Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 226

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I had a bit of good whiskey. I was buying a bottle for a co-worker who’s getting promoted to a different branch, but when I picked up the first bottle it seemed unconscionable to leave it lonely so I bought another for myself. Knob Creek Bourbon, not the best I’ve had, but easily some of the better. It paired just perfect with my homemade thrown-together sandwich and cheap tortilla chips.

There was a long time of my life where drinking scared me. Maybe it still does, and I’m just more attracted to being scared. Up until 21 I hadn’t had a drop of liquor. You could say I was a stick in the mud. Really, I was trying to be perfect. I figured life was less about being free and happy than about a kind of measured asceticism. I guided my ideas on the hard hand of law.

I take my bourbon over ice. I like the way it changes as the melt goes down. The first sips are pungent, going to your head like a steam-cleaner. In the middle it starts to mellow. And in the end you’re drinking easy, palm trees, or Savannah moss. It’s a depressive experience, bringing you down, down, until your fingers and toes touch, until you see the soil under you, and know who’s dead and buried, which bones are family, and which bones your family put there. Melancholy like home movies. Antiquated, a VHS.

I saw someone break down today. I don’t know what caused it, I didn’t ask. ‘What’s wrong’ is a question for later. Instead, when we met eyes, while she was half-crying and hurrying to get her things together, rushing away from something intangible, I did my best to smile at her. Hell if I know if she noticed, or if she appreciated it. But it was the best thing I could think to do at the time.

There’s only air the glass now. I’ve gone and done it, drunk the whole shot.

Here’s what I’d say to my younger self: sometimes people cry and you’ll have no clue what they’re crying about. Other times, you’ll see the circuitry pumping out societal problems at an alarming pace. I wish life had a beautiful order, but it doesn’t. The beauty hides in the creases.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

Frank Herbert, Dune

Coffee Log, Day 338

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; the last of the batch. Which is a good thing; I’ve been draining on these beans for too long. I’m a little mosquito that keeps nicking you at the pool. Our blood romance should have died in October.

I get paid $30 a month to not smoke cigarettes. It’s part of a wellness program at work, an insurance credit. My first year I didn’t sign up for it. The second year I did. I haven’t smoked since that night we held each other on the deck chairs in the apartment commons. I can’t think why I’d smoke again. Still, there’s this self image of myself in a plaid shirt with the buttons half done smoking out an open window. It’s the kind of sickness that gets in any self reported writer, like a rabid dog seeing everything as water.

But at least no-one’s paying me not to have a drink.

I read an article on whole grains. Typical stuff – health benefits, etc. Then I read an article linking fiber intake to longevity, and another that says gum disease may be the leading cause of alzheimer’s. Well, that’s probably true. A lot of people are getting paid to research it. But what can anyone do with that kind of information? You wake up and spit a little blood in your toothpaste – does that doom you? Probably, but it’s got to get in line behind a long list of other mundane travesties that laid claim on you first.

I remember this one morning a couple years ago where I got up and downed a shot of whiskey first thing. I was messed up, soul lost and heartbroken. I’m not an alcoholic and wouldn’t claim to be, but I’ve always known it runs in my family. So I think that morning I was trying to let something simple take me under. I was too scared to spend a long forever watching the blood come out of my gums. I wanted control. It’s what everyone wants.

Two things saved me from a second, or third, or lifetime of morning shots: the acceptance that people need me, for my tax dollars and cast vote if nothing else; and a deep, lovely cynicism – that all of us are Sisyphus, and the only way out is to accept the boulder as it crushes you, a tiny paper plane to pilot your spirit.

Novel Count: 18,933

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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One always finds one’s burden again.

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus


Coffee Log, Day 219

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I took a Saturday shift and got coffee on the way to work. It was a half-day, four hours, the coffee lasted two.

I served drinks at a friend’s wedding reception. I was behind the bar the whole night. I knew three people. I recommended wines for cake and vegan finger foods. I was mostly making it up, but people seemed to like it. Half of any front-facing job is knowing how to seem like you know it. Tonight reminded me of my years working as a barista.

One guy ordered Michelob Ultra and asked if I knew any jokes. I said I didn’t, but I’d trade him the beer for one of his own. He went long with the punchline, got cut off two times, but laughed a lot so I laughed with him. He was related to the groom through who-knows-what and I liked him. We talked a few more times. As the night went on, I drank a few beers. I told better jokes after.

A couple of aunts and uncles ripped it up on the dance floor. In between dances, they told stories about their kids. We talked about University politics and getting old. Her order was a Riesling, his a Michelob Ultra.

I spent a long time talking with two friends about anything. It was nice to give them drinks, nice to serve them. You don’t know somebody until you’ve got your arms and legs tied to their convenience. A person’s true colors are painted on the people who work for them.

