Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 288

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was thinking about this place along the coast in Fukuoka. A paved pier next to a shipping consortium, with tennis courts running up its middle. I don’t know if was was remembering it right. I wrote about the pier ten or twelve times trying to put together my novel and none of the attempts made it to the final cut. Even so, when you write about something often enough it gets stripped of its original colors, paint thinner-like, and you can’t tell if the things you call up are real objects or your own ghosts.

Anyway, I was thinking about this place for no reason other than that it got cloudy, and the clouds often remind me of what it feels like to travel. I saw that pier on the night of Yamakasa. It was past midnight, a few kids were still playing on the tennis courts, and people jogged, back and forth, like waves, or the boats out there past the buoys in the deeper water. You could see a long way across the water. You could spot the Fukuoka Tower and a couple islands, some lit up, some just blotches where the stars got caught. There were lots of sounds, despite it being so late at night, but they were cautious and filled with anxiety, like looking in on your older brother while he’s putting on eyeliner before a date. Thump, thwack, and long, beating waves.

I sat in the memory a long time. It wasn’t real, wasn’t not real, and I liked it, somewhere only I could go on the untidy, cast-over, too warm December day.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.

Andre Agassi, Open

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 287

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I slept on an air mattress that was laid out on the same spot where my grandmother had died twenty years before. She’d been in this big bed hospice brought, a bunch of wires, and hospital gowns (the gowns were gowns, the sheets were gowns, a deathbed wears you, like it or not). Her bed was raised up, mine wasn’t, so really I was sleeping about twelve inches under her ghost.

That was Christmas this year.

Back to work, I met a woman who was my age but had just finished school. She’d been living in the West, out in NorCal, then Arizona, but she kept ending up in warm places during winter so she’d be surprised by the cold. She couldn’t take it anymore and moved back to Raleigh. All told, she’s missed two years’ worth of summers. She said this greedily. Her nose was red. She had sunny blond hair.

These stories fit together for me. Life changes, and sometimes it’s gone. I spend a lot of time listening to other peoples’ stories. And when I’m thinking about my own, they’re always hovering a few feet over me, less a curse, more gentle, a cobweb, but beautiful, and rainbowed, viciously drinking up the colors.

I had a plan to move to Michigan once but it wasn’t much of a plan so it didn’t happen. If I had moved, I reckon it would have been cold.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Besides, nothing mattered to her any longer. If she had anything left it was her horror of cold — and the uncle had coal through his contacts. But she found the atmosphere of Berlin hard to bear. She dreamed of escape, of going to live under some more clement sky, far, very far away from it all, closer to nature.

Romain Gary, The Roots of Heaven

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 285

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It’s been a month of birthdays. I had a mine and I couple days before that E had hers. She had some family over, some friends, we sat around talking and watching and trying to accept the fact that none of use knew each other. There was just E, and it was her birthday, so we couldn’t well expect her to solve it all for us.

And for the past two days we’ve been celebrating R. He’s one week younger than me, and there are more friends around. We got dinner from the same place twice, two days in a row. In a little while we’re going to watch Star Wars. I hear them talking in the other room.

December speaks life into me, all it’s roots and narrows and beauties and complications. None of us have kicked the bucket, but the coin-flip gets us a little closer to the other side.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 284

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I hear E showering. My bedroom’s adjacent to the bath. It sounds like those National Geographic tapes they’d show us in high school, the ones made in the 80’s. A fuzzy green rainforest, idle koalas, bird feathers and eggs. The net effect of the sound is to remind me I’m not alone.

Most of my best memories are in the rain. There’s a history museum in Daizafu. It’s behind the temples, still a tourist trap, but off the drag. We got lost trying to find it, A and I, walked around the forest and out to a local highway where they’d grafitti’d the walls. It started raining. It waited until we were out from under the trees. She’s soaked, I’m soaked, but it’s summer so we’re still warm. At the museum, AC was made short work of us, and we were dry, but less happy.

I went to see the Christmas Lights in Atlanta. We were thinking about skipping because the temperature had dropped and there was a hard rain on. It was night, the lights were in the gardens, we’d been walking all day, cinnamon visions of staying home. But M and I got ourselves up and went anyway. It was magical. We weren’t alone, but the rain made it so it felt like it. Cascades of color, a friendly shift worker by the only fire, greens golds and blues, every color multiplied below our umbrellas. The cold made me miss you even though you were near me, and when I felt that longing all I had to do was reach out a little and it was filled.

My mom put on an impromptu scavenger hunt one summer when I was 8 or 10. It was a gray day, almost raining, and I was watching kids cartoons, but she slipped me a bit of pink paper with a note on it and hurried off, not waiting for me to see what it had to say. It was a clue. It led me to the bathroom, my bedroom, and even outside. Outside, the rain was getting harder. Little bits cracked the paper and swirled all the inks around. I don’t remember what I found out in the gardens, but I know it was wholly mine. Under the gray, wet skies, the mystery of the treasure hunt was bigger than me, bigger than my mother, something up-above eternal. I loved my mom for helping me toward it, and then I was changed.

Anyway, it didn’t rain today, but the sound of the shower is almost enough.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 283

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee; back to that old office roast; the coffee comes in little pillow packages that tear too easily and it dumps out smelling like cigarettes caught in the rain; but I make it everyday for my comrades because it keeps us honest – you can’t hold any illusions of grandeur while you’re drinking this cheap weak stuff; and grandeur is dangerous whatever your profession but especially for those of us handling other peoples’ livelihoods; which is all to say, the coffee tasted fine

I used to walk along 15-501 where it passes through Carrboro because I had an apartment off it. I’d walk to the bus-stop, mostly, but sometimes to a city park that dropped off the road a few blocks away. In the winter, the park caught all the snow in it’s drifts and got the ground real muddy after melts. In the spring, it filled it up silkworms hanging in the hundreds from maple trees.

