bothered me. Writing this post every day was a way to center myself, and more importantly it was a commitment I’d bound myself to, and what are we but our commitments? Things change, though, life’s given me a different set of focuses and responsibilities, and I’m trying to be gentler with myself when I miss a beat here or there. I’m saying this for me, really, to understand my own motivations, but you’ve tagged along for two years now and so I figured I’d key you in.

Anyway, last night, I went to bed early, but I woke up early too. It was 3:30. I’d set my clock for 6:00. The night outside was smoky, my legs ached, my head felt sore. More than anything there were rough-edged dreams to keep me up. I was in a landfill, blue and white trash-flowers, plastic bags, the ground around me filling up. Then I was lost in one of those abandoned factories that are becoming the gray hairs of America, wandering in circles and up and down Escher steps. Those kind of dreams. And once I’d woken up from them, I didn’t have the heart to go back.

I spent the day listening to the impeachment proceedings. Some days I think our whole country is having nightmares, losing sleep. We aren’t thinking straight, and when we open our mouths its surprisingly hard to talk to one another.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”

Homer, The Odyssey

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 274

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I read an article about a fake university in Michigan. It was called ‘Farmington,’ was set up by the US Government, by ICE, and was designed to find foreign students who were looking to exploit college-based exceptions to immigration laws to retain stay in the country. That’s the propaganda, anyway. There’s more: it had an ad budget. ICE took taxpayer dollars to fund recruitment campaigns. They targeted Indian immigrants and current people on US soil whose visas were close to running out. They touted Farmington as a career-focused option, a way to move forward, a few breaks of light behind a long tunnel. So people signed up.

The funny thing is, there weren’t any classes on campus. Everything was online, and even these courses were taught sparingly. Some students thought this was strange, others rolled with the punches. Those that were worried reached out to the administration (read: secretly ICE) who ducked and dodged their questions and encouraged them to stay on. Fears were abated, worry turned into the most common of emotions, a resigned disappointment, and the young men and women trying to better themselves in America carried on.

That’s when the trap sprung. ICE cut off the veil and sent in the troops. They arrested dozens of the students, deported more. When the students asked why they were being deported, ICE told them their student Visas were invalid because they were not attending a real school. When the students asked why they were being put into prisons the ICE agents told them they should have known better, and locked the doors.

Amidst all this, at least, us taxpayers recouped some of our money – ICE charged the immigrant students $12k a semester tuition to attend; the students all paid; no news yet about them getting their money back.

There’s a thin margin between a modern government and the mob.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

‘It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.’ ‘A melancholy conclusion,’ said K. ‘It turns lying into a universal principle.’

Kafka, The Trial

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 273

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

Everyone was out even though it was raining. The temperature had warmed up and wet roads looked like the beginning of something, the first lap of a race. I got my coffee from Caribou like I always do then went grocery shopping. The lady in check out was flustered, but said she’d had a nice Thanksgiving.

The weekend’s been Christmas shopping. Picking around in crowded stores, not finding what I wanted, searching more online. I like the dynamism of the holidays, the ‘I’ve-got-to-get-out-in-the-world’ sort of feel. I like the kind of celebration that shows we’re all dead-broke and dead-tired but obligating ourselves to do good for our loved ones anyway. It doesn’t matter if your gift’s a hit as long as you’re the one giving it. It doesn’t matter if next year is going to drain a bit more spirit out of you because you’ll get it all back giving something special away.

At a different store, a man with a big dog walked in and the cashier told me he’s the owner. She seemed bothered by him, on edge, and the dog noticed because it sniffed her and wagged its tongue and tail. That was his christmas present, a big wet nose, a bit of kindness when someone needed it.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

Baffled and disgruntled, I fill my Woolworths trolley with dead turkey and lamb, and wonder when Love was lost, among the Christmas crowd.

Judy Croome, A Lamp at Midday

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s

There was a man standing beside a cascade of trashbags piled on his porch. This was the first floor, a nearby apartment. I saw him in the dark. It was 7pm. Rain was coming down, lightly, and it was cold, breezy. The man had fingerless gloves and an iphone. He was wearing a jacket and a hood. I walked past him and was so distracted I went to the wrong car. Walking back, I heard him talking. Words get amplified in a rainstorm. It’s like you’re listening through the other end of a paper-cup phone.

“Mm,” he said, and “Uh-huh.”

I got in my car and turned the heat up. Pulling back, I saw him caught in the back-up camera. The porchlight was on, attracting ghosts of summer bugs. His face and hands were wet but he wasn’t wiping them. bits of rain made rivers on the trashbag mountain. And I was thinking, “What could there be in all those trashbags?” No-one keeps so much garbage. Or, rather, we all do, but we don’t often have the guts to throw it out.

When I came home from supper, the man – and the mountain – were gone.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

Little by little I came to the conclusion that in this day and age only the garbagemen could bring a poetic thought to fruition.

Wolfgang Hillbig, The Tidings of the Trees

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 271

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There was a fire smoldering in the pit this morning, lit last night for Thanksgiving, still putting coal smoke in the air. If not for the fire, it would have been crisp. Getting up at 7am to head to work, blue waves of sky beating trees like sea grass. But you could smell the smoke as soon as you opened the door, like nothing’s letting go of last night. Can’t feel fresh and clear while the fire burns.

I took my time at work. A mostly vacant day, people caught up in recovery from last night’s celebrating. I met a man who was starting his own business and a lawyer who’d inherited her client’s trust. Purposeful people, who’d gone through the whole nine yards to put powerful titles beside their names. Professionals. No one talked about turkeys, and when I asked, they each said Thanksgiving had been ‘just fine.’

I got a text from M saying she could see the stars. She’s camping right now so they’re clearer. I thought about blankness, and space, the cold, and how lovely it all seemed, and I thought about the smoldering fire. Grey smoke’s still going. Lighting out the route for tomorrow.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

I feel like a campfire, like I could burn for days.

Becky Albertalli, Leah on the Offbeat

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 270

Hi.

Coffee: Golden Corral Drip; it came in a plastic cup and when I asked for a refill she didn’t bring anything to pour over, she just brought me a second, so I had two cups, two coffees, oil-thin, poured from a machine; I didn’t know what to do with myself; sometimes life’s just like that, confusing you with good fortunes, like ‘what did I do to get here?’; today was good; both coffees tasted the same, loose and sweaty, burnt breadcrumbs

Happy Thanksgiving. I mean it, you know. I’m thankful.

My family and I took our holiday lunch at Golden Corral. For the past five years we’ve been eating out at this buffet in Greensboro, hosted in a Hyatt, but when we called for reservations they weren’t celebrating this year. Last minute plans limited our options and we settled on something simple – Golden Corral. A few years ago, the building in Burlington burned down but they built it back up. I have clearer memories of the old place, but today was a good day of patching them over with something new.

All week I’ve been telling people where we’re going. There’s an expectation that families will cook for Thanksgiving, but I like our years of going out. I like it because it takes the load off all of us – no stress, no cooking, no dishes; and I like it because it lets me see how other people are celebrating, which is a warm thing, knowing people when they’re engaged in something special.

Here’s what I saw:

The booths were packed families with overcrowded plates; husbands and wives, not just couples, though there were some of them too; lots of old white men in camo hats and shirts to match, though the shirts were tucked in trousers pulled up over their bellies, just the way their father taught them, a kind of Southern formal, sunshine-proper; pregnancy; there were three women who were close to term; and kids on the other end of it, young and young and younger, either plating around on their own or following fathers with bowls of bright ice-cream, delicious; I saw the waiters working overtime; a manager made small-talk with the sous chef who was fixing beef stroganofff in the back; one guy says ‘I’ll take that steak medium rare.’

Take any two or three of these people out of this picture and plop them down in the everyday and I’d wager they wouldn’t get along. But here, on Thanksgiving, everything is perfect, or close enough to it to enjoy the commotion of being in this space together. Golden Corral cooks food of all flavors of Americana, and does so in such quantity that no one dish comes out quite right. But that imperfection is part of what you’re looking for. You don’t want it to be perfect. You don’t want it to be sublime. You’re looking for something so easy it means you don’t have to interrogate yourself, or make too many judgments about your neighbor. Who cares what tastes we come with when all the food tastes the same? It’s beautiful, and I wouldn’t have had my holiday any other way.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

I really feel like I’m in America.

William Livesay (my father), while we were waiting in line at Golden Corral on Thanksgiving 2019

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 269

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I’m in the last two weeks of my 20’s. Whether I like it or not, here 30 comes.

I measured myself in role-playing games as a kid. The kind on the PC where you click little characters around, swing their swords, give them names. Those were my summers – fantasy. I played Neverwinter Nights a dozen times.

My favorite moment was at the start. The screen’s still black and your polygonal person is rotating. You pick the face, nose, eyes, a class and stats, what weapons they’ll be good with, a general idea of who they’ll be. It was powerful; scared; visions of fifty real hours of my time tracking this miniature me. Bringing out the best in someone, getting to a fixed ending, a place you’re supposed to be.

Some games let you pick an age for your character. This was cosmetic, it didn’t change anything, but I’d still spend time thinking about the number. The oldest I would go was 18, then 21, then 26 on the high end. These seemed like places I could imagine – far-off, enticing, a little more powerful than my 13-yr-old pajama pants planted in a computer chair. It was impossible to think of anything past the mid-twenties because I had no point of reference. My parents had always been older and I had no close relatives in their 30’s. Those were dead years, somewhere you were lost or found in, but that were inaccessible until you got there.

For the past year, I’ve tried to imagine 30, but it’s no good. After all this time, the next decade is still a blank box. Some days that scares me, other days it’s exciting. The closer I get, the more exciting it becomes.

I got to the boss and beat it, this weird-dark doppleganger of my early life. I’m starting over. It’s a black screen, a rotating model, empty slots for new stats. The only thing fixed is that single cosmetic: ’30.’ Time to take the journey all over again.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

My name’s Pavel. I’m one of the new recruits. I just arrived here at the Academy this morning. You’re….

Pavel, Neverwinter Nights