Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 285


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It’s been a month of birthdays. I had a mine and I couple days before that E had hers. She had some family over, some friends, we sat around talking and watching and trying to accept the fact that none of use knew each other. There was just E, and it was her birthday, so we couldn’t well expect her to solve it all for us.

And for the past two days we’ve been celebrating R. He’s one week younger than me, and there are more friends around. We got dinner from the same place twice, two days in a row. In a little while we’re going to watch Star Wars. I hear them talking in the other room.

December speaks life into me, all it’s roots and narrows and beauties and complications. None of us have kicked the bucket, but the coin-flip gets us a little closer to the other side.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 280


Coffee: Iced Americano, Ovation; a cafe on the corner of the Woodruf Arts Center in Atlanta; the view is glass and metal and dead cut grass; the coffee tastes too light for the scenery

I’m sitting in a semi-foreign city on my 30th birthday, a good book by Baldwin I’m too tired to read, heavy backpack, fresh off a flight, missing part of my front tooth. When I woke up this morning, I tongued the tooth and half came off. Twenty years ago, I’d broken it on the back of a classroom chair.

A new decade, beginning with dental repair. Who knows a good Atlanta dentist?

There’s an abbreviated feeling to the morning. Slippery picture window, hims and hers out on the cold museum grounds. We’re all walking quick towards somewhere warmer. I imagine you in a coat and boots coming from your office, hands tucked, ears gone red, a celebration, but briefly, because who has time to celebrate in 30 degrees, who has enough patience to part their lips when there’s just jagged broken edges inside? I’m dreaming of things I can’t do with you yet, and 30 is exasperating.

For now, this is what I’ve got: coffee through a straw on my good side, steel tables, and restless wind.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 278


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The day slipped away from me like two snakes slithering through tall grass. I read a little Baldwin, in the morning, just enough to get my lips wet. Smacking ’em, wanting a taste. I went out and it was white fog so far you couldn’t see. I cleaned the fog off my car and it came right back. There was the engine, and there went the day.

Monday doldrums with a Tuesday kind of smile, the ‘having-been-here-too-long-already’ scrunches while you tell yourself you’re already almost home. I fly out to Atlanta Thursday, I have the day off. I took it off before I knew I was flying out to Atlanta. The 12th of December is my birthday. My 30th this year.

There was this girl in my senior writing class who wrote better than me and I was jealous of her for it. So I worked real hard at my editing and got good enough to win some awards, ones I don’t know if she even knew about, or cared about, or if she did, cared to win. She wrote prose with good characters and a nice flow. She had thick braids and glasses. I don’t remember her name so I can’t check if she’s published. I don’t know if it matters whether or not she’s published. I guess she’ll be turning 30 too.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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The Dirty Thirties are knocking
in a French accent-

Sahndra Fon Dufe

Coffee Log, Day 296


Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I drive back to Burlington with a scratchy cough and a bottle of Advil. The streets are disappearing in fog.

I went home for a belated birthday get together with family. We met in a crowded Mexican restaurant where I used to know all the waiters but now I know some of the waiters. It was cold and crowded and loud and bright with pink string lights set out for Christmas. It was comfortable but nothing like I remember.

Later, I met friends for dinner at an empty Chinese sit-down. They were running Greensboro news. The food was so-so. The staff was familiar. They hadn’t aged. We each got soup with the dinner and most of us gave our soups to C. He had so many soups you’d think he were trying to drown, but pleasantly. We finished eating and my fortune told me to follow my heart.

Cold old roads, cracked winter pavement.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form inself on the edge of consciousness. – Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Coffee Log, Day 293


Coffee: Dunkin Donuts Drip from the bank’s breakroom; it could have been sweet, could have been bitter, but my nose is stuffed up more than an over-eager Build-a-Bear so I could hardly taste it.

Still sick. I got off work early to go to the doctors. They gave me a ‘breathing enhancer.’ It was a fancy word for an inhaler. It was my first time having albuterol. They fed me to it for fifteen minutes. By the end, I couldn’t tell a difference.

My dad’s always had asthma. He grew up with it and it got so bad his parents moved him out to Arizona for a while, empty air. So I’ve got all these memories of his inhalers from growing up. They seemed like space-age technologies, something out of Star Trek. I liked the fancy cartridges with all that tiny writing. I liked the colorful capsules he’d fit through his beard. Then there was that sound – a suck! – like the last balloon was undone. It signified something important, something I was too young to understand. Later, I realized, it signified my father was constantly working at keeping himself alive – for himself, for our family, for me.

And in the weirdest way – sick on my 29th birthday – I’ve had that same medicine touch my lungs, and I feel connected, and I feel a little closer to my family, and I feel his old strong bones pushing down those albuterol puffs beside me, and I’m thinking that whatever breaths life still has for me, however many birthdays I’ll get to see, I’ll be forever breathing a legacy of Arizona deserts, modern medicine, and a complicated will to keep going in the world no matter how much it’s prettiest things like cats and flowers might be denied you.

I appreciate my family, my father and mother. I’m glad you gave me this chance to turn 29.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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and I wonder if Beethoven held his breath
the first time his fingers touched the keys
the same way a soldier holds his breath
the first time his finger clicks the trigger.
We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.

Andrea Gibson

Coffee Log, Day 292


Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I spend the last day of 28 sick and reflecting and applying for jobs. I think that’s a perfect last day for this year.

My early 20’s seem like a lifetime ago. In some ways, they feel farther from me than me teens and childhood. Those first two decades can be easily packaged into the right kinds of nostalgia. Early 20’s, though, are unrecognizable. A late-night-scotch-shot: careless, quickly forgotten.

Around 25 I felt myself growing. This was coming on the other end of Japan, of teaching, of failing the first round of MFA applications. I was directionless, sure, but I felt like maybe I was made of the stuff that you draw a direction from. That’s when I started giving my all to writing. I poured a lot of blood out and wrote some truly awful stuff. But then there’s this tipping point and the blood thickens and you’ve cooked something – rich, warm, delicious – just don’t ask where it came from.

And 28 more or less beat all that out of me. I’d found a home in Cary. I’d found a career at a bookstore. I found a woman I wanted to marry (all signs that she didn’t want the same be damned). And I’d applied to MFA’s again with a finished novel that I thought would carry me there. Things were swell. Then, between February and April, all that got taken down, every sense of security, every thing I’d scraped out of my 20’s, unraveled, thread by thread.

I thank God for that. Or whatever is or isn’t up there, floating in the ether, spying on our lives as a celestial voyeur. All those dreams were old dreams. I could trace them back to 18, to 10, to 5 when I loved the girl next door and wrote my first poem about the time our dog peed on the snow. I’d been working out the same old stories for nearly three decades. Anyone would get tired of that, right?

So I’m trying to say ‘thank you.’ When the castle crumbled under me, I started this blog. And I was writing something very different and sharing it very differently than I’d done before. And maybe that’s all there ever was to magic – a spark in adversity, the freedom of failure, the salty ocean expanse of something new. It’s precious to me that you read my tiny coffee thoughts. It’s precious to me that I get to read some of yours.

28 was a bust. It ends in sickness as I knew it would. But 28 brought me to this foundation for something new, something to share with all of you, and that makes me pretty hopeful for what’s waiting for me when I wake up one year older.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Coffee Log, Day 150


Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

A day in transit: I went to the NC Museum of Art then to Burlington for M’s birthday. The museum had a piece by Yayoi Kusama. It was a mirrored box with tiny portholes. Inside, lights flashed. I waited forty-five minutes to see it. They let in three of us at a time. We saw each other through the holes, cascaded in the strobes, the rest of the world carefully kept behind us. It was intimate, public, aloof.

Four years ago, I saw one of Kusama’s polka dotted pumpkins outside the Fukuoka art museum. My guide told me she didn’t know why it had so many dots. I didn’t either. I told her that in America, all the pumpkins are orange. She found that strangest of all.

We pray together at private phone cathedrals; waiting in line, mutually restless.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Polka dots can’t stay alone. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environments.” – Yayoi Kusama


Coffee Log, Day 42


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; Tastes watered down though I didn’t change the measurements. I’ve been drinking the same coffee for a week so maybe I’m getting too familiar with it. We all rush to watch the cherry blossoms on the first week of Spring; no-one pays attention to weeks two and three.

I took a walk. The sun was out and it was hot, a little humid. Pollen had everything turning yellow and green. I’ve made this walk many times since coming to live in Cary. I leave the apartments, cross the Parkway, snake through a hilly suburban road still raptured by the ’50’s, then cut to a tiny paved path that hugs the backyards of more picket-fence houses. There’s woods and a stream. At times, you forget you’re walking below a bunch of windows.

I stopped to take a picture of some pretty flowers by the Hindu temple. There was loud electronic music and girls in colorful clothes. A dad left his SUV running so that the AC would kiss him every time he came back for a round of boxes – and there were so many boxes. I watched the scene play out from the cover of purple flowers and finally guessed it must be a birthday party. Lots of ripe balloons, pre-teens, an optimistic girl walking her dog. It was a nice bit of community. I’m thankful for the tree that bought me time to watch.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“If lightning is the anger of the gods, then the gods are concerned mostly about trees.” – Lao Tzu