Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 168


Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Brew

I talked to a couple from Bangladesh yesterday. I did my best pronouncing their names. They did their best pronouncing mine. It felt good to make mistakes together. She’s working part-time at department stores and fast food, he’s sticking to the burger line. He told me he has a Masters from Bangladesh but none of the American jobs will acknowledge the degree.

I got a little lost last night, though in the tempered way you know you’ll come back from. We walked a trail through a dark forest and found that the trail had changed. It forked at a clearing where the sky broke open to show off her stars. There was an old shack and a basketball court, sand set out for beach volleyball. All of it looked silky in the moonlight, like the spiderwebs we’d been tangled in along the way.

I’ve been thinking about communication, what it takes to know someone. Sometimes the best way to say ‘I appreciate you’ is by putting your lips around a person’s name (no matter how complicated you find it). Other times, words are only the boards on the bridge and not its suspension – to get to the other side, you string a line between each other, stretching, until the two ends touch.

This afternoon, I stood by a tree for five minutes watching a squirrel. It was on the trunk. It had a white mushroom. At first, the squirrel got nervous and stopped eating. When I didn’t make any quick movements, the squirrel gnawed off the top of the mushroom and dropped its stalk. It climbed a few more feet. It circled the tree but came back to look at me. It’s little heart was beating so fast you could see it chattering through its teeth. Its eyes were neutron stars. For those five minutes, I felt like we understood each other. Then came a late summer breeze that blew us both away.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.

Fred Rogers

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 89


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I was talking to a man who doesn’t know how to read or write. Also, he runs a business, employs the disabled, is a homophobe, jury-rigged a big-screen TV into his RV, and makes a mean rack of ribs. We talked about the weather. He gave me good guesses on when it might rain.

The worst thing happening right now is no-one wants to talk to each other. There’s different reasons for it – money, time, technology. No matter how you get there, though, all roads lead to Rome, and our Rome is made up of closed doors and closed opinions.

It’s easy to cut yourself off from the complicated middle-places where people used to meet. You read all your news with whatever slant you want, share your opinions with like minds on the message boards, and order groceries to be delivered so you don’t risk running into any unsavory characters at the store. You’re the king of your own castle, and thought it might be small, god it feels glorious to be in control.

I think there’s this assumption nowadays that people have to be perfect. They have to have spotless ideals and live to a strict code. No-one, in the end, is so perfect, but its not that hard to trick yourself into thinking that the people you already love must be.

What a boring world.

I remember how the hairs shot up when he threw that slur. He was talking about a guy he worked with at a different store, a cashier, who wasn’t running the money the way he thought it ought to be run. He said the guy must be gay, though he didn’t say it so nicely. And he repeated that a few times, almost spitting, then laughing about it, and waiting for me to laugh along. I didn’t laugh along. But I didn’t cut him off for it, either. I said “That can be a hard job. Maybe he was having a bad day.” And the guy says “Maybe,” and that was it.

Should I have fought harder? Should I have taken this guy to task for the slurs? Maybe. I think there’s a place out there for people who want to fight every fight, bloody their knuckles for good causes.

This guy – pushing 70, illiterate in the information era – goes on to light up as he tells me all about working on that RV. And then we talk about memorial day, and cooking, and though I’m not a meat eater anymore, I can appreciate the savor he puts in those juicy, crackling ribs. If you asked me point blank, I couldn’t tell you he was a good man, but no one with those bright eyes is wholly bad.

Look at an album of family photos, then find your reflection in the shiniest bit of steel in your kitchen sink, and admit that you’re not as perfect as you think you are. Then go out and find some bastard to talk to and try to suss out the good.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! Couldn’t get back into Bourdain, no matter how much I tried; will pick a new book soon

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i even tried to bury myself alive
but the dirt recoiled

Rupi Kaur, self-hate, in The Sun And Her Flowers

Coffee Log, Day 255


Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

There’s a YouTube channel I’ve gotten into the habit of plastering the background of my days with. I read an article about it a couple months ago: a live stream, lo-fi electronic music, animated loop of a girl writing notes with her cat beside her. There’s somewhere in the ballpark of 5,000 people tuned in at any given time. A chat runs on the side. People ask each other’s ages, nationalities. Because it’s the internet, people sometimes tear at each other for their ages, nationalities. Old men try talking to young girls. But mostly I don’t see that sort of stuff here. A second ago, someone posted: “Type ‘c’ in chat if you wish you were this girl’s cat.” Now the log is full of ‘c’s’.

ChilledCow is the channel, if anyone’s interested.

I grew up in the ’90’s. Like everyone else of the era, I got fed this line that the internet would be this grand replacement of our public spaces. The clued-in kids were living lives on message boards. Fresh out the cold war, you could have casual conversation with a Russian and feel like maybe we aren’t so different after all.

For the most part, it didn’t go that way.

There are all sorts of communities on the net but they’re far from open. Subreddits on subreddits, you can get a group of like-minded mouths to build your echo-chamber. Step outside those boxes into something more public? Everything’s an ad or an assault. Meanwhile, brick and mortar America is dismantled, and the public spaces – the parks, the malls, the old downtowns – are stripped for expensive condos or parking decks.

I’m a part of this, or course. I go from work to home and back again. I don’t often have the thick skin for getting lost in the desolate unknown. But I wonder how we’ll know each other in fifty years? Gummy lips gone to atrophy.

So anyway, that’s why I think tiny public places like ChilledCow’s channel are precious.

Novel Count: 4,096 words

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

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“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.” – Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics