Coffee Log, Day 254

Hi.

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

Mornin’.

If there’s been one constant direction to my life’s running, it’s been the creep of southern dialect back into my vocabulary. I was raised to talk ‘well.’ This was in some kind of benign, quiet, judgmental contrast to those people who talked ‘good.’ My mom was a northerner, my dad was a lawyer, my grandparents on both sides came from old aspirations to aristocracy. Language is a tool of conveyance, and from the jump I was taught to convey a lofty, removed superiority.

Hell with all that mess.

I was a confused kid for lots of reasons. In middle school, my parents had me in therapy. It was a good move and I needed it. I went to see a Christian counselor even though no-one in my family was Christian. She was a friend.

I saw her for a year in her downtown office. I’d sit on that green-red couch and she’d make us both coffees with vanilla creamer. We talked about a lot of things. She taught me how to watch people, get to know them at a distance, and appreciate what they must be going through. Said it wouldn’t stop the fists or jabs but it would give you perspective enough to forgive the hits that were coming. Good lessons. On my last day with her, we walked downtown for ice cream. We ate in the parlor. The guy who served us said ‘Y’all take care’ when we left. I remember telling her that he shouldn’t have said that – that it was a dirty word, something like ‘shit’ or ‘damn.’ She laughed. She asked me why I thought that. She said I was southern. I said I didn’t want to be. She said you can’t change what you are.

I took a couple things home with me that night, one of them a sick stomach on account of the ice cream. The next day, I said ‘How y’all doin’ to my family. They were flabbergasted.

Well, I’ve been speaking damn good ever since.

Novel Count: 3,546 words

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

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“So that I might face my past,
I dug these words from the richest southern soil
and held them in my hands like seeds waiting for rain.” – Brenda Sutton Rose

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Coffee Log, Day 224

Hi.

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

I read a New York Times Magazine article about contemporary art. It started at a dinner table, two friends arguing about the show ‘Insecure.’ One friend liked it, the other didn’t. They both were black men.

The friend who liked it said there were no grounds to question ‘Insecure.’ It’s a TV series by and about black women in America – it’s too important as a social symbol to critique. They other guy – the author of the article – was wary. He described a world of bland dinner parties: no strife, no conflict, everyone agreeing to progressive standards, consuming media that was morally homogeneous. He said that wasn’t art.

But of course it’s complicated. Of course representation matters. There are studies coming out every day showing that kids who are given positive role models from their own race, culture, background, grow into healthier self-esteems. And there are still tremendous thumping gears churning night and day to keep the dark dream of white patriarchy vibrant, all the while actively draining color from whatever minority garden in which art or ideas might grow. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It is, in fact, ‘important’ that shows like ‘Insecure’ exist.

I met a guy in Japan who still lives there. He talked about America, about Wisconsin, about how everything was bleaker back home. He spoke fluent Japanese and knew how to party. He’d buy the seasonal chocolates at the corner store and ring the bell and clap three times at Buddhist shrines. He wasn’t Japanese but he wanted to be. I think something similar is going on with progressive art. You play an educated left-leaning American of whatever color one song by Kendrick Lamar, then one song by Young Dolph and nine times out of ten they’re picking Kendrick. Why? Because he’s able to sanitize a struggle so it’s palatable. Like Martin Luther King, Jr, he’s a great man with great words and zero blemishes, an idol, a god, in-human, unattainable, safe to aspire to because implicit in his image is the fact that you – 35, two jobs, disenfranchised by voter registration laws, behind on credit cards and paying half your income to rent, probably black but maybe even poor and white – will never get to life that life of freedom. Implicit in a blanket admiration for non-white art is the fact that these aren’t complicated, messy, people – these are fancy macaws and peacocks locked in carefully hidden cages, putting on a show for the upper class.

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“This version of the culture wars casts Beyoncé as the goddess of empowerment who shan’t be blasphemed. She offers herself as both deity and politician, someone here to embody and correct.” – Wesley Morris, The Morality Wars, linked here

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Coffee Log, Day 201

Hi.

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

Hurricane’s coming. It was on NPR the whole morning drive. It was top of the feed on Google News. It came out of every set of lips I worked with today, some trembling, some laughing, some just full of gunk.

Hey Florence, nice to meet you.

After work, I went to the store and bought bread and peanut butter. Easy to eat without power as a vegetarian. Traffic was backed up around multiple corners outside every grocery store so I did my shopping at a Walgreens. It was busy too, but not so much. There were kids buying Halloween candy with their lunch money. There were families stocking toiletries, distressed dads. On the way in, I passed a woman in a sleek blue dress and wondered what party you might go to on a Monday. At checkout, a Swedish woman asked me two times if I had a membership card.

The Southern way is to joke about things that scare you. Power-poles falling on your relatives, rampant flooding, or the dry creekbeds of yet-another-industry-departure. We stand up straight and sneer real good and maybe have a drink or two. There’s no extra strength in the show, it’s just bravado, but there’s a power in the collective spell of casting your best side outward with a mouthful of tobacco spit and letting whatever comes, come.

I might drive home to beat the worst of Florence or I might stick it out. I hope those on the coast make it through.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” – Bob Dylan

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Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

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

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 80

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Honduran, Trader Joe’s brand

Summer’s just peaches. My mother loved ’em. Grandmother liked ’em. Dad ate them when they were there. At first, I had to have them peeled – when my lips got to the fuzzy skin I felt like I was eating a caterpillar. These days, I like the fuzz. It’s sweet and mournful. Innocent meat.

Food and culture are inseparable. Southern peaches made the sun brighter and my disposition lighter in the hot, tacky days from May to August. The bulk of my culture, though, is better expressed in TV dinners. We fed bones and muscle on carefully organized trays: this here, that there, don’t you mix them! Vegetables and meats never understood each other. And don’t get me started with the mac and cheese…

Is that why Americans can’t let go of segregation?

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 – https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”- Dita Von Teese

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