Coffee Log, Day 340

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

I bought a toaster. Therefore I am officially an old man.

In the spectrum of household luxuries that identify you as having crossed a certain hill into self-sufficient aged tedium, none could be a better symbol in 2019 than a toaster. It lacks the utility of an oven, the ubiquity of a microwave, and the pizazz of a food processor. It’s not your father’s starter set of china or the blender you bought in college that was a margarita-only machine for the first few years of it’s life; it’s not a pot or pan or spatula or any other cooking necessity; it’s excessive, but in the most boring kind of way.

Toasters occupy the same space as a waffle maker. They have a single, specific function backed up by a whole lot of 20th century machinery. But the toaster isn’t there to spice up Sunday brunch for you and your boo whenever she (or he) comes over. A toaster toasts bread. It’s the tired uncle that got divorced at forty-five and hasn’t remarried. It’s Auntie Marge coming home from a double-shift at the post office to an apartment full of expensive, miniature dogs. The toaster doesn’t love you but that’s fine because it treats you fair and square. It ignores your choice of bleached white breads and sugary jams.

In fact, the toaster might be the pinnacle of functioning, healthy capitalism: a completely unnecessary expense that nevertheless serves its function reliably.

I just unpacked my toaster. I cleaned it, heated it, let it air out for a few cycles. Tomorrow I’ll toast two slices of wheat bread. Boy, have I made it

Novel Count: 19,824

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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The toaster (lacking real bread) would pretend to make two crispy slices of toast. Or, if the day seemed special in some way, it would toast an imaginary English muffin.

Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

Coffee Log, Day 297

Hi.

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

My hands are on fire. I was cutting jalapenos for a while.

For dinner, I made: some kinda rice thing. I got the rice going in E’s Korean rice cooker. I chopped up two different kinds of peppers, an onion, soy ground beef. I stirred all that in a big silver bowl and added tomato paste to keep it together. Then I dashed it up with cinnamon, cayenne, and garlic powder.

The trick was the consistency. I’ve got a habit of cooking all the juices out. I’m not a delicate touch. Burning on the red-hot coil, I stirred in vegetable stock. It started to boil. Bubbles came up like drowning divers. I turned the heat down. Then it wasn’t hot enough so I turned it back up and added more liquid. This was a dance, we managed, but we’re not making prom king and queen.

Just past six, the rice was done. I poured five bowls for the week, one for tonight, and topped them all with my pepper stew. In the end, the stuff was rich and spicy and I could almost taste it through my stuffy nose. We’ll see how it is tomorrow when the sickness is gone.

Novel Count: 5,907; Yes, this is about 10,000 words less than the last count. Sickness brings clarity and all that. I’d pushed and pulled the novel in a few different directions over its first five chapters, settled on a direction, and now all the other wanderings are washed out. It’s progressive, even if it looks regressive. Onward and upward.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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Spike: Uh, listen Jet. You said “bell peppers and beef.” There’s no beef in here. So you wouldn’t really call it “bell peppers and beef,” now would you?
Jet: Yes, I would.

Cowboy Bebop, Episode 1: Asteroid Blues


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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