Coffee Log, Day 174

Hi.

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

On the way to work, I caught a report on NPR: an unaccompanied minor detention facility in Shenandoah, VA has been cleared of all allegations of child abuse; incidentally, the inspection that cleared them also documented cases of migrant children restrained to chairs with mesh bags placed over their heads.

So anyway, I turned the station to 102.1, heard the bass thump, hip-hop and traffic, it was blue skies with gray clouds, later in the day it rained. I worked eight hours. I clocked cash, counted time. My coworkers: vibrant. If it was busy, we worked well together. If it was slow, we shot the breeze.

If you google pictures of the Shenandoah facility (which I did) you see a pack of picketers outside a building that could just as easily be a library. It’s blue there too, though I guess the kids don’t see it, and someone’s trimmed the bushes, though I guess the kids don’t see it, and even though there were only fifty protestors it’s still something, waving signs in solidarity like high-school colorguard, done in the honor of kids who won’t see it because they’ve got mesh bags on their heads and tight straps on their legs.

I’d packed lunch. Pasta – red sauce, soy chorizo – I sat in the break room while the microwave spun the plastic container. Beep! My phone was on, it’s always on, I texted two friends while I ate the pasta then I took a walk through the parking lot where the rain had stopped and the lot was cool, a good breeze. I sat in the car and listened to five more minutes of NPR but they were doing a food show. I turned it back to 102.1 and swiped Tinder; pretty smiles, so many possibilities for a Friday night I can afford to flick them away forever.

On Google, the other pictures of the holding facility lacked protesters but the building still looked like a library. Long, angular, brick. A trim sign. It’s fitting, really: a house of knowledge; kids learning important lessons: if you’re young, poor, friend and fatherless, the Land of the Free tins you in a confinement can, bags you like an execution, ties up your dignity, then signs off on it.

Cleared of abuse.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” – George Washington
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Coffee Log, Day 173

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; ever wake up in August thinking it’s April? Well, you know, cycles and stuff. Anyway, the coffee was okay, just like every other time.

My fan died last night. It was pretty neat to look at. A floor model, the wires ran through the base, when I pushed the buttons I saw sparks inside the plastic.

It was less neat trying to sleep. I’m used to the airflow, the sound. Quiet rooms are penetrable. Yesterday, I heard: my roommate shouting at a game; summer rain; thunder; a cat – either Mr. Cobwebs or Sally – crying outside my window at 4:00 a.m. I kept waking up. I had strange dreams: a furry black monster with claws the length of toddlers; my elementary school, mini-me’s in each seat, friends I hadn’t met yet.

Afternoon’s hanging on longer than I’d like. My eyes are ships that can’t drop anchor. Happy Monday. I’m off to bed…

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” – Homer, The Odyssey

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Coffee Log, Day 172

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; it’s become a tradition to buy Caribou when I run out of beans at home. There’s not much to it – five minutes in the drive-through – but I’ve done it a half-dozen times, guess it’s stuck. The Caribou is two blocks farther than I usually drive. There’s no easy way into the parking lot. I figure it’s a bum gig because I haven’t had the same barista twice. Today, it was a lean guy. Last time, it was a lean girl. Every barista I’ve known has ambitious eyes. Sometimes I miss making coffee for customers.

This time last year, I’d just come to Cary and settled into a job I don’t have anymore. I worked a bookstore, a head cashier, internally prestigious position but I got embarrassed giving myself away with that description. I’m glad I lost that job.

Now I’m a banker. A teller, really, though the title’s dressed up, one of those dogs you see in sweaters. America likes money, so I feel less shame saying I’m a banker than a bookseller, but retail’s retail, and my white collars still come no-suit-required.

Sometimes, if I wake up cocky, I’ll introduce myself as a ‘writer,’ pointing to my few publications and this blog as proof. Then there’s always the questions: “What books you got out?” “What genre do you write?” I’ve got answers, but like lice in your daughter’s kindergarten bowl-cut, the questions keep coming. Friendship and love are well-meant interrogations; justify yourself.

But I’ve got it good. I’ve got a job that sounds mostly respectable, a passion that (though far-fetched) is somewhat relatable; I’m no fast-food chef going home to gorgeous cases of pinned insects, hotel cleaners finding time for life in the margins. No wonder Caribou keeps rotating baristas – bad hours, bad pay, social scorn.

My coffee was good. Simple, but good. The lean guy said ‘bye’ brightly and got ready for the next customer. I want to live in such a way that no-one feels the need to justify themselves to me. To keep breathing – whatever letters are beside your name – is beautiful, full stop.

Well, except for the CEO’s. I wouldn’t mind making millionaires prove they’ve earned the puppet strings.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.” – Ernest Hemingway

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Coffee Log, Day 171

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

M tells me he got a job at the camera shop operating equipment. He’s been working ten years through film school, MFA’s, gigs in LA. The job won’t pay great, he’ll have to take a second. As a screenwriter and director, it’s far from what he wants to do. But it’s a step in the door. M played it down when he was talking about it but I could hear the gymnastics in his voice. I was ecstatic, didn’t try to hide it. I poured brandy and took a toast. Nothing better than working toward something.

Summer rages on. We sit in the shade and listen to cicadas. I learned how to say ‘cicada’ in Japanese – semi – from a teacher in Koga. One year my junior, many years wiser, though I don’t know if she’d agree. She kept having to remind me of the word because I kept forgetting. We stood on the beach. Green algae. Clean water. She pointed to the path you’d take to get to her elementary school. There were trees up the coast where the sand died. “Semi,” I said. “You remember,” she said. You could hear the bugs.

