Coffee Log, Day 334

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

MLK died so you and I could have a Monday holiday doing nothing much but hanging around the house in sweatpants. That’s not the narrative he or his shooter was trying to tell, but I’ll bet good money it’s the one most of us are living today.

I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. There are many ways to honor someone.

I cooked a good dinner. I put in so much basil that my fingers still stink like a July garden. And I read a book and wrote a little, drank cheap whiskey, watched this one lady who always walks her dog cross the bridge a few times, dog crossing behind. A simple, pleasant day.

It’s easy to become bankrupt of your own responsibilities. There are so many problems to solve – personal problems, national problems, world problems – that you declare an ineptitude. You pull the blankets over your head and stop watching anything but what’s in front of you.

The flip side of that is the burn out. I knew this woman who worked herself to a fury. She was a teacher. In her spare time, she participated in every march for justice that popped up in the triangle. Eventually, it all caught up with her. She quit her job and now she has a small garden in the back of a small house she shares with a French bulldog and the love of her life. She doesn’t fight too much anymore, but who could blame her? You only have so much sweat to spill until you shrivel up.

I try to pick good battles. Even when I pick them, though, I end up feeling like I haven’t done enough. At this very moment, there are still kids locked in bright hot cages on the border. In fact, there was just an article saying the numbers of minors who were separated from their families was vastly underestimated last year. What I mean is: we still live in sin. Only it’s not god or the devil that guides us to it, just human hands that might be our neighbors, or might be our own. We’re all equally responsible.

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with cutting up basil and watching it burn. There’s nothing wrong with having whiskey on a day off. In fact, those simple things are what all the fights are for – a right to live peacefully and with minor comforts.

So I don’t know if I did a good job celebrating the legacy of King. He’s a powerful symbol and was an even more powerful human voice. But I’d like to think that by writing this, at least, I can share a bit of what peace is about. That being good starts with holding two tight threads: one tied to the necks of everyone suffering; the other on a knot of garlic, or a loaf of wheat bread.

Novel Count: 17,508

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Coffee Log, Day 333

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

It was a long day with a bit of travel. I’m beat.

A friend from LA was in town for a wedding. I don’t know the people getting married, but he told me he was coming, and we made plans to get together in Burlington, our home town. So I drove sixty some miles with R in the car and spent the afternoon wading in old spaces I used to visit daily. Around six, we drove to La Fiesta for dinner. A funny thing happened then:

I forgot how to get to the restaurant.

This is a place fixed in my memories. I more or less grew up eating out at La Fiesta and I think I’ve even blogged about it a couple times. From the highway, I could get there with my eyes closed, but M’ was staying on a different corner of town out by Elon.

I missed my first turn then couldn’t figure out the next one. It was dark, cold, R was in the car and he helped me navigate. Houses sprung out of the ground where they didn’t used to be and the streetlights seemed to blink like the beads on an airplane, far away. It was a strange feeling. Spend twenty years of childhood in one place consecutively and then one day you don’t even know how to get around.

I’ll be turning thirty this year. I’m neither stressed nor looking forward to it. But tonight that number felt a little more real to me, like I’m about to close the cover on a long, dusty book.

Novel Count: 16,427

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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I still feel at home in Baltimore in a way I will never feel anywhere else – part of the definition of home being a place you don’t belong anymore.

Tim Kreider


Coffee Log, Day 332

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee; This blend was sent to me generously by a friend in Asheville. Because of that, I’m going to spend this post talking about it. A coffee log that’s actually about coffee. I know – I’m just as surprised as you are.

The last time I was in Asheville, I was at an Escape Room that A runs. It was my first time doing anything like that and it was a fun experience. Collectively getting lost in a daytime fantasy by locking yourself up. There’s maybe some deeper metaphors about human nature in that.

So anyway, I’m not that up on Asheville – this was a couple years ago – and PennyCup is new to me. Boy, was it a pleasant surprise.

I’m used to drinking mass-packaged store roasts. I spend a little more for fair trade, and a tiny bit on quality, and I’m mostly satisfied with that, but drinking the Locomotive was like having a homemade meal after a year at sea. It had a couple decks to it’s flavor. The first thing you get is this strong tang – something of a lighter roast quality – but after that all the flavors are pulling out stops to richly seduce you, which totally caught me off guard. Lighter roasts don’t usually have that depth.

Halfway through the first cup I was tasting chocolate. Then it was something closer to barley. I was reading Murakami. Then I was working on my novel. The coffee kept up with my changing moods.

I remember this time A and I walked to an old, abandoned house in the woods. There were beer cans in overturned tires and ravens making nests in the rafters. Someone had been living there – you could see matches and bedstuffs – and I was terrified. I kept up with her as best I could, but we turned around before exploring too far inside. I was embarrassed. A could have kept going, I felt like a coward. When I told her all that she said it was okay, made me feel fine for having that limit.

