Coffee Log, Day 322

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

My mother’s mother had a thing for erasable pens. She liked the blue ones. She’d buy whole packs of them and use the ink on crosswords. They were BiC brand and never erased as well as advertised.

I’ve always been terrible at crosswords.

It’s funny the things you remember about a person. I remember her watching NASCAR. I remember the way she’d powder her face with a compact. She was one of those old ladies, the kind that try to put themselves together every day. A long time ago, when my grandfather was living too, and they had a house in Colombia, SC, I’d know to expect a batch of brownies when we visited. And she was the only person in the world that could get me to eat a steak rare.

You’re a list of quirks and contrivances when you’re gone. That’s all you are anyway, only when you’re living you can string those quirks together into neater packaging.

In college, I’d buy cheap ring binders and black see-through BiC’s. Not the erasables, just the regular. I still buy the BiC’s because I like the way they write. I like how insignificant it feels to hold them. Maybe I got some of that from her.

Novel Count: 12,764

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Pens: Communication Essentials.

Tagline on BiC’s Stationary splash page


Coffee Log, Day 321

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; I brewed a big pot, drank half; tasted like the sand you lay in a kid’s playground.

When I was a kid, my favorite color was purple. I had this purple turtleneck that I wore all the time in elementary. Then I got to middle school and some kids made fun of me for it. They told me it was a girly color. Not much of an insult in the grand scheme of things – ‘girly’ is a badge of pride for a lot of people, and should be – but it got to eleven-year-old-me. I stopped wearing purple. From then on, gray was my favorite color.

It’s impossible not to care what other people think. Or, rather, you can stop caring, but you lose a bit of yourself in the process. Shut off. Like pulling the blinds down.

I made this joke at work because I drink black coffee – I said ‘I like it like my soul: dark and empty.’ I wonder what I would have said if purple was still my favorite color?

It was pretty today. A punch-bowl sunrise.

Novel Count: 12,296

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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He told her the flowers in her painting contained exactly the purple substance of the flowers on the desk in front of her […] Let us open the window and see if your painting can entice the butterflies.

Sarah Hall, How to Paint a Dead Man


Coffee Log, Day 320

Hi.

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

My roommate was cooking eg-vocados for dinner and she had two extra so I had eg-vocados for dinner. To those not in the know, an ‘eg-vocado’ is just an egg baked in half an avocado. They were quite good.

Later on, we’re listening to music, a song she likes, and she tells me it sounds like the way you look at Christmas lights. And I think that’s perfect and I tell her. Which gets me thinking about what I love best about humanity, and what makes want to be an artist: simple metaphors.

I think there’s a good chance no-one else will listen to that song and spontaneously imagine it to be like looking at Christmas lights. There’s nothing about the song or about the lights that necessarily imply a connection. And even if you stared at both a long time, both under microscope and from as far away as outer space, you wouldn’t find any bit of the two contained in each other.

So E created a new connection. A tiny word bridge between two previously unrelated things. And it was a beautiful bridge, and now that I’ve been down it I can’t imagine the world without it.

That’s powerful.

When you’re a little kid, you only know your home. Then you get older and your horizons expand. That’s easy. That’s natural. Each new place is another notch of understanding, more knowledge of this large but finite planet. And when you’re good and grown, there’s a lack of magic – for me and I imagine for most people. You’ve already answered the big questions. You know what’s coming around the corner. Nothing in the world can surprise you.

But take two things and push them together and there’s something new. A book, a song, that’s art in a nutshell. It keeps you living long after you’ve burned life out. And it might just be divine – generating completely new, authentic content in a world that once existed without it. Spontaneous creation. A self-caused cause, of sorts.

But anyway, the night was good food and good company. I’m happy and full.

Novel Count: 12,143

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Everything you can imagine is real.

Pablo Picasso


Coffee Log, Day 319

Hi.

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

At about 10:30 I was reading Killing Commendatore in our dining room with the sun going high behind me. I had black coffee. Kids were shooting each other with water guns on the playground. The first bright day in who knows? But I just couldn’t sit still.

I don’t get what makes me restless sometimes. There are days that look exactly how you want them, and there are days where everything’s up in smoke, and it’s a 50/50 which of those will keep me calm. I had a therapist tell me I might have ADD. Shortly after, she told me I seemed pretty put together. So I’m not here to claim I have ADD or that I’m very put together, but focus and calm have always been elusive to me.

So anyway, I decided to get lunch. There’s this new place in Raleigh, the Morgan Street Food Hall, that a lot of people I know have been talking about. Like so many other places in Southern cities, it’s an old warehouse that’s been repurposed for leisurely afternoons. I like old buildings and complicated spaces. I drove twenty minutes on the highway and parked a block away.

But after five minutes inside the crowded food court, I was done. I got as far as the line for a curry stand where three tall women with tossed curls and beige sweaters talked loudly while swinging around their iphones. It was a place like that: affluent. The bars were buttoned up and the food was made behind a barrier – no sense that the people cooking it could come here and feel comfortable in their off time. It broke my heart. Beautiful old building built on sweat and labor only to become a place for people to spend easy cash. Needless to say, this whole experience didn’t help my restlessness.

Maybe it’s just something about being Southern – the under-your-skin tick telling you to go out looking, searching, longing for a perfect place to sit down and smell the wildgrass, or the braised greens, or cooked corn.

