Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 273

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

Everyone was out even though it was raining. The temperature had warmed up and wet roads looked like the beginning of something, the first lap of a race. I got my coffee from Caribou like I always do then went grocery shopping. The lady in check out was flustered, but said she’d had a nice Thanksgiving.

The weekend’s been Christmas shopping. Picking around in crowded stores, not finding what I wanted, searching more online. I like the dynamism of the holidays, the ‘I’ve-got-to-get-out-in-the-world’ sort of feel. I like the kind of celebration that shows we’re all dead-broke and dead-tired but obligating ourselves to do good for our loved ones anyway. It doesn’t matter if your gift’s a hit as long as you’re the one giving it. It doesn’t matter if next year is going to drain a bit more spirit out of you because you’ll get it all back giving something special away.

At a different store, a man with a big dog walked in and the cashier told me he’s the owner. She seemed bothered by him, on edge, and the dog noticed because it sniffed her and wagged its tongue and tail. That was his christmas present, a big wet nose, a bit of kindness when someone needed it.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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Baffled and disgruntled, I fill my Woolworths trolley with dead turkey and lamb, and wonder when Love was lost, among the Christmas crowd.

Judy Croome, A Lamp at Midday

Coffee Log, Day 308

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I asked the barista if she’d had a nice holiday; her eyes got real narrow and she looked like she was about to spit in my drink; eventually, when the coffee came, it was double-cupped; ‘we’re out of sleeves,’ she says; I imagine it took great restraint for her not to burn me for the affront of holiday small-talk. Oh, and the coffee was alright.

And it’s another Wednesday. Christmas is over, the year’s winding down. I’ve still got half my life packed in the backpack I’d taken on the trip to my family. My room feels like a hostel. Holiday vagabonds.

The bank isn’t busy today. No-one wants to acknowledge that life is getting back on track. There’s so many fires to put out, ones you’ve been tossing small glasses of water over for the back half of the year, too busy partying to plan, but now half the forest is coming down. The government is a quarter closed. Two Guatemalan children died this week in US custody along the border. The world won’t wait for you to finish putting away your merriment. We’ve all got something to be responsible for in 2019.

I saw two cats this morning. One was licking the other, getting at the dirt and ticks. I almost stopped to pet them but they seemed so focused on the moment that I didn’t want to intrude. I pulled out of the parking lot feeling a little more committed than before.

Novel Count: 6,375

Currently Reading: Nothing! Will pick a new book after the holidays.

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Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

Benjamin Franklin


Coffee Log, Day 307

Hi.

Coffee: Folger’s Breakfast Blend, Brewed by my Father; My Dad drinks coffee like it’s been prescribed to him; he brews it weak, two scoops for a 12 cup pot; I must have had five full glasses of the stuff; by pot two, he made it stronger, just for me; there’s no coffee that’s as good as the coffee your father makes.

My parents have this dog that’s shaped like a sausage that my mother wraps presents for every year. We toss them down the hall and she goes running. In half an hour, the house is littered with wrapping paper.

That’s Christmas to me: something full of energy that you expect to follow a toss.

Merry Christmas. Or Merry Winter. Whether it’s with friends, family, or at home alone with a good book, I hope you got to have fun unwrapping your plans for the day. Maybe you even surprised yourself a little. And if it’s messy – if there’s paper everywhere, or if the day tore you up in it’s teeth despite the safe veneer we all expect of the holidays – then don’t worry about picking it up right now. Catch your breath. Do whatever you have to to take care of yourself.

Not every person or every family can find joy. The world’s not fair. But everyone can look inside themselves and see something worth opening. Every time you take a breath you’re proving something valuable. And I’m glad I live in a world full of so many curious persons full of curious things.

Thank you. Happy holidays.

Novel Count: 5,924

Currently Reading: Nothing! Will pick a new book after the holidays.

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One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.

Andy Rooney

Coffee Log, Day 306

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I found a stash; it was enough for one more cup before heading home for the holidays; tastes like it always does, a little earthy, rich, welcoming, but not giving up any secrets.