At the end of the night, I talked History with a Daughter of the Confederacy. She was older, once a teacher, I told her my grandmother’s mother had been a member too. The first thing she said when those words came out of her mouth was: “Not for the race, of course, but for history.” Later, she told me about a time her ankle was torn and one of her students administered the physical therapy. She oozed a good soul. We hugged. ‘History’ and ‘race’ are inseparable to a Southerner. Sin is subtle. But for every sin there’s a proud woman who’s put good thoughts into generations of kids’ heads. Life is complicated. I poured her half a bottle of Moscato by the end of the night.

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

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“A kind of joyous hysteria moved into the room, everything flying before the wind, vehicles outside getting dented to hell, the crowd sweaty and the smells of aftershave, manure, clothes dried on the line, your money’s worth of perfume, smoke, booze; the music subdued by the shout and babble through the bass hammer could be felt through the soles of the feet, shooting up the channels of legs to the body fork, center of everything. It is the kind of Saturday night that torches your life for a few hours, makes it seem like something is happening.” –
Annie Proulx, Close Range

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Coffee Log, Day 205

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s

I don’t write particularly well when I’m drunk. I don’t do much of anything particularly well when I’m drunk. That said, I’m drunk.

I sat on the porch and re-read ‘Hear the Wind Sing,’ Haruki Murakami’s first novel. The storm was raging, my neighbors were chatting on the deck below me, and for a short while a latina in a gray tee bounced happily up-and-down on the third floor across from my apartment. She was pretty. She waved at someone else. All of us watched the creek surging like a well-fed boar.

In such circumstances it felt unconscionable not to have a drink. I drove to the nearest gas station. Far as I could tell, no trees were down, but the road was messy with leaves. It was warm, I listened to a collection of leaked Young Thug b-sides. What traffic there was was moving fast and with a purpose.

At the gas station, I bought a six-pack of Negra Modelo and the guy recognized me so I wasn’t carded. A few weeks ago, I told a Tinder date that the first beer I drank was Negra Modelo.

“Wow, pretty extreme for a first beer,” she said.

She was a pretty girl, sociologist, almost-professor, who spent the date talking over me and looking at a point somewhere on my forehead, never in the eye. There was no chemistry but I asked her out again anyway. “There was no chemistry,” she said. Hard to argue.

In all honesty, I gagged on Negra Modelo the first time I tried it. I was a Junior in college. I’d just turned 21. I went to the Armadillo Grill on campus – the only place with a bar – and ordered the drink with dinner. They gave me an open bottle. You weren’t supposed to take alcohol out of the bar but I was so nervous – so wrapped up in dreams of what the beer might do to me – that I tore foil off my chicken tacos and capped the drink. I stuffed it in a hoodie pocket and walked out, sweating the whole way home. Afterward, I played Call of Duty and drank half the beer. I called my girlfriend at the time – a short social worker who’d go on to get drunk one December years after we’d broken up and invite me over – and said I hated it. She was disappointed. S liked to drink.

‘Hear the Wind Sing’ holds up on a second pass, just as I’m sure it holds up on a third. It reminds me of The Tatami Galaxy – light, short, funny, heartbroken – it’s no surprise I’m in love.

When the latina waved I almost waved back. I would have liked to have invited her over, given her some of this six-pack to help me finish it. In a storm, anything’s possible. When the rain stopped, though, she disappeared.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“The Rat’s novel had two good things about it. First, there were no sex scenes; second, no one died. Guys don’t need any encouragement – left to themselves, they still die and sleep with girls. That’s just the way it is.” – Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing

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Coffee Log, Day 123

Hi.

Coffee: Venti Americano, Barnes and Noble Cafe; I’ve been avoiding two things: Starbucks (because they’re ethically stagnant); Barnes and Noble (because they laid me off). But a friend was in town and didn’t have much time; he suggested the joint, I agreed. It was remarkably unremarkable. The cafe manager tried to sell me a membership.

I’m a few drinks into the afternoon. In no order, some thoughts:

It’s hard to be an artist in 2018. Well, it’s hard to be a good one. I’ve looked at life as two parts for a long time, the living and the the writing, mutually dependent. You’ve got to live to write and (at least for me) you’ve got to write to live. But 2018 is ten-miles a minute. 2018 is being able to forget about North Korea because kids are in concentration camps a few miles south. There’s a lot of living going on; for me, there’s not a lot of writing.

It’s been too hot. There’s an intersection in transition outside one of the Cary bank branches – they’re widening lanes. I watched men and women work the block last week. The had bright yellow vests. Milk-jugs of sunscreen. On Thursday, a truck ran red and got t-boned. Nobody asked the workers to help, they helped anyway, pushed the cars to the side, called the cops, swept the glass. Their pink skin was grapefruit. I was impressed.

Impressions of being broke in every whisky-topped wine glass; I spilled wine on a white lady yesterday. She wasn’t bothered. I managed not to make eye contact the rest of the night. I talked to two Methodists. A fifty-year marriage, twenty-years in Garner. They drank white wine and offered to pour me more. I took them up on it.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist)

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“But who could agree with someone who was so certain you were going to be sober the day after tomorrow?” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
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