Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 145


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Last night, I went to the Third Wednesday Open Mic hosted at Fig. A colleague read from her new novel. It was pointed – as in, her words were written to have a point. A few months ago, I had my own featured reading with the group.

It’s no good time for small business. Despite the economy on an uptick, the gains are going to deeper pockets. Yes, there’s greater purchasing power, and yes, wages have gone (a little bit) up, but the blood and sweat of Americana – that store on the corner that knits your community together – is bottom-up.

Two years ago I was in Roanoke Rapids. It’s a tiny town on the Virginia border. I was taken on tour by my partner at the time, who’d grown up there. We drove around the town. There were bright old buildings with small front lawns. There was a factory that had shut down. In the epicenter, all the downtown storefronts were at best boarded over, some worsened with broken glass, a few lit windows poking through. At night, we picked up dinner at a still-thriving Chinese take-out. For lunch, we ate an an old diner that reminded me of a few places in my own home.

I read an economic outlook that says the next few years will likely avoid a recession. Rates will taper but we won’t bottom out. Good news, and from a trustworthy source. But it misses the picture of all the lives that aren’t off I-40, the towns you take a local road to get to, or the city bars stuck in a unlucky corner, destined to drown not in alcohol but in weeds.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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That night, after the movie, driving my father’s car along the country roads, I began to wonder how real the landscape truly was, and how much of a dream is a dream.

Don DeLillo, Americana

Coffee Log, Day 36


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; tastes familiar and expected but a little exciting, like waiting for a train to come in.

I cooked black bean burgers for lunch. It took about an hour, maybe more. I sauteed the onions and garlic and mushrooms and drained the beans from the can. I thought about canned food – how all vegetables came from cans in the 90’s, and how when the fresh food came in it kicked a bit of idyllic Americana out. The sitcoms told me kids didn’t like to eat their mushy broccoli and I saw myself in those kids.

I wonder what kind of lies kids believe these days. Growing up with the internet, it’s easy to find whatever facts or fiction you’re looking for, but all those facts are individual: you look them up, they belong only to you. We don’t sit down by the TV at exactly 8pm every Wednesday alongside big chunks of the rest of the country; instead we binge streams independently.

Of course, all that charming ‘Americana’ was packed and sold with an agenda: ‘this is what life should look like,’ and if your life didn’t fit the label – if you were poor, rural, gay, black, brown – you weren’t a part of the package. I think this is slowly changing. When I was a teacher, the kids I taught could see themselves in their smartphones if they knew where to look. So maybe America is finally realizing it’s beautiful pot of mixed identities, but in doing so it’s moving away from centuries of carefully controlled communal history. No wonder the rich men in congress are scared. Being honest, I’m scared too. But fear’s a good thing – it takes you places you haven’t gone.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we’ve all had to become disappears, when we’re confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.” – Anthony Bourdain