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 180

Hi.

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

The light-switch by my bedroom door is crooked. Tilted left. Hadn’t noticed it, now I can’t un-notice it. It’s the little things, man…

Lots of kids coming in for textbook money. Big deposits, the college arcade game nickel and dimes you. Some of them have parent’s cash. I see the white SUV’s idling outside, a father in pink polo, mother in aviators, alone long enough to consider if those thousands will go anywhere past a frat’s doubledoors. When I ask the kids, most say they’re going into liberal arts.

Then there’s the workers: leaner than the well-to-do, coming in bright red suspenders, flour-stained shoes. They’ve been saving three months of tips while living off Ramen. When I ask, most of them say they’re going into business.

I see a few high-school seniors. School starts next week, they’re wide-eyed. They do their best to sound almost-eighteen, almost ready to stamp a ballot, smoke tobacco, shoot or die for our endless occupations in the Middle East – but they never look you in the eye. We cut checks for fast food or baby care. Sometimes, we talk college. Most of them say they’re hoping to be doctors.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.” – Mark Twain

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Coffee Log, Day 179

Hi.

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

1:00pm, before all last night’s clouds are gone, I sit outside. I’m reading LaRose. The book’s worked me over. I know Snow and Josette; I’m afraid of Landreaux; Romeo reminds me of the old man who got evicted down the street from my parents, though a few decades younger.

I made a batch of E’s barley tea and let it take the edge off summer. She’d swept the deck but left the spiders. They baby their eggsacs, welcome the corners. A crane fly sits on the glass door behind me. Can’t figure out how to get inside, or maybe can’t accept it’s never going to.

Twenty, thirty pages… kids are carefully rambunctious by the creek, school starts next week, fall takes the bark out of the dog days of summer. Occasionally, I look across our building at other decks, stacked like cardboard. Our third-story neighbor has made a mess. Shelves collapsing under boxes. Six potted cactus. A menagerie of dreamcatchers that probably smell like last night’s rain. Put too many things together and you can’t tell what’s what.

Sometimes, I wish I could have obsessions. I’ve tried collecting: beer bottles; plastic models; foreign currency. Lost a lot of it, packed the rest. Instead, my apartment’s got bare white walls and a bursting schedule – if I’m not working, I’m thinking about the next best way to work.

Accomplishment – the trick, I’ve learned, is that you never get there. That perfect soft hand you fell in love with in first grade, running track, two to three steps and always behind. When they bury my neighbors, some son or daughter will take detailed notes on graph paper about this and that cactus, vibrant wall-hangs, store-bought stories.

What sorts of things will be left to make sense of me?

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” – Margaret Atwood

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Coffee Log, Day 178

Hi.

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

Midnight shows its teeth. Tar-paper, Saturday flies poking out of apartments. L left an hour ago, the place stills smells like him, clothes in the rain. My roommates are up to something – two separate somethings, separate rooms, wind-downs. My new fan takes up all the unwanted space in the room.

A thunderstorm hangs on to the town’s outskirts, wetting the skin of whoever’s dumb or desperate enough to be out in it. It blew over hours ago and washed all the birdshit off the cars. Fertilizer; the green grass gets even greener after the bad stuff sinks down.

Fuzzy – marginal headache, persistent itches, stiff fingers, blender thoughts. A normal bedtime for halfway-through-28, head in arrivals but body inching toward departure, the kind of eminence Caesar saw when he stared at Alexander’s statue.

There are three lost geese stuck on the greenest grass beside our creekbed. Leftovers from a northern migration, they’re waiting it out til Autumn. When the flock comes back, they’ll get to see if they still recognize themselves. Tonight, I hope they’ve found dry branches.

Invisible moon, eyelid stars. Together, anxious morning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“The clouds were disappearing rapidly, leaving the stars to die. The night dried up.” – Andre Breton

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Coffee Log, Day 177

Hi.

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

I watched a Twitch stream put on by the #1 ranked Elder Scrolls Legends player, recorded this afternoon. Elder Scrolls Legends is a competitive digital card game.

#1 was a young man in a nice chair in a white room. He was calm. He won some games then he lost one. He was less calm. #1’s opponent got good cards. He played them better. A few minutes and it was over.

I’m not one to watch ESL streams but tonight was special. I sat on the carpet, R (my roommate) sat in the chair. A couple plays later #1 was done. As it turns out, his opponent – for both of his two losses – was R.

It’s nice to know a celebrity. Strange to know that in 2018 you can be famous for five seconds before everyone forgets about you. Well, everyone except your friends.

There’s joy in a good game. These days, juggling work and writing, red-eyed aspirations, it’s easy to feel guilty about picking up a controller. But there’s joy in a good game, simple pride in a good competition. We’re cubs in a jungle wrestling with each other; something just as savage but less brutal than what you see on the news.

Congrats, buddy. Thanks for reminding me how important it is to sit down some days to play.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Life is more fun if you play games.” – Roald Dahl

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Coffee Log, Day 176

Hi.

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

Met a teacher of twelve years who’s quitting the profession because it doesn’t pay as well as her summer gig bartending. She’s got an MA in Education but the state of North Carolina doesn’t compensate for that.

I talked to three different techs on a customer service line and each time they started asking me to solve the problem, like “What happens when you do this?”; “What do you think we should try?” A technical issue, we fixed it. Solidarity’s something, I guess.

There’s a technical issue at work that makes certain associates stay late; the higher-ups suggest ways to be productive after close, all of which rely on systems affected by the technical issue. When the point’s raised, it’s taken in stride, we all laugh about it, no better suggestions come to mind.

I took two courses on the Philosophy of Science. We talked about paradigm shifts and air pumps, but mostly we spent time trimming authority. Much of what we know (or think we know) as a society is secured by appreciation of scientific or technical expertise. We point to people who mastered a common dogma, who’ve run the right tests and passed with colors. ‘Experts:’ stuck on pedestals like cherubs in the clouds, but we seldom come to terms with the fact that we, the people, built those pedestals.

Which is sad, scary, and dangerous, because it’s fuel on the fires of ‘fake news’ and other evil exploitations of reasonable doubt. A tug-of-war, two sides taught, one believing everything and the other nothing. ‘Truth,’ instead, is gritty, changing, evolutionary; it’s somewhere in the mud.

So NC tells her best teachers to kick bricks with their fancy graduate degrees, bigwigs burned by too many flawed phone calls with their cable reps.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“My answer to him was, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” – Isaac Asimov

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Coffee Log, Day 175

Hi.

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

College, summer, we filmed shorts, me and a few guys. One of them’s still in film, the other’s a rockstar.

We dug a hole in my surrogate-aunt’s backyard. We’d been hired by the fiction but the labor was real. Hours, hot, NC sweat lodge. It took a week but we did it. ‘Dig,’ he named the film.

I go back there. I’m in that hole. My muscles are younger. Hair thicker. I haven’t lost patches of my pigment to vitiligo. Brown dirt, careful not to hit the worms.

I liked it, working toward something with all of you.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” – George Bernard Shaw

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