Coffee Log, Day 266

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Another rainy morning.

Most of my life I’ve been a morning person. You couldn’t get me to sleep as a kid. I’d wake up early and want the whole world served to me like toast and butter. I’ve got vivid memories of naptime – no sleeping, just a rouge room colored by the not-quite-thick-enough curtains, rolling around restless in a crib, reading pictures books over and over with photos of old ladies or elephants and little bumps or dawdles to scratch your fingers on.

I’m still an early riser, though it doesn’t come as easy.

But there was one year when everything changed. I was 20/21. She was 21/22. She was going to school in Charlotte and I didn’t have a car so I took trains to see her. I’d stay down most weekends, even longer in the summer, and I don’t know if it was the travel, the air pollution, something in the water but I stopped falling asleep or getting up early. I’d be up until 3am. We’d get out of bed past noon. Most nights, she’d be out before me so I’d stay up watching things – half my attention to the miasma of whatever-was-on-the-TV, half to her closed-off face. She had this look like she was perpetually going away from something.

That’s when I learned that you can let people change you. And sometimes, afterward, you can change yourself back.

Novel Count: 8,980 words

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

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“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 265

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Everyone was poking around in coats today. Meanwhile, in California, half the state burns.

I grew up in a household obsessively haunted by weather. My dad would walk outside in thunderstorms. We had a dog that would hide from rain.

But my mother was the focal point for the family’s weather ups and downs. She’d be up late watching documentaries on this or that super storm. Sometimes, she’d watch the weather channel on repeat. Any hint of bad rain and there her hands would go, wringing.

I remember this one time there was a tornado at my elementary. First the lights cut, then the glass was shaking, finally we were in the hall and under our own backpacks on the cold, hard linoleum floor. A lot of kids were crying. The assistant principal was holding the blown-open doors. But I’d watched a hundred disaster films with my mother so I was ready. This was Christmas, a celebration, something wonderfully inevitable. We would all get swooped up and tossed a thousand miles. Nothing could be more comfortably certain.

Sometimes I think there’s a bravery in staring long and hard at the things that scare you. It’s a messy sort of courage – a lot of fits and worries, 2 am texts to your adult son when there’s a national weather warning – but still brave. Can’t look at a horror and call it something else, but you can choose to look at it all the same.

I’ve learned a lot of things from my mother.

Novel Count: 8,742 words

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

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“In any democratic, civilized – even non-democratic nations, if you are a nation, it means to say that in our case, if there’s a hurricane in Louisiana, the people of Vermont are there for them. If there’s a tornado in the Midwest, we are there for them. If there’s flooding in the East Coast, the people in California are there for us.” – Bernie Sanders

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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

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“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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