I remember the park because it’s one of those places I’ll never go back to. It wasn’t special enough, not all that important to me, and not so close that I’ll come across it without effort. A fat man in pinstripes could bulldoze the whole thing for another ten-story condo complex and I’d be none the wiser. But the park impressed me just enough that I can still call to it – green trees, wet gravel, the wood fence at the top of the hill.

I like that – having something wholly real and wholly belonging to me. It’s enough to think that God might exist, or that it’s dead and I’m the one who killed it. A vivid ticking cosmos going about it’s everyday a couple inches past my eyelids.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it.

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 282

Hi.

Coffee: Black Drip, Sweet Hut Bakery; it was the second time I went here, an East Asian bakery on Peachtree selling all kinds of bean buns and glazed kringles; we went for breakfast, took our tray to the counter, watched people walking dogs up and down the road under a crisp blue sky; I tried the ones you tried; we each had our own coffees; unlike the bean-buns, the coffee wasn’t sweet, wasn’t savory; it was weak as old beetles clinging to trees in a rainstorm, and tasted more like dishwater than brewed beans; still, I enjoyed it, because it was what I needed before a long day, a last day, plane flights, some caffeine, a little perk to sustain me

I came back from Atlanta. It was a full plane and crowded airports. We’re in the season where everyone’s going, going, going, trying hard to find somewhere to be. I saw a man in a button up rushing back and forth to ticket counters trying to check what flight he was on, a woman in a red cap and black shawl and crooked knees, two brown dogs and one white one, frustrated day-workers, a baggage loader doing jump-ups on the conveyor belt, and my own two tired feet in new socks and new shoes standing around waiting for a plane in the company of pleasant memories.

It was my third trip to the city. Isn’t it funny how the more you see of a place the smaller it’s getting? Like an erector set, only every time you add so many buildings you move down a scale, cutting off a few inches, cramming more and more into the same fixed space. I saw a lot more of Atlanta over the past four days. We went walking, driving, took a few trains. We ended up in Five Points where the wind was blowing ten degrees out of us and all the shops were closed while the Georgia State kids were on winter break. We took a trip to a district thirty-minutes outside the city where the buildings were emptying out to lay-offs and a long black turkey chased trucks out of the parking lot.

And now I’m back. Cary creeps around me like a missionary, handing out it’s pamphlets and hoping to win me over. But my heads still knocking around the Atlanta streetcorners, shaping up the city, and I think it’ll be there for a while.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 281

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Ovation; hotter, but just as aggressively bright

My morning moves in slow motion. Another cafe, drifting over rain-bleached courtyards, I’m in and out of abandoned bathrooms, overhearing background business deals dealing in global heave-hos and multi-lingual buzzwords. Now I’m in another place but still snug in the half-life of out-and-about people, a cold steel-toned cafe, a girl at the counter working ten hours, a lime fizzy drink, a view of the community center bedazzled by a turned autumn oak, none of this is mine, I love it for that, I’d forgotten how it feels to be a tourist.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. 

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 280

Hi.

Coffee: Iced Americano, Ovation; a cafe on the corner of the Woodruf Arts Center in Atlanta; the view is glass and metal and dead cut grass; the coffee tastes too light for the scenery

I’m sitting in a semi-foreign city on my 30th birthday, a good book by Baldwin I’m too tired to read, heavy backpack, fresh off a flight, missing part of my front tooth. When I woke up this morning, I tongued the tooth and half came off. Twenty years ago, I’d broken it on the back of a classroom chair.

A new decade, beginning with dental repair. Who knows a good Atlanta dentist?

There’s an abbreviated feeling to the morning. Slippery picture window, hims and hers out on the cold museum grounds. We’re all walking quick towards somewhere warmer. I imagine you in a coat and boots coming from your office, hands tucked, ears gone red, a celebration, but briefly, because who has time to celebrate in 30 degrees, who has enough patience to part their lips when there’s just jagged broken edges inside? I’m dreaming of things I can’t do with you yet, and 30 is exasperating.

For now, this is what I’ve got: coffee through a straw on my good side, steel tables, and restless wind.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 279

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I spent the night wrapping packages. I used local paper, recycled, it came from old dishcloths. There wasn’t much of it. It was hard to cut. I imagined wet hands. I liked that – having a history, something human, a bit of color. It made the gifts seem well taken care of in their tight-packed wrapping.

That’s really it for me today – thinking about giving, and what I’ve been given to get here. It all ends up in beautiful pink paper, even if it wasn’t so beautiful all the way down the line.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.

Charles M. Shulz

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 278

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The day slipped away from me like two snakes slithering through tall grass. I read a little Baldwin, in the morning, just enough to get my lips wet. Smacking ’em, wanting a taste. I went out and it was white fog so far you couldn’t see. I cleaned the fog off my car and it came right back. There was the engine, and there went the day.

Monday doldrums with a Tuesday kind of smile, the ‘having-been-here-too-long-already’ scrunches while you tell yourself you’re already almost home. I fly out to Atlanta Thursday, I have the day off. I took it off before I knew I was flying out to Atlanta. The 12th of December is my birthday. My 30th this year.

There was this girl in my senior writing class who wrote better than me and I was jealous of her for it. So I worked real hard at my editing and got good enough to win some awards, ones I don’t know if she even knew about, or cared about, or if she did, cared to win. She wrote prose with good characters and a nice flow. She had thick braids and glasses. I don’t remember her name so I can’t check if she’s published. I don’t know if it matters whether or not she’s published. I guess she’ll be turning 30 too.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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The Dirty Thirties are knocking
in a French accent-

Sahndra Fon Dufe