Coffee Log, Day 288

Hi.

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

I bought figures and a game book at the local hobby shop for a DnD campaign I’m running. The store was busy. They were hosting tabletop games.

I like places where people feel comfortable to be themselves. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of laughing at the store. Community is valuable and hard to come by.

I’m writing this in the Chinese joint I frequent. It’s my second trip this week. I’m with two friends, we’re just about the only ones in here. It smells like fat and salt. The lady at the counter knows my order.

A cold whipped Saturday night. Winter storms on the way. In food or games, we wait for the sky to harden and crack apart together. A little warmer this way.

Novel Count: 15,980 words

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

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I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. – Dr. Seuss

Coffee Log, Day 287

Hi.

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

I have a habit of pulling on my eyebrows when I’m stressed. There’s a word for that: Trichotillomania. I first heard the word in 2011 when I was riding in the backseat of my ex’s car. Her friend was driving. Her friend said she thought the idea of someone pulling out their eyebrows was appalling. Later, that friend stole a few dresses from my ex. We’ve all got our faults.

Anyhow, I’m stressed. Don’t blame me if I buy an eyebrow pencil.

Novel Count: 15,734 words

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

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You must never underestimate the power of the eyebrow.

Jack Black


Coffee Log, Day 286

Hi.

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

When I drove home the sky had cracked open. That peach-blood sunset, firing up winter one day at a time.

I presented to a middle-school writing club. There were eight of them, mostly girls. I was glad for that because the world’s already heard a lot stories written by men.

They were a sharp group, wrapped up in coats and jackets and pencils and papers, that odd time in December when you’re halfway between break and school. We practiced some things, I read a story, they asked questions. Afterward, I gave them all print-outs of lit journals that accept work by kids or pre-teens because the one thing I always wish I’d had as a young writer was some sort of guidance for where to put my work.

But I’ll say again, the kids were sharp.

It’s a cheesy line, but there’s hope in kids. It’s not that they see the world any brighter – from the time I’ve spent teaching, it’s clear that kids are often facing the darkest corners of the world’s closet – but that they haven’t narrowed their options for how to deal with the dark. It’s just as real to bite the apple as it is to throw it; no one use, no one route to peace and love and success and joy; and that to me is all hope amounts to, a not giving in to simple despairs.

It was good to work with the kids. I hope I gave them something. I know they imparted a bit on me.

Novel Count: 15,580 words

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

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Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were.

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Coffee Log, Day 285

Hi.

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

When I think about Christmas, I think of a thrift store off Main. I’m pretty sure it isn’t there anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure the store only lasted a few years, and I only went to it once or twice.

Anyway, it was on this side road in East Burlington that if you took long enough would either get you to the middle school or to Graham. It was in an old, hollowed out brick building that had fallen on hard times, it was lit like an ER, there were old black particle-board tables set in rows and cardboard boxes full of stuff obliterating the even lines. The owners were old ladies. So what I’m saying is, the thrift store was nothing unusual.

I went there with my Mom. I think it might have been after school, or maybe it was a weekend. Either way it was dark outside. We were Christmas shopping. Not for the family, rather the ancillary gifts you put a few dollars and two cents into in hopes of warming up the people you sort of know and would like to know better. We walked around for an hour and I got bored. There were tinsel wreaths. There were craft ceramics. I bought a tiny straw angel for a family I knew took angels seriously. Then we left.

But that whole store was Christmas to me: a dim, uncomplicated lull of gift-giving; the cheap earnest dressings; the streetlight evening through the windows; I think they were playing Christmas songs on a scratchy record player.

Anyway, that thrift store has been on my mind lately. I’m glad it was there. I wonder if anyone else remembers it?

Novel Count: 15,069 words

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

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Why they were loaded with bags of beans and peas and anything else they happened to pick up when they were still some distance away from the street where the first blind man and his wife lived, for that is where they are going, is a question that could only occur to someone who has never in his life suffered shortages.

Jose Saramago, Blindness


Coffee Log, Day 284

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I couldn’t remember if I’d ever had it and now that I’ve tried it I know that I had; it’s sweet on the first gulp, sour on the second, and by the end of the pot your insides are grumbling like two old men arguing about Nationalism.

I spent half an hour in a Target yesterday trying to find some face cream. We’re getting to winter, the dry cold breaks me out.

