Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 106

Hi.

Coffee: Light Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; my friend Z is staying at our apartment for a few days; he bought some coffee because he’d been using mine; I told him he’s always welcome to share because if you can’t share coffee, you can’t share much of anything; still, he bought it, so we shared this new coffee instead; thin like the first sheets of ice in winter; fills up your mouth and then your throat, hangs around in there, warming you up

Sometimes it’s hard to write the Coffee Log. 10:40pm, well past my bed-time on a work night, I’m only now sitting down to type this out. It’s been hard to write the Coffee Log today.

But don’t get the wrong assumptions – nothing’s happened, no tragedies. It was a fine day. A quite morning, friendly afternoon. And maybe that explains it – why it’s been so hard to get my fingers moving on the keyboard – because good, easy things are the toughest to write about. A cream-colored wallpaper, perfectly harmless, hard to pick apart with words.

It’s been five days now that I’ve been on an antidepressant. Welbutrin, specifically. That’s not enough time for the drug to do much (the psychiatrist said it takes at least three weeks) but you can’t help feeling hopeful when you make a change. I spent a couple hours cleaning all the clutter from my room, a couple more sitting by the window thinking about my thinking and wondering if it had changed. Mostly, I wanted to feel something other than that weekend pressure, the free-time skunk of not knowing what to do with myself that’s had me wrapped up for the past few months. Unfortunately, the feeling was still there.

I haven’t been writing much. On weekdays, I can ignore it, because I’m so caught up in my day-job, but as soon as Friday shakes itself over into six a.m. Saturday, I’m feeling lost and fed up when the words won’t come. They say you are only able to write yourself out of a writer’s block, but I’ve been writing, and I think this block is something else.

I spent twenty-nine years seeing myself as an author. In my mind, that meant getting away. A 1930’s expat drowning lonely in France, or someone caught in the in-between spots of cafes and train stations, never settled down. But to live that life you have to be willing to give up something, or have nothing in the first place to give. I work a nine-to-five job to make sure no-one I know has to pay for me, and to sometimes be able to pay for them. I want my bases covered. The ‘author’ in my head has never been me.

How do you write about a life you don’t love? That’s the kind of life most people are living. Low, mundane. I can’t speak for the desperate because I’ve never been it. I can’t speak for the wildly successful either. But everyday I talk to people with decent-paying jobs and lists of problems they’re just-able to cover, loving little of the middling moments, finding most of their joy in five-to-ten minutes of after-work wine sipping. We get along handsomely. It’s easy to see ourselves in each other.

I grew up in a small town that wasn’t small enough to be communal, but wasn’t big enough for opportunities. I moved a few towns over to a place with more money but the same in-the-middle-of-everything scenes. All my art is drawn here, simple, fine things with no color. Something that’s hard to hate but just as hard to love.

The weekend’s almost over. It’s 11:00 pm now. Tomorrow, I’ll jump the work-rhythms until I get to go home. At home, I’ll tidy up, cook dinner, maybe read a book. No time to think about all the books I’m not writing. Those thoughts can wait until the weekend.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people-
from a distance.

Charles Bukowski

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 71

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place from the Apartment Office Lounge; an overcast, semi-rainy day, unconscionable to not walk somewhere, so I walked to the lounge to get coffee; I was alone in the lounge; by the time I left, it started raining; lightly, though; I dried off at home with the help of the coffee; the taste was a mix of middling hotels and bingo games at the senior center.

Today, I swept the porch. It was still green from this spring’s pollen cyclone. We’ve got three chairs, I wiped down one of them but left the others because spiders had taken them over. If I’m being honest, I was squeamish to swat the spiders but also I didn’t want to hurt them.

So started a long day of going in and out of the apartment. I brought three different drinks to the deck. At 1pm, I tried writing. At 2pm, I tried reading. At 3 I talked to a friend, and at 4 I was just there because I couldn’t figure out where else to be. I was feeling restless. I’ve been feeling restless for a long time.

By six, I’d seen enough from the porch so I took a drive. The clouds had cleared enough to show some bright spots but they hung around the edges like a hopeless lover. There were sun showers and lots of people out walking their dogs. By the end of the trip, I’d crossed Cary. I was all the way in Morrisville. Coming back, the sky was just as complicated.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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We are like roses that have never bothered to bloom when we should have bloomed and it is as if the sun has become disgusted with waiting

Charles Bukowski


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 52

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Countdown to my reading as featured author at the Third Wednesday Open Mic:
WHERE: Fig Raleigh, Raleigh NC
WHEN: 04/17/19; 6:30p.m. (open mic sign-ups start at 6:00p.m.)
DAYS REMAINING: 2
Come out and support the Coffee Log!

