Coffee Log, Day 352

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I woke up in the morning and ground the beans. Maybe I was still walking around with one foot in the bed because I ground too much. The coffee was thick like tar. It was too strong. One cup and my blood was buzzing. Oh well; I drank most of it anyway.

There’s this bar on the far side of downtown Cary. To get to it, you drive down Walker which right now is under extensive construction. When I moved here a year ago, Walker was a calm street with a few white houses, a city park, and a church. Now they’re building a parking deck where the park was and they’ve knocked down half the church. Even some of the houses are gone. I wonder what happened to the people who lived there?

The bar was busy. It was a nice day. Warm weather, a blue-sky breeze. I drank alone and listened to three guys talking about their jobs at Epic. Whenever one of them made a point, the next would make their point a couple decibels louder, until all three were shouting. It wasn’t an argument. They were all smiling.

I’m on vacation right now. Just four days, not going anywhere. I took the time because I can and because it’s important to sit alone with yourself every once and a while. R was working and E was gone. I had the apartment to myself. I left the windows open and thought about a year ago, then a year before that. I drank a bit of cold coffee from the pot. It was strange. It feels like every day they tear down a new building inside of me and there’s just no telling what will go up next.

But that’s okay. That’s just living. The only thing constant is this: right now, you’re here.

Novel Count: 20,929

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Drenched in café au lait stucco, the mall was bordered by an example of America’s most unique architectural contribution to the world, a parking lot


Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer



Coffee Log, Day 339

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

Some friends came down and we went to Raleigh for dinner. It’s this pizza place by NC State. We’ve been there a bunch of times. Tonight, the roads were full of people. The restaurants were crowded. Hillsborough street was dotted with half-built buildings.

It’s strange how places change. Well, not so strange in the grand scheme of things, but strange to experience. You expect that empty lot to stay empty, or the convenience store to always be owned by the same family from New Jersey. But like a game of hide and seek, it all changes as soon as you take your eyes off it.

Earlier today, I was talking to a friend who said we’ve all been forcing new memories. I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

Novel Count: 19,148

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Somehow I had entered another world. I’d heard that eating pizza before bedtime can cause nightmares, but I didn’t think it could transport a person.

Rick Riordan


Coffee Log, Day 266

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Another rainy morning.

Most of my life I’ve been a morning person. You couldn’t get me to sleep as a kid. I’d wake up early and want the whole world served to me like toast and butter. I’ve got vivid memories of naptime – no sleeping, just a rouge room colored by the not-quite-thick-enough curtains, rolling around restless in a crib, reading pictures books over and over with photos of old ladies or elephants and little bumps or dawdles to scratch your fingers on.

I’m still an early riser, though it doesn’t come as easy.

But there was one year when everything changed. I was 20/21. She was 21/22. She was going to school in Charlotte and I didn’t have a car so I took trains to see her. I’d stay down most weekends, even longer in the summer, and I don’t know if it was the travel, the air pollution, something in the water but I stopped falling asleep or getting up early. I’d be up until 3am. We’d get out of bed past noon. Most nights, she’d be out before me so I’d stay up watching things – half my attention to the miasma of whatever-was-on-the-TV, half to her closed-off face. She had this look like she was perpetually going away from something.

That’s when I learned that you can let people change you. And sometimes, afterward, you can change yourself back.

Novel Count: 8,980 words

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

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“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 234

Hi.

Coffee: Colombian, Starbucks Brand (grocery store bought, a gift)

The button came off a pair of my work pants. I think I can sew it but the pants are old and wearing and I’ve been meaning to get some new pairs so I went to the store. I had an ad in my email for BOGO at Express and the closest store was in Triangle Town Center so I went there. The mall’s a half hour through Raleigh. When I got there, they were doing renovations and the store was closed.

But the trip wasn’t for nothing. It was a cold day, cloudy, the kind of weather you want to break your heart to. There was a lot of traffic on the roads. I’m not used to going this way so the flighty voice of a map app guided me. She took me down Capital Boulevard. I saw many closed stores and open office parks. A newish high rise with no name and glass windows stared down a shuttered hotel. They’d been doing work on the hotel and stopped when the money ran out. The walls were chipped and the asphalt lot had big holes in it.

Triangle Town Center was much the same. Aeropostle was closed, Dillards was limping, Sears was a wasteland. Inside, many of the stores were stripped to lightbulbs and they were running big, silver, exposed ventilation around the bottom floor. Still, the mall was busy. People walked around on cell phones. Kids eyed cookies as big as their heads. It was alive but listless, broken like the gray day, a hymn to late 20th century capitalism, everyone working hard and poor to put themselves on the pages of the already half-written history books.

I didn’t buy anything. I drove home and ordered two pairs of dress pants online.