The Locomotive blend was much like that: taking you by the hand to unexpected places, dropping you off somewhere comfortable along the way.

Novel Count: 15,954

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.

Terry Pratchett


Coffee Log, Day 331

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; back in the office after a week of off-site training; just as brown as stale wheat bread; just as oily as a nervous kid in gym class.

The dishes are piling up on my table again. I keep telling myself I’ll do something about them, but the excuses are easier than effort. I’ll get rid of them eventually. I always do.

I was talking to a guy who moved here from halfway across the country. I found myself suggesting places to go. I told him to check out Durham, to find something to eat in Raleigh, and to sleep tight in Cary. It was good advice, I thought. But it got me thinking about where I fit in to the central NC picture.

When I went to Duke, we were all afraid of Durham. There was this rumor that you’d lose a lot more than your wallet if you stepped too far off campus. And before that, when I was growing up, everywhere between Winston and Wilson seemed like a place to get away from. Turns out, it takes a lot of effort to get away from anything. And usually, those times you manage it, you end up somewhere pretty much the same as you left.

I got dinner with R at the Taco Bell. We picked it up, took it home. The guy at the drive-thru was so busy he walked away before taking R’s card. You could feel the sweet winter air hacking through our window. I was in a jacket. I almost took it off to feel the wind a little better.

As of writing this, all the dishes are still there.

Novel Count: 15,761

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

Teju Cole, Open City


Coffee Log, Day 330

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

The guy to the right of me had a pepperoni pizza. The lady to the left was eating a grilled turkey salad. And across was a woman who had a hamburger, she was apologizing about the onions. When I opened my order to eat, it was a simple green salad.

There aren’t many vegetarian options at my work’s corporate office.

Later in the day, I got to go home a couple hours early. I stopped at the grocery store for more deodorant and then at my favorite chinese joint on the way home. The woman knew my order: “Tofu garlic sauce!” so I tipped an extra dollar. I sat in the lobby smelling hot oil cook a young latina’s chicken wings.

On the drive home, I thought about Greece – about Mousakka in particular, and that one time I offended a fancy restaurateur for not eating theirs. It was made with veal. I was still a carnivore, but couldn’t bring myself to eat calf meat. I had two servings of strawberry icecream instead.

A personal ethic involves excluding yourself from culture. Sometimes even cultures you would very much like to be a part of. It points you out as someone with a ‘choice,’ and not everyone has a choice, and that’s a fair critique. And it points you out as a spoil sport, a sore thumb, both of which are a little less fair.

I remember having turkey sandwiches a long time ago and loving them, and then a little later thinking turkey was a bland meat. And at some other times, I’ve seen wild turkeys on the roadside looking punch-drunk or confused. Bland animals, too.

Sometimes, I only know how to love myself in opposition to my nature, and in opposition to my culture, and I think that’s equally beautiful and bothersome.

Novel Count: 15,761

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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“I went to the kitchen and felt-up the turkey.”

Charles Bukowski, Women


Coffee Log, Day 329

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

A colleague called me ‘country,’ but not in a bad way, and another said they figured I hung out at cafes wearing berets. Both thoughts are so far off the mark, but I was happy to have made an impression.

It was a busy day of getting to know people better. That wasn’t the point, but that’s what stuck with me. I learned about a woman’s grandchildren, a man’s changing habits after his marriage, and a friend’s penchant for snarky humor. I liked learning about them. I like listening to stories.

That’s all I’ve got today. Still busy, another round of classes tomorrow. Happy January. Hope you get the chance to meet someone new.

Novel Count: 15,629

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all.

Guy de Maupassant

Coffee Log, Day 328

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I did an off-site training at the corporate office today. I’ll be doing it for three days, most of this week. It felt like being back in college. We were in a small room with shared tables. There were whiteboards and projectors. We did group activities and answered questions. College – not a place I was looking to go back to.

But I’m always open to new experiences.

There’s a certain slime to corporate spaces. It’s a gregarious slime – fancy, accommodating, obsessed with cost-calculated comforts. I ate lunch with friends in the cafeteria and noticed the treadmills and lime green walls, the tv’s that were easily accessible but not too imposing. A lot of money was spent to make this a place people want to be. Consequentially, it turned me way off.

I watched a 3 part interview series on youtube between a Belgium man and Charles Bukowski. It was filmed in the 80’s, late in Bukowski’s life. They talked about a lot of things and didn’t seem to like each other. At one point, Bukowski takes the guy to this hostel he holed up in for the first few years of his writing career. He told a story about how the landlady would leave him baskets of fruits and veggies because she thought he was mentally unstable after he’d told her he was quitting the post office for writing. The camera caught poor kids in no shoes and suspenders and one young Latino family with gold teeth and jello cups and a chihuahua that kept trying to eat the jello cups. Bukowski said: “There’s stories in these people. Most writers don’t want to talk to these people.” That made a lot of sense to me.

Novel Count: 15,629

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.

Charles Bukowski