Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 209

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I walked to the clubhouse to use the free machine this morning but it was out of filters; so I walked back to my apartment with an empty thermos, ate a quick lunch at the dining room table, then drove a couple minutes to the closest Caribou; the weather was late-summer fireworks and the sun made pin-head incisions in my skin; open window, laid out arm; the guy in the drive-through had puberty on his cheeks; his voice cracked when he handed me the coffee; oh, it’s flavor? like a walnut, but one you’ve left sitting one day too long in backyard soil

A friend came over to bake a focaccia in our oven. He got here at 5pm, left the bread outside to rise, then sprinkled it with salt and oil before loading it in the oven. As it baked, we caught up. The sun got in our eyes so we moved to the living room. Later, while the bread was cooling, we went out to buy cucumbers and tomatoes to make fresh sandwiches.

It was a nice day. Lazy in the best sort of way. No-one needing anything that wasn’t right here.

At 10pm, our friend left, I spent some time cleaning. I brushed all the breadcrumbs in the trashcan. I washed the cutting board clean of cucumber juice. The kitchen’s sleeping like it’s been on a pilgrimage. It’s motionless, peaceful, waiting for the next time it’s put to use.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller (life hasn’t had much time for reading lately, but I’m almost to the end; more thoughts soon)

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To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread. It will be a great day for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it. And I am not being frivolous here, either.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 135

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was talking to the manager of the subway about problem customers.

“There was this lady an hour ago,” he says. “She sees me making four subs. I am the only one working. When I am on the second sub, she asks me what’s taking so long.” The guy pauses like he’s told a story before. “I think she’s joking, of course. But she’s not joking. I see it in her face. She says very loudly I’m making her late.”

“And? Does she get a sub?”

“No, she leaves first.”

We move down the conveyor belt. My sub’s done toasting and I tell him to add all the veggies. This guy’s from Ethiopia, gave me the name of a good vegetarian restaurant I haven’t had the chance to try. What I’m saying is, we know each other, but we’re on a last-name basis.

At the sauce, he says: “The worst customer I ever had was two years ago. He was an old man. He was taking a long time. There were other customers. I asked him to move if he needed to decide, he wouldn’t move. Then he asks me if there is anyone else working and I tell him it is only me. And he says: “Well then I’m leaving because I don’t want my food being made by a foreigner.””

It’s the kind of moment you wish you had a stress ball to demolish but you don’t so you’re standing there, locking eyes with this guy, still smiling. I couldn’t stop smiling, like my muscles were in shock.

“That’s awful,” I told him. “And pretty damn un-American.”

But there’s a happy ending, or at least a silver lining: the customers in line behind the old man cussed him out. And the next day they brought the Subway manager home-baked cookies; and the day after that they brought him a giant cardboard card signed by a 150 people who work in the shopping center saying how happy they are he’s a part of the community.

“That card is still hanging in my home,” he said.

I paid for the sub and shook his hand. His fingers were strong enough to slice a hundred loaves of bread.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal.

Victor Hugo, The Memoirs of Victor Hugo

Coffee Log, Day 208

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; the barista said ‘Welcome to the ‘bou!’ and I said ‘Can I get a Venti?’ We were stuck in different places, trying too hard to cross each others’ wires; she had nice glasses; I never know how long you’re supposed to look someone in the eye when they’re wearing glasses.

In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington; each of the few letters I’ve written in my life, I’ve written while listening to that track. I’m not writing a letter right now, the song’s on anyway. I guess you could say it’s been that kind of day.

I worked with some storytellers. Well, I worked with the same crew I often do, only today I got them telling stories. One woman’s on and on about the cold coffee she didn’t drink yesterday, still in the break-room. She’s scared it might have spoiled. I tell her coffee doesn’t go bad. She tells me her son lives in Boone, they’re getting Hurricane rain, she’s worried about landslides. I look up the coffee – “Was it black?”

“Yes,” she says, and I like her better.

“Then – like I said – it can’t go bad.” She drinks the stuff and stops bringing up her son.

Another lady does color-by-numbers on her phone, says it’s relaxing. I ask her to show me. Instead of showing me, she talks about ‘Three Kings’ Day.’

“In Puerto Rico, we don’t do Christmas, well we do Christmas, but really it’s the ‘Three Kings’ Day’ that we celebrate.” She talks a lot about what her mother cooked, the hay and water they leave under the beds to feed the Wise Mens’ camels. Then a customer comes, and afterward she shows me the app. She never makes the connection between coloring and the holiday; I don’t press her. It’s enough to know about the bright, simple things that matter.

I spent my lunch break gnawing down my Hurricane supplies, my only opened jar of peanut butter on bread. I don’t like the stuff, but it’s no good throwing it away. In between bites ‘1’ and ‘25,000,’ I was caught thinking about you. You have your hair down. You’re in the whitest January morning. There’s everything in the kitchen but you toast the oldest bread, scramble for yesterday’s butter. Our loaf has mold on the front but you shave it off. Somewhere in the house, a few generations of your blood are still sleeping. The jam is so molten it looks like you’ve cut your finger.

We eat in the temporary: an in-between home, you’re staying at your parents, I’ll be driving back to my own hometown in less than an hour. Mild southern winter; mismatched chairs.

Before I’m gone, I tell you that my breakfasts usually come pre-packed with nutrition labels, fortified bars; you say “Gross!” and kiss me goodbye. For the next few weeks, I’m buying whole breadloafs and sticks of butter. These days, it’s back to granola.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“In A Sentimental Mood, I can see the stars come thru my room.” – Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington, In a Sentimental Mood

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Coffee Log, Day 201

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

Hurricane’s coming. It was on NPR the whole morning drive. It was top of the feed on Google News. It came out of every set of lips I worked with today, some trembling, some laughing, some just full of gunk.

Hey Florence, nice to meet you.

After work, I went to the store and bought bread and peanut butter. Easy to eat without power as a vegetarian. Traffic was backed up around multiple corners outside every grocery store so I did my shopping at a Walgreens. It was busy too, but not so much. There were kids buying Halloween candy with their lunch money. There were families stocking toiletries, distressed dads. On the way in, I passed a woman in a sleek blue dress and wondered what party you might go to on a Monday. At checkout, a Swedish woman asked me two times if I had a membership card.

The Southern way is to joke about things that scare you. Power-poles falling on your relatives, rampant flooding, or the dry creekbeds of yet-another-industry-departure. We stand up straight and sneer real good and maybe have a drink or two. There’s no extra strength in the show, it’s just bravado, but there’s a power in the collective spell of casting your best side outward with a mouthful of tobacco spit and letting whatever comes, come.

I might drive home to beat the worst of Florence or I might stick it out. I hope those on the coast make it through.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” – Bob Dylan

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Coffee Log, Day 154

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

I’ve been eating raw tempeh for a week. I thought that was okay, but apparently it’s dangerous. In Japan, I ate eggs fresh-cracked and uncooked pig intestine from a shady bar. What’s ‘dangerous?’ Yesterday, I read an article about parental hand-holding shaping an entire generation to be anxious and depressed. Today, I went ahead and cooked the tempeh.

They just found liquid water on mars, or at least the probably did. It’s buried a mile deep near one of the ice-caps and they can’t figure how it hasn’t frozen. They also found a petrified piece of bread from 14,000 years ago in Jordan. It revised some logic, complex cooking must have come first, farming after. Apparently, the Epipaleolithic chefs seasoned the bread with mustard seeds. Beetle-eyed conspiracy theorists are revising their Martian narratives: the ships came quicker, and they taught prehistoric man dope recipes.

A restaurant in an airport doing high-volume; beef bowls; pickled ginger; gray plastic bowls to prop your cracked egg.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.” – Haruki Murakami

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