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

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“Since the Leeburg Pike [at Tyson’s Corner] carries six to eight lanes of fast-moving traffic and the mall lacks an obvious pedestrian entrance, I decided to negotiate the street in my car rather than on foot. This is a problem planners call the ‘drive to lunch syndrome,’ typical of edge nodes where nothing is planned in advance and all the development takes place in isolated ‘pods’.” – Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000

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Coffee Log, Day 209

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s

I read a piece about the restructuring of Barry Farm, a historically black (and historically poor) community in Washington, DC. The buildings have been bought up, rezoned, there are plans to make the place a ‘mixed-income’ community. The article follows a photographer who’s been taking pictures to catalogue Barry Farm before the change. She interviews residents. One girl, Dasani Watkins, a recent high-school salutatorian, says: “Yes, bring the change to the neighborhood, but bring it for those people. Don’t push those people out and bring it for someone else.”

Afterward, I read another article, this one about kissatens (showa-era coffee shops) in Tokyo. They’re on their way out. The writer toured a couple backstreets, interviewed the proprietors, all of whom were over 70. One man counted customers on his two hands, and when they asked him why he stayed open without any business he said: “I wouldn’t know what else to do.” The shops are wet bones in tar pits. When the owners are gone, investors will snatch the buildings quick as a funeral.

Basically, change comes to everyone, but not everyone equally. Whatever side of the world you’re on, someone’s stacking you up as a winner or loser. I’m sure people will profit in the new Barry Farm. I’m sure some of them will deserve it. But where do you go when the stones you built your whole life on are ground into someone else’s gravel driveway?

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“It wasn’t like a “see you later.” It was like “goodbye” because you’re not certain if you’re ever going to see these people again. It’s kind of sad — you grew up with them and now they’re gone. They’re going to different neighborhoods, and you don’t know if you’ll ever have that same community again. People don’t talk to each other in [my] new neighborhood. They don’t speak at all.” – Dasani Watkins, quoted from the article “As A D.C. Public Housing Complex Faces Redevelopment, One Teenager Reflects,” by Becky Harlan

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Coffee Log, Day 181

Hi.

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

2010 changed me. I spent my summer on Greek oceans, the autumn falling in love. I had my first flirtations with teaching when I worked with America Reads and Counts; I wrote two stories and dreamed up others I wouldn’t write for another eight years. Duke had been rocky the first two years, but by Junior I had hit my stride. December had me sharing beds with the first woman I really loved. I guess you could say I was living a rosy-colored campus life.

Tonight, I went to a showing of ‘The Night is Short, Walk on Girl.’ It’s a Masaaki Yuasa film, animated, vibrant, a spiritual follow up to a short anime series from 2010 called ‘The Tatami Galaxy.’ The characters keep their faces from eight years ago but their lives and personalities have changed. The male lead is brasher; the heroine steals the show. The movie – like much of Yuasa’s work – is like tripping down a flight of stairs with two tall drinks in your hand, only to have a revolving group of strangers lift you up. It was good, not great, but it burrowed into me. I’d fallen hard for – and seen echoes of myself in – ‘The Tatami Galaxy’ as it aired in 2010.

I get stuck some mornings noticing the way I shave my beard. It’s semi-precise, consistent, but nothing like the pictures I see from college. I don’t remember when I changed length and blades, don’t remember why. It can be hard to stick the continuity between then and now. A small change, but keep putting coins in the piggy bank and eventually you have to empty it to make room for something new.

My favorite scene in ‘The Night is Short, Walk on Girl’ has four men stuffing down super spicy ramen in a big red tent. They’re competing to win rare books. Some want money, some want love, one is an old author trying to reclaim his first manuscript. Just as the competition finishes, the God of Used Book Markets pulls a string and the tent comes undone, the red tarp vanishing, all the old books flapping away like squawking birds. “I forbid the hoarding of rare books!” says the God, paraphrasing. The four men chase after their dreams, going their separate ways after having stumbled together. A few find their books. Others don’t.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“My still-as-of-yet rose-colored self was cut to the quick by that which is called reality.” – The Tatami Galaxy

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Coffee Log, Day 141

Hi.

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

I shaved my head the first time for love. Well, for me, really, but me-by-way-of-a-woman. College, Junior year – she was coming over for the weekend; I saw a shaggy head in the mirror; I shaved it all off. S screamed “Ah!” when she saw me. We screwed in the closet.

For a long time, I shaved even-cut – one blade set, fuzz the whole garden off, wait to harvest again a month later. But I like the sides of my head better than the top.

In 2013, I watched a lot of Vikings. Ragnar Lothbrook, played by Travis Fimmel, was hot. In 2014, on the way back from Japan, I shaved just the sides, left the top longer, a viking cut. That was for love too – change-for-me-by-way-of-a-woman. I’d known L since high school. We’d had a thing before I left the country. Coming back, I thought we could still have it. I showed up at her cafe, stroking my hair…

She saw the cut but didn’t comment. L and I haven’t talked in years.

Still, I appreciate people that help me want to change. We all have a capacity to use and be used for the better.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“One of the causes, by the way, of the apparent lack, at the present time, of great men lies in the poverty of the contemporary male coiffure. Rich in whiskers, beards, and leonine manes, the great Victorians never failed to look the part, nowadays it is impossible to know a great man when you see one.” – Aldous Huxley

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