Coffee Log, Day 238

Hi.

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

Woke up with a crick in my neck. I took two ibuprofen but it stuck around. Now I’ve got this itinerant friend, nag-nag-nagging me at home, at lunch, at work. It’s nice to have company, but he’s a little overbearing.

I went to the apartment office after work. I’m expecting a package, it hadn’t come. The managers were meeting in a huddle around a corner desk. They were talking whispers, hushed when I came in. The walls were done in fake spider webs and somebody had managed to string a few purple lights. Smiling on the ceiling was a plastic ghost. In the midst of such a scene, I can only assume the managers were conducting a seance. I guess our new neighbors will slip right through the thin walls.

A neighborhood kid came by to borrow a key fob for the gym. She was in a sweatshirt. It was chilly, already getting dark. I thought to myself: “I guess it’s Autumn.” There’s a special kind of wonder to the back half of the year. All the biggest holidays. It’s a cold, dark time to be an adult, but the best time to be a kid. When you’re ten years young and half my size, you’re still getting tingles as you look for what’s behind every corner. Then you grow up and see that it’s only dead grass and hoarfrost.

But the grass looks good when it dies, and frost gets your lover’s lips pink. Seasons change and change you with them.

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

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“Winter collapsed on us that year. It knelt, exhausted, and stayed.” – Emily Fridlund, History of Wolves
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Coffee Log, Day 237

Hi.

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

The train tracks are brown all around but silver on top. That’s where the force of friction burns clean as the train goes by. I’ve always liked this, the contrast. It’s hopeful – maybe we can all be burned clean.

I’ve been too busy this week to keep up with the news. I can imagine it just fine. I don’t know if it’s the times we’re living or if I’m just getting old but I’ve gotten to where I can tell the national trauma by checking peoples’ faces.

Today, I ate lunch at a Noodles & Co. It was busy, slick, wealthy. People kept coming in from the outside. Halfway through my meal (a pad Thai, too sweet) this girl in a red NC State hoodie takes a table two up from me. She has her plate, glass, everything she needs. But it’s a window table, and tall, and public, so she picks everything up again and sits in the corner where the walls meet. She eats fast and fingers a tablet. Her bushy black eyebrows are winter caterpillars.

So after lunch, I knew the world must still be wrong.

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

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“I’ve got nothing to offer you kids but these noodles. They’re good noodles but they won’t change the world.” – Madeleine Thein

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Coffee Log, Day 236

Hi.

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

I spent the night talking stories in a DnD game. I spent the day talking stories in a bank. I’m storied-out, but in a good way. So pardon me if I’m brief.

There were about five peaceful minutes. I ate lunch in the breakroom then went outside to my car to get a stick of gum. It had been sunny but clouds came over. I sat with the door open watching cars go by.

When I was a kid and home for the summer, my mother would sometimes lead me on a scavenger hunt. I’d wake up to notes stuck beside my bed and follow them around the house – to the kitchen, the closets, the laundry room. Clue after clue, I’d look for buried treasure. Usually, the hunt would end in the garden. She’d be planting flowers and play it off like the hunt was something she’d never heard of. I got down on hands and knees and helped her dig. Maybe it was a trick to get me working with her. Still, I always found buried treasure – a toy, a treat, a trip to the mountains.

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

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“As he was about to climb yet another dune, his heart whispered, “Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and thats where your treasure is.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

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Coffee Log, Day 235

Hi.

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

I don’t know whose house you are. I don’t know who owns the property. I don’t know who busted your windows. I don’t know who painted the red alien or the blue alien or the man in bold outlines flipping me off. I don’t know if you used to belong to bedtimes or business. I don’t know how many sets of lips made love to your ample empty beer cans. I don’t know a damn thing about you, you don’t know anymore about me. But I walked inside you last night. Nearby, a couple guys were taking out trash.

