Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 227

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

After getting home from a long workday, and doing some simple workouts, and sitting in my desk-chair for forty minutes as the sun crept down, I left the house to pick up Taco Bell. Here’s my order: spicy potato taco, spicy tostada, and bean burrito. Mm.

Anyway, that got me thinking: Taco Bell is the best representation of America. Cheap, easy, no pretensions. Pumping out junk food by the liter, a web of corporate partnerships, but it still manages to surprise you – vegan options, culinary creativity, a thousand different ways to serve a tortilla. NASA’s best scientists couldn’t beat the chemical tweakers tinkering taste on the crunchwrap supreme.

Some of you might stop me here to talk about cultural appropriation. How there’s a cheapened sort of Tex-Mex over everything, how the commercials used to lean into latinx stereotypes. You wouldn’t be wrong, and I think there’s something hopelessly American in this too. We see things in the boldest colors, no room for nuance, no time to sit down and think. The big beast of a country eats up all the cultures that come to it and spits out something a little simpler. And I’m conflicted because there’s so many problems, such a long history of trauma in ignoring the value of identities outside the mainstream, but at the same time, there’s breezy kind of beauty in stuffing beans and cheese and lettuce in a hard shell and calling it a taco. As much as America is a constant tearing down of the marginalized and different, it’s also a mess of cultures coming together to create something new.

I finished eating around 7. The food sat with me awhile.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Wait… we’re at the Pizza Hut (What?)
We’re at the Taco Bell (What?)
We’re at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell

Das Racist, Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 198

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I met a woman who’d been evicted twice, soon to be three times. She lost her house to late payments on a mortgage. She lost her rental when the landlord sold the property. She’s been staying at a hotel the last few weeks but can’t pay anymore. Not quite an eviction, but close enough.

There was an expose’ on MK-ULTRA written recently. I read an interview with the author on NPR. Sidney Gottlieb, chemist for the CIA, was given carte blanche in the 50’s to fulfill one objective: mind control. There was a lot of fear in the 50’s of communism’s ever-growing fingernails, a lot a paranoia about what a bunch of authoritarian Russians with enough motivation could do. The CIA thought it possible that Soviets had already worked out the kinks to controlling a human mind. So they set about hiring up ex-Nazis and Imperial Japanese torturers and went to work. They tried everything from electroshocks to giving prisoners daily doses of LSD. Here was the hypothesis: to control someone’s mind, you had to destroy it first.

In the end I couldn’t help her. The things she was asking of me were out of my offering. She had sad eyes and well-combed hair. She made a point to smile, and if I wasn’t talking she’d start talking with herself. Once, she said “I’ll just keep going because I don’t want to hear what he has to say.” The ‘he’ was me, of course.

It doesn’t take ten years of surreptitious torture to destroy someone’s mind. All you’ve got to do is marginalize them to the edges of society, to the thin gray scud, out of sight of anyone, so they’re left not having any reference with which to fix themselves, no place to go to, nothing that looks like home. It’s easy. We do it all the time.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

“Gottlieb wanted to create a way to seize control of people’s minds, and he realized it was a two-part process,” Kinzer says. “First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn’t get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one.”

Terry Gross interviewing Stephen Kinzer for NPR, The CIA’s Secret Quest For Mind Control: Torture, LSD And A ‘Poisoner In Chief’

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 189

Hi.

Coffee: House Drip, Carolina Coffee House; the coffee came in a white cup without any ornamentation; bits of smoke, a seat by the windows, crowded company; the roast was smooth – easy to drink, though my father kept adding cream

Five shot dead in Odessa, Texas. Not to mention the shooter. not to mention the wounded. He stalked shopping malls and that’s all we know. He caught an officer and a 2 year old. He was using a rifle.

Plato told this story in the Republic: men sit cross-legged in a cave facing the wall. Outside is a midnight fire. All kind of objects pass by the fire – trees, wind, falling apples. They cast shadows down the long slope of the Cave and dance around the walls. The people see the shadows and take them for the really-real. They’re bright and vital. It’s all they know.

Then someone turns around. He takes the chains off his arms and legs and raises his body. He brushes off age-old dust. Climbing on fingers with brittle nails and toes half-broken by years of sitting, he pulls himself to the lip.

What does he see?

Fire flickers the whole world around it. The real, vital, True. His flesh feels hot and warm. He’s alive for the first time in the heat-wake. So he creeps closer, wanting to know the bright light with all his senses. Feet rake wet earth. Ears hear all the world booming.

Like sugar the first time you taste it, indescribable. Five bright flashes from the barrel of a .308.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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SOCRATES: Whenever any of them was unchained and was forced to stand up suddenly, to turnaround, to walk, and to look up toward the light, in each case the person would be able to do this only with pain and because of the flickering brightness would be unable to look at those things whose shadows he previously saw.

Plato, Republic

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 169

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Brew

I went walking in the woods and startled a black snake. She had skin like greased leather and a head like an almond. She was basking on a bridge. When she heard me, she shot off in the direction I was heading. She was candy, licorice, strings on the back of a dress. She stopped at the edge of the bridge. There was a wooden railing to wrap around. She kept her head out of view, but I could still see her tail.

I like snakes, but my heart jumps anytime I see one.

Besides the walk, I spent most of Sunday sitting inside under the ceiling fan. Even though it’s a cooler 89 degrees, that’s still too much for me. I listened to a podcast. An NPR anchor interviewed Colson Whitehead about his new book ‘The Nickel Boys.’ It’s fiction, but based on a real correctional school in Florida that had been operating for decades. The school was known for its abuses. They brought on one of the former boarders for interview. He talked about how he was brought to a small white room on his third day and beaten with a leather whip. Later, they mentioned the unmarked graves on the schoolgrounds, and how one of the bodies had buckshot in the bones. The school was investigated numerous times but only got shot down in 2011.

