Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 239


Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Lately I’ve been living with numbers. Account balances, loan-to-value calculations. I wonder if the first person who held an abacus went to bed pushing the beads back and forth, little round sheep? Sometimes it can be hard to pick the people out of the numbers, to see the lives living behind a falling interest rate.

Currency came out of agriculture and they both drove into civilization. Banking at its most abstract is a measure of the movements between people. It ticks and tallies, adjusts the communal flow. Like a hive of yellow-jackets.

I saw an old man clean out his safety deposit box to make copies of documents before he passes. He asked to use our copier and he’s all hunched over and how could we say no? We set about copying what he wanted, and the last bit was his certification of service from the Second World War. It spelled out his battalion, his role, and vouched for his skills as a typist. It got him started in the workforce in the 1940’s and it’s been sitting in a box in our bank branch for 20 some years. His son was with him. As they left, his son held open the door. And I thought about how nothing I leave behind will be so physical, just resume blips in the internet.

Later today, I helped a customer move away from carrying cash by opening a credit card.

Society changes quickly, like insect wings.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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My head is a hive of words that won’t settle.

Virginia Woolf

Coffee Log, Day 213


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


Coffee Log, Day 198


CoffeeTea: Bigelow’s Earl Grey, pre-packed (still need to buy a new coffeepot)

She talked about her dead brother like he was still breathing so I did too. She had wild hair. Sometimes, she walks outside in her nightgown. When I check the ID I see a birthday in the 1920’s. A rager baby, booming in the A.M. of modern America, partying now in it’s dusk.

The brother worked gov’t and made good money. I’ve heard this one before: “He was a banker, you know.” She says it word for word. Doesn’t remember telling me the last time, the last last time, the time before that. We dance.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, yes. Did you know that the USA paid him $300/hr to fix some messes from the local banks?”

“Wow! That so?”

When she left, the room smelled like cigarettes and other fond memories. Old NC: she’ll surely soon pass to meet her brother, leaving love or nothing. A few dozen years from now, I’ll walk into wherever I’m a regular and say: “Did you know I used to know this lady whose brother was a banker?”

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“There’s only one lesson to be learned form life, anyway,” interrupted Gloria, not in contradiction but in a sort of melancholy agreement.
“What’s that?” demanded Maury sharply.
“That there’s no lesson to be learned from life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned


Coffee Log, Day 156


Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

The back-up camera on my car caught a nice glare. It was so pretty I took a picture. I was driving to pick up dinner at the Chinese joint I used to go to after work at the bookstore. I took the same summer roads I’d taken a year ago. It’s been one year (almost exactly) since I moved to Cary.

And you’re already splattered with buckets of experiences, tails intact, fins flapping, with the heads cut off and left on the calendar squares…

Today was the first day I felt proficient at the bank. It was busy, complicated, I worked the line with a colleague who started a month before me. Our manager was tied up so it was just us. We encountered problems: equipment broke; customers cussed; it was a messy day but I kept a smile. More than that, I flipped the manual and made a day-long string of calls to this and that department sorting out customer concerns. When my colleague needed it, I helped him. It’s a big, free feeling to answer a question confidently.

I was confident at the bookstore. I didn’t like the job, but I’d held it so long I was in control. Because of that, it hit me even harder when they laid me off. Today, I drove past the driveway to the old employee lot on the way to the Chinese joint. My knuckles always go white or red or both, my eyes are heavy, I feel like I’m passing something important but unapproachable, a high school yearbook. Cary’s already got a few things I’ve lost dirtying up its fingernails.

So no matter how confident I get at the bank, I’ll try to remember that life is mostly driving in a car on a series of semi-familiar roads, listening to music, thinking about winter, licking for dinner, remembering the people you wish would love you; the place you leave and the place you end up are less important.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Check surroundings for your safety.” – the back-up camera in my Hyundai Accent


Coffee Log, Day 139


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls


Coffee Log, Day 106


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

The guy came in after three girls, nothing to do with each other. He was fifties. The girls were teenies. All four of them wore bright neon shirts. Blue looked good on him.

The girls fizzed, fussed, deposited a hundred cash. They drove in separate SUV’s and laughed in the parking lot.

The guy hung after, he hadn’t seen them, his mother was in the car, he had a purpose. At a different bank, they’d denied her withdrawal. She had a photo of a passport, they wouldn’t take it. The guy asked me if we could get it notarized. I said ‘probably,’ but that we’d have to see. He went back to grab her.

Outside, the girls titted and tatted in black SUV’s. There was nothing wrong with them except that they had no idea that there was nothing wrong with them. They watched the man, watched his mother, drove fast. No telling what they were thinking.

Inside, Mom shuffles. She’s got a cane but isn’t using it. My manager is in the lobby. He’s latino. He knows a hell of a lot more about banking than me. The old woman shuffles at me like I can help her. I point her to my manager. We’re all confused for a second. The man and the woman are black.

Socio-political plays like the cartoons inside of gum wrappers: a slight, a shrug, a simple mistake, a boundary between two things. They got their notary. The teens forgot a five-dollar bill by the deposit slips.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 –

‘So, Petvurt?’ the girl says, taking a pen from her hair and running it languidly down the columns of a large book. ‘Da, Pervert, so, here is. Passipotti. ‘ ‘She likes your passport, don’t give it to her, says Lubijova, ‘Give it to me. I know these people well, they are such bureaucrats. Now, dolling, tell me, how long do you keep?’ ‘Tomorrow,’ says the girl, ‘It registers with the police.” – Malcolm Bradbury