Can’t sleep on Christmas Eve. I’ve been up since 3:00, had hardly slept before that. Maybe my body remembers that old anticipation of being a kid on Christmas. Or maybe I should work out more, eat healthier, drink less caffeine, etc etc…

There was this tradition in my house where we’d get up super early on Christmas. It was my Mom’s idea. We started at 7:00, then as the years went by it crept back toward 5:00. I didn’t care, I was young and on vacation and couldn’t sleep anyway. But I think it was a bit of brinksmanship between my parents – who’s going to miss the alarm first?

My family wasn’t religious. Christmas wasn’t about thanking anyone but the people around you. We’d get up before the sun and light the whole house with candles. My mother had an incense spinner that would push these fan blades around and make little wooden figures dance. There was the incandescent tree (this was back before LED bulbs were all the rage).

My favorite decoration was the Christmas village. I’d spend afternoons in December setting up scenes in fake plastic snow. There would be the people dancing on the ice rink, the caroling peddlers, little lit storefronts selling sweets or violins. I saw myself walking in a perpetual holiday haze. It doesn’t snow on a Southern Christmas, so that little town had to do.

As everyone gets older, the decorations scale back. I’ll go home and help them set out the last ornaments on the tree. And that’s okay – tiny plastic houses are numbers in a checkbook now; there’s bigger, warmer ways to spend time with your family. But in the end we all lose a little magic. It’s hard to get lost in the corners of an old home when you’re busy trying to build a new one.

Novel Count: 5,846 (though if you’re counting drafted chapters, it’s probably closer to 25,000 by now

Currently Reading: Nothing! Will pick a new book after the holidays.

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Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.

Laura Ingalls Wilder


Coffee Log, Day 303

Hi.

Coffee: Barrie’s Blend Drip, office coffee; I was out of beans so I brewed at the bank. The color was like flat cola. The taste wasn’t far from that.

Every kid’s out early on Christmas vacation. They’re stalking the parking lot in posses, preening colorful sweaters, eyeing this free time like it’s the last two weeks to live.

I talked to a woman today who just got back from the Amazon. A cruise, twenty-two days on the river. Her favorite words were ‘luxury’ and ‘they.’ An example: “We were in such luxury on the ship, and we got to see how they lived in the little villages when we stopped.” At one point, she mentioned fishing for piranhas. And I thought that must be awful to fish for little nibbling hunters biting up the river just like her.

It’s a manic Friday, at least with the weather. Wind whips up, then it’s calm and warm and sunny, and then there’s clouds and rain. Temper tantrums.

I had a Subway sandwich again because I wanted to be part of something in aggregate: part of the small, hurried communities of shopping-center interlopers who live and breath and work to be the kind of people that hunt pirhanas, but that will never get there, and so have kept their soul.

Novel Count: 6,879

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Coffee Log, Day 285

Hi.

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

When I think about Christmas, I think of a thrift store off Main. I’m pretty sure it isn’t there anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure the store only lasted a few years, and I only went to it once or twice.

Anyway, it was on this side road in East Burlington that if you took long enough would either get you to the middle school or to Graham. It was in an old, hollowed out brick building that had fallen on hard times, it was lit like an ER, there were old black particle-board tables set in rows and cardboard boxes full of stuff obliterating the even lines. The owners were old ladies. So what I’m saying is, the thrift store was nothing unusual.

I went there with my Mom. I think it might have been after school, or maybe it was a weekend. Either way it was dark outside. We were Christmas shopping. Not for the family, rather the ancillary gifts you put a few dollars and two cents into in hopes of warming up the people you sort of know and would like to know better. We walked around for an hour and I got bored. There were tinsel wreaths. There were craft ceramics. I bought a tiny straw angel for a family I knew took angels seriously. Then we left.

But that whole store was Christmas to me: a dim, uncomplicated lull of gift-giving; the cheap earnest dressings; the streetlight evening through the windows; I think they were playing Christmas songs on a scratchy record player.

Anyway, that thrift store has been on my mind lately. I’m glad it was there. I wonder if anyone else remembers it?

Novel Count: 15,069 words

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

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Why they were loaded with bags of beans and peas and anything else they happened to pick up when they were still some distance away from the street where the first blind man and his wife lived, for that is where they are going, is a question that could only occur to someone who has never in his life suffered shortages.

Jose Saramago, Blindness