There’s this milky-white wisdom we all learned in kindergarten classrooms: snakes are poison, America has her amber waves.

What makes your heart jump when you see it?

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I could see the bird soaring away. And then I realised there was no more shutting of your eyes to the truth,no salvation in being blindfolded,no dream and reality,no being awake or asleep. Everything is one and the same continuing eternal day and world, coiling around you like a snake. This is when I saw vast , remote happiness as being small but close.

Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I watched a video of an 11-yr-old crying while she told the camera her dad’s not a criminal. This was hours after her father was arrested by ICE (along with almost 700 other brown-skinned men and women in Mississippi). She was wearing pink.

Late last week there two shootings, one in El Paso, the other in Dayton. In Texas, at least, the shooter said he was aiming for immigrants. He called them an invasion. He shot a lot of people, mostly Latinos. He was white, they weren’t.

I read a review of memoir called ‘When I Was White.” The book’s by Sarah Valentine, an author raised white in a white family, but who had a black father, and was taught from day one by her white mother to detest blackness. The review goes into this idea that since the original sin of slavery, whiteness has defined itself by ‘purity,’ the one-drop rule, etc. Valentine finds herself discovering her blackness and losing her former identity in the process.

I met a man who tiles pools. He’s black, and said he has a partner who handles the marketing.

“Why?” I asked. He struck me as a grade-A businessman.

“Because I’m a big guy. And, you know. Around here, people get worried seeing someone like me knock at their door.”

I did know.

When Cortes crossed the ocean and met the Aztecs, he fancied himself a divine visitor. And over the next three years, he cut up all the brown bodies until there was no-one left to contradict him.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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A 7-year old body becomes
A monument to our excess aggression
On Sunday morning she became
An effigy to our excessive aggression
And our lack of suppression
And access to automatic weapons.

We didn’t pull the trigger
But we pulled the blinds down.

The Fucking Cops, Aiyana

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 135

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was talking to the manager of the subway about problem customers.

“There was this lady an hour ago,” he says. “She sees me making four subs. I am the only one working. When I am on the second sub, she asks me what’s taking so long.” The guy pauses like he’s told a story before. “I think she’s joking, of course. But she’s not joking. I see it in her face. She says very loudly I’m making her late.”

“And? Does she get a sub?”

“No, she leaves first.”

We move down the conveyor belt. My sub’s done toasting and I tell him to add all the veggies. This guy’s from Ethiopia, gave me the name of a good vegetarian restaurant I haven’t had the chance to try. What I’m saying is, we know each other, but we’re on a last-name basis.

At the sauce, he says: “The worst customer I ever had was two years ago. He was an old man. He was taking a long time. There were other customers. I asked him to move if he needed to decide, he wouldn’t move. Then he asks me if there is anyone else working and I tell him it is only me. And he says: “Well then I’m leaving because I don’t want my food being made by a foreigner.””

It’s the kind of moment you wish you had a stress ball to demolish but you don’t so you’re standing there, locking eyes with this guy, still smiling. I couldn’t stop smiling, like my muscles were in shock.

“That’s awful,” I told him. “And pretty damn un-American.”

But there’s a happy ending, or at least a silver lining: the customers in line behind the old man cussed him out. And the next day they brought the Subway manager home-baked cookies; and the day after that they brought him a giant cardboard card signed by a 150 people who work in the shopping center saying how happy they are he’s a part of the community.

“That card is still hanging in my home,” he said.

I paid for the sub and shook his hand. His fingers were strong enough to slice a hundred loaves of bread.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

The need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal.

Victor Hugo, The Memoirs of Victor Hugo

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 134

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

I knew an old guy whose daughter died to a heroin addiction. The addiction didn’t kill her directly – a 9mm bullet did – but it was the heroin that bought the guns in the first place.

This old guy lived beside my parents. He wore denim jeans and plaid shirts. He couldn’t afford the electric bill after his daughter died and he couldn’t see shit anyway so he sat in the dark. Or, on nice days, he sat outside.

The old guy had a moped. He’d lost his license and his truck didn’t have tags anyway. One night, some guys broke in – friends of his daughters’ – and stole parts off the moped. One of them gun-stocked him hard enough to break skin. Needless to say, the moped stopped working, so sometimes he’d ask my dad for a ride. And since this was years ago and I was living at home, sometimes he’d ask me too.

The old guy’s favorite place to go was the homeless shelter. Not because he got half his food there (which he did) but because there was this lady two decades younger he called his girlfriend. She was playing him – I saw it, my dad saw it, hell, the old guy probably did too. On two separate occasions she stole his flip-phone. But he said he loved her and he went so far as to help her get a job at Wal-Mart (which she promptly lost). This was after they’d broken up. That shortcake-with-the-strawberries kind of love.

Eventually, the landlord managing the old guy’s house wanted him out. He was late on the rent and bad news for the neighborhood. In the middle of the night, the landlord drove out and stapled a sign on the front door that said the building had been condemned. It was pink paper, light ink, not a lot of dollars spent for the notice.

Well, the old guy moved. He wasn’t quite evicted but when a building gets condemned there’s not much more to do but go. He had no relatives and had made enemies with his girlfriend’s folk at the homeless shelter. One day, he hopped in a taxi and that was it.

A month or so after he was gone, the condemnation notice mysteriously disappeared.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

And when they slowed down, the fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light.

Malcolm Lowry, October Ferry to Gabriola