Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 82


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

The army’s at my gates again. They wear bright colors. They wield sharp spears. Some of them ride on porcelain stallions. That’s right, you guessed it: I’ve been letting the dishes collect again.

A nine to five work day is a strange animal. It does things in pieces: mornings are for toothbrushes; day is for labor; at night it curls around to tuck its tail and let all the built-up energies seep into soft bedding. And then the next day is does it again. As predictable as a night owl hunting mice in evening and sleeping through the day. Or a bird that starts crowing at four am sharp.

My own pet workday doesn’t have much room for dishes.

The past few months I’ve fallen out of schedule. For years, I’d been keeping one regularly. Now my nights are sporadic and my mornings are shorter. The loping, nine-to-five animal sits on top of me while I squirm around. I start misplacing things. I forget to buy bread at the grocery. I brush my teeth before shaving. Things are out of wack. At lunch, I come home and tell myself I’ll be productive. A whole hour and eating only takes me twenty, that’s forty good minutes to get things done. But by the time I’ve got my head screwed on and a full account of my senses, the lunch hour’s lapsed and I’ve done nothing. The diabolic dish army has another member. Marching, marching, forks at the ready.

I guess I’m just slumping. An early summer haze. I’ve been setting my alarm clock five minutes back each morning. I’m still hitting snooze, but the thought’s there. Anyway, that’s it for the coffee log tonight. I’ve got a date with destiny; a battle to fight; some dishes need cleaning.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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Dishes are one of the tools that support life. Please take great care when using them.

Shoukei Matsumoto, A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind

Coffee Log, Day 276


Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I vacuumed the apartment. I started at 4:30pm. I turned all the lights on. I turned the fans on, opened the windows, opened the deck but kept the screen closed. It took about an hour. No-one else was home.

Growing up, my mother did all the cleaning. We were a house of hippies but that didn’t stop the creep of gender norms. I had few chores aside from mowing the lawn and even that I didn’t start until 8 or 9. I kept my toys put away and my bed more or less made. I was responsible for my space but no-one else’s.

Our vacuum is an upright. It’s got a re-usable canister that needs frequent dumping. It stinks when you run it and gets hot as a tea kettle. The cord is long and slippery and there’s no good method of keeping it out of the way. An awkward job. Bad as our footwork was, me and the cleaner made do.

I had a conversation a a couple years ago that changed me. I was sitting in a diner with M. We were coming back from a weekend trip. I don’t remember how the conversation came up, but we were talking feminism and gender roles. We talked about that a lot so maybe the words had just waylaid us. Anyway, I was asking her to tell me if I ever slipped up – if I was dipping into the patriarchal culture that raised me. She got quiet. Then she got upset. And she told me that was the worst trick of all: asking to be lead to justice by a woman’s hand; abjugating your own responsibility; doing the chores when you’re asked, but never taking the initiative; placing the mental burden for equality squarely on a woman’s shoulders.

There’s no framework for a good life. It’s a tremendous privilege to expect someone else to determine what needs doing.

After an hour, the apartment was clean. A few years ago, I would have been at a loss. I would have waited for a woman in my life to ask it of me. Or, barring that, I would have been slobbering for praise when it was done. That’s how you’re raised as an American boy: pampered, on a velvet pillow, with all the world revolving you like the sun.

That’s still in me. It always will be. It’s surely in many of you. But in the end the world believed Copernicus, and you saw yourself as just another planet, one with a blind arrogance to atone for.

Novel Count: 12,212 words

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

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I like upright vacuums. I think canisters are like dragging a dead pig through the house on the end of a rope.

Don Aslett, People Magazine, 1990 interview