I read somewhere that cicadas crawl from the ground once every few years, sing a little, make love, lay eggs, die. I admire that singularity of purpose. Some days, I’d like to crawl out of the breadcrumb soil, sing a little, make love, set my roots, and die. Other days, though, I just get drunk.

Congrats, M. Thank you, A. You both inspire me.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Dog-day cicadas are very dark with greenish markings and spend four to seven years underground before emerging in July and August.” – Quote on the National Geographic Kids entry about Cicadas

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Coffee Log, Day 170

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Her mom caught her talking Hebrew and asked where she’d learned it – “I don’t know!” Her mom didn’t either. So the woman spent most of her childhood looking for her Jewish roots but never found them. Now she has ‘peace’ in Hebrew tattooed on her wrist.

The drive through – a bank deposit, mom and daughter. The daughter’s putting in dollars and checks. Her mom tries to give her a few to make the total round even. The kid refuses. Mom laughs about it with me, a little amused, a little apologetic because I had to count it. I say: “I get it, that pride, huh?” The kid beamed like cream soda popped by the gym lockers because you have to hide your sodas at school.

The lady at the taco joint has different colored hair every time I see her. Today, it was aquamarine. Sometimes I see her walking the sidewalk, crossing Cary traffic, backpack on, punk sneakers, earbuds. When you order, she talks bright and smiles with the middle of her mouth. Today, she told me about a survey. Tomorrow, she’ll try to sell me drinks. Like all good salespeople, she’s a classy actress.

A guy tries to get to know me but gets my name wrong. I tell him right, tell him it happens all the time, but now there’s a bunch of stuff crowding the six feet between us, pink insulation. We work a little more and he tries again: “Are you new here?” I say no because I’m not new. I wish he’d talked about the weather. It was a hot day, sunny, spoiled sour cream. We could have compared projections for weekend rain. Instead, the guy tried to get to know me, but I’m a salesman, I’m a writer, I’m a passing cloud; I get paid to put the heavy things away in cupboards. Suits me fine.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I’m a hustler, baby; I sell water to a well!” – Jay Z

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Coffee Log, Day 169

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Blue Raspberry lollipop – it turned your whole mouth blue. Nephew of my coworker, the women show you off. Your mom was a drinker but you changed that. Your aunt talks tense phone-calls to laughter. Your friend – another coworker – has a strong southern accent.

How will you talk in 2035? You’ve got good parents, blond hair, blue eyes, but if you’re lucky – if we’re all lucky – those marks won’t have the same cache’ they do today. Will you spend fourth grade watching that one girl from the back of class, only to grab her hand in the lunch-line and kiss it, only to tell her that means you’re married, only to tell your parents and hear them laugh it off like ‘That’s what young men do.’ Will they teach you abstinence or responsible love?

In history books, white western men sin in the 100’s, fight in the 1000’s, conquer through the 21st century; they fight, kick, scream, spill blood until their hands are sticky enough to never drop the reigns. They don’t love, except voraciously; they don’t cry, except pathetically.

You walked behind the counter to get another lolly. I was there. I said: “High Five!” You were static smiles, so much innocent joy it got stuck on me. We smacked palms then you went running. I hope I gave you something. I spent twenty years making love to ill-gotten power, the next ten making up for that. I’m still making up for that. I hope you felt: brave; storied; vulnerable; open; powerless. I was born in the twilight of western white manhood. I’m fighting daily to make sure it dies. I hope you’ll never have to look at your naked limp body in the mirror and pick it down to honest sinews, take scalding showers to wash your grandfather’s sins. I hope you get to choose a good man, an honest man, an equitable man from the beginning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It is strange,’ he said at last. ‘I had longed to enter the world of men. Now I see it filled with sorrow, with cruelty and treachery, with those who would destroy all around them.’
‘Yet, enter it you must,’ Gwydion answered, ‘for it is a destiny laid on each of us. True, you have seen these things. But there are equal parts of love and joy.” – Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron
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Coffee Log, Day 168

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I take the highway at 65 high-school-track-fields per hour, faster than the 8-minute miles I managed fifteen years ago. Things sped up; times changed.

I’m working Raleigh, a branch I haven’t been to. Maps come out the car speaker anticipating twists and turns, turning the music down automatically, red lines for bad traffic, or lines in the eyes where I haven’t been sleeping, supplementing missed midnights with caffeine.

Crickets in the early mornings when I walk the two turnbacks downstairs to the parking lot, reminding me of that one night after high school when we all went to Cedarock Park and built a fire, grilled hot dogs, slept bare-skinned in sleeping bags, made reckless love with ticks and crickets and coal-cracking store-bought branches; or of nights lost to five-more-minutes with the four inches of my iPhone, a spaceship/rocketship sort of life, burning time like jet fuel; or of strawberry-cheeks and IPA lipgloss, the ways I wish I saw you, the ways I wish you saw me, but only the white walls ever see much of anything, even though I haven’t hung them with anything yet.

I’m a bill-payer; news-checker; chatbox stalker; internet lover; a Modern Man.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I didn’t need to think of myself as a walleye drifting along in a current somewhere, just waiting for my hook. I was yearning for it.” – Emily Fridlund, A History of Wolves

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