The Target was already packed for the holidays. One of the clerks told me they were having a 10% off giftcard sale, so maybe that’s why. It’s a big store, one of those they like to slap ‘super’ on the side of, but even so the aisles were jammed and frustrated families were snagging their carts together. In other words, nothing special for the season.

I’ll tell you a secret: I like those sorts of crowds. I like the sounds of it: all those voices stacked together like a layer cake. I like the nervous energy, the coy competition, the fervor around a bright yellow sticker with a price on it. I’m sure there’s a bucketfull of issues about consumerism and wage inequality stuck in there (some of which I’ve probably brought up on this very blog), but despite that, the holiday department store is the closest thing you get to a communal event in modern America and I’ll take what community I can get.

I found the face cream on an aisle I thought I’d already been down. It was hiding beside a few bottles of shampoo.

Novel Count: 14,846 words

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

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When I shop, the world gets better, and the world is better, but then it’s not, and I need to do it again.

Sophie Kinsella


Coffee Log, Day 283

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s brand

The world came apart like it was raining at about 10:30 this morning. It had rained, of course, overnight, but that rain was tame in comparison.

I was out walking. Mr. Cobwebs (the cat) was following me. The sky was opal. The grass was new-money green. When I crossed the bridge, crossed the basketball court, and got up to the lot around the apartment office, things were coming undone. 10:30 brought this great white wind out of the clouds and it got it’s jaws on everything. The ground swelled, my shirt went up, and she started biting all the trees. It was the biting that did it: all the great old oaks and maples were so shaken they couldn’t hold on to their leaves. Browns and golds and oranges catapult down like blizzard balls. For five straight minutes, all of us were swatting crumply old leaves.

I feel guilty sometimes when I’m loving where I live. I don’t always love it. But then there’s a windstorm and I’m raptured. It’s the best things that make you most aware of the worst things you’re responsible for.

A portion of every one of my paychecks goes to fund a bit of horror. It pays the clerk who stamps the order to deport this that and whoever on scratched together grounds (as they are currently perpetrating with a Mr. Samuel Oliver Bruno of Durham, NC, who has lived in the US for 22 years and is now awaiting deportation in Texas). It pays the public servant who’s told to serve the public by standing at the back of the Mexican border with a loaded weapon, or maybe firing teargas in the eyes of El Salvadorians. It clutters the coffers of this judge, that judge, zealous senators, some of whom are trying honestly to produce good judgment, however misguided, and others who are trying dishonestly to produce skewed judgment, guided quite narrowly by money or power or rumors of an afterlife that only loves you if you’re white and male. Really, those portions of my paycheck are a constant windstorm, and though I’m always voting, I can only keep on eye on a portion of the positions of the leaves.

All of that is to say: life is pretty. It’s worth living. But when you have the wind whipping you everywhere at once, freely filling your lungs, it’s hard to have your heart beat healthy with the knowing that you’re responsible – like it or not – for a cavalcade of forces keeping others locked up.

Novel Count: 14,915 words

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

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Never forget:
we walk on hell,
gazing at flowers.

Kobayashi Issa


Coffee Log, Day 282

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; rich, muddy, and deeply familiar; just like the wet clay soil you had a mudfight in with the neighborhood kids before you were grounded for tracking mud through the house.

It smells like diesel at our apartment. They’ve been re-roofing the building and one of the guys has this gas-powered blower that knocks the old tiling down. They’ve packed up for now, it’s about to rain, but they’ll be back tomorrow. When I opened the curtains this morning there was a ladder in front of me.

As long as I’m not stuck under it, I like a cold rain. There’s a sort of reclamation. The trees give up the last of the year’s leaves, all but the greedy conifers. The dirt gets soaked but it’s so cold that mud is more pudding than a landslide. Grass looks like the washbasin at a hair salon.

I tried to take a walk but got caught by a few drops. My hair smells like ammonia now, which makes me wonder what we’re putting in our water. I read somewhere that acid rain is less of a problem than it once was, so maybe the smell is natural, bits of seafoam carried from the coast containing the relinquished acids and oils from tiny things that die in the thousands without you noticing.

But I might just need a shower.

Novel Count: 14,900 words

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

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

The rain lets up. The devil stops beating his wife, but I beat the dashboard, punching it over and over, numb to the pain of it.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give