Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 230

Hi.

Coffee: Lady Grey Tea

I like people more when I see them smoking. Going back home from groceries, I saw a van, a ‘former State Senator’ bumper sticker, and a lady’s arm hanging out the window burning a white cigarette. I like the vice in it, the desperation. Turn lungs to tar, and for what? It makes you seem a little more human.

I’ve had a lazy 3-day weekend. Monday’s off for Columbus Day, so I went to the Nasher to see an exhibit on indigenous American art. Something that stuck with me was the way so many of the pieces seemed to be in communication with the history you hear about, a long-standing culture, colonial oppression. I came away wondering if that’s just what the artists show to a paying white audience and, if so, what is it that they show to each other when the lights go down and the only sound to hear is a sister’s breath?

I bought two pillows off Amazon then I thought about wage labor. Amazon’s not the worst offender but it’s got it’s hands in everyone else’s pies. I spent awhile looking for these pillows from different vendors but the only options were Wal-Mart or faceless eBay vendors. And I tried to find information on who made them, the parts and labor, what foreign factories they were abusing, but I couldn’t dig it up. There’s a lack of transparency that gets in the way of ethical action, and there’s a lack of options also. But in the end I was the one who funneled money to a mega-corporation responsible for devouring the American economy, for widespread store closure, for pushing radical, robotic efficiency on people trying to make a buck to survive. It was my dollars that bought the pillows, just like it’s my head that’ll sleep comfortable at night.

Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and landed on land where other people were living, and did his best to consume them in his colonial machine. He wasn’t the only evil white man crossing an ocean, but he’s one we still celebrate. And he’s somebody’s ancestor, maybe yours or mine. We’ve come a long way, but we still put people in chains, only they bite around your spirit rather than your skin.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

It’s like, how did Columbus discover America when the Indians were already here? What kind of shit is that, but white people’s shit?

Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 99

Hi.

Coffee: House Blend, Ithaca Coffee; tasted like sugar on the first sip; tasted like old, worn yearbooks on the last

I went to Durham. No matter how much time passes or what changes, I always end up back in Durham.

The trip was nostalgic. There were some things I needed to see. Z was headed there also so we met up. We had lunch at a taco shop off Chapel Hill road. I told him to get the tamales but they were out of tamales. So it goes.

After eating, we drove downtown to park in a deck and walk under the burning summer sun to 21c. 21c is a hotel but also an art museum. A modern sort of patronage, the wealthy spending a weekend in the city, their money going partly to the arts.

The hotel used to be a bank building. I’m not sure which bank. We walked through all the upper galleries and ended up downstairs. They had the vault open. In the vault was an exhibit by William Paul Thomas, an artist I’ve met a few times. Compared to the other galleries, his wasn’t getting much traffic, probably because it was downstairs and in a vault, but his work stood out anyway. To me, the pictures said something. They were faces. Colorful. Lit on bold backgrounds. Half drowned in a washed-out blue.

When we left the museum, there was one last thing I needed to see. A couple months ago, a gas line caught fire in downtown Durham. It blew out a building right off main street. When I was a Duke student, and later when I lived and worked in the city, and even after that when I visited from time to time, I’d walk that block regularly. I’d pass the old brick buildings and ask them for shade. Or I’d check my reflection in the windows. I haven’t been back to Durham since the explosion, which took two lives. I needed to see how the block had changed.

A handfull of cutlery dropped on the way to the table – the buildings were broken apart.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller; Suzanne is a friend; she graciously lent me a copy of her work; I’m only two chapters in; each chapter has followed a different character; reading the book, so far, is like watching a movie from different camera angles; I like the first character, an aggressive cop, because I’ve known people like him; there was one line that I saved because I liked it so much and I’ll quote it here

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

Never ceases to amaze me how people assume by lookin’ at you that you’re the incarnation a’ all your hopes an’ dreams.

Suzanne Crain Miller, Queen

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 70

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Trader Joe’s Brand; waking up an hour late, I barely even tasted it; baggage check at an airport.

I went to CAM Raleigh, a contemporary art museum. All the art was local.

I’ve got mixed feelings about art museums, or at least about urban art museums in up-and-coming techno capitals like Raleigh. They’re a good thing, an outlet, not a lot of ways to show your art. That said, the art they show tends to talk about (and come from) the communities being pushed out by wealthy, techno-global business and the amenities made to serve them – including, of course, contemporary art museums.

I walked around the museum in the mid afternoon. The artwork ranged from oil paints to mixed media. I liked some pieces, disliked others. Much of the art was chasing something about the black American experience. I can’t comment on whether it caught it because that’s not my experience. Behind me, following about six feet away around the entire museum, a dad and mom and two daughters were talking about the pieces. One of the daughters was saying things like ‘chiaroscuro’ and her dad was saying how smart she is. At a different corner, a five year old was crying because she couldn’t touch the paints.

One good moment: downstairs, in the farthest corner, was an installation by Jasmine Best. Best is from Greensboro, near where I grew up. She’d strung a room from floor to ceiling with a facsimile of a southern, screened-in front porch. The porch was made of quilted fabric, and so was the mosquito net, the chairs, the potted plants, everything was quilt. Nearby, a recording played sounds of windchimes. Nostalgic. I stood there as long as I could, letting the families walk in and out. When I left, I felt like I’d remembered something that hadn’t ever happened to me but was vivid and real all the same.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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

Like a mother, a front porch offers protection and tries its best to keep undesired objects out; or more importantly, to keep the child in. But just like a mother there are limits to how much it can actually shield.

Jasmine Best, About her Installation Screened In