Coffee Log, Day 230

Hi.

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

All eyes on the sky as a second Hurricane mumbles toward North Carolina. We’re not getting the brunt of it. Florida’s uprooted. Still, our ground’s so wet that any rain will be like more wine in Aunt Marilyn’s glass and we all know she’s a lush.

Haruki Murakami’s new book is out. I’ll buy it soon. I’ve been excited to read it but then I saw a note on Variety saying it’s got a central fascination with an elder businessman’s feverish pursuit of a 13-yr-old girl. I’m tired of books about men chasing women. I wrote a book about a man chasing a woman, though it was also about how often art becomes about a man chasing a woman. The whole mess scares me. What space is left for love when you’re breakneaking towards Midas’s touch, turning people into golden objects?

I cooked dinner. The onions were glassy, perfect. I’m so damn proud of myself. There’s enough for five people. I’ll end up eating the whole meal myself, spread over a few days.

My roommate’s filled the house with company. I’m a hair-raised badger spitting dirt from his hole. That is to say, I’ve got the door locked and I’m playing music. A perfectly contained room. I’m not a curmudgeon. Well, not usually. But I’ve never known how to handle a room full of people I half-know. I’m happy they’re happy. Now shove off as I dig this loam.

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

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“Step aside? I step aside for nobeast, whether it be a hallowed hedgehog, an officious otter, a seasoned squirrel, a mutterin’ mole or a befuddled badger!” – Brian Jacques, Taggerung

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Coffee Log, Day 221

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I made dinner tonight. I haven’t cooked in a while. I’ve been down. I’ve had some ups, but mostly I’ve been down. I almost didn’t do it. I got home, changed, stared at the bathroom floor. It was sallow, pig fat. Not appetizing. Then I went to the kitchen and started getting everything ready – pots and pans and cutlery. I felt like I was packing for a long flight. Except every time I’ve actually packed for a long flight, I’ve thrown a few sets of clothes and other essential together last minute. A mental malaise, the sticky summer downs won’t let me go.

But I did cook. I marinated tofu and fried it. I stir-fried vegetables, cooked them hotter and quicker to keep them crispy. It turned out well. I served it all over steamed rice. The sauce was black vinegar, soy, a little sugar. I thought about my mother. She’d cook for me every night. She also cooked for herself, also cooked for my father. There are prison bars in domesticity. That said, it’s easy to forget how to use your hands when the doors open, when you run wild, when you’re free.

I read an update about the migrant children we’re keeping in captivity. Over the past week, our government – on behalf of you, and me, and your baby sister, and your best friend, and your cousin who just got a service award, and the preacher, and your lover, and everyone you wrap your arms around thinking ‘this is someone good’ – has been waking the kids between 12 and 6 am from foster care houses all over the country to bus them to a tent compound in Tornillo, Texas. They were going to school, now they’re not. They had access to lawyers, now they rarely do. They spend most days scrubbing toilets. They sleep 12 to a tent. Meanwhile, I complain about a pleasant hour cooking dinner.

Donate to RAICES. The organization is based in Texas, advocates for immigrant families. If you donate, message me on this site and I’ll match your donation to the extent I’m able.

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

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“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Coffee Log, Day 189

Hi.

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

I cooked dinner: homefries and a soy chorizo hash. To start, I chopped vegetables into separate bowls. I washed the potatoes. In cubes, they glowed like church Sunday. Gold robed skin, candlelight eyes. I set them in a colander to drain.

Two pans going, sunflower oil popped concessions at the movie theater. I fried the potatoes with spritzes of pepper and dill, then cooked onions, mushrooms, tomatoes in a lot of a hot sauce. Fragrance. I watched starch break down and thought about moving: that feeling you get when all the stiff spots in your heart aren’t holding you up anymore. Later, I threw in the chorizo.

I haven’t cooked in a while. My last dish was quick fried rice from the freezer. My hands took to it tonight. Chop, pick, grip cutlery like you used to grip a sabre. Years ago, I was a fencer.

It was a good meal. It’ll last me three more days. I’ll be burnt-skin sunsets, rust on the train-tracks, the wandering evidence of comfort and home-cooked meals, at least a little longer.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Still poking through some books, will settle soon.

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“I went to a cooking specialty store, bought tomatoes by the dozen, purchased every brand of spaghetti I could lay my hands on. Particles of garlic, onion, and olive oil swirled in the air, a fragrance one might have smelled on an ancient Roman aqueduct. Every time I sat down to a plate of spaghetti, I had he distinct feeling that somebody was about to knock on my door.…” – Haruki Murakami, The Year of Spaghetti

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Coffee Log, Day 154

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

I’ve been eating raw tempeh for a week. I thought that was okay, but apparently it’s dangerous. In Japan, I ate eggs fresh-cracked and uncooked pig intestine from a shady bar. What’s ‘dangerous?’ Yesterday, I read an article about parental hand-holding shaping an entire generation to be anxious and depressed. Today, I went ahead and cooked the tempeh.