It’s gotten chilly. Fall’s here. I met a guy who used to be the best EMT in the county. Now he’s working part-time. He tells me he got beat up a year ago. They broke his ribs, neck, lips, left eye, fingers. He’s still healing. The guys were harassing his partner. From what I could gather, they’re not together anymore. Then he tells me about the older trauma: of working medical, seeing kids scream without understanding, seeing death fold out of the  closet like a Christmas sweater. He said the doctors tell him he’s got PTSD. He said he didn’t believe the diagnosis until it was a late winter rainstorm and he was driving real fast and he’d brought that pistol with him and he knew the best spot to cock it and then he had a thought cross to call some acquaintances, no-one close, and they talked to him all night, and they’re the nicest family, and they make the best Thanksgiving Turkey, and now they’re more than just acquaintances and he’s still here. Then he says “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I told you all that.” And I said: “Glad you did.”

I had too many thoughts under your dilapidated eaves. You were down the hill from a parking deck, surrounded in tall grass, but the city still rose around you. I wanted to move into you for five minutes but I couldn’t not see the city, the buildings, the houses, the bright night lighting where I used to live. In the end, I flicked off the flashlight and walked away saying nothing.

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

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“A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master,
With doors that none but the wind ever closes,
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster;
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses.” – Robert Frost

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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 233

Hi.

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

I went to a showing of Friday the 13th: Part 3 at the Carolina Theater in Durham. It was packed. The movie was in 3D. We had polarized glasses. Mine didn’t work, or maybe my eyes didn’t work. I ended up watching the entire movie without the glasses. The scenes were blurry, gags and goofs were screwy, the murders looked like you were watching them in a puddle forming during heavy rain. It was a strange show. It gave me a headache. I had a lot of fun.

The event was put on by Splatterfix. It’s a weekend long convention. They had booths set in the theater. Posters, blu-rays, coasters painted with movie scenes. Every booth had a group stuck around it talking; the line for popcorn was almost out the door. It felt like stepping back to something. Before the movie, everyone clapped. They all laughed at the goofy 3-D. There were a lot of black jeans and chain wallets. Every other woman had dark-dyed hair.

We left after the show. Our car was in a parking deck. The light above it had been blinking since we got there but it took on new meaning in the spooky evening. I drove slow behind a line of other cars. Some people exited the elevator: two men, one woman. One guy walks away from the others and turns to wave. He only half waves then he sticks his hands in his pockets and keeps going. The woman walks a few steps after. Her hair’s blood red and she’s got a lot of mascara. We finish the line and I see her leaving arm-in-arm with the other man. It was a crisp night, everyone’s got an October story. In the movies, we’d all be strung up on a meat hook before we got home.

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

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“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” – Clive Barker

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Coffee Log, Day 232

Hi.

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

I read a lot about stocks and bull markets today. Some analysts think we’re running headstrong into another recession, others don’t. Either way, all the uncertainty is shaking the numbers. The Dow dropped sharp yesterday. Still, it’s been a year of record highs.

I read a lot about Hurricane Michael today. The Florida Panhandle looks like a drunk’s order at Waffle House – smothered and chunked. But they’ll rebuild. There was a long period of dilapidation after Rome got sacked fifteen hundred years ago then you wait awhile and along comes the Renaissance.

A razor breeze this morning, should have worn a coat. In the cold car I couldn’t help but take stock of the year: I lost a job, got another; I lost a car, got another; I lost a love, got…well, that’s complicated, but you get the picture. Point is, it should all sound like something hopeful: we recover. But then I kept on thinking and I remembered the old job, the old car, the day I asked her for everything under a perfect March moon. What is resilience, anyway?

I knew a guy who lost his job to the recession. He was oldish, 60’s, had been a manager at K-Mart for thirty years. Poof! said the market and that was it. I worked with him part-time in a retail stockroom. We folded clothes. He went home every day to a son he had late. I met his son once at a Moe’s. We shook hands. The guy was a proud father, but every time you looked at him there was a thirty-year hole in his gut.

That’s all to say: loss is real.

Good luck to Florida. Good luck to us all when the pearly-white avarice catches up. You’ll get better, most of you, but don’t feel ashamed to sneak a cigarette at 5am on the balcony every once in a while, charring up your insides, dipping ash like spackle as you build the unbuildable back up.

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

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“I want to be two people at once. One runs away.” – Peter Heller, The Dog Stars

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