Novel Count: 11,743

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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My soul is impatient with itself, as with a bothersome child; its restlessness keeps growing and is forever the same.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Coffee Log, Day 318

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; a bit more burnt than usual; I carried the cup into work where they had the heat off despite the cold; it was nice to have something hot in my hands, bitter or not.

The hardest days to work are the ones you don’t work regularly. Paradoxically, they’re also the easiest.

The bank has us scheduled to work two Saturday’s a quarter. There’s only a handful of branches open on Saturday and they’re only open until noon. So really it’s nothing to complain about. I spent years working at a bookstore where a Saturday shift from two to midnight wasn’t only common, it was weekly. But everything in life is about expectation and when you’re no longer expecting to work the weekend, those hours drag long.

But there’s also something kind of neat about it.

Way, way back, I was one of those kids who joined academic clubs. Lit club, science bowl, I was in orchestra from 4th grade on. So it wasn’t unheard of to have to stay a few hours after school. There was magic in that. The halls were empty. The teachers were walking around talking more casually than you were used to. It was like catching your mother with her hair down for the first time, or your father out of his suit. You were in on something. It was good and special and dorky and powerful.

The Saturday crews rotate at the bank. You’ve got people from all over the triangle at different branches than they usually work. By chance, I was at my home branch today, but I worked with a couple people I haven’t seen in a while. We talked a lot, mostly work stories, and even though we hadn’t really said anything, there was an ease you can’t feel with the same people you see everyday. We passed four hours.

We packed up to go. Lately, on a weekday, we’ve been getting out when it’s already dark. But today it was only noon. The sky was blazing with the sun.

Novel Count: 11,157

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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As we approached each other, the noise and the students around us melted away and we were utterly alone, passing, smiling, holding each other’s eyes, floors and walls gone, two people in a universe of space and stars.

Jerry Spinelli


Coffee Log, Day 317

Hi.

Coffee Tea: Earl Grey, Bigelow Brand; I woke up feeling somewhat energetic; ‘somewhat’ is a lot more energy than I typically have; I didn’t want to dilute that with too much caffeine, so I stuck with tea; it tastes like an idle afternoon.

Modern media is a weird thing. It’s produced in such great quantities that you could spend all day, every day consuming it. And to be a part of any kind of zeitgeist, you pretty much have to do just that. Water cooler conversations are less about sports and more about your latest Netflix binge.

For about six years I’ve subscribed to the website ‘GiantBomb.com.’ It’s nominally a video-gaming site, but the best way to think of it would be a games-related Mystery Science Theater 3000. There’s a team of about ten editor/producers who record and appear in the videos to talk over and joke about this or that game. There’s podcasts, series, and something new everyday.

As someone who has trouble sleeping, one thing I’ve found marginally helpful is to listen to podcasts as I’m going to bed. Half-focusing on a conversation tricks my brain into shutting off. I’m not too picky about the podcast, but most nights it ends up being something off of GiantBomb – I subscribe to them anyway, it’s easy, thoughtless to press play.

Because of this, I recognize those same 10 editor/producer’s voices as well as I recognize my best friends’. They’re with me most days. They follow me to sleep. I think that’s incredibly bizarre. I’ve never met these people – I never will meet them – and yet they’re a daily part of my life.

There almost seems to be a cultural aversion to in-person interaction in 2019. We seem to understand each other best with a computer screen between us. And in a small way I’m a part of that, and so are you – you probably only know me through this blog, and if you wanted to, you could connect with me here every day.

I can’t decide how I feel about all this. In some ways it’s comforting – a quilt blanket to drape over yourself when you need it, all the comfort of a person without their complications. In others, though, I worry that I’m losing something fundamental and replacing it – however unintentionally – with air. You stop drinking water when the soda fountain’s installed.

Novel Count: 10,989

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Just move to the Internet, its great here. We get to live inside where the weather is always awesome.

John Green

Coffee Log, Day 316

Hi.

Coffee: Folger’s Something-or-Other, brewed in a 12 cup office pot anonymously; it was wet and grey outside so coming in to coffee was a good way to start the morning; the brew tasted like those chips you stick in a hedgehog’s terrarium; it had a bitter aftertaste; but I loved it all the same.

I’m on a quick lunch at home. I had leftovers from my weekend stir-fry. I made that meal in December, now it’s January. A rice-bowl bridge between two years. It’s really hitting home that it’s 2019.

I don’t know my plans for this year. I’d had 2018 all mapped out but ended up with a lot of detours. So maybe it’s just as well that I’m not too busy planning.

I think we spend a lot of our lives coasting. There are these invisible highways – work schedules, curriculums, diet plans, there’s this fear of slipping off the road, of going too fast or too slow, of getting ticketed for not following the line. A lot of good can come from coasting – it often gets you somewhere. But it’s just as easy to veer off route and the penalty is rarely what you expect.

A few years ago, I was on a skype call talking about chocolates with a friend. They came in these silly wrappers with ‘inspirational’ quotes on the inside. It was raining. Throughout the conversation, I kept hearing that rain. So at one point I asked her to hold and I got up and walked out into the yard. I didn’t bring an umbrella, didn’t bring a jacket. I got soaked. When I came back, she laughed at me. She asked me why I’d done something so ridiculous. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a clear answer. Eventually, I realized I’d done it mostly because it was ridiculous. And that I needed to remember some ability to surprise myself.

Novel Count: 10,810

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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The line of traffic advancing towards the rising sun looked like a procession of the returning dead. Every one of them, solitaries in clean shirts, smoking, checking mirrors to see if their reflections were still there, wore dark glasses.

Iain Sinclair, London Orbital