They just found liquid water on mars, or at least the probably did. It’s buried a mile deep near one of the ice-caps and they can’t figure how it hasn’t frozen. They also found a petrified piece of bread from 14,000 years ago in Jordan. It revised some logic, complex cooking must have come first, farming after. Apparently, the Epipaleolithic chefs seasoned the bread with mustard seeds. Beetle-eyed conspiracy theorists are revising their Martian narratives: the ships came quicker, and they taught prehistoric man dope recipes.

A restaurant in an airport doing high-volume; beef bowls; pickled ginger; gray plastic bowls to prop your cracked egg.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.” – Haruki Murakami

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Coffee Log, Day 145

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema; the most expensive cup of average coffee I’ve had.

I’m getting pretty good at stir-fry. It only took two years.

Today I got the heat right, the onions clear but crunchy, tofu golden. I learned a trick: marinate your oil. I tossed garlic and chili flakes for thirty seconds in sunflower oil; the garlic pop-cracked like bullwhips and then the apartment smelled so good.

I talked to a coworker today about going vegetarian and I talked to my cousin about the same thing yesterday. My coworker was real worried about my protein intake. My cousin was real worried about the privilege behind the choice.

They’re both right – I’ve had days where I didn’t eat anything hearty; I’ve gone to bed feeling faint. But those days are rare because tofu’s plentiful around here. But in Crossett, Arkansas where my cousin grew up? Or the stern brick apartments where my students grew up? Or hell, any of the apartments around me made home by vibrant families, two-year old sets of new teeth and new smiles that can’t make a dollar, can’t provide for themselves…

The cheapest food I can think off is a giant sack of rice from the Korean grocery but you have to have the mental capital to know that. To the exhausted, poor, overworked American purple hearts, it’s more likely your head goes to white bread, 25 cent chicken ramen, dollar menus at the fast food joint.

There’s privilege in affording to choose vegetarianism, even more in the energy to make that choice.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

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Coffee Log, Day 143

Hi.

Coffee: Americano from Cafe Crema; it was more bitter than I was expecting; a lot like adulthood, grow some stiff hair in the right places and all that.

Today was for errands. So of course I got up late and took an hour long shower. It was good, the water relaxed me. Sometimes you can only feel calm by putting things off.

But I got to the errands eventually. I did a rush of dishes. I went to Cafe Crema and got a brand new bag of beans (you’ll hear my thoughts on them tomorrow). I bought tofu. Last week, I got the closest to a good stab at crisp gold on the edges, soft enough in the middle. I want practice so I’ll be frying a big pan of bean curd tomorrow. The tofu’s best at H-Mart so I bought it there.

On the way out the door, sunglasses on, a good breeze, feeling like a million, I heard something chasing me. My hair got stiff and I was too frozen to turn around. There were old bones cracking; slobbering teeth. The sound came closer and closer. Though the shopping center was crowded, I was frozen alone. And then it had me – two long fingers tap-tapping my shoulder. This was it; I was done; a long good life, but now the peripheral ghosts had surely got me.

When I finally turned, it was a cheery Korean girl tapping my shoulder. She was dressed like Sunday and smelled like cinnamon. Her smile was two doors wide. Panting – she’d been chasing me down – the girl says “Oh, I’m sorry to trouble you!”

“No trouble,” I say.

“Good. Well, I’m from Cary’s Korean Church. Do you have a church you go to?”

I told her I didn’t. The parking lot was full of cars and their windshields cut halos all around her. It was ghastly, but in a magical kind of way.

“Well, we’d love to have you!” She pushed a pamphlet in my hands and scampered off. I set the pamphlet on top of the tofu, where it quickly cooled down and caught the perspiration.

Later, on my nightly walk, I saw a kitchen window lined with three bottles of wine and a vased sunflower. The flower made me think of the Korean girl.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I was tryna get the devil out of my charms.” – Young Thug, Safe

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Coffee Log, Day 130

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

The sun beat sweat out of everyone’s backs. I took a walk beside the apartment pool.

Today’s been good. I slept in, but not too much. I ate well, but not too much. I heard from a cousin who I haven’t heard from since my grandfather died. L came over and we’ve been hanging out, catching up, playing games.

I finished History of Wolves and wrote the review. It’s posted here! I won’t say much about it on the blog, but I will say it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Fridlund’s snow-capped prose opened a couple doors in me; if I met her, I think we’d drink cold beer in a crowded bar and talk about the way talking about the weather is really always about the people who’ve changed you.

I made fried rice. It came out fine. The night settles now like a ten-year old bulldozer. You’ve built every house, paved every road, your city can sleep for a while.

Currently Reading:

LaRose, Louise Erdrich; I’m only sixteen pages in; so far, it reminds me too much of every other book that’s trying to say something.

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“Our house was made of stone, stucco, and clapboard; the newer wings, designed by a big-city architect, had a good deal of glass, and looked out into the Valley, where on good days we could see for many miles while on humid hazy days we could see barely beyond the fence that marked the edge of our property.” – Joyce Carol Oates

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