The thunder woke me up twice last night. When I woke up it sounded more like a long checklist of things to do.

Sometimes when I’m bored or lonely I’ll take a long shower. I tilt the nozzle so it’s close to the drain and lie down. I’m not too tall (five-foot-seven) so I fit going lengthwise in the tub. It feels like one of those rides at the water park: a dark, gushing tunnel, no room to move.

In the spring, I like to sit outside and think about smoking. I don’t smoke. Not at all now, not much ever, but nice days are conducive to watching thick burnt embers trail out of your mouth and no matter what I do I can’t seem to shake that image. Burnt lungs in a fine garden. It’s the contrast, maybe.

Later this week I’m going to Richmond. I don’t know what to expect from that trip. A coworker gave me suggestions. I spoke to a hostel worker about parking options over the phone. Secretly, I’m exhausted, and when I think ‘vacation’ I see a dark blanket wrapping me up at home, but I have to go, because if I don’t it means something I’m not ready to admit: that I’m not someone with the energy to get out and move.

I saw a scared cat. She was hiding around the corner from a rough brown dog. I came down the stairs and scared her a little more, then she recognized me and we got along. I’m a scared cat some days, and others I’m coming down the stairs. No telling which I’ll be tomorrow. No choice but to find out.

Novel Count: 38,047

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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regret is mostly caused by not having
done anything.

Charles Bukowski


Coffee Log, Day 365

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I read an article about the end of civilization. It was by Luke Kemp, this guy who researches trends in the collapse of old empires. All the trends point to our contemporary world going under. It was scary and persuasive, but of course all doomsayers are.

How many Coffee Logs have I started with the words ‘I read an article?’ I guess I could go through and count them. The number would surely surprise me. My own end of civilization statistics – read, written, posted, done. Blog posts come and go like old Rome. Ah, the good old days…

You probably already guessed why I’m being so reflective – this is it, the big 365. I’ve been doing this thing daily for a whole year. This is the Coffee Log’s first anniversary, and like most anniversary’s, it’s one of those days that seem a lot bigger before you get to it. I brought our favorite store-bought coffee, set the template on the post just right, even turned down the lights as I’m writing this on the old keyboard that we started with. Romantic, huh? All the little things that kept us alive last year.

Here are some memories:

The first post I wrote was 44 words long. So short it would give Twitter shivers. I was drinking Guatemalan and reading ‘Women’ by Bukowski. I’d really only chimed in to say that this site existed. Damn if I haven’t gotten long winded over time.

My most viewed post was just a couple weeks ago on February 12th, 2019 (day 356 for those keeping count). On average, Tuesday’s are my most popular days and 2:00 a.m. is when the bulk of y’all read my site. What are you doing up so late?

When I look back on the year, the post that’s stuck to me the most is June 8th, 2018 – Day 108. That was the day Anthony Bourdain hung himself. Bourdain’s death shook me. He’d been someone I’d looked to for guidance – as an artist and a man. That whole morning I felt like someone was stuffing socks in my mouth. None of my words seemed to matter but I had so much to say. I wrote my Coffee Log on a lunch break. Before I knew it, I was writing about Bourdain. That put me back together. I’ve always been a private person, but here was this immediately public way to express my grief. That changed me. And it changed the Log. Gone were the days of two-to-three liners, blips on a radar. Those blips may have been beautiful, but suddenly it felt like I had something to say.

Here I am, still saying it.

I like two things in my life a little bit better than all the others: writing and coffee. I like to write because it’s in me, an animal, a round sneaking oyster, something picking and prying that keeps on coming open no matter what I do. And I like coffee because it gives me the space to write. These are my two passions. I’m pretty happy when I get to share them. For 365 days – one whole year now – I’ve been sharing them with you. Thanks for sticking around.

Here, let me pour you another cup.

Novel Count: 25,512

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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The people of New York City sat out there and drank beer and soda and ice water. They endured and smoked cigarettes. Just being alive was a victory.

Charles Bukowski, Women


Coffee Log, Day 328

Hi.

