Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 84

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I thought about going inside the shop but when I drove by the parking lot was filled; so I got my coffee from the drive-through; even treated myself to a slice of lemon cake; the woman at the window had deep green lacquer on her fingernails; it reminded me of mountainsides in the early morning; I told her I liked the color, she said ‘thanks’; later, drinking the coffee, I thought I could taste a bit of wood-bark, pine-sap, morning dew

A hot day. Now that we’ve passed mid-may, summer’s taken it’s gloves off, spit out the tobacco, and is squatting wide-legged in the fields ready to take on all comers. I went out around five to pick up a few things from the pharmacy and got socked in the face. One hit of that humidity and I was walking like I had the weight of the world on me. All the thermostats were reading 90. Like I said, a hot day.

Nevertheless, I spent a lot of the day outside.

I’ve been re-reading After Dark by Murakami. I finished my re-read today. The last time I let my eyes on the book, I was 17 and wading through another hot summer. I was away at an academic camp and within the first week had torn my ACL (a particularly vigorous game of ping-pong was what did me in). So there I was, young and dumb and largely alone, limping around a college campus on crutches, trying to keep up with the world as it whipped by. Because of that, coming back to After Dark has been like finding all those boxes in your parents’ basement full of family photos – you squint at the pictures and try to make them look familiar without getting too embarrassed. Then, in the end, you stare so long so you forget they’re even photos of you.

I was reading on the porch with a cup of peppermint tea beside me. The hot day matched the tea so that you couldn’t tell which was making all that steam. I sweated out my journey into old, semi-blank memory albums, and when the tea was gone and the book was almost over, I had a beer. Finally, soaked to the bone, I finished what I’d come there to do. I closed the book. I put down the bottle. About to go inside, I heard a clapping sound off the balcony. I looked over and saw a family of geese. They were huddled together, pecking through the clover, hunting for bugs. Some of them were so young their adult feathers hadn’t come in. I didn’t know what to make of them – these beautiful, surprising, cuddly creatures walking by – and I still don’t. But I think they’ll be one of those memories I’ll open up fifteen years from now and hardly recognize, no matter how much I might want to.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! Couldn’t get back into Bourdain, no matter how much I tried; will pick a new book soon

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A giant motherboard of geese,
unruffled by the state
police, swarmed in unison

Kristen Henderson, Of My Maiden Smoking

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 78

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Trader Joe’s Brand

All day, the house has smelled like chicken. There’s a pot of skin and bones bubbling on the stove. My roommate put it on late last night and has been tending it since then. The water’s yellow. The bones have gone from gray to deep brown. Heat sucked out the marrow. At 2pm, I poured a glass of fizzy water and even that tasted like chicken. Potent, ‘fowl’ stuff.

I was re-reading a Murakami novel – ‘After Dark.’ It takes place between midnight and 6am in Tokyo. I took the book to the porch where the sky had gone gray but couldn’t find it’s tear ducts to rain. I sipped my chicken-flavored seltzer and read for three hours. The wind came and went. Some birds made a nest above me, in that spot where the third floor lips over ours. Kids were running around but I didn’t look for them. Four white guys played basketball across the creek and had a portable speaker blasting Drake.

Now it’s dinnertime and I’m finding it hard to have an appetite. It feels like I’ve been licking chicken skin since morning. I remember what it was like to eat meat. Bone-in, such a puzzle: you study a dead animal’s geography, engineer it to simpler shapes with your fingers and teeth. Just bones, you toss them, or at least I would, but sometimes we’re not satisfied. Sometimes you have to squeeze the bird of it’s blood and juices, milk it like a California almond, and drink that too. Is that better? Less wasteful? Absolutely. Snip the chicken like a magazine clipping, removing it completely from the green earth.

At 7pm, it still hasn’t rained. No use waiting, so I guess I’ll get on with my day.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens.


Isaac Bashevis Singer

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 23

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; I think these beans have it in for me. On the second cup, I got the jitters. On the third, I was queasy. I spent the whole day not wanting to eat anything. My gut evacuated – bad news, best to get out of dodge. That said, the taste was fine.

I’m sitting ankle-deep in writer’s block. Or – I know what to write next, I just don’t feel like writing it. Instead, I’ll talk about something that bothers me:

Every other book I read feels artificial.

I won a copy of “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes at an open mic. This was months ago, I just got around to reading it. Before I get any further, I should say I’m only a quarter in. But that quarter left a sour taste in my mouth.

For those that don’t know, “The Sense of an Ending” won the Man Booker. Etc, etc. The story so far follows a group of friends through a private high school. They’re all eclectic, aggressively so. The writing takes simple scenes and puts a lot of wax on them. Barnes is always going on about something. It’s meticulous, literary, sort of impressive.

To me, it stinks. What truth is there in a bunch of prep kids talking philosophy and sneering at their teachers? Why are so many writers obsessed with asserting some kind of carefully constructed world-view?

Today, I did nothing. I sat and moped. I wanted to write but couldn’t. No-one was around. I played video games. I got groceries. When it was time to exercise, I drank two beers instead. There’s no greater meaning in any of that – just a drudgery. But damn if it didn’t feel inescapably real.

My favorite passage of one of my favorite books spends a long describing the inside of a Denny’s. It’s an ordinary Denny’s. It’s an ordinary night. The protagonist sits inside that ordinariness. And that’s it – no big revelations. What more do you need? The truth is this: ordinary life is the most strange, beautiful, sad, gripping, dangerous thing of all.

Novel Count: 30,740

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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The music playing at low volume is “Go Away Little Girl” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra. No one is listening, of course. Many different kinds of people are taking meals and drinking coffee in this late-night Denny’s, but she is the only female there alone. She raises her face from her book now and then to glance at her watch, but she seems dissatisfied with the slow passage of time. Not that she appears to be waiting for anyone: she doesn’t look around the restaurant or train her eyes on the front door. She just keeps reading her book, lighting an occasional cigarette, mechanically tipping back her coffee cup, and hoping for the time to pass a little faster. Needless to say, dawn will not be here for hours.

After Dark, Haruki Murakami


Coffee Log, Day 289

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve been feeling strung out lately so I added less beans to the grinder to cut the caffeine. It helped a little, though like any solution, it wasn’t perfect. Water me down.

I’m sitting in my room with the curtains drawn but the windows open. They’ve got a fire going in the pit. It smells like someone’s burning off old journals. If only a match took care of all the things you put down.

I’m drinking barley tea. It isn’t summer so I’m doing so out of season. In Japan, they’d brew big pots of barley tea for the kids I taught. We’d line them up in their sweat scarves and the Japanese teachers would dole out glasses like medicine. I always thought it seemed remarkable and magic and I wanted to try it but I didn’t ask because I figured that would break the spell. Now I just make it for myself out of my roommate’s stash and it’s refreshing but not very magical.

It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ve been feeling like there’s a warm ball of lint in my skull. If it does snow, if it’s good and cold and bleached, I think I’ll walk around in hopes of working the lint out. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with myself. I’ve been thinking about money, about houses, about careers. I’m happy with my job but I’m not in love with it. Lots of old couples sleep in separate beds, but I’d like to hold something under the covers. And yeah, yeah, I’m writing, but art’s just your mistress, always taking you away from the rest of your life, a little abused, never there when you need her. Deliberating seems like it might be easier in the snow.

I hear them occasionally – voices from the fire, two guys, a woman, and every now and then this little boy or girl that’s young enough to find rapture in something like a pit-fire, like the winter, like a deep, welcoming snow-day.

Novel Count: 14,999 words (here’s the reality of an early-stage novel: it’s messy. I’ve heard stories about writers that can sit down and hammer a draft start to end and only then do the bloody knifework. I imagine them as boring people who wear turtlenecks and drink white wine. No, for me it’s endless tinder-dates, the waking up without your clothes on, the vomit in the toilet, the realization that you’re a realist now and you never really wanted to be. So anyway, I might rip out half of what I’ve written. Or not. We’ll see. It’s early.)

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith (I’ve tried and tried and tried to finish this book; in the end, I sort of hate it; I don’t think I’ll be finishing it anytime soon); Cherry, Nico Walker

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With luck, it might even snow for us.

Haruki Murakami, After Dark


Coffee Log, Day 228

Hi.

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

I didn’t take a shower until 4:00pm but when I did I lay down and let the water tell me about its day.

I didn’t work today; the banks are closed; it’s Columbus Day. A perfect celebration for modern America: wealthy white man who gets lost, screws up, loses half his fortune then makes it back on the backs of brown-skinned bystanders. Reminds me of a certain president.

But personally, it was a good day. I slept well. I dreamt of reconciliation; dreams are as close as you get sometimes. I spent the morning working on projects, the afternoon drinking ice water and submitting short fiction. For dinner, I went with a roommate to Remedy Diner in Raleigh. They serve the Impossible Burger, she wanted me to try it on account of my meatless-ness. I tried it. It was good. Had the tang like something had died for me, but nothing did, nothing with a head full of thoughts anyway, and so it was guiltless. Outside, NC State students paraded to this or that bar like they’d never know another summer.

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

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“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.” – Haruki Murakami, After Dark

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