Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 79

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; that early morning smell – woodchips going down a blender; guinea pig bedding; cheap office coffee brewing in the back; I blew on the cup to cool it down, but wish I hadn’t; when the coffee got cool enough to drink, it was also cool enough to taste.

A writer was taking the DC metro when she saw one of the workers eating in the corner of the train. So she tweets: “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train. I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.” And she takes a photo of the woman to tag with it. That tweet gets scene by a bunch of people, including Jezebel, who wrote the article I read about this in. The author’s name is Natasha Tynes. Her publisher is considering pulling her book deal.

Good riddance.

Like all stories, there’s always a few sides, and to give Natasha the benefit of the doubt, maybe she was having a bad day when she publicly shamed this metro worker for her basic bodily functions. If I’m being less generous, though, the story didn’t surprise me from the moment I read that Natasha is a writer. There’s a slippery undercurrent to writing books. A two-headed thing, a salamander, something old, that idolizes the times when ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ were divine acts given only to the most noble or holy castes of society. It peeks beneath casual comments about grammar or over the thick-rimmed glasses of your freshman writing prof when he says ‘we only study literary fiction here.’ Writing has a rich history of being exclusionary. And writers have a way of eating that exclusivity up.

Which is particularly ridiculous given what the value of writing fiction is: a sieve. Good books drop the world in one end and pass it back out the other, only the pieces are rearranged to something more sensible than the onslaught of daily chaos we all experience in our lives. It picks out the faults, the fears, the idiosyncrasies of being human. Those chipped edges are the bread and butter of good writing. How much passion or woe must have been in every bite the metro worker took of her sandwich, and instead of words to work this image big, bold and beautiful as it deserves to be, Natasha cuts her down. Self-defeating elitism. The snake nips its tail.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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Tynes says she confronted the employee, who told her to “worry about yourself.”

Emily Alford, writing for Jezebel; A Writer Who Shamed a D.C. Metro Worker for Eating on a Train Could Lose Publishing Deal

Coffee Log, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I was one of those kids who wouldn’t tell his parents a lick about the schoolday.

“How was it?”

“Fine.”

I was similarly stonefaced with friends.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Nothing.”

It was two things: a bit of adolescent embarrassment and a deeper fear that if I let on about the things that moved me, they’d lose their magic somehow. Oh how the times have changed.

As an aspiring author and daily blogger, my life’s cut open like a cleaned fish. There aren’t enough things happening outside of me to have the option of sequestering myself. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed to be open. But that’s a topic for a therapist.

I started to notice the effects of this a couple years ago as I was writing a book. The book was about Japan, about Yamakasa – a Fukuoka festival I’d attended in 2014. The scenes and settings are yanked out of my memory and tinkered until they fit the story. I’ve never had the knack of a fantasy author – the spark of creation, so to speak – so all my writing pulls heavy from places I’ve been and breathed.

Anyway, as I was writing this book, a funny thing happened: when I’d daydream about my time in Fukuoka, I started to see myself in the novel’s version of the city. If I’d changed the name of this or that restaurant, or maybe moved a cafe across town, the memory of me walking her August streets took me through the story; I had trouble digging back to where I’d really been. It was startling. I felt I’d lost something. Well, I had. I had replaced that ‘something’ with words.

I figure that’s why so many writers drink (or otherwise touch oblivion): you cut apart what’s most precious to feed your work.

I wouldn’t give it up. I really couldn’t at this point. In a way, I’m still yelling “Fine!” and “Nothing!” Only now those words ring true to everything outside the book.

Novel Count: 11,198 words

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

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All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 213

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I should have shaved today but instead I got up, pissed, swished, lay in the shower. The curtain cut the tub in hues of Orange Julius – fake and sweet. I lay there until the water irritated my skin. Too hot. I toweled off and said: “Today I’m gonna do it; Today I’m gonna write.” I made coffee and watched a show. It ended; I closed the browser; cursor on the desktop; I clicked Steam. Two hours got played by video games. At noon, I was sweating from the coffee.

I tried leaving the house, tried to get some sun on me, but a day-trip to wherever turned into fifteen minutes of grocery shopping. At home, the apartment was blacked over by cloud cover. I put everything away and took a book to the deck. Not Autumn, which I can’t stand (maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime), but the book I bought yesterday in Chapel Hill – Cherry, by Nico Walker. It’s about a bank robber and it’s written by a guy who robbed 10 banks. Both of these facts I find funny as a Teller.

I stole the book to our deck and destroyed some cobwebs. All that industry, wasted. I read Cherry and kept reading, drank stale LaCroix, a day bleak and wonderful, later I had some beers. I kept thinking to myself how no-one might talk to me again, how the bird’s always gone from the tree by the time you look for it, how people don’t plant flowers anymore. Then I took a walk and it felt like Autumn. All in all, it became a good day.

Depression runs in my family. Don’t feel shame if it also runs in yours.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker (fifty pages in and it’s brilliant; a contemporary Bukowski, only the voice is clean where Bukowski’s had a rasp; Walker’s using the proceeds to pay back the 10 banks he robbed; he’s still serving two years in federal prison)

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“You’ll have friends. Usually it’s nothing.” – Nico Walker, Cherry

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