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

I did an off-site training at the corporate office today. I’ll be doing it for three days, most of this week. It felt like being back in college. We were in a small room with shared tables. There were whiteboards and projectors. We did group activities and answered questions. College – not a place I was looking to go back to.

But I’m always open to new experiences.

There’s a certain slime to corporate spaces. It’s a gregarious slime – fancy, accommodating, obsessed with cost-calculated comforts. I ate lunch with friends in the cafeteria and noticed the treadmills and lime green walls, the tv’s that were easily accessible but not too imposing. A lot of money was spent to make this a place people want to be. Consequentially, it turned me way off.

I watched a 3 part interview series on youtube between a Belgium man and Charles Bukowski. It was filmed in the 80’s, late in Bukowski’s life. They talked about a lot of things and didn’t seem to like each other. At one point, Bukowski takes the guy to this hostel he holed up in for the first few years of his writing career. He told a story about how the landlady would leave him baskets of fruits and veggies because she thought he was mentally unstable after he’d told her he was quitting the post office for writing. The camera caught poor kids in no shoes and suspenders and one young Latino family with gold teeth and jello cups and a chihuahua that kept trying to eat the jello cups. Bukowski said: “There’s stories in these people. Most writers don’t want to talk to these people.” That made a lot of sense to me.

Novel Count: 15,629

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.

Charles Bukowski


Coffee Log, Day 295

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I brewed the pot late and took a thermos to work; it was a wet rainy morning and I sipped it black; bitter enough to cut the cold.

Sometimes getting sick is exactly what you need.

For the past few weeks I’ve been running myself empty. I’d get up early and go to sleep late. I tore holes in my novel and patched them up and tore them again. I was thinking about January, about the new year, about who I’d like to be when the date changes. I was thinking about the farther future and how it’s like crossing a desert: you can see the mountains in the distance but they never seem to be getting any closer.

Not a productive place to be.

Sickness trumps everything. The bug gets in bed with you and when you wake up your whole body is gooed over. You aren’t a banker, a writer, a runner, a dater, you’re just sick. The most difficult thing in the world is refilling your cup of water. Every night is swampy with half-dreams.

But then you sneeze it out. Three boxes of kleenex later and you’re a changed person. You’re lighter, freer somehow. You got rid of something bad.

I’m still sick but I’m on the tail end of it. I’ve got that spring in my brain. In a day or two, I’ll sit down and type something and maybe it won’t look like anathema. I’ll wake up early and understand the blessing and power of being up before the sun.

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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This is very important — to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you’re gonna lose everything…just to do nothing at all, very, very important. And how many people do this in modern society? Very few. That’s why they’re all totally mad, frustrated, angry and hateful.

Charles Bukowski


Coffee Log, Day 270

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Thanksgiving feels like it was yesterday. Instead, it’s three days from now.

Holidays are like a spring cleaning: you beat the rugs on the balcony; you clear out the corners.

There was a little while I was on crutches. This was years ago, ten of them actually. It was summer. I was in High School. I was spending the summer at an NC academic camp in Winston Salem called Governor’s School. A six week program, I tore my ACL in the first week playing ping pong. It’s not that I was good at ping pong, rather that I was bad at it.

So they stuck me on crutches for a month. It was awkward, I was young. I felt like a sore thumb – I hurt and I stood out. But I made do.

The way the classes were set up, everyone took two a day and then had a couple free periods. You could fill those with homework or seminars or whatever else. My schedule left me this big block of hours in the morning, 10am to 1pm. There wasn’t much going on and not a lot of people out. Hobbling already, I got stir crazy.

I started taking walks to Ollie’s Bakery. Ollie’s is now closed. They served fluffy scones and vanilla lattes. They had a corner of a road about a mile away, a little brick building, not enough room to think or worry when you were in there, you’d get full on the smells. The trip took me through Old Salem and across a creek. Then it was a hop and skip through this faded industrial district. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was arduous on the crutches. Again, I made do.

I’m remembering this now because it’s important to remember that first time you felt independent. Holidays will put a lot of old sweaters on you: that scratchy-wool love. They’ll show you everyone that has a hand in your pot. They’ll also show you who’s missing.

But no matter how much your family or friends or people you wish were around might matter, when you’ve cleared the clutter and put all the boxes away it’s just you in an apartment, early morning, a torn knee. You can walk to the cafe or sit at home. Either way, the joy is only your own.

Novel Count: 10,411 words

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

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He fell off the table like a crab looking for the sea